Whether you’re looking for winter sun, weekend breaks or a snow-covered Christmas wonderland, here’s where to holiday in December…
1. Lapland, Finland
For 11 months of the year, Mr and Mrs Claus live a quiet life in their Finnish Lapland home – deep in the countryside, with only elves and reindeer for company. But in December, Lapland becomes the world’s hottest ticket: commercial and pricey, yes, but magical nonetheless.
For minimal crowds and an authentic Finnish experience, book with a trusted tour operator (this is not the time to scrimp). Aside from visiting the Big Man in his workshop, you can try reindeer safaris, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and husky sledding – and maybe even spot the Northern Lights if you’re lucky. Be warned: most Lapland trips are fully booked by the end of October.
2. A stately home staycation, UK
doesn’t feel so drab when you’re cuddled next to a roaring fire, with
afternoon tea on tap. Enter the winter staycation: a retreat to your
closest fancy hotel, where you can sip wine in the bathtub and go for
long country walks, without a thought about washing up, Christmas
shopping or the heating bills.
Dalhousie Castle, where you can see out December in style (Alamy)
Give your winter-weary body a big dose of sun, sand and cloudless skies in Cancun, which couldn’t feel further from drizzly Britain at this time of year. On the Yucatán Peninsula coast, this Mexican holiday hotspot has hotels aplenty (from chic boutiques to huge family-friendly resorts) – and a fine stretch of sun-drenched beaches.
Now these are the winter blues we like… (Alamy)
Spend your days horizontal under a palm tree, chasing tropical fish on snorkelling trips, or tucking in to beach BBQs on jaunts to the neighbouring islands. There are even Mayan ruins to discover: the ancient city of Coba, whose imposing Great Pyramid boasts fabulous rainforest views.
4. St Lucia
This beautiful Caribbean island excels in chocolate, rum, and paradise beaches: just the tonic you need in dreary December. But the most refreshing aspect of all? “Island time” – the locals’ relaxed, laid-back attitude to life (it’s the ultimate antidote to pre-Christmas stress).
Luscious St Lucia (Alamy)
Take a tour of the rum and cocoa plantations (this is the home of Hotel Chocolat), catch the Caribbean breeze on windsurfing and sailing trips, or blow off steam at Rainforest Adventures – with zip lines and canopy walks set deep in the rainforest.
5. Germany’s Christmas markets
Where to holiday in December if you’ve only got a weekend to spare? Two days of bratwurst, mulled wine and gingerbread will cure those winter woes. Europe has Christmas markets aplenty, but Germany’s are the original and best – but which Christkindlesmarkt to choose?
Cologne’s Christmas Market (Alamy)
Berlin has the widest selection (over 60 markets all over the city at last count!), whereas Nuremberg is traditional and charming (mass-produced goods are banned). Cologne Christmas Market is overlooked by the city’s splendid cathedral, whereas Stuttgart’s is one of Germany’s oldest.
6. St Petersburg, Russia
When the mercury plummets, St Petersburg comes alive. The winter months are bitterly cold but captivating – and oddly glamorous, as the city dons its furs for the season.
The aptly-named Winter Palace, St Petersburg (Alamy)
Seek shelter in the State Rooms of the Winter Palace – one of the best bits of a trip to the Hermitage Museum (which is positively stuffed with world-famous artworks) – then visit the unique brightly coloured domes of the Church on Spilled Blood. This really is a weekend break with a difference.
7. Palawan, Philippines
If you’re anything like us, your winter daydreams likely involve palm-fringed beaches with sugar-soft sand, lapped by seawater the colour of a swimming pool. Sounds like heaven? Then you’ll love Palawan, a gorgeous cluster of islands where those kinds of views are ten-a-penny.
Be warned: you’ll never want to leave Palawan (Alamy)
The Philippines hasn’t quite hit the holiday hotlist yet, so you’ll have your paradise beach almost entirely to yourself. The food is divine (think fresh tuna and coconut curries), the people are lovely, the prices are cheap, and with barely any light pollution the stargazing is magnificent.
8. New Zealand
Where to holiday in December if you’re looking for adventure? In New Zealand, uncrowded beaches and unforgettable wildlife encounters await intrepid road trippers…
New Zealand: not your average road-side views (Alamy)
The best way to explore NZ is by renting a campervan, leaving you free to explore as you please. On December holidays you can spy dolphins off the coast of Kaikoura, sip award-winning wines in sun-drenched vineyards, and hike incredible trails (the Tongariro Crossing, on the South Island, is one of the world’s most spectacular day walks).