Looking to do something different for the end of year holidays? UltraVilla experts from the four corners of the world share some unique festive traditions from their destinations which could have you catching your own Christmas meal, sitting down to table in Tuscany, passing some Santas on the Swiss Alps or joining in on religious processions in Mexico. It’s never an ordinary holiday thanks to the extraordinary expertise of our specialists!


Las Posadas – San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

One of the prettiest towns in Mexico has its best Christmas tradition. On the nine days leading up to Christmas eve, the streets of this charming colonial city in the center of the country come to live with lively Posada processions. Our Mexico expert Pamela H. Murdock tells us more about this unique custom:

“On the nine nights leading up to Christmas Eve, Las Posadas (inns or shelters), begin with a procession that represents the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. Candle-bearing residents sing Christmas carols as they walk, joined by “Mary” (usually riding a donkey) and “Joseph”. The parade weaves through the streets and participant knock on house doors while singing the traditional Posada Song, “Pidiendo Posada,”(Begging for Shelter). Nevertheless, they’re turned away because there is “no room at the inn.” “After all, sings the household, you might be a rogue.” Eventually, they find an open door. Here, everyone is given food and hot drinks while the children play at piñatas until they break and spill candy everywhere. A good time is truly had by all.”

Complete your enchanting end of year holidays in San Miguel de Allende by staying at the historic Quinta Quebrada. This gorgeous historic home is hidden behind high walls in the heart of town, the perfect base for a family trip to this beautiful destination. Find out more about it through Pamela H. Murdock here.

© Marc de Delley - www.saint-tropez-photo.com

© Marc de Delley – www.saint-tropez-photo.com

Santa Arriving ….  By Boat? St Tropez, France

It’s not surprising that glamorous St-Tropez celebrates Christmas with pizzazz and with a particularly original holiday custom, revealed to us by our local expert Anne-Claire. Santa doesn’t arrive at this port town on his usual sleigh… he cruises in by boat!

An eagerly awaiting crowd gathers on the Quai de Suffren at 6 pm on December 24th to welcome Father Christmas. The excitement rises as a large boat approaches the dock, aboard which is the enthusiastic special guest. The decorated boat shoots off fireworks which add to the vibrant scene, the buildings of the port already colorfully lit up for the season.

Once on land, Père Noel hops on a small train to escort the town’s children to Place de la Garonne where he gives out presents and candy… only to those who’ve been nice of course!

Experience the lovely holiday magic of St-Tropez by staying at Villa Glamour by Villas Prestige et Services. Anne-Claire Conraud and her team can also arrange for the villa to be prepared with holiday decorations and can even have “Santa” come straight to the villa on Christmas Eve carrying a bag full of gifts!

You can more about the Villa Glamour here and check availability with Villas Prestige et Services at this link.


Tuscan Traditions at the Borgo Finocchieto – Italy

The festive season is the perfect time to be in Tuscany, celebrated in style at the Borgo Finocchieto. According to Pascale Queriot of the Borgo, the private hamlet provides the ultimate concept of luxury: freedom.

“Guests feel at home with an extremely discreet 5-star luxury service,” details Pascale. “There’s no dress code, no constrictions… they are free to enjoy their day as they want, no need to dress up for lunch and dinner, they can walk barefoot in the grass with a glass of wine, have exactly the meal they are craving prepared by our chef.”

The Borgo is just about to start preparing for the holidays. Christmas traditions in Italy start with decorating homes on December 8th which is the celebration of the Immaculate Conception. Today this includes a Christmas tree, however, in the past this was mainly in the form of presepi (nativity scenes). In fact, in Naples there is a whole street with just presepi!  Once decorated, the Borgo’s staff gradually works towards the special menus for Christmas Eve and Day, as described by Pascale:

“On Christmas Eve no meat is to supposed to be eaten, the meal is meant to be light and include fish only. On the 25th lunch there is a huge substantial lunch shared by the whole family and children open their gifts. Midnight mass on the 24th is very important as well. the streets in Italy are completely empty during Christmas. People go out from their homes on the afternoon of the 25th to take a stroll to help digest!”

Enjoy a true Italian Christmas at the Borgo Finocchieto or share a special moment by gathering friends or family here at another time of year. Learn more about this unique villa complex here.


Catching your own Christmas Dinner – Queenstown, New Zealand

Just because it’s warm and sunny in the southern hemisphere for the holiday season, it doesn’t mean that it’s lacking the festive spirit! Our experts at MajorDomo tell us what Christmas could entail down on the South Island.

“A sunny summer Christmas in New Zealand might see you start (and keep) some new Christmas Traditions which will leave you with long and lasting happy yuletide memories,” starts Fiona Stevens, co-founder and director of MajorDomo.

“Picture yourself waking up on Christmas morning in your luxury villa overlooking the crystal-clear waters of Lake Wakatipu in gorgeous Queenstown. The sun is streaming through the windows early as your in-house chef prepares a fresh and healthy breakfast to fuel you for the adventures to come.  Father Christmas comes to New Zealand first on his travels and is sure to find all the little people in your party and their stockings hung by the fire.

“After breakfast around the table and gathering around the Christmas tree to open presents the adventures begin. Your private helicopter picks you up to soar you over the mountain tops, mountain lakes, glaciers, valleys, lakes and rivers, to a remote and wild West Coast beach where your guide dives for crayfish and paua – decadent and luxurious kiwi treats.

“On your way back to Queenstown, your helicopter will land atop a mountain where your guide will cook your fresh crayfish and paua accompanied by another Christmas tradition whitebait patties. It’d be rude not to pop a bottle of champagne at this point!

“After being dropped back at your villa, why not wander down to the lake to go late afternoon paddle boarding or kayaking to make room for a Christmas dinner feast.  You may wish to have traditional Christmas fare of turkey, ham and goose or perhaps a lighter Pacific fusion style dinner.”

Don’t forget to pack your sunblock on this adventurous and exciting holiday to Zealand. Jump aboard the private helicopter with MajorDomo here.

Photo Credit: Reno Tahoe / Flickr

Photo Credit: Reno Tahoe / Flickr

Santa on the Slopes – Verbier, Switzerland

The Swiss Alps completely evoke the festive season, as such they attract masses of ski fans and from around the world at this time of year coming in search of cozy chalets in quaint mountain towns, like Verbier. This posh resort definitely does Christmas right.

The town is decked out to the fullest. On Christmas Eve there is usually a lively street parade, a carol concert outside the Tourist Office and a theatrical arrival of Father Christmas or rather der Weihnachtsmann. The faithful can attend Christmas mass is at the church in the centre of town.

The great thing about Verbier on Christmas is the Christmas Day ski, the lifts are open… and if you didn’t catch Santa the night before… it’s likely that you’ll run into him on the slopes!

Enjoy the thrills and charm of a Swiss Christmas by staying at the gorgeous Chalet Merveille. This picture-perfect luxurious chalet is still available for the end of year holidays. You can preview it in this article or contact Marina Gratsos of Carpe Diem Luxury Travel at this link to book.


Still looking for holiday ideas for the end of year? Peruse our sunny destinations here and wintery villas and chalets here. The unique Isola Santa Cristina is already decorated for the holidays and ready to welcome guests! View some of these in the photo above or read the full story at this link.

Wishing you all a happy festive season from the team at UltraVilla!

The Christmas season is one of the most eagerly awaited holidays of the whole year. Streets and houses dazzle with twinkling lights, public squares are abuzz with colorful craft markets and shops are bustling with busy shoppers. It’s a wonderful time to get away with family or friends and celebrate this special holiday time together. Attend a Christmas concert in a tiny Austrian church, feast on the best French foie gras or traditional British Christmas pudding, glide down the slopes of in Colorado or Switzerland or curl up beside the fireplace in a magical Irish cottage – you’re guaranteed a very merry Christmas while staying these exceptional villas, castles or apartments in these fabulously festive destinations.


Ski Mansion – Telluride, Colorado, U.S.A.

For a Christmas ski holiday in America, there’s no better place than Telluride, Colorado. The whole ski resort gets in on the holiday spirit with events taking place throughout December, the highlight being the Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade. You can have the ultimate Telluride vacation at the luxurious and charming Ski Mansion, available through Villas and Apartments Abroad.

“The Telluride Mansion is a dream,” declares Sylvia Delvaille Jones, director of Villas and Apartments Abroad. “It’s truly the most extraordinary holiday home in the Telluride area, the Ski Mansion is a destination all its own.

“This spectacular seven-bedroom estate boasts incredible landscaping, stunning views and a list of amenities unrivaled by any other residence in the region. Upon entering through the home’s main entrance lined with benches on either side, a cozy living room is framed by vaulted ceilings with wooden beam detail and furnished with a sofa and armchairs which surround a large stone fireplace, flat screen TV and baby grand piano.

“Opposite the dual-sided fireplace is the formal dining room with a round table and seating for up to eight guests. The adjacent kitchen connects this space to the breakfast nook for six and is adorned with granite countertops, custom cabinetry, kitchen island. The home’s main level also includes an outstanding and romantic master suite featuring a king size poster bed, stone fireplace, large office, en-suite bathroom and its own separate entrance as well as an additional king guest suite and laundry room.

“The upper level plays host to three additional queen guest suites, each equipped with televisions, vaulted ceilings and en-suite bathrooms. The largest of these guest bedrooms is better known as the Family Suite which also includes a kitchenette as well as a selection of baby equipment, including a crib, highchair and baby swing.

“The lowest level of the Mansion is an entertainment paradise. The large den has an oversized sectional leather sofa, a flat screen TV, surround sound, fireplace and full bar with mini fridge, dishwasher and copper sink. The home’s bunk room with en-suite joins the den to the game room, complete with a dart board, mini basketball hoop and ping pong table as well as a couch, fireplace and television. For the movie lovers in the group, the home’s theater includes a large projection screen, reclining theater seating for eight and a vast selection of movies. The resistance gym sits adjacent to the theater and includes a full set of weights, five machines and bench.

“But that’s not all. The west end of this floor also has a pool table, a two-lane commercial shooting range, AMF Bowling Alley, 75’ long pool with hot tub, aerobic gym, infrared sauna and full steam shower leave guests with endless opportunities for exercise and entertainment. A full kitchen, powder room, laundry room and his and hers changing rooms service these amenities, so guests never have to leave. A beautiful solarium lined with tropical plants and orchids rounds out the lowest level and leads way to an incredible outdoor space with its putting green and bunker, as well as generous patio space, full-scale labyrinth replica and outdoor hot tub.

“Lastly, for the in-laws or those wanting additional privacy, the home also has a separate apartment with full living area, kitchen and queen guest suite with en suite bath and full-size washer/dryer.

“With a staff on site, two transferrable ski passes, amenities galore and absolutely impeccable surroundings, the possibilities are endless at the Ski Mansion at Highlands.”

Design your dream winter escape to the Ski Mansion with Villas and Apartments abroad here.

Schloss Kogl Castle – Near Salzburg, Austria

It’s hard to top the fabulous Christmas spirit of Austria. Visitors are treated to some of the best Christmas markets in Europe, plentiful meals of hearty Austrian specialties and graceful Christmas concerts in quaint local churches. You can make the most of this festive ambiance in the picturesque Salzkammergut area, near Salzburg. Our expert Monika Mayr-Melnhof of Schloss Kogl castle, gives us some further tips.

“Of course, Salzburg has a wide variety of events and some excellent Advent markets, however, there are some exceptionally charming markets in nearly every village in the Salzkammergut,” says Monika. “The ones I like most are around the lakes like in St.Gilgen, St Wolfgang and Strobl.

“From November 20th to December 20th 2016 you can enjoy the Advent of the Villages event which takes place in the six villages of Fuschlsee. The weekends feature additional events like concerts and sleigh rides. St Wolfgang has some fabulous festive spirit around the market, plus you can also take boat rides on the lake.”

You can make enjoy the region’s Christmas spirit to the fullest with a pre-Christmas stay at the elegant Schloss Kogl castle, which has availability from now until December 24th (and then from January 2nd). A short drive from the pretty village of St. Georgen i. Attergau, the baroque castle was originally built in 1750 for the noble Khevenhüller family. In 1872 the Barons of Mayr-Melnhof acquired it and today the 4th, 5th and 6th generations of the family still reside at the castle.

In 2000, the entire castle was fully renovated with careful attention to retaining its historic character and beauty. In the evenings after you’ve toured the markets, relax by the cozy fireplace in the library or savor a gourmet meal in the refined dining room.

Get into the festive spirit yourself by staying at Schloss Kogl castle here.

Klosters, Switzerland

Travelers dreaming of a white Christmas can’t go wrong with a festive break in the charming village of Klosters, Switzerland. James Palmer-Tomkinson, our local expert and director of PT Ski, entices us to this beautiful Christmas destination:

“With trees covered in white, icicles adorning wooden chalets and the crunch of snow underfoot the stage is set for a magical holiday,” describes James. “You can ski the extensive slopes of the Parsenn by day, stopping for cosy hot chocolates in the charming mountain restaurants that adorn the slopes. In the evening you can go out to dinner by horse and sleigh.

“On Christmas night the bells of the old Church of St Jakob ring in Christmas celebration. And if you can arrive earlier enough, you might be able to caught the London Philharmonia Orchestra and Lund Student Choir will be performing in Klosters Church on Saturday December 17th and Sunday the 18th. These concerts would be a lovely way to kick start Christmas!

“Tucked away in the heart of the beautiful Prattigau Valley, Klosters is a hidden gem which has maintained its authentic charm. Chalets built in the traditional style blend happily with local farmhouses while the absence of large tour operators and its safe and cosy atmosphere make Klosters a perfect choice for family holidays. Glamorous and up market, but at the same time cosy and low key, it combines all this with the comfort and convenience of a modern ski resort.”

With their extensive local experience PT Ski can organise every aspect of your holiday to Klosters. Their helpful staff will be on hand to show you round the slopes, negating the need to wrestle with piste maps. Why not stay at the stunning Chalet Bear, a beautiful log chalet, lovingly restored in 2006 to create one of the finest chalets available for rent in Klosters. The interior has been sensitively decorated to maintain all the character of a traditional chalet, but with the comfort of a luxury home. Within easy walking distance of the lifts and centre of Klosters village, it is perched on a small hill with beautiful views of the valley.

Chalet Bear has four floors and sleeps up to eight guests in four bedrooms. There is one double room with en-suite bathroom and the other three rooms are twins. Two of these have their own bathrooms and the third is en-suite. The entrance hall is on the first floor and here there is a very comfortable sitting room with large fireplace, a television room/study with DVD and internet access, and a small pantry/bar. The plasma screen has Sky channels and the music system can play throughout the house. The dining room on the ground floor is wonderfully spacious and features a fireplace and a long table which sits up to 16 people.

Plan a magical ski holiday with the help of James and his team at Pt Ski at this link.


Villa Glamour – St-Tropez, France

St-Tropez is one of the chicest places to take in some fabulous holiday ambiance along the Mediterranean. You can have your own private oasis close to all the festivities at the exquisite Villa Glamour by Villas Prestige et Services. Its director, Anne-Claire Conraud, shares her favorite aspects of Christmas in St Tropez:

“The beautiful village of St-Tropez is a very special spot for Christmas and New Year’s Eve,” says Anne-Claire. “The buildings along the Harbour are projected by magical coloured lights, there is an ice rink in Place des Lices which is surrounded by a magical “Christmas Forest” and stands selling holiday treats like roasted chestnuts and candied apples, or you can attend a serene midnight mass at the cathedral… plus perhaps nowhere else does Santa Claus arrive by boat!”

The beautiful eight bedroom / eight bathroom Villa Glamour is located a 12-minute drive from the village. Its elevated position provides breathtaking vistas of the sea and the snowy peaks of the Alps in the distance. The latter can help bring a little more of a wintery feel, but the large fireplace in the large living room definitely creates a cozy atmosphere. Plus, in the evenings you can enjoy dinner en plein air on the terrace, lit by candles and torches.

Pamper yourself in the massage room or in the heated, double pool. Alternatively, Anne-Claire can arrange for a private yoga class on the terrace. The villa also features a snooker room, a gym and Sky TV. There are plenty of activities in the area from hikes to cycling excursions, or get inspired to make your own Christmas meal à la francaise with an advance cooking class held at the villa.

Anne-Claire and her team can also arrange for the villa to be decked out in holiday decorations and can even have “santa” come straight to the villa on Christmas Eve carrying a bag full of gifts!

The Villa Glamour is a fabulous destination any time of year, so if you can’t have a Tropezian Christmas, why not slip away for some French Riviera sunshine later in winter or spring?

Let Anne-Claire assist you in planning a glamorous Christmas by reaching out to her here.


Victor Hugo Chic – Paris, France

“Chocolat chaud, raclette, outdoor ice skating, the stunning lights decorating the Champs-Elysées and the city’s department stores… Paris is an ideal holiday destination,” says Erica Berman of Haven In luxury accommodation specialists. We couldn’t agree with her more. There’s so much going on in the city over the holidays, plus, not to mention all of the amazing shopping – there’s everything you could need for an enchanting Christmas away from home.

Staying in a holiday rental is the best way to truly experience local traditions. Haven Ins elegant Victor Hugo Chic three-bedroom apartment is an excellent option for this time of year. Situated in Paris’ stylish and stunning 16th arrondissement, it’s close to some of the city’s best food shops where you can pick up delicious supplies for your festive meals. It’s also a short stroll from the Arc de Triomphe, where you can admire the wonderful Christmas decorations, and to Trocadero, which has gorgeous views of the Eiffel Tower, an ice rink and Christmas market.

The spacious and sophisticated apartment sleeps six (in four bedrooms) so it’s big enough for families or groups of friends. It features refine, classic French decor featuring antiques, a crystal chandelier, hardwood parquet floors, and full-length French windows perfect for enjoying the winter Parisian sunlight. The separate dining space with a decorative marble fireplace is perfect for your special holiday dinner, which you can prepare in the fully-equipped modern kitchen.

The bedrooms and bathrooms are situated on two levels, ideal for groups seeking both shared space and privacy. The master bedroom has a king bed and en-suite half bath with sink and rainshower. The second bedroom also has a king bed, which can be converted into two singles, and a similar half-bath. Both bedrooms share a separate W.C. in the main hallway. The third bedroom is found up a charming winding staircase and has a single bed as well as a floor futon, for additional sleeping space. It also has a full en-suite bathroom with toilet, sink, and rainshower.

Enjoy an enchanting Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Paris with Haven In here.


West Cork Retreat – Glengarriff, Ireland

If you’re looking to retreat to the country for the holidays, you’ll have perfect seclusion and an abundance of old world charm at the luxurious West Cork Retreat, available through Elegant Ireland. The fairytale thatched cottage is hidden away on it’s own private island in the ancient oak woods on the Glengarriff River in County Cork. The city of Cork puts on a wonderful Christmas festival, every Friday to Sunday from November 25th to December 18th, so it’s a joyful time of year to visit the area.

A former hunting lodge of the Earls of Bantry, it has received such illustrious guests as Wordsworth, Thackeray, Prince Puckler Muskau and Lady Hall who describes her experience as follows:

“After crossing another bridge one is invited to ascend a soft and gentle looking hill which commanded a scene fit to illustrate The Happy Valley; nothing could be more delicious, more varied, more enchanting than the panoramic view, a view of such luxuriance that painters there might study nature under every shade and form”.

The enchanting lodge was completely renovated in 2006 and now boasts a tasteful combination of historic character and modern luxury, with accommodation for up to eight people in four double bedrooms with three ensuite. Three of the bedrooms, including the master bedroom with en-suite, are on the second floor and feature a unique decor and spectacular views over the river and/or grounds. The downstairs bedroom is another large and comfortable double bedroom with views to the mountains.

The large kitchen/dining room forms the centre of gravity of this home with a heated slate floor, oak beams, large sandstone fireplace and antique oak dining table. There is also designer crockery, utensils and place settings for twelve people – perfect for your special holiday meal at the lodge made with fresh ingredients and fine artisanal products from the area.

The grounds extend over almost fifty acres of woodland and meadows and a three-acre landscaped garden where many specimens of trees and shrubs flourish in the subtropical climate for which this area is renowned. The island is connected to the rest of the property by three timber bridges, which give access the many paths and trails, offering plenty of opportunities to explore.

The rate for one week for Christmas 2016 is €5000 including heating and electricity. This is a self-catering property, but with option of catering on some nights and mornings.

You can arrange your storybook Christmas holiday with Elegant Ireland at this link.


Faringdon House – Oxfordshire, England

England truly embraces Christmas. Buildings are decked out to their finests with lights and decorations, delectable holiday specialties are abundant and a festive cheers echos throughout the country. After you’ve done your Christmas shopping in London, retreat to Faringdon House, one of the loveliest manor homes of Oxfordshire, or possibly even the whole country.

Available through Loyd & Townsend Rose, this fully staffed 18th-century manor is only a one-hour train ride from London (Paddington Station). The current Georgian house was built in 1785 on the site of an Elizabethan house that had been badly damaged by fire. It can comfortably accommodate up to 14 guests in eight luxurious double bedrooms. There is also additional accommodation for staff and domestic offices. The classic and refined interior rooms feature beautiful mouldings, like the beautiful examples adoring the chimney breast above the fireplace in the dining room.

The elegance is carried over into the gorgeous gardens and parkland surrounding the house, secluding it from the nearby thriving and historic market town of Faringdon. A stroll of the grounds will grant you magnificent panoramic views of the valley or the fine lawns towards Faringdon Church. Nestled on the grounds, you can seek out the orangery, a walled garden, the orchard and lake with its boathouse. You can also explore them on horseback as the estate has extensive stabling for horses, should you wish to bring any.

The manor and the area are an idyllic place to spend Christmas or New Year and celebrate the festive period. Plus it’s an excellent base for exploring Oxford (21 miles away) and Cirencester (20 miles).

Have your own very merry Christmas at Faringdon by contacting Loyd & Townsend Rose at this link.

For some, the end of the year holidays are a time for gathering family and friends next to a twinkling Christmas tree or toasty fireplace. For others, it’s a time to soak up some sunshine while recharging your batteries next to a gorgeous pool or on a pristine beach. We please the latter in this first roundup of our favorite places for the holidays as we crisscross the globe from New Zealand to Costa Rica and from Uruguay to Thailand in search of the ultimate sunny villas to ring in the season.

Quinta Quebrada – San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

If you’re looking for a sunny destination in the Americas which also exudes unique holiday spirit, consider venturing to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Nestled in the mountains in the center of the country, according to our Mexico expert Pamela H. Murdock, this charming colonial city is a magical place to spend the holidays. Pamela has holidayed at the captivating historic home Quinta Quebrada during this time of year and she shares this enchanting experience below:

“There are lights everywhere as well as nativity scenes, parades, pop-up fireworks (don’t get too close!) and the famous Las Posadas. Taking place the nine nights leading up to Christmas Eve, Las Posadas (inns or shelters), start with a procession that represents the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. People holding candles sing Christmas carols as they walk and are joined by “Mary” (usually riding a donkey) and “Joseph”. The parade meanders through streets and knocks on house doors while singing the traditional Posada Song, “Pidiendo Posada,”(Begging for Shelter). However, they’re turned away because there is “no room at the inn.” “After all, sings the household, you might be a rogue.” Finally they find an open door and everyone is given food and hot drinks while the children have at piñatas until they break and spill candy everywhere. A good time is truly had by all.

“New Year’s Eve in San Miguel takes merriment to a whole new level! Though the main celebration takes place in the Jardín, the principal plaza, the whole town becomes a fiesta. Everyone comes out for the mariachi bands, giant sparklers, food vendors, gigantes (people dressed as giant puppets) and dancing which can go on till all hours. Then at midnight a huge fireworks display lights up the sky above the Parroquia (a lovely church beside the Jardín). Throughout the evening, people also set off their own fireworks which can be a little too exciting for some with rockets whizzing everywhere. It’s an incredible sight and great fun. If you’re not up for the street scene, make a reservation well in advance at La Posadita or La Azotea or at one of the hotels with a rooftop bar/restaurant like Rosewood or El Palomar. The view of the fireworks will be wonderful. San Miguel seems to celebrate more holidays than any other in Mexico and New Year’s Eve is the ultimate.

“Since the holidays are all about family and friends, why not bring a group and rent the most famous house in town? Quinta Quebrada is a magnificent and magical 16th century casa with 11 bedrooms and a wonderful large staff. Hidden behind tall walls which enclose almost one acre of gorgeous grounds, you’ll find courtyards, follies, gardens full of climbing roses and cascading bougainvillea, multiple terraces and loggias, a pool and a hot tub. I’ve stayed there often and each time is still a treat!”

Take in this amazing experience for yourself by contacting Pamela at this link.


Blue Oasis Villa – Bay of Islands, New Zealand

New Zealand is a fabulous destination for the Christmas holidays for travelers seeking sunshine as well as a phenomenal natural setting. You can add some beach time to this great mix by staying in the spectacular Bay of Islands at the beautiful Blue Oasis Villa by MajorDomo.

The Blue Oasis Villa is located only a two-minute walk from the village and the beach at Russell. You can enjoy breathtaking panoramic sea views from all three levels of this luxurious, elevated waterfront home.

The top floor has open plan living with a designer kitchen, including a walk-in butler’s pantry, island bench, for casual eating, and top quality appliances. The lounge opens onto an expansive decking with a dedicated BBQ area and fireplace. The middle floor has three bedrooms, all with luxury en-suite bathrooms and the views out over the Bay of Islands are as spectacular as on the top floor.

“Imagine waking up on Christmas morning to the sight of dolphins at play in the Bay below and to the serenity of the sound of the ocean that only coastal living can bring,” tempts Fiona Stevens, co-founder of MajorDomo. “Nearby Russell village has many fine restaurants to enjoy for Christmas dinner or you may wish for MajorDomo to arrange for an executive chef to prepare a gourmet delight in your own kitchen.

“Then, work off Christmas dinner by making use of the boat mooring, four kayaks and two bicycles available for guests to use. If you are spending a few weeks in the area, why not check out the Paiha Christmas Parade on December 2nd.”

The Blue Oasis Villa is still available for the holidays, but could go any minute. Grab it while you can by reaching out to MajorDomo here.


Villa Neptuno – Punta del Este, Uruguay

Constantly on the lookout for the best luxury properties around the globe, Marina Gratsos of Carpe Diem Luxury Travel recommends spending Christmas and New Year in Punta del Este, Uruguay –  one of the poshest beaches of South America.

“This is a breathtaking, contemporary house which has been featured in Interiors Magazine,” reveals Marina. “The end of the year is absolutely the best time to be visiting.”

The chic villa is situated on Lago del Sauce, approximately 20 minutes south of Punta del Este and 10 minutes from the local airport. It’s set on 7.5 hectares of land and consists of seven en-suite guest bedrooms and two staff bedrooms with bathroom. Guests will enjoy its huge drawing room and outside spaces as well as a dining room that seats twelve and a media room. Outside there is an 18m infinity pool and beautiful landscaped gardens. A housekeeper and gardener are provided – cooks and extra maids can be arranged.

Several beaches are within five to ten kilometers. Within a short drive you can find a range of excellent seafood restaurants, a yoga studio, a golf course and a tennis club. Slightly further afield are the bright lights of Punta del Este and Jose San Ignacio. Other nearby sites include the famous Lussich Arboretum and picturesque towns of Eden, Priapolis and Piedra Colorada. Along your way, be sure to stop on the coast road North with outstanding fish markets, notes Marina.

The villa is currently still available over the holidays. Contact Marina here for more details.


Casa El Cuyo – Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

In the Yucatan, it’s summer all year long, so sunseekers can’t go wrong by traveling to this lovely part of Mexico over the holidays. Our Yucatan experts at Catherwood Travels suggest escaping the tourists masses, which crowd some areas of the coast, by holidaying in El Cuyo, a white-sand paradise that the modern world seems to have bypassed.

“Located between the Ria Lagartos and Holbox Natural Reserves, El Cuyo is miles of virgin beaches and an up-and-coming kite-surfing destination,” details Angelica Espinosa of Catherwood. “Watch the sky turn pink as you cycle through the flocks of pink flamingoes or dive into the surrounding marshlands on horseback. Leave your mobile phone at home – without any signal, the office, and all your problems never intrude as you enjoy the superb fresh seafood.“

Catherwoods has a fabulous, meticulously restored colonial house: the Casa El Cuyo. It’s situated in the beachside town of El Cuyo, where you can immerse yourself in local customs and natural beauty. The traditional building elements are cleverly contrasted by a chic contemporary décor. The house is completely air conditioned and the common areas include living and dining room, a bar and kitchen. There is one master bedroom on the upper floor and two additional bedrooms on the ground floor, all with en-suite bathrooms. The central patio is an ideal location for breakfast, relaxing in the shade or a holiday celebration.

It’s the perfect place to recharge for the new year. Plus, it’s virtually impossible to not fall in love with the unfettered life in the land that time forgot.

Plan your perfect vacation to the Yucatan with Catherwood Travels.

Vatuvara Private Islands – Fiji

If you’re looking to truly switch off over the holidays with an isolated beach trip, then escape to Vatuvara Private Islands, your own (or almost) tropical island in the South Pacific.

Located in Fiji’s Lau group, Vatuvara is only accessible by the resort’s private plane. Plus, the refined resort has only three villas. The beautiful, spacious one-bedroom villas highlight local craftsmanship and exceptional natural surroundings. They have all the luxurious appointment you would expect of this caliber. The private terrace with an infinity pool is the perfect place to take in the gorgeous sunsets.

Vatuvara is holding a Holiday Season Special, valid until March 31, 2017. While the offer isn’t available 24th December through 3rd January, you can enjoy this fabulous deal either before or afterwards, leaving you time to connect with family over the traditional holiday week. The special prices are as follows: Villa Delana USD$6125.00/night, Villa Vatu USD$4437.00/night and Villa Saku USD$4360.00/night (exclusive island buyout price on application).

These rates are inclusive of all Fiji Government Taxes, meet and greet at Nadi or Suva Airport, access to the island via our private aircraft, all preferred beverages and organic certified Pacific Rim cuisine, spa treatments, land and water activities including cultural experiences and day trips to Vatuvara Island.

Scoop up this great special offer by contacting Vatuvara Private Islands here.


The Copper House – Queenstown, New Zealand

Enjoy an extravagant festive season surrounded by the lake and mountains at The Copper House. The opulent villa is part of Touch of Spice‘s exclusive Residence Collection, a carefully curated portfolio featuring some of the top luxury properties in New Zealand. It’s considered Queenstown’s architectural masterpiece and offers sweeping views of the aptly named Remarkable Mountain Range.

With six contemporary bedrooms, each with a modern en-suite, two lounges and ample indoor and outdoor space, the property is perfectly suited to large families or groups that want to enjoy quality time together over the holidays.

“One of the amazing things about summer on the South Island is the long days,” explains Jacqui Spice, founder and CEO of Touch of Spice. “At The Copper House guests can enjoy glorious sunsets over Lake Wakatipu while taking advantage of the in-built pizza oven, sipping a wine around the outdoor fire, or relaxing in the spa pool.”

The property is on the doorstep of the adventure capital of the world and a myriad of options await including first-rate hiking and mountain biking, luge tracks, and of course the heart pumping Shotover Jet and AJ Hackett Bungy Jump.

With everything from boutique wineries, championship golf, luxury retail and unique art galleries – from Fergburger to fine dining – Queenstown offers something special to suit every taste and style. The Touch of Spice concierge service can assist with anything guests may desire, be it a stocked pantry and fresh flowers upon arrival to tailored, off-the-beaten path tours.

Design a special Christmas holiday to New Zealand with the help of Touch of Spice here.

Cottar’s 1920s Camp & Bush Villa – Kenya

The end of year holidays are a wonderful time to travel to Kenya and our experts at Cottar’s 1920s Camp and Villa can create a vibrant celebration for you in Africa’s seductive atmosphere. This award-winning safari camp, situated on the border of The Maasai Mara National Reserve and just one kilometer from the Tanzania Serengeti game reserve, evokes a unique quality of romance, adventure and elegance.

In the safari business since 1919, the Cottar’s continue to enhance their commitment to providing the ultimate safari experience with their recently built Bush Villa, the only real private luxury home in the whole game reserve. It was designed by Calvin and Louise Cottar and built by hand using indigenous and eco-friendly materials. Tucked into a gorgeous, private area on the property of Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp, guests can enjoy the same standards and level of service for which the camp is known, but with perfect seclusion.

“Spending Christmas in the Kenyan wilderness is always memorable, comfortable and full of delights,” says Calvin Cottar. “Traditional details and holiday meals are carefully prepared and arranged to make your Christmas special, to highlight the uniqueness of the wild and create memories that will last a lifetime.”

It takes but a moment to slip into the unhurried lifestyle at Cottar’s, what a perfect place to enjoy the festive season with family and loved ones. Start the new year off with an amazing safari holiday with Cottar’s at this link.


Casa Caiman – Papagayo Peninsula, Costa Rica

The end of year holidays are a fantastic time to go to Costa Rica. The dry season starts in November, so visitors to the country are virtually guaranteed dry weather, especially in the Papagayo Peninsula as our expert Jane Moore of Papagayo Luxury explains:

“The Papagayo Peninsula is in a tropical dry forest microclimate of Costa Rica,” describes Jane. “This means it is one of the driest (read rain-free and sunny) areas in Costa Rica!

Papagayo Luxury has a collection of beautiful, contemporary private villas, all with stunning views of this awe-inspiring part of Central America. For the holidays, Jane recommends the Casa Caiman. Since it’s spread over one level, it’s ideal for multi-generational families, particularly for those traveling with small children or older family members with problems with stairs.

The large shallow area in the private pool is also great for small children. Below the pool area there is a wide grassy area, the perfect place to kick around a ball or simply play in the grass. The resort is within minutes of the Prieta Beach Club and Nacascolo Beach, a long beach with flat water and a long shallow entry, so there are no sudden drop offs. The area has fabulous watersports and golf fans can enjoy teeing off at the Arnold Palmer Course at the nearby Four Seasons.

If you are looking to get away before Christmas, Papagayo Luxury is offering the 7th night free from now through December 14, 2016 (including Thanksgiving!).

Learn more about this special offer and the other exceptional villas at Papagayo Luxury at this link.


Samujana – Koh Samui, Thailand

Throw your own perfect private Christmas and New Year’s Eve gathering at one of the exquisite private villas at Samujana, Koh Samui’s luxury boutique villa estate. This Thai paradise is the ideal winter sun destination for travelers craving an exotic, luxurious and sunny getaway.

Each uniquely designed villa offers its own private infinity pool, self-catering facilities and access to Samujana’s own private beach as well as an extensive range of amenities including private cinemas, gyms, roof terraces and Jacuzzis.

The extensive range of experiences (which can be booked via the estates villa managers concierge service) include sunset cruises in the estate’s private luxury yacht, group Thai cooking courses, Thai street food dining experience or private poolside BBQ. The possibilities for family entertainment at Samujana are truly endless, making it the ideal bolthole for those wanting to create their own private Christmas and New Year party away from the hustle and bustle of home.

Enjoy a unique Christmas holiday in Thailand at gorgeous Samujana.


Tres Soles Villa – Punta Mita, Mexico

If you’re planning a large family holiday, the fabulous Tres Soles Villa by In Villas Veritas is an excellent option. Location in family-friendly Punta Mita, this stylish villa has eight bedrooms, ideal for a multigenerational vacation or for two families traveling together.

In addition, the pool is beautiful and fun for kids as it winds around palm islands. There is also a gentle slope down to the beach, so no big drops, making it safer for kids. The villa is a short drive from the Punta Mita resort Residents Beach Club where guest can also meet other families and kids. Here there’s beach service, a pool, club bar, restaurant, golf and tennis. Tennis players can also swing their clubs at a private villa community a two-minute walk from the villa.

The area features fantastic nature and adventure activities including scuba, hiking, zip lining, whale watching, surfing, paddle boarding, kayaking and more. Alternatively, you can simply relax in the sun with a good book and a Margarita (and still see the whales migrating from your chaise lounge).

The villa is full staff for all services including a wonderful chef who can design the perfect holiday meal with you.

Discover more about this ideal family villa for the holidays by contacting In Villas Veritas here.


By Andrew Loyd

There is nowhere more fun for New Year than Scotland, where the last day of December is known as Hogmanay. A lot of my fellow countrymen consider New Year as a more important time to celebrate than Christmas, and the consumption of “Scottish water” takes on a life of its own. The traditional form of celebrating (apart from the consumption of huge amounts of “refreshments”) is either slumped in front of the telly watching the annual New Year programs or for those more lively by nature, to go dancing. The ceilidh band (squeezebox, fiddle, and drums) is the traditional source of music for dancing highland reels, with names like the Dashing White Sergeant, the Duke of Perth, the Reel of the 51st and the Gay Gordons. It’s a lot of fun to gather with friends and family of all ages (teenage to dotage) in a village hall or large house and dance until the wee hours these wonderful reels. Everyone stops to listen to the clock chime midnight, then there is much shouting and kissing and everyone joins hands in a circle and sings “For Auld Lang Syne,” the Robbie Burns ballad. Some people like to then go “first footing,” which is when you grab a bottle and walk around the village having a wee tot with all your neighbors. This can go on for some time! The Scots are a hospitable nation but never more so than on New Year’s Ave.

Andrew is the director of Loyd & Townsend-Rose Ltd., and UltraVilla’s specialist for Scotland.

One of the pleasures of December in Europe is the many Christmas markets that pop up early in the month and continue into January. For sheer glitz, nothing tops Christmas in Monaco, which begins with a ceremonial lighting in front of the Casino de Monte-Carlo in early December. This year’s Christmas market is on the theme of Russia and goes until Sunday, January 3.

“Monaco is dazzling at this time of year,” says Sylvia Jones of Villas and Apartments Abroad. “The palm trees are lit with thousands of white lights and the hotels look like jewel boxes. Artists, couturiers, and jewelers sell the most beautiful and original things, many of them hand-crafted—not to mention the gourmet shops selling all kinds of delicacies, from beautifully packaged chocolates to caviar. My favorite treat is the very thick hot chocolate—so delicious and perfect on a cold night. I feel like a child again. There’s a little red train, with bells and whistles, carrying happy children, laughter from little ones on the merry-go-round, the Ferris wheel turning to the sounds of Christmas carols, and many games to enjoy. Young and old take to the ice-skating rink. Traditionally, the locals leave the day after Christmas and go to their ski chalets in the mountains, but the market continues until New Year’s, when the high rollers roll into town.”

One of our favorite Monagasque traditions is le pan de natale, a round loaf decorated with an olive branch to symbolize peace. The bread is offered by local bakers at Christmastime in exchange for donations to Monaco charities.

San Gregorio Armeno Street in Naples is known to collectors for its crêche figures. Photo: Angelafoto/iStock

We asked the UltraVilla team about Christmas traditions in their part of the world and got a charming postcard in response from Countess Simonetta Brandolini d’Adda, of The Best in Italy. In addition to providing her villa guests with every amenity you can think of, Simonetta often organizes special tours with top art historians, private museum visits, wine tastings, culinary sessions, music in the villas, sport excursions, shopping expeditions, and more. She writes:

“An important aspect of the holidays throughout Italy is the creation of the presepi, the nativity scenes that are displayed in every church and on many of the main piazzas. These can range from life-size terracotta figures to smaller handmade wooden statues. Whole villages are constructed in miniature, with moving parts and music. There are working fires, mills, and waterfalls, and thousands of characters. The area of San Gregorio Armeno, in Naples, is well known to collectors as entire shops are filled with figures and structures that one can purchase to make a precepe. Many of the towns throughout Italy also have special localized artisans who produce figures and crêche scenes in numerous different styles.”

The tradition of setting the Nativity scene in one’s own small village and populating it with local characters is not exclusive to Italy. A Provençal crêche is likely to include a fish monger pushing his cart, a baker carrying a basket of fougasses, a farmer’s wife with a chicken under her arm, a garlic seller, the village doctor, and the mayor. Originally made from breadcrumbs, plaster, wax, or crushed glass, the terra-cotta figures, called santons (“little saints”), have been created by some of the same families for generations. You can see their handiwork at the big santon fair in Marseille, which dates to the nineteenth century. The fair is organized by the santonniers and runs until December 31.