No New Year's Eve fireworks can compete with this - the play of colors of the Northern Lights is a unique sight. Especially from the bird's nest-like construction of the "Arctic Bath" in Swedish Lapland.

No New Year's Eve fireworks can compete with this - the play of colors of the Northern Lights is a unique sight. Especially from the bird's nest-like construction of the "Arctic Bath" in Swedish Lapland.
Anders Blomqvist

A different way to turn the year: seven ideas for an extraordinary silvester escape

New Year's Eve doesn't always have to mean crowded city centers, colorful fireworks and lots of noise. The old year can also be bid farewell in peace with highlights that will live long in the memory. Seven ideas for an extraordinary New Year's Eve escape.

The inhabitants of Samoa are the first. When preparations for the big evening are just starting in Central Europe at around 11 a.m. on December 31, the champagne corks are already popping in the beautiful island state on the other side of the world. But this has only been the case since the late 16th century; since the introduction of the Gregorian calendar, the new year begins on January 1st.

The fact that for most people the festivities at the turn of the year are inextricably linked with noise and commotion is a much older tradition. Firecrackers are said to have been fired in China as early as the 12th century, and a few hundred years later the custom supposedly arrived in Europe. Other theories take us even further back in time. According to these, the origins of New Year's Eve firecrackers lie in Germanic culture: Wotan or Odin, the principal god of Norse mythology, is said to have preferred to wreak havoc in the winter months, and the Germanic tribes tried to drive him away with wheels of fire and lots of noise. A similar superstition persisted for many centuries; in the Middle Ages, pots and rattles were rattled to put evil spirits to flight.

New Year's Eve with a difference

Even today, fireworks are often the highlight of New Year's Eve, but not only environmental and animal protection are good reasons to go without: After the Christmas holidays, which are often devoted to social and culinary abundance, the need for rest on the last day of the year is often great - body and mind are now more in need of silence and soothing inner contemplation. But because the old year needs to be bid farewell, and the new one welcomed in the same way, enjoyment should not be neglected. The good news is that the two are not contradictory. The opportunities to spend the turn of the year in absolute relaxation and at the same time add to your account of unforgettable experiences are many and varied.

The shortest route is for those who are not afraid of the cold: Alpine winter sports and wellness between a rustic mountain hut and luxury chalet, a walk in the dunes on the North Sea coast or the ultimate togetherness in the wintry no man's land of northern Europe. If, on the other hand, you want to replenish your vitamin D stores, the answer is in the southern hemisphere, where midsummer awaits.

But no matter which way you turn, it will be an unforgettable, somewhat different New Year's Eve if the only sound you hear is a relaxed sigh instead of the sound of rockets.

Ice bathing under the Swedish aurora borealis

It is barren, it is cold, it is dark; this is a good summary of the winters in the far north of Europe and three good reasons to avoid the Scandinavian countries in the months from November to March. But another truth is that the journey is nevertheless worthwhile.

What is probably the most spectacular of all natural spectacles can only be seen on the cold, pitch-black nights of the north and easily outshines any New Year's Eve fireworks display: even convinced city dwellers and those with little connection to nature go into raptures at the sight of the aurora borealis, the northern lights. The best way to shorten the wait for a clear night is with wellness and plenty of Nordic style: purist wooden cabins have been built around the sauna and ice bath in the frozen lake for the "Arctic Bath". After the Kneipp cure, the landscape of Lapland is at its most beautiful through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the cottages - and you don't even have to leave your bed or the cosy lounge furniture to marvel at the Northern Lights.

Arctic Bath, Ramdalsvägen 10, 96178 Harads, Sweden

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda

There are now several hundred national parks in Africa, and its protected nature reserves and their animal inhabitants are as huge and worth seeing as the continent itself. The declared goal of many safari vacationers is to spot the "Big Five" - elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard - but the variety of extraordinary nature experiences is almost limitless. The small landlocked country of Rwanda is also known as the "land of a thousand hills", and the Virunga mountain region on its northern border confirms this name. But the magnificent landscape has another special feature: it is home to the wild mountain gorillas.

You can get closer to the impressive primates on a guided gorilla trekking tour - and then let the impressions sink in afterwards at the spectacular Bisate Lodge. The six luxurious jungle villas were built into the hillside like honeycombs, from their tastefully and artistically furnished interiors you can look out over the dense greenery of the Volcanoes National Park and enter the new year to the sound of authentic jungle music.

Bisate Lodge, Volcanoes National Park Ruhengeri, Rwanda

Private island in the Maldives

Snow-white sand, turquoise water and palm trees as far as the eye can see; when it comes to postcard motifs, hardly any other destination can hold a candle to the Maldives with its well over 1000 large and small islands. The number of high-quality resorts is now dizzyingly high, but some of them still score with that certain extra luxury and tranquillity. Like the "Naladhu Resort", which has made itself at home on its own little island with just 20 beach houses. Each of the tastefully furnished houses has a private pool and beach access, while a butler service also ensures that meals can be enjoyed in maximum privacy. The spa promises additional relaxation with various signature treatments - there's no better way to start the new year.

Naladhu Resort, P.O. Box 2098, Veligandu Huraa, South Male Atoll, Maldives

Between the dunes on the North Sea coast

The East Frisian Islands are strung together like pearls on a string off the north German coast. Norderney is among the most popular of these. With its small town of the same name on the west side, the island measures only around 27 square kilometres, and because 85 percent of the remaining area belongs to the Wadden Sea National Park, peace and nature are the main protagonists here. The long beach, which stretches along the entire north side of the island, invites you to take long walks to see the biodiversity of the protected area up close. The "Seesteg Norderney" hideaway is a jewel typical of the region. While the brick building looks back on over 100 years of history, guests can look out over the windswept North Sea from the 16 luxurious rooms of the carefully renovated hotel and let the characteristic breeze carry them into the new year.

Seesteg Norderney, Damenpfad 36a, 26548 Norderney

Diving in Thailand

Even if the temperatures are sometimes less harsh in the Austrian winter, the longing for sun and warmth is often already great again at the end of December. It is therefore a good thing that this is the ideal time to visit Thailand: the monsoon has taken a break and the thermometer shows consistently pleasant temperatures.

The ultimate tranquillity can be found not only in the water, but above all underwater; Thailand offers some of the most beautiful diving spots in the world. One of these is located in the Gulf of Thailand near Koh Samui: Koh Tao means "turtle island", but the reefs off the island are also home to large numbers of other sea creatures. The perfect starting point for diving and snorkelling is the "Sai Daeng Resort"; on a private peninsula on the southern tip of the island, the villas, some with private pools, are generously spread across the green grounds and offer panoramic views of the beach and sea.

Sai Daeng Resort
46/9 Moo 3, Sai Daeng Beach, Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, Surat Thani 84360


Skiing in South Tyrol

Winter sports enthusiasts have reached their dream destination in the Dolomites: whether ski tour, piste or deep snow - 15 ski resorts await those hungry for action here with almost consistently perfect snow conditions. Austria's southern neighbours also place great emphasis on culinary delights; traditionally, South Tyrolean cuisine is hearty and down-to-earth, but in recent years, thanks to creative young chefs, a lot has also happened in the fine dining sector.

For discerning guests, the "Chalet Purmontes" is the best place to escape the hustle and bustle of New Year's Eve in the mountains. The modern architecture nestles into the landscape with lots of wood and glass, each of the luxurious chalet suites offers a private (heated!) infinity pool and breathtaking panoramic views. The spacious bathtubs by the window promise a particularly relaxing New Year's Eve with just the right dose of romance. With a crackling fire in the fireplace, the New Year can come.

Chalet Purmontes, Montal 47a, 39030 St. Lorenzen

Historic flair in Ireland

Ireland is not only worth a trip in summer. Although England's little neighbour glows in an almost unreal lush green in the warm season thanks to the considerable amount of rainfall, its sleepy little towns, historic buildings, dimly lit pubs and dreamy bed and breakfasts radiate almost more comfort in the winter months.

There are also around 30,000 castles spread across the island. While some of them are ruins and represent an important part of the cultural history of the Irish, others still shine in royal splendour today. One of these is Kilkea Castle, one of the oldest still inhabited castles in the country. An hour's drive south-west of Dublin, the centuries-old walls are now home to a sophisticated resort with spa and 18-hole golf course. Although it takes a break around New Year's Eve, the fairytale mysticism of a misty New Year's morning makes its grand entrance.

Kilkea Castle
Castledermot, Co. Kildare, R14 XE97

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Caroline Metzger
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