The biggest single highlight in the region is the Angkor Wat temples near Siem Reap in Cambodia. It’s one of the most impressive tourist sights in the entire world, and Siem Reap is a fun and mellow town that you can linger in for a while. Vietnam is really lovely and cheap as well. The food there is excellent, as it’s a fusion of French and traditional Asian. You can go from Ho Chi Minh City in the south on the train to Hoi An near Da Nang, and then up to Hanoi to see Halong Bay. I wouldn’t start in Vietnam because it can be a bit trickier than the others. In the rest of the region it’s easy to book tours and buses and such, but in Vietnam the travel agencies are a bit harder to trust, so you have to be more careful. Things there are very cheap though, so even if you pay more for a reputable agency, it’ll still be cheap.
Weirdly enough, Central America and South America aren’t really known as top “culture” destinations, as the colonial history has mostly wiped out the indigenous history in the larger places. There are Aztec, Maya, and Inca ruins and sights, but not really enough to build a whole trip around. I’d say the most interest of those would be the Inca culture of Peru, specifically around Machu Picchu and the valley around Cusco. Alternatively, visiting Argentina is pretty much like visiting Europe from a culture standpoint. It’s quite nice there and prices are low if you know about the blue market for currency, but otherwise it may not be what you are looking for.
My top recommendation would be San Juan, Puerto Rico. It offers a wonderful mix of history and culture and nightlife and great food, alongside excellent beaches and abundant activities. Hotels and rental apartments are mostly in the mid-range for the Caribbean, but food and drinks and most other things are great value. You could get a place in the Condado area, which is close to the lovely Old San Juan neighborhood and plenty of nightlife all around. And then perhaps you could rent a car and stay for a few days at one of the smaller beach towns elsewhere on the island. You wouldn’t even need a passport, although it does feel fairly exotic while you are there. But because it’s part of the US, it’s also well organized and safe. Most people you’ll meet will speak at least some English, and many are fluent, so it’s easy even if you don’t speak Spanish.
As for alternatives, the most obvious are the various islands of Thailand, with Phuket being the largest. It’s peak season in December in Thailand, but still pretty affordable by most standards. I spent a month in Phuket the following December, interestingly enough, and I prefer Bali even though it’s hotter and more humid. Hopefully this helps and let me know if you have other questions. Helping people figure out where to go is something I really enjoy. -Roger
The next morning we hit up the hotel dining area around 7 am for a large breakfast before going out for our second day. They had gigantic breakfast bowls (Meal 3) as part of their offerings, so that’s what I got. I asked for a southwest bowl with no potatoes, and received a heaping plate of eggs, chopped ham, onion, green peppers, and melted cheese. I also got a side of bacon and had a fatty coffee that I made in my blender bottle with powdered coconut oil, liquid stevia, and half n half. I added some salt, pepper, and butter to my breakfast bowl and was very full. So full, in fact, that we did not eat again until 4 pm.
Assuming you might be in the US or Canada, my first hunch is Costa Rica, or Panama, which is a bit cheaper though not as well organized. Costa Rica has good surfing on its Pacific beaches, and there are very few all-inclusive resorts, which means that the restaurant scenes in resort areas are vibrant and interesting. Costa Rica also has limitless adventure opportunities, like zip-line tours and such, although they aren’t exactly cheap. Going inland you’ve got loads of national parks, as well as the famous volcano and its little spa town.
Unfortunately, it can be a bit complicated and time consuming to reach any of these Philippines resort areas. I don’t think I’d recommend doing more than 2 of them in a 8 to 10 day trip. The nice thing is that they are very secluded-feeling once you get there because they are so out of the way. Partly for that reason, I think staying for 4 or 5 days each is very nice.
Like so many others on this list, Goa is completely done with its harsh rainy season by the time November begins, yet crowds don't really start showing up in earnest until mid December. If you have the time off then you'd be very happy just finding a cheap hotel in one of Goa's beach towns and just chilling the whole month in great weather and with minimal crowds.
There is no better time than December to discover a still (somewhat) under-the-radar part of the Caribbean. This verdant, five square mile island has seen a lot of activity recently, from a new mega yacht club to a Soho House to the Mandarin Oriental's first property in the Caribbean. More is on the horizon for this picturesque piece of paradise, but go before everyone else discovers it.
If you’ve got 5 to 7 days and are starting in India I don’t think you want to fly halfway around the world, so it’s probably best to go somewhere between Dubai and Bali. Dubai has cheap flights from most places and it’s very family oriented with large play parks inside shopping malls and that sort of thing. You could get an apartment there in one of the many apartment-hotels for a reasonable price, and the December weather should be pretty good as well.
Cancun is at the north end of the Riviera Maya, which also includes the island of Cozumel, so this is a huge area with over a thousand hotels to choose from. All that competition keeps prices down until the high season begins, so November is still a buyer's market. There are even ruins nearby and other cultural opportunities, so it's not all about sitting on the beach here. If you prefer a high-rise hotel overlooking a beach then stay in Cancun itself, but if you prefer to stay in a friendly town with many restaurant and shopping choices then head to Playa del Carmen, just a bit to the south, instead.
Warm weather, Caribbean beaches, and fascinating history beckon visitors to this coastal city during December. Once a 16th-century Spanish port, Old Town Cartagena, surrounded by ancient stone walls, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visitors strolling through its streets will see original Spanish Colonial architecture among new restaurants, restored homes, and boutique inns. From street food to upscale restaurants, Cartagena offers the best in local seafood, meat, and fresh fruits. In December, the city becomes a festival of lights, with nativity scenes, decorations, and holiday celebrations culminating with New Year’s Eve fireworks. Holiday shoppers will want to take home gifts of colorful handcrafts sold at markets throughout the city, with special Christmas markets arriving in December. Colombia supplies nearly 90 percent of the world’s emeralds, and a quality gem from a reliable source would make a memorable keepsake. Nearby Rafael Nunez International Airport makes arriving by air quite convenient, and visitors will find a range of lodging in and around Cartagena. For a luxurious vacation, the new Conrad Cartagena offers four pools, a private beach club, a golf course, seven restaurants, tennis courts, a spa, and stunning ocean views from every room.
My second vacation meal was dinner that night. After walking almost ten miles at the park, the hotel, and spending the late afternoon swimming in the pool, we did dinner at the hotel restaurant before heading back to the park to ride a few things one last time. Dinner (Meal 2) consisted of pot roast with carrots and mushrooms (I asked them to go light on my carrots and they did a very good job of it), and a side salad that I again topped with salt, pepper, and blue cheese dressing.
Morocco certainly qualifies as an exotic destination, and it could be fun to do some holiday shopping at their world famous markets. If there’s time, Abu Dhabi’s unique surroundings would make a memorable pre-holiday excursion. Or enjoy spring in New Zealand along with their fresh seafood, wines, and beaches. In Buenos Aires you can watch tango dancers while sipping a glass of Malbec — or get up and dance. Bermuda’s convenient location, sunshine, luxurious hotels, and November events give visitors plenty to do, but a lounge chair by the pool will be pretty inviting as well. The same can be said for Palm Springs, where it’s warm enough for poolside relaxing or al fresco dining and cool enough for cozying up to an outdoor fireplace at night. Warm weather awaits in Belize along with a clear blue sea ideal for snorkeling and diving.
The high season hotel prices will start in November as well, but crowds are usually thin for most of the month so you should be able to get some nice bargains at some of the nicer places that allow online booking. When they see that they have lots of empty rooms as the month approaches, they'll discount to be on par with some of the 2-star places that aren't nearly as nice.
The second trip will be the second week of December from the 13th to the 19th. Also warm place with adventure and tourism. Im going with my best friend. I was thinking one of the islands of the Caribbean or Latin America ( since I can travel freely to most of them without the process of getting a visa) but I’m not sure which ones where not affected by Irma.
Your Munich plan sounds good. It can be fun to actually spend a full night in a town like Rothenburg ob der Tauber because it’s filled with day-trippers in the day and you almost have it to yourself at night. But it’s small enough that one night there would be enough. Nuremburg is quite a large city, and you might even stay there a night or two as well. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of anyone saying they enjoy the cold and the rain, but if you do you’ll love it there. Fortunately, nowhere in the popular parts of Europe do they get extreme winters, and there is a good chance you won’t even see any snow in those cities. Most people are looking for the warmest places, which can be found in Portugal and Spain, but since that isn’t you I think your plan is good. Christmas is a big deal in some European cities such as Rome, but not a huge deal in others. Most businesses will be closed that day in nearly all countries, but of course hotels and many restaurants will be open. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
From Atlanta, the places that come to mind with the theme of “nature” would be Costa Rica and Belize. Costa Rica is probably the better choice, as it famously has around a third of its land as natural parks. Much of it is jungle, and they have all sorts of activities including zip lining, but also canopy tours and much more. There is also the Arenal volcano there, which is really nice and has some fun hot springs around it. They also have beaches, of course, but there is plenty in the interior of the island to keep you busy. If you know a bit of Spanish, it helps, but most other visitors know little or none.
By early December the rainy season is pretty much over in Cartagena, and it cools down just a bit more as well, so the weather really doesn't get any better than this. As with most others on this list, right around Christmas you'll find that hotels get more expensive and are more crowded, so if you can go earlier in the month you'll be paying less and dealing with fewer crowds.
Far from the crowds and heat of summer, a visitor to Rome in December will find that it’s a lovely time there, with fewer lines at popular tourist spots, more attractive prices, and a chill in the air. With a warm jacket, comfortable shoes, cozy hat and gloves, you’re ready to explore the Eternal City. Stroll through the main streets to enjoy colorful lights, decorated trees, and Nativity scenes. The Piazza Navona hosts a Christmas market, and stores welcome shoppers with longer hours and attractive displays. Rome’s Jewish community celebrates Hanukkah with a large Menorah in Piazza Barberini where candles are lit each evening of the eight-night holiday, this year from December 2–10. The Catholic community celebrates the Immaculate Conception on December 8 when the Pope leads a procession from the Vatican to the Piazza di Spagna. December is the perfect time to visit the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, and museums that are usually filled with tourists during warmer months. Even without crowds, it’s still most convenient to book ahead through a tour company such as City Wonders or Access Italy, for no-wait entry, professional guides, and early admission. Food is always one of the great pleasures of a visit to Italy, and in December, a warming plate of spaghetti carbonara or hot chocolate and seasonal panettone taste especially good. The new Pantheon Iconic Rome Hotel, Autograph Collection is a convenient home base in the center of the action with a beautiful rooftop overlooking the Pantheon.
I know Italy is the world’s top wine producer and they obviously make a lot of olive oil as well. I’ve seen on many travel shows how it’s fairly easy to visit the olive oil places, and of course most wineries have places where you can see the process and taste it. The thing is though, that even Sicily is quite chilly in December so they might close down for the season. You definitely won’t get sunbathing weather in December at all. I would say you are best off in May, June, September, and October to get good weather and not have to deal with the insane crowds in July or August. Tuscany is the easiest to reach of the 3, but because of that its beach towns are most likely to be crowded in those warm months. I hope this helps and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
If I had more information about destinations in East Africa that would qualify I would love to include them. But unfortunately, it’s one of the few regions I haven’t been to myself, and according to every source I hear, very few foreigners are visiting as well. I know many (especially wealthy) people do the safaris in that region, or they walk up Kilimanjaro, but outside that it still sounds like there is almost no tourist infrastructure or even a backpacker scene. If you know things to be different, please let me know because I’m very open to it. -Roger
Austria Salzburg, Vienna Belgium Bruges, Brussels Bosnia and Herzegovina Sarajevo Bulgaria Sofia Croatia Dubrovnik, Split, Zagreb Czechia Cesky Krumlov, Prague Denmark Copenhagen Estonia Tallinn Finland Helsinki France Lyon, Nice, Paris Germany Berlin, Hamburg, Munich Greece Athens, Mykonos, Rhodes, Santorini Hungary Budapest Iceland Reykjavik Ireland Dublin, Galway Italy Florence, Milan, Naples, Rome, Sorrento, Venice Latvia Riga Lithuania Vilnius
Uruguay is an interesting place. It seems to be a less modern and less developed version of next-door Argentina. Buenos Aires is a larger and more interesting city than Montevideo. There is a town there called Colonia, which is worth a couple days if you like old and charming cities. But most people who go to Uruguay either go to one of the posh beach resort towns (mainly Punta del Este), or they go to the tourist cattle ranches, which are surprisingly popular. If you haven’t been to Argentina yet you might find that it has more and different options, such as the Mendoza wine region and the mountain resort town of Bariloche.
As the year winds down the parties amp up, none more so than in Scotland’s capital, where Hogmanay celebrations see flaming torches, fireworks displays and night-long parties take over the usually quiet cobbled streets. Slightly more sedate, the Caribbean’s southernmost island Trinidad simmers with stirring Spanish-style musical performances as the locals usher in the start of the dry season.
There’s also Mad River Valley in Vermont, another place to spot amazing hues of fall foliage within Green Mountain National Forest, which provides one of the most gorgeous November vacations. Enjoy quiet seclusion in the small towns near and around Central Vermont for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see autumn’s last breath and the birth of winter white splendor. Plus, November also happens to be primetime for skiers in Vermont and surrounding Eastern states. Enjoy a slice of wondrous heaven this Thanksgiving holiday.
From exquisitely decorated storefronts to the amazing Rockettes Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall, New York City attracts thousands of tourists every December. Visit the Big Apple during the holidays! It’s a sight to behold. We recommend visiting Rockefeller Center to go ice skating, go shopping at new pop-up shops or just enjoy a cup of hot chocolate at Serendipity 3.
I think Spain is probably your best bet, and you can probably get there on a reasonably priced flight with a change in Dubai or Abu Dhabi. The winter weather is decent and the big cities are always packed with locals rather than so many tourists. Barcelona is probably more fun than Madrid, though both are big cities with a lot to see and notoriously good nightlife. If you get a cheap enough flight I don’t think you need to do a package. It’s pretty easy to get around Spain’s big cities just on English, as long as you do a bit of research. In 5 days you could spend 3 days in Barcelona and then 2 days in Madrid, or just 5 days in the Barcelona area. It’s a big city with plenty to see and some good day trips. You could also go to Valencia, which is also really fun and a short train ride away.
This is a huge question and I’d need to know more about your preferences and your budget to answer it properly. But I can give you a short version here. In my opinion, which is matched by many other people, the most interesting and dramatic cities in Europe are London, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, and Venice. Visiting those would require about 16 days to do it properly because you’d want to spend 3 or 4 days in each city, except maybe only 2 days in Venice because it’s quite small.
Bali, which is just south of the equator, would be a good choice in November. It does rain a bit that month, but they are summer storms that tend to only last 30 minutes or so. It’s a wonderful island with great prices on most things, including massages. The complicated thing about Bali is that the main tourist areas of Kuta, Legian, and Seminyak are now so crowded that they can be unpleasant. I spent a month there again earlier this year, and I don’t think I’ll go back to that part of the island.