Where to go on holiday in December: 25 top destinations

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Forget summertime: December just might be the best time of year to travel. There are the Christmas classics: the scent of mulled wine and freshly fallen snow wafting from NYC to Berlin, or salty-aired, sun-kissed treats such as St Barth’s. Off-season surprises include Fiji and Madagascar; for a limited time only, these are a (relative) bargain. And with the sunny season in full swing Down Under, it’s an ideal time to discover Australia’s most unlikely success story. Plus, our tips on how to do it all as sustainably as possible.

  • Where to go on holiday in December: 25 top destinations

    1. VENICE, ITALY


    Temperature: 7ºC high; 0ºC low


    Season: winter


    Flight time from UK: 2 hours 15 minutes


    Time difference: GMT +1

    The Floating City could be the most beautiful place in Italy, but it’s difficult to know for sure, given its gorgeous visage is always crawling with tourists. Apart from in December, that is, when no one thinks to go. You might imagine the lagoons are best when sparkling under a summer sun, but that, friend, just shows a lack of imagination: watching an icy fog curl spookily from the water’s surface is really quite something. You might even get super-lucky and see snow. Better than that, you can walk through St Mark’s without landing a selfie stick in the eye. Celebrate your good fortune with a stay at Aman Venice, one of our favourite hotels in the world.

    Sustainable travel tip: Visiting out of season is a good start. But one of the biggest problems with over-tourism in Venice is that a lot of people tend to come just for the day, hitting up only the major, over-stuffed sights, and thus bringing little benefit to locals. Instead, spend a few nights in the city, slowly exploring its hidden corners, eating at neighbourhood restaurants and shopping in small, independent stores. It’s not just better for the city, it makes for a much better holiday, too.

  • Where to go on holiday in December: 25 top destinations

    2. MOSCOW, RUSSIA

    Temperature: 1ºC high; -7ºC low


    Season: winter


    Flight time from UK: 3 hours 50 minutes


    Time difference: GMT +3

    Most folks opt for the Russian capital in summer, but one needn’t fear the winter freeze: average temperatures this time of year are within a few degrees of New York. Don’t blab on about it, though – the myth of a Siberian-style climate means fewer tour groups and shorter queues. Plus, you’ve got a proper excuse to put on a shapka. It’s win-win. After doing the rounds at St Basil’s, the Kremlin, the famously ostentatious metro, and a spot of opera and/or ballet at the Bolshoi Theatre, warm up with a quintessentially Russian combo of karaoke, vodka and caviar in the Radisson Collection’s velvet-lined booths.

    Sustainable travel tip: Visit the enormous open-air Izmailovsky Market. Here, street food is cooked by locals (often with produce from their gardens), and souvenirs show off authentic Russian handiwork.

  • Where to go on holiday in December: 25 top destinations

    3. CANOUAN, THE GRENADINES

    Temperature: 28ºC high; 21ºC low


    Season: dry


    Flight time from UK: 12 hours 50 minutes


    Time difference: GMT -4

    It’s the month to see and be seen in the Caribbean. But if you’d rather run away and hide, Canouan makes a fine place to fly under the radar. While everyone else swans around St Barth’s, you can feel smug about Canouan’s tag: ‘The place where billionaires go to get away from millionaires’. Though, thankfully, you don’t need to make ten figures to stay at this tiny island’s Mandarin Oriental, the first in the region, where an Oceanview Suite will set you back a cool four figures instead. With an Aman and a Soho House-operated venture slated to hit next, it can only be a matter of time before those pesky millionaires turn up, however. Savour the peace while it lasts.

    Sustainable travel tip: Canouan is one of only a small number of islands from which you can access Tobago Cays. The Cays are a protected archipelago of small, uninhabited islands and pristine coral reefs. They’re the major government-owned attraction in St Vincent and the Grenadines, so many local vendors and guides depend on them.

  • Where to go on holiday in December: 25 top destinations

    4. STRASBOURG, FRANCE


    Temperature: 5ºC high; -1ºC low


    Season: winter


    Flight time from UK: 1 hour 25minutes


    Time difference: GMT +1

    Much like Milan, Strasbourg does an unexpectedly excellent Christmas market – France’s oldest, in fact. And if you’re not one for dumplings and pork knuckles, the Gallic gastronomy will go down a treat alongside your more typical festive fare (a massive Christmas tree, golden illuminations, more than 300 wooden huts hawking handmade gifts and local produce). Grab a tarte flambée, a crêpe or a bretzel (basically a pretzel, but with the ingenious addition of Emmental and lardons), slug a cup of mulled Alsatian white wine, and after you’re done loading up on trinkets and French pastries, wander the ridiculously romantic Petite France quarter, all half-timbered houses and twinkling canals.

    Sustainable travel tip: Getting to Strasbourg by train could hardly be easier. After taking the Eurostar from London to Paris Gare du Nord (2.5 hours), hop across town to catch one of the regular high-speed TGV services to Strasbourg from Paris Gare de l’Est: the journey time clocks in at less than two hours.

  • Where to go on holiday in December: 25 top destinations

    5. BOGOTA, COLOMBIA

    Temperature: 20ºC high; 5ºC low


    Season: dry


    Flight time from UK: 11h 10min


    Time difference: GMT -5

    Cartagena hogs all the column inches with its Caribbean-side colonial charms, but for a contemporary sense of Colombia and its creative energies, capital Bogota is the country’s vital – and seriously overlooked – heart. The city’s reputation for rain abates in December, the beginning of the dry season, when the usually chilly climate clings pleasantly to the 20ºCs. Understandably, most make a beeline for La Candelaria, an irresistible mash-up of colonial buildings, cobbles, on-point restaurants and street art, but quietly cool Chapinero Alto is also making a name for itself: think cocktails and vinyl nights at Rin Rin, or a mansion turned multi-level boutique shopping mall, Trama Casa de Creadores. The best views? At the top of 10,000ft Cerro de Monserrate, easily reached by cable car. In December, the peak is decorated with Christmas lights, a fabulous follow-up to sunset.

    Sustainable travel tip: An hour or two’s drive outside of Bogota, Chingaza National Natural Park protects residents including the rare spectacled bear, jaguars, toucans and Andean condors. The best way to see it is to book a day hike with a local guide.

  • Where to go on holiday in December: 25 top destinations

    6. NEW YORK CITY, USA

    Temperature: 8°C high; -3°C low


    Season: winter


    Flight time from UK: 8 hours


    Time difference: GMT-5

    December in New York City is a no-brainer. The scene is cinematically festive, from ice-skating under the Rockefeller Center tree to theatrical window displays in Fifth Avenue department stores. And if you thought your neighbours tried to outdo you every year with the Christmas lights, spare a thought for the residents of Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights. The houses here are so extravagantly bedecked, there’s an official bus tour of the most outrageous blocks. Better still, Big Apple hotels serve warming nips by a crackling lobby fire: plump for The Ludlow’s Pigalle cocktail, with bourbon and ancho chile.

    Sustainable travel tip: New York traffic is notorious, but thanks to the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway – a 31-mile bicycle route around the island – you can navigate the Big Apple by bike-share scheme (Citi Bike stations are found all over town).

    Here’s how to spend Christmas in New York

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  • Where to go on holiday in December: 25 top destinations

    7. UGANDA, AFRICA

    Temperature: 28°C high; 16°C low


    Season: dry


    Flight time from UK: 10 hours 20 minutes


    Time difference: GMT+2

    It’s a busy month for tourism to Uganda for good reason: landscapes are lush, but the weather is dry, making the conditions ideal for gorilla tracking. December is also a fine time for boat safaris in search of the Big Five, as animals are drawn from dry land to water sources. Still, as it is a more under-the-radar East African destination, ‘busy’ here is a relative term. Our top tip? Pair wildlife adventures with a trek into the urban jungle. The capital city Kampala is surprisingly charming, between boozy nights at the Sheraton’s well-loved Equator Bar, two-hour-roasted crocodile tail at barbecue restaurant The Lawns, and contemporary shows at Afriart Gallery.

    Sustainable travel tip: Check out the Batwa Experience, which offers rainforest hikes with guides from the Batwa tribe, during which you can learn about their history and culture. The Batwa people were evicted from their homeland, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, to create the national park that protects the area’s endangered gorillas; these tours are the only chance they have to revisit their home territory.

  • Where to go on holiday in December: 25 top destinations

    8. MILAN, ITALY

    Temperature: 7°C high; 1°C low


    Season: winter


    Flight time from UK: 2 hours


    Time difference: GMT+1

    You might think Italy’s fashion capital too cool to care about Christmas, but Milan is actually one of Europe’s most festive cities this time of year. Early December marks a unique Milanese tradition, the feast of the patron saint, Sant’Ambrogio, wherein an irresistibly twinkly market sets up in the grounds of red-brick fortress Castello Sforzesco. Shop for local foodie treats and handmade trinkets, then reward yourself with mulled wine and castagnaccio (a chestnut and pine-kernel cake). After a sashay around the famous fashion quarter, head to newly cool Zona Tortona: best for Milan’s up-and-coming galleries and design studios (not to mention brunch-time tuna tacos at God Save The Food).

    Sustainable travel tip: Getting to Milan by train is super-easy: take the Eurostar from London to Paris (2.5 hours), followed by a high-speed TGV train to Milan (7 hours).

    Read our neighbourhood guide to Zona Tortona, Milan

    Zona Tortona – Milan’s coolest new hood

  • 9. YELLOWSTONE, USA

    Temperature: -4°C high; -15°C low


    Season: winter


    Flight time from UK: 11 hours


    Time difference: GMT-7

    The world’s first national park is packed pretty much every season outside of winter – but the crowds on those geyser-skimming boardwalks are missing a trick. December is an excellent time for wildlife-spotting, as everything from brown bears to bison pad through thick powder to hot springs for warmth. Snowcoach tours take you to all the main draws – Old Faithful, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone – and you can even ski or snowshoe to sights that you’ll likely have to yourself. Even better, the contrast between the serene snow scene and Yellowstone’s violent volcanic landscape (bubbling mud-pots, steaming rivers) is something you’ll never forget.

    Sustainable travel tip: Consider staying in one of the national park’s winter lodges. They’ve done a lot of work on sustainability, including comprehensive recycling, composting, and energy and water conservation; farm-to-fork food; and fuel-efficient tour vehicles.

  • Where to go on holiday in December: 25 top destinations

    10. FIJI, SOUTH PACIFIC

    Temperature: 31°C high; 22°C low


    Season: wet


    Flight time from UK: 24 hours


    Time difference: GMT+11

    There’s nowhere like Fiji to make UK-in-December gloom seem like a distant memory. Tuck your toes into its dazzling-white sands and you’re officially on Fiji time. When friendly, frangipani-decorated locals say ‘no hurries, no worries’, it’s less a catchphrase, more a way of life. December falls early in the rainy season, meaning occasional, short bursts of afternoon showers relieve the midday heat. Following 2016’s devastating Cyclone Winston, more eco-friendly, culturally aware hotels are popping up to challenge the decadent, mega-honeymoon properties: a Six Senses – set where Tom Hanks filmed Cast Away – runs on Tesla batteries and cooks using organic, locally foraged finds.

    Sustainable travel tip: Getting off the beach and out of the hotel is the best way to interact with and contribute to local communities. It’s possible to take multi-day hiking trips into Fiji’s jungles and mountains, which include sleeping in homestays, visiting tribal villages and learning about authentic island life from a local guide. Check out Responsible Travel for more.

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  • Where to go on holiday in December: 25 top destinations

    11. KYOTO, JAPAN

    Temperature: 11°C high; 2°C low


    Season: winter


    Flight time from UK: 14 hours


    Time difference: GMT+8

    Japan’s favourite holiday is New Year (or Oshogatsu). And where better to join in the festivities than its former imperial capital and keeper of ancient traditions? The whole month of December sees Kyoto filled with markets and festivals: Kobo-san and Tenjin-san fleas are big favourites, held around the temples of the same name, and packed with Japanese antiques, kimonos and food carts. Held in early December, Arashiyama Hanatouro is a magical lantern festival that illuminates the famous Arashiyama bamboo forest. Don’t miss the nightly temple illuminations, either: if you get lucky, it might even snow.

    Sustainable travel tip: Kyoto is one of the best bicycling cities in Asia, and many of the major temples and museums offer bicycle parking. Note, though, that it’s illegal to park a bike anywhere other than a designated area.

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    10 cool things to do in Kyoto

  • Where to go on holiday in December: 25 top destinations

    12. SCOTLAND, UK

    Temperature: 7°C high; 2°C low


    Season: winter


    Flight time from London: 1 hour 15 minutes


    Time difference: GMT+0

    Sure, when the sun shines on Scotland, it’s sublime. But there’s also a lot to love about this raw and rugged land in the cold. Nothing is cosier than a few wee drams by a roaring fire after a busy day out in the elements – be that fat-biking East Lothian beaches, or tracking red deer across the Cairngorms’ snow-dusted slopes. Edinburgh in December is, of course, raucously festive, and winter’s a great time to appreciate the hearty fare of this vital city’s culinary chops. Top of the list should be Tom Kitchin’s Michelin-starred Leith restaurant, The Kitchin, celebrating Scottish produce, followed by his elevated pub grub at Stockbridge’s The Scran and Scallie.

    Sustainable travel tip: Road-tripping around Scotland’s vast wilderness is tempting, but consider a railway holiday instead. Chugging along the West Highland Line, you’ll be on one of the UK’s most scenic train journeys.

    How to find the best restaurants in Edinburgh

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  • Where to go on holiday in December: 25 top destinations

    13. MADAGASCAR, INDIAN OCEAN

    Temperature: 30°C high; 24°C low


    Season: wet


    Flight time from UK: 12 hours


    Time difference: GMT+2

    Desperate to feel a world away from dark, damp December streets? Madagascar will do the trick. The primordial island is, of course, best known for lemurs, wildly coloured chameleons and implausible creatures such as the giraffe weevil (go on, Google it). But there’s more to Madagascar’s otherworldliness than rich rainforests. Don’t miss the southern deserts’ spiny woodlands, or the near-impenetrable limestone karst warren of Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve. Early December is a good, off-season time to visit, before heavier rains move in later in the month. Private island Miavana, on the east coast’s Nosy Ankao, has an audacious collection of mid-century-modern, stone-cut villas, and might just be the smartest castaway escape in the world.

    Sustainable travel tip: More than 70 per cent of people in Madagascar live below the poverty line, so supporting initiatives that benefit local communities here is vital. Check out initiatives such as Anja Community Reserve, a protected forest home to ring-tailed lemurs, which is managed by the people of Anja village.

    Read our full review of Miavana, Madagascar

    Miavana – Madagascar’s sensational island hideaway

  • Where to go on holiday in December: 25 top destinations

    14. KRAKOW, POLAND

    Temperature: 3°C high; -4°C low


    Season: winter


    Flight time from UK: 2 hours 30 minutes


    Time difference: GMT+1

    Krakow in December looks like a Christmas card. The Old Town’s medieval main square, Rynek Główny, is all cobblestones, horse-and-carriage rides, and Christmas markets dishing up dumplings and pork knuckles. Load up on artisan baubles from the stalls, then duck into one of the district’s snug cellar bars for a restorative nip of flavoured vodka (the ubiquitous cherry is fantastic). Unlike many stag-do-spoiled parts of Eastern Europe, Poland’s second city also packs a sophisticated nightlife buzz. Tytano, an old tobacco factory, is now a complex of cool bars and restaurants (go for craft cocktails at Lastriko), while the Jewish quarter, Kazimierz, has seen its decrepit tenement buildings given new life by numerous shabby-chic bars.

    Sustainable travel tip: Add an extra day to your itinerary and travel to Krakow via a scenic train journey. First, take the Eurostar from London to Brussels (about two hours), followed by a high-speed ICE3 to Cologne (2 hours) then a high-speed ICE2 to Berlin (about four hours). Next morning, catch a EuroCity train to Warsaw (about six hours), then an InterCity to Krakow (2.5 hours).

  • Where to go on holiday in December: 25 top destinations

    15. TASMANIA, AUSTRALIA

    Temperature: 23°C high; 11°C low


    Season: summer


    Flight time from UK: 30 hours


    Time difference: GMT+9

    ‘Tassie’ has officially made the leap from bogan to buzzing. And it’s all because of eccentric, multi-millionaire David Walsh, whose irreverent Museum of Old and New Art made headlines when it opened in 2011, due to its risqué pieces, including a plaster wall of vulvas. Now, it’s widely regarded as Australia’s best museum. With that, an edgy crowd are taking over the island and the capital, Hobart, has been transformed. Designer digs such as the sandstone Henry Jones Art Hotel are de rigueur. Revered restaurants including Franklin serve Tasmanian produce: wood-roasted octopus, raw wallaby. The island’s sparkling wine has been raking in global acclaim over the past few years, too. Drink it all at the annual Taste of Tasmania festival, which kicks off in late December, taking rich pickings from the abundant Australian summer.

    Sustainable travel tip: One of the best things about Tassie is its untamed wilderness, conserved by both the Parks and Wildlife Service and its Aboriginal peoples. Don’t underestimate the Aussie bush, though: it’s best explored with local operators. The likes of Tasmanian Expeditions take care to use locally owned accommodation, local food producers and local activity suppliers, as well as protecting places of natural, historic and Aboriginal value.

    Read our full review of Pumphouse Point, Lake St Clair, Tasmania

    Tasmania’s new remote retreat

  • Where to go on holiday in December: 25 top destinations

    16. Berlin

    Temperature: 4°C high; 0°C low


    Season: winter


    Flight time from UK: 2 hours


    Time difference: GMT+1

    There is no bad time to visit Berlin. We love the city in summer, mooching around its kooky-krazy hangouts of creative weirdness – but what a place to party in December! More kookiness in its clubs and bars and the underground haunts of its cool-as-you-like neighbourhoods; and Berlin is one of the best places to spend New Year’s Eve in the world, when they throw a city-wide street party with gigs and celebrations all along the Party Mile.

    Sustainable travel tip: Trust cutting-edge Berlin to have a thriving sustainable food scene. At vegan FREA, dishes are made using produce from local organic farmers, and the restaurant’s food waste is then composted and returned to those suppliers for use on their crops. For a smart ethical supper, try a 10-course tasting menu of Berlin-grown fare at Nobelhart & Schmutzig in Kreuzberg.

    Read the best things to do in Berlin.

    Things to do in Berlin

    Above: Holzmarkt in Berlin.

  • Where to go on holiday in December: 25 top destinations

    17. Goa, India

    Temperature: 33°C high; 22°C low


    Season: cool


    Flight time from UK: 12 hours


    Time difference: GMT+4:30

    Goa is love-it crazy in December. Every palm tree strung with tinsel and fairy lights, every beach bar rocking with the most beautiful happy-go-lucky just-found-themselves travellers dancing like loons, night and day. The weather is just perfect, and the parties reach fever pitch. Christmas is cause for great celebration throughout India – no more so than in Goa, garlanded and lit up with fireworks, Christmas trees and Santa hats incongruous in the heat and dust. This all rolls into New Year’s Eve celebrations, with parties and raves on the beaches and bars (Goa is India’s most liberal state). It gets busy, so book ahead. Avoid staying too long in Anjuna, unless you’re a hardcore raver – dance til the sun comes up, then head to a quieter spot (we love Arambol, Mandrem, Palolem, all utterly dreamy) for a different kind of sunrise.

    Sustainable travel tip: There’s a decent crop of hippie hangouts here serving all-organic vegetarian meals and extolling the virtues of harmony with nature. Yogamagic Eco Retreat, just inland from Anjuna, has both glamping tents and main-house rooms built from reclaimed materials (old haveli doors, furniture made from recycled teak wood or railway sleepers), the showers are solar-heated, and vegetarian and vegan meals are homegrown and locally sourced.

    Read about Goa, India

    Goa: India’s Latin Quarter

  • 18. St Barth’s, Caribbean

    Temperature: 30°C high; 24°C low


    Season: cool


    Flight time from UK: 12 hours 10 minutes


    Time difference: GMT-5

    Simply everyone is in St Barth’s in December. Partly because the island is the original discreet-A-lister’s sunny paradise of choice with the world’s most perfect beaches, restaurants, hotels and villas, and partly because everyone else is. The super-rich, the super-famous, the beautiful and the blessed. Fail to book your December holiday here and you’ve only got yourself to blame for off-the-charts FOMO as you sit looking out at the rain and scrolling through shots of simply everyone else laughing through perfect teeth on the world’s most perfect beaches.

    Sustainable travel tip: Hotel Manapany is powered by solar panels. This chic beachside retreat also has an onsite vegetable garden and orchard, sources its seafood from local fishermen, and even offers electric-car rentals.

    Read about the best hotels in St Barth’s.

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  • Where to go on holiday in December: 25 top destinations

    19. and 20. Cambodia and Laos

    Temperature: Around 30°C high; 20°C low


    Season: dry


    Flight time from UK: Around 15 hours


    Time difference: GMT+6

    South-East Asia is wonderful in December, the climate just right – which does mean that yes, everyone else wants to visit then, too. But why come when it is wet and unbearably hot? Come in December, and embrace the holiday season, when places to eat and drink are buzzing, when Laos’s beautiful colonial towns (we adore Luang Prabang) have a happy bustle to them, when Siem Reap is at its liveliest. Cambodia and Laos are big and largely empty countries, where it is always possible to find some space to yourself, even at Angkor Wat (go for sunrise, wherever possible). Yes, it might take a bit more planning and booking ahead, but there if you want to be spontaneous there is always a room in a charming teak house to be found, where birds sing in the banana trees beside the verandah.

    Sustainable travel tip: Cambodia’s social-enterprise restaurants are a great way to support local communities in a long-term way, as they offer free hospitality training to young, underprivileged people, helping them forge sustainable careers. In Siem Reap, Sala Baï is a riverside restaurant created by French NGO APLC; capital Phnom Penh has Romdeng, set in a gorgeous colonial building and run by local NGO Mith Samlanh.

    Read about Luang Prabang, Laos

    Luang Prabang: Laos’ golden city

  • Where to go on holiday in December: 25 top destinations

    21. Prague

    Temperature: 4°C high; 0°C low


    Season: winter


    Flight time from UK: 2 hours


    Time difference: GMT+1

    Surely nowhere is prettier in the snow than Prague. Those perfectly preserved ancient streets, like a fairytale (with a real castle!); those cinnamon-scented Christmas markets where mulled wine makes us buy weird presents and too many Christmas decorations. Pretty, yes, but Prague is also cold as hell in December, which only serves to make its richly-patterned restaurants all the cosier and justify its just-as-rich and fortifying cuisine. Sit in its Art Nouveau gilded interiors, or its underground bars, and warm yourself with roast game and booze.

    Sustainable travel tip: Arriving in Prague by train entails a few quick transfers and a bonus night in Brussels. Take the Eurostar from London to the Belgian capital (two hours), stay the night, then catch a morning ICE train to Frankfurt (about three hours). Here, change onto a regional train to Cheb in the Czech Republic (4.5 hours), and then it’s a Czech express train to Prague (about three hours). You’ll arrive in time for a hearty supper and a beer.

    Read our top ten tips for Prague.


    The 10 best things to do in Prague

  • Where to go on holiday in December: 25 top destinations

    22. Uruguay

    Temperature: 28°C high; 16°C low


    Season: summer


    Flight time from UK: 16 hours 20 minutes


    Time difference: GMT-4

    The South American beach break with a difference. Most of Uruguay’s neverending white-sand beaches are practically empty even in high season. That high season lasts just a few weeks, in December, and if you like things lively (Ibiza, Mykonos, Trancoso style), that’s when you want to come. You can still find a beach pretty much to yourself, around hippy little José Ignacio, La Barra and Punta del Este. But December is when the wooden-shack restaurants and beach bars and artsy little hotels open their shutters for the Buenos Aires party crowd who hop across the River Plate for Christmas and New Year fun.

    Sustainable travel tip: Local studio MAPA Architects designed eco-boutique Sacromonte, a complex of cabins made from regionally sourced wood and stone, tucked into 250 acres of mountain landscape less than an hour from coastal town José Ignacio. It has a vineyard, two organic gardens and onsite wastewater bio-digesters, and offers guided hiking and horseback rides through the surrounding sierras.

    Find the best things to do in Uruguay.

    10 Amazing Things to Do in… Uruguay

  • Where to go on holiday in December: 25 top destinations

    23. Zermatt, Swiss Alps

    Temperature: 2°C high; -6°C low


    Season: winter


    Flight time from UK: 1 hour 40 minutes


    Time difference: GMT+1

    The sort of snowy-mountain scene that dream Christmases are made of. Horse-drawn sleighs, twinkling trees, glühwein stalls, a pretty village aglow in a lovely little valley beneath the Matterhorn. And, importantly, snow-sure slopes – 200 astoundingly pretty kilometres of them – from the start of December. All of which makes it Switzerland’s top ski resort. Here are Zermatt’s best hotels, restaurants and bars.

    Sustainable travel tip: What better way to arrive at a car-free resort than by train? Plus, the last leg of the journey features a ride through the stunning valley of Mattertal on a narrow-gauge railway. Hop off the Eurostar from London in Paris (2.5 hours) and catch a high-speed TGV to Lausanne (3.5 hours). From here, at least two trains per hour whisk you to Visp in 90 minutes, and then it’s the narrow-gauge ride to Zermatt (just over an hour).

    Read our review of Burgenstock, Switzerland.

    Burgenstock, Switzerland

    Above: Skiers and snowboarders on the Matterhorn.

  • Where to go on holiday in December: 25 top destinations

    24. Dubai

    For a winter-sun tinselfest, nobody does it bigger and brighter and sparklier than Dubai. From November to January the weather cools to a more bearable 19-25ºC and the sun shines practically all the time; and in December there’s the Rugby Sevens and a film festival, pre-Christmas designer sales and record-breaking Christmas trees groaning under the weight of lights and Swarovski crystals, for those who like that kind of thing. Everyone says they don’t, then they go to Dubai and find that they kind of do.

    Sustainable travel tip: Visit the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, set among the wind-tower architecture of the Al Fahidi Historic District, by Dubai Creek. Here, share a traditional lunch with Emirati hosts and ask anything you’re curious to know about local culture, attitudes and Islam. The centre’s tagline: ‘Open doors. Open minds’.




    Read more about the Bulgari Hotel, Dubai.

    On the Scene: The Bulgari Hotel, Dubai

  • Where to go on holiday in December: 25 top destinations

    25. The Arctic Circle

    Temperature: -3°C high; -9°Clow


    Season: winter


    Flight time from UK: 6 hours


    Time difference: GMT+2

    What better time to visit the North Pole than December, for Christmas? When a sleigh ride through Lapland, pulled by reindeer or huskies, is surely most unforgettable, when the glittering frozen Narnia landscapes of the Arctic Circle are most magical. And when the lightshow in the skies, the Northern Lights, playing all the colours of the spectrum over Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden, is at its brightest and best.

    Sustainable travel tip: Experiences with the indigenous Sami people of Lapland are becoming ever-more popular, but be sure that the operator is providing a genuine connection with their culture (rather than a ‘show’). Done right, this kind of tourism helps boost a local economy that can only rely on a lucrative revenue stream – tourism – a few months of the year. Magnetic North Travel, for example, organises time with genuine reindeer herders and their families, so you get a real sense of their way of life.

    Read about our Norway Fjords road trip.

    Norway Fjords: Road trip along Scandinavia’s most dramatic coastline

    Above: Icebergs floating in the Illulisat Icefjord, one of the northernmost UNESCO World Heritage sites.

    For where to go in other months, see our Holiday Calendar:


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