For most, the end of the year is not only a time for contemplation but also a fantastic time for relaxation after a yearlong grind. It’s an especially popular time for familiies with kids to enjoy a long stretch of vacation time, with the Malaysian school holidays in full swing. If you’re not out for a family holiday, this may seem like a less attractive time to travel because this is high tourist season, but don’t let that throw you! it’s still the most relaxing time of year and everyone having fun around you can add to the experience. Just plan ahead and you’ll get prime choice of hotel suites and the best discounts.
Here are some of the best places to travel to in December, near Malaysia and further afar.
Best Destinations to Visit in December
1. Pulau Langkawi, Malaysia
Pulau Langkawi tops the list if you’re looking for a short getaway in December. Well, when everyone is squeezing at Krabi or Maldives, stay in your own backyard! Beyond the clear, turquoise sea and beautiful sandy beaches, the island is also packed with waterfalls, arts entertainment, and historical sites.
If you want to steer away from the typical resort/chalet scene, check yourself into Temple Tree at Bon Ton. The unique resort houses 8 traditional villas of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian origin. While you’re there, don’t forget to savour some of Langkawi’s specialities such as fried squid, Nasi Tomato (Tomato Rice) and Ikan Bakar (Grilled Fish).
2. Danang, Vietnam
CC 2.0 / Trung Le
This third largest city in Vietnam located at the scenic Eastern Coast is best to visit in December for warm sunny days. Besides being an all-around budget-friendly family travel destination, another reason to pay Danang a visit is the newly-opened magnificent “Golden Bridge” (Cau Vang). The bridge features two giant hands holding up a glimmering bridge located in the Ba Na Hills — time to snap lots of Instagram-worthy photos.
Book a stay at the Brilliant Hotel, which lies in the centre of the city overlooking the Han River. The town is located between 2 World Cultural Heritage Sites, Hoi An and Hue — easily done as a day trip or two. Enjoy the Central Vietnam signature dishes such as Bun Bo Hue, Banh Beo and vermicelli dish My Quang.
3. Kochi, Kerala, India
The primary reason travellers make the journey to Kerala is to experience the houseboat cruise at the backwaters, but you should definitely take your time to explore Kochi, the financial capital of Kerala. There is so much more to Kochi than meets the eye. Besides the blissfully cooler weather, another reason to visit this city in December is the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India’s largest contemporary art exhibition.
Kochi is a melting pot of cultures — just take a look at its diverse cuisine. Indulge yourself in the city’s famed Meen Molagitta Curry (smoked freshwater fish with coconut curry) and Kurukku Kalan (vegetarian thick yoghurt curry).
Stay at the family-run Fort House for its lush green garden settings and in-house Ayurvedic centre for when you need some rejuvenation and relaxation after a long day of exploring.
4. Luang Prabang, Laos
The Mekong River is the lifeline of Laos, and the best place to experience it is none other than Luang Prabang, which sits at the confluence of two rivers.
Meandering along the Mekong on a boat trip is best done from December to February, where the weather is much more tolerable. After a laidback boat trip, heads over to the riverside restaurant in the evening for a traditional Lao barbeque or to taste the local dishes such a Sai Oua Keuang (Sausages) and Khao Piak Sen (Sticky Rice Noodles).
Soak up the grandeur of the bygone French colonial era by checking into Villa Shanti Hotel, a century-old former royal residence located in the heart of this very walkable city.
5. Prague, Czech Republic
For those who are dreaming of a white Christmas or a Winter Wonderland (kiss the hot humid days goodbye!), my recommendation for you – Prague.
Prague in December is bone-chillingly cold, but you’ll get to see a fairy-tale-like snow-covered castle while strolling on the ancient streets. The bonus points? Cinnamon-scented Christmas markets to stuff yourself silly with all the bakes and local delicacies. Warm yourself up with a bowl of creamy potato soup, Kulajda, or hearty guláš (meat stew) and wrap up your meal with a Trdelnik, a sweet delicacy commonly known as the chimney cake.
Immerse yourself in the history of the city in Dominican Hotel (previously known as Savic Hotel) which is a former Dominican Convent. Parts of the hotel still retains the 14th-century Gothic and Renaissance design features.
6. Siem Reap, Cambodia
If you’re going to spend most of the time outdoor visiting and exploring ancient temples in Cambodia, pick the coolest month to go there.
After spending most of the day at the temple sites, reward yourself with one of the most underappreciated cuisines in the South East Asia region, the Khmer. Get their signature dish Fish Amok, fresh river fish coconut curry. For adventurous eaters, head over to Phsar Chas, the Old Market of Cambodia, for deep fried crispy crawlies.
When the night falls, rest your aching bodies at the HanumanAlaya Colonial House, a spacious colonial-style villa blended with traditional Khmer design for a more intimate stay.
7. Tasmania, Australia
Take a walk on the wild side, skip the mainland Australia for an adventure-filled getaway on the Tassie’s 3.4 million acres of protected wilderness. Simply choose one of its 19 national parks.
December sees summer Down Under and is the peak holiday season in Tasmania. There will be plenty of day activities running across the state, and one of the major events you shouldn’t miss is the Taste of Tasmania Festival. Feast upon the fresh produce of the region like Leatherwood honey, wild abalone and varieties of cheeses.
Retreat to the highland of Tasmania by staying at Highland Cabins and Cottages, where you can join a guided bushwalk in nearby World Heritage National Parks.
8. New York City, USA
Travelling to the Big Apple during the holiday season might be against anyone’s common sense, but please hear me out. New York shines the brightest in December, literally, what with all the Christmas decorations and tree, the city is downright magical at this time of the year.
The holiday season is expensive, but you can save money by staying outside of Midtown. Base yourself at one of the trendiest neighbourhoods- Williamsburg, and check into Pod Brooklyn for an affordable, clean and sleek designed room.
For the constantly hungry individuals, enjoy the holy trinity of New York cuisine, New York-style cheesecake, pizza, and bagels.
9. Vienna, Austria
Christmas Markets, Mozart, Sound of Music — are you sold yet? No? What about Schnitzel, Apfelstrudel, Kaiserschmarm — drooling now? Good.
CC BY-ND 2.0 / The Monkey
Winter in Vienna is something extraordinary. Glittering Christmas markets dotted around the city, and the biggest and the most beautiful of it all is located at the Rathausplatz! Vienna also has possibly the best ski slopes in the world, in case you’re looking to get some adrenaline fix.
Splurge on a stay at Hotel Sacher Wien, one of the finest establishments in Vienna right opposite of Vienna’s State Opera. The hotel is also famous for their namesake cake, Sarchertorte, a chocolate cake with apricot filling.
10. Colombo, Sri Lanka
The summer monsoon rain in Colombo subsided in December, bringing a pleasant weather. There’s no other perfect time to visit the Sinhalese capital than in December. Colombo is a city of many contrasts, chaotic, bustling with street markets, but is serene — grand old colonial buildings and swanky office blocks exist side by side, delighting many travellers.
Stay at the Residence by Uga Escapes, a 19th-century Victorian townhouse built by a wealthy barrister to escape from all the hustle-bustle of the city.
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Ji-Elle
Due to its proximity to the ocean, seafood plays a vital role in Sri Lankan cuisine. Enjoy freshly caught seafood barbeque and local’s favourite: fish ambul thiyal, essentially sour fish curry. Another must-try Sri Lankan everyday food is Hopper, a type of pancake made with coconut milk and rice flour, usually topped with sweet or savoury garnish, or even egg!
From sun-soaked beaches to winter escapades, there are plenty of places that offer something for everyone. It’s time to bring your loved ones for that one last holiday in December before the new year rolls in! So what are you waiting for?