9 Places to Go to Leave the Holiday Madness Behind Slideshow

Enjoy a low-key holiday season, or get away from the madness completely, in one of these 10 places
Coron, Busuanga Island

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Ambergris Caye, Belize

Ambergris Caye, Belize

Photo Modified: Flickr/ The Real Cloud2013 CC by 2.0

For a low-key holiday break head to Ambergris Caye, Belize. The warm weather is enough of a reason to make this a perfect escape, but the easygoing atmosphere doesn’t hurt either. The festivities are cheerful, with plenty of Christmas carols. Yes, there are lights and events that take place all week long leading up to Christmas day, but there’s no hectic shopping. Spend your days enjoying any number of outdoor activities: lie on the beach, scuba dive or snorkel around the Belize Barrier Reef, or climb ancient Mayan ruins. 

Coron, Busuanga Island, Philippines

Coron, Busuanga Island, Philippines

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Although Filipinos celebrate Christmas for several days and set off fireworks for New Year’s Eve, corners of the country can still provide a tranquil, even romantic, holiday escape. In Coron, on the north end of Busuanga Island, you can join in on the holiday festivities or step away to visit breathtaking Coron Bay, snorkel the Coral Garden, or swim in Kayangan Lake.  

Hamilton, Bermuda

Hamilton, Bermuda

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Bermuda hosts a few Christmas events for the holiday season, like a tree lighting ceremony and a boat parade, but you can just as easily enjoy some time alone strolling the pink sand beaches or kitesurfing. Winter is not Bermuda’s peak season, so you’ll find great rates for a last-minute escape. You’ll have plenty of time to check out one of the restaurants that made our list of 101 Best Restaurants in Latin America and the Caribbean in the Hamilton area, too.

Istanbul

Istanbul

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Christmas is not widely celebrated in Istanbul — Turkey, of course, is predominately Muslim — so you can enjoy the city’s decorations without the risk of hearing holiday songs blaring from every corner. If you want to opt out of the New Year’s Eve Street Party of Nişantaşı, check out Yeni Locanta in the city’s Beyoğlu district for some contemporary Turkish cuisine. Spend your getaway exploring the Turkish streets on your own and visiting such famous attractions as the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia.  

Kyoto

Christmas means business as usual for the residents of Kyoto, since most Japanese are Buddhist and Shinto, so all restaurants are open and locals don’t get the day off. There are winter sales at some of the shops, however, and “illuminations” for the holiday season. This is a great destination for people who still want to enjoy some of the holiday spirit without all of the craziness. Some hotels and restaurants will have special dinners or events for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but partaking is completely your choice.

New Year’s Eve, on the other hand, is a huge deal in the city, with large feasts and ringing of bells at various shrines and temples, so if you’re trying to avoid busy, bustling streets, make sure to head out by Dec. 31. 

Lampedusa Island, Italy

Lampedusa Island, Italy

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Lampedusa, off the coast of Sicily, is a quiet island to escape to during the chaotic holiday madness. Nature trails and beaches are the largest attraction here, with easy day trips you can make to neighbor islands such as Lampione, where scuba diving in the clear waters is the primary activity. Have some great meals and delicious Sicilian wines at local restaurants on Lampedusa; and be happy you’re not at home dealing with large crowds and the pressures of finding New Year’s Eve activities to join. 

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Cambodia is a popular destination around this time of year due to its wonderful weather conditions and party atmosphere around New Year’s. Christmas isn’t celebrated outside of hotel dinner packages, sought-out gala dinners, and some decorations you’ll see around town, but New Year’s Eve is lively. Visit the nearby ancient ruins of Angkor Wat or Ta Prohm, and then join other tourists and locals on Pub Street to countdown into the new. Although the street party here is huge, it’s nothing like the madness you’ll find in larger cities during this time.

Note: The Old Market near Pub Street is a must-visit activity in Siem Reap, and keep an eye out for interesting delicacies like fried spiders.

St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

Much like the other islands on this list, St. Thomas offers plenty of beautiful beaches and sunshine. There are countless snorkeling, diving, and sightseeing activities, plus numerous dining options here. Most businesses will be open Christmas Day, so you won’t have to worry about having nothing to do.    

Yaren, Nauru

Yaren, Nauru

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If you’re going for a remote getaway, it doesn’t get more private than this. Nauru is the world’s smallest independent republic, and it takes less than an hour to get around the entire island. You can fish, do some light shopping, swim in Anibare Bay, and soak up some rays for an incredibly relaxing holiday escape.