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Everyone’s heading here this winter. Why aren't you?

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Everyone’s heading here this winter. Why aren't you?

story by: Anna Sarjeant

Show us a human who doesn’t love Christmas and we’ll show you somebody with an allergy to fun. For Kiwis Christmas generally means barbecues and beaches, family time and a few extra weeks out of the office.

But what about the other Xmas? The cosy one – with snowmen and egg nog?

Good news, southern hem-dwellers, now you can also enjoy a traditional winter wonderland, at Australia’s Blue Mountain Yulefest.

What’s Yulefest?
Winter in the Blue Mountains is a little rainy, a little windy and if you look in the right places, a little bit snowy too. Why, it’s just like Britain in December! Hence why the masses (locals and tourists alike) now celebrate an annual northern hemisphere Christmas in the mountains, complete with festive dinners and gallons of steaming mulled wine.  

 

The background?
The story behind Christmas in the Blue Mountains is almost as enchanting as the original Nativity….

It’s 1980 and the night is thick with fog, mist and an icy pinch. The Blue Mountains have succumbed to a dark winter’s eve; chimneys p​lume with smoke and everyone’s wearing fleecy winter socks. A group of Irish travellers are walking back from the pub (we presume it was the pub) when they spot a single snowflake falling silently to the ground. They feel nostalgic; a twang of homesickness pokes at their conscience - oh how they miss a traditional winter’s Christmas.

And so they started one all of their own. In June. In Australia.

 

And today?
Thirty seven years on and Yulefest is as strong as ever. From June to August the Blue Mountains erupt into festivity; embraced by guesthouses, hotels, resorts and restaurants, fairy lights adorn the facades and roaring log fires are decorated with ivy, chestnuts and stuffed red stockings. Kitchens pump out the delicious scent of roast turkey and cranberry sauce, lashings of gravy and the rich smell of potatoes bubbling in fat. Bars pour mulled wine and Baileys over ice; woollen jumpers make their debut and it’s more than acceptable to sit on a hairy man’s knees and ask for a pony. Tis the most magical time of the year.

 

What is there to do?
Eat, drink and be merry. Stay in one of the region’s many hotels and take advantage of a package that includes Christmas dinners and the opportunity to delve into Santa’s sack. ​Retreat into a cosy café for ​bowls of creamy egg nog and iced gingerbread men. Visit the German Christmas market, sign up for a murder mystery event (it was the elves who dunnit!) or challenge Santa to a karaoke sing-off. It’s all go in the Blue Mountains.

 

Any particular highlights?
Numerous, but here are five of our faves:

  1. The annual Winter Magic Festival is well worth going out of your way for. Held on the Saturday closest to the Winter Solstice, Katoomba's streets come alive with a festival akin to a wintery Mardi Gras. There are jugglers and gymnasts, musicians, buskers and all sorts of artists to marvel at.
  2. The heritage-listed Jenolan Caves House offer the most inviting log fires and a huge Christmas tree you’ll actually want to sit beneath. Due to its cave location, Santa's grotto is quite literally in a grotto. Magical.
  3. Various hotels and restaurants offer indulgent five course Christmas dinners, but we like the ones which also come with Christmas singalongs and cabaret shows. With pianists that invite you sing around their piano.
  4. Look out for whisky and wine tastings – or a beer masterclass with Sydney brewers that have absconded from the city.
  5. Christmas Dinner at The Carrington usually includes a choir performance. Expect tingles down the spine as soon as they belt out a verse.  

 

What else can we do while we’re there?
What? You think you’ll tire of glazed ham, brandy and puddings all served with custard? Yeah right.

If you really must do anything but indulge, how about the region’s infamous Six Foot Walking Track. There’s no better way to work off your new Christmas paunch. As the original 1884 horse track stretching from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves, this three day hike is no easy feat. Winding through the Blue Mountains National Park you’ll be treated to forests, rivers and waterfalls. And because it’s winter the scenery is dazzling. Jack Frost nips at the grass, a dreamy white mist floats in the air, and trees – mere skeletons of their former selves – stand spindly yet elegantly beneath a sky so pale, there’s only a hint of blue.

In the bleak mid-winter we bet you make a beeline for the balmy Pacific Islands, but why not mix it up this year? Santa’s got a sack-ful of pressies for you in Australia.  

Book your magical winter getaway today with one of these super cheap Australia flight deals. 

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