Where is hot in December? Our top 12 destinations

"Чтобы проникнуть в сущность заурядных явлений, требуется весьма незаурядный ум." Альфред Норт Уайтхед ©

As the cold takes firm hold of Europe, sun seeking generally requires a longer flight. True, there are spots closer to home with the good grace to linger around 20°C, but winter provides an excellent excuse for a far-flung getaway, when a powerful and prolonged dose of vitamin D is practically prescribed. Hot cities in Africa and Australia will come alive this month, as their summers finally arrive, while tropical islands and unsung corners of the world will hit their peak. See below for our edit of where is hot in December. For more travel inspiration, see our guide to the best winter sun destinations.

  • Where is hot in December? Our top 12 destinations

    1. DUBAI

    AVERAGE DECEMBER TEMP: 26°C

    The seven hour-flight from London to Dubai can just about be classed as medium-haul, while the time difference between the two is a jet-lag-free four hours – but this desert city in the Middle East feels worlds away from chilly England in December. Sure, there’s the glitzy side of Dubai – its mega-malls and skyscraping hotels are decked out in festive lights and ginormous trees for the season – but there’s a more laidback side to the city, too. Life’n One is a hidden yoga retreat for those hoping to end the year on a healthy note, while cultural hub Alserkal Avenue is a great place to escape the heat in arthouse cinemas and indie galleries. For a stay that’s unlike anything else in Dubai, book a room at the secluded five-room hotel and spa Al Faya Lodge an hour east of the city.

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  • Where is hot in December? Our top 12 destinations

    2. BALI, INDONESIA

    AVERAGE DECEMBER TEMP: 27°C

    It’s one of South-east Asia’s winter-sun kingpins for good reason – tropical Bali’s lush rainforest and white-sand beaches tick all the boxes when it comes to a warm-weather escape. Once-scrappy beach town Canggu draws Indonesia’s thriving digital-nomad crowd, along with blissed-out surfers, while artists’ village Ubud is a hub for those seeking a more spiritual getaway. Riverside jungle hideout Capella Ubud feels like an African tented camp from the 19th century and makes an ideal base that avoids any desert-island clichés. Finish up with a stint at spa Revivo Wellness Resort Nusa Dua to turbo-boost your health ahead of the new year.

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  • Where is hot in December? Our top 12 destinations

    3. MARRAKECH, MOROCCO

    AVERAGE DECEMBER TEMP: 20°C

    When winter is in full flow, don’t underestimate the power of a three-and-a-half-hour flight to another world. Yes, Marrakech is hectic, but a recent influx of design hotels – most of them reimagining glorious, red-brick riads – means there’s always somewhere more sedate to escape to. Alternatively, take up residence in a palace: La Mamounia, a grande dame of landscaped gardens, fountains, opulent tiles and velvets, is a card-carrying member of our Gold List 2019. Or book a stay at Royal Mansour, the city’s most lavish hotel, which proves you needn’t plunge into the medina madness outside to get the best of Marrakech.

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  • Where is hot in December? Our top 12 destinations

    4. LANZAROTE, CANARY ISLANDS

    AVERAGE DECEMBER TEMP: 21°C

    We called it ‘the surprisingly cool Canary island’, but we weren’t talking about the weather. The fact that Lanzarote resides off Africa’s west coast means that even in December it’s still fairly sane to take a dip. Avoid the package hordes and head to fine, white-sand Papagayo Beach on the southern tip of the island, or try world-class surfing in north-west Famara. In fact, more surprises lie in store the further you stray from the tourist hotels. There’s the Jardín de Cactus in Guatiza, a surreal succulent amphitheatre; or starkly alluring Timanfaya National Park, a volcanic wilderness that starred in 1966 film One Million Years BC. And don’t forget Finca Malvasia, a seductive ranch-like retreat in the central wine region, owned by a pair of designers who swapped London for island life. After wintering in Lanzarote, you might just join them.

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  • Where is hot in December? Our top 12 destinations

    5. AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

    AVERAGE DECEMBER TEMP: 22°C

    Just like that low-and-slow New Zealand drawl, Auckland is a big, beautiful city that’s seldom in a hurry. Perhaps that’s what happens when there’s nature everywhere – rainforest-covered hills here; the glittering Hauraki Gulf there. And the notion that the affable country is somehow behind the times is rebuffed by the likes of the Britomart complex, a series of waterfront heritage buildings turned boutiques and restaurants, and Iko Iko, a fabulous concept store with fans such as Emilia Wickstead. Add in a ferry trip to nearby Waiheke Island’s sandy beaches and vineyard wine tastings and be totally converted to the Kiwi lifestyle.

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  • Where is hot in December? Our top 12 destinations

    6. MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

    AVERAGE DECEMBER TEMP: 24°C

    Melbourne’s erratic climate ensures it’ll never hold the beachy appeal of Sydney. But December’s summer temperatures are ideal for exploring the city’s beloved laneways: narrow passages packed with street art, galleries, restaurants and bars. It’s here that trends are set rather than followed; where a cup of coffee has both a caffeine kick and global acclaim. And in Australia’s always dynamic second city, there’s never a shortage of new and miraculous places to explore. Currently it’s Di Stasio Città, Spring Street’s Brutalist Italian restaurant, where guests eat fabulous crab capellini in a concrete-bunker-like setting as video installations play across the walls.

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  • Where is hot in December? Our top 12 destinations

    7. MIAMI, FLORIDA

    The city’s year-round warm weather comes into its own in December, when the beach parties continue while other sun spots – we’re looking at you, California – pull on a sweater. For a calmer vibe, try the less-developed northern end of Miami Beach. It’s here that chef Thomas Keller serves elegant classics (oysters, steak tartare, lobster thermidor) at the landmark The Surf Club, among potted palms and white-coated waiters who evoke the spot’s history as the go-to of the 1950s jet set. Better yet, the recently extended, hacienda-style Four Seasons is here (Elizabeth Taylor and Wallis Simpson count among former guests). Refined might not be the word typically associated with Miami, but let this breath of fresh air change your mind.

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  • Where is hot in December? Our top 12 destinations

    8. BAHAMAS, CARIBBEAN

    AVERAGE DECEMBER TEMP: 26°C

    It’s peak season in the Bahamas, and while that will certainly keep the beaches busy, it also means perfect weather. Our tip: strike out for Harbour Island, a three-mile-long, mile-and-a-half-wide sliver of sensational, pink-sand stretches, where there are always enough sunbeds to go around. Make camp at its smartest hotel, Bahama House, a chic cottage with retro Palm Beach vibes, a sunken tiki bar and just 11 rooms. It’s part of Eleven Experience, an experiential-travel specialist, you can also take advantage of custom adventures such as diving in secret grottoes or swimming with swines on Pig Beach.

  • Where is hot in December? Our top 12 destinations

    9. CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

    AVERAGE DECEMBER TEMP: 27°C

    Cape Town is always a good idea, but particularly in December, when the fledgling South African summer sets beaches and vineyards aglow. The mere sight of beautiful crowds bronzing against its theatrical, cragged mountain backdrop will banish the winter blues in one blow. And just when you thought the Mother City’s raw good looks, smart art and design scenes and world-class food couldn’t get more appealing, it only goes and adds a pair of super-hot hotels, too. Also on our Gold List, Ellerman House is an imposing Edwardian mansion with smashing views of the Atlantic and one of the country’s finest private-art collections. Then there’s The Silo, which is ingeniously set inside a former grain elevator house at the top of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa on the Victoria and Albert Waterfront.

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  • Where is hot in December? Our top 12 destinations

    10. CUBA, CARIBBEAN

    AVERAGE DECEMBER TEMP: 27°C

    No doubt, Havana is spectacular. But leaving Cuba’s main drawcard to explore its steamy eastern mountains will bring you closer to a country that, in its isolation from modernity, has much to teach. In Baracoa, the mystical hangs like a heavy mist. The city, surrounded by the Cuchillas del Toa mountain range, is a world unto itself: streets infused with music, sleepy beaches and rivers and canyons where – yes, even here – you’ll stumble upon the odd thatched bar. At the very south of the island, Santiago de Cuba, with its palatial Spanish buildings by the sea, is set to be the next It destination, but for now remains thrillingly tourist-free.

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  • Where is hot in December? Our top 12 destinations

    11. KOH SAMUI, THAILAND

    AVERAGE DECEMBER TEMP: 27°C

    Long the Shangri-La of feverish backpacker dreams, Koh Samui has grown up. Yes, its raison d’être remains pure pleasure – in the shade of three million coconut palms, and on its bone-white beaches – but the packaging is more Four Seasons, less ratty bungalow. Wellness has well and truly arrived here, with yoga studios, health retreats and even monk-led mentoring for those looking to make a real change. If, however, you just want a proper, idyllic tropical break, Panacea takes the cake. The former home of one of the world’s top hedge-fund managers, this sprawling hilltop estate features five enormous residences, 82ft swimming pools, a cinema, a nightclub – and even a Muay Thai boxing ring (tattooed instructor included).

  • Where is hot in December? Our top 12 destinations

    12. MERIDA, YUCATAN PENINSULA

    AVERAGE DECEMBER TEMP: 31°C

    Tulum, Cancún and Playa del Carmen are the seaside giants of the Yucatán in south-east Mexico, but head instead for the state capital of Mérida for the best of everything: Mayan ruins, a charming colonial town, dense jungle and – if you don’t mind a short drive – beaches, too. Best of all, there’s Chablé just outside the city, an astonishingly lush estate with a spa and private cenote, a restaurant led by renowned chef Jorge Vallejo, a tequila ‘library’, a sweat lodge and a local shaman. Plus it has 40 splashy, limestone-and-glass casitas, each one with its own terrace and pool.

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    For where’s hot in other months, see our guides below:


    WHERE IS HOT IN JANUARY | WHERE IS HOT IN FEBRUARY | WHERE IS HOT IN MARCH | WHERE IS HOT IN APRIL | WHERE IS HOT IN MAY | WHERE IS NOT TOO HOT IN AUGUST | WHERE IS HOT IN SEPTEMBER | WHERE IS HOT IN OCTOBER | WHERE IS HOT IN NOVEMBER | WHERE IS HOT IN DECEMBER

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