The Best Places to Visit in December

The 15 Best Vacation Destinations in December (2023)

Whether you fancy a safari, gorilla trekking, dog sledding, or just an all-inclusive escape by the sea, we’ve got you covered with the best places to visit in December – all over the world! 

Winter sun seekers can make a break for the sunny resorts of Mexico’s Riviera Maya, or perhaps you’d rather book a luxury overwater bungalow in the Maldives. It’s the festive season in Colombia and the Philippines, while Germany’s historic Christmas markets need very little introduction.

Finland is cold and dark, but surprisingly, it’s also one of the most exciting places to visit in the winter. There’s an entire village devoted to all things Santa Claus, and there’s never a better time to see the Northern Lights. Then there’s sunny Cape Town, the sun-drenched shores of Australia, and the glaciers and mountain peaks of Patagonia to visit. 

With so many places to travel in December, you might not know where to begin. That’s why we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best December holiday destinations for you. Stick to these fun and unique getaways across the world, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing vacation!

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The 15 Best Vacation Destinations in December

1. Rajasthan, India

Best Places to Visit in December: Rajasthan, India

One of the best places to visit in December is Rajasthan, where the dry season is in full swing, and temperatures are some of the coolest they’ll ever be all year round. If you’ve never been to India before, then Rajasthan is the best introduction to this beautiful yet chaotic country you could have. Equally, Rajasthan, with its princely cities and majestic desert forts, is a place you can visit time and time again. 

Located in northwest India, you can fly into the country’s hectic capital, New Delhi, where your journey can begin (although technically, New Delhi isn’t Rajasthan). You can take on the famous Golden Triangle, a touristic route from New Delhi to Agra, where you can see the Taj Mahal, then onto Jaipur, an old Rajasthani capital that’s known as the Pink City for its colorful 18th-century architecture.

From Jaipur, you can visit the rainforest of Ranthambore National Park in search of tigers. Whereas the city of Udaipur is known for its lavish royal palaces, and Jodhpur is famed for its distinctive blue buildings (it’s known as the Blue City). 

Venture off the beaten track and travel west into the Thar Desert, where the fortress city of Jaisalmer has long guarded India’s frontier, or visit the holy site of Pushkar, a desert town that attracts millions of animals and for its annual camel fair. 

Temperatures in Rajasthan hover around 77°F (25°C), which is positively cool in comparison to the summer months when they soar to upwards of 86°F (30°C). Be warned, though, that temperatures can fluctuate to the extreme in the desert, with nightly drops that can reach lows of 50°F (10°C) – so make sure you bring a few extra layers! 

2. Lapland, Finland

Must Visit Places in December: Lapland, Finland

Dreaming of a white Christmas? Make those Christmas dreams a reality with a trip to Finnish Lapland, one of the most unique December holiday destinations, where there’s a thick layer of snow all through the winter.

That’s no surprise, really, given that much of Lapland is located within the Arctic Circle. Visit Santa Claus Village outside the Christmas-loving town of Rovaniemi, and you can even trace the route of the Arctic Circle through the Christmas theme park itself.

This is the supposed home of Santa himself (it’s great marketing on the part of the Laplanders!), and you can visit his reindeer, shop for last-minute Christmas presents, chat with Santa Claus himself, and maybe even see the Northern Lights. 

But Lapland isn’t just perfect for Christmas lovers – it’s a fantastic winter escape for adventure travelers. Stay in an ice hotel in the forest, learn how to ride dog sleds across the tundra, and cross-country ski with the vast herds of reindeer that roam the Arctic.

3. Christmas Markets in Germany

Best Cities to Visit in December: Christmas Markets, Germany

If you love Christmas markets, then one of the best places to travel in December is Germany. This is the true home of the festive Advent Market, a timeless tradition that sees market squares and old towns covered in wooden stalls, decked out with Christmas lights, and packed with carol singers.

The Advent Market tradition can be traced back to at least the 15th century, with the oldest being the Striezelmarkt in Dresden, which has been held since 1434. 

Nuremberg’s market can be traced back to the 1600s, while Munich, Trier, Essen, Leipzig, and many more historic German cities also host extravagant festive markets where you can indulge in Gluhwein, gorge on stollen, and feast on potato pancakes. 

Although it’s not the oldest, the Christmas markets in Berlin are some of the biggest and best these days. Head to Alexanderplatz, Spandau, or Charlottenburg Castle for a festive experience done the Berliner way.

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4. The Philippines

What Places Have Shoulder Season in December: Philippines

The Philippines is not only entering its dry season in December, but the long festive season is already underway. The Philippines, an archipelago of some 7,000 islands, is also home to some 87 million Catholics. 

Thanks to centuries of Spanish colonialism, this is Asia’s largest Catholic nation, and they absolutely love celebrating Christmas. Indeed, Christmas in the Philippines is a drawn-out occasion, with the first carols and decorations appearing as early as September. Come December, the festive buzz is palpable, and malls, streets, and houses are all decked out with extravagant Christmas trees and light displays.

Of course, the weather is tropical in December, with highs of up to 90°F (32°C) and very little chance of rain. Start by visiting the Christmas festivities in Manila, the nation’s sprawling capital, then make a break south for some island hopping.

Cebu and Bohol, home to whale sharks and chocolate hills, are well-traveled islands, but they’re perfect for a relaxing beach getaway over Christmas. Palawan, including El Nido and Coron, are firmly on the backpacker scene, but the rugged karst scenery has yet to be fully embraced by mass tourism. 

For something a little different, head north to the rice terraces and mountains of the Cordillera, where temperatures are a little cooler than on the coast. 

5. Riviera Maya, Mexico

Best Cities to Visit in December: Riviera Maya, Mexico

If you’re looking for sun, sea, and sand, then the Riviera Maya is one of the best holiday destinations in December. This is the ultimate winter sun vacation, with temperatures hitting a sunny 82°F (28°C) and almost no chance of rain. 

There are direct flights to Cancun from most major North American cities and many European countries, which means that Mexico’s most famous hotel strip does get busy in December. Embrace the winter sun-loving tourists, though, and you can have an amazing vacation sipping on margaritas and micheladas around the infinity pool. 

For the classic all-inclusive stay, nowhere beats Cancun’s Hotel Zone. But stray a little off the beaten track, and you can find gorgeous properties further down the coast in beach towns like Puerto Morelos. Playa del Carmen offers beaches and apart-hotels, Tulum is an influencer’s playground, and Cozumel is home to some of Mexico’s best snorkeling and diving. 

There’s more to the Riviera Maya than hotels and cocktails, though. You can explore the Maya ruins of Coba or Chichen Itza, see the turtles in Akumal, or seek a little serenity on Isla de Mujeres. 

6. Colombia

What Places to Visit in December: Colombia

It’s the festive season in Colombia, and few other countries in the world know how to celebrate like the Colombians. December often feels like one big party in Colombia, and especially so on the Caribbean coast, where destinations like Cartagena are heaving with rum cocktails. 

Colombians take Christmas seriously, though, and the season starts on December 7 with the Day of the Little Candles celebration. From December 16, it’s time for novenos, as the celebrations are ramped up with carol singing in preparation for Christmas Day. 

The weather is glorious in December, and in cities like Medellin and Bogota, you can embrace the extravagant Christmas decor in the sunshine (Medellin is especially well-known for its Christmas lights displays, which open to great fanfare on December 1), while New Year’s celebrations take things to another level, as the seriousness of Christmas gives way to full-on, end-of-year partying. 

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7. Cape Town, South Africa 

Best Places to Visit in December: Cape Town, South Africa

December is the hottest time of year to visit South Africa, making Cape Town one of the best places to travel in December.

This is the peak summer season, and Cape Town is drenched in sun and its beaches are packed with tourists and locals alike enjoying the hot, hot weather. While other parts of South Africa experience rainfall, Cape Town is remarkably dry, and you can hang out in the long evenings with cold beers and a braai as you celebrate the festive season.

Of course, there’s also much sightseeing to be done in December. If you’re feeling fit, then you can tackle the hike to Table Mountain (an early start is needed to beat the heat), or you can take the boat to Robben Island for an insight into the Apartheid regime that divided South Africa for decades. 

Outside of Cape Town, you can go whale watching in Hermanus, you can hop from one winery to the next in Stellenbosch, or road trip the 190-mile (305-kilometer) Garden Route from Mossel Bay to Storms River.

8. Maldives

Must Visit Places in December: Maldives

If you just need to relax and unwind (in beautiful and luxurious surroundings, of course), then the Maldives is one of the best places to vacation in December.

The Indian Ocean is experiencing its finest hour of the year. The monsoon is several months away, the skies are clear, and temperatures can reach highs of 86°F (30°C). If you’re chasing the sun, it’s guaranteed here, but you’re also guaranteed unparalleled luxury.

Why not book yourself a stay in a five-star luxury resort like The Ritz-Carlton, or rent your own private island? Enjoy a lavish Christmas on the beach, snorkeling with manta rays, drinking fresh coconuts, and sipping on ice-cold cocktails before indulging in a Christmas dinner of freshly grilled fish. 

Book a Room at The Ritz-Carlton

9. Malaysia

Best Places to Visit in December: Malaysia

If you’re looking for sandy beaches, hot weather, and excellent eating, you can’t beat a December visit to Malaysia.

The Southeast Asian nation is one of our favorite foodie destinations in the world, and in December, the weather on the west coast of Malaysia is perfect. The sun is shining, the rain clouds are gone, and temperatures regularly hit 86°F (30°C), if not higher.

Start your December escape with a few days in Kuala Lumpur, the country’s capital and transport hub. Take in the view from the Petronas Towers, explore the old mosques and colonial buildings around Merdeka Square, and gorge on street food in the night markets (try Petaling Jaya and Jalan Alor).

For a taste of Malaysia’s multicultural cuisine, head down to Malacca, where a unique culture merging European, Chinese, and Southeast Asian evolved due to centuries of colonialism. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to set up shop here, and they left their mark on the dialect and fusion food of Malacca.

You can escape the heat and humidity in the Cameron Highlands, where tea plantations and strawberry farms sit at a welcome altitude of 4,724 feet (1,440 meters) above sea level in Tanah Rata. 

Back down on the coast, you can eat your way around George Town, digging into Penang’s famous foodie destination as you try local dishes like asam laksa and char koay teow. Hop on a ferry from Penang to Langkawi, and you can spend a few days over Christmas just soaking up the sun on this tropical island. 

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10. Oman

What Places Have Shoulder Season in December: Ras Al Jinz

Oman is one of our favorite December holiday destinations, especially if you’re looking for a little adventure. Drive four-by-fours through the desert, wadi bash along dry riverbeds, and camp out on remote beaches with the turtles. 

Temperatures in the Arabian nation, which is located to the south of the United Arab Emirates and east of Saudi Arabia, average around 73°F (23°C) during the day, making this the coolest time of year to visit. 

We recommend renting a car and setting off on an Omani road trip. Public transport is limited here, and a self-drive trip (or an organized tour) is the best way to get around. Start with a few days in Muscat, the nation’s capital, where you can take a traditional dhow cruise around the harbor, delve into the souk, explore local history at the Bait al Zubair Museum, and see the Sultan of Oman’s lavish palace. 

Road trip down the long Arabian coastline, and you can visit incredible natural attractions like the Bimmah Sinkhole, explore the unusual desert river systems, like Wadi Shab, and visit the turtle nesting beaches at Ras al Jinz.

Two hour’s drive from Muscat, Nizwa Fort and its early morning livestock market offer a glimpse into local life, while the Jabal Akhdar mountain range is perfect for hikers and, increasingly, for those looking for a mountainous five-star luxury retreat (look up the Anantara Resort or the Alila). 

11. Australia 

Best Places to Visit in December: Cape Town, South Africa

It’s summertime in Australia, and there’s nothing quite like the experience of an Aussie Christmas. First off, it’s going to be hot. Even in southern cities like Melbourne, temperatures can regularly exceed 86°F (30°C) throughout the month. 

It’s beach weather, and in Melbourne, you can enjoy urban beaches like St. Kilda and take in famous Victorian attractions like the Great Ocean Road or the Penguin Parade on Philip Island. Adelaide’s botanical gardens are wonderfully fresh in summer, while the south coast of Western Australia – home to white sand beaches like Esperance – is the perfect destination for a camping trip.

Stay away from the tropical north, where it’s very much the rainy season, but if the high temperatures of the mainland are too much, why not catch the ferry to Tasmania? It’s very much hiking season, with pleasant weather that sits around 68°F (20°C). Explore the penal history of Port Arthur, tour through Tasmania’s vineyards, and tackle long-distance hikes like the Overland Track. 

And of course, come Christmas Day, you’ll need to throw on your Santa hat, fire up the barbie (the barbecue), and knock back a few beers on the beach! 

12. Patagonia (Argentina and Chile)

What Places Have Shoulder Season in December: Patagonia

One of the top places to visit in December, Patagonia’s jagged mountain peaks and enormous landscapes are ripe for exploration at this time of year. This is South America’s summer season, and there’s no better time to lace up the hiking boots and dig out the walking poles. 

Patagonia is beyond vast, and even if you’ve got the entire month of December to travel here, you’ll barely put a dent in it. Patagonia, which stretches across the Andes mountains that divide Argentina from Chile, is also a long way from capital cities like Buenos Aires and Santiago, so you’ll need to factor in plenty of travel time.

It’s well worth the distance you need to travel, and you’ll be awed by the sight of iconic mountains, including the likes of Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. If it’s your first time in the region, you’ll want to tackle Argentina’s famed tourist circuit in the south, including the Perito Moreno Glacier and Los Glaciares National Park. 

If you love wildlife, then hop over the border to Torres del Paine National Park, where you can join puma trekking tours amidst the spectacular scenery. If you’ve already hit the big sights, then lose the crowds around Perito Moreno (not to be confused with the glacier of the same name), where ancient petroglyphs (see the stunning Cuevas de las Manos) and rewilding programs bring the little visited Patagonian steppe to life. 

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13. South Island, New Zealand

Best Cities to Visit in December: South Island, New Zealand

New Zealand’s summer is blissful, particularly on the South Island (Te Waipounamu), where temperatures are a comfortable 68°F (20°C) and the sun is shining.

New Zealand’s South Island is home to marvelous mountains and an impressive coastline. Summer is the time to hit the mountain trails, although you may find Mount Cook, which at an altitude of 12,218 feet (3,724 meters) is New Zealand’s highest mountain, may still be snowcapped. 

Fiordland National Park – home to the serenity of Milford Sound – is absolutely glorious in summer, while the hiking trails of the Abel Tasman National Park are unbeatable. Adventure junkies can head to Queenstown for bungee jumps and adrenaline-inducing extreme sports, while wine lovers can take it easy on the vineyards of Central Otago. 

14. Rwanda 

What Places Have Shoulder Season in December: Rwandan

Rwanda has been busy making a name for itself as one of Africa’s best tourist destinations, and considering the country was locked in a deadly civil war in the 1990s, the progress is nothing short of remarkable. You can learn more about the Rwandan Genocide with a moving trip to the Kigali Genocide Memorial, and you’ll hear countless local stories of loss and reconciliation throughout your stay. 

But don’t linger in the past for too long. Rwanda is home to rich rainforests and spectacular mountains, and December – after the autumn rains have dried up – is a fantastic time to visit. 

The number one thing to do here is gorilla trekking, and several hundred gorillas are found within Volcanoes National Park, which borders both Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Visiting the habituated gorilla families requires a permit and guides, as visitor numbers are limited, so make sure to plan and book well in advance. 

You can also explore Rwanda’s wildlife in many other nature reserves and national parks, including Nyungwe Forest National Park, which is known for its chimpanzees, and Akagera National Park, where you can enjoy a traditional safari and a chance to spot all of the Big Five African animals. 

15. Sri Lanka

Best Places to Visit in December: Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has a curious weather pattern, and if you visit in December, the southwest shores are hot, dry, and sunny, while the monsoon ravages the northeast.

Despite a rainy north, it’s one of the best times of year to visit iconic Sri Lankan coastal destinations like Galle, Bentota Beach, and Hikkaduwa Beach, where you can enjoy sandy shores, visit colonial forts, and have guaranteed sun, sea, and sand for Christmas. 

It’s also a great time for a safari, particularly in Yala National Park in the south, which is home to large populations of free-roaming elephants and other rare Sri Lankan animals like sloth bears and leopards. 

If the heat along the coast is too much – temperatures often reach above 86°F (30°C), even in December – then you can take the scenic train from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya, a beautiful journey through rolling hills and hill plantations in the cooler highlands.

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There you have it! The 15 best vacation destinations in December. What’s your favorite place to visit in December?

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About the Author:

  • Richard Collett

    Richard is an award-winning travel writer based in Southwest England who’s addicted to traveling off the beaten track. He’s traveled to 75 countries and counting in search of intriguing stories, unusual destinations, and cultural curiosities.

    Richard loves traveling the long way round over land and sea, and you’ll find him visiting quirky micronations and breakaway territories as often as he’s found lounging on a beach (which is a lot).

    When he’s not writing for BBC Travel, National Geographic, or Lonely Planet, you can find Richard writing for the Wandering Wheatleys or updating his off-beat travel blog, Travel Tramp.

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