101 Holiday ideas



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Where is hot in December

Hot Caribbean holidays in DecemberKo Samui is hot in December

* Where to find sunshine at bargain prices

* Fly 5 hours to enjoy 24ºC temperatures

By Mark Hodson, Sunday Times Travel Writer and Editor of 101 Holidays

In December, when it’s icy cold in Britain, it’s very tempting to jet off in search of sunshine. Travel in the first week or two, before the schools break up, and you can finish off your Christmas shopping with some exotic buys – and pick up a tan.

For some, the idea of escaping the tinsel on Christmas Day itself is hugely tempting, although a growing trend is to enjoy the big day itself at home and then head off on holiday in time to bring in the New Year in a swimsuit. You’ll need to book early though. Check out our editors’ pick of Christmas holiday ideas.

If you crave warm sunshine and balmy seas, it’s really not advisable to go to the Med. It may be sunny in Cyprus (18ºC) or the Algarve (16ºC), but it’s unlikely to be basking weather. So where is hot in December for a holiday?


Note: all the travel companies featured on this page are personally recommended by our editors.

Madeira - hot in DecemberThe spectacular coastline

Less than 7 hours flying time

You should find reliably warm weather within a four or five hour flight. That will get you as far as the Canary Islands. There are plenty of regional departures to Lanzarote, Tenerife and Gran Canaria where you can expect temperatures of at least 20°C.

Nearby Madeira offers a similar climate, combining some lovely hotels and traditional quintas with rolling mountainous countryside, dramatic cliffs and fascinating walks. Here are some excellent holiday ideas.

In North Africa, we would advise against Tunisia – not quite warm enough – and Jordan – the rainy season – in December. However, Egypt is a great bet. Explore Cairo, enjoy a Nile cruise, snorkel in the Red Sea or enjoy a combination of all three. You can expect seven hours of sunshine each day and temperatures of 24°C. Flying time from the UK is just 5 hours.

Morocco is a pretty safe bet too where you will enjoy warm sunny days – pack for chilly nights though. This is a particularly nice time to explore Marrakech, not least for some Christmas shopping and exotic spices to bring back home.

A great option are the Cape Verde Islands, a diverse archipelago off the west coast of Africa where you’ll find tropical beaches, lush mountains and temperatures of 27°C. Sal and Boa Vista are both a non-stop six-hour flight from the UK with a choice of all-inclusive resorts and charming hotels. There’s no time difference and no need for anti-malarials either. My colleague Catherine loved her holiday there in March 2013 – check out her review.

The Gambia, in west Africa, is only six hours away and there’s no time difference here either. Prices are very reasonable, there are lovely wide beaches and some terrific hotels to suit most budgets, from luxury spa resorts to riverfront lodges. Check out the latest deals.

Southeast Asia holidays in December

Southeast Asia is an excellent choice in December. For a taste of sheer luxury, extraordinary scenic beauty and spiritual warmth, Bali is hard to beat. There may be a few afternoon or overnight showers but the 31°C highs and six hours of sunshine make it worth the journey.

Vietnam (31°C) is one of the fastest-growing destinations in the region – discover ancient and modern history, rich culture, great food, miles of empty beaches and a new wave of luxury hotels.

Cambodia offers a near perfect climate, with temperatures of 30°C and nine hours of daily sunshine. Although it has idyllic beaches, this is not a fly-and-flop destination – you should definitely take time to explore the capital Phnom Penh and the temples of Angkor close to Siem Reap. Choose from independent or guided tours.

If you want a really special experience, head to Burma, a country that is slowly emerging from troubled times. You’ll get an amazing welcome from the people there.

Thailand is a great destination in winter but pick your spot carefully. It’s the rainy season along the east coast (including Ko Samui and Hua Hin) in December but you can expect eight hours of sunshine and 31°C in Phuket and Ko Phi Phi.

Find more hot winter destinations recommended by our editors.

India & Indian Ocean holidays in December

India is a great place to visit in December, not least as you will no doubt be travelling around and the temperatures are less fierce than at some other times of year. In Northern India you’ll find temperatures of 23°C and eight hours of sun, ideal for sightseeing. Try a tour of Rajasthan or this tiger safari.

Goa and Kerala are both ideal choices for beach holidays, with temperatures hovering around 31°C and nine hours of sun.

It’s peak season in Sri Lanka in December, so book early, with a specialist company who can advise on the regional weather variations, to enjoy this country’s heady mix of beaches, culture, scenic wonders and wildlife adventures. We recommend Experience Sri Lanka.

For dreamy tropical beaches it’s hard to beat these two Indian Ocean destinations. Head to Mauritius (29°C and eight hours of sun) for luxury beachfront resorts and plenty to explore around the island or discover your inner Robinson Crusoe at one of the island hotels in the Maldives. It’s the beginning of the rainy season in the Seychelles – it will still be warm though.

Caribbean holidays

The hurricane season is well past and you can expect to find average highs of about 30°C and nine hours of daily sunshine across the region, with little humidity. If you go before the start of the school Christmas holidays, you’ll find prices are significantly lower. As soon as peak season arrives, it gets expensive.

Most of the direct flights take seven to eight hours with plenty of onward connections to the smaller islands.

Check out our recommendations in Barbados, the Cayman Islands and Jamaica. My favourite small islands include Tobago and Grenada, where I particularly like the Calabash Hotel and Laluna. Or head to Mexico for elegant haciendas and lavish all-inclusive hotels.

You can combine beach and culture in Cuba where we’ve found this great-value self-drive holiday and a 10-night Affordable Luxury in Cuba tour that takes in Havana, the colonial city of Trinidad and time to chill on the beach at Cayo Ensenachos.

If you fancy a cruise but not the thought of being on a floating village, try a tall ship cruise of the Caribbean with Star Clippers.

See our full recommendations for the best Caribbean holidays and details of the Caribbean weather in December.

Other hot long-haul ideas in December

It’s the middle of summer in Brazil and Argentina where we recommend Dehouche, a locally-based tour company.

Another country with perfect summer weather in December is South Africa. You can go on safari, lie on a beach, take a self-drive tour and explore beautiful Cape Town and the winelands, where temperatures are 26°C and there are no less than 11 hours of daily sunshine.

Namibia is hot in December too, although arguably a bit too hot for a touring holiday.

It’s the wet season in Kenya but that also means you can enjoy lush vegetation and a wealth of wildlife, not least the new-borns.

Florida is a pretty sure bet although there have been some freakishly chilly winters from time to time. You could enjoy the urban beach life in Miami, hit the theme parks in Orlando or drive along the Florida Keys.

Hawaii is magical in December. For island-hopping, try an escorted tour or small ship cruise.

It’s always warm in Las Vegas which you can combine with a trip to the Grand Canyon and a helicopter tour.

It may be a long way away but it’s the peak of summer down under – this “Sydney, Rock and Reef” tour takes in Australia’s most iconic city, Ayers Rock and the Great Barrier Reef.

See a full selection of our expert tips on where to go on holiday in December. Our sister site, 101 Honeymoons, has recommendations on the best December honeymoons.

Last updated: 6 October, 2013

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