Can you hear that? The distant sound of sleigh bells, tinsel and reindeer hooves? Yup, that’s right, December is around the corner and holidays await! This small collection of public holidays, with a few annual leave days sprinkled in for good measure, makes for the perfect time to jet off with friends or family. We’ve selected 10 destinations to kick off your holiday brainstorm and inspire a holiday plan that will become one for the books.
Mention Thailand and instinct takes our minds to hot days spent on the beach with an ice cold beer. While that is time well spent, why not try a different side of Thailand this year? Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand, offers warm days, cool nights and little rain. December is the perfect time to wander through the old city, take in the temples and enjoy the amazing cafe culture. Feeling a little more adventurous? Head to the hills for a hike or wash and feed an elephant or two at an ethical elephant sanctuary.
Fly to: Chiang Mai International Airport
Flight time: 2-3 hours
Best for: Cafe culture, food, hikes, elephant sanctuaries (no riding!)
Sassy tip: Northern Thai cuisine is different from the dishes in the South. Get your hands on a bowl of khao soi, and thank me later.
Down your last Vietnamese coffee in Hanoi and rise above the sound of scooters! The hill station of Sapa takes you into the misty mountains and offers nothing but never-ending views. While you can easily admire the rolling vistas from a comfy chair perched from your guesthouse, the area is best enjoyed on foot, so strap on your hiking boots and head out on a guided tour. Packages range from half day walks through to week-long treks.
Fly to: Noi Bai International Airport (Hanoi)
Flight time: 2 hours
Best for: Nature, trekking, panoramic views
Sassy tip: This time of year is cold. Pack layers and a sturdy jacket.
It wouldn’t be fair to offer a December selection without a slice of island paradise. Relatively new on the tourist scene is Koh Rong, Cambodia’s second biggest island. While it comes with mixed reviews (like most things in life), we still can’t deny that it boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in South East Asia. With a more rustic vibe, you can expect limited Wi-Fi and electricity (with no big hotel chains or Michelin star restaurants). Hike, snorkel, trek, laze on the beach, kayak, island hop – the list is endless.
Fly to: Sihanoukville
Flight time: 3 hours
Best for: beautiful beaches, getting off the grid, island activities
Sassy tip: While you can relax here, there are some who come to party. Get involved, if you fancy. Otherwise, locate yourself a little further away from the main town to avoid the music pumping through the evenings.
We just couldn’t whittle Kerala down to one area. Luckily for you, the options are in great supply, all you need to do is pick! Explore tea plantations on foot or backwaters by houseboat, learn yoga, how to surf or cook, sunbathe on the beaches, or get your culture fix in the cities. It’s the perfect place to dip your toes into traveling in India, if you haven’t already. Don’t let the term ‘winter’ put you off, the weather is practically perfect in December with warm, dry days.
Fly to: Cochin International Airport
Flight time: 9 – 11 hours (1 stop)
Best for: Nature stuff, cultural sites and experiences
Sassy tip: Be sure to try the pazham pori (sweet plantain fritters) served at breakfast or as a snack!
South Africa seems to be on almost every travellers list and December is the perfect time to go! Cape Town is in the height of summer at this time of year with locals and tourists flocking to take advantage of the great weather, buzzing social scene, abundance of outdoor activities, diverse culture and some of the freshest produce. Whatever you are looking for this holiday, Cape Town has it in spades, accompanied by some of the friendliest people in the world.
Fly to: Cape Town International Airport
Flight time: 13 – 14 hours
Best for: Table mountain, beaches, good food & wine, the best people (I’m biased)
Sassy tip: Although Uber is popping off in South Africa, we recommend renting a car for your stay. Long coastal drives are a thing!
With a name like Iceland, it’s no surprise there was an initial lag in visitors. However, with more direct routes being offered and more exposure to the island’s offerings, it has quickly become a must see. While winter only sees 4-5 hours of sunshine a day, it’s the perfect setting to try and catch the Northern Lights. And while you’re there, why not hit the hot springs, admire frozen waterfalls, check out steaming geysers or dive between tectonic plates. Talk about a winter wonderland.
Fly to: Reykjavik International Airport
Flight time: Minimum 20 hours (1 stop)
Best for: Northern Lights and every winter activity you can imagine
Sassy tip: Day trips are the best way to get out of the city to see the natural wonders. Since this is the low season, do your research on the ground and book whilst you’re there.
Portugal has been one of hottest travel destinations of 2018, and rightly so. It’s cheaper than its Western European counterparts, and a lot less busy. And if you’re lucky, much warmer too. However, Lisbon is a large, hilly city so a little chill in the air won’t hurt whilst gallivanting around town. The city’s charm opens your days up to design, architecture, art, a thriving nightlife, and breathtaking city views that you will need to work for.
Fly to: Lisbon International Airport
Flight time: 16 – 24 hours (1 stop)
Best for: A cheaper side to Western Europe, heritage, nightlife
Sassy tip: Put your knowledge of Macau’s culinary heritage to the test and get your hands on Lisbon’s pastel de nata (egg tart).
December in Barcelona might be the best time of year to visit. It’s a time when the city is more Spanish than ever before with the tourist crowds thinning considerably. The sun shines brightly and the sky is a deep blue, making an incredible backdrop to, well, everything you lay your eyes on. With clear and crisp days, you can continue to sit alfresco or stroll the streets. Catalan-style Christmas markets are in abundance and there has never been a better season to experience churros and hot chocolate in its birthplace.
Fly to: Barcelona El-Prat Airport
Flight time: 15 – 18 hours (1 stop)
Best for: Blue skies, architecture, being outside, tapas
Sassy tip: Winter brings all the best exhibitions to the city’s museums and galleries. Be sure to check out what’s on while you’re there!
The city that never sleeps doesn’t slowdown in winter either. You’ve seen its larger than life appeal in the movies, so why not experience it first-hand this December? With the undeniable chill outside, it’s a great time to take advantage of the internationally acclaimed museums, art galleries, broadway shows, concerts, restaurants, cafes, and bars. And the cherry on top; this is the season for silly shopping deals, thinner crowds and lower flights (if you factor in a layover) and cheaper accommodation.
Fly to: John F. Kennedy International Airport
Flight time: 15 hours (direct) & between 18 – 23 hours (1 stop)
Best for: Embracing the cold, indoor activities, having an excuse to eat more carbs
Sassy tip: Ensure you have a pair of comfortable and watertight boots to hit the sidewalks. Paired with snug wooly socks, you’ve got a New York City essential that will keep the cold and snow at bay.
We all know what it can be like at the end of a long year in Hong Kong. You’re tired, broke, and would much rather curl up with a good book than run around an unknown city. So why not take the pressure off this year? The ultimate Hong Kong staycation is waiting for you on Lamma Island, a short ferry ride from Central. With some beautiful spots and flat shares available, you can have both beach and tranquility without the hassle of flights. It’s the perfect place to recharge before the upcoming year without a hefty price tag.
Ferry to: Yung Shue Wan
Ferry time: 25 minutes
Best for: Village life, recharging from the city, a home away from home
Sassy tip: Do a sweep of Lamma Gourmet (aka the Cheese Shop) on arrival and get your fix of well-priced international cheeses, fresh bread and a bottle (or two) of great wine.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2018 by Holly Falken and was updated in September 2019.