From festive celebrations to sun-kissed beaches, December can be an excellent month to travel to a wide range of destinations, depending on what you want from your trip. Below are ten destinations that shine for their own reasons during December.
You could head to Japan, where the chill in the air can be tempered with a soak in a steaming onsen. Thailand’s beaches and clear, calm waters are all the more enticing during winter. Or, under a blanket of snow, Canada offers cheery Christmas markets, cosy log cabins and dog-sledging through the ice-bejewelled forest.
1. Germany - Visited
December sees Germany in full festive mode as Christkindlmarkts (Christmas markets) set up shop in even the smallest town squares, and snow often falls. It’s cold, yes, but manageably so, and as long as you plan your visit well in advance, you’ll likely still have your first choice of places to stay and visit during this busy period. The Christkindlmarkts in Germany is some of the finest in Europe, with seasonal food and drink for sale, along with many handmade gifts and handicrafts. The German countryside is also often a spectacle in December: you might be treated to the sight of Bavarian castles and valleys draped in snow.
Don't miss Berlin & Bavaria highlights.
Flight time: 2 hours upwards depending on the airline (London to Munich)
Time difference: UTC +1
December Temperature (Day): 4 to 4°C, depending on the region
December rainfall: 75 to 75mm, varies by region
2. Dubai - Visited
Dubai offers a chance to escape the harsh temperatures of a northern hemisphere winter. Sunlight and warm weather make it an ideal time to lounge around hotel pools or sunbathe, although the seawater can sometimes still be a little too cold for swimming.
It’s also a time when the emirate erupts with a host of festivals catering to many different interests, including the World Rugby Sevens Series and the Dubai International Film Festival. In addition, on and around the anniversary of the UAE’s independence, known as National Day, there are fireworks and often visual art shows.
Don't miss Essential Dubai: beach & city.
Flight time: From London: 7 hours
Time difference: UTC +4
December Temperature (Day): 0 to 40°C, depending on the region
December rainfall: 0 to 600mm, varies by region
3. Costa Rica
Marking the arrival of the dry season, December is an ever-popular time to visit Costa Rica, thanks to both the pleasant weather and the festive period. There are places you can still go to get away from the throngs, though. Head to Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean coast, see sea turtles, or venture to the remote Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula to spot wildlife among tangled rainforests, swamps, and mangroves.
If you don’t mind being among other people, you could also spend time in the capital to join in with some of the Christmas festivities.
Don't miss: What to do in Costa Rica: our highlights guide
Flight time: Approx. 11 hours
Time difference: UTC -6
December Temperature (Day): 24 to 32°C, depending on the region
December rainfall: 128 to 537mm, varies by region
4. New Zealand
It’s the start of summer in New Zealand, and the warmer temperatures lure more visitors to the country’s beaches and walking tracks. That said, it’s still a quieter time than later in the season, as long as you visit before the festive period. It’s still possible to experience rainy days, particularly on the South Island, but it’s one of the driest months on the North Island.
It’s a good time to take advantage of the many outdoor activities the country offers, from hiking and cycling to fiord cruises and whale-watching trips. However, we recommend planning your travels well ahead to ensure you get the best accommodation options.
Don't miss: Exploring New Zealand by campervan: an all-you-need-to-know guide.
Flight time: 26 hours via LA or 25 hours via Hong Kong
Time difference: UTC +12
December Temperature (Day): 10 to 17°C, depending on the region
December rainfall: 33 to 484mm, varies by region
5. South Africa - Visited
In many parts of South Africa, December is one of the busiest months as the festive season ramps up. Therefore, we recommend visiting earlier in the month when there are far fewer visitors.
The Cape region is warm, sunny and dry at this time of year, making it a good time for a break in Cape Town and the Winelands or a road trip along the Garden Route. If you’re planning a safari, the Kruger is hot and experiences rain at this time of year, but it’s an excellent time for birdwatching as migrant species arrive. You’ll also see lots of newborn mammals, along with the predators they attract.
Don't miss: A trip of two halves: the Garden Route and Eastern Cape safari
Flight time: 11 hours (Johannesburg)
Time difference: UTC +2
December Temperature (Day): 17 to 27°C, depending on the region
December rainfall: 16 to 95mm, varies by region
6. The USA - Visited
December is a good time to visit most parts of the USA, and where you go depends on the type of winter break you’re looking for. You’ll find warm temperatures and beaches ripe for sunbathing in regions like Hawaii, California, Florida and the Deep South. Or, for crisp winter days steeped in a festive atmosphere, spend time in its northern cities.
At the beginning of the month, you’ll encounter few other visitors in the country’s national parks (though some are difficult to access due to snow) and around city attractions, plus hotels and restaurants often offer good value for money.
Don't miss: New York
Flight time: Between 7 (New York) & 20 hours (Honolulu)
Time difference: UTC -5 to UTC -10
December Temperature (Day): 10 to 35°C, depending on the region
December rainfall: 0 to 291mm, varies by region