from meeting Santa Claus in Finland to retreats in the Maldives

As 2021 draws to a close, you may have found yourself in the privileged position of having more annual leave than you know what to do with.

While the travel specter may be difficult to navigate right now, given the new Omicron Covid-19 variant, if you plan to get away from it all, there are plenty of places that are still welcoming travelers this winter.

Whether you’re looking for snow-capped views or fancy seeing the year in the tropical sun, these last-minute getaways guarantee an unforgettable end-of-year getaway.

Of course, if you’d rather stay put in the UAE, there’s plenty to keep you occupied here, from festive brunches to winter celebrations at Expo 2020, and plenty of stay deals across the Emirates.

1. Take a Christmas cruise from Dubai

The largest named cruise ship in the Middle East will embark on Christmas Day for a seven-night adventure at sea. Travel aboard the luxurious MSC Virtuoso, guests will spend December 25 in Dubai before heading to Abu Dhabi on Boxing Day. The next day, the cruise will head to Sir Bani Yas Island, where you can try out plenty of outdoor activities, including nature walks, mountain biking, and kayaking. December 28 will be at sea and you will join Dammam in Saudi Arabia the next day. Finally, enjoy a day in Doha before returning to Dubai on New Years Eve.

With its own water park, theater, shopping district, casino, spa, bowling alley and more, there is plenty to keep the whole family entertained as you cruise the Arabian Gulf.

All travelers should be fully immunized and MSC Virtuoso also provides a Covid-19 protection plan for cancellation, medical and / or transportation costs due to the coronavirus.

Set sail on December 25, rates start at $ 798 per person; msccruisesusa.com

2. Escape to the snow-capped mountains of Georgia

For mountains, snow-capped slopes and endless fresh air, a winter getaway to the Georgian mountains ticks all the boxes. The Holiday Factory Festive Package includes a nine-night stay in the Caucasus country, within a four-hour flight from the United Arab Emirates.

Fly from Sharjah on January 23 and spend your first five nights in Bakuriani, one of the best ski resorts in the country. Hit the slopes, snowmobile or simply enjoy endless views of mountain peaks and pine forests. Next, transfer to historic Tbilisi for four nights where you can visit the sulfur baths, watch a performance at the Rezo Gabriadze Puppet Theater, and revel in the festive spirit of Georgia. The trip includes all transfers between the airport and your hotels, travel insurance, and even a PCR test before you return, so you can just enjoy the winter getaway.

You will need to be fully vaccinated and show a negative PCR test upon arrival to travel to Georgia at this time.

From 2,899 Dh including flights and a stay in a 3 star hotel; factory-vacances.com

3. Hiding in a luxury retreat in the Maldives

If this year has been a bit too much, why not take a break this holiday season? The Westin Maldives Miri Miriandhoo Resort welcomes you for a quiet stay this winter. In addition to stunning ocean views over Baa Atoll, which is a Unesco Biosphere Reserve site, guests can sleep in completely private villas, each with its own infinity pool. , a private terrace and an ocean view.

Encouraging travelers to unwind at the end of 2021, the resort offers a plethora of wellness activities and vacationers can indulge in a sunrise yoga session, try a breathing class, or go paddle boarding. on the Indian Ocean. Known for its thriving coral reefs, Baa Atoll also offers an underwater wonderland to explore, with over 250 species and one of the largest concentrations of manta rays and whale sharks in the world.

Festive meals are on the menu at the resort’s three restaurants, and guests can participate in seasonal cooking classes. The Westin Family Kids Club has plenty to keep little ones entertained with Christmas mask and snowflake making, festive puppet shows, Christmas movie nights, and a visit from Santa himself.

Travelers to the Maldives must present a negative PCR test on arrival and complete a health declaration form 24 hours before departure.

From $ 490 per night, including breakfast but excluding taxes; www.marriott.com. Emirates and Etihad fly to the Maldives with flights in December starting at Dh 3,659 round trip

4. Enjoy Christmas with the nomads in Kyrgyzstan

Discover a true winter wonderland with TrekkUp Dubai’s Christmas trip to Kyrgyzstan. Departing from Dubai on December 23, get ready to celebrate the holiday season like you’ve never done before. Travelers will need to warm up as December temperatures in this mountainous Central Asian destination are freezing and chilly, perfect for Christmas.

Spend the first day in the Chong-Kemin Valley, where you will be greeted in a nomadic village and the yurt you will sleep in will be shown to you. Enjoy a horseback ride, a festive dinner, and even a surprise visit from Santa Claus. The next morning, after a traditional nomadic breakfast, get ready for a horse-drawn sleigh party that includes white mountains, forests, a roaring campfire, and a festive barbecue. After a tour of the Chuy Valley, which is part of the ancient Silk Road, the group will travel to Bishkek to visit local markets and restaurants before checking into a hotel for the last night of your stay. .

Tourists visiting Kyrgyzstan need a negative PCR test done no more than 72 hours before arrival, regardless of their vaccination status.

From 3 180 Dh, flights and accommodation included; meetup.com

5. Visit Santa Claus in Finland

If you are looking for a winter vacation that the kids will never forget, then there is nothing better than a trip to Finland to visit Santa Claus.

A truly unique journey awaits you with Dnata Travel’s four-night Lapland vacation. You will be staying at the Holiday Village of Santa Claus in Rovaniemi, the official hometown of Santa Claus since 2010.

Children can join the Gingerbread Club, participate in Elven School classes, go dog sledding in the snow and enjoy winter walks in the capital of Lapland. There are also good skiing opportunities in this winter wonderland. Of course, the icing on the cake is when the children meet and greet Santa Claus in his own home. Do not go after December 23, as Santa Claus leaves on his annual mission to distribute gifts to children around the world on this date.

Travelers must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to travel to Finland at this time.

From 6,605 Dh per person, economy flights included; dnatatravel.com

6. Celebrate the New Year with Basement Jaxx in Edinburgh

One of the best New Years parties in the world returns this year after being canceled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay takes place in Scotland on December 31, and English electronic music duo Basement Jaxx are joining the party on Princess Street.

In addition to the musical maestros, revelers can enjoy a midnight fireworks display above Edinburgh Castle, festive markets and a fairground. For a truly Scottish affair, check in at the Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel. Overlooking one of the city’s most picturesque private gardens, this hotel is made up of seven interconnected Georgian townhouses and is located in the New Town, a Unesco World Heritage Site, delightfully removed from the hustle and bustle downtown. Brave vacationers can also sign up for the Loony Dook Challenge on New Years Day, where people in disguise will dive into the cold waters of South Queensberry Dock to welcome them in 2022.

Travelers to the UK will need to be fully vaccinated and show a PCR test done within two days of travel and you will need a Covid passport to attend the street party.

Stays starting at $ 284 per room; kimptoncharlottesquare.com; Edinburgh Hogmanay Street Party tickets start at $ 35. edinburghshogmanay.com. Emirates offers direct flights to Scotland with fares starting at MAD 2,970 around New Years

7. Spend a Healing Weekend in Nepal

Nestled in the southern Himalayas, Nepal is known for its treks, but the country is also a great choice for a restorative vacation. Head to the capital city of Kathmandu with Trekkup Dubai for a different New Year’s celebration over a weekend of yoga, mediation, ancient healing practices, and plenty of sightseeing.

The four-day tour, which departs from Dubai on December 29, includes singing bowl therapy, daily yoga, meditation and more. There is also a trip to Boudhanath, a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of the most imposing monuments in Kathmandu. It is the largest stupa in the valley and rises to 36 meters high. It is surrounded by monasteries, which makes it a great place to learn more about Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal.

The ancient city of Bhaktapur is also on the program. Known as the “city of the faithful”, it is home to Durbar Square and its many pagodas. New Years Eve includes a traditional gala dinner at the hotel and a night out in Thamel, known for its nightlife.

Travelers to Nepal should be vaccinated to avoid a 10-day quarantine on arrival.

From 3,850 Dh including flights, hotel and most meals; meetup.com

NB: Prices and availability for all trips, as well as the Covid-19 travel rules for each destination were correct at time of writing but could change

Update: December 15th, 2021, 6:52 am

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