As the year draws to a close, many travelers begin to contemplate their next adventure, often pondering the question: “Which is the best place to visit in December?” This is a timely inquiry, as December offers a unique blend of holiday cheer, winter wonderlands, and a chance to escape the cold in favor of warm, tropical destinations. Whether you’re seeking a snowy retreat or a sun-soaked getaway, this article will guide you through some of the most enchanting places to consider for your December travel plans.
1. Embracing Winter Magic in Lapland, Finland
For those who dream of a white Christmas and yearn for a magical winter experience, Lapland, Finland, undoubtedly ranks as one of the best places to visit in December. Located in the northern reaches of Scandinavia, Lapland is a snow-covered paradise that offers a wide range of activities and sights to behold during the holiday season.
One of the main attractions in Lapland is the chance to meet Santa Claus himself. Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, is often referred to as the “Official Hometown of Santa Claus.” Here, you can visit Santa Claus Village, where you’ll have the opportunity to meet Father Christmas, take a sleigh ride pulled by reindeer, and explore the enchanting Arctic Circle.
Beyond the Santa experience, Lapland boasts stunning natural beauty, including the mesmerizing Northern Lights. December is one of the best months to witness this awe-inspiring natural phenomenon, as the long, dark nights provide a perfect backdrop for the dancing lights in the sky. You can opt for guided Northern Lights tours to maximize your chances of catching this magical display.
For adventure enthusiasts, Lapland offers activities such as husky sledding, snowmobiling, and ice fishing. The region’s pristine wilderness is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, and the picturesque landscapes make it a photographer’s dream.
2. A Whimsical Winter Wonderland in Quebec City, Canada
If you’re in search of a charming, European-style winter wonderland that is closer to home, look no further than Quebec City, Canada. Nestled in the heart of French-speaking Quebec province, this historic city transforms into a picturesque holiday destination in December.
Old Quebec, a UNESCO World Heritage site, comes alive with twinkling lights, festive decorations, and a palpable sense of holiday spirit. The city’s most iconic attraction during this season is the Quebec City German Christmas Market. Modeled after the famous Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany, this market features artisanal crafts, delicious holiday treats, and a warm and inviting atmosphere.
A visit to Quebec City in December wouldn’t be complete without exploring the Ice Hotel (Hôtel de Glace), a stunning architectural marvel constructed entirely from ice and snow. Even if you choose not to stay overnight in one of its icy rooms, touring the hotel is an unforgettable experience.
For those seeking outdoor adventures, nearby Mont Sainte-Anne and Stoneham Mountain Resort offer excellent skiing and snowboarding opportunities. You can also enjoy a leisurely stroll along the historic city walls, which provide breathtaking views of the St. Lawrence River.
3. Sun and Sand in the Maldives
On the flip side of the December travel spectrum, if you’re looking to escape the winter chill and soak up the sun on pristine beaches, the Maldives is unquestionably one of the best places to visit. This tropical paradise, located in the Indian Ocean, boasts white-sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and overwater bungalows that will make your stay a dream come true.
The Maldives experiences its dry season from November to April, making December an ideal time to visit. The weather is consistently warm, and the water visibility is at its best, making it perfect for snorkeling and diving. The marine life in the Maldives is stunning, with the opportunity to encounter colorful coral reefs, manta rays, and even whale sharks.
Each resort in the Maldives is like a private island unto itself, offering seclusion and luxury. Whether you’re celebrating a honeymoon, anniversary, or simply seeking a romantic escape, the Maldives is the ultimate destination for a blissful, sun-soaked holiday.
4. Experiencing Festive Splendor in Vienna, Austria
Vienna, Austria, is renowned for its classical music, historical landmarks, and imperial grandeur. When December arrives, the city takes on a whole new level of charm, earning its place as one of the best places to visit during the holiday season.
The heart of Vienna’s Christmas festivities is the Rathausplatz, where the annual Vienna Christmas Market, or “Christkindlmarkt,” is held. This market is famous for its stunning Christmas tree and intricate decorations. Visitors can savor traditional Austrian treats like roasted chestnuts, sausages, and the beloved “Kaiserschmarrn” (a fluffy shredded pancake).
Another highlight is the Vienna State Opera, which puts on spectacular performances of classic operas and ballets during December. Attending a show here is a magical way to embrace Vienna’s cultural heritage.
To fully immerse yourself in the holiday spirit, don’t miss a visit to Schönbrunn Palace, where you can explore beautifully decorated rooms, enjoy a cup of mulled wine in the courtyard, and take in the majestic beauty of the palace gardens adorned with twinkling lights.
5. Chasing Adventure in Queenstown, New Zealand
For thrill-seekers and adventure enthusiasts, Queenstown, New Zealand, is a top contender for the best place to visit in December. While the Northern Hemisphere embraces winter, New Zealand welcomes the arrival of summer, making it an ideal destination for outdoor activities.
Known as the “Adventure Capital of the World,” Queenstown offers a wide range of exhilarating pursuits. You can bungee jump off the historic Kawarau Bridge, go skydiving over Lake Wakatipu, or take a scenic jet boat ride through the dramatic Shotover Canyons.
Queenstown is also a gateway to the stunning Fiordland National Park, where you can explore the famous Milford Sound. December offers pleasant weather for hiking, kayaking, and cruising the fiords while taking in the breathtaking scenery.
Additionally, Queenstown hosts a variety of festivals and events in December, from food and wine festivals to outdoor concerts. This lively atmosphere adds to the appeal of visiting during this time of year.
6. Cultural Extravaganza in Mexico City, Mexico
If you’re interested in a cultural experience that combines history, tradition, and vibrant celebrations, Mexico City is a fantastic choice for a December getaway. The Mexican capital comes alive with holiday festivities and offers a unique blend of indigenous and Spanish traditions.
One of the most significant events in December is the celebration of “Las Posadas.” This nine-day festival reenacts Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging in Bethlehem and includes processions, music, and colorful nativity scenes. It culminates on Christmas Eve with a grand fiesta featuring piñatas filled with treats.
Don’t miss the chance to explore Mexico City’s historic center, where you can visit iconic landmarks like the Metropolitan Cathedral and the National Palace, home to Diego Rivera’s famous murals. The Zócalo, one of the largest public squares in the world, is beautifully illuminated during the holiday season.
For art enthusiasts, a visit to the Frida Kahlo Museum (Casa Azul) and the National Museum of Anthropology provides insights into Mexican culture and history. And of course, savoring authentic Mexican cuisine is a must; try local dishes like tamales, mole, and champurrado, a traditional hot chocolate-based drink.
7. Unveiling History and Mystery in Petra, Jordan
For travelers seeking an off-the-beaten-path adventure with a historical twist, Petra, Jordan, is an enchanting destination to explore in December. The ancient city of Petra, known for its remarkable rock-cut architecture, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Visiting Petra in December offers a more comfortable climate for exploring the site, as temperatures are milder compared to the scorching summer months. The rose-red city, hidden away in the desert canyons of southern Jordan, reveals its beauty as you venture through the winding Siq (canyon) and witness the grandeur of the Treasury (Al-Khazneh).
Beyond Petra, Jordan offers a rich tapestry of history and culture. Don’t miss the chance to float in the healing waters of the Dead Sea, explore the ancient Roman city of Jerash, or take in the panoramic views from the desert fortress of Wadi Rum.
December is an excellent time to visit Jordan as it falls outside the peak tourist season, allowing you to enjoy the historical and natural wonders of the country with fewer crowds.
8. A Tropical Paradise in Bali, Indonesia
For travelers who crave a blend of cultural experiences, natural beauty, and tropical relaxation, Bali, Indonesia, is a top choice for a December escape. Known as the “Island of the Gods,” Bali offers a diverse range of attractions and activities.
The island’s stunning beaches, such as Kuta Beach and Nusa Dua Beach, are perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and water sports. Bali’s lush interior is dotted with terraced rice paddies, water temples, and vibrant marketplaces. Ubud, in particular, is a cultural hub where you can explore traditional Balinese art, dance, and spirituality.
For a unique December experience, attend one of Bali’s colorful and spiritually significant festivals, such as Galungan and Kuningan. During these festivals, the island is adorned with intricate penjor (bamboo pole) decorations, and locals partake in traditional ceremonies.
Bali also offers a thriving wellness and yoga scene, making it an excellent destination for rejuvenation and self-discovery. Whether you’re seeking adventure or relaxation, Bali caters to all types of travelers.
9. Exploring the Beauty of Kyoto, Japan
In December, Kyoto, Japan, is a captivating destination where tradition meets the serene beauty of winter. This ancient city, known for its well-preserved temples, traditional tea houses, and exquisite gardens, takes on a unique charm during the winter season.
One of the highlights of visiting Kyoto in December is the opportunity to witness the city’s stunning fall foliage. The colorful autumn leaves are often still visible in early December, creating a picturesque backdrop for exploring historic sites like Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion) and Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine.
Kyoto’s cultural heritage is on full display during this season, with various traditional performances, including tea ceremonies and ikebana (flower arranging), held throughout the city. You can also enjoy the warmth of a hot bowl of Kyoto-style ramen or indulge in kaiseki cuisine, a traditional multi-course Japanese meal.
Additionally, December marks the beginning of the winter illuminations in Kyoto, with temples and gardens beautifully lit up at night. A stroll through these enchanting displays adds a touch of magic to your visit.
10. Celebrating Christmas in New York City, USA
Last but certainly not least, if you’re looking for an iconic Christmas experience, New York City is arguably the best place to visit in December. The “Big Apple” transforms into a holiday wonderland with its dazzling lights, festive decorations, and a lineup of seasonal events that rival any other destination.
One of the most iconic traditions in New York City during December is the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. This towering tree, adorned with thousands of lights and a stunning Swarovski star, is a symbol of holiday magic and draws visitors from around the world.
Ice skating at the Rockefeller Center ice rink or in Central Park is a quintessential New York City winter activity. You can also catch a holiday show, such as the world-famous “Radio City Christmas Spectacular,” featuring the Rockettes.
Strolling down Fifth Avenue, you’ll be treated to extravagant window displays at stores like Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue. And of course, don’t forget to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate while admiring the beautiful holiday lights in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn.
New York City also offers a wide range of culinary delights, from classic New York-style pizza to upscale dining experiences. The city’s diverse food scene ensures that every palate is satisfied.
In conclusion, the answer to the question “Which is the best place to visit in December?” largely depends on your personal preferences and interests. Whether you’re in search of a snowy winter wonderland, a tropical paradise, a cultural adventure, or a festive holiday experience, the world offers a multitude of options to explore in December.
From the enchanting Lapland in Finland to the sunny beaches of Bali, from the historical treasures of Petra to the vibrant streets of Mexico City, the destinations mentioned in this article offer a glimpse into the diverse and captivating experiences available during this magical time of year. So, as December approaches, consider your priorities and embark on a journey to the destination that resonates most with your desires and dreams for the holiday season.