Travel advent calendar: 24 Christmas travel ideas

Travel advent calendar: 24 Christmas travel ideas

Pick a day, we'll give you a place -- counting down to the 25th can now be a globe-trotting experience

Too often the weeks leading up to Christmas are spent panicking about gifts, worrying about having too little food, worrying about having too much food and feeling guilty about opening 15 of your chocolate advent calendar windows on December 1.

We've found the solution.

Some great festivals, traditions and events take place around the world during December, so here's a travel advent calendar you can open in one shot without crying.

December 1: Snowmobile safari, Finland

Snowmobile ride in FinlandThe land where white Christmases are guaranteed.Start December with a bang as the countdown to Christmas begins in the lake region in the south of Finland in Lehmonkärjentie. Take in the snow-covered scenery through a range of snowmobile rides from short beginner trips to long safaris catered to expert snowmobilers.

Packages start at €95 (US$127) a person for a 20-kilometer, 1.5-hour beginner’s course at the Lehmonkärki holiday resort.

www.lehmonkarki.fl; (03) 7666 330

Also on CNNGo: 10 mountains for every kind of climber

December 2: Hot springs in Hokkaido, Japan

Monkeys warming up in a hot spring"Tsk. Kids. Even manage to get dirty in a giant hot tub."Warm up in the cold winters of southwestern Hokkaido in the Noboribetsu Onsen area.

The water in the hot springs in the area contains a high level of sulfur, and at Jigoku Valley ("Hell Valley"), plumes of yellow volcanic gas seep to the surface, casting a ghostly tint to the area, giving the place its name.

The Dai-ichi Takimotokan boasts seven in-house hot springs on its premises. Rates for a four-person room in the Main Building start at around ¥20,000 (US$258).; +81 143 84 2111

Also on CNNGo: 5 of Asia’s strangest spa therapies

December 3: Great Christmas Pudding Race in London, England

Participant in the pudding racePudding race or London marathon? Only the date can tell you. Join in the race in aid of Cancer Research Aid Committee or just spectate as six-strong teams of Londoners dress up in zany outfits for the 31st Great Christmas Pudding Race in Covent Garden.; +44 7818 077036

Also on CNNGo: 20 of the world’s most iconic skyscrapers

December 4: Snowshoeing in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Snowshowing in SarajevoGreat way to burn off those mince pie calories.

Pick up snowshoeing in Sarajevo -- easier to learn than skiing as snowshoes distribute your weight over a larger surface area.

The 98-meter high Skakavac Waterfall, which freezes completely in winter, is difficult to get to on foot because of heavy snowfall, so it’s the perfect place to snowshoeing.

Snowshoe trips start at €22.50 (US$30) with Green Visions.; +387 (0)33 717290

Also on CNNGo: Australia’s highest mountain by snowshoe

December 5: Winter swimming in Berlin, Germany

Winter swimming in BerlinDecember 5, Berlin -- best day to set up a wet suit business.

Winter swimming, not to be confused with ice swimming, is a less extreme winter activity. Participants do not jump into a frozen river in nothing more than bathing suits, but often wear winter-suitable neoprene suits.

The Berlin Seals swim in Lake Oranke in Berlin every Sunday between September and April. The highlight of the Berlin Seals calendar is a winter swimming event in mid-January, but you can still dip into the cold Orankesee in December with the family-friendly group.

Also on CNNGo: World’s 15 most spectacular swimming pools

December 6: Train ride from Toronto to Vancouver, Canada

The CanadianBring a flask and enjoy the ride. Trains have been thundering along the historic four-day Toronto-Vancouver route, known as The Canadian, since 1955.

Experience the wintery Canadian landscape leisurely as the train makes its way through Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton and Jasper.

Today the route is operated by VIA Rail Canada, and departs from Toronto on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. One-way economy-class tickets start at CAD530 (US$510).; +1 888 842 7245

Also on CNNGo: 6 great Australian train journeys

December 7: Christmas shop in Hong Kong

Christmas tree in Hong KongLights up and skates on -- Christmas Hong Kong style. Christmas may have been co-opted by Hong Kong businesses hoping to rake in year-end sales, but the city’s efforts to make the holiday festive continue to be impressive. 

This year, Hong Kong will again host WinterFest, with a giant outdoor Tiffany & Co. Christmas tree lighting up Central. Despite the lack of freezing temperatures, an ice-skating rink will also be open at the Centenary Garden in Tsim Sha Tsui, where you can skate under the Christmas lights.

Also on CNNGo: Beginner’s guide to Hong Kong food

December 8: Snow safari in a Swiss army vehicle, United States

Swiss army vehicleWho needs an army knife, when you can have this?!Be prepared for an adrenaline-pumping ride as you scale Barron Mountain in New Hampshire in a Pinzgauer, a modified six-wheel drive Swiss Army vehicle.

Alpine Adventures offers an alternative way to see the wintery sights of northeast America. Tickets for adults are US$36, and groups must contain at least four persons; and Alpine Adventures suggest advance reservations for the winter.; +1 603 745 9911

Also on CNNGo: World’s 7 most unusual vehicles

December 9: Visit the Christmas markets in Vienna, Austria

Christmas market in ViennaEven Scrooge would find something to love at Vienna's Christmas markets. Christmas markets flourish in every city and town in Austria, though most visitors try to hit the markets in the largest cities Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck. The capital holds “Christkindlmarket” in many areas of the city.

The largest is at the Rathausplatz, in the square in front of city hallm where you can slurp mulled wine, munch mince pies and buy trinkets for your tree.

Other notable markets in Vienna include the market in front of Schroenbrunn Palace, the former summer residence of the Hapsburg emperors, and the market at Spittelberg, considered the most authentic.

Also on CNNGo: 50 must-visit traditional markets in Korea

December 10: Spend Christmas in the sun in Sydney, Australia

Christmas on the beachSun, sand and gifts? Where's the visa office?If you’re already getting tired of all the snow and the below-zero weather forecasts, head to the southern hemisphere where summer is hitting its stride.

You can count down the days in December and celebrate Christmas Day on many beaches in Australia, but the balmy weather also makes Christmas a great time to explore all the holiday markets in Sydney.

It’s a nice change from huddling in layers of clothing in a packed European market, slipping and sliding on melted snow.

Also on CNNGo: Oz adventure: 40 summer outings

December 11: Watch 'The Nutcracker,' St. Petersburg, Russia

Performance at the Bolshoi Theater"The Nutcracker" -- more cultural than it sounds. Almost every big-name cosmopolitan theater and small-town community theater in the world puts on a Christmas event for December, and "The Nutcracker" might be the most beloved of all Christmas theater shows.

This year, the newly reopened Bolshoi Theatre is the best place to catch a production of "The Nutcracker." The Bolshoi Theater was opened in 1856 and reopened in October this year after a six-year renovation that cost more than US$700 million.; +7 499 250 73 17

Also on CNNGo: World’s best tourists

December 12: Our Lady of Guadalupe feast day, Mexico

Our Lady of Guadalupe BasilicaPilgrims, artists, musicians and tourists mix together. The shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe is one of the world's most visited places of pilgrimage for Catholics, and millions flock to the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City every year.

The feast day falls on December 16 this year, and is the last big holiday in Mexico before the Christmas season begins.

Join the other devotees in the square of the Basilica, which bursts with pilgrims, artists and musicians all adding to the festivities.

Also on CNNGo: 10 of the world’s most loved airports

December 13: Ice fishing in Trakai, Lithuania

Island Castle in TrakaiAll you need's a rod, a flask and whole lot of patience.Trakai is home to the medieval Island Castle that sits in the middle of Lake Galve. In the winter the lake freezes over, and ice-fishing is a popular pastime.

Just remember to do as the locals do and bring a flask of vodka to warm yourself up through the day.

Trakai is about 20 kilometers west of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Buses run between Vilnius and Trakai, making ice-fishing an ideal day trip.

The Trakai National Sports & Health Center provides equipment for winter activities like ice-fishing and horse-drawn sled rides.

Trakai National Sports & Health Center, Karaimu St. 73, Trakai; +370 5285 5501

Also on CNNGo: 15 romantic European castle hotels

December 14: Bobsledding in Lillehammer, Norway

Bobrafting in LillehammerThe fastest you'll ever go in a milk crate. Lillehammerwas the site for bobsledding and luge events at the 1994 Winter Olympics.

The Lillehammer Olympic Bobsleigh and Luge track offers a range of winter activities including bobrafting, four-man bobsleighing and skeleton sledding.

Prices vary depending on the activity, but start at NOK 230 (US$39) a person for bobrafting.; +47 61 05 42 00

Also on CNNGo: Thrill seekers’ bucket list: 50 experiences to try before you die

December 15: Penguin watching at Isla Magdalena, Chile

Magellenic penguinsGreat tux, shame about the walk. Penguins are a fixture of the popular imagination of Christmas, even though they live in the southern hemisphere and don’t bunk in with Santa Claus in the north.

Approximately 60,000 pairs of Magellenic penguins, who form life-long partnerships, live on Isla Magdalena, and the numbers on this small island makes it an ideal location for penguin-watching.

Many tour operators conduct penguin-watching tours. Turismo Comapa operates a ferry tour that departs from the city of Punta Arenas.

Tours do not run every day, so it is best to check in with the tour operator before heading out. Adult tickets are CLP 25,000 (US$50).

Also on CNNGo: 50 natural wonders: The ultimate list of scenic splendor

December 16: Ice skating in New York, United States

Ice-skating in Bryant ParkEasiest way to get noticed on the rink? Skate clockwise. One of the best ways to soak in the Christmas spirit in New York City is to spend a few hours at Bryant Park.

With a free skating rink and more than 100 shops to peruse while sipping hot chocolate or hot spiced apple cider, it can turn a cold winter’s day into a cockle warmer.

Or turn it into a nighttime activity, skating with the hordes at night, with the sky lit up by a giant Christmas tree overlooking the rink.; +1 212 661-6640

Also on CNNGo: Best city hotel rooms with a view

December 17: Hot smoke sauna in Otepaa, Estonia

Hot smoke sauna in EstoniaEver wondered how many people in funny hats you can fit in a hot tub?Otepaa, a small town 50 kilometers from Tartu, the second largest city in Estonia, is a haven for winter sports, but if that’s not your thing, try out an Estonian hot smoke sauna for a relaxing weekend.

You can get to Otepaa by buses from Tartu,Tallinn, and several other departure points.

Suitsusauna Talu (smoke sauna farm) is a small sauna retreat that accommodates up to 20 visitors. A bed per person for a night starts at €12.78 (US$17) and reservations should be made in advance.;; +372 504 2624

Also on CNNGo: Best cities to travel to in 2012

December 18: Hit the ski slopes in Pyeongchang, South Korea

Snowboarding in South KoreaIt's not the fall that hurts, it's the landing. Pyeongchang is due to host the 2018 Winter Olympics, so why wait to test your skis at an Olympic-approved venue?

Yongpyong Resort is one of the oldest ski resorts in Korea, and is home to 31 slopes, including six that are approved for international competitions.

Yongpyong Resort is also well-known as the site for several filming locations of the extremely popular Korean television series "Winter Sonata." The series has brought droves of visitors to Yongpyong Resort in Pyeongchang.; +82 33 335 5757


Also on CNNGo: Most eco-friendly tours in Korea

December 19: Get to know the Siberian Tiger, Vladivostok, Russia

Siberian tiger If Santa had these pulling his sleigh, how many bad kids would there be?Numbers of Siberian tigers in the wild have slowly increased after efforts by the Russian government and the World Wildlife Fund.

The Siberian tiger remains elusive to visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the beautiful big cat. Eco-tours offer visitors a holistic experience, and possibly even a sighting or two of the Siberian tiger.

Try the “Realm of Amur Tiger” package offered by U.S.-based Travel all Russia, which adheres to ecotourism principles.; +1 800 884 1721

Also on CNNGo: 10 ‘novel’ travel ideas

December 20: Take a menorah tour in Jerusalem, Israel

Menorah lighting in JerusalemBack where it all started. December 20 marks the start of Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday that spans eight days, and what better way to countdown to Christmas by experiencing yet another wintertime holiday celebration?

The winds gusting through Jerusalem during winter make the traditional menorahs unfeasible, so they are lit up and put in a glass case as “aquarium menorahs.”

Spend an evening snacking on a sufganiyot, a Hanukkah jelly doughnut, and wander through the streets in the neighborhoods of Nachlaot and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.; Jerusalem Tourist Info Center: +972 62 903 8202

Also on CNNGo: 15 of the world’s weirdest museums

December 21: Marvel at the ice sculptures in Harbin, China

Ice sculptures in HarbinAll of the colors of the rainbow, in ice. The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival only kicks off in early January, but the beautiful ice sculptures start going up in mid-December.

The China Harbin Ice and Snow World is one of the venues of the Ice and Snow Festival.

Also on CNNGo: China’s coolest chocolate art

December 22: Celebrate the winter solstice at Stonehenge, England

Winter solstice at StonehengeThe winter solstice is one of the few times you can get up close to the stones. The winter solstice falls on December 22, a day when druids and pagans celebrate the shortest day of the year at Stonehenge in Wiltshire.

Aside from believers, including the supposed present reincarnation of King Arthur Pendragon, non-believers have increasingly flocked to Stonehenge in recent years.

If you are thinking of joining the hundreds who will gather at Stonehenge, be prepared to deal with slippery roads up to the prehistoric site before sunrise.

Also on CNNGo: World’s 12 worst tourist traps

December 23: Listen to Christmas carols in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Christmas in San JuanEmpty of people, but filled with the sounds of carols.

The long Christmas season in Puerto Rico begins at the end of November and lasts all the way till early January.

Parrandas, or carolers, go door-to-door singing carols, in what is a thoroughly lively affair.

If you haven’t had enough of Christmas carols yet, beginning nine days before Christmas Day, churches conduct misas de aguinaldo, or mass of carols, every day at dawn. Visit the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, the second-oldest church in the Western hemisphere.; +1 787 722 0861

Also on CNNGo: World’s 50 best beaches

December 24: Christmas Eve bonfires, New Orleans, United States

Christmas Eve bonfire in St. James' ParishWatch, but don't touch. Nothing burns quite like a giant fire. In St. James Parish, right outside New Orleans, Christmas Eve is celebrated with the lighting up of bonfires and fireworks.

The bonfires are higher than three meters, and dot the banks of the Mississippi River. St. James Parish is about 97 kilometers, or roughly an hour’s drive, from New Orleans.

Also on CNNGo: 10 of the world’s most hated airports

Hoishan Chan is a recently returned Hong Konger by way of Singapore and the United States. She dreams of writing a television script and coming up with the perfect cookie recipe in her free time.

Read more about Hoishan Chan