For a select group of Londoners, the way to start Christmas Day is to head to a park, strip off and jump in a freezing lake – and they do it every single year.
For many, Christmas morning is a combination of nursing a hangover, while simultaneously unwrapping presents and doing all the food prep that should have been done when you were actually in the pub. Even if you’re on potato peeling duty, you still have the comfort of a dressing gown, a roaring fire and a fancy breakfast, probably a glass of champagne in tow, or maybe even all of the above. There are also those who can give all that up (or at the very least, postpone that) in favour of heading to the park for a dip in freezing water.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Hyde Park, in Central London, is home to the Serpentine, a 40-acre lake that runs through the middle of the park. It it also the home to the Serpentine Swimming Club (SSC), formed in 1864, who have permission to swim in the lake as long as it’s before 9:30am. The SSC hold races every Sunday morning throughout the year, as well as the Peter Pan Cup every single Christmas morning. With temperatures often as low as 4°C, the annual race is not for the faint-hearted and all competitors must have experience of swimming in cold waters. The race is, however, cancelled if the lake freezes over (although some competitors in the past have broken parts of the ice and gone for a quick dip regardless).
Amateur swimmers, elsewhere in London and beyond, swear by a morning swim, regardless of the weather. At the SSC, wetsuits are allowed but ‘considered by many not to be within the true-spirit of an all-the-year-round open-air swimming club.’
The distances of the races depend on the time of year, with shorter races held in the chillier months due to the drop in the water’s temperature. Races have kept their traditional imperial measurements and can be anything from 40 yards (37 metres), up to 1,000 yards (914 metres). The Peter Pan Cup is a 1,00-yard dash and takes its name from the donor of the 1913 race: JM Barrie, author of Peter Pan.
The race is for SSC members only, but spectators can come along and watch for free and are encouraged to do so. The race is handicapped (where the slowest set off first and the fastest go last), allowing every person competing the opportunity to win. The SSC has an Honorary Handicapper, who will have watched participants in their previous races and know the standards and times of those competing.
According to the SSC’s website, the following rules apply to anyone who wants to race on Christmas Day:
‘Members who are on the handicap list before the start of the Winter Series must compete in at least two of the Winter Series races.
‘Members who are NOT on the handicap list before the start of the Winter Series will be required to compete in seven of the nine Winter Series races to qualify for the Christmas Day race.’
The Peter Pan Cup race record is held by Nick Adams, who swam the 100 yards in 57 seconds on Christmas Day 2002. If there is anyone who fancies their chances of braving the icy waters that London has to offer at the end of December and taking that record, they can become a member of the SSC. It might make you feel less guilty about the goose, pâte, cheese and pudding that follows later in the day.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.