Unless they’re headed home for the holidays, few American travelers choose December for a vacation. But considering the fact that in many destinations, December is the perfect time to avoid crowds, find temperate weather, and even save on lower prices, we think it’s one of the best times of the year to book a trip! Keep scrolling for the 20 best underrated places to travel in December.
Spend the holiday season skiing in Europe! This may be a popular idea, but while most snow lovers head to countries like Switzerland or Austria, we suggest the underrated country of Andorra, instead. Indeed, this tiny nation situated between Spain and France is the perfect December travel destination. Much of the country is mountainous, and the number of ski resorts are many. For world-class skiing and snowboarding in Andorra, consider the towns and resorts of Coma Pedrosa, Grandvalira, and Vallnord.
This December, find out why <em>Condé Nast</em> recently declared Bahia “Brazil’s Coolest Coast.” While many people see Bahia as little more than a collection of quaint fishing villages, savvy travelers will recognize it for what it really is: a paradise. Bahia’s beaches are sweeping stretches of golden sand, while the local waters are prime for surfing. Indeed, there are so many beautiful beaches in Bahia that most don’t even make the map! For the best that Bahia has to offer, check out the town of Trancoso. This small village oozes 70s-style surf vibes, and offers visitors accommodation options ranging from luxury resorts to simple eco-lodges.
If you’ve ever walked down Barcelona’s La Rambla during the summer months, then you know that this vibrant Spanish city is one of the most popular destinations in all of Europe. If avoiding hoards of tourists (and thereby granting yourself easier access to hard-to-book sites like the Sagrada Familia church) sounds good to you, then consider visiting Barcelona in December. The slightly cooler temperatures at this time of year aren’t likely to take away from all this city has to offer. Be sure to check out the aforementioned church, which was designed by Gaudi and still isn’t complete even after more than 100 years of construction. Parc Guell and the Gothic Quarter are other must-sees, as are the Picasso Museum and the grand Cathedral of Barcelona.
Bariloche is the type of place you might expect to find in Switzerland, not Patagonia. While the actual towns of Switzerland are buried in snow in December, this charming Argentinian mountain town is blooming from spring to summer. Check out Bariloche if you’re interested in the typical experiences one would find in a ski town during the warmer months. Mount Tronador is ideal for hiking to sweeping views. Swimming in the lake is perfect this time of year, as is horseback riding or cycling along mountainside trails. You can even take a boat across the lake to Chile!
Like Andorra, Borovets in Bulgaria is a great underrated place to travel for skiing in December. Borovets has everything one desires in a European ski vacation: idyllic ski chalets, steep mountain slopes, and apres skis held by a roaring fire. But best of all, Borovets is far less crowded and much less expensive than countries like Switzerland, France, and Austria. Indeed, this Bulgarian winter wonderland is an ideal place to experience the European ski vacation of which many can only dream.
The Canary Islands, Spain
Although The Canary Islands are a popular getaway for Brits and other Western Europeans, they’re still relatively unknown among the American crowd. Situated off the coast of Africa, but belonging to Spain, the seven islands which make up the Canaries have a unique culture heavy on the laid-back vibe of the Spanish. Indeed, the islands are the perfect place to relax on a warm beach in December. Each of the Canary islands is known for something different. Those wanting the best of both worlds — that is sand, water, nature, and nightlife — would do well to look at the islands of Tenerife, Gran Canaria, or Fuerteventura.
Cape Town, South Africa
Escape the winter of the Northern Hemisphere by heading to Cape Town in the Southern Hemisphere. Cape Town may not be the typical African safari destination, but this jewel of a city has a plenty of wildlife to offer. Most notably, Boulder Beach’s population of adorable jackass penguins! If you’re up for something a little more extreme, make the short journey to nearby Gaansbai, where you can dive with Great White sharks. In need of something a little tamer? Hike to the top of picturesque Table Mountain, or join a tour of the local wine country.
Djibouti! No, it’s not a schoolyard joke, but an amazing travel destination! Situated in Africa between Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia, Djibouti has become one of the trendiest go-to places in recent years thanks to its welcoming culture, stable political environment, and myriad environments suitable for all kinds of adventures. December happens to be the best time of year for a trip to Djibouti, as beaches are warm enough for a lazy day of sunbathing and the coral reefs are perfectly clear for diving. But best of all, the end of December and early part of January is the time of year when the whale sharks find themselves just off Djibouti’s coast, and when people in search of an awesome experience come to swim with them.
The relatively mild weather in January makes Dubai an ideal destination for winter travelers. The weather remains warm enough to spend time on the golden beaches or at swanky amusement parks such as Atlantis. Spend more time outdoors and go shopping at a traditional souk or join a desert safari. Should the temperature climb a little higher than comfortable, cool down with a trip to the Underwater Zoo.
With an average December high of 71 degrees Fahrenheit, the Mediterranean city of Grenada is the perfect place to warm up in the sun. Grenada oozes with charm, and makes for a nice place to wander at your leisure. However, don’t leave town without visiting the stunning Alhambra, the majestic Moorish palace dating back to 889 — just be sure to book your tickets as far in advance as possible, even for December.
No matter the time of year, London is a great travel destination! The British capital is at once historic and modern, and otherworldly, yet remarkably down to earth. Escape the colder December weather by hopping to and from the city’s many museums (the British Museum, the National Gallery, and the Natural History Museum are just a few of the highlights) by day. Then take in a show in the evening.
If escaping the cold is your motivation for December travel, then look no further than the Malvides. This stunning group of islands located in the Indian Ocean is well-known for its postcard-perfect bungalows, clear blue water, and pristine beaches. It’s also a scuba diver’s paradise thanks to its rich coral reefs. If diving isn’t for you, book a spot on a submarine ride or island-hopping cruise, and don’t leave the islands without at least one meal at the Ithaa underwater aquarium restaurant.
The Mediterranean island of Malta has lots to offer the December traveler. Consisting of two islands — Malta and Gozo — this tiny island nation is characterized by its unique archaeological sites. People have been living here for more than 3,000 years. There are stunning beaches and bays (though the water is a bit chilly during the winter), and loads of culture. Spend some time wandering through the historic city of Valletta, cruising the secluded bays, or touring archaeological sites such as the impressive Hypogeum.
There’s a reason so many snowbirds head to Florida in the cold winter months — it’s absolutely beautiful! December in Miami happens to be especially pleasant, with most of Florida’s characteristic humidity completely nonexistent. This makes it an ideal time to enjoy Miami’s outdoor attractions, including Zoo Miami, Jungle Island, and the stylish Lincoln Road. Of course, there are also some of the most pristine beaches in the world to enjoy.
If the idea is to find warmth in the Southern Hemisphere come December, then Namibia may just be the perfect destination. Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, both located on the west coast, boast traditional beach town features — though be aware that the water here isn’t quite as swimmer-friendly as that of neighbor South Africa. Still, if the idea of peering out at the ocean from atop a golden sand dune sounds exciting, then Swakop is worth a few days at the very least. Namibia is also one of Africa’s best safari destinations. Etosha National Park is far less crowded than some of Africa’s more famous parks, practically ensuring sightings of Namibia’s most elusive wildlife. To get around this vast country easily, consider joining a trip with Wild Dog Safaris, a top-rated company offering a variety of tours throughout Namibia.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague may be wonderful during the summer, but it’s downright magical during the winter. If you visit Prague during the month of December, be sure to bring a good coat, as the city will likely be covered in snow and ice. Such weather only makes the sights more appealing, though. Be sure to cross the famous Saint James Bridge and tour the castle, the latter of which yields stunning views in the crisp, clear winter air.
Rajasthan, India’s largest state, is absolutely splendid in December. Located in the northwestern part of the country, Rajasthan is home to colorful cities like Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Udaipur, all of which are worth some time exploring. When you’re done exploring the cities, escape the crowds by heading to the “lost city” of Bhangarh or taking a desert safari on camelback. If exploring such a large region seems overwhelming, consider joining an organized tour of the region, such as the one offered by Natural World Safaris during which you can track leopards.
San Diego, California
San Diego’s mild winter weather makes it an ideal destination for December travel. Though the water itself may be a tad chilly this time of year, the beaches in San Diego are never empty (and plenty of brave souls simply don wetsuits before diving in!). Otherwise, use your visit to enjoy all that San Diego and its surroundings have to offer. The list of attractions is a massive one, and includes the world famous San Diego Zoo and its corresponding Safari Park, LegoLand, SeaWorld, and downtown San Diego.
With its historic Old Town, impressive collection of medieval buildings, and charming cobblestone streets, the city of Tallinn, Estonia is absolutely stunning. Add some snow-covered rooftops, and Tallinn becomes postcard perfect. Conveniently, Tallinn’s best attractions are all in or around the aforementioned Old Town, so getting around is extremely convenient. Just be sure to bring your best jacket, as Estonia can get quite cold and windy in December.
Vienna is famous for its Christmas markets in December. In fact, Vienna’s markets may just be the most famous in Europe, making the Austrian capital a great option for your December travels. When you’re not strolling through the market stalls, check out sites such as the Schönbrunn Palace, the iconic giant wheel at Prater park, or the Lipizzaner horses at the Spanish Riding School. December is also an excellent time to take in an opera performance at the Vienna State Opera.