December is the time of year where everything begins to wind down, and there’s finally time to take a breather. Being the Christmas season, it’s also a time for reflection, as well as for family. So where are the best places to escape to with your loved ones?
Trip Planner: Where to travel and when’s the best time to go?
Here’s our top picks of where to go in December for enjoyable holidays. Go where the weather is great and fun events are happening in December Read on to find out what makes these destinations the best places to travel to this month.
Soak Up the Sun in Phuket, Thailand
Great For: Tropical Escapade, Weekend Getaway, Beaches
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.
Weather in Phuket
Average Temperature: 23°C–31°C
Season: High and dry
What to Pack: Lots of beach gear – and clothes made from cotton fabrics.
How to Get There: Tigerair, Jetstar, AirAsia and SilkAir operate several direct flights to Phuket (HKT) from Singapore every day.
Average Flight Time: Under 3 hours.
Tours and Activities
Where to Stay
Where to Stay in Phuket:
Be Awed by Myanmar
Great For: Culture, Ancient Civilizations, History, Buddhist pilgrimage
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.
Weather in Myanmar
Average Temperature: 19°C–31°C.
Season: Peak season. Dry weather.
What to Pack: Cotton clothes and hats.
How to Get There: Direct flights from Singapore to Yangon (RGN) are available via Jetstar and Tigerair.
Average Flight Time: 3 hours.
Where to Stay
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.
Winter Getaway in Gangwon-do, South Korea
Great For: Winter Sonata K-drama Fanatics, Skiing, UNESCO sites, Hot Springs
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.
Korea National Tourism Organisation
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.
Weather in Gangwon-Do
Average Temperature: -3°C–9°C
What to Pack: Woollies, ski gear, down jackets and thermal underwear. Layer up!
How to Get There: Korean Air, Asiana Airlines and Singapore Airlines operate direct flights from Singapore to Seoul (ICN).
Average Flight Time: Approximately 7 hours.
Where to Stay
Yongpyong Ski Resort is a must-stop for Winter Sonata fans, as this was where much of the 2002 drama series was filmed.
Spend a Bavarian Christmas in Munich, Germany
Great For: Christmas Markets, Beer, Fairytale Architecture
Night and temperatures fall quickly in the city of Munich in the middle of December. However, there is a resounding festive warmth as people gather around the Marienplatz, Munich’s central square. Christmas is pursued in earnest by the city’s residents and the zeal can be rather infectious.
Munich’s infamous Chriskindmarkt opens in late November and runs until Christmas Eve. The delicious aroma of mulled wine and gingerbread wafts through the air as shoppers peruse handmade Christmas decorations and sample seasonal goodies.
And what is Christmas without carols? One of the most atmospheric spots to enjoy German Christmas repertoires is the impressive Frauenkirche, whose twin towers have become one of Munich’s identifiable landmarks.
Enhance the Bavarian Christmas experience by taking a day tour from Munich to visit the fairytale castle estates of Neuscwanstein – the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle – and Linderhof Palace, an exemplary specimen of rococo architecture.
No trip to Munich is complete without a visit to one of its beer halls. After all, Munich is the unofficial beer capital of the world! Hofbräuhaus is its most renowned institution, and it has been serving up hearty ales and tasty, generous portions of German bratwurst since 1589. Or, join a walking tour to visit all the other famous beer halls in Munich. Prost!
Weather in Munich
Average Temperature: 0°C–3°C
What to Pack: Woolly sweaters and winter coats alongside thermal undies.
How to Get There: Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways offer flights to Munich (MUC) with a single stopover in Abu Dhabi and Doha, respectively.
Average Flight Time: 18 hours
Where to Stay
Chill Out in Boracay, Philippines
Great For: Diving, Tropical Unspoilt Beaches, Tranquility
December marks the tail end of the monsoon season for the tropical utopia of Boracay, considered one of Southeast Asia’s most stunning beaches.
Department of Tourism Philippines
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.
Weather in Boracay
Average Temperature: 21°C–31°C
Season: Dry and high
What to Pack: Diving equipment, swimming gear and loads of cotton clothing.
How to Get There: SilkAir and Tiger Airways offer direct flights to Kalibo (KLO), one of the two main gateways to Boracay, followed by a two-hour journey from the airport to the ferry terminal for a 15-minute ferry ride to Boracay.
Average Flight Time: Under 4 hours.
Where to Stay
Boracay offers plenty of accommodation options including Fridays – a rustic beachfront hotel which won’t burn a big hole in your pocket.
Image credits: Getty Images