December is one of the busiest times of the year as people all over the globe gear up for the most highly-anticipated holiday – Christmas! This holiday is best spent with family and loved ones. But it’s also a good time to bust out that passport and go on a trip to create some unforgettable year-end memories! The question now is, where should you go?
To help you, we’ve picked out all the best places you and your loved ones can visit this December!
Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
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December is an excellent time to visit Ho Chi Minh as it marks the start of the dry season. Although Christmas isn’t as big a deal at Ho Chi Minh as it is in the West, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to do in this vibrant city during this time.
Ho Chi Minh’s main landmarks are beautifully-decorated during Christmas. These landmarks including the Notre Dame Cathedral, Nguyen Hue Walking Street, and Ben Thanh Market. If you’re looking for SG$2 beers and SG$5 meals, drop by Bui Vien Backpackers Street. It’s the de facto foodie paradise for foreigners visiting the city! If street food isn’t your thing, check out these other places to eat in Saigon!
For New Year’s Eve, head to one of the city’s many rooftop bars to enjoy a clear view of the year-end fireworks. Rex Hotel‘s Rooftop Beer Garden is a popular spot!
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Want to experience a white Christmas? Consider travelling to Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido! We’ll be upfront with you – the winter in Hokkaido is one of the harshest in Asia. Despite this, several tourists still flock to the island to take part in activities such as snowboarding and skiing. Most visitors head to Niseko, one of the most popular ski resorts in Japan.
You can also head on over to the Historic Village of Hokkaido, located in central Sapporo. It has an open-air museum that showcases Hokkaido’s buildings from the Meiji and Taisho eras. While you’re in Sapporo, don’t forget to drop by Odori Park which hosts a beautiful German Christmas Market during this time. Also, if you’re up for it, you might want to brave the cold weather by taking a bath in an onsen (hot spring)! We highly recommend Jozankei Onsen in Sapporo.
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Home of the world-famous Dresden Striezelmarkt (Christmas Market), Dresden has become an obvious choice for people looking to enjoy Christmas in Europe. The Dresden Striezelmarkt was first started in 1434 and has grown to become the most successful Christmas market in Germany. Its 240 stalls draw in up to 3 million visitors each year! If you’re visiting Dresden in December, the Christmas market is a must-visit.
Aside from the Christmas market, we also recommend visiting the beautiful Frauenkirche and Dresden Old Town where you’ll see sights such as the Procession of Princes and Brühl’s Terrace. The majestic Zwinger Palace is a wonderful place to soak up some sun as you walk around the palace grounds. Here’s a bonus tip: catch a breathtaking sunset at Elbwiesen (Elbe Meadows)!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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If you’re looking to party up and spend some time at the beach, head on over to Brazil’s party capital, Rio de Janeiro! December marks the start of summer in this vibrant city and lasts until March of the following year. Even though summer is also the city’s wettest season, millions of tourists still brave the wet weather to take part in the many festivities scheduled for the end of the year.
Head on over to the city’s most popular beach, Copacabana Beach, where the palm trees are lit up, the surfers are clad in Santa costumes, and the surrounding markets are busy selling cheap trinkets. The most highly-anticipated event is Reveillon on December 31. Millions of people welcome the New Year with street food, live music, fireworks, and overflowing drinks!
Dark, ominous clouds are nowhere to be seen in Phuket throughout December. As the dry season sets in, Phuket springs to life at this time of year, with nightclubs and hotels hosting wild parties to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Patong is where all the action is, while Surin is more laid-back. Families can find a cluster of upmarket and luxury hotels at Bangtao Beach’s massive family-friendly Laguna Phuket complex. If you decide to stay in Bangtao, Splash Jungle Water Park, one of Phuket’s most kid-friendly attractions, is a mere 20-minute car ride away.
Discover Phuket’s unique heritage in the old quarter of Phuket Town, where hip shops, cafes, restaurants and bars can be found along its narrow streets. Get a feel of Phuket’s rich history by exploring one of the many Chinese temples and cultural museums dotted around the area.
Don’t leave Phuket without experiencing Phuket FantaSea, the island’s largest performance featuring dancers, trapeze artists, elephants and other live animals in a 3000-seat indoor theatre.
Stay at the Angsana Laguna Phuket, Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket and Banyan Tree Phuket in Bangtao.
Myanmar is covered in brilliant sunshine in December, and the relatively cool weather makes it a top spot to visit at year-end.
There is little evidence of mass tourism in Mandalay, the last royal capital of ancient Burma. The city has become the byword for Asian allure, and it is a great base to start exploring the northern half of the country.
The primary attraction is Mandalay Hill, a two-century-old major Buddhist pilgrimage site. Amarapura, previously the capital, is now a suburb of Mandalay and is peppered with numerous workshops peddling local handicrafts including cotton and silk longyis (traditional sarong-style garments).
Slightly further afield is Innwa, another former capital, which is an idyllic rural destination featuring two vast 19th-century monasteries covered in elaborate stucco carvings.
Venture further south down to Bagan, one of the world’s great archaeological sites. Hundreds of temples loom over fields of green, an unsullied legacy of an ancient civilisation. UNESCO has preserved several of these monuments to near perfection, and many still contain the original frescoes and carvings.
Yangon’s skyline is dominated by the glittering Shwedagon Pagoda, but owing to its burgeoning status as a commercial hub, the cityscape is changing rapidly.
Time seems to have stood still at The Strand Yangon, a vestige of Myanmar’s colonial past. Built in 1901, this grand all-suite, boutique hotel boasts elegant and sumptuous interiors. If you’re looking to experience some of Yangon’s rich history, The Strand Yangon is a must-stay!
New York, USA
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For an unforgettable year-end trip with the whole family, head on to the Big Apple! One of the world’s most iconic cities, New York is buzzing with activity during the Yuletide season. The Christmas tree and skating rink at Rockefeller Centre are two of the city’s most popular attractions, including the magnificent decorations at Dyker Heights, Brooklyn.
Many shoppers head to one of New York’s many holiday markets. While they’re nowhere near as extravagant as the Christmas markets in Europe, these holiday markets are a great place to find some cool gifts like handmade goods and artisanal products. The Winter Village at Bryant Park is a holiday market you can’t miss! Make sure you stay until the end of the month as the ball drops in Times Square and join the rest of New York as you enter another year!
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Goa is becoming a hot tourist destination, with the number of tourists visiting the state steadily increasing every year. December is peak season in Goa and the city is teeming with tourists looking for a good time. Goa is popular for its beaches so beaches such as Calangute, Palolem, and Anjuna will be quite busy during this time. But that doesn’t keep visitors from taking part in watersports!
You can also go sightseeing around the city. Since a sizeable part of the population in Goa is Christian, there are many churches here. They are beautifully-decorated during Christmas, including the Basilica of Born Jesus, Se Cathedral and the Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception. Also, don’t miss out on Sunburn, Goa’s biggest electronic dance music festival on 27 December 2019.
Wondering where to stay while in Goa? Take your pick from Goa’s best beach resorts!
Gangwon-do, South Korea
South Korea’s most north-easterly province, Gangwon-do is blanketed in snow in December, marking the start of the ski season. High rolling mountains frame this picturesque region, where a clutch of well-equipped modern ski resorts lie, including Pyeongchang, Gangneung and Jeongseon, which are poised to host the Winter Olympics in 2018.
As well as hitting the slopes, jump aboard the Snow Flower Trains for panoramic views of the region’s sublime snowy landscape. Or enjoy nature at its magnificent best at the UNESCO-listed Seoraksan National Park, a refuge for rare flora and fauna.
Dip into one of the thermal hot springs to soothe tired, aching muscles after a long day of skiing and sightseeing. Visit Osaek in Mount Seoraksan, Cheoksan Oncheon and Seorak Waterpia, a huge aquatic complex incorporating hot spring pools, fountains, wave pools and other types of baths, are our top picks.
Yongpyong Ski Resort is a must-stop for Winter Sonata fans, as this was where much of the 2002 drama series was filmed.
December marks the tail end of the monsoon season for the tropical utopia of Boracay, considered one of Southeast Asia’s most stunning beaches.
If you desire solitude and tranquility, book a room at the Discovery Shores Boracay, a chic and modern beachfront resort, for a romantic getaway. Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort and Spa, a slick five-star haven perched on the secluded hillside of an eco-reserve, is often the preferred choice for families.
The central part of the main resort area (Station 2) bristles with activity, and boisterous beach parties are de rigueur. The minimalist The District Boracay is an excellent choice for those who want to be in the middle of all the action.
Boracay also boasts one of the best diving experiences in Southeast Asia. Dive sites are only a 5 – 10minute boat ride away and there are dives suitable for novices as well as experts.
Boracay offers plenty of accommodation options including Fridays – a rustic beachfront hotel which won’t burn a big hole in your pocket.
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December isn’t considered peak season in Venice. This is why you should head there for an amazing year-end vacation with your loved ones! Unlike summer when the city is crawling with tourists, winter in Venice is quiet, relaxed, and serene. What’s even better is that hotel rates tend to be cheaper during this time!
You get enjoy the city’s major attractions without having to worry about crowds. If you think St. Mark’s Basilica is beautiful even with so many tourists crowding around it, wait ’til you get to see it all for yourself. It’s nothing short of magical! The same can be said about the city’s world-renowned gondola rides. The canals during winter are quiet and shrouded in mist, allowing you to bask in the city’s beauty in silence. Want to enjoy a candlelit dinner overlooking the Grand Canal? Make reservations at Club del Doge for the most romantic meal of your life!
The end of the year is a significant time for people all over the world. It’s a time to look back on the memories you’ve made throughout the year and to look forward to more memories to come. Celebrate the end of 2019 by treating yourself to an exciting trip with your family, your significant other, or just yourself – you won’t regret it!