December is quite the month. Not only are there the headline attractions of Christmas and New Year themselves to deal with, but the rest of the month is usually dominated by gift shopping, work Christmas parties and those once-a-year meet-ups with old friends. And is it just me or are there a heck of a lot of birthdays in December too!?
So yeah, December is busy and as such, many of us barely even have time enough to catch our breath let alone to take a vacation! And yet, December can be so exhausting that some of us need a vacation! In fact, Christmas and New Year’s can be so tiring that sometimes it’s best to simply head for the nearest (or furthest) beach and escape from the whole thing altogether.
In this post, we are going to look at the best places to visit in December. Whether you are looking for a place to go to embrace Christmas or escape from it, we have a December destination for you.
- The Best Places in The USA To Visit in December
- Best Places To Holiday in December For Good Weather
- Best Places in Europe To Visit in December
- Best Places To Travel in December For Festivals
- Best Places To Visit in December on a Budget
- Best of The Rest – Where To Go in December
- Final Thoughts on Where To Go in December
The Best Places in The USA To Visit in December
From snow-capped mountains to warm sandy beaches, there’s something for everyone in the USA in December. In this section, we’ll explore the top three destinations to visit in the USA in December.
New York City, NY
New York City perhaps is the ultimate Christmas destination, with its iconic holiday attractions like the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and ice-skating in Central Park. The city also has some of the best shopping in the world, with Christmas markets and holiday displays on every corner. Then, New Year in Times Square is also a raucous occasion for those who can stand the crowds.
Yes, December in New York is cold but don’t let that trouble you. Instead, wrap up warm, sip a cup of eggnog and enjoy December in this great, great city that has in many ways become the spiritual home of Christmas.
Just be warned that accommodation prices (which are never exactly cheap) do tend to spike – December in New York is not cheap, so you’re going to want to book early and be careful about where you stay in New York.
Jackson Hole, WY
You probably already know that many of the northern states boast some of the best winter sports in the world. Whether you are into skiing, snowboarding or Ice Hockey, a visit to Colorado, Montana or Wyoming will afford you plenty of opportunities to get full of fun.
Rather than go with somewhere like Aspen, however, we are nominating Wyoming’s Jackson Hole as the ultimate destination in December and one of the best places in the USA to visit this winter. The ski slopes are world-renowned, and the town itself is a warm and welcoming winter wonderland with snow-covered streets and holiday decorations. There are plenty of great places to stay in Jackson Hole too catering for all types of trips.
If you are travelling with kids, don’t miss the sleigh ride through the National Elk Refuge and spot herds of elk grazing in the snow.
Best Places To Holiday in December For Good Weather
While in so many ways December leaves us feeling all warm inside, it’s mostly seriously bloody cold on the outside! As such, for those of us who need a little fix of warm weather and sunny skies, December is perhaps the perfect time to escape to a tropical destination.
In this section, we shall explore our top three destinations to visit for good weather in December.
The Island of the Gods that is Bali, is an idyllic destination that boasts warm weather all year round. While December is the start of Bali’s rainy season, the rain remains warm and showers tend to come in short bursts so the rain is unlikely to ruin anybody’s Bali itinerary. Furthermore, some people LOVE the rainy season in Bali as the landscapes turn incredibly lush, and the crowds are significantly thinner than in the high season (which can be over-busy in our view).
On a December trip to Bali, visitors can relax on the beautiful beaches, hike through rice paddies, or try their hand at surfing. The Balinese don’t celebrate Christmas either so if Jesus and Santa are just not your bag, let Bali act as your escape!
The Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena is a colourful colonial citadel that basks in sunshine and warm temperatures throughout December. The old town is atmospheric and romantic, the Gethsemane barrio is fun and hip, and the nightlife across the city raucous and celebratory. If you’re planning on backpacking Cartenga then December is a great time of year.
Note that Colombians are still a devout bunch and Christmas is a big deal in the country. I personally attended a Christmas mass in Cartgenan’s magnificent cathedral and while I am not religious (and barely speak Spanish) I found the ceremony incredibly moving. In fact, it’s one of the most impressive festivals and events in Colombia.
India’s smallest state Goa is a popular backpacker beach destination which is at its absolute best in the month of December. The hippy mecca attracts a mixture of long-stayers and ravers who flock here each year to pass winters dancing and basking on its beaches.
In December, the weather is warm and pleasant and the party calendar is packed out with all-night raves happening every night. While accommodation prices are at their highest, booking ahead means you still get a hostel for $10 per night.
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Best Places in Europe To Visit in December
For many, Europe in December is pretty much a fairy tale come to life, with snow-covered towns, Christmas markets, and festive lights. For others, it’s a living nightmare with long nights, cold days and crowds of Christmas drunks!
In this section, we’ll explore some class destinations to visit in Europe in December.
The utterly splendid former capital of the Habsburg Empire, Vienna is a winter wonderland in December, with Christmas markets, ice-skating rinks, and charming cafes.
Visitors to Vienna in December can expect to find snow on the ground but can warm their willies by indulging in hot chocolate and pastries at the famous Cafe Central. Culture fans can attend a classical music concert at the world-renowned and quite exquisite Vienna State Opera. Even in the depths of winter, there are heaps of things to do in Vienna!
Copenhagen is a cool and quirky city that never fails to impress visitors. The capital of Denmark mixes the old with the new and the traditional with the progressive in ways that only Scandinavian capital cities can.
Anyway, this cosy and charming city really comes to life alive in December with Christmas markets and holiday festivities. Whilst it will be cold, there is a lot to do to keep warm such as a stroll through the streets of Nyhavn, tasting traditional Danish cuisine, and visiting the iconic Tivoli Gardens.
Furthermore, Copenhagen is also a great base for exploring the Danish countryside and taking in some castles, such as the Kronborg Castle in Helsingør, which is a perfect day trip from Copenhagen.
Finnish Lapland, Finland
Nestled in the northernmost part of Finland (also straddling Sweden) Finnish Lapland is a mesmerising region that captivates visitors all year round. However in December lapland transformed into the quintessential, enchanting winter wonderland.
The fabled home of Santa Claus in Rovaniemi is a firm favourite with both children and adults alike, the Lapland forests are beautiful and atmospheric and of course, a visit to Lapland in December offers visitors a chance to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. It’s just one of many incredible national parks in Finland that are just truly magical in December.
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Best Places To Travel in December For Festivals
To be fair, December is pretty much one big festival amongst all the Christmas and New Year shenanigans. However, in case you are looking for a festival that offers a bit more than eggnog and unwanted gifts, check out the following options for the best places to visit for festivals in December.
This little mediaeval market town in western Germany is charming and quaint all year round with its winding streets and fairy tale houses. However, in the month of December Aachen radiates a festive atmosphere that never fails to warm the hearts of visitors. It’s one of the best European destinations in winter for a reason!
Aachen Cathedral’s Christmas Market is one of the oldest in Germany and transforms the surrounding squares into a winter wonderland offering crafts, treats, and mulled wine. Visiting the undersung gem of Aachen in December promises a delightful and memorable experience that will warm your heart.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand is one of the country’s most loved destinations and attracts scores of backpackers each year. Chiang Mai boasts a lovely old town packed with peaceful temples and is surrounded by green forested mountains. It’s also populated by a hip fun-loving crowd of educated locals and digital nomads living in Chiang Mai.
In December, Chiang Mai hosts the lovely annual Yi Peng Lantern Festival, where thousands of lanterns are released into the night sky. The weather at this time is also warm, bright and altogether pleasant.
In case you didn’t know this, December is the high point of summer in Australia and as such, there is a lot of fun stuff going down down under! Every December, Sydney hosts its annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race in which hundreds of yachts race from Sydney to Hobart (a really cool city!) in Tasmania.
In addition to watching the race, visitors to Sydney in December can also explore the city’s famous, iconic landmarks like the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Not only that but there are heaps of other awesome places to visit in Sydney including beaches and coastal hideouts.
The downside is that Sydney is a seriously pricey city and December is the peak season. So get saving!
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Best Places To Visit in December on a Budget
For many of us, Christmas and New Year can put serious pressure on our bank balances even at the best of times. Furthermore, December can also be an expensive time to travel, with holiday crowds, packed-out flights and peak season prices in some locations.
Still, there are plenty of destinations that offer great value for budget-conscious travellers. These are the best places to visit on a budget in December.
Oaxaca, a charming and colourful city in southern Mexico, is renowned for its vibrant culture, rich traditions, and culinary delights. Visitors can explore the city’s colonial architecture, visit the many craft markets and check out the museums.
December is a particularly fantastic time to visit Oaxaca as it coincides with several festive celebrations that really showcase the city’s unique charm and rich cultural heritage. Our personal favourite is the Noche de Rábanos – or Night of the Radishes. During this quirky festival, skilled local artisans carve intricate sculptures out of giant radishes!
Siem Reap, Cambodia
The ancient and awe-inspiring Siem Reap is the jewel in Cambodia’s crown. The firm backpacker favourite is primarily known as the gateway to the famous, UNESCO-listed Angkor Wat temple complex which sits high on many a travel wish list.
While Angkor Wat is in itself enough of a reason to justify a visit to Siem Reap, the city itself is also pretty cool offering a niche selection of colonial architecture along with some hip bars and fine eateries. In fact, there’s plenty more to see and do in Siem Reap!
December is an optimal time to visit Siem Reap. The weather is pleasant and a good time with cooler temperatures and fewer crowds.
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Best of The Rest – Where To Go in December
In case none of these fantastic December destinations did it for you, do not despair – we have more in store! Check out our picks for the best of the rest for where to go in December.
Queenstown, New Zealand
Remember that December in New Zealand is actually the height of summer so a trip here could make the perfect escape from the winter misery engulfing the Northern Hemisphere. New Zealand is quite simply one of my favourite countries on earth and I was lucky enough to spend an amazing month touring both islands by car and going on some beautiful hikes.
Queenstown sits on the shores of the South Island’s pristine and pretty Lake Wakatipu, which is dramatically set against the Southern Alps. The whole area is an outdoor lover’s paradise and renowned for adventure sports (hiking, cycling, bungee jumping!). It’s also a great base for exploring the region’s world-class vineyards and old mining towns. Either way, your Queenstown itinerary is gonna be packed out!
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Like a mirage rising up from the desert, Dubai is an extraordinary city-state of luxury and opulence. This mecca of post-modernity boasts some absolutely stupefying architectural marvels and is of course home to really, really big buildings which offer phenomenal views.
The dining scene is rich, varied and delicious catering to all palettes. Dubai also has some world-renowned shopping and while the nightlife scene isn’t really quite our bag, there are plenty of cocktail bars and clubs to see and be seen in.
December is a great time to visit Dubai as the daytime temperatures are cooler and the city rings with a festive atmosphere.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro is a fantastically vibrant, lively and colourful city that charms all comers. The famous Brazilian lust for life is best exemplified in the streets of Rio de Janeiro that seem to somehow throng to a perpetual samba beat.
There is never a bad time to visit Rio, but In December, the city hosts the annual Reveillon New Year’s Eve celebration with fireworks and festivities on the legendary Copacabana Beach. There are also some really cool and lively neighbourhoods to stay in around Rio, so pick somewhere that fits your vibe.
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Final Thoughts on Where To Go in December
As you can see, December is a stonkingly great time to travel regardless of what you are into. Whether you are looking to escape from the Christmas chaos on a sunny beach or embrace it by hitting up a winter market, there is a destination out there with your name on it.
So pack that backpack, grab your passport and get out there!
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!