The Best Christmas Destinations In And Out Of The Country
We can all agree that Christmas in the Philippines is more than just a celebration, it’s a way of life. We don’t just celebrate Christmas, we live for it! We are literally the only ones who celebrate it when the calendar enters the -ber months. That’s why it wouldn’t be a surprise if many of us have grand plans to culminate this occasion as the end of December rolls around.
If you’re planning to usher in the holidays with a quick getaway, we have compiled a list of destinations that might suit your wanderlust with some great experiences sprinkled with a lot of Christmas spirit!
Christmas destination in the Philippines
Christmas is celebrated countrywide, but if you want to do away with the typical celebration like how we do it in the metro, these destinations might give you a Christmas experience like no other.
A city in Negros Occidental hailed as the city of smiles and widely known for sweet delicacies. With that being said, Bacolod sports an array of family-friendly food choices this Christmas season. If you’re looking to have a gastronomic adventure while enjoying a vibrant suburban scene, Bacolod will make it worth your while.
Other than being a foodie destination, Christmas is basically when Bacolod shines – literally. A trip here during the holidays wouldn’t be complete without paying Bamboo Tonogbanu’s Christmas Village a visit which has recently reopened after closing due to the pandemic.
The Queen City of the South has many things going on, not only will you get a bite of the best lechon in the country, a dip in the most pristine beaches in the world, but also the most festive Christmas in the country. The fact that it houses some of the most iconic Churches in the country means that attending the Simbang Gabi in Cebu will be as grand as you could get.
Other than that, it wouldn’t hurt to have a side trip to some of the nearby beaches. We’re in the Philippines after all, where you can never go wrong in having a beach holiday whenever you want to, even during Christmas!
Foodies will surely have a feast when visiting Cebu. Aside from the famous lechon, it’s also the home of delicacies like ngohiong lumpia, dried mangos, dried fish, otap and a lot more that you can have a grand time on while visiting the Queen City of the South.
If you’re looking for something fiesta-like in celebrating Christmas, heading north this December may give you a dose of traditional festivities. During December, Christmas isn’t just the only reason why this city celebrates, they also have Maytinis Festival. Well, it isn’t exactly a fiesta but more of a celebratory occasion that’s greatly connected to Christmas as it showcases a unique Filipino translation of some of the Bible’s greatest highlights in the history of Christianity.
While it’s nonetheless an indigenous version of a Christmas celebration, this region is the only one which holds float parades in the middle of December. You won’t find that anywhere else in the Philippines in time for Christmas.
Just like Bacolod’s Christmas Village, Cavite also has its own version inside Crosswinds in Tagaytay. Marvel on the giant red chair, the Crosswinds Express tram and the miniature ferris wheel in the Alpine Village. At night you will be able to enjoy the lights display at Cedar Brooks and Cedar Lane. Different kinds of souvenirs are also available in the Yule Shop and Santa’s Treasure.
Because the Philippines is a tropical country, we don’t really get to have a winter season. However, we do have Baguio City, and that is the closest thing that we could ever get to a Winter Holiday.
With its temperate weather and laid back setting, you can sport your most fashionable beanies and sweaters as you do your holiday shopping in their sidewalk bazaars and flea markets. They may not be popular for their food, but if you’re the health-conscious type, you can indulge in some fresh fruits for cheap, especially strawberries!
Reopening after the pandemic is Bagiuo’s Christmas Village at the Baguio Country Club with this year’s theme dubbed Oriental Winter Wonderland. Furthermore, PAGASA just declared the end of Habagat or Southwest Monsoon. This means people who visit will be able to enjoy all the beauty Bagiuo has to offer with the little to no chance of rain. Christmas Village will be available from 10am to 10pm daily from October 10, 2022 to January 8, 2023. Rates are as follows:
10am - 4:59pm
5pm - 10pm
|Adult||₱ 90||₱ 125|
|Kids (4-12 years old)||₱ 50||₱ 90|
|Senior citizen (senior citizen ID required)||₱ 30||₱ 50|
|PWD and toddlers (3y/o and below)||FREE||FREE|
|Bagiuo Country Club members (membership ID card required)||FREE||FREE|
Following COVID 19 guidelines, a full vaccination card or certificate is required upon entry and physical distancing is still advised. Face masks are also required when entering the premises and rubber slippers are not allowed.
Visa-free destinations for Filipinos wishing for a white Christmas
If welcoming Christmas means being surrounded by a winter wonderland, here are the best places you can go to without the hassle of applying for a visa. Even with a third-world passport, you can easily fly over to these places. Just book your plane ticket, and you’re off to a winter wonderland this Christmas!
1. Jeju Island, South Korea
While it’s easy and free to apply for a tourist visa to South Korea, nothing beats traveling with just a passport. Jeju Island, despite being in South Korea, is a visa-free destination for Filipinos. This place is best known for its beaches, but northern regions such as Eorimok is a winter destination and perfect for sledding downhill.
There aren’t any direct flights to Jeju Island from Manila. The easiest way would be booking a flight from Clark Freeport in Pampanga to Korea’s Gangwon Province – which you can also enter visa-free, and then fly to Jeju Island via Fly Gangwon.
Another way to get there without having to apply for a transit visa is by flying from Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia or Thailand. If you plan to go to Jeju Island by skipping the visa requirement, you might as well include any of these places in your itinerary as it will make more financial sense or vice versa.
Filipinos are allowed to enter Mongolia without a visa for a visit that does not exceed three weeks. With its vast landscapes and open countryside, winter in Mongolia can be surreal. Locals celebrate winter by creating ice sculptures, which will mostly fill the scenery as you travel by train.
Although it doesn’t snow much in Mongolia, the temperature stays below zero for months. That’s why sometimes there are still traces of snow until the summer months.
A few things to enjoy while in Mongolia would be camel rides at the Gobi Desert, a visit to the majestic equestrian statue of the great Genghis Khan, the ever beautiful Amarbayasgalant Monastery, hike or camp near the Orkhon Waterfall or relax at the Tsenher Hot Spring. Hotels are also not common in Mongolia so you’ll be in for a treat when staying in a traditional Ger.
A Chinese transit visa is actually quite easy to apply for. However, if you’d rather skip all that and just book and fly whenever you want, non-stop flights are available in Hong Kong. Perhaps you can have a side trip in Mongolia in the midst of your Hong Kong getaway?
3. Sapa, Vietnam
Sapa in Vietnam widely known for its wonderful snowfall scenery in the midst of a tropical Southeast Asian climate. It’s located in the Northern part of Vietnam, some three to five hours drive from Hanoi.
In the winter, from December to February, the weather in Sapa becomes very cold, especially at night. However, in return, visitors will have the opportunity to watch the sunrise over the valley in the morning. In recent years, there has been snowfall recorded in Sapa.
Vietnam is visa-free for Philippine passport holders who wish to visit the country for up to 21 days, and most airlines in the country offer direct flights from Manila and Cebu. You can fly from Manila or Cebu to Hanoi, then take a train or a bus to the northern part of Vietnam – Sapa!
While every (Catholic) Filipino is aware of Jerusalem’s biblical significance, there is more to this destination steeped in history. Aside from its rich heritage, culture, picturesque ruins and buildings, its northern region (Golan Heights) is a well-known ski site. Snow is common in northern Israel between January and February.
There aren’t many flights to Israel that are passport-friendly to Filipinos, as most of them have to lay over in countries that aren’t visa free. However, there are a few flights a week from Hong Kong that goes straight to Tel Aviv Israel.
Alternatively, you can also stop by Istanbul, Turkey before arriving at Tel Aviv. For Filipinos planning to visit the country, these are the documents needed:
- Confirmed round trip ticket
- Passport (must be valid for more than 6 months after the intended date of return)
- Pocket money of at least US $2,000 (cash or travellers cheque)
- Confirmed hotel reservation before departure
- Letter of invitation from the sponsoring establishment or tourist agency
Taiwan is officially visa-free for Filipinos since November 1, 2017. And as of September 29, 2022, they are resuming the visa-free entry policy post-pandemic. This country is by far the closest and the most practical destination to experience winter. The spots that snow during the winter months of December to February includes the Yushan (Jade Mountain), Hehuanshan, Guanshan, Xueshan, and even the Yangmingshan National Park, which is an easy day trip from Taipei.
This snow-covered getaway is the most convenient pick for a white Christmas for Filipinos because it’s just one plane ride away from Manila. Cebu Pacific, Air Asia, and PAL offer direct flights daily.
6. St. Petersburg Russia
Not exactly visa-free but the e-visa that they recently implemented virtually cost nothing. The application is fairly simple, it can all be done online! Check out our step-by-step Russian e-visa guide if you want to head here for the holidays.
December is also a cold season in St. Petersberg, making this destination a perfect place to make your white Christmas dreams come true. Christian influence is all over this city and it’s hard not to make this place one of the best Christmas destinations in the world. While the snow is a good enough reason for most Filipinos to visit St. Petersburg during the Christmas season, its deep Christian roots will make this celebration more distinctive.
Christmas in Russia is normally celebrated on January 7th (only a few Catholics might celebrate it on the 25th December), because the Russian Orthodox Church uses the old ‘Julian’ calendar for religious celebration days. The official Christmas and New holidays in Russia last from December 31st to January 10th.
St Petersburg is one of Europe’s archaic cultural cities. It’s teeming with remnants of the Renaissance era, transporting you back to the blossoming ages of arts in Europe. There’s a handful of museums, galleries, and theatres that will offer visitors an almost never-ending opportunity to discover not just Russian traditions but also some of history’s finest international artworks and architecture in the world.
Here are some of the most amazing places that you visit in St Petersburg!
- The State Hermitage Museum
- St Isaac’s Cathedral
- Nevsky Prospect
- Faberge Museum
- Catherine Palace
- Palace Square
- Alexandrisky Theater
- Peter and Paul Fortress
- Yusupov Palace (Moika Palace)
- Peterhof Palace and Gardens
- Palace Embakment
- Their underground Metro System
Whether you’re an art enthusiast or just a casual traveler, it’s hard to be not inspired by the architectural and cultural wonders of St Petersburg. As Russia becomes one of the easy to access countries for Filipinos, it’s now easier for Filipinos to have a taste of Western culture, art, and architecture than ever.
This isn’t a very convenient pick for a Christmas getaway due to the number of connecting flights that you have to take to get here, but it’s a great idea for an annual holiday destination. The easiest way is flying from MNL to Hong Kong then to St. Petersburg, there are also flights that connect from MNL to Dubai then to St Petersburg. Whichever flight you choose to hop on, make sure you have a St. Petersburg visa and a transit visa of the connecting country of your choice.
The Philippine passport may not be among the most powerful in the world, but it still opens up a handful of desirable destinations that could satisfy any Filipino’s wanderlust! With proper planning and budgeting, not even a visa requirement can stop you from going wherever you want to go this Christmas.
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