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Where to go on holiday in December

By the time it rolls around to December, the weather here in the UK has grown bitterly cold, wet and windy – with a shortage of daylight hours it can feel pretty dismal – this makes it the ideal time to hotfoot it somewhere warm to relax, or explore the landscapes and culture of far-flung places.

Soak up the warmth and celebrate New Year in the shopping mecca of Dubai. Immerse yourself in castaway island luxury and feel your troubles melt away in the Maldives. Or travel to Brazil and bask in the sunshine on iconic Copacabana beach.

With festivities taking place all around the world, December is a great time to travel somewhere entirely different to celebrate Christmas and ring in the New Year. Embrace the wintry, festive magic of New York. Enjoy the laidback pace and stunning beaches in Goa. Or head to the Mother City of Cape Town for an enticing mix of beach life, idyllic scenery and culture.

Here’s some inspiration, courtesy of our well-travelled Destination Specialists, who have provided their suggestions on where to visit in December for the best weather, festivals and events.

Goa Beach

Best holiday destinations in December

Cape Town

With its temperate climate and host of perennial activities, South Africa is considered a year-round destination. However, when it comes to South African holidays in December, we especially recommend heading to Cape Town. December marks the beginning of summer season here – you can expect high temperatures to hit a very pleasant 25°C in the daytime, with an average of 20°C and little precipitation – making it a strong choice for winter sun. Not only is Cape Town convenient, due to a minimal time difference (GMT+2) to the UK, but add to that its natural beauty – Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Table Mountain and the beaches of Clifton and Camps Bay – rich history, eclectic culture and world-class restaurants and it’s not hard to see the Mother City’s appeal. As you might expect, Cape Town does Christmas in style. Whether you go Christmas shopping at the popular V&A Waterfront complex, experience festive markets or witness the stunning Adderley Street illuminations, with a host of yuletide events city-wide, you can’t avoid getting into the spirit.

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The Philippines

December’s slightly cooler temperatures – from the mid-20s to the low 30s – make for a great time to travel to the Philippines. As the dry season gets underway (between November and April), rain and humidity levels fall, meaning that you’ll be able to travel around even the most remote parts of this country and its idyllic islands with no restriction. A holiday in December means that you’ll still enjoy the lush vegetation and sunny weather and, with such pleasant temperatures, it’s the perfect time to explore; go hiking in Bohol’s Chocolate Hills; or discover the flawless unspoilt beaches, vibrant coral reefs and underground rivers of Palawan. A number of key festivals happen in December, namely the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in Manila; Pagdiwata, a tribal thanksgiving on Palawan to celebrate a bountiful harvest or hunting season; and Christmas, which is celebrated from mid-December until ‘Three Kings Day’ in early January.

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The Maldives

Sitting off the southwest coast of Sri Lanka and India, the Maldives has a tropical climate and warm weather all year round. However, rainfall is something that fluctuates here and, being the beginning of the dry season, December is an ideal time to head out to enjoy delicious relaxation in a barefoot luxury paradise. Picture yourself trading dismal rainy days in the UK for the contrast of stilted overwater bungalows with hammocks and private plunge pools suspended above astonishingly clear turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. Rainfall is very much concentrated on the first half of the month, and humidity and winds also decrease, making the end of December the ultimate time to experience tropical weather while celebrating Christmas and ringing in a new year in style. By day, you’ll relax on pristine white sand beaches; snorkel in warm aquamarine lagoons, rich with exotic marine life; and unwind with rejuvenating spa treatments. Evenings remain beautifully warm, allowing you to sit out and enjoy glorious sunsets with a chilled cocktail in hand.

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Bagan

Myanmar

The best time to travel to Myanmar is during the dry season – between October and May. In particular, December’s drier conditions paired with relatively cool temperatures – average highs of 31°C – mean that even the most isolated regions of the country remain accessible and the stunning white sand beaches are open. With monsoon season over and cooler temperatures you’ll discover this fascinating Far Eastern country; take a step back in time, as you gaze at the stilted houses of Inle Lake’s floating villages; sail serenely over the stunning Bagan landscape by hot air balloon; explore ancient Buddhist temples, pagodas and ruins in Yangon; and monasteries, markets and tea houses in Mandalay – the exotic and bustling former royal capital. In addition, numerous cultural events and religious festivals occur in December, from traditional celebrations to welcome the New Year to Buddhist rituals to honour ancient gods. However, the desirable climate in December heralds the start of the high season in Myanmar – so be prepared to see other travellers during your journey.

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Dubai

Thanks to its Persian Gulf location, Dubai has consistently hot weather all year round, however, in December you’ll find sun and clear blue skies without the intensely scorching temperatures we tend to associate with the Middle East. In fact, December is one of Dubai’s cooler months – with bright days, average highs of 26°C, sea temperatures of 25°C and pleasant warmth in the evenings – it’s the perfect time to enjoy some winter sunshine while also being able to explore everything Dubai has to offer. With Christmas preparations well underway, Dubai grows all the more glitzy in December – think streets spectacularly festooned with lights and lavish crystal-encrusted Christmas trees. Shopping is always a big deal here – visit one of the epic malls to take advantage of the designer sales and treat yourself to something indulgent at the same time. In December, Dubai also sees the electric atmosphere of the Rugby Sevens, the Dubai International Film Festival and huge New Year’s Eve celebrations – an extravaganza, from opulent parties to breath-taking fireworks at Burj Khalifa.

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Goa Beach

Goa

Goa has tropical weather with high temperatures all year round. Beginning at 27.5°C – and with average highs of 33ºC – December is perfect for a winter break. At 28ºC the sea is fantastic for swimming, you can expect ten hours of sunshine each day and temperatures only drop to 22°C after dark so it’s pleasantly balmy in the evening. Goa’s dry season falls between October and May, so a December retreat will enable you to avoid the rain while refreshing sea breezes keep you cool – another reason why this is a great time to visit. Positioned on the west coast of India, Goa is utterly beautiful with some of the most gorgeous beaches in India; the pleasant climate makes for lots of lush greenery; and a very chilled out atmosphere making it synonymous with fun and relaxation. Being a traditionally Christian state – with many ancient churches in Old Goa – Christmas is marked with merriment, as people from all walks of life join together to celebrate the festival. Christmas here is celebrated in typical laidback Goan-style: palm trees are strung with tinsel and fairy lights and fireworks light up the night sky. As New Year's Eve celebrations roll around, the happy atmosphere continues – sit back on the beach and watch the sunrise.

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New York City

New York’s east coast location gives way to pretty chilly temperatures in December – average highs of 6ºC, dropping to -1ºC at night – but this isn’t a problem if you pack appropriately for your trip: the city can be absolutely enchanting, with snow on the ground only elevating the Christmassy atmosphere. Few would argue that New York is an exciting city, all year round, but December is possibly one of the best months for a visit here. The city that never sleeps is hard to beat for the scale of its Christmas festivities. Grab a bag of hot chestnuts from a street vendor before absorbing the spectacular window displays along Fifth Avenue, perusing Christmas markets and epic department stores, colossal illuminated Christmas trees and twinkling lights. Broadway and the theatre district are awash with entertainment for the holidays; indulge in dining options, from heartily comforting diner dishes to world-class haute cuisine; or head for the ice rinks in Central Park or at the Rockefeller Centre to experience skating in movie-familiar locations. The buzz of anticipation is tangible, and it doesn’t end after a very merry Christmas: be prepared for the excitement of New York’s New Year’s Eve celebrations when you'll witness the legendary countdown and see the ball drop in Times Square.

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Phuket

Thailand experiences a lot of climatic variation but the best time to travel here is during the cooler dry season, which generally falls between November and the beginning of April. December is an ideal month to visit Thailand: the monsoon rains end in October so you’ll benefit from settled conditions, gloriously warm temperatures – averaging 31°C, with eight hours of sunshine a day – and sunny skies: the perfect antidote to the grey weather we have in the UK. With a tropical climate in Phuket in December, spend days basking on powder-soft sands on idyllic paradise beaches, gazing out over vivid turquoise waters punctuated by towering limestone pillars. In spite of its appeal, and the throngs of people who travel out this way, Phuket still has some unspoilt little gems – because humidity levels in December tend to be lower, it's a good time for sight-seeing and exploring. Come New Year’s Eve, Surin Beach transforms into the ultimate laidback party spot, with fireworks, barbecues, live entertainment and more.

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Florida

December is one of the best months to visit Florida – with dry weather and a subtropical climate, the state enjoys generous helpings of sunshine and the sea is a very pleasant 25°C. While there’s never a shortage of things to see and do, Florida truly comes into its own in December as the festive season and New Year's Eve are enthusiastically celebrated here. The Orlando theme parks go to great lengths to recreate a traditional snowy winter which adds to the excitement and anticipation of the season: what could be more magical than a holiday at Disneyland – you'll make precious family memories to last a lifetime. Alternatively, Florida's coastal areas offer a different type of holiday; make your way to Miami and the photogenic Art Deco aesthetic of South Beach for stylish bars, sophisticated restaurants, designer shopping and mingling with the beautiful people on expansive beaches.

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Rio de Janeiro

December is one of the best times to visit Rio de Janeiro. The weather is warm and sunny with an average temperature of 25°C, and highs of 29°C dipping to a balmy 22°C after nightfall when the city's compelling samba beats kick in. Hit one of Rio’s famous beaches for some serious relaxation and sun worship; or head to Morro du Urca for awesome panoramic views of Christ the Redeemer, Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, downtown Rio, Guanabara Bay and Sugar Loaf Mountain. As well as its fabulous beaches, Rio is probably best known for holding parties on an epic scale. Another great reason to make your way here in December is New Year's Eve’s Rio Reveillon celebrations, where much of the city dresses in white and gathers on four kilometre Copacabana beach to watch live music and a spectacular midnight firework display over the sea before partying until sunrise.

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