Want an end-of-year adventure all to yourself? Here are the best places to go in December for a solo vacation
‘Tis the season to be jolly – and also to get the hell out of Christmas madness. While some welcome the dawn of December, others see it as an opportunity to cut loose. After all, who needs to referee your tipsy relatives when you could be trekking in the misty highlands of Kerala, or zipping between Brazilian islands by private boat?
And it’s not just about avoiding Christmas itself. Head away beforehand to grab some headspace and neatly sidestep the carnage of party season. Or take yourself off after and experience some of the world’s best New Year fiestas, from Rio to Valparaíso and the Cape. Whether you’re looking for winter sun or temple wonders, balmy beaches or remote alpine peaks, here are 10 reasons to spend December on your very own solo escape:
December is the start of high season in Brazil, but getting in early means you’ll sidestep the major rush around carnival time in February. Warm spring days around the 28°C mark make for prime-time basking on Rio’s Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, while the pick-up in visitors creates a heady atmosphere in the city’s many samba bars. Head out to the coastal town Paraty for quieter vibes and idyllic island hopping.
Travel tips for December: It’s worth sticking around for New Year’s Eve celebrations in Rio, which hosts one of the biggest and best beach parties in the world.
Dry season starts to kick in throughout Kerala at the end of the year, with less rainfall and slightly cooler temperatures (don’t fret though; it’s still plenty warm enough to hit those dreamy beaches). India’s green and serene southern state is a fabulous antidote to Christmas fever. Instead of feverishly fighting the crowds on December 23, you can trek above the cloud forest in the Western Ghats or kayak and practise yoga on the shimmering backwaters.
Travel tips for December: Don’t miss the Kochi carnival running in the last two weeks of December, with bike races, beach football, art murals and parades.
The start of winter brings with it a dip in humidity in Egypt. It’s still largely warm and dry, but the cooler days provide a great backdrop for wandering around the country’s bucket-list Pharaoh sites, including Valley of the Kings and the Abu Simbel temples. Cairo hovers around the 20°C mark; a welcome climate whether you’re exploring markets or sailing on the Nile. Christmas is celebrated on 7 January in Egypt, in keeping with the Coptic Orthodox Church; so if you want to skip celebrations, December is the time to do it.
Travel tips for December: Like swimming? Shoehorn in a visit to the Red Sea Riviera – sea temperatures are positively balmy.
Dry season is in full swing in the Philippines by year-end, allowing easy access to its many beautiful islands. With the mercury hovering in the early 30°Cs, the climate is just right for snorkelling and sailing around a labyrinth of remote beach coves. This is still cooler than later in the dry season, so it’s also about the right time to head inland to the tropical interiors, for paddle-boarding, hiking and more.
Travel tips for December: Christmas is big business here. Load up on seasonal delicacies such as puto bumbong (purple rice cakes) or catch the evocative festival of lights in the city of Makati.
Sixteen hours of sunshine a day set the scene for magnificent trekking in Chile‘s Patagonia region in December. As spring moves to summer, you can expect clear days and blue skies around the peaks and lakes of Torres del Paine National Park. Further north, the capital Santiago beckons with a festive summer-time spirit – great for mooching around party neighbourhoods such as Bellavista.
Travel tips for December: Pop the port city of Valparaíso on your radar for New Year and see the harbour light up with South America’s largest fireworks display. And always have a few thick sweaters handy; nights, especially can be chilly.
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Sri Lanka‘s southwest coast comes into its own in December, as monsoon season fades away to sunny beach days and temperatures that reach into the early 30°Cs. Meanwhile, Tea Country is set to put on a dazzling display, with mist-clad highlands awash in lush greenery thanks to the recent rainfalls (you’ll still find rain here in December but plenty of sunshine too, and a pleasant rather than sweltering climate).
Travel tips for December: Make the most of jungle views by tackling the Demodara Nine Arch Bridge walk from the mountain village of Ella.
Tanzania and Zanzibar
December coincides with the short rains season in Tanzania and Zanzibar, but you’ll still find plenty of sunshine in-between the showers. Over on the Serengeti, herds of wildebeest return to the southern grassy plains to feed ahead of calving season. It’s also a good time to spot migratory birds. Flush from rainfall, the scenery creates wonderful photos.
Travel tips for December: After safari, chill out on the beaches of Zanzibar, where sporadic daily rainfall provides a bit of light relief to 30°C heat.
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Well if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em… for a Christmas that feels truly festive, cut a dash to Lapland in the Arctic Circle. A world away from bauble-clad shopping malls, Yuletide here is the real deal. Expect magical husky rides in a twilight wonderland, cosy fireside lunches in a Lappish kota and snowshoe treks through forests that could have walked straight off a Narnia set. The long nights of the Arctic winter also offer up the best chance of spotting those elusive and beautiful Northern Lights.
Travel tips for December: Stay the night in igloo-like Aurora Domes by Lake Torassieppi for the ultimate festive high.
Warm dry weather is a delight during December on Colombia‘s Caribbean coast. With temperatures nudging into the early 30°Cs, the time is ripe for beach picnics in Tayrona National Park and a private boat trip around the idyllic Rosario Islands. Meanwhile, the higher cities of Medellín and Bogotá are cooler; great for ambling around, with lovely conditions for adventuring in the nearby mountains.
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Granted, South Africa is a little more expensive and crowded in the peak season of December; but the glorious weather along the West Cape and Garden Route may be worth the pay-off. Have your sunnies at the ready for warm, dry days reaching upwards of 25°C: ideal for wine-tasting in the Stellenbosch vineyards. Summer kicks in across the Eastern Cape, too, and you’ll still have the chance for big game viewing on safari – even in a more overgrown environment.
Images: Flash Pack, Shutterstock
See more from our December destinations with our video, below: