Celebrate the release of the new Hobbit film in Hobbiton

Searching for a December break that's a little out of the ordinary? How about ice karting in Finland or seal spotting on England's east coast? We’ve selected six unique experiences to spice up your winter.

For beach bums...

Short haul: Lincolnshire, England

Each winter Donna Nook, a sleepy area of low lying coastland on Lincolnshire’s eastern shore, comes alive as wildlife enthusiasts converge to witness thousands of grey seals clamber ashore to breed.

A grey seal pup on the beachA grey seal pup on the beach
DaveMHunt Photography / Thinkstock

The area, managed by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, has become one of the best places to see the lovable mammals up close in the UK, with sightings during the peak winter season almost guaranteed.

The spectacle’s popularity almost became its downfall, with a recent trend in seal mortality rates coinciding with an increase in visitor numbers. Thankfully, tourist restrictions and volunteer wardens have helped return the area to a safe haven for these inquisitive creatures.

Long haul: Goa, India

With the mercury stretching toward the 30°C mark, laid-back Goa with its longstanding hippy vibe is the perfect place to escape both the winter chill and Christmas stress.

A sculpture from a previous Sand Festival on Miramar BeachA sculpture from a previous Sand Festival on Miramar Beach
Creative Commons / gcmenezes

Yes, December draws in the peak-season tourist crowds, but travelling at this time of year also offers numerous delights, chief among them, the Goa Sand Art Festival.

The three-day event, held annually in mid-December, draws in artists from across India who gather to turn the white shores into a living canvas, creating dazzling sculptures from the white Goan sands.

For city slickers…

Short haul: Florence, Italy

Rapid heartbeat, confusion, dizziness; while nobody likes to get ill around Christmas, Florence syndrome is probably one complaint worth contracting.

The museums in Florence are quietest in DecemberThe museums in Florence are quietest in December
Creative Commons Luca Sartoni / Les Haines / Joe deSousa

The psychosomatic disorder is triggered by overwhelming artistic beauty and nowhere has more than the Italian city itself.

In December, when the museums are quietest, faint over Florence’s frescos and weaken beneath its Renaissance majesty. Pack smelling salts for the Mozart recitals in churches and dustings of snow at dusk.

Long haul: Tbilisi, Georgia

Ever since the Iron Curtain fell in the 1990s, Tbilisi has been dolling up in the wings, and as UK citizens no longer need a visa to visit, its moment is finally here.

UK citizens no longer need a visa to visit Tbilisi, GeorgiaUK citizens no longer need a visa to visit Tbilisi, Georgia
Creative Commons / Sohadiszno

Purling art deco elegance with peeling, old-world charm, Georgia’s capital is snugly protected by three mountain ranges, allowing modern life to flow past faster than the Mtkvari River below.

Rejuvenate in its famous sulphur baths, barter at the flea market or lose hours (and breath) in its remarkable churches, mosques and synagogues. With opera houses, forgotten piazzas and more vineyards than South Africa, if you haven’t got Georgia on your mind already, you soon will.

For thrillseekers…

Short haul: Levi, Finland

Forget visiting Santa – if you do one thing in Lapland this winter, make sure it’s ice karting.

Visiting Lapland? Then skip Santa and go ice karting instead Visiting Lapland? Then skip Santa and go ice karting instead
Artem Sapegin / Thinkstock

Finland is renowned for its world-beating rally drivers and amateur racers can follow in their tracks at the Eskimo Circuit in Levi, a theatre of motoring dreams carved from the snow.

After power-sliding around icy hairpins and jostling for space in slippery chicanes, racers can discuss the high-octane drama over a hot berry juice, which, in these chilly climes, is better than being sprayed in the face with a bottle of fizz.

Long haul: Hobbiton, New Zealand

With the final instalment of The Hobbit scheduled for release this December, why not pay homage to Bilbo Baggins and company on a Middle Earth-themed tour of New Zealand?

Pay homage to the Hobbit with a sojourn to Middle EarthPay homage to the Hobbit with a sojourn to Middle Earth
Creative Commons / Tom Hall

Start your trip at Hobbiton, a sheep farm cum film set, where guests can wander around the famous Green Dragon Inn and Hobbit Holes, as featured in both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film trilogies.

Those feeling more adventurous can combine film set tours with activities such as kayaking on Lake Pukaki, horse-riding in Golden Bay or skiing in Wanaka. Whatever you do, though, do it in a cloak.

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Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.