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Where to go in December 2019 | Insight Guides Blog

Where to go in December 2019

Dreaming of getting away in December? There's still time to book a trip and our recommendations can help you plan the perfect escape. From nature tours and outdoor adventure in Costa Rica, to island-hopping in Indonesia and Germany’s Christmas markets, here is our look at where to go in December.
Koutoubia Mosque, Marrakech, Morocco. Photo: Nicram Sabod/Shutterstock
Koutoubia Mosque, Marrakech, Morocco. Photo: Nicram Sabod/Shutterstock

The end of the year is fast approaching and December is a wonderful month to take a trip away. Whether you're looking to avoid winter weather in the northern hemisphere or track down the season's best wildlife watching opportunities, here are our selections for where to go in December. 

1. Mexico

December is dry season in Mexico City, making it a great time to visit the vibrant capital. World-class museums, wonderful restaurants, sprawling markets and grand plazas await. Highlights include stunning Aztec archaeological artefacts in the Templo Mayor Museum, the astonishing Diego Rivera murals in the monumental National Palace, and the magnificent interior of the imposing Catedral Metropolitana. Christmas in Mexico is celebrated on Noche Buena, the night of 24 December, with a big dinner and mass the following morning. 

Temperatures in the sunny Yucatán Peninsula are ideal in December, hovering at around 30°C. Enjoy palm-fringed, white-sand beaches, and sparkling seas in Riviera Maya resorts such as Playa del Carmen, where snorkeling and reef diving opportunities are plentiful. The region also offers unmissable Maya ruin sites at Tulum, Palenque and Chichén Itzá. 

Complement a visit to the capital with rejuvenating Caribbean sunshine as part of Insight Guides’ Mexico City to the Yucatán trip.

Caribbean beach in Tulum, Mexico. Photo: BlueOrange Studio/Shutterstock

2. Costa Rica

As the dry season kicks in, December is a wonderful month to appreciate Costa Rica’s incredible biodiversity. With habitats from virgin rainforest to unspoiled beaches and active volcanoes, the country’s natural beauty is breathtaking. Abundant wildlife and numerous adventure activity opportunities have helped make Costa Rica the biggest travel destination in Central America. 

You can spot caimans, iguanas and monkeys in Tortuguero National Park as you kayak through its maze of narrow waterways. Hike past lava flows on slopes in Arenal Volcano National Park, and relax on white-sand beaches backed by verdant jungle terrain in Manuel Antonio National Park. Experience all this and more on Insight Guides tropical Costa Rica trip.

Sunrise at Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica. Photo: Antonio Fernandez Dieguez/Shutterstock

3. Colombia

The South American country of Colombia is a must-visit travel destination that is home to welcoming people and an incredibly diverse range of environments. From the fascinating metropolis of Bogotá with culture to spare, to the Amazon’s tropical rainforest, the arid coastal deserts of the Guajira, and the mighty ramparts of Cartagena’s walled city on the Caribbean Coast, there’s something for everyone.  

The rainy season has ended as December arrives, so it’s a perfect time to visit. Discover well-preserved, historic neighborhoods, grand plazas and fascinating museums in the cosmopolitan capital, Bogotá. Explore cobbled lanes lined with whitewashed buildings in colonial towns nestled amid verdant mountains, and experience Caribbean culture in the dominant fortress city of Cartagena with its Old Town narrow streets, colorful balconies and restaurants overlooking charming squares. Take in the best of the country on Insight Guides’ Colombia Express trip.

St Peter Claver church, Cartagena, Colombia. Photo: emperorcosar/Shutterstock

4. Morocco

The beautiful and enigmatic country of Morocco is an ideal destination for a December escape. Temperatures are mild and there are a lot less visitors to the country, especially in the more popular areas. Morocco is known for its relaxing beaches and soaring mountains, but this time of year is best for experiencing its vibrant cities. 

One of the oldest settlements, Fez is the nation’s former capital and home to one of the largest mosques outside of Mecca. The city’s melting pot of cultures, with significant Arab and Berber communities bolstered by Spanish and Tunisian immigrants, is mirrored by the eclectic resident population of Marrakech. One of Morocco’s four imperial cities, Marrakech is nestled in the shadow of the Atlas Mountains range, and best-known for its bustling medina (old city) and iconic 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque, with its towering single minaret. 

Discover the delights of Fez and Marrakech in style, as part of Insight Guides’ Luxury Morocco trip.

Bab Bou Jeloud blue gate, Fez, Morocco. Photo: Boris Stroujko/Shutterstock

5. Germany

The smell of glühwein wafts around stalls selling lebkuchen (gingerbread) and Christmas decorations, while carol singers make a festive chorus. Christmas markets are one of the highlights of the year in Germany and a wonderful reason to visit cities around the country throughout December.

The Christkindlmarkt has its roots in the Reformation, when Catholic saints’ days were abolished and children were left without presents on 6 December, St Nicholas’ Day. To compensate, it was said that the Christkind (Christ Child) brought gifts on the night of his birth. The markets sprang up to meet the demand for gifts, becoming a popular tradition. The most famous Christkindlmarkt is the one at Nuremberg (29 Nov–24 Dec, 2019) with a local schoolchild appearing as the market’s namesake.

Other famous Christmas market destinations include Berlin, with no fewer than fifty markets each year in neighborhoods across the city. One of the best is the Weihnachtszauber (25 Nov–31 Dec, 2019) offering gourmet goodies and handmade gifts at the Gendarmenmarkt.

Munich’s main Christmas market (27 Nov–24 Dec, 2019) is held in the Marienplatz. The imposing Gothic town hall building embosses itself onto the night sky and a 30-meter high Christmas tree towers over hundreds of stalls selling plenty of Bavarian produce and treats.

The largest Christmas market in Germany, the Weihnachtsmarkt is set in the shadow of breathtaking Cologne cathedral (25 Nov–23 Dec, 2019). Hundreds of brightly lit red tents and pathways criss-crossed with festoon lighting cluster round a huge Christmas tree. Local delicacies from mulled wine to hog roasts are the speciality at this most traditional of markets.

Our local expert, Justin, can plan fascinating Christmas trips in Germany for you. Simply get in touch to tell him your ideas for the trip and when you would like to travel and he will then create a personalized itinerary especially.

Christmas Market in Munich, Germany. Photo: Rudy Balasko/Shutterstock

6. Oman

One of the best times to visit Oman is in December – the coolest month in Muscat, when nights are pleasant and daytime temperatures rarely reach higher than 30°C. A trip to Oman offers a fascinating view of Arabia’s traditional past and a glimpse of its dynamic urban future. The low-key capital Muscat is a modern metropolis with a pleasantly relaxed atmosphere, but still has many reminders of its long and cosmopolitan history. Highlights include the labyrinthine Mutrah Souk, laced with the fragrance of frankincense and sandalwood, and the magnificent Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the Gulf, constructed in minimalist modern Islamic style.

Hundreds of venerable old forts, watchtowers and traditional mudbrick villages are scattered across the country, but much of Oman’s appeal is entirely natural. Beautiful and diverse natural landscapes range from the unforgettably dramatic Hajar Mountains through to vast swathes of uninhabited desert and unspoiled beaches frequented by nesting turtles, with dolphins splashing in the waters offshore. 

Experience the country’s culture and incredible landscapes as part of Insight Guides’ Discovering Oman: from Muscat to Salalah trip

Abandoned Birkat Al-Mawz village, Hajar Mountains, Oman. Photo: Rudolf Tepfenhart/Shutterstock

7. Thailand

The cool season starts in December making it a great time to visit this effervescent nation. One of the most dynamic cities in Southeast Asia, Bangkok is a must-see on your trip. The capital demonstrates Thailand's ability to blend the traditional with the contemporary more than any other place in the country. A modern Asian metropolis with an array of chic dining and nightlife options, Bangkok also offers historic charms like ornate Buddhist temples, serpentine canals and vibrant street life.

Northern Thailand, known for its forested mountain scenery and adventure activities, is home to Chiang Mai. Regarded as the country’s cultural heart, the city is famous for its traditional teak wood temples, night-time market and hospitable people. Thailand is also world famous for the white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, and coral reefs of its numerous islands. 

Dicover the best of Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket as part of Insight Guides’ Thailand’s islands and highlands trip.

Buddhist temple, Chiang Mai, Thailand. Photo: michel arnault/Shutterstock

8. Cambodia

Cambodia is justifiably well-known for the stupendous, expansive temple complexes at Angkor, in the northwest of the country. Even after several visits, it’s not easy to come to terms with the immensity of its scale. There is nowhere else like it on the face of the earth.

However, Cambodia offers more than just Angkor. There is Phnom Penh, the buzzing capital, once an exquisite hybrid of Cambodian and French architecture and – despite the destruction of the war years – the city is destined to become so again. On the Cambodian coast, the colonial resort town of Kep, known for its seafood, is returning to its former glory. There are also a number of entrancingly beautiful islands offshore where you can enjoy snorkeling, relaxing under a sloping palm tree and dining on barbecued fish. 

Taking in the capital, the coast and five days at Angkor, Insight Guides’ Cambodia’s beaches and temples trip includes selected highlights of the country.

Bayon temple gates, Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Photo: Boule/Shutterstock

9. Indonesia

Comprising thousands of islands, Indonesia is home to expansive swathes of untamed natural beauty. Vast areas of pristine mangrove forest and swamp, montane forests and savannah contrast with thousands of miles of coastline harboring coral reefs. Dotting these diverse environments, Indonesia’s national parks teem with rare and wonderful wildlife.

Synonymous with paradise, the Indonesian island of Bali offers relative remoteness and richly spirituality, from hillside temples in its central mountains to beach resorts in the south. 

Discover the island’s culture, explore temple complexes and gain an insight on the philosophies of Balinese Hinduism, as part of an incredible journey on Insight Guides’ Indonesia Island Hop trip.

Paddy fields near Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. Photo: Christophe Faugere/Shutterstock 

Ready to book your next trip? 

Insight Guides can help you plan and book wonderful trips in destinations around the world. Simply get in touch to let us know your ideas for the trip and when you would like to travel. Our local experts will then prepare a personalized itinerary especially, which you can amend until you’re completely happy with every detail before booking. 

Updated 7 November, 2019