Where to go in
December

The festive season is upon us, and many (though not all) of the best places to visit in December are orientated around Christmas celebrations. Festive Markets, Christmas festivals and much more beside. But you can also head for some sun and forget any of it’s happening too. Here are all the options for where to visit in December…

Highlights

Where’s hot

Exotic locations like Seychelles are perfect for this time of year, whilst many African destinations offer fantastic weather. The Caribbean is also a great place to visit for those wanting to splash the cash on a sunny Christmas.

TOWN, COUNTRY Temperatures Min° Max° Wet DaysNew Delhi,
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 23 32 7
Myanmar (Burma) 24 32 3
Lome, Togo 25 32 2
Bombay, India 22 32 0
Phuket, Thailand 25 32 9
Noumea, New Caledonia 22 31 6
Phnom Penh, Cambodia 23 31 4
Male, Maldives 24 30 4
Fort-de-France, Martinique 23 30 19
Recife, Brazil 26 30 6

Where to go

December holidays are generally focused around wanting to soak up as much Christmas as you possibly can, or avoiding it at all costs! Europe’s Christmas markets make it perfect for the fanatics, whilst the sunnier destinations offer places to escape to for those who just want some peace and quiet…

  • Cameroon
  • Dakar
  • Ivory Coast
  • Bangladesh
  • Laos
  • Melbourne
  • Czech Republic
  • Hungary
  • Switzerland
  • French West Indies
  • Guatemala
  • New York City

Africa

Cameroon

The best time to visit Cameroon is in the drier, cooler season making December a comfortable time to explore the parks of this central African nation. Both the Benue and Waza National Parks are fantastic for safari tours, being home to incredible wildlife such as elephants, giraffes and antelope. Or head to Ebogo for a spot of ecotourism and to cruise the beautiful Nyong River in a dugout canoe. Some of the cities not to be missed include Yaounde, Maroua and Douala, as well as the lovely beach town of Limbe where guests can enjoy resort life with great seafood.

Further Reading – Anita Hendrieka

Dakar, Senegal

The country of Senegal is a unique destination defined by its French colonial heritage, natural attractions and beaches, with balmy temperature averages of over 20°C in the month of December. Dakar is the capital and with an urban mix of Wolof, French, and Arabic speaking residents, it’s a melting pot of cultures. Nightlife is particularly great here, with parties that run late into the night where you can experience local ‘mbalax’ music. Be sure to also explore the many beaches, the Médina area and the Grande Mosquée, as well as the Museum of African Arts on Rue Emile Zola.

Further Reading – Along Dusty Roads

Ivory Coast

Africa’s Ivory Coast or ‘Côte d’Ivoire’ is made for winter sun-seekers. Temperature highs for the capital, Yamoussoukro, are over 32°C with a low chance of rain and 12 hours of daylight. This luxurious coastline is dotted with 5-star beach resorts, lush green rainforests and French colonial landmarks. Whether you want to relax or enjoy an active holiday, the Côte d’Ivoire can offer so many wonderful things to do. Don’t miss the spectacular city of Abidjan, Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve, Îles Ehotilés National Park, the capital’s Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Taï National Park and Comoé National Park.

Further Reading – Getaway

Asia

Bangladesh

Located off the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Sea and divided down the middle by its many rivers and canals, Bangladesh is a country defined by its waterways. For those who wish to experience its unique beauty of bustling cities and verdant rice fields in untouched countryside, the cold and dry season is the best time to come. December offers affordable rates in low season and temperature averages of around 19°C. Soak up the sights and sounds of the capital Dhaka, visit the many museums of Chittagong, see the Sufri shrines and mosques in Sylhet, and head to The Sundarbans to encounter the Bengal Tiger.

Further Reading – Aussie on the Roads

Laos

A popular destination for backpackers and adventurers, this Southeast Asian nation is a fascinating mix of soulful mountainscapes, ancient hill tribes, Buddhist temples, and cities charmed with French colonial architecture. Lined by the Mekong and home to the Nam Song River, Laos is a top place to come for river cruises or the famous local activity of river tubing, as well as some of the liveliest parties by the water in Vang Vieng. The weather is warm and dry in December, making it the perfect time to explore temples such as That Luang or Vat Phou, the UNESCO town of Luang Prabang, or the Kuang Si Falls.

Further Reading – Seth Lui

Melbourne, Australia

December is a great time to visit Victoria’s coastal capital when the weather is starting to hot up. This month marks the start of summer in Oz, making it ideal for families, groups or couples looking to escape cold winters back home. This is an incredibly fun destination with something for every age group. From an iconic road trip along the Great Ocean Road and seeing the Twelve Apostles to shopping and nightlife within the city itself, Melbourne has much to offer. And of course, the beaches are a surfer’s paradise with excellent views over Port Phillip Bay.

Further Reading – On Time Travel

Europe

Czech Republic

A landlocked nation in central Europe best known for its famous beer culture, hearty dishes and its ornate castles. Czech Republic is an awe-inspiring destination throughout the year but if you visit in December, be sure to wrap up warm. This is when its cities come to life with the most amazing Christmas markets; head to Prague, Brno and Olomouc to experience the festive atmosphere, beautiful Christmas lights and amazing street food. Pack plenty of warm clothing and top up on svařák (mulled wine) as temperatures can often be below freezing.

Further Reading – Independent

Hungary

The festive month is a great time to visit Hungary, particularly its captivating capital which is divided into two main areas, Buda and Pest (Budapest). Running down the middle is the Danube River, and both sides offer a flip side of the city’s personality. Head to the second largest city of Pécs to wander around the Christmas Market or spend some time in the verdant town of Hévíz if you want to relax in a spa. You should also add Győr (the most important town of northwest Hungary) to your bucket list for its architecture. Just be sure to dress for the cold frosty weather which averages 1°C in the daytime.

Further Reading – Hand Luggage Only

Switzerland

December marks the start of the ski season in many resorts of the Swiss Alps, including Andermatt, St. Moritz, Adelboden and Verbier (but try to go early in the month to avoid the expensive peak holiday period). For city exploration, you won’t want to miss spectacular Zürich and its Old Town area, or the alpine city of Lucerne where you will be met with views of snow-capped mountains and preserved medieval architecture. The weather is cold, but there’s much festive fun to be had at this time. Including Interlaken with its huge ‘Ice Magic’ complex, Yverdon-Les-Bains with a traditional market set in a castle, and Lausanne’s annual lights festival.

Further Reading – LOREM IPSUM

Americas

French West Indies

Visit the islands of Guadeloupe or Martinique in The French West Indies during the winter for the best weather. In December, the air is slightly cooler and drier so you can skip the intense heat and humidity of the summer. Although it can get busy around this time, there are so many incredible beaches to explore on both of the main islands. As well as a number of smaller islands which can be great for escaping the tourist crowds.

Further Reading – LOREM IPSUM

Guatemala

The climate in Guatemala is largely determined by altitude so bear this in mind when you travel. But generally speaking, December is a fantastic time to visit. With a pleasant temperature range across the country, making a comfortable season for holiday goers. Discover the city of Antigua Guatemala which is adorned with beautiful colonial buildings and surrounded by volcanoes. Head up to the highlands of Cobán and explore the famous cardamom and coffee-growing region. Or get off the grid at Tikal rainforest searching for temples and ancient Mayan ruins in one of Guatemala’s top UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Further Reading – LOREM IPSUM

New York City, USA

New York, New York! Despite the cold weather (sometimes freezing), there is no better time to experience The Big Apple than December when the spirit of Christmas takes over the city. From shopping in some of the most famous department stores such as Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Barney’s to enjoying panoramic views of the New York skyline from the top of the Empire State Building, or exploring the many cool neighbourhoods of Manhattan, there’s just so much to do. Be sure to stroll through Central Park if it snows and look out for the ice skating rink close to the south entrance of 6th Avenue.

Further Reading – LOREM IPSUM

Holiday types

It’s the perfect time of year for a family holiday if you want to celebrate a Christmas like no other. But it’s also a great time for adventure and wildlife if you want to savour something alternative…

Family Holidays

This time of year is great for family holidays, especially if you are travelling with little ones who are mesmerised by the season of Christmas. Lapland is the ultimate festive destination where children’s imaginations come to life.

For amazing street food for the whole family, you simply cannot miss city escapes in Germany. Including Berlin, Frankfurt, Trier, Hamburg, Cologne and Munich, where you will find great markets and festive celebrations.

For an unforgettable NYE, take the family to Sydney in Australia. Where fireworks light up over the harbour, attracting over a million people and watched by over a billion people all over the world.

Activity

Snorkelling in Colombia is one of the best activity holidays to enjoy at this time of year. There are also dives to suit all levels and so many different islands to explore for groups or couples.

The entrancing Valley of the Kings is one of the most incredible destinations in Egypt, jam-packed with adventure and so many historic tombs to visit. This is the perfect place for a Nile cruise, with Luxor just across the river.

Winter sports fans can enjoy cross-country skiing in Austria, a free form of skiing that offers so much more freedom for the adrenaline junkie. Head to Seefeld, Galtür, Lech and Kitzbuhel or the breathtakingly beautiful area of Zell am See.

Honeymoon

The island of Bora Bora in French Polynesia is perfect for honeymoons in December. With fantastic weather, beaches looking their finest, and a choice of 5-star luxury resorts.

St. Lucia in the Caribbean is lovely and balmy at this time of year, offering honeymooning couples a great climate to do some exploring. There are nature and rainforest hikes across the island and waterfalls just waiting to be discovered.

For romance with a bit of action, book your post-wedding escape in Chile. Stay in Santiago for a taste of Chilean city life or wind down in the natural hot springs of Cajón del Maipo.

City Breaks

December is a superb time for city breaks and Bergen in Norway is a destination with a difference for those who have seen it all.

Dresden in Germany is ideal for those who love to get into the festive spirit. The famous Dresden Striezelmarkt is worth a visit for Christmas crafts, shopping, delicious mulled wine, street food, music and entertainment.

Budapest is cold but beautiful in December, and you can’t beat the nightlife. Visit all the dive bars or ‘ruin’ bars where alcohol is cheap and the atmosphere is out of this world.

Nature Breaks

Head to the Los Flamencos Reserve in San Pedro de Atacama in the northern region of Chile, home to three distinct species of flamingos and with a range of activities such as walking or horseback riding.

For the perfect mix of history and nature, book a tour of Cambodia and visit the country’s many ancient temples. The most famous, Angkor Wat, deserves a few days to be experienced to the full.

Spend time caring for elephants in Thailand and visit the many sanctuaries where you will have a chance to donate, contribute or volunteer.

Events and festivals

Of course, there are Christmas festivals and events abound throughout December, but that’s not all with whirling dervishes and film festivals to keep you entertained as well. Hogmanay in Scotland is something everyone should experience at least once to see in the new year…

Mevlana Whirling Dervishes in Konya

Konya, Turkey

December

Don’t miss the whirling dervishes and Sema ceremonies at the annual Rumi Festival in the city of Konya. It’s a mesmerising display and the dance dates back to the 13th Century. According to Islam, the dance is used to express emotion and achieve the wisdom and love of God.

Paris International Fantastic Film Festival

Paris, France

4 December

Created in 2011 and managed by Paris Ciné Fantastique, this week-long set of events celebrates up and coming talent in the film industry. Featuring short films and feature films, as well as classics and rare films.

L’escalade

Geneva, Switzerland

11 December

Also known as Fête de l’Escalade, this annual celebration in Geneva is held in memory of the attempted surprise attack by troops sent by the Duke of Savoy in December 1602. Celebrations take place across several locations including the Old Town, Place du Bourg-de-Four, and Park des Bastions.

Festival De Santo Tomas

Guatemala

13 December

A colourful and lively festival where costumes come to life and street processions bring smiles to people’s faces. Local Guatemalan performers present their traditional indigenous dance in honour of the Catholic Saint, whilst pole flyers mount a 30 metre high pole and fireworks are set off in the evening.

Junkanoo Festival

Nassau, Bahamas

31 December

Join in the fun and get in the mix with the Junkanoo street parades across different locations in the Bahamas. Watch the processions of people in beautiful Akan costumes, enjoy live music and watch the dancing acts that celebrate local history and culture.

Hogmanay

Edinburgh, Scotland

31 December

For a New Year’s Eve celebration that you will never forget, book a break in Scotland’s glorious capital. The three-day-long event of Hogmanay has something for the whole family, with shows and entertainment, as well as the iconic firework display on December 31st.

Places to avoid

Holidays in December will generally be focused around finding idyllic snowy conditions or escaping to warmer climes. But there are some places that offer neither.

These are the worst places to visit in December…

  • Malaysia – the rains are heavy in December as monsoon season really kicks in, so there’s a very high chance you’ll get very wet if you visit now.
  • Europe – you face the risk of bad weather across Europe, but balanced with the possibility of idyllic winter scenes. Don’t go with any guarantees in mind, and if you are heading to Eastern Europe be prepared for some very chilly conditions.

Here’s what we would do

Australia

We like the idea of Christmas with a difference, so we’d head to Australia where the weather is beautiful but the Christmas and New Year celebrations are still in full swing.

Melbourne is fantastic in December as temperatures start to rise, with loads to do whether you’re a beach bum or an explorer!

Then you can head down to Sydney to see in the New Year, with the iconic fireworks over the harbour.

IMAGE CREDITS

PIFFFAllanTheo – cropped

L’escaladeOrk.ch CC-BY-SA FR – cropped

Santo Tomas FestivalJudgefloro – cropped

Junkanoo FestivalRealJunkanoo – cropped

Hogmanay Edinburgh –  Robbie Shade – cropped