Best places to travel in December

From sun-kissed beaches to white winters, these are the escapes to take in December.

December presents with so many travel opportunities it’s difficult to pick a few select destinations to escape to and relax in during the silly season. We’ve tried, anyway.

So whether you choose to play it local with the family or go all out for Christmas and New Year’s, these places will make your holiday sing.


1. Best European budget destination: Madrid

See Spain like never before in the quiet of winter.

Being the dead of winter, Madrid is not typically a hot destination during December. Though we can’t quite wrap our heads around the reason why. After all, the weather is coot-but-pleasant, the skies are clear, flights are affordable and with so many indoor cultural attractions such as Prado and the Royal Palace, there are plenty of places to warm yourself inside if you start to feel that December chill.

  • December weather: 6–8℃, winter.
  • Top December events: Christmas markets and fairs.
  • Best for: Food, culture, art.

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2. Best big city to visit: New York City

Magical doesn’t even begin to describe Christmas in New York City, but it comes close.

New York City is always an option, but visiting it during Christmas is especially magical. Rockefeller Center lights up with its famous Christmas tree and ice skating rink, Christmas concerts fill the air and spectacular window displays abound. You might even be lucky enough to catch a snow flurry and have that perfect white Christmas you’ve always been dreaming of.

  • December weather: 4–13℃, winter.
  • Top December events: Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting, New Year’s Eve ball, Hanukkah celebrations, Radio City Christmas Spectacular and Bryant Park Winter Village.
  • Best for: Festivals, city exploration.

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3. Best for beaches: Malaysia's Western Islands

Say hello to sunshiney days with a shiny price tag.

Now you might be thinking that December is rainy season in Malaysia and you wouldn’t be wrong. Storms are notorious in Malaysia this month… but not everywhere.

Head west of mainland Malaysia to the islands of Penang, Langkawi and Pangkor and you’ll be sitting pretty with hot weather, enviable beaches and only a minimal chance of rainfall.

  • December weather: 30℃.
  • Top December events: Jazz festival, Christmas Eve parties and New Year’s Eve parties.
  • Best for: Beaches, culture, food.

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4. Best event: New Year’s Eve in Sydney

Discover why many call it the best fireworks in the world.

Sydney for New Year’s is THE BEST. We’re not exaggerating. Millions of punters from around the world gather on the foreshore to witness the fireworks light up the sky at 9pm and midnight in one of the most impressive pyrotechnical displays in the world. Keen to join them? If you’ve missed out on securing that room with a view (you do have to get in early), there are plenty of free vantage points around the city to celebrate from.

  • December weather: 26℃, summer.
  • Top December events: Christmas markets, New Year’s Eve parties, Sydney to Hobart yacht race, Christmas on George Street.
  • Best for: Parties, events, weekend getaways.

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5. Best surprise destination: Sahara Desert, Morocco

Climb lofty sand dunes by day and sleep under a meteor shower by night.

It can only be in the Sahara Desert. Weather-wise December is optimal for visiting this unique outpost as it’s winter, so the temperature is pleasant enough to explore the desert landscape. The annual Geminids is at its peak early to mid December and is a sight for sore eyes comprising of giant fireballs that light up the night sky. Up to 150 can appear within the space of an hour during its peak.

  • December weather: 18 to 21℃, winter.
  • Top December events (throughout Morocco): Geminids meteor shower, New Year’s Eve and Yennayer.
  • Best for: Adventure.

Search the cheapest flights to Sahara

Follow the festival: Top December events to attend

  • Christmas Markets: An event that needs no introduction, Christmas cheer is rife in all corners of the world. Decorations line the streets, and Christmas markets take over main plazas in cities across Europe and are scattered in other destinations across the globe.. As Christmas is a Christian celebration, countries that aren’t Christian may not celebrate it.
  • New Year’s Eve: From parties to fireworks displays, New Year’s Eve farewells the year just past and welcomes the new year ahead. Most countries celebrate it with parties and fireworks displays.
  • Northern Lights: Somewhere between November and February every year, punters hunt these colourful lights as they dance to the night sky in the Arctic Circle. Activity is dependant on the weather but if lady luck is with you, you’ll catch this awe-inspiring phenomenon in all its glory.

When is the best time in December to take a holiday?

December is peak season throughout the world as it’s the biggest holiday period of the year. To avoid crowds and peak prices, it’s best to travel at the beginning of the month when the holiday season hasn’t kicked in yet.

Alternatively, you may want to spend your Christmas or New Year’s somewhere special. If this is the case and you’re looking to avoid overpaying, book your trip early as prices generally increase closer to Christmas.

Top December holiday deals

Stephanie Yip

Stephanie is the travel editor at finder.com.au. On top of being an avid traveller, she's an all-round bargain hunter. If there's a deal or cheap flight available, she'll know about it. And she'll let you know about it, too.

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