–Elizabeth Von Tersch
With a world full of fascinating travel destinations, choosing the perfect vacation spot can present a challenge. However here are some destinations that can make your celebration perfect during the festive period.
France’s magnetic City of Light is a perennial tourist destination, drawing visitors with its iconic attractions, like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, and its unmistakable je ne sais quoi. Quaint cafes, trendy shopping districts and Haussmann architecture give Paris its timeless beauty. But the city’s best asset is that you’re likely to discover something new with each trip or season (read: Paris is always a good idea). To best explore France’s ever-changing capital, get lost wandering the charming cobblestone streets, learn its secrets on a walking tour, head to dynamic art exhibits like the Atelier des Lumières or gourmandize at the latest restaurants and pastry shops.
2. Bora Bora
What this 12-square-mile French Polynesian island may lack in size it makes up for in sheer tropical beauty. Here, you’ll find picturesque beaches, lush jungles and luxurious resorts set on surrounding islets. The island’s extinct volcano, Mount Otemanu, makes for a great photo-op or challenging hike, and the friendly Bora Bora locals can help you catch a glimpse of the island’s best sights during an off-road excursion. To relax, head to Matira Beach for crystal-clear water and postcard-worthy white sand. Although a trip to Bora Bora is very expensive, most travelers say it’s worth every penny.
The small island of Bora Bora (just about 6 miles long and a little more than 2 miles wide) overflows with beauty. A dormant volcano rises up at its center and fans out into lush jungle before spilling into an aquamarine lagoon. In fact, author James Michener, who wrote “Tales of the South Pacific,” called Bora Bora “the most beautiful island in the world.” The 18th-century British explorer James Cook even coined it as the “Pearl of the Pacific.” The very definition of a tropical getaway, blissful Bora Bora abounds with luxurious resorts, sunny skies, warm waters and friendly locals.
And as you might’ve already guessed, the main industry on this petite island in French Polynesia and its swarm of tiny motu (islands) is tourism. To that end, you can snorkel, explore Vaitape (Bora Bora’s main port), hike Mount Otemanu and more. But there’s a catch: Bora Bora is expensive, very expensive. In short, visit Bora Bora for natural beauty, visit for utter relaxation and visit if you have the money.
3. Glacier National Park
Snow-capped peaks, alpine meadows and azure lakes are just a few reasons why Glacier National Park is one of America’s most striking parks. There are more than 700 miles of hiking trails in this Montana crown jewel, plus 13 designated areas for camping. In the winter, travelers can enjoy snowshoeing and skiing, while during the summer vacationers can go swimming in Lake McDonald and whitewater rafting on Flathead River, among other popular activities. For those who’d rather admire their surroundings from their car, a scenic drive along Going-to-the-Sun Road can’t be missed.
Named for the remnants of glaciers from the ice age, Glacier National Park is located on the border of Canada and Montana. It is often called the “Crown of the Continent,” because of its dizzying array of natural beauty. A favorite spot among hikers, the park features a variety of trails for all skill levels, ranging from the easy Trail of the Cedars (home to towering and beautiful cedars) to the challenging Grinnell Glacier (which offers sweeping views). What’s more, the park boasts more than 700 lakes, numerous waterfalls and two mountain ranges, spread across more than 1 million acres that shelter a variety of wildlife.
When you visit Italy’s capital city, prepare to cross a few must-see landmarks including the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon off of your bucket list. Travelers can also see some of Italy’s greatest treasures, including St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, in Vatican City. Escape the tourist crowds by taking a twilight stroll along the cobblestone streets of Trastevere, or head to Mercato Centrale Roma to sample local delicacies like pistachio gelato. Before leaving, peruse some of Rome’s lesser-known museums, art galleries and boutiques, or head to Janiculum Hill for panoramic views of the city.
Whether you’re driving along the Road to Hana, enjoying a bird’s-eye view of Maui’s lush coastline from a helicopter, snorkeling with sea turtles or simply relaxing on white or black sand beaches, you’ll find that this Hawaiian island is unlike any other tropical destination. Don’t miss a chance to visit Haleakala National Park, which is home to one of the world’s largest dormant volcanic craters and boasts surreal sunrises. You should also attend a traditional luau for a dose of local culture and a taste of Hawaiian specialties like poi, poke and i’a fish.
It is not cheap or easy to reach, but this isolated Indian Ocean vacation spot located southwest of India is the personification of a dreamy tropical retreat. In this remote destination, which is made up of more than 1,000 islands, thatched-roof overwater bungalows sit above the bright aquamarine sea, providing easy water access and a romantic atmosphere. On this once-in-a-lifetime vacation, fill your days with beach trips, spa treatments and snorkeling or scuba diving excursions. If cabin fever sets in, pay a visit to the capital, Malé, where you’ll find historic mosques and open-air markets.
WHERE TO GO IN AFRICA IN DECEMBER
As the northern hemisphere sinks into the short, cold, dark days of winter, Africa stretches its arms out wide in a warm welcome. Summer gets going in Africa in December and many destinations are at their best. The weather in Africa in December is mostly hot and sunny, while the occasional cooling rains in the interior ‘green’ things up.
Great wildlife migrations are taking place now as fresh grasses begin to cover Africa’s rolling plains from the Serengeti to the Kalahari Desert. The herds attract predators in great numbers and travellers on an African safari in December usually enjoy plentiful sightings of big cats in action. Migrant birds arrive to fill the air with colour and song, and Africa’s trees stand in full-leafed glory, casting welcome shade over December safari picnics.
Beach holidays are excellent at most Indian Ocean destinations, too. Whether you’re planning a safari or a beach vacation (or a combination of both), keep in mind that Africa in December can be busy. Beaches are at their sunniest and the traditional Christmas and New Year summer holiday season is in full swing.
If you live in the northern hemisphere and you’re thinking about visiting Africa in winter, December is a wonderful and festive time of the year – here are our best recommendations for where to go in Africa in December:
1. South Africa
With some of the finest Big 5 game viewing on the continent, plenty of opportunities to combine bush and beach holidays, and well-developed infrastructure that makes it easy to get around, South Africa in December offers unforgettable holiday experiences – no wonder it’s one of the best places to visit in Africa’s in December!
Continually voted as one of the world’s top cities to visit, Cape Town remains one of the best places to visit in Africa in December. With picturesque mountains, bottle-green wine valleys and gorgeous beaches all within easy reach, the ‘Mother City’ is one of South Africa’s best-loved travel destinations and at her prettiest in December.
The weather is hot and Martini-dry, the beaches buzzing and the mood infectiously cheerful – perfect for Christmas in Africa. We recommend hiring a private villa to have a prime position at the best beaches, exclusive use of swimming pools and parking, plus housekeeping and 24-7 security.
Offering a stunning diversity of landscapes and wildlife, this East African country appears on plenty lists of the best places to visit in Africa in December. Top this off with the ease with which visitors can obtain visas for Tanzania and you’ve got the formula for a fantastic time in Africa.
a. Serengeti National Park
The ‘short rains’ season from November to December relieve the dry mid-year winter in Tanzania. Clouds build up in the mornings and break in spectacular, but generally short-lived, showers in the late afternoons that are unlikely to affect game viewing.
Migrant birds return from the northern hemisphere and resident plains game give birth. The Wildebeest Migration is still heading south to the great plains and offer plentiful targets for the Serengeti’s big cats. If you’re looking for dramatic game drives, the Serengeti is where to go on an African safari in December.
b. Tarangire National Park
Temperatures are pleasant – it doesn’t get much above 28°C (82°F) – and game viewing is good right across Tanzania. Elephant-packed Tarangire National Park, yet to receive its main rains, is another great place to go on an African safari in December.
c. Ngorongoro Crater
Created about 3 million years ago when a big volcano exploded and collapsed on itself, the Ngorongoro Crater is the largest intact volcanic caldera on Earth. It’s one of the world’s most spectacular natural wonders, supporting over 25 000 animals.
While it’s mostly green and lush throughout East Africa in December, the Crater is particularly gorgeous at this time of year. Wildlife photographers are in for a treat in one of the easiest places to see the Big 5.
d. Nyerere National Park (Selous) and Ruaha
Second-time-round safari visitors may want to explore a little further away from the more popular destinations in Tanzania. Early rains are turning Southern Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park and the Nyerere National Park (Selous) green, and a December safari is considered good for game viewing.
Beautifully wild, enormous in size and filled to the brim with wildlife, these areas offer crowd-free safari experiences in East Africa in December.
3. Indian Ocean Islands
Not much beats Christmas in Africa in a hammock under a gently waving palm tree. Enjoying some R&R in a tropical paradise is simply the best way to crown your African safari in December.
In some cases, you can sip coffee at your safari camp in the morning and enjoy a cocktail that same evening on a tropical beach. But choose your island carefully, as the summer rains are starting to fall across the Indian Ocean islands. It’s not day-ruining weather, but cyclone season generally starts from about January and some places are drier than others – it’s always a good idea to check with your Africa Safari Expert.
a. The Seychelles
Home to some of the world’s finest beaches, award-winning resorts and super-stylish villas, the Seychelles weather is generally warm and beach-perfect all year round, with December to April being the hottest months.
Diving and snorkelling conditions are good and if you’re looking for unbeatable exclusivity, one of the Seychelles private island resorts is where to go in Africa in December. Furthermore, thanks to easy logistics and its location, the Seychelles is a great add-on to an East African safari in December.
Always a firm favourite for active travellers and families with children, this twinkling jewel in the Indian Ocean offers powder-soft beaches, warm waters and glorious weather year-round. The best time to go to Mauritius is from May to December when it’s cool, dry and sunny. Regular flights make Mauritius a fantastic add-on to a Southern African safari in December.
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