Eli Orzessek is Travel's Digital Content Producer.

Ask Away: A good European Christmas

Our online guru Eli Orzessek looks at visiting Europe during the winter
It's worth visiting Europe during winter so you can enjoy the famous Christmas markets, such as this one in Bolzano, Italy.
It's worth visiting Europe during winter so you can enjoy the famous Christmas markets, such as this one in Bolzano, Italy.

I am planning a trip to Western Europe during late November and December. Do tours, river cruises, etc still operate in winter? What activities are still a good idea and what are the advantages of travel and visiting wintery Europe? After I meet my daughter there we would like to be somewhere special (and a bit warmer) in Europe for Christmas. Any suggestions welcome.

Elizabeth

Well, for one, it's pretty magical to get to experience a white Christmas - sure, it'll be extremely cold, but Europe does Christmas exceptionally well. I've asked The Travel Corporation (TTC) for some advice, as they offer a lot of guided tours and luxury river cruises. Both tours and cruises still operate over the colder months and it's actually quite a popular time for Kiwis to head over for a holiday.

On the water, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises has "Holiday Markets" cruises throughout central Europe in November and December. For something a bit warmer, there are two Portugal, Spain and Douro River departures in November, but these are probably too early for you.

A bonus of travelling at this time is that many tour companies offer savings of up to 40 per cent, compared to summer brochure prices. Both Trafalgar and Insight Vacations are also currently offering savings of up to 7.5 per cent for bookings and payments prior to August 25, 2016.

As well as the great deals, you'll be blessed with fewer crowds and the opportunity to enjoy experiences we don't have at home, such as the Christmas markets around the major European cities and the Northern Lights in Iceland.

And if you're after some warmer weather for the end of your trip, try a tour in Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Greece. Whatever you decide, it's sure to be a trip to remember.

We will be travelling to Italy later in the year and want to visit Chioggia, which is an island off Venice where some of my relatives come from. We were wondering whether you can visit Chioggia and if they have tours, or do we need to book a guide to take us around the place? We may still have some relatives on the island.

Charmaine Simmonds

For the benefit of our readers, Chioggia is a medium-sized fishing port just inside the Venetian lagoon. You can visit by either catching a bus or take a ferry to the Lido and then a bus on to Chioggia - but be aware that both options take over an hour in each direction. With its two museums, several churches and fishing heritage, it will be a great place to explore - particularly if you have a personal connection to the area. Cycling is a popular activity and a great way to see everything. Boats of various kinds can also be hired.

One option to visit Chioggia with a local expert is on Uniworld Boutique River Cruises' 10-day "Gems of Northern Italy" holiday. Its River Countess ship docks in Chioggia on two days and includes a day of sightseeing there. Stroll through the town's bustling fish market with a local expert before indulging in a fresh seafood lunch or head to a casoni (fisherman's hut) to learn the art of mussel harvesting from local fishermen. You'll steam your own freshly gathered mussels in prosecco and enjoy them on the waterfront.

Readers respond

Ella Harris had some further tips for a stopover in Hong Kong - regarding, in particular, the Peak Tram.

"Having been there recently, I would suggest pre-purchase of a ticket [especially as they have limited time] or to get there very early in the morning. If your reader is there at a weekend, the queue to buy tickets snakes across the road. Also getting to and from Aberdeen Harbour could be a problem. We took a hop-on hop-off bus around the island and between Stanley Bay and Aberdeen we were held up for nearly two hours by traffic and road works."

Note to readers

Just a heads-up - there will be no Ask Away column next week, as I will be away on a 10-day Contiki tour of Vietnam! I'll be heading from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, with lots of stops in between. Mostly I'm excited about stuffing my face - I love Vietnamese food and I'm particularly keen to try the breakfasts.

It's my first time visiting, so if anyone would like to send me any tips and must-sees, send them to askaway@nzherald.co.nz.

And if you have any questions, send those through as well and I'll do my best to answer them once I'm back.

Tweet us @NZHTravel or use the hashtag #NZHAskAway

Email your questions to askaway@nzherald.co.nz

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 04 Dec 2016 08:22:52 Processing Time: 110ms