Blog | Western Union

The 10 Best Places to Travel in December

If you’ve got unused vacation days burning a hole in your pocket, the last month of the year is a great time to jet off somewhere exotic or exciting. Whether you’re looking to hit the slopes, lay on the beach, or do some special Christmas shopping, our December travel destinations have you covered.

European winter wonderlands

Innsbruck, Austria


December means ski season is in full swing in this Austrian resort town that hosted both the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics. Nestled between the peaks of the Nordkette mountain range, the region boasts world-class terrain. You don’t have to be an expert skier or snowboarder to make the most of the trip, though: Innsbruck also boasts plenty of museums, sightseeing opportunities, and a lively Christmas market.

Perfect for: Skiers, snowboarders and fans of European charm
Average December weather: 25-39 degrees, 10 days of precipitation

What to do:
• Take a walk through the Christkindlmarkt, a Christmas Fair full of dazzling lights, Christmas trees and vendors
• Hit the slopes at one of the area’s eight ski resorts
• Ride the Funicular tram up to the peak of Hungerburg, stopping to check out animals at the Alpine Zoo along the way
• Observe the beautiful baroque artwork and architecture that make up St. James’ Cathedral in Old Town
• Visit the Tyrolean Folk Art Museum for an up-close look at the life and culture of the locals through history

Brussels, Belgium


As the seat of the European Union’s parliament, Brussels offers an exciting mix of cultures. Its central location and ample transportation options also make it a great jumping-off point for any European vacation. Every December, Brussels transforms into a brightly-lit wonderland, as the Grand Place plays host to one of the world’s greatest Christmas Markets.

Perfect for: Celebrating the holiday season in style
Average December Weather: 35-43 degrees, 5 days of precipitation

What to do:
• Browse the over 200 vendor stalls in the Christmas market at Grand Place, which also features a splendid Christmas tree and light show, ice skating, and more
• Have dinner at the top of Atomium, a scientifically stylized structure of tubes and spheres that offers sweeping city views
• Take a chocolate-making class at the Belgian Chocolate Village to taste some of finest exportsfrom the “chocolate capital of the world,” or learn about Belgium’s rich beer culture at the Museum of Belgian Brewers if that’s more your style
• Finish up your holiday shopping at Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, an upscale, his toric shopping arcade complete with cafes, retailers, and of course, chocolatiers
• Learn about European arms and armaments from the Middle Ages to the present at the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History

Barcelona, Spain


Barcelona’s location along the coast means temperatures rarely dip below 40 degrees. And the smaller offseason crowds give December travelers more time to see world-class art and architecture without sacrificing an afternoon siesta.

Perfect for: Perusing world-famous art and architecture without the peak-season stress
Average December Weather: 41-50 degrees, 5 days of rainfall

What to do:
• Bask in awe of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, a massive, intricately-designed cathedral that’s been under construction since 1882
• Watch a soccer match at Camp Nou, one of the largest and most historic stadiums of its kind in Europe
• Sit outside and admire the artwork of Barcelona’s own Antoni Gaudi at Park Guell
• Tour the Palau de la Musica Orfeo Catala, one of the world’s famous music houses and take in a concert
• See the early works of a legend at the Museu Picasso, which highlights the formative years the artist spent in Barcelona

Warm ways to evade winter’s chill

Belize


Known for its biodiversity and natural splendor, Belize is a little slice of central American paradisealongside the Gulf of Mexico. The weather starts to get drier around Christmastime, making it the perfect place to spend the holidays if you’re looking to trade in your snow boots for a swimsuit.

Perfect for: Deep sea divers, beach bums and nature lovers
Average December weather: 70-81 degrees, 12 days of rainfall

What to do:
• Go scuba diving around the world’s second largest coral reef and its unique topographical
features like “The Great Blue Hole”
• Investigate Mayan ruins at Xunantunich
• Learn about Belize’s history from Mayan times through the present at the Museum of Belize, located inside a refurbished 19th century prison in Belize City
• Take a water taxi out to Caye Caulker, the perfect place to snorkel in clear, turquoise water or lay out on smooth, white sand
• See the animals of the jungle up close as you walk the nature paths of the Belize Zoo, home to howler monkeys, jaguars, and tropical parrots

Dakar, Senegal


Situated on Senegal’s Cap-Vert peninsula, Africa’s westernmost major city is frequently described as a vibrant hub of activity. Known for the bright colors, lively music and rich smells of its marketplaces, Dakar is a delight for the senses. December’s warm, dry weather make it a perfect time to experience this underrated center of African culture.

Perfect for: Experiencing a vivid cultural capital of Western Africa
Average December weather: 69-81 degrees, 1 day of rainfall

What to do:
• Take a ferry to Ile de Gorée to visit La Maison Des Esclaves, an important, educational monument to the African slave trade
• Walk through the Village des Arts to see the resident artists at work and purchase some of their crafts
• Head out to Lake Retba, a buoyant body of water similar to the dead sea that gives off a radiant pinkish hue at sunset
• Visit the Cathedrale du Souvenir African de Dakar, a beautiful blend of French colonial and native African architecture
• Practice your bartering skills at the bustling Sandaga market

San José, Costa Rica


Costa Rica’s capital provides easy access to unique outdoor attracions. December marks the true end of the rainy season, making it the perfect time to check out this fast-growing center of tourism.

Perfect for: Seeing what Central America has to offer beyond the beach Average December weather: 65-82 degrees, 8 days of rainfall

What to do:
• Hear an orchestra performance at the magnificent architecture of the Teatro Nacional Costa
Rica, built in 1897
• Get out of the city center to explore the mountains and waterfalls of the Orosi River Valley
• Go on a day trip to the Arenal Volcano and take a relaxing dip in the area’s hot springs
• Learn about the role of jade in pre-Columbian Costa Rica by browsing the sizable collection of pottery and other artifacts at the Jade Museum
• Tour a coffee plantation to learn more about how this popular Costa Rican export product goes from bean to your barista

Awesome Asia-Pacific destinations

Chiang Mai, Thailand


Located where the mountains meet the Ping River about 700 kilometers north of Bangkok, Chiang Mai’s cool, dry December weather makes it an ideal time to explore this underrated corner of Southeast Asia.

Perfect for: Budget-conscious outdoor adventurers
Average December weather: 59-83 degrees, 1 day of average rainfall

What to do:
• Visit Elephant Nature Park to interact with Thailand’s favorite animal up-close
• See Buddhist temples like the Wat Chedi Luang, which has stood at the center of Chiang Mai since the 14th century
• Haggle with the vendors peddling their handmade wares at the night bazaar
• Take a day trip to Doi Inthanon, a national park that features Thailand’s tallest peak, pagodas, and sweeping views of the valley below
• Go for a swim at Huay Tung Tao, a picturesque lake just 10 km outside the center of town

Hong Kong


With its reputation as a global financial hub, Hong Kong might seem like the spot for busines trip rather than a true vacation. As it turns out, this autonomous Chinese territory features plenty of natural splendor, awe-inspiring Buddhist shrines, and excitement. Mild, dry winters make December an ideal time to visit.

Perfect for: Exploring a truly global city with a far eastern feel
Average December Weather: 60-68 degrees, 5 days of rainfall

What to do:
• Ride a tram up to the top of Victoria Peak for a glorious view of the skyline and harbor, or work your way up on foot to really earn that beautiful sunset photo
• Watch horseracing at Happy Valley Racecourse and learn about the track’s storied history at the Hong Kong Jockey Club Archive and Museum
• Take a relaxing stroll through Nan Lian Garden, a lush, peaceful, oasis that feels worlds away from the commotion of Hong Kong city life
• Travel to Lantau Island, home to the giant Tian Tan Buddha statue that was once the largest of its kind in the world
• Enjoy the rides and attractions that make up Ocean Park, an aquatically-themed amusement park

Queenstown, New Zealand


If you’ve got an itch for outdoor adventure that’ll get your heart pounding, there’s a good chance it’s waiting for you in Queenstown. The area draws attention for its skiing during the northern hemisphere’s summer months, but December’s warmer weather and its prime lakeside setting make it easy to discover New Zealand’s scenic splendor by land, sea or air.

Perfect for: Adrenaline junkies searching for lots of outdoor excitement in one place
Average December Weather: 47-67 degrees, 9 days of rainfall

What to do:
• Hike up Queenstown Hill for unparalleled views of Lake Wakatipu and the moutains beyond
• Climb hills, swim through lakes, and jump down waterfalls on an adventurous canyoning trip in the countryside
• Kayak through the waterways around Queenstown, or hop on a jet boat for some high-speed
cruising
• Survey New Zealand’s beautiful terrain via ATV
• Unwind after a long day by sampling the finest that New Zealand’s vineyards have to offer during a tasting at The Winery

Sydney, Australia


If you want to celebrate Christmas on the beach, Sydney is your spot. Expats, travelers, and locals alike congregate at Sydney’s Bondi Beach to celebrate the holiday together with barbecues and “Snowmen” made of sand.

Perfect for: Celebrating summer in December in one of the world’s most picturesque cities
Average December Weather: 64-79 degrees, 14 days of rain

What to do:
• Climb to the top of the Harbour Bridge for breathtaking views of the surrounding area
• Cruise one of the world’s most famous harbors by boat for a unique way to see the city and its famous landmarks
• Build a “snowman” out of sand at Bodni beach, or take a sunset stroll along the coastal walking path that connects it to Coogee Beach
• Visit the Rocks, one of Sydney’s oldest neighborhoods, full of pubs, art galleries, and a popular weekly market
• See Sydney’s one-of-a-kind Opera House up close, and then walk along the path to the Royal
Botanic Gardens