Travel Blog

The top destinations for travel in December

Original blog post featured on The Journal by Intrepid Travel, written by Miranda Forstmanis.

Picking your next destination isn’t easy, but there’s a better way than spinning a big globe, closing your eyes and slamming your finger down (it’ll probably end up in middle of the Atlantic, and wifi there is patchy, to say the least). Introducing our ultimate month-by-month destination guide: your no-fuss list of places to go, things to see, and good weather to chase around the world.

We’re looking at December, a month of festive spirit and celebration across the world – which means there’s no better time to dust off that passport and start exploring! While the northern half of the globe are pulling on their warmest knits and sitting in front of crackling fires, those to the South are embracing short sleeves, longer days and warm weather.  Whether you’re in the mood for mulled wine and Christmas markets in Europe, or looking for a beach escape in the tropics – these are the places you should be adding to your itinerary for December.

Germany

Christmas in Europe is a time for centuries-old traditions with all the trimmings. Sorry to break it to you travellers, but you really haven’t experienced the festive season until you’ve experienced it at an enchanting German Weihnachtsmarkt. Amongst the snow-dusted market stalls selling handcrafted trinkets, fir trees adorned with ornaments, and the cinnamon scent of glühwein, the romance of the holiday season truly comes alive. The topic of which Christmas market is the best and biggest is still hotly contested, but Nuremberg, Munich, Cologne, and Frankfurt consistently rank in top lists. Once you’ve ticked those off, why not follow the festive spirit through the Christmas markets of Belgium, Austria, the Czech Republic and Hungary too!?

Trips to take:

India

If you’re looking for a place of rest and relaxation after a busy year, the colour and chaos of India might not immediately spring to mind. Think again! Lush Kerala, in the tropical south of India, enjoys a vastly different pace of life to the rest of the country. Put your feet up on the deck of your houseboat as it glides along the Kerala backwaters, rejuvenate at a wellness retreat in the jungle forests, indulge in some of the country’s freshest food, and wash away a busy year in the turquoise waters of the Arabian Sea. If you’re looking for somewhere to ring in the new year, head to Fort Kochi to take in the colour of the Cochin Festival, a vibrant, chaotic week of celebration at the end of December.

Trips to take:

Antarctica

Few places conjure images of intrepid explorers and wild frontiers quite like the icy plains of Antarctica. The good news is that you no longer have to assemble a team of huskies and brave adventurers and take off for months on end – these days it’s all about cruising in comfort to the end of the world instead.

December heralds the start of ‘summer’ in Antarctica, where temperatures reach just above freezing, the pack ice melts to let ships through, and the infamous Drake Passage is somewhat calmer. It’s also the perfect season for getting up close with Gentoo penguins, migrating blue whales, and baby Penguin chicks too.  Everything you need for an epic once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Trips to take:

Cambodia

December = dry season in Cambodia, meaning blue sky days and comfortable temperatures just perfect for exploring getting your Tomb Raider on at Angkor Wat or cycling around Phnom Penh. Right at the heart of the Southeast Asian backpacker loop, Cambodia boasts a thread of pristine white coastline, lush emerald jungles with elephant-trodden trails, ancient cities, straw hut villages and bustling urban hubs – all waiting to be explored at pretty affordable prices. But it’s the Khmer people here who really make the experience; extremely warm, welcoming and smiley, despite the recent dark history of their country. A Christmas break in Cambodia is sure to be a humbling, exciting, and inspiring experience for all.

Trips to take:

Finland

If you can’t beat the winter, why not go all in and escape to a true winter wonderland? Finnish Lapland is a true Arctic wonderland; snow-dusted fir forests, rushing waterfalls, gentle reindeer and a vast, white wilderness that’s guaranteed to leave you breathless (and not just because it’s cold).

Strap on your hiking boots and crunch a path through the taigas, rustle up some huskies and experience the rush of a real dog sled, watch the sun go down over the pristine peaks, and then enjoy a traditional Sami meal or sauna while the skies dance with the Aurora Borealis. Keep an eye out for a jolly bearded man in a red suit around the 25th too – rumour has it Santa’s workshop is right here!

Trips to take:

Israel

For those celebrating Christmas, a trip to the Holy Land during the holiday season is a unique opportunity to rediscover the true Christmas spirit – without the tacky decorations and tinny carols of shopping malls. While you won’t find many Santas or reindeer iconography in this nominally Jewish country, you will discover the place where Jesus entered the world and the Christmas story first originated, and stand in awe of ancient sites sacred to both Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Hannukah, the Jewish festival of lights, generally coincides with Christmas too, lending to a festive feel across the country.

Beyond the festive call, Israel holds many a treasure for those looking to discover ancient history and make a connection with rich cultures and religions: the Dead Sea, the Old City of Jerusalem, the Massada outcrop, and cosmopolitan Tel Aviv. And then, there’s the food, a perfect combination of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Levantine cuisines sure to delight everyone. Enjoy Shakshuka in Tel Aviv, fresh fish in Akko’s old town seafood market, and fresh olives, falafels and hummus everywhere.

Trips to take:

The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Spectacular, isolated, and richly biodiverse; the Galapagos Islands are where Charles Darwin first theorised natural selection, and thousands of creatures of the sky and sea call this living laboratory home. December is an interesting month in the region, as the weather transitions from the cool, dry season (June to December) into the warm and wet season (January to June). What does that mean for you? The best of both seasons, including the unique wildlife viewing opportunities each brings. Temperatures average 27c (80F), the water is diving-perfect at 24c (75F), and you’re just in time to see the Giant Tortoise eggs hatching and sea lion mating season begin.

For curious travellers, nature enthusiasts and wildlife lovers alike there’s no better way to celebrate the end of 2017 than in the Galapagos, relaxing on the boat deck as Blue-footed Boobies and Frigate birds arch through the sky overhead.

Trips to take:

Brazil

No one knows how to throw a party better than the Brazilians, and the festive season in Rio de Janeiro is no exception. ‘White Christmas’ here is slightly different to what those from the Northern hemisphere know; this is all white sandy beaches, giant palm trees shimmering with fairy lights and tinsel, surfers clad in Santa costumes catching waves, and markets packed full of cheap trinkets and gifts. If you’re looking for an exciting way to ring in the new year, stick around for the Reveillon celebrations on December 31, where Copacabana brings over 2 million revelers to party the night away on the white sands with street food, live music, fireworks, and champagne aplenty.

Trips to take:

South Africa

South Africa is basically a traveller’s paradise, with stunning coastal roads, towering mountain ranges, national parks teeming with the big 5, a vibrant and diverse culture, and a gourmet scene to rival that of any European country. December is the official start of summer here, and while the Northern hemisphere shivers through winter frost, South Africa is stretching its arms out for long, warm summer days. Those looking for an epic safari experience will find Kruger green and full of new life, while in Cape Town the beaches are buzzing, the views from Table Mountain are at their clearest and prettiest, and the mood is infectiously cheerful.

Trips to take:

Australia

When it comes to the land down under, there’s probably nothing more iconic than an Australian summer; bronzed surfers in flip flops, buzzing turquoise beaches, and ‘throwing another Shrimp on the Barbie’ on a hot Christmas Day. The warmer months are when Australia truly comes alive, with world-class cricket, tennis, vibrant music festivals, and outdoor cultural events everywhere you look.

The far north of Australia becomes quite humid and monsoon-like now, so adventures through the south west and south east of the country are best during December. Think days spent frolicking at Bondi, wandering Tasmania’s lush forests, sampling the best of Melbourne’s gourmet scene, or cruising the stunning Great Ocean Road. If you’re still around at New Years, the fireworks display over Sydney Harbour is not to be missed!  It is also prime school holiday period, so be sure to book early to maximise your choices and beat the crowds.

Trips to take:

New Zealand

Just like its neighbours across the Tasman, New Zealand really comes into its own during the summer months December. For those from the northern hemisphere, the novelty of a warm Christmas also extends to NZ, where you’ll find families enjoying beach barbeques or playing cricket in the sun too. The ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’ is a true triumph of nature, full of secluded beaches, volcanic craters, glacial mountain ranges, and stunning fjords – and it’s not hard to see why The Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed here! It’s also home to a world-class wine and gourmet scene. What more could you want?!

Trips to take:

Contact us to help you plan the perfect Christmas holiday!

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