Christmas weather in the UK is rarely, if ever, like that which is depicted on festive greeting cards. The Victorian image of virgin snow, settled in all the right places, slush-free and pure, is a genius marketing tactic that has never gone out of fashion. The reality is often less romantic: icy, bitter winds, greyness, drizzle and damp. Yet, while some people feel they need a dose of bad weather to get into the Christmas spirit, many are those who long to celebrate the season in a sun-dappled paradise, swapping woollies and television re-runs for bikinis and cooling cocktails.
Read on to find out where you and your clan can best appreciate an alternative to Christmas in Blighty.
The Canary Islands are but a short flight from the UK
and welcome everyone from honeymooning couples, stag and hen parties, geology and wildlife enthusiasts, backpackers and retired sunseekers. Their popularity with such a motley bunch of visitors reflects the diversity of the terrain and culture that sit side by side on each island. Gran Canaria holidays
are especially popular as they offer on one compact island what can be found spread across the subtropical archipelago of the Canaries: pearly-white sands, deep, clear, azure waters, mountains, ravines, forests and villages. Indeed, the place is akin to a continent in miniature and had Biosphere Reserve protection by UNESCO (image by elsa11
is the most populous of the Canaries, and has been since the Hispanic conquest in the 15th
century. Once a major trading port, its main industry switched to tourism in the 1870s and has gone from strength to strength since despite dips during the Spanish Civil War and WWII; a symbol of this can be seen in the splendid Santa Catalina hotel, which opened in the capital Las Palmas in 1890 and is still trading.
Whatever accommodation you choose and whatever part of the island you opt to stay in for your blue-sky Christmas holiday, you’ll experience a whole different version of the season. The biggest festive feast here is traditionally celebrated on Christmas Eve (known as Noche Buena). And, while there’s nothing to stop you enjoying Turkey and roast parsnips, you can add to that local festive specialities such as turron, which are sweets coated in rich chocolate with mouth-watering honey and almond flavourings. There are also champagne-fuelled carol-singing fiestas going on – Christmas is truly a carnivalesque celebration on Gran Canaria.
As it’s a quieter season in terms of tourist numbers, you and your kids will have a greater freedom on the beauteous beaches, and surfing and diving activities, as well as boating and fishing trips, will still be available in abundance. Waterparks remain open for a bit of high-octane aquatic fun, as do zoos, galleries and museums – the Science and Technology Museum in Las Palmas is well worth a family visit.
Of course, you may well be putting away as much rich grub as you would back home, and in which case, the island’s 300km of rural walking paths will appeal, taking you through miles of unspoilt, verdant, semi-tropical terrain, which will make the winter-wet streets of Britain seem like they are on another planet, rather than a mere two hours away by air.
However, if you venture further inland to the centre of the island, the rocky landscape and mountainous regions will actually provide you with snow – that which you’re even less likely to see in the UK. This is the beauty and magic of Christmas in such a place – you can feel cool snow and warm, golden sands under your feet on the same day, an hour apart (image by johnbecks
So ditch your shopping lists of items such as brandy butter and stuffing and instead, stock up on sun cream and singlets, as this is one Christmas where your toes will be entirely safe from Jack Frost and his fabled nasty nip.