December is one of the most popular months of the year for tourism, and for many countries, this is peak season for travel. This means that choosing from the best places to visit in December can be challenging.
With limited holidays throughout the year, many people, especially families, choose to take their vacations over the Christmas period, or into the New Year, when they can maximize their time and enjoy the festive period.
That makes December a busy time, and you’ll find that popular destinations such as Mexico, or the Caribbean are expensive and bursting with tourists.
Even in cold Europe, with the onset of the ski season, it can be just as busy as the winter sun destinations, and at first glance, it might seem as if there are few quiet spots left for travelers looking to escape the crowds.
But there are still some excellent destinations to consider, and if you’re brave then you can explore the icy realms of the Arctic in winter, or you can endure the rains of Indonesia for a southeast Asian getaway.
If you’re looking to escape the high season crowds, then here are the best places to visit in December!
9 Best Places to Visit in December
Hungary is one of the best places to visit in December if you are looking to travel to Europe because while it can be incredibly cold in Central Europe, the country still comes alive as the festive period begins.
The cold weather keeps many away from Hungary, and while neighboring countries such as Germany or Austria still receive many winter tourists looking to shop at Christmas markets, Hungary has yet to really cash in on the same travel market.
But in Budapest, and in other cities across Hungary, you can find some of the best Christmas markets in Europe, but with far fewer tourists than in other countries.
Hungarians are used to the cold too, and you can warm up in winter with steaming bowls of goulash or a hearty soup that’s laced with Paprika, and in Budapest and Debrecen, there are plenty of museums to visit when the biting winds become too much.
The landscapes look spectacular in the frosty weather, while in Budapest, the best part about winter is getting to really enjoy the city’s iconic thermal baths after a cold day of exploring.
Our Top Recommended Hungary Tours:
- Hungary Carpathians: Bükk National Park – 8 Days
- Budapest Getaway – 3 Days
- Castles and Monasteries of Bakony Mountains – 8 Days
Another great Central European destination, and one of the best places to visit in December to escape the crowds, is Czechia – or the Czech Republic.
Like Hungary, Czechia is often seen as a summer destination, because in winter, it’s bitingly cold. But while Prague suffers from over-tourism in peak season, during the cold of December the crowds are much thinner, and as long as you don’t mind the bad weather, you can really explore the capital on your own terms.
Across Czechia, you’ll also find plenty of Christmas markets too, and ones that can rival those in Germany. Shop for unique Czech souvenirs, and when it gets too cold, warm up with a hot bread bowl overflowing with goulash.
Our Top Recommended Czechia Tours:
- Enchanting Prague Tour – 7 Days
- Czech republic ‘The Heart of Europe – 9 Days
- Hiking through Giant Mountains of Czech Republic – 6 Days
Norway might be found far, far north, but in fact, even in the grip of winter, it can be one of the best places to visit in December.
Norway, like much of Scandinavia, experiences long, harsh winters, because of its proximity to the Arctic. In fact, much of the north of the country is firmly within the Arctic Circle, and for much of the winter sees almost perpetual darkness and no sunlight.
It might not seem like such an appealing tourism destination, but actually, it’s a great opportunity to experience Norway’s natural wonders and to experience a unique side of life in the country.
Hiking to Trolltunga is a must while visiting Norway if you have the time and are able.
Brave the cold darkness and you’ll be almost guaranteed to see the Northern Lights in Norway, as soon as you head out of towns and cities. You can enjoy winter sports, and you can ride snowmobiles, or sleds across the Arctic wilderness.
Norway also welcomes tourists with Christmas markets, ice hotels and glamping camps set up under the dark skies.
It’s a challenging time to visit Norway, but for those looking for an adventure, it’s one of the best places to visit in December.
Our Top Recommended Norway Tours:
- Norway Winter & Northern Lights with G Adventures – 7 Days
- Explore the Norwegian Fjords with G Adventures – 13 Days
- Norway Fjord Trekking with G Adventures – 7 Days
Japan isn’t necessarily seen as a winter getaway, with most travelers choosing to visit the Asian nation when the weather is hot in summer, or when the colors blossom either in spring or autumn.
Winter is definitely overlooked, but if you are looking to see the country without the crowds, then it’s one of the best places to visit in December.
Japan can be incredibly cold in December, and the further north you go – in Hokkaido for instance – then the colder it’s going to get.
In the north, there’s usually snowfall in December, but when they are covered in sheets of crisp white snow the landscapes look spectacular.
Depending on the level and timing of snowfall, you might find that Japan’s ski resorts are open too, and compared to the packed slopes of North America or Europe, the Japanese ski scene is decidedly quieter.
In the south, it won’t be quite as cold, but you may experience snowfall too. December is a great opportunity to explore the bustling capital, Tokyo, where you can still enjoy all the unique sights and attractions regardless of the weather.
In Kyoto, you can do the same, and you can always slurp down a steaming bowl of Ramen to ward off the cold chill, or warm up with a few glasses of Sake.
Our Top Recommended Japan Tours:
- Iconic Japan with National Geographic Journeys – 12 Days
- Epic Japan with G Adventures – 11 Days
- Discover Japan with G Adventures – 14 Days
On the other end of the spectrum, Australia has some of the best weather in the world in December, and it’s the perfect place to soak up some sun.
It’s one of the best places to visit in December, and while it’s definitely the peak of high season, Australia is such a vast country – an entire continent in itself even and with great cities like Perth, Cairns, Sydney & Queensland – there are many opportunities to get off the beaten track or to find quieter spots.
While the tropical north isn’t the best place to visit due to the heavy rains and potential cyclones, the south and much of the east and west coasts are experiencing their best weather in December.
This is summer, and even on the far south coast, temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius.
If you want to have a hot Christmas in the sun, Australia is the place to do it, and you can cook up a BBQ while you look out over the ocean.
The big cities will always be crowded in December, as will much of the popular east coast, but you can easily escape the crowds by visiting lesser-known parts of the country, such as Tasmania, or the west coast.
Our Top Recommended Australia Tours:
- Brisbane to Cairns Experience with G Adventures – 10 Days
- Best of Australia with G Adventures – 14 Days
- Explore Australia with National Geographic Journeys – 12 Days
In December, Indonesia is experiencing its rainy season, but that doesn’t mean that it’s off bounds, and it’s still very much a destination you can travel to.
Any time of the year, Bali is the country’s most popular tourist destination, and in December you’ll find it’s still heaving with tourists, despite the frequent rainfall.
The rain can be unpredictable though, and you could find you have perfect weather, or more likely, just short bursts of heavy downpours and then sunshine.
But Indonesia isn’t just about Bali, and there are over 17,000 different islands to visit, and in the off-season, the majority are going to be quiet. Consider visiting Sumatra, or exploring Flores and Komodo Island, if you want an adventure.
Our Top Recommended Indonesia Tours:
- Discover Bali & Java with National Geographic Journeys – 15 Days
- Best of Java with G Adventures – 9 Days
- Classic Bali with G Adventures – 8 Days
In December, one of the most popular places to visit – especially for North Americans and Europeans searching for winter sun – is southern Mexico and the Caribbean. But, the prices are extortionate, and beaches and resorts are always packed out.
To the south of Cancun though, you can find the much less visited country of Belize, which is easily one of the best places to visit in December.
English-speaking Belize is often overshadowed by its larger Spanish-speaking neighbors, but the Central American country boasts both Mayan ruins and a spectacular Caribbean coastline.
You can find beautiful resorts in locations like Caye Caulker, that will match anything in Mexico, while snorkeling and diving in Belize is superb in December.
You can even head out to see the Blue Hole, the vast, deep sinkhole that’s found off the coast. You can fly over the Blue Hole in light aircraft or helicopters for a birds-eye view, or you can go underwater to explore its depths on scuba diving expeditions.
Our Top Recommended Belize Tours:
- Mayan Encounter with G Adventures – 12 Days
- Explore Belize with National Geographic Journeys – 9 Days
- Classic Belize & Tikal with G Adventures – 9 Days
One of the best places to visit in December is South America when the continent is washed with sunshine and enjoying the excellent weather, and the festive period.
While popular destinations such as Brazil, Argentina and Peru can be full of tourists during December, under-visited Uruguay offers you the chance to get off the beaten track and to explore an underrated part of the continent.
Although it’s just a short journey from Buenos Aires, the Uruguayan capital Montevideo is much quieter and offers a wonderful culture and an excellent coastline.
Outside the vibrant capital, you can explore Spanish colonial towns, lounge on deserted beaches and get to know this beautiful South American country in December, when the rest of the continent is packed with tourists.
Our Top Recommended Uruguay Tours:
- Wine and Culture of Uraguay – 7 Days
- Montevideo, Capital of Uraguay – 4 Days
- Uraguay Experience (from Buenos Aires) 17 Days
One of the best places to visit in December is Botswana, for the traveler who is looking for a real adventure try bush camping in the remote Okavango Delta. This time of the year is known as the green season due to the life-giving rain showers that begin to start in mid-December.
But this is your chance to embrace the world-famous Toto song, bless the rains down in Africa.
There are huge advantages to visiting Botswana in December. The rains jump-start the foliage that provides great grazing for wildlife, on top of that December is baby season in Botswana.
This means you’ll have a high chance of seeing newborn animals as well as large amounts of migratory birds on your safaris.
December is considered low-season in Botswana so you will enjoy discounted safari prices, fewer visitors and amazing wildlife, well worth the short afternoon showers.
Our Top Recommended Botswana Tours:
- Best of Botswana & Zimbabwe Safari 10 trip with National Geographic Journeys – 10 Days
- Southern Africa Safari Experience 18 day trip with National Geographic Journeys – 18 Days
- Ultimate South Africa Safari 21 day trip with National Geographic Journeys – 21 Days
Need more help planning?
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We are fulltime travelers who have been traveling since 2001. We have visited over a hundred countries across all seven continents.
Our travels have taken us to some of the most popular locations like Italy, Mexico, and Soth Africa to just nave a few locations.
We always make our own travel plans and just imagine what we have learned along the way that can help you plan your trip.
In our plan a trip research section you can find a step-by-step planning guide where we showcase our favorite resources that we use every day, including booking sites that we used to plan our travels.
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- Best Places to Visit in November
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