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Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road, Australia

Best places to travel in December 2021

From festive celebrations to sun-kissed beaches, December can be an excellent month to travel to a wide range of destinations, depending on what you want from your trip. Below are ten destinations that shine for their own reasons during December.

You could head to Japan, where the chill in the air can be tempered with a soak in a steaming onsen. Thailand’s beaches and clear, calm waters are all the more enticing during winter. Or, under a blanket of snow, Canada offers cheery Christmas markets, cosy log cabins and dog-sledding through ice-bejewelled forest.

Festivals and events around the world in December

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Canada

With the warm glow of twinkling lights against snowy rooftops, Christmas markets fragrant with mulled wine and ice rinks playing seasonal tunes, there are few places that feel as festive as Canada’s cities during December — just make sure to wrap up warmly, as temperatures don’t rise much over freezing. Over in the Canadian Rockies, snow is thickening under foot, opening up opportunities for wintry activities like snowshoeing, snowmobiling and dog-sledding. You can also fly over the dazzling-white peaks on a helicopter tour. After taking in the frigid mountain air, warm up in a log cabin over a fondue dinner.

Whistler Village
Whistler Village

The USA

December is a good time to visit most parts of the USA, and where you go depends on the type of winter break you’re looking for. You’ll find warm temperatures and beaches ripe for sunbathing in regions like Hawaii, California, Florida and the Deep South. Or, for crisp winter days steeped in a festive atmosphere, spend time in its northern cities. At the beginning of the month, you’ll encounter few other visitors in the country’s national parks (though some are difficult to access due to snow) and around city attractions, plus hotels and restaurants often offer good value for money.

  • Don't miss: New York
  • Flight time: Between 7 (New York) & 20 hours (Honolulu)
  • Time difference: UTC -5 to UTC -10
  • December Temperature (Day): 5 to 30°C, depending on region
  • December rainfall: 7 to 300mm, varies by region
St. Petersburg, Florida
St. Petersburg, Florida

India

December is one of the most popular months to visit India. Temperatures drop, creating more comfortable conditions for exploring, though early mornings and evenings can be chilly. It’s a good time to take in the sights of Rajasthan, Delhi and Agra without the summer heat, although be prepared for some fog in the mornings, which tends to clear to crisp blue skies. We also recommend staying in the south of the country, where it’s sunny and warm, although you’ll need to plan in advance as many people flock here for a festive break.

Taj Mahal, Agra
Taj Mahal, Agra

South Africa

In many parts of South Africa, December is one of the busiest months as the festive season ramps up. We recommend visiting earlier in the month, when there are far fewer visitors. The Cape region is warm, sunny and dry at this time of year, making it a good time for a break in Cape Town and the Winelands or a road trip along the Garden Route. If you’re planning a safari, the Kruger is hot and experiences rain at this time of year, but it’s an excellent time for birdwatching as migrant species arrive. You’ll also see lots of newborn mammals, along with the predators they attract.

Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town, South Africa

Thailand

With good weather wherever you are, December is one of the best months to visit Thailand. Unfortunately this is a well-known fact, and you won’t be the only one heading to its shores. We recommend visiting toward the start of the month to avoid the busy festive period. It’s a great time for diving and snorkeling along the southwest coast, where you’ll find the water clear and calm, with fewer visitors than the west coast. Koh Samui can see rainfall at this time of year, but everywhere else is warm and dry without being too hot.

Longtail boats, Thailand
Longtail boats, Thailand

New Zealand

It’s the start of summer in New Zealand, and the warmer temperatures lure more visitors to the country’s beaches and walking tracks. That said, it’s still a quieter time than later in the season, as long as you visit before the festive period. It’s still possible to experience rainy days, particularly on the South Island, but it’s one of the driest months in the North Island. It’s a good time to take advantage of the many outdoor activities the country offers, from hiking and cycling to fiord cruises and whale-watching trips. We recommend planning your travels well ahead to ensure you get the best accommodation options.

Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park

Australia

Hot, sunny and with little rain unless you’re in the humid north, Australia is everything you picture it to be during December. Visitor numbers pick up, not least over Christmas and New Year, so aim for the beginning of the month unless you plan to join in the celebrations. Needless to say, December is a great time to take advantage of Australia’s many sweeps of golden sand. Tasmania, with its cooler temperatures, is particularly good for hiking at this time of year, though it’s usually comfortable enough elsewhere for walking in forested national parks and along coastal trails.

Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia
Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia

Japan

December usually brings cool and dry weather to Japan, and there are few visitors, especially in the first few weeks. This means it’s a good month to visit if you’re comfortable with the lower temperatures. Traditional ryokans, like Fujioto Ryokan, are usually minimally heated, so staying in one can be slightly chilly. However, there’s something special about soaking in an outdoor onsen during the winter, especially in the north, where you can relax in a natural hot spring surrounded by snow. Things pick up a bit at the end of the month and you may find some attractions closed in the run up to the New Year.

Japanese macaques warming up in a hot spring
Japanese macaques warming up in a hot spring

Vietnam

Though there’s still the chance of rain in central Vietnam, the rest of the country is dry in December. This does mean there are more visitors at this time, especially in the south. In the northern areas, temperatures can get cool in the evenings, but the southern coastal areas are balmy and bright — ideal weather for beach relaxation. Plan to book early, especially if you’re visiting popular destinations like Phu Quoc, Mui Ne and Phen Thiet or want to travel near the end of the month — Christmas and New Year are busy times in Vietnam.

Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Phu Quoc, Vietnam

Costa Rica

Marking the arrival of the dry season, December is an ever-popular time to visit Costa Rica, thanks both to the pleasant weather and the festive period. There are places you can still go to get away from the throngs, though. Head to Tortuguero National Park, on the Caribbean coast, to see sea turtles, or venture to the remote Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula to spot wildlife among tangled rainforest, swamps and mangroves. If you don’t mind being among other people, you could also spend time in the capital to join in with some of the Christmas festivities.

Tapir, Corcovado National Park
Tapir, Corcovado National Park
Travel Ideas in January

Places to travel in January

As Christmas slopes into the distance, journeying to find some sun is an appealing prospect for January. We recommend beach time on a Caribbean island, a secluded Cambodian archipelago or Sri Lanka’s southern shores. In Africa, the January rains break the Kalahari heat and the quenched plains spring to life. Journey to Botswana to watch new-born zebra take their first steps, as migratory birds feast on the fresh grasses.

In Baja California, on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, you can watch as hundreds of whales and dolphins leap, arch and twirl in and out of the ocean. If you’re after cooler climes, temperatures in India have cooled enough to make exploring its fortress cities comfortable. Or, embrace winter in the steaming waters of a Japanese hot-spring bath after exploring the snow-dusted forests of the Japanese Alps.

Places to travel

Travel Ideas in February

Places to travel in February

Whether you’re wrapping up warm to experience wintry activities like dog-sledding and snowshoeing in Canada, or escaping the colder temperatures at home with a cruise along the Nile under sunny skies, February can make an excellent time to travel. A safari in Tanzania gives you a chance to see new-born antelope take their first wobbly steps, while warm temperatures in Argentina make it an ideal time for trekking in Patagonia.

We’ve shared some of the most popular destinations to visit in February below, as well as a few countries that you may not have considered, where you can visit key sights without the crowds.

Places to travel

Travel Ideas in March

Places to travel in March

As spring blossoms across the Northern Hemisphere, the American Southwest opens to a range of outdoor adventures, while lengthening days in Iceland allow for more time exploring wild, volcanic landscapes. Japan’s springtime blooms start to emerge, and milder temperatures coupled with the showings of early plum blossom make it a good-value time to travel here ahead of the peak season.

In South Africa, the wine harvests are in full swing and vibrant carnivals for the Jewish festival of Purim take place across Israel. Warmer temperatures and sunny skies show the beaches of Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Maldives at their best. However, cooler climes in New Zealand makes this an excellent month to explore, with quieter walking trails, near-empty coastlines and a good chance of sunshine.

Places to travel

Harrismith Beach, Barbados

Places to travel in April

If you’re looking to go on safari, April is the best month to tiger-spot in India’s national parks, where you’ll also see a supporting cast of elephants, deer, and birdlife. For a coastal escape, you’ve got your pick, including Mexico’s Mayan Riviera and secluded Maldivian islands.

If you’re seeking adventure, this is the time of year to take an in-depth tour across Vietnam, or explore the highlights of Morocco at their best. April is also a month of festivities around the globe, from the Festa di San Marco in Italy and cherry blossom celebrations in South Korea to Caribbean regattas and music festivals.

Places to travel

Travel Ideas in May

Places to travel in May

Across the northern hemisphere, May brings spring blossoms, sunshine, and warmer weather, but the summer crowds haven’t arrived to most destinations. In the southern hemisphere, the rains are ending and the weather is starting to cool down a bit.

If you want to get outside to enjoy the ample sun, you might hike in Scotland, look for wildlife in US National Parks, or take a water safari in a mokoro canoe in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. It’s also a popular time for festivals, whether you’re in Venice to watch the mayor pledge himself in a symbolic wedding to the sea, watching jazz performances in Saint Lucia, or sampling single-source organic chocolate in Belize.

Places to travel

Herd of elephants in South Africa

Places to travel in June

The solstice at the end of June brings long days to destinations in the northern hemisphere, making it an excellent time to get outdoors. You can roam through Canada’s wilderness, hike in Germany’s Black Forest or soak up the sun in the French Riviera.

This is also a popular month for festivals. For example, Greece’s Athens and Epidaurus Festival lets you watch ancient plays performed in ancient venues, while in Peru, you can attend a festival celebrating the Inca sun god, Inti. The month also marks the end of the rainy season in places like Uganda and the Zanzibar Archipelago, where you’ll find well-watered landscapes bursting with life, but mostly sunny skies.

Places to travel

Travel Ideas in July

Places to travel in July

July gives you many destinations to consider if you’re looking to experience them in their prime. Explore the great outdoors while the sun shines in the US’s northern states, Norway or Switzerland. Balance beach relaxation with culture or wildlife in Costa Rica, French Polynesia or Vietnam. Or, in Kenya, be among the first of the season to see the Great Migration herds arrive as they make their frenzied crossing of the Mara River.

July is also one of the only months you can cruise the Arctic or hike in the mountains of Ladakh. And, in Japan, you can escape the summer humidity in the Japanese Alps.

Places to travel

Mirissa Beach, Sri Lanka

Places to travel in August

Many destinations are ripe for a summer break in August. For a trip focused around wildlife, consider a safari in Tanzania, which experiences its dry season, a trip to Borneo to see turtles hatch, or a visit to Brazil’s Pantanal for a shot at seeing a jaguar.

Elsewhere, beaches are at their best on Sri Lanka’s north and east coasts, Iceland’s interior has thawed out ready for you to explore on foot and by superjeep, while northern Australia is dry, sunny and comfortably warm for hikes. Alternatively, you might like to soak up the culture in Luxembourg or Denmark, stay on a hacienda in Ecuador’s countryside or enjoy a family escape to Mauritius.

Places to travel

Lion, Etosha National Park

Places to travel in September

Whether falling in autumn or spring, September can showcase countries at their most scenic, from the green, lamb-dotted valleys of New Zealand and the wildflower-coated countryside of Argentina to Russia’s rust-hued city parks.

In Canada, the salmon run sees bears gather for a feeding frenzy along British Columbia’s rivers. Bhutan’s clear skies are ideal for hiking among its mountains, while similar conditions in Bolivia make for excellent photography around its salt pans. Spain and Turkey are pleasantly warm without the crowds of summer. And, in South Africa, you can combine regions while they’re at their best. It’s also an excellent time for seeing Namibia’s wildlife and stargazing among its desert dunes.

Places to travel

Amalfi coast, Italy

Places to travel in October

Whether you’re looking for spring blooms, autumnal foliage or prime wildlife-viewing opportunities, you’ll find plenty of destinations to choose from if you’re planning to travel in October. Below are just some of the places we feel are at their best at this time of year, along with our suggestions on the best things to do there.

You could make the most of excellent hiking conditions in New Zealand, go whale watching in South Africa, or indulge in fresh produce during harvest time in Vietnam, Japan or Italy. And, in many of our chosen countries, you’ll be visiting before or after the busiest times of year.

Places to travel

Travel Ideas in November

Places to travel in November

Though the temperatures may begin to drop, November still offers plenty of opportunity for active adventure. Trek to the top of the world in the Himalaya Mountains in Nepal, and witness the sunrises over the tops of the peaks. Enjoy snorkeling or scuba diving in the warmer temperatures of the Red Sea in Egypt, where the water is a clear blue and the coral reefs teem with marine life. Or experience Vietnam by bicycle, along the countryside around the historic merchants' town of Hoi An or through the rice terraces and remote villages of Sapa.

Places to travel

Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road, Australia

Places to travel in December

From festive celebrations to sun-kissed beaches, December can be an excellent month to travel to a wide range of destinations, depending on what you want from your trip. Below are ten destinations that shine for their own reasons during December.

You could head to Japan, where the chill in the air can be tempered with a soak in a steaming onsen. Thailand’s beaches and clear, calm waters are all the more enticing during winter. Or, under a blanket of snow, Canada offers cheery Christmas markets, cosy log cabins and dog-sledding through ice-bejewelled forest.

Places to travel