With a gorgeous Arctic landscape and a vast sky decorated with the Aurora Borealis for almost nights of the year, Finland is a magical December destination. Often seen in the polar regions, the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis as they are scientifically known, are one of the world's most beautiful natural phenomena. As electrically charged particles from the sun hit the earth's atmosphere it creates sheets of dancing colour. December is in the heart of winter across Iceland with long, dark nights ideal for catching a glimpse of these impressive visual performances with a wintery backdrop of frozen rivers and snow-covered pines.
Each December planet Earth crosses the orbital path of an asteroid that gets close enough to the sun so that its rocky body begins to crumble, resulting in what is known as the Geminids Meteor Shower. The astral debris vaporizes on contact with the upper atmosphere and from terra firma it appears as streams of coloured light tracing a path across the sky.
The Moroccan Sahara is one of the best places to witness this phenomenon with no light pollution and expansive vistas. If you'd rather spend the month of December somewhere tropical, you can't go wrong with Central America. The weather at this time of year is close to ideal as the dry season has started, bringing with it drier conditions and pleasant temperatures.
Explore ancient Mayan cities, charming colonial towns, wildlife-rich jungles and idyllic Caribbean islands. If you're thinking of heading to Central America for Christmas, expect a riotous celebration with street parades and parties.
With our range of Christmas tours you can either embrace Christmas and head to a snowy winter wonderland in Scandinavia and Russia or celebrate the festive season with sun, sea and sand in a sizzling part of the world while enjoying an exotic cultural experience.
Oxford Street and Regent Street come alive with twinkling street lights and epic window displays, Hyde Park is taken over by the festivities of Winter Wonderland and outdoor ice-skating rinks appear across the city. Head to Trafalgar Square to see the magnificent Christmas tree, gifted from Norway every year. And when you need a break, there are hundreds of cosy pubs offering hearty meals and mulled wine.
And this month sees the Christmas Market at the Town Hall Square in full swing, offering everything from cosy knitwear to traditional Estonian Christmas food. Whilst Tallinn hosts many wonderful markets in December, this is by far the main event. But as much of the rest of Europe is yet to catch on, you can enjoy the festivities without hordes of other visitors. From restaurants and galleries to museums and churches, you have plenty of options. The city is all the more romantic in December, with enchanting views of frozen rivers and fresh snow on the streets. Christmas isn't the only festival taking place in December.
If you're keen to sample other cultures during the month, consider these events.
The Chichibu Yomatsuri is considered one of Japan's top three festivals to feature floats. The nighttime festival takes place each year at the Chichibu shrine and features ornately decorated floats that are paraded through the streets of Chichibu city west of Tokyo. There's also a large fireworks display with a plethora of food stalls to keep people happy with festival treats and sweet rice wine. One of Mexico's biggest Catholic events, the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe honours Virgin Mary with feasts, fiestas and pilgrimage to the old and new basilicas in the capital.
As Mexico's patron saint, the day is a national holiday with a week of celebrations leading up to her big day. There's a large street fair with food, crafts and dancing for all to enjoy. In late December the attractive city of Harbin comes alive with hundreds of incredible sculptures made from ice and lit with bright neon colours. Established in the festival attracts professional ice sculptors from across the globe looking to outdo one another with towering structures and creative designs. It's a time for wintery fun with ice-skating and sledding opportunities.
The city of Konya in Turkey's Anatolia region was the adopted home of Sufic mystic Celaleddin Rumi and each year he is remembered with the day Mevlana Festival. During the festival the famous Whirling Dervishes spin an elegant trance-like dance with religious fervour in whites robes and tall hats. It's the start of peak holiday season across Southeast Asia with perfect beach weather - the monsoons have cleared to welcome in clear skies, plenty of sunshine and low humidity.
It's a similar story along the west coast of India and the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Central America. Even the glittering coastline of South Africa's Cape Peninsula is ideal at this time of year so for that December beach holiday you're spoilt for choice. With Christmas just around the corner and brilliant beach weather across the country, India's coastline is a popular beach destination in December. Whether it's the old hippy hangouts or peaceful yoga retreats of Goa or the lush beaches backed by mangroves in Kerala, there's plenty of options.
It's peak season with visitors making the most of the sunny days and warm temperatures so book early. In Sri Lanka the southwest monsoon has finally passed so the coast between Negombo and Weligama is where visitors head for lazy days spent on sandy beaches backed by swaying palms. There may be the odd afternoon shower as weather conditions become ever more unpredictable but with dozens of resorts from quiet fishing villages to sprawling, glitzy hangouts, a bit of rain is not enough to dampen the appeal of Sri Lanka in December.
Where to go for your December holiday
From December onwards the Caribbean experiences near-perfect weather with blue skies, warm sunshine and calm waters. From Cancun in Mexico to Bocas del Toro in Panama, there's ample choice when it comes to beach destinations in Central America with miles and miles of Caribbean coast. Mexico and Costa Rica can be particularly busy at this time of year with vacationers from the Northern Hemisphere looking for some tropical winter sun. The western coast of the peninsula and the coast around the Gulf of Thailand are fantastic beach destinations in December - temperatures are high, days are sunny and the rain is but a distant memory.
This makes Phuket and Hua Hin the best options though by the end of the month the eastern coast of the peninsula is considerably drier which means you can pretty much choose your island freely. The wet season is well and truly underway across southern Africa, which means verdant scenery but more challenging safari opportunities with wildlife hidden by the thick vegetation and more dispersed with the numerous water sources now available.
However, East Africa is experiencing a second mini dry season so safari adventures are still possible here. Elsewhere, India's national parks are thriving with the regional dry season and Sri Lanka also benefits from lack of rains. Mid-December marks the beginning of a second dry season across Kenya and Tanzania after the month of November, historically known as the time of the 'short rains'. This means safari opportunities are good with plenty of wildlife about and still relatively green scenery.
The cooler temperatures may account for the fact that this is low season, which means better availability, better prices and fewer safari vehicles clogging the tracks in the popular national parks.
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Like neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania, Uganda experiences a second mini dry season between mid-December to early February which means it's a good time to plan a trekking trip to see the famed mountain gorillas. The dry conditions make it easier to navigate the jungle trails with the sun's rays penetrating the dense foliage for better visibility of the gorillas between the trees. The dry season also means less mosquitoes which is always a plus.
The Yala National Park in southern Sri Lanka is home to the world's largest concentration of leopards. The exquisite creatures can be sighted year-round, especially at dusk as they are nocturnal animals. Chalet Hotel Breithorn 4. Chalet Cascades 4. Snow in popular Christmas ski resorts.
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