The traditions of the holiday season are like a nice warm hug that you wait for all year. Families gather, and delicious, seasonal food fills tables. There are twinkling lights and cookies galore, but what if you are looking for something more? This year, add a dose of travel to your traditions and explore places where yuletide cheer comes in unique forms. Our Christmas and New Year's Vacations explore destinations around the globe, allowing you to experience the true meaning of winter wonderland. You may have always heard that "there is no place like home for the holidays," but these tours may make you question that mantra:
Christmas Markets of the Rhine
Spend Christmas surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of the Rhine Gorge. This region is renowned for its forested cliffs and fairytale castles, and seeing it transformed by winter's touch is truly a memorable way to spend your vacation. Take to the Rhine aboard an elegant Amadeus river cruise ship and watch the scenery unfold as you sail from Cologne to Rüdesheim, then back up the river to Koblenz and Bonn. Each featured destination is brimming with holiday spirit, and the best way to immerse yourself in it is while visiting their Christmas markets.
As you arrive in each port of call, enjoy guided touring experiences, such as visiting Siegfried's Mechanical Music Cabinet and city tours of Koblenz and Bonn, and the opportunity to explore their Christmas markets at leisure. Sip mulled wine and nibble on regional treats while wandering amongst the festive decor. Enjoy the chance to shop for local crafts and experience these traditional marketplaces' unmatched ambiance. The Christmas Markets of the Rhine are the ideal place to adopt new traditions to bring home to your family.
Harz Mountains Christmas Markets
Is there any better place to celebrate Christmas than in a medieval city nestled in Germany's Harz Mountains? We think not. Timeless Wernigerode hosts this advent adventure, and its half-timbered buildings pair with an imposing castle and frosted forests all around to create a storybook scene. From your base in this atmospheric location, you will experience the best of the Harz Mountains Christmas Markets in delightful UNESCO World Heritage villages where time stands still.
Yuletide offerings abound as you explore 9th-century Wernigerode. Of course, you will have plenty of time to soak in its market's festive decor and twinkling lights and wander through its chocolate-box streets, yet your adventures here also take you aboard the Brocken Railway. This line weaves past frozen rivers and snow-blanketed valleys on its winding course through Harz National Park to the summit of Brocken Mountain. Your new favorite Christmas memories lie ahead as you venture to two tucked-away villages, Quedlinburg and Goslar, whose markets look back in time, allowing you to embrace the holiday spirit in traditional ways.
Canadian Rockies at Christmas
When considering Christmas and New Year's vacations, the Canadian Rockies must surely grace your list. Western Canada's most dramatic landscape year-round, the Rockies embody the winter wonderland spirit during the coldest months. See sky-reaching peaks donned in their winter white and vibrant glacial lakes frozen over for the winter. Waterfalls that once flowed freely over granite cliffs stand still, leaving a curtain of ice gleaming in the sunlight. All this is yours to behold when you visit the Canadian Rockies at Christmas.
This tour begins in Vancouver with a few days to enjoy guided sightseeing and independent explorations before boarding VIA Rail's Canadian for an overnight journey into the mountains. Watch in awe as the dramatic peaks come into view during your second day aboard the train. Arriving in Jasper National Park, admire its wild, snowy expanses on your own and while on an ice walk in frozen Maligne Canyon. The tour also sees you to stunning Lake Louise, where the cold months bring opportunities to ice skate or play hockey on the lake, and beautiful Banff National Park. Pair these idyllic locations with a traditional feast on Christmas Day and plenty of seasonal treats to create Christmas memories like none other.
A Scottish Christmas
Travel during Christmas vacation may also see you to Scotland, which is not a destination that immediately comes to mind when thinking of winter trips, but it should. The nation's varied terrain gives each region a unique flavor during the coldest months. This Scottish Christmas journey explores the snowy Highlands by train and offers time in popular cities, whose oceanic climates keep conditions mild. Following the round-trip course, you will see how each locale's festive adornments add a warm ambiance to the ancient surroundings, creating an atmosphere that welcomes the holidays.
Your time in Scotland is split between Edinburgh and Inverness, traveling between the two by rail. Sit back and watch as the mighty Cairngorm Mountains come into view and the rugged Highland landscape envelopes you. Spend Christmas Eve riding the famous Kyle Line out to Eilean Donan Castle in Kyle of Lochalsh and Christmas Day surrounded by new-found friends, dining on exceptional Scottish fare, and listening to traditional music. Seeing Loch Ness on Boxing Day, surrounded by snow-clad mountains and frosted trees, gives a mystical feel to this legendary site. Add a dose of lore to your holiday itinerary in Scotland.
Classic Glacier Express at Christmas
If you are dreaming of a white Christmas, look no further than Switzerland. The Swiss Alps shine as a beacon to some of the nation's finest winter destinations, and trips here immerse you in the yuletide season in all-encompassing ways. Join the Glacier Express at Christmas to see the mountains and their charming resort towns come to life under a blanket of snow and the soft glow of twinkle lights.
Venture to the car-free Zermatt in the shadow of the Matterhorn and Switzerland's oldest city, Chur. Enjoy Christmas Eve and Day swept away by the season's offerings in beautiful, medieval Lucerne. Switzerland's railways act as our chariot through the peaks and to these idyllic locales. Marvel at frozen valleys and breathtaking panoramas of tiny mountainside villages nestled in snow as you travel on local lines and aboard two of the nation's most scenic railways, the Glacier Express and the Bernina Express. As you arrive in your snowy retreats, Christmas markets and Swiss holiday traditions invite you to celebrate the season like a local.
Interlaken and the Jungfrau Express at New Year
From the Rhine Gorge to the Top of Europe and all the spectacular Bernese Oberland mountainscapes between, this Christmas and New Year's Vacation's appeals are showcased in its scenery. Switzerland is magical in winter, with its soaring mountains blanketed in snow and its wintry forests giving way to gingerbread towns. The Interlaken and Jungfrau Express at New Year journey is the perfect time to see it all unfold, as the Swiss Christmas markets still shine in village squares, and festive decor complements the historic architecture.
Using Interlaken, tucked between frosty lakes, as a base, set out for Switzerland's most scenic locations by rail. Venture to the picturesque mountain village of Mürren to ride its cable car to the top of the mighty Schilthorn, made famous by James Bond. Discover the best of Grindelwald, all wooden chalets and spellbinding squares, on New Year's Eve, and celebrate the arrival of the New Year while climbing to Europe's highest railway station aboard the Jungfrau Railway. Looking over the snow-bound landscape from this sky-high vantage point is a holiday memory you will treasure. Climb to new heights this winter in Switzerland.
Christmastime getaways are the best way to see how other places celebrate the season. So skip the white sand beaches of the warmer climates and instead embrace the holidays in places where unimaginable scenery, deep history, and Christmas traditions go hand-in-hand with Vacations By Rail.