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Best places to visit in december 2024.

Planning a vacation in December can feel overwhelming alongside holiday shopping and year-end festivities. But you'll thank yourself later if you squeeze in time for a trip before the new year. U.S. News considered prices, events, accessibility and seasonal crowds to decide the best places to visit in December. Whether you're seeking a warm-weather hideaway or want to experience the holiday spirit in a snow-covered town, you'll find it in these destinations. Vote for your favorite spot below to help decide next year's list.

London, England

U.s. virgin islands, french alps, torres del paine national park, hawaii - the big island, new york city, rio de janeiro, quebec city.

best places to visit for december

London is abuzz with holiday-themed activities in December. Holiday pop-ups transform attractions like Hyde Park and the London Zoo, while Christmas ballets and concerts take over the city's legendary entertainment scene. What's more, "Harry Potter" fans can opt for a festive tour during the Hogwarts in the Snow event at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London. Chilly temperatures in the 40s and rainy conditions mean it's the perfect time to don your coziest jumper. Plus, London's rainy day standbys like the Tower of London and the British Museum are typically less crowded at this time of year.

best places to visit for december

If you're seeking palm-fringed festivities without the need for a passport, look no further than the U.S. Virgin Islands. December is the start of the dry season in this Caribbean island chain, and average temperatures in the 70s and 80s are perfect for lounging on beautiful white sand beaches like Magens Bay or snorkeling in Virgin Islands National Park. Plus, you'll get a taste of the islands' vibrant culture during the Crucian Christmas Festival, which takes place on St. Croix at the end of the month. Partake in the merriment with parades, music competitions and more.

best places to visit for december

Snow-capped mountains, quaint villages and mouthwatering cuisine (much of which involves some form of melted cheese) make the French Alps a classic winter getaway. Most ski resorts open by early December, so you can get an early start on the slopes for the season, or just take part in the lively après-ski experience in iconic destinations like Val d'Isère and Chamonix. What's more, many villages like the châteaux-studded Annecy amp up the charm with cozy Christmas markets throughout the month. Winter in the Alps is never cheap, but try visiting earlier in the month before school holidays for the best room rates.

best places to visit for december

Make the trek to the Finnish Lapland for the ultimate Arctic experience. Finland's northernmost region promises a deep layer of snow all winter, perfect for skiing or sledding down the longest toboggan run in Europe. Most flights to this region land in Rovaniemi, home to Santa Claus Village, where you can meet the man in red, step across the Arctic Circle or embark on a reindeer sleigh ride. Though you'll only see about four hours of daylight, this makes for prime conditions to view the dazzling aurora borealis from the comfort of one of the glass hotels in the region.

best places to visit for december

December is one of the most popular months to visit the Bahamas – and for good reason. By the time this month rolls around, the threat of hurricanes has passed, making it terrific time to enjoy the outdoors. Spend your days lounging on one of the Bahamas' many beaches, snorkeling or diving in the crystal-clear water or taking a boat tour to a private island . What's more, if you're visiting around the holidays, you'll catch the travel-worthy Junkanoo festival , which celebrates Bahamian culture with parades and festivities on Boxing Day and New Year's Day.

best places to visit for december

Although Phuket, Thailand, offers a consistently warm climate year-round, its dry weather and calm water in December make this month a great time to visit. Plan on spending most of your time sunbathing, swimming, scuba diving and more at beautiful beaches like Nai Harn and Kata Noi. But remember, December falls within Phuket's peak tourist season, so you won't find many deals for flights and accommodations during this month. Avoid a holiday visit in late December for slightly better rates.

best places to visit for december

Located in the eastern Himalayas, Bhutan is a backpacker's dream due to its breathtaking landscapes and unmatched preservation. The remote kingdom's focus on cultural and environmental sustainability means heritage sites like the cliff-clinging Paro Taktsang and the riverside Punakha Dzong are never overcrowded. But cooler winter temperatures (averages range from the 30s to the 60s, depending on elevation) mean you'll encounter even fewer tourists. While a trip to this intriguing destination won't be cheap, a low-season visit can drive down the price of lodging and tours.

best places to visit for december

Nestled in southern Chilean Patagonia, this national park offers travelers a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Hailed among hikers as one of the most scenic destinations in the world, the park is home to turquoise lakes and dense forests, plus massive Grey Glacier and the towering granite of Cuernos del Paine. December offers up to 17 hours of daylight, allowing plenty of time for extensive hikes. But even though December is part of Patagonia's peak summer season, temperatures drop dramatically after nightfall, so visitors will want to pack layers.

best places to visit for december

This Hawaiian paradise is the perfect place to escape winter's onset. Weary travelers can thaw on colorful beaches like Punalu'u Beach (which has beautiful black sand ) and Papakolea Beach (a unique green sand option), while more adventurous types can go for a hike in 'Akaka Falls State Park or catch a glimpse of the more than 4,000-foot-tall Kilauea volcano at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. You'll likely contend with other snowbirds in December, but you'll find that hotel prices on the Big Island are still consistently lower than those on neighboring isles.

best places to visit for december

If Old Man Winter has you dreaming of warming things up, consider a trip to the Spice Island. Grenada, a tiny island in the Caribbean known for its aromatic spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, boasts steady temps in the 80s. And since December sits just between the rainy season and high tourism season, it's the perfect time to catch some rays without the crowds (or cost) of the months to come. Spend your days lounging on Grand Anse Beach or sampling the island's rich flavors at local markets or the House of Chocolate.

best places to visit for december

It's not surprising that dozens of holiday movies are set in New York. Dazzling sights like the iconic Christmas tree and ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center, decked-out window displays at Macy's and horse-drawn carriages in Central Park conjure up holiday cheer throughout the city. And while this metropolis offers plenty to do throughout the year, festive shows, Christmas-themed pop-up experiences and even the nip in the air make December one of New York's most magical months. Just be prepared for a bit of sticker shock; the holiday season is also one of the most popular (and expensive) times of year to visit.

best places to visit for december

If you're willing to brave the cold, travel to Prague for a fun and festive winter vacation. The city turns into a winter wonderland in December, with snow-dusted buildings and Christmas markets selling everything from locally made jewelry to toys to Christmas ornaments. Those with little ones in tow should try to arrive in early December when the annual St. Nicholas Eve event takes place. During this traditional celebration, you'll see Czechia's version of St. Nick, along with his angel and devil guides, hand out candy and other treats as they walk around the city.

best places to visit for december

While the Northern Hemisphere transitions to winter in December, Rio de Janeiro enters its peak summer season. And although this is one of the wettest times of the year here, you'll still enjoy optimal warmth and mostly sunny conditions. As such, there will be plenty of opportunities to see must-visit sights like the Christ the Redeemer statue or Sugarloaf Mountain. If you're keen on experiencing Rio's lively party scene during your visit, be sure to time your trip around Réveillon. This popular New Year's Eve celebration on Copacabana Beach draws millions of people annually with its music, dancing and fireworks.

best places to visit for december

The holiday season in Germany's fourth largest city can only be described as magical. Cologne hosts a handful of Christmas markets, including the popular Advent village at Cologne Cathedral, which boasts 150 stalls. When you're not taking in the city's imposing architecture or getting into the jovial spirit with a glass of Kölsch beer (a Cologne original), pop into Museum Ludwig to view modern art or the Chocolate Museum for tasty samples. Combat the dreary weather – average highs are in the low 40s and rain is common – by soaking away the chill at a thermal spa such as Neptunbad or Claudius Therme.

best places to visit for december

It's easy to fall in love with this Canadian destination, especially when it's covered in fresh snow. You'll be enchanted by Old Québec's sights and sounds as it transforms into a Christmas village. Shop for gifts (or for yourself) in Quartier Petit-Champlain, home to one of the oldest shopping streets in North America. Plus, with its 17th- and 18th-century architecture, French-speaking Quebec City allows you to soak up European culture without dropping the cash for a flight across the pond. Just be sure to bundle up; temperatures can drop to the single digits in December.

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The 12 Best Places to Travel in December

Santiago Chile

When thinking about the best places to travel in December, you may be tempted to view the month through the lens of Christmas—which is understandable, given the wealth of cities that go all out for the holidays . And while we’re always down for a European Christmas market or dazzling lights display, there are plenty of reasons to travel this month outside of the holly and the jolly.

Whether you want to get a jumpstart on ski season or escape the winter doldrums in the Caribbean, here are the 12 best places to travel in December.

This article has been updated with new information since its original publish date.


Miami, Florida

Many people head to Miami in early December for Art Basel Miami Beach , a glittering, four-day confab (scheduled for December 8–10 in 2023) that lures both the fashion and art worlds. The lineup of artists includes 24 first-time participants (out of 277 total) hailing everywhere from New York to Seoul, plus several guest lectures and dining experiences.

There are plenty of reasons to visit Miami beyond the final moments of Art Basel, of course—namely a booming high-end hotel scene. The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort is an art destination in and of itself, with geometric metal walls and massive sculptures hanging from the lobby ceiling. Other luxurious amenities, like private butlers and a gourmet burger bar, make this the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion. For a beachier (but just as luxurious) stay, head to The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne , located about 15 miles from South Beach. Its ocean views and tequila-stocked restaurant are great any time of year, but this December welcomes a slew of holiday-themed perks, like eggnog in the lobby and peppermint pedicures in the spa.

Yellowstone in winter

Yellowstone National Park

If you haven’t visited Yellowstone in the dead of winter, you are missing out on one of the most incredible travel experiences out there. Not only will you escape the typical summer hoards that make it nearly impossible to see wildlife and popular sites like Old Faithful—starting in December, the park is closed to cars and will only allow snowcoaches and snowmobiles to enter—but the relative quiet and icy chills of winter make our oldest national park feel even more like a mystical wonderland. Just imagine: sleepy bison with snow-dusted beards, bright blue pools set against a blanket of white, and boardwalks billowing with steam from the surrounding thermal features.

There are only a couple of in-park lodges open in the winter, but luckily they are incredibly cozy and convenient. Located in the heart of Yellowstone, Old Faithful Snow Lodge will get an extra dose of holiday magic this December, with trees set up throughout the hotel, in-room Christmas sweets, cookie decorating stations, and visits from Santa. Guests can also book several outdoor excursions from the lodge, ranging from guided snowshoe tours to wildlife photo safaris.


The Azores, Portugal

This once-overlooked archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic is tailor-made for adventurers—think whale watching, hiking calderas, and rappelling down waterfalls. (The island of Terceira is home to the only volcano in the world where visitors can explore a chimney and secondary magma chamber, sitting side by side.) And while tourism has caught up to the Azores within the past decade, visiting during the winter gives you a glimpse of what Eden once looked like.

December isn’t chilly here, despite the archipelago’s Atlantic location—the Gulf Stream keeps the year-round temperatures surprisingly balmy, with the mercury rarely dropping below 60 degrees or so. The island of Santa Maria generally boasts the warmest climate, though swimming may be off the table in the winter. If you’re craving water time, pay a visit to a geothermally heated hot spring instead.

Best Places to Travel in December Salzburg at Christmas

Salzburg, Austria

Germany tends to get most of the attention when it comes to Christmas markets (for good reason), but neighboring Austria can be just as festive and charming—especially in the city of Salzburg. It’s not a surprise that the UNESCO World Heritage -listed Old City, which served as the backdrop for The Sound of Music, also fills its famed Christkindlmarkt with song.

With roots dating back to the 15th century, the market’s sing-alongs and traditional wind music are as much a part of the festivities as the mulled wine and stands selling ornaments and fluffy socks. We’re not mad about the bauernkrapfen (fried pastries), either. The market earns extra points for being just steps away from Hotel Goldener Hirsch , one of the world’s oldest luxury hotels and a perfect spot to warm up between outdoor shopping sprees.

Image may contain Summer Tropical Outdoors Nature Hotel Building Architecture Resort Lamp Plant and Tree

Just down the Caribbean coast from the Yucatán with a fraction of the tourism, Belize has transformed from a backpacker haven into a luxury destination over the past few years. (Bonus: It’s only a five-hour flight from New York.) Along with world-class reefs for diving and Mayan ruins for exploring, the country is known for its conservation efforts, particularly when it comes to protecting ocean life. Many hotels and resorts have jumped on the eco-friendly bandwagon, including Turneffe Island Resort , which goes to great lengths to support the population of Antillean Manatees in the nearby Turneffe Atoll. Guests may get a chance to spot the gentle giants while staying on the resort’s 14-acre private island, while gift shop purchases go straight to the Belize Manatee Conservation Program.

Aside from offering an indulgent, adults-only stay on a true white-sand beach, Matachica Resort & Spa provides interactive workshops to learn about the Belize Barrier Reef, including guided scuba diving trips and helicopter tours. Given that December 4 marks World Wildlife Conservation Day, we say there’s no better time to pay these forward-thinking hotels a visit.



Switzerland is always one of the world’s most beautiful countries, but it becomes downright magical come winter: city squares dusted with snow and mountainsides transformed into the best ski slopes on the planet. It can be hard to pick just one Swiss destination to visit in December, which is why hopping on the Glacier Express is the perfect introduction to this wintery wonderland.

The Glacier Express is an eight-hour train ride that connects two of Switzerland’s biggest mountain resorts—Zermatt and St. Moritz—but it’s really more about the journey than the destination here. The train passes over 290 bridges, delivering panoramic views of landmarks like the Oberalp Pass and Matterhorn, and it even includes three-course meals to really help you enjoy every second of the ride.

Charleston South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina

If you want an immersive Christmas experience but aren’t a fan of cold weather, Charleston is the perfect destination for you. In fact, we’d argue that winter is one of the best times to visit, when temperatures hover around the 50s and 60s. Holiday attractions this year include the 34th Annual Holiday Festival of Lights (November 10–December 31, 2023), featuring an estimated 2 million twinkling lights, and Holiday Swing (December 2, 2023), a concert of reimagined Christmas carols courtesy of the Charleston Jazz Orchestra.

The city has no shortage of fabulous hotels, but some notable properties go all out for the holidays. The French Quarter Inn , voted one of the best hotels in Charleston by our readers, will be fully decked out with a Christmas tree and free gingerbread cookies in the rotunda, while the Sleigh Bell Suite comes with even more festive amenities: an in-room eggnog bar, freshly-baked cookies served by the fireplace, holiday movie screenings, and a special reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas from Santa himself. Over at The Spectator Hotel , personal butlers assigned to each guest can transform your room with personalized Christmas decorations, plus bring you any treats and drinks you request.

Whistler Canada

Whistler, Canada

If you’re desperately seeking slopes, you can’t do much better than the largest ski area in North America. With 8,171 acres of skiable terrain and hills ranging in difficulty from green to double-black, the twin peaks of Whistler Blackcomb truly have something for every winter sports enthusiast. Both the Big Red Express lift and Creekside Gondola were reworked a couple of years ago to hold more people, meaning the mountains will feel far less congested and visitors can enjoy even more rounds of powder.

Once you pack up your poles for the day, soak up all the après glory at Whistler Village. Here you’ll find the resort area’s largest concentration of bars and restaurants, ranging from the buzzy high-end seafood restaurant Wild Blue to the upscale yet relaxed Braidwood Tavern . In terms of hotels, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler looks (and feels) like a true fairy tale castle, nestled at the base of Blackcomb.

Santiago Chile

Santiago, Chile

​​Travelers often overlook Chile’s capital city in favor of splashier South American destinations like Rio or Buenos Aires—but we encourage you not to make that same mistake. Santiago is not only a superb base for outdoor adventure, thanks to its location between the Andes and the Pacific, but it’s an excellent standalone destination for anyone who loves great food, great wine, and plenty of shopping opportunities.

After exploring the city’s coolest neighborhoods, tack on a side trip to Valparaíso—the former seaport home of Pablo Neruda and current headquarters for the Chilean Navy. It’s just a two-hour drive here from Santiago, but you’ll want to plan to stay overnight (and not just because you’ll be drinking a lot of wine). With its colorful hillside houses and abundance of museum-worthy street art, Valparaíso is not an easy place to say goodbye to.


If you’re anything like us, emerging from two years of lockdowns and closed borders has inspired you to finally book that once-in-a-lifetime trip you’ve always dreamed about—like an expedition to Antarctica , for example. The white continent is at its best from December to March, when wildlife is active and the sun shines for nearly 24 hours a day. And while trips like these typically require a lot of advance planning, there’s still time to book a spot on an expedition cruise ship before 2023 wraps up (although you may want to use this time to start researching for next year).

Ponant has about a dozen sailings available through the end of December, with trips ranging from 10 to 15 nights and including stops in South Georgia and the Falkland Islands. Another great option is Quark Expedition’s “Antarctic Explorer: Discovering the 7th Continent” voyage, an 11-day trip with six departure dates within the month of December (plus many in 2024). Each sailing includes the typical stops, but Quark also started offering a majorly cool add-on a few years ago: alpine heli-trekking, in which guests board a helicopter (just imagine those views) and fly to typically inaccessible terrain to enjoy hiking or snowshoeing.

Moskito Island British Virgin Islands

British Virgin Islands

Made up of more than 60 tropical isles, the British Virgin Islands are easily one of the best places to travel in December. The archipelago is the epitome of Caribbean relaxation with white-sand beaches and lush rainforests—not to mention some of the best hotels in the entire region. Richard Branson’s Necker Island is arguably the most famous resort, freshly reconstructed with an emphasis on sustainability. New wind turbines join the existing solar farm so that the resort runs on 90 percent renewable energy. Even the staff uniforms are made from recycled plastic.

Recent years saw the arrival of two new private island resorts, both of which appeared on our 2022 Hot List . Off the northern end of Virgin Gorda, Saba Rock ’s nine-bedroom boutique hotel boasts a bustling rooftop bar, spacious guest rooms, and a seemingly endless supply of water sports. Meanwhile, Branson struck gold again with Moskito Island , located just two miles away from Necker Island. Guests with deep pockets can choose from three private estate rentals, each with its own distinct style. Amenities like private chefs and house managers available to help 24/7—plus the chance of running into Branson himself on the tennis courts—offer a true taste of a billionaire’s vacation.

best places to travel in december Paris

Paris shines extra bright during the holiday season, from the lights along the Champs-Élysées to store window displays that rival museum art installations. This year is a particularly great time to plan a trip, with inexpensive nonstop flights with French Bee (France’s first low-cost carrier ) and a crop of new hotel openings. Be one of the first to stay at Bulgari Hotel Paris or Hôtel Madame Rêve , housed in a former 24-hour post office—or choose from one of the many established hotels in the city.

For an extra-special holiday experience, book a spot on the “ Paris at the Holidays ” group trip (November 30–December 7) from specialty planning company French Affaires. Curated by France travel expert Elizabeth New Seitz, the trip includes an evening tour of the city’s Christmas lights, a private tour of the Louvre, a Buche de Noel (yule log) cooking class, and French afternoon teas at some of the city’s top palace hotels.

best places to visit for december

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The best places to visit in December 2023

Oct 20, 2023 • 8 min read

best places to visit for december

Head to Freiburg in the Black Forest for a taste of Germany in winter © picture alliance / Getty Images

December may mean the year is coming to an end – but that doesn’t mean your travel plans have to. If you’re looking for the best place to visit in December, here are some of Lonely Planet’s top picks, whether you want stunning northern lights, epic beach adventures or cozy Christmas markets. 

Where are the best places to travel to in December for relaxation?

Left: people snorkle through turquoise water in the Philippines. Right: People sit next to their bikes while watching the sunset in San Diego.

Palawan, Philippines

Why now? Dry skies for wet adventures.

Dubbed “ the Philippines ’ last ecological frontier,” pristine Palawan – the country’s westernmost province – is a Unesco Biosphere Reserve and a haven of biodiversity above and below the water line. There are over 1700 islands here, covered by virgin forest, edged by limestone cliffs and fringed by coral reefs. The diving is varied and spectacular. At El Nido , in the north, there are 20-plus dive sites where exciting sightings range from nudibranchs and seahorses to turtles and huge shoals of snapper. Around Coron Island , there’s thrilling wreck diving, with numerous WWII remnants to explore. There’s also decent diving in easy reach of the capital, Puerto Princesa – sites include walls and pinnacles, a variety of corals, plenty of unusual macro species, colorful reef fish, crustaceans, schooling barracuda and jacks, rays and reef sharks. Puerto Princesa is also the gateway to the Subterranean River National Park , a navigable underground waterway through incredible karst formations.

San Diego, California 

Why now? For city life, winter sun, Santa and cetaceans.

Winter is relative in southern California . In San Diego rain is more likely but days remain mild (average highs: 66°F/19°C). It’s certainly still warm enough to wander the city’s village-like neighborhoods – fancy La Jolla , surfy Encinitas, alternative Ocean Beach , foodie Little Italy, the lively, bar-packed Gaslamp Quarter – and to lose yourself in enormous Balboa Park , with its museums (Air & Space, Art, Natural History) and world-famous zoo . For further wildlife encounters, book a boat tour or head to the cliff-top trails of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in the hope of spotting dolphins and migrating gray whales, which pass along the coast here between December and March. 

Where are the best places to travel to in December for wildlife and nature?

A bushcamp in Central Kalahari; the northern lights in Arctic Sweden.

Central Kalahari, Botswana

Why now? For cheaper prices and greater game.

In this immense wildlife reserve, covering 50,000 sq km (19,305 sq miles) and one of the largest in the world, rain does not stop play. Indeed, it positively encourages it. While December marks the start of the rainy season in Botswana , it’s the best time to visit the semi-arid Central Kalahari . In the northernmost areas, around Northern Deception Valley in particular, the flush of wildflowers and grasses attracts great gatherings of grazers, which in turn attract predators – large numbers of hyena, leopard and the reserve’s famed black-maned lions are all found here. This is also the best time for birding, as many species are wearing their breeding plumage and migrants are around. Roads may become trickier to navigate but the payoff is excellent wildlife viewing and, at times, soul-stirringly stormy skies. There are opportunities to engage with the San people too.

Arctic Sweden

Why now? Sleep on ice beneath the Northern Lights.

At the Swedish village of Jukkasjärvi, one degree of latitude north of the Arctic Circle, the sun never rises in the last three weeks of the year. In December, darkness is the dominant state – perfect for watching the Aurora Borealis . Jukkasjärvi is the home of the original Icehotel, where you can spend a night in a bed made of ice. The area is also a base for cross-country skiing, husky sledding, snowmobiling, sleigh rides, meeting reindeer and learning about traditional Sámi culture – magical for kids and grown-ups alike. Some 100km (62 miles) to the northwest, Abisko National Park is even further removed from the light, an otherworldly landscape offering arguably the world’s best aurora-watching. 

Where are the best places to travel to in December for culture?

A sign saying "joyeux noel" hangs in a tropical tree; kids run and play on a monument in India.


Why now? To sing carols with a Creole twist.

December doesn’t just mean Christmas in the French Caribbean. It means Chanté-Nwel. One of Martinique ’s biggest annual festivities, held across the island from November to Christmas Day, it sees people gather to sing carols to Creole rhythms (a practice dating back to the days of slavery) and feast on local favorites including yams, pâtés, boudin créole (blood sausage), yule logs and potent shrubb – a Christmas cocktail crafted from dried orange peel, sugarcane syrup and white rum. Very festive. All that’s missing is the snow: with sunny skies and average highs of 82.4°F (28°C), this is perfect beach weather; chill out on the vast sweep of white sand at Les Salines or the black sand of Anse Noire . 

Chhattisgarh & Odisha, India 

Why now? For cultural encounters in milder weather.

The neighboring states of Odisha ( Orissa ) and Chhattisgarh (a breakaway chunk of Madhya Pradesh) offer perhaps the most authentic insight into rural India . These regions are largely neglected by tourists, perhaps due to their lack of “big” sights. But the appeal here is in getting away from the cities and meeting the people, such as the majority Gond (famed for their vibrant art), the tattooed Kutia Kondh, the Indigenous groups of the jungles around Jeypore, the bead-wearing Bonda or the cultural melee of a haat bazaar (weekly market), where many tribal groups gather to haggle over everything from butter and salt to clothes and jewelry. The Bastar region of Chhattisgarh is a good place to start – visit markets, hike between village homestays and witness tribal festivals: the Madai Festival, which moves around the communities of Bastar, Kanker and Dantewada, is celebrated from December to March (when temperatures are mild, too).

Where are the best places to travel to in December for food and drink? 

Grab a cookie in a Black Forest Christmas market; eat some suckling pig in Puerto Rico.

Black Forest, Germany 

Why now? For a touch of Teutonic magic.

The Black Forest is Germany ’s most romantic, fairy-tale-laced region. And never more so than in December, when its rolling hills and dense-packed evergreens might be sprinkled with snow and when everywhere is sprinkled with Christmas. The lively university town of Freiburg is a fine festive choice.

Its medieval center of cobbled lanes and gabled houses is lovely to wander at any time, but now smells of Glühwein  (mulled wine) and gingerbread; browse the Christmas market, where you can make your own candles and cookies, ride the Ferris wheel and feast on raclette and wurst. Further afield, take the train or bus to nearby Hinterzarten for the striking Ravennaschlucht market, where traditional stalls cluster in a gorge beneath the Devil’s Valley Railway viaduct. 

Puerto Rico 

Why now? For a never-ending Noel.

Twelve days of Christmas? Pah! Sunny and spirited Puerto Rico stretches it to 60 days, starting with Thanksgiving (this is a US “unincorporated territory,” after all) and not finishing until mid-January. Visit in December and you’ll likely come across shops stacked with festive trinkets, late-night parrandas (carol singing in the streets), church Masses filled with aguinaldos (Christmas songs) and the hearty consumption of festive feasts: lechón (suckling pig), arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas), pork-and-potato pasteles (steamed plantain tamales) and coquet (sweet spiced coconut drink). The Día de los Inocentes (28 December) is particularly fun, akin to April Fool’s Day, when people play tricks on each other – head to Hatillo for the best high-jinks.

Season’s greetings aside, the weather is wonderful right now for exploring this proudly Latino Caribbean idyll. Wander the bright alleys of Old San Juan (founded 1521) and lively second-city Ponce ; venture into El Yunque for rainforest hikes; check out the surf at Rincón ; and consider sailing over to the islands of Vieques and Culebra for quieter sands and dazzling after-dark kayaking in Bioluminescent Bay.

Where are the best places to travel to in December for adventure?

A person in red skis down the slopes Slovenia; a surfer on the beach enjoys the storms on Vancouver Island.

Why now? Crowd-lite, multi-sport, fairytale snow fun.

While snug-sized Slovenia  can’t compete with Europe’s winter-sports big boys, the country is still splendid when the snow starts to fall. There is good skiing, albeit on a smaller scale.

Resorts such as lively Kranjska Gora, reliable Krvavec and family-friendly Vogel aren’t huge but also aren’t as busy as other Alpine hubs. But where the country really excels is in multi-activity winter breaks, combining downhilling and snowboarding with cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snow-hiking, ice-climbing or even igloo-building and night tobogganing. The landscapes are thrilling, too, with most resorts located in and around handsome Triglav National Park . Photographers will love the high peaks, frozen waterfalls, snowy forests, beautiful Lake Bohinj and magical Lake Bled , with its lake isle and castle shimmering in the frost. 

Vancouver Island, Canada 

Why now? For really wild times.

As winter arrives, the restive region where Arctic and subtropical air collides shifts south, and low-pressure systems build in the Gulf of Alaska. This equals stupendous storms, which thwack the Pacific coast of Vancouver Island , stirring up gigantic swells, roaring winds and epic skies. It’s Mother Nature at her most marvelously unhinged and cinematic – and it’s worth braving a bit of weather for front-row seats. On the edge of Pacific Rim National Park, the little town of Ucluelet (meaning “people of the safe harbor”) is a great place to watch the action unfold. 

Want more expert recommendations for every month of the year? Check out the brand-new edition of  Where to Go When . 

This article was first published Sep 29, 2019 and updated Oct 20, 2023.

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The 10 best places to visit in December

Jordi Lippe-McGraw

In December, the world transforms. The Northern Hemisphere sees winter's touch with snow and chill, while the Southern Hemisphere basks in summer's warmth.

Travelers can choose anything from snow-capped landscapes ideal for winter sports to sunlit beaches for relaxation. As the year-end approaches, many places come alive with holiday preparations, each offering unique cultural experiences.

Whether it's the allure of festive markets , the thrill of outdoor adventures, or simply exploring new terrains, December provides something for every traveler.

But where should you go? Here are the 10 best destinations to visit in December.

Breckenridge, Colorado

best places to visit for december

Imagine a place where the winter comes alive — that's Breckenridge in December. Picture world-class ski slopes, cozy family sleigh rides and thrilling snowmobile adventures. Not to mention, the history here is captivating. December's Ullr Fest is also a special treat for travelers. The festival is a local favorite held in honor of Ullr, the Norse god of snow. (We're hoping he blesses us with plenty of powder.)

There's also plenty to explore in nearby towns like Frisco and Leadville; less than an hour away, you can take a rejuvenating dip at Indian Hot Springs. Or, weather permitting, head to Rocky Mountain National Park to marvel at its natural beauty.

Related: The best ski resorts in the US for your next trip to the slopes

If you're still in Breckenridge come January, you're in for a spectacle. During the International Snow Sculpture Championships, artists carve massive snow blocks into stunning creations.

TPG tip : Hyatt Vacation Club at The Ranahan offers a spectacular Rocky Mountain retreat with premium skiing, winter escapades, boating, mountain biking and year-round family-friendly outdoor activities. It's available for about $205 in December, or 21,000 World of Hyatt Points per night.

Truckee, California

best places to visit for december

Of all the best places to visit in December in the USA, Truckee is one that tops our list. Come wintertime, the destination transforms into a snow-draped haven. From peaceful snowshoe treks to exciting family sledding spots, there's something for everyone here. For skiing enthusiasts, some of the region's best slopes await. Beyond winter sports, the stunning beauty of nearby Lake Tahoe is a must-see.

After a day in the snow, explore downtown Truckee. It offers museums full of rich local history, and its numerous breweries and eateries provide a taste of the town's culture. You can even opt for a guided tour of the town.

Related: From hidden gems to big names: Here are 11 of California's best ski resorts

TPG tip : Book a stay at SpringHill Suites Truckee for about 37,000 Marriott Bonvoy points or $282 per night.

Dorado, Puerto Rico

best places to visit for december

Seeking a warm winter getaway? Dorado sits on Puerto Rico 's stunning Caribbean coastline, and it boasts white-sand beaches perfect for surfing, swimming and many family-friendly adventures.

A short drive away, San Juan immerses you in a vibrant blend of culture, music and culinary delights. Here, you can experience cultural festivities throughout the year, savor delicious local dishes and sway to the rhythms of salsa, bomba and plena echoing from the city's picturesque squares.

Beyond that, the region offers thrilling activities like hang gliding and paragliding. For those keen to explore, guided tours can lead you to hidden beaches and lush tropical paths. Don't miss out on the YuYu Cave — a captivating and educational spot for young adventurers who love nature.

TPG tip : Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve is a great home base for exploring the area and is available from $1,645 or 215,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.

best places to visit for december

During the holidays, Zurich becomes a festive paradise. Streets shimmer with lights, and Christmas markets spring to life. Highlights include Burkliplatz's candle dipping, the enchanting "Marlitram" fairy tale tram and the singing choirs at Werdmuhleplatz, accompanied by its famed "Singing Christmas Tree."

Christkindlimarkt at Zurich Main Station, one of Europe's largest indoor Christmas markets, boasts a radiant tree adorned with Swarovski crystals. The nostalgic Dorfli market in Old Town offers a vintage charm with fondue and artisanal goods.

For a warm treat, stop by Cafe Felix and choose from a medley of hot chocolate iterations. Or, savor history at the luxury confectioner Sprungli, which has been in operation since 1836. For elevated dining, Restaurant Felsenegg provides fondue with a stunning city view.

Beyond these, visitors can skate, toboggan or take a scenic fondue eTukTuk ride. Zurich's thermal baths and saunas overlooking Lake Zurich promise relaxation. For artsy souls, the "Herzebaracke" floating theater offers diverse performances by the lake from Nov. 1, 2023, to March 10, 2024.

TPG tip : Stay near the heart of town at Crowne Plaza Zurich for around $146 or 30,000 IHG rewards points per night.

best places to visit for december

In December, Japan lights up in celebration, offering visitors a magical experience. From Tokyo's Omotesando Illuminations, aglow with around 900,000 lights, to Ashikaga Flower Park's radiant 5-million-light display, the country is a spectacle. Mie Prefecture's Nabana no Sato Winter Illumination lets guests immerse themselves in LED light fields and explore captivating light tunnels.

Meanwhile, Kobe's touching Luminarie shines in remembrance of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake victims. December also welcomes ski enthusiasts as Japan's winter sports season begins.

From the breathtaking views at Shiga Kogen Ski Area in Nagano — with its Olympic-endorsed slopes — to the sought-after resorts in Niigata — easily accessible from Tokyo — skiing here is a dream. But there's more to Niigata than just skiing: Indulge in its renowned hot springs and savor its exquisite seafood, rice and sake.

TPG tip : Book a room at the Conrad Tokyo for $389 or 95,000 Hilton Honors points per night.

best places to visit for december

Dubai in December is a whole different vibe. The scorching heat takes a backseat, making way for cooler days. This means beach picnics, outdoor adventures and late-night strolls become even more inviting. And then there's the festive buzz. Everywhere you look, from the towering skyscrapers to the cozy lanes, Dubai sparkles with holiday decorations.

It's not just about twinkling lights, though. The city pulses with events — think bustling markets, lively performances and the aroma of seasonal treats filling the air. Against the backdrop of the vast desert and the iconic skyline, the festive cheer feels even more special. So, if you're dreaming of a mix of relaxation, retail therapy and rich culture, Dubai is your go-to.

TPG tip : Book a room at La Ville Hotel & Suites City Walk for $586 or 70,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, or stay at the lavish Atlantis The Royal .

The Bahamas

best places to visit for december

Traveling to the Bahamas becomes a breeze this December, thanks to several new flight routes. Delta Air Lines is launching a direct flight from New York's LaGuardia Airport (LGA) to Nassau. For travelers on the West Coast, there's good news, too: American Airlines is rolling out direct flights from Los Angeles and Seattle to Nassau.

Not to be left out, JetBlue is introducing a weekly nonstop service from LA. Once you touch down, the Bahamas offers a plethora of experiences. Dive into the clear waters, explore the world's third-largest coral reef or swim with the wild pigs.

And if you're into sailing, December is the prime time to visit. Events like The National Family Island Regatta showcase the region's rich maritime heritage.

TPG tip : Book a room at the French Leave Resort for $749 or 80,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Or, for sheer indulgence, opt for the luxurious Rosewood Baha Mar , where rates start from $715 per night.

Morristown, Arizona

Just a quick 50-minute drive from Phoenix, Morristown is the perfect desert escape in December. The weather's a treat with comfy temperatures in the 60s and 70s — a lovely switch from Arizona's intense summer and the cold weather of other destinations.

If you love the outdoors, you'll be in your element. Morristown's desert beauty is a big draw, with opportunities to go hiking or 4x4 riding.

At night, the town's clear December skies, away from bright city glows, offer some top-notch stargazing. Witness the breathtaking Geminids and Ursids Meteor Showers, peaking on Dec. 14-15 and 22-23, respectively. And there's more to the celestial show: Mark your calendar for the New Moon on Dec. 13, the Winter Solstice on Dec. 22, and the Full Moon on Dec. 27.

TPG tip : Book a stay at Castle Hot Springs , which is an American Express Fine Hotels + Resort partner. Platinum cardholders receive 12 p.m. check-in (when available), room upgrade at check-in (when available), daily breakfast for two, $100 property credit to be used during the stay, complimentary Wi-Fi and 4 p.m. checkout guaranteed.

New York City

best places to visit for december

New York City in December is an enchanting experience. Imagine skating below the gleaming Rockefeller Center tree, surrounded by the city's sparkling skyline. Fifth Avenue transforms into a festive paradise, with its department stores showcasing captivating holiday window displays.

Brooklyn's Dyker Heights is a must-visit for those who admire festive lights. The neighborhood's homes are grandly decorated for the holidays, and dedicated bus tours guide visitors through the most brilliantly lit blocks.

But the magic doesn't stop there. You can also catch a classic holiday show at Radio City Music Hall, wander through the winter markets at Bryant Park or Central Park, and marvel at the giant holiday ornaments scattered throughout the city.

TPG tip : Book a stay at the Park South Hotel for $480 or 23,000 Hyatt World points, or check out TPG's favorite hotels in New York City .

best places to visit for december

December is the perfect month to explore Uganda. The landscapes are at their greenest, yet the weather stays dry. This combination is ideal for gorilla tracking, an experience you won't forget. Boat safaris also shine in December. As water sources become a focal point in the dry terrain, spotting the Big Five becomes even more thrilling.

While Uganda is gaining attention, it's still a quieter East African destination. Venture beyond the natural wonders, too. The capital, Kampala, is a city full of surprises. From the lively Equator Bar in the Sheraton to the unique crocodile tail delicacy at The Lawns, there's much to savor. And if you're into art, the Afriart Gallery showcases contemporary pieces.

TPG tip : Book a stay at Hilton Garden Inn Kampala for $170 or 37,000 Hilton Honors points.

Related reading:

  • Key travel tips you need to know — whether you're a beginner or expert traveler
  • The best travel credit cards
  • The 18 best places to travel in 2023
  • 6 real-life strategies you can use when your flight is canceled or delayed
  • 8 of the best credit cards for general travel purchases
  • 13 must-have items the TPG team can't travel without


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