Whether you want to experience dreamy Christmas markets, a winter wonderland, or opt to visit a warmer climate this holiday season, December travel can be completely magical. It can also be an ideal way to save, particularly if you travel during the first half of the month with rates in more wintry destinations often fairly low. From warm-weather getaways to snowy slopes and everything in between these are the top places in the world to visit in December.
If it’s Christmas markets your after, Germany is one of the best places to go. You’ll find countless offerings, and December also happens to be one of the cheapest months to travel here. Dresden hosts the greatest number of Christmas markets in the eastern region of the country, and offers the oldest seasonal event, the Striezel Christmas Market which dates all the way back to 1434. Situated on te Altmarkt Square in the historical city center, it’s surrounded by various themed Christmas Markets that stretch all the way to the main railway station and the Albertplatz. It features some of Germany’s best handcrafted items too, like pottery from Lusatia, gingerbread from Pulsnitz, blown glass from Lauscha, wooden crafts from the Ore Mountains and much more.
Australia, of course, is in the Southern Hemisphere, which means in the land Down Under, December is one of its summer months. While North Americans are digging their cars out from several feet of snow, Australians look forward to grilling and cookouts on the beach. A holiday celebrating with them is a ton of fun – instead of building snowmen, you can enjoy encounters with kangaroos as well as soak up the sun and the sand. You might even spend Christmas Day snorkeling with the numerous exotic fish along the Great Barrier Reef, reveling in idyllic temperatures while lounging on the sand and maybe even building a “sandman” rather than one out of that cold, powdery stuff.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole is renowned as a winter playground for skiing, snowboarding and all sorts of outdoor adventure, even dog sledding, which makes it an ideal place to visit in the winter. Plan to book earlier in the month for lower rates. The area is also famous for its luxurious hotels and resorts, so if you’re looking to go all out and treat yourself to the ultimate holiday, it’s a great choice too.
Iceland is well-known as one of the best places on Earth to witness the northern lights, and winter is peak time where you’re likely to catch the mystical, colorful phenomena dancing in the sky on a cold, clear night. Watching them from one of the many geothermal pools is especially unforgettable. There’s another reason to go in December too – Christmastime brings all sorts fun traditions as well as dazzling holiday lights with blocks of apartments often lit up with synchronized lighting schemes, while neighbors compete against each other for the most beautifully decorated homes. Watch the Christmas tree lighting and experience the Yule Lads. According to legend, they descend from the mountains in December to deliver goodies to good children and rotten potatoes to those who’ve misbehaved.
Kauai offers the opportunity to enjoy the tropics all year round, and throughout the month of December it hosts a variety of fun holiday events, like the Festival of Lights, a lighted Christmas parade and Christmas hula concerts. This is a good time for whale watching too with humpbacks migrating to the warm waters that surround the island to mate and birth their young. If you like to surf, winter enjoys some of the best opportunities for that too.
Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
With average daily temperatures in December in the mid-70 degree range, along with over 900 miles of magnificent coastline, the Canary Islands provide the ideal chance for enjoying the sun and the sand this month. Forget the winter blues – instead, head to Tenerife, the largest of the islands and enjoy the black volcanic sand beaches on the northern part of the island, and the golden that are framed by crystal clear blue waters in the south. Tenerife is also popular for diving and snorkeling and just about every other type of water sport, like surfing, wind surfing and jet-skiing.
Another Southern Hemisphere locale, South Africa enjoys the summer sun in December. You can not only look forward to nearly constant brilliant blue skies and sunshine, but wildlife watching for giraffe, elephant, zebra and more via hot air balloon, cuddling with lion cubs at Ukutula Lion Park or visiting a penguin colony on Boulder Beach near Cape Town. If you’re extra adventurous, spend a day diving with great white sharks in the prime shark locations around in prime shark locations around Cape Town.
New York City, New York
Christmas in Manhattan should be a bucket list experience for all travelers. Typically, the month of December isn’t all that cold, just bundle up and enjoy strolling past Fifth Avenue shops and all of the elaborate holiday window displays. Glide around the ice rink at Rockefeller Center, including a lap underneath the world’s most famous Christmas tree, and rest your head in gorgeous hotel dripping in holiday decor. Even some of the most grumpy New Yorkers tend to enjoy a brighter spirit during this time of year, and you’ll hear the carols echoing throughout subway stations and on the streets.
Austria is legendary for its snowy slopes for skiing and snowboarding, with some of the best powder in the world. But even if you don’t ski or board, you can enjoy a fairy-tale like winter wonderland, particularly in the town of Ischgl, where locals gather sing Christmas carols. In Vienna, you can experience the famous Vienna Boys Choir as they belt out lovely Christmas carols from the center of the acoustically masterful Hofburgkapelle chapel, while holiday lights illuminate the famed Gothic town hall. Nearby is a fabulous Christmas market that features more than 140 vendors. Stroll through decked out in your warm winter coat and enjoy the gingerbread aroma of hot lebkuchen and the steam that rises off the cups of tasty spiced mulled wine.