Whether it’s snow or sun, there are plenty of options for a December holiday
In the Northern hemisphere, the run-up to Christmas can be hugely atmospheric, and December is peak time for many winter sun destinations too.
Best for families – Cape Town, South Africa
It’s summer in South Africa, and a busy time too, particularly along the coast. Cape Town never gets terribly overcrowded though, and as its school holidays there’s plenty going on for kids. While the beaches closest to the city centre – Camps Bay and Clifton – are picture postcard perfect, the Atlantic Ocean is freezing; head to Muizenberg on the Cape Peninsula for warmer waters and a more relaxed atmosphere. Kids aged 10 and over can learn to surf here, too: Surf Emporium offer half day camps that include equipment hire. Other child-friendly attractions include Two Oceans Aquarium and, for windy days, Glowing Rooms, a glow-in-the-dark mini golf course.
Best for a city break – Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is magical in December, with the snow and twinkling lights making the city look as though it’s straight out of a fairy tale. The Christmas markets for which the city is famous are a great place to find gifts and souvenirs, as well as to sample mulled wine, and the cold temperatures are the perfect excuse to while away the hours in a cosy cafe. In addition, while Czech cuisine (such as goulash, dumplings and schnitzel) can be a bit heavy in warmer months, it is wonderfully fortifying in winter. Cultural events abound too, such as opera and classical music performances, and there are plenty of museums to explore – the National Museum will keep you occupied for hours. You can even ski – Monínec Ski Resort is only 80km away.
Best for a beach break – Sri Lanka
Some call Sri Lanka ‘India Lite’, as it’s much easier to travel around: for starters, it’s a small island, but it’s also not as noisy and crowded and, well, overwhelming as India can be. The best time to visit the south coast is from October to April as there’s the least chance of rain – and with temperatures hovering around 30C, it’s a great place for a December beach break. Don’t miss Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site with gorgeous Dutch colonial architecture; here you’ll find art galleries and boutiques as well as upscale hotels and restaurants. As far as beaches go, they all have soft golden sand, warm waters and a pleasantly laid-back vibe; some of the best are Unawatuna, Weligama and Mirissa, which is near the launching point for blue whale watching trips.
Best for an adventure break – Jackson Hole, Wyoming, USA
Jackson Hole in Wyoming is a popular destination for ski enthusiasts, with three resorts offering superlative slopes amid jaw-dropping scenery. Skiing and snowboarding isn’t all that’s on offer, though – snowmobiling and snow-tubing all offer an adrenaline rush, and Nordic skiing, heli-skiing and backcountry skiing options are available. Any less adventurous travelling companions are well-catered for with sleigh or Alaskan dog rides, guided snowshoeing expeditions and coach tours through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.