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
Best December holiday for: The whole family
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. Germany’s Christmas markets
Best December holiday for: Fun festive cheer
It wouldn’t be Christmas without a pretty festive market or two! A few 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 – so which Christkindlesmarkt to choose?
On our Fabulous Festive Cruise, you’ll visit all of Germany’s best Christmas markets! Over 5 spectacular days in December 2018, you’ll visit the markets in Cologne, Bonn, Koblenz, Rüdesheim and Mainz – with plenty of gluhwein along the way. On board the cosy MS Serenity river cruise ship, you’ll also enjoy wine tasting workshops, gala dinners, and a festive baking masterclass with Great British Bake Off winner Jo Wheatley. All for just £695! See the details
3. Palawan, Philippines
Best December holiday for: Getting away from it all
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.
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.
4. A stately home staycation, UK
Best December holiday for: A quick pick-me-up
December 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.
Why save mini breaks for summer? Winter staycations are the perfect pick-me-up when the weather is getting you down.
5. Cancun, Mexico
Best December holiday for: Budget-friendly beach break
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.
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.
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6. St Lucia
Best December holiday for: Utter relaxation
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).
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.
7. St Petersburg, Russia
Best December holiday for: A city break with a difference
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.
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.
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8. New Zealand
Best December holiday for: Southern hemisphere sunshine
Where to holiday in December if you’re looking for adventure? In New Zealand, uncrowded beaches and unforgettable wildlife encounters await intrepid road trippers…
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).