December offers opportunities to both escape the season of snow and ice or embrace it. The harsh but dazzlingly beautiful landscapes of Antarctica are more easily accessible at this time of year, when the sea ice breaks and the sun shines near on 24 hours a day. It’s summer in Chile, and visitors can expect Mediterranean conditions in capital Santiago, as well as crystal-clear, stargaze-worthy skies over the Atacama Desert. Meanwhile, it’s the dry season in Thailand, and a good time for touring bustling Bangkok and the northern towns and temples.
Best destinations to visit in December
The best time to visit this vast, icy wilderness is between November and March, during the austral summer. Antarctica’s sea ice begins to melt and expeditions can make their way between icebergs and sheet ice to land. December offers less extreme temperatures and longer hours, with up to 24 hours of daylight to be expected. It’s the perfect time to spot baby seals and newly hatched chicks in large penguin colonies on the shore. Although you may spot fewer monumental ice formations due to the warmth, visitors have the rare chance to see the Scott and Shackleton exhibition huts -- typically hidden by snow the rest of the year.
This slender country stretches from the Atacama Desert down to the untamed wilderness of Patagonia, with vineyard-dotted valleys and snow-topped volcanoes between. In December, Chile is entering summer, and the crowds follow – so be sure to book well ahead. This is one of the best times to visit the Atacama Desert, which offers warm days, cool nights, and clear skies for star gazing. You can enjoy Mediterranean conditions in the capital city of Santiago, the vineyards of the Central Valley and the coast around Valparaiso. Patagonia’s national parks are at their best, with more hours of daylight and less extreme temperatures (although always be prepared for the chance of four seasons in one day).
Thailand tempts visitors with its blend of buzzing cities, wildlife-filled jungles, aromatic street-food and hallowed temples. In December, the north of the country is in the dry season, so you can expect fewer showers, lower humidity and more moderate temperatures. It’s a particularly good time to tour the bustling capital of Bangkok, as well as Chiang Mai – home to a multitude of temples and a base for visiting hill tribes, and exploring several acclaimed national parks, including Doi Inthanon and Doi Suthep.