The best Christmas travel destinations

Dec 13, 2012 at 8:45 a.m. ET

This Christmas, why not celebrate the holidays with a family vacation? From the far off to the local, there are some amazing places around the world that will make for one special holiday.

Christmas in Rome


If you're traveling for Christmas, then consider heading to the place where it all began. Israel is known as the Holy Land for a reason, and it's well worth a trip to experience the history of the holiday. Although Christmas isn't widely celebrated throughout the country, there are special events and religious services for the holiday, especially in Jerusalem, Bethlehem (in the West Bank), and Nazareth. The experience of attending Midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity, where Jesus is believed to have been born, is unlike no other.

Read up on the Holy Land with the top 10 reasons to visit Jerusalem >>


There's something magical about Rome during Christmastime. Maybe it's the fact that Rome was home to the first Christmas celebration way back when, or, perhaps, it's the huge Christmas market and nativity scene at the Piazza Navon, or the public Christmas trees all over the city. Whatever it is, the place feels special. Plus, you can join the thousands of people at St. Peter's Square in Vatican City for the Pope's Midnight Mass.

New York

The holiday season seems to melt away the gritty exterior of New York to make way for a romantic and festive wonderland. There's the tree at Rockefeller Center (plus lots of other great trees throughout the city), the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, ice-skating, carriage rides through Central Park and the incredible department store window dressings that draw crowds. There's shopping and eating and sightseeing, with plenty to do for everyone in the family.

Get in the spirit with this guide to Christmas in New York >>


Traveling to the Arctic Circle may seem like going to the end of the world, but Iceland is only a six-hour flight from New York, and it's probably about as close as you'll get to the North Pole. The whole country gets decked out for Christmas, so it may even resemble Santa's lair! Check out the Christmas village in Reykjavik, drink some mulled wine and enjoy all the twinkling lights. Best of all, you'll have a good chance of seeing the aurora borealis, or northern lights.

Puerto Rico

If escaping to a tropical paradise seems more like your idea of a holiday, then head to Puerto Rico, where the celebrations start in November. There are parties and parades, feasts and gifts. One hotel even boasts a giant gingerbread house. Plus, you get to catch a tan while your friends back home are shivering.

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