CUBA: Castro banned Christmas celebrations in the 1960s, and it wasn't until 1997, at the Pope's request, that the holiday was reinstated. New Year's, however, remains Cuba's most widely celebrated holiday (the celebration has long been condoned under the auspices of Liberation Day and the anniversary of the 1959 Cuban revolution). Although planning a trip to Cuba is not easy or always doable, when you finally dig your toes into the sand of a pristine and empty Cuban beach, those hours of research and time spent on hold will be more than worth it. Havana does live it up with tons of live music in the streets and bars, and even more dancing, so if you're looking to escape more than just borders, head to the lower-key coastal villages like Gibara in the north and enjoy the traditional pig roast feast at a paladarthese licensed private restaurants are much cheaper than the government-run hotels and restaurants.
JAPAN: Japan's onsen, or hot-spa, towns are the best places to discover the country's truly laid-back side; stay in a traditional ryokan, feast on exquisite sashimi, sip on sake, and take a plunge in a steaming outdoor hot spring. Located in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Hakone is top on our winter-in-Japan list. This scenic spa town, less than 60 miles from Tokyo, has one other supremely meditative quality: the reflection in nearby Ashinoko Lake is none other than Mount Fuji.
TIROL REGION, AUSTRIA: For those nimble on their feet, New Year's marks the beginning of Austria's traditional ball season in Vienna. But if the Viennese waltz isn't on this year's agenda, and the idea of soft powder to ease your not-so-lissome spills sounds a bit more appealing, western Austria's Tirolean Valley is also at its prime during the festive season. Many of the Tirolean Villages are linked by cross-country trails; the unscathed terrainfrom Innsbruck to smaller villages like Gotzensis near endless. If you're looking to move it and shake it downhill for the holiday, you've got some of the world's best alpine resorts at your fingertips; St. Anton am Arlberg has over 125 miles of deep powdered terrain, and further northeast, the 700-year-old village of Lech offers tended piste terrain, open slopes, cross-country trails, winter hiking, and a snowboarders' Fun Park.
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, WYOMING: Many of the national parks thronged with crowds during the spring and summer months see ne're a soul during the December season, and as even more incentive, many parks offer discounted rates during this time. Yellowstone National Parkfirst in its class for winter wildlife viewingoffers packages like "Lodging and Learning" that include touring the park aboard a snowcoach, snowmobile, cross-country skis, and snowshoes. Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Old Faithful Snow Lodge offer special menus for New Year's Eve dinners and brunches on the first.
YUCATAN, MEXICO: Non-stop flights to Cancun are usually relatively cheap compared to the rest of the country, and from there it's only an hour or so drive south to escape all you've hoped to avoid this holiday. Tankah, Akumal, and the surrounding quiet fishing villages offer beachfront villa rentals with about as much commotion as a few sand-crabs can muster. Activities are bountiful in the Yucatan region: From scuba diving, fishing, boating, and windsurfing to hiking, horseback riding, and golfing. Not to mention, Tulum's ruins are nearly at your backdoor. Greet this new year while checking out the archaeological achievement of the Mayans almost 1,500 new years ago.
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Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication