December is one of the busiest travel months of the year, second only to the summer. People are taking flights back to their hometowns or to far-flung destinations. Some people have already started their ski season. And those who can't wait until next year to go are making the most of their time off now.
While others seek seasonal cheer through dazzling decorations and lively performances, here are 5 places where you may experience genuine Christmas cheer this season. A list of the top 5 destinations for a holiday vacation this December follows.
1. Phuket, Thailand
Travelers to the southwestern Thai island of Phuket can expect to find pristine white beaches, crystal clear waters, and dramatic limestone cliffs. Phuket, Thailand, is an island in the Andaman Sea, about an hour's flight from Bangkok. The island's tropical allure comes with a comparatively low price tag for everything from lodging to spa services. As the dominant religion, Buddhism has significantly impacted the country's cuisine and culture, both of which visitors can enjoy.
2. Ocala, Florida
Ocala, located in central Florida approximately 80 miles from Orlando, is a great place to visit because of its parks, rivers, lakes, golf, fishing, and water activities, and its pleasant December weather in the low 70s. Ocala is known as the "Horse Capital of the World" due to its abundance of equine-related businesses, including farms, training centers, exhibitions, and tours. You'll find the World Equestrian Center, home to many equestrian competitions. From November 25th to December 24th, Winter Wonderland will be open to the public for holiday cheer with its dazzling light displays, towering 60-foot Christmas tree, ice skating rink, and live carolers.
3. Scotland, UK
After a long day in the elements, there's nothing cozier than relaxing with a few drams of Scotch in front of a raging fire. His two restaurants in Stockbridge, The Scran and Scallie and The Kitchin, both have Michelin stars. Both restaurants feature innovative takes on traditional pub fare. Edinburgh in the winter is a terrific time to enjoy the substantial meals of the city's top restaurants, and the city is raucously merry in December. Edinburgh has a growing hotel sector, and the newest addition, Gleneagles Townhouse, is a welcome addition. One of our favorite Airbnbs in Edinburgh is this charming city center apartment with a view of the Royal Mile. One of the most beautiful train rides in the United Kingdom is along the West Highland Line.
Austria shines brightest in December. The Vienna Christmas Market is among the world's oldest and best-known. The best-known takes place in front of the baroque Schönbrunn Palace and features handmade goods, gingerbread houses, and a massive Christmas tree. There is live music and fresh fare at Art Advent on Karlsplatz. The Krampus parades in Salzburg are a tad anarchic, with goat demons causing mayhem on the streets. Aside from being one of the oldest Christmas markets in the world, the Salzburg Advent Singing is a must-experience if you're in town for the holiday season.
5. Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
The beaches of Brazil are world-famous, but with that fame comes an influx of tourists. The magnificent archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, rated one of the world's most incredible islands in our 2018 Readers' Choice Awards, is located 220 miles off Brazil's northeastern coast, making it an ideal destination for anyone looking to get away from it all. Snorkeling in pristine seas, hiking through verdant paths, and gazing at moonrises over the sea are all possible here.
What perfect way to end the year with a trip to one of the top travel destinations in the world in December? Here are some of the best places to visit in December around the world to help you realize that spectacular year-end.