Making the most out of time abroad during the winter holidays is a matter of finding your travel muse. Sun lovers find shelter in the Galapagos Islands or in a luxury Berber camp on the edge of the Sahara Desert. Italy’s Amalfi Coast captured the imagination of writer John Steinbeck and artist Pablo Picasso for its beauty and stunning scenery. Sorrento over New Year’s Eve gives you a first-hand perspective of why so many discerning travelers choose to visit.

Austria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic await those who want to bask in the storied traditions of Europe. Holiday markets in Vienna, Prague, Salzburg, and Budapest are a welcome part of daily activities, only outmatched by the stunning architecture found within the cities’ walls while exploring.

Iceland calls to those who seek arctic adventures. The shorter winter days and the darkened night skies set the stage for the Northern Lights.

In Latin America, Peru and Cuba are two sides of different holiday experiences. Cusco was once the seat of Incan power alongside the nearby indelible Machu Picchu. During the holidays, the country’s Catholic roots come to light. Extravagant celebrations take place throughout the regions we visit in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Cuba effectively banned Christmas celebrations for almost 30 years. The holidays here show the elegance of Havana, where colorful buildings, a rich history, and a charming culture make active days exploring on foot fly-by.

Here are our seven best holiday destinations for 2023 and why they might be just what the doctor ordered before the start of the new year!

#1 The Galapagos Islands

Kayakers enjoying the active wildlife in the Galapagos Islands

The tropical skies of the Galapagos Islands welcomed pirate/naturalist William Dampier in the 17th century. He was the first to map the archipelago, and his published work about the journey accompanied fellow Englishman Charles Darwin when the Beagle reached the small island chain centuries later. While much has changed, the incredible natural riches of the islands remain the reason to visit. Beach landings find friendly sea lions as unofficial hosts. Trails on uninhabited islands lead past blue-footed boobies to lookouts over pristine bays.

During your stay on Isabella Island, one of the four inhabited and the largest in the chain, you’ll summit the Sierra Negra volcano. The six-mile wide caldera makes way for stunning views over the coast to neighboring islands. More activities include snorkeling with sea turtles, visiting a favorite inland swimming hole, and hiking along trails in a private tortoise reserve.

#2 Cuba

Travelers driving through the colorful streets of Havana Cuba in a classic car

Cuba in December is a breath of fresh air for those looking for a tropical getaway a little closer to home. Sunny skies and warm smiles welcome our guests while exploring the coast, mountains, and the capital city, Havana. The Bay of Pigs holds sway for beach lovers. Snorkeling in the clear waters finds you in the middle of a myriad of coral fish and other creatures of the sea.
Days spent in the mountains reveal coffee and sugar plantations where families have worked the land for generations. On guided walks of Havana, the country’s spirit comes to life. A visit with Fidel Castro’s photographer and a trip to Ernest Hemingway’s home are the perfect opportunities to dive into the fascinating culture of the capital.

#3 Peru

Family enjoys the scenic views of Machu Picchu in Peru

Peru offers another kind of respite during the winter months. The Andean city of Cusco shines as a classic cultural experience well worth the time it takes to get there. Incan temples, Spanish plazas, a wealth of history, and a bevy of cobblestone streets mean full days of exploring and nights filled with South American hospitality.

Rafting, biking, hiking, and train rides also have a place on our itinerary, the last two being options for reaching the secluded Machu Picchu. The site still brings the scope of the Incan empire to the forefront, with different sections of the ancient city containing artifacts of religious beliefs, farming innovations, and according to some, housing the last Incan ruler in a secret unopened chamber.

#4 Morocco

Woman resting on a sand dune in Morocco with her local guides

Morocco’s place on the best holiday destination list draws from the intrigue and mystery surrounding its imperial cities. All seats of power at one time, each offers a different glimpse into Morocco’s culture. Fes became the religious center of the country, and visitors still hear traditional Muslim music while exploring the maze of streets in the ancient part of the city. Marrakesh turned into the education hub for the nation. Royalty, merchants, and scholars transformed the city and its surrounding valleys into a mecca where lavish estates alongside elegant gardens became havens for intellectual discourse. We visit the Yves Saint Laurent botanical gardens during our stay in Marrakesh. Carrying on the tradition of times past, French painter Jacques Majorelle created a living canvas amid two and a half acres in the middle of the city, offering solace in the hustle of the city.

#5 Hungary, Czech Republic & Austria

The lively Christmas markets are festive in Vienna Austria

The holidays in Europe bring people into the streets for the annual Christmas markets. Each city does it their own way. The markets of Prague have a different feel than those of Vienna, Salzburg, or Budapest. Our visits explore Mozart’s birthplace, royal castles overlooking the sprawling city below, and imperial palaces long since left to austerity. Nights include classical music concerts in unmatched music halls, sampling seasonal dishes at classic restaurants, and wandering well-trodden streets lined with holiday fare.

# 6 Italy

The sun sets along the beautiful Amalfi Coast in Italy

Standing on the traditions of the Mediterranean and literally overlooking the Bay of Naples across the water, New Year’s Eve in Sorrento feels worlds away from the customs of the modern world. Food and drink are an important part of the proceedings, so you’ll visit a local farm to make oven-fired pizza with house-made mozzarella and learn how limoncello is made. Other stops on this inspiring walking tour include the picturesque Island of Capri and exploring historic Pompeii. Located at the base of Mt Vesuvius, this ancient city is preserved for posterity by lava that shows stunning scenes of everyday life frozen in place.

# 7 Iceland

Travelers enjoy a horseback ride through the winter landscape of Iceland

Iceland during the winter months has its own secrets to share. Walking on massive glaciers is an experience that puts the modern world into perspective while soaking in the Blue Lagoon melts away the worries of life at home. The shallow geothermic lake’s waters weigh in at around 2.5 million gallons, reflecting a neon blue that makes the experience one that both locals and visitors remember well after the trip has ended. The Northern Lights are often seen from Iceland as well, filling the pitch-black skies with dazzling displays of color and light. While sightings depend on the weather, the winter conditions warrant keeping an eye on the sky while enjoying an evening in good company.

group hiking at sunset in San Juan Islands

Celebrate with Classic Journeys