With the holidays just around the corner, December is an excellent month for traveling. While you might be bundled up by the fireplace with a mug of hot chocolate, there is a world of exciting destinations waiting for you outside your door.
In fact, your December vacation doesn’t have to be full of snow and chilly weather (although there are plenty of those places if that’s what you’re looking for). As you cross the equator, you can find warmer cities and beaches to escape the harsh winter of the northern hemisphere.
And let’s face it, we could all use a little “me time” before heading back home to visit our families for the holidays.
Keep in mind that traveling in December can be a mixed bag. Although it’s technically in the off-season for most places, you’ll still be going during one of the busiest times of the year. Students have time off from school and many people are trying to fly back home around Christmas and New Year’s.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a place to spend your December. You just have to know where to look.
So, in between the crazy Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals for travelers (and last-minute trips to the mall), consider giving yourself the ultimate present – the gift of travel!
1. South Africa to Enjoy the Beginning of Summer
With vibrant cities, sandy beaches, and wildlife parks, South Africa is a diverse place to spend your December. Here, summer is approaching and the weather is ideal for hitting the beaches and exploring what the beautiful cities have to offer.
But because it’s such a large country, I recommend narrowing down your list to a few places you want to visit. That way, you’ll be able to make the most of your South Africa trip.
If mingling with lions and elephants is high on your list, then spend a few days in Kruger National Park. Although the weather is more humid compared to other parts of the year, it’s a great time to spot baby animals that were born earlier in the spring.
The Cape is also a great choice in December. The weather in Cape Town and around the Garden Route is warm and dry, with sunny skies most days. You can spend your time wine tasting in Stellenbosch, surfing in Muizenberg Beach, or hiking Table Mountain.
Due to the warm summer weather, many people also flock to the coast to hang out on the beach. With miles of sandy coastline, KwaZulu-Natal is a favorite area with the locals. Although it can get quite hot during the day, you’ll have the refreshing ocean waves to cool you off.
2. Prague, Czech Republic, to Shop the Christmas Markets
There’s no better place to get into the holiday spirit than by soaking in the festive atmosphere at a Christmas market in Prague. With the Gothic buildings covered in lights and the mouthwatering smell of gingerbread and mulled wine radiating through the air, you’ll feel as if you’re in the middle of a fairytale.
Starting the last week of November, the Christmas markets open their doors for shoppers. While Prague is home to several markets, the most famous one takes place in Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí).
You can find a gift for almost everyone here. Shop for hand made soaps, wooden toys, glass ornaments, and even jams and spices. Or, come to simply admire the magical holiday atmosphere of the lively market.
If you’re in Prague in December, then you won’t want to miss the tree lighting ceremony in Old Town Square. The square is packed with thousands of people as they eagerly wait for the 75-foot tree to light up, signaling the first day of Advent.
But because Prague is such a walkable city, you can easily reach the other Christmas markets in town on foot. A few minutes from the Old Town Square is Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí), another market where you can shop for gifts and dine on Czech delicacies.
Every night at 5 pm in Wenceslas Square, you’ll be treated to a festive light show around the Christmas tree. With traditional Czech music and millions of twinkling lights, it’s guaranteed to fill you with Christmas cheer.
3. Faroe Islands, Denmark, to Admire the Northern Lights
Venturing to the arctic circle in December may not be at the top of everyone’s bucket list. After all, freezing cold snow is everywhere, and you’ll only see six hours of daylight.
However, visiting the Faroe Islands in Denmark in December has one big advantage: it’s one of the best times to see the Northern Lights.
The best months to witness this natural phenomenon in Denmark is between November and February. If the sky is clear and the weather is below freezing, you’ll have a great chance of spotting the dancing green Aurora Borealis.
Under the right conditions, you might also see shades of bright pinks and golden yellows. I can say without a doubt that the Northern Lights will be one of the highlights of your trip.
The remote landscape of the islands is comprised of dramatic cliffs, steep fjords, and basalt volcanos. You’ll also find colorful homes dotted throughout the sparsely populated villages. The Faroe Islands are the epitome of tranquility, which makes for a wonderful December escape.
And because winter is off-season in Denmark, you can score some great deals on flights and hotels. Best of all, you’ll be able to enjoy your vacation in peace without the crowds of tourists around.
4. El Chalten, Argentina, to Visit the Glaciers
Due to its southern latitude, El Chalten is an ideal destination for a trip in December. Not only is the weather warm and suitable for outdoor adventure, but you’ll also have extended hours of sunlight.
No trip to El Chalten would be complete without a visit to Los Glaciares National Park. Argentina’s most famous park is, you guessed it, home to hundreds of massive, rugged glaciers. There are 350 of them to be exact!
If you plan to spend a few days in the park, you will have plenty of things to do.
A trek along the peaks of Fitz Roy Mountain will reward you with unparalleled views of the landscape around Patagonia. But if you’re looking for something more thrilling, I recommend ice picking your way through the Perito Moreno glacier. This stunning, blue glacier is worth the hike, and it feeds into Lago Argentino, the largest ice lake in Argentina.
Although you’re walking on ice, you can still expect a mild temperature of around 68 degrees.
Keep in mind that December is a popular month for exploring Argentina, so make sure to book your flights, hotels, and hiking tours in advance.
5. Andaman Islands, India, to Soak in the Sun
Why suffer through a December snowstorm when you could be lounging on the beach with a pina colada in your hand? With a trip to the Andaman Islands in India, you can escape the winter blues and spend your days with your feet in the sand.
While the archipelago is comprised of over 500 islands, you’re only allowed to visit around 30 of them. Havelock Island is by far the most popular choice for travelers. Known for its clean beaches, abundant sea life, and lush jungles, it’s a great place for relaxation. As most of the island is covered in a dense forest, I recommend hiking to Elephant Beach to experience the best of both worlds.
If Havelock is too crowded for your tastes, head to the quieter Neil Island. Granted, there are fewer activities and excursions here, but it’s perfect for getting in touch with nature. You can snorkel off the lagoons, cycle through the small villages, or simply chill underneath a swaying palm tree.
When you come back with a sun-kissed tan, you’ll have all your friends wondering how you spent your holiday vacation in December.
6. Fiji, for Snorkeling or Diving
In December, you can always treat yourself to a luxury vacation in Fiji. You don’t have to be honeymooning or retired to enjoy the pristine landscape of the islands.
Between the sharks and abundance of soft corals, Fiji is known as one of the diving capitals of the world. There are plenty of good dive spots to choose from, but some islands are better than others.
Considered the best island for diving, Taveuni is a must-see during your trip to Fiji. Rainbow Reef is exactly how you would imagine it to be – with colorful soft corals and vibrant schools of tropical fish. Divers also have the chance to visit the Great White Wall, an underwater cliff covered in white corals.
Viti Levu is another favorite spot for diving. That’s because you’ll be able to get up close and personal with bull sharks and tiger sharks! At Shark Reef Dive, you can embark on a shark-feeding excursion to see Fiji’s most famous residents with your own eyes.
December is a great time for diving because the water is at its clearest. However, it’s still advisable to wear a wetsuit because the water can be quite cold during the winter.
7. Bangkok, to Celebrate New Year’s Eve
Ring in the New Year under the exploding fireworks and illuminated skyline of Bangkok.
The main party takes place in CentralWorld shopping mall, Bangkok’s version of Times Square. With live entertainment, night markets, and literally hundreds of thousands of visitors, CentralWorld is the place to spend New Year’s.
Well known on the backpacking circuit, Khao San Road also has it’s own New Year’s celebration. Floods of tourists spill out from the bars into the street just in time for the twelve o’clock countdown. If you’re looking for a raging party all night long, then Khao San Road will not disappoint.
If you thought the streets and clubs of Bangkok couldn’t get any more chaotic, then you haven’t seen it during New Year’s Eve.
For something quieter, you can also board a dinner and dancing cruise down the Chao Praya River. Celebrate the new year as you set sail with the sparkling city as your backdrop. You’ll also have prime seats for watching the fireworks once the clock strikes twelve.
Although you could find a low-key rooftop bar or restaurant for midnight, being part of the bustling action in Bangkok is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
And if you have some time to spare, why not spend one month adventuring in Thailand?
From snowy glaciers to tropical beaches, you have endless opportunities to travel in December. Although the holiday season can be hectic, it’s still important to take some time to do what you love most – travel!
So say goodbye to this year the right way. Book your next trip to somewhere unforgettable today!
Where are you packing your bags and heading to this December?