After feasting, festivities and probably a fair few family fights, sweeping January depressions away with a last-minute escape from responsibilities is a tempting proposition. Beaches the colour of white coral and the first minutes of 2020 spent in a heated swimming pool offer a glamourous start to the new year.
If you need any more persuasion to book yourself a post-Christmas package, know this: holiday prices can typically drop by as much as £1000 between the last week of December and first week of January, making the pre-NYE period an economic choice for trip booking. Whether you’re after a pyrotechnic-lit seafood feast on a beach, an icy escape from the grinds of the city or a horse-riding adventure in the Mexican desert, there’s still time to snap up last-minute destinations for the dawn of 2020.
Swap the drizzled streets of England for Reykjavik’s icy roads, which are lit up in technicolour brilliance throughout New Year’s Eve. Locals in the city buy their fireworks through a charitable endeavour, supporting ICE-SAR the national search and rescue unit and there’s no official fireworks display. Instead, from around 8:30pm onwards, the skies begin to burble with illuminated rosettes as thousands of individuals take their turn disrupting the peace. Start your night by heading out in the afternoon (darkness falls early), and watch the traditional bonfire burning that takes places across the city, a tradition started by fishermen hundreds of years ago. For the stroke of midnight, a front row seat beside the resplendent Hallgrimskirkja Church on Skólavörouholt Hill offers the best view of the city’s firework finale. Stand and watch, or book a room at Hotel Leifur Eiríksson, which sits opposite the church. Alternatively, hop onto a harbour cruise (Elding.is offer a New Year’s Eve cruise from £139pp) to watch the skies from the waves. Remember your thermals – temperatures are unlikely to climb past -1C.
Once your Brennivín-induced headache dies down, escape the city and revive yourself with an icy adventure through the lava caves and geothermic hot springs of Iceland’s wilderness. Tour operators continue to run multi-day tours throughout the festive season, so you’ll find plenty of choice. G Adventures five-day Iceland Northern Lights and Golden Circle itinerary begins in Reykjavik and still has availability throughout start dates in early January (from £917pp).
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Mexico’s most beautiful city reveals its spirit on New Year’s Eve – and with a host of top hotels dropping their prices for the start of 2020, you can snap up a luxurious room with some last-minute haggling. Crowds spills across the cobbled streets of this colonial city on the big night, making their way to El Jardin – the main square – for an enthusiastic pyrotechnics display that boarders on chaotic. If craning your neck to watch fireworks light up the city’s neo-gothic Parroquia cathedral from below doesn’t appeal, join the rooftop parties that provide spectacular views from up high. Local haunts Mama Mia and Bar La Chula are our picks. Don’t avoid the streets all together, though: you’ll miss the larger-than-life puppets called mojigangas which parade the narrow byways, transported by cackling crowds and infectious revelry. If you successfully resist over-imbibing on margaritas, start the new year on the right hoof with a horse-back adventure across the surrounding Guanajuato countryside. The stalwart Rosewood Hotel, which is offering discounted stays over the NYE period, will organise half-day riding tours for guests but most hotels are able to recommend reputable stables.
If you’re more inclined to accept copious pisco shots, book into the clean cut Hotel Matilda, which is offering 40 per cent discounts on NYE stays. The hushed quiet of an on-site spa is the ideal antidote to a night on the cobbles.
Bali, land of the full moon parties, doesn’t disappoint on New Year’s Eve, with the brightest fireworks and loudest booms of all South East Asia. But a last-minute winter trip to the island doesn’t have to mean day-glo paint and Australian backpackers aplenty. Escape the chaos of Kuta Beach by heading to Jimbaran where you can watch the fireworks madness from afar. Lining the beach with white-clothed communal tables, Jimbaran Beach Seafood Café is a popular dinner spot on NYE to feast on fresh clams, oysters, lobsters and fish as the ocean is lit from above by the night’s fireworks. Average highs of 30C will ensure your NYE escape offers balmy days and warm seas while the threat of rainy season downpours keeps prices low and hotels quiet. And while daily showers are inevitable, you can expect sunny mornings and the rain to head off before early evening, leaving most NYE celebrations dry.
High rainfalls also offer the best conditions for rafting during the winter months. After the revelry of the 31st, book onto a day’s tour of the Ayung River. Lonely Planet run 14 hour river days throughout the celebratory season, encompassing visits to a Monkey Forest, a lobster supper and a chance to recharge at a spa (from £87pp).
Tokyo , Japan
2020 is set to be Japan’s year in the spotlight, with the Olympics riding into town on the wave of last autumn’s Rugby World Cup. Fly into the capital and join locals ringing in a year of ample opportunity – quite literally – as the Buddhist temples of Tokyo ring their bells 108 times on the stroke of midnight. Celebrations of Oshogatsu are rich in tradition, so if bars and booze don’t appeal, swerve the countdown parties of Roppongi district and look for the quieter celebrations within the city’s concreate jungle, like gobbling down soba noodles (said to represent long life) and toasting the dawn with toso sake. Many hotels offer Osechi Ryori dinners – fastidiously created foods which symbolise wishes for the year ahead, served in multi-layered bento boxes – which you’d be advised to book, as restaurants across the city close for the New Year. The reason? NYE is normally spent at the hundreds of shrines across Tokyo, where street food, games and a festival feel prepare for the bell ringing. There’s still plenty of NYE availability at Park Hyatt Tokyo, in the Shinjuku district, which offers jaw-dropping views across the city’s fireworks from its American bar.
If you’re hoping to avoid the closures, escape the capital and travel out to Mount Takao, an hour from the city. In Japan, New Year’s celebrations include hatsuhinode, or watching the first sunrise, and from this breezy peak you can join in the ritual, accompanied by the chanting of sutras by local priests ‘welcoming the light’.
If you’re still waiting for your invite to the Hofburg Palace’s New Years Ball to land on the doormat, it might be time to start making some alternative NYE plans. Vienna’s swanky ball – a kind of Davos-under-Fireworks for moneyed Euro families – isn’t the only celebration put on by Austria’s capital. The city also hosts the Silvesterpfad, a combination of music, food and fireworks events across the city. Leave expectations at home; this isn’t your normal local council dreamt up community event with not a single snotty-nosed childrens’ parades in sight. With festivities running from 2pm to 2am across the city, you’ll find an emphasis on cuisine and culture that matches the city’s high-brow outlook. Free waltzing lessons are given under twinkling ballroom lights along the city’s main pedestrianised street, Graban, followed by a midnight mass waltz in front of the city hall. There’s a the chance to pick up a freshly-miinted New Year Coin, which the Austrian mint give out during the festivities and even live broadcasts of the Staatsoper’s opera productions. Peckish waltz-dancers can feast on the obligatory wurst sold from the plentiful food stalls, or pick up miniature Sachertorte to scoff. Five-star hotel The Guesthouse, which shares a square with the city Opera, still has availability over NYE and is offering 7-course New Year’s dinners in its restaurant. Come morning, drag yourself to the Rathaus the next day as well – each year, a concert by from Vienna’s Philharmonic Orchestra is broadcast on big screens outside.
Stretched out across seven hills, Portugal’s capital offers plenty of high-altitude viewpoints for watching the city celebrate the start of a new year. Opening it’s gates for midnight, the hilltop 10th century Castelo de Sao Jorge provides epic views of the city’s fireworks and doesn’t get as crowded as the riverside Praça do Comércio, where an official display takes place. If sky-ogling with the crowds doesn’t interest you, book a room at the newly opened One Palacio da Anunciada – it still has availability – and sneak up to the rooftop pool for a midnight swim beneath the pyrotechnics, before venturing out, local-like. in the early hours to the city’s writhing Barro Alto district. Morning hangovers should be cured with a gentle ample around the city’s botanical gardens before taking lunch at Henrique Sá Pessoa’s Tapisco restaurant where indulgent Portuguese sharing plates, with Michelin-star credentials – are on menu.