Destination for the month of December
While summer is the best time to cruise the Mediterranean, December is a tempting time to travel in search of much-needed warmth. The idea of being abroad for Christmas, eschewing turkey bones and dirty plates for Santa hats on the beach is a bit extravagant, and with school holidays also part of the equation, the idea of your children swapping sleet and 3pm darkness for paddling and sunset will always be tempting.
Of course, you tend to pay a premium for a holiday during the holiday season – but with the Caribbean slowly coming out of hurricane season and in full swing, it’s a cost to consider.
Best destinations for December sun
New Zealand’s largest city is the king of the country’s North Island – a busy metropolis that belies the idea that the place that framed the film versions of Lord Of The Rings is little more than rolling hills and bucolic countryside. Visitors can watch rugby icons the All Blacks at Eden Park, enjoy a fine meal amid the chic restaurants of Viaduct Basin – or take the ferry to Waiheke Island for some wonderful vineyards.
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The second largest of the Canary Islands (after Tenerife) has only one leg below 20°C in the coldest weeks of January, but is otherwise a haven of sunshine at all times of the year. Corralejo, at the northern tip of Fuerteventura, is one of the accommodation centres, home to a beautiful beach that looks out onto the neighbouring islet of Lobos. But there is also a rugged landscape – notably the protected expanse of the Parque Rural de Betancuria.
3. Cape Town
South Africa may seem a distant choice in any quest for accessible winter sunshine, but Cape Town earns convenience points for its lack of time difference (GMT+2) with the UK, and its refusal to dip below 20°C during the European winter. Add to that the beauty of Table Mountain, the beauty of the Cape Peninsula (the beaches of Camps Bay, the oceanfront towns like Muizenberg and Fish Hoek) and you have a winning hand.
The concept of “starting to look a lot like Christmas” takes a twist in Florida, where Santa has to steer his sleigh in heat that rarely dips below 20°C. And the holiday season takes a particular turn in Orlando, where the major theme parks – notably Disney World and Universal Orlando – do their best to pass themselves off as a “real” winter through a carnival of artificial snow, repentant Scrooges, talking mice, boy wizards and general merriment.
If you’re willing to make the journey to get there, Melbourne proves a glorious summer haven just as Europe is lost to wind and rain. Temperatures, cooled by sea breezes, hover around 24°C. The city is full of attractions, including the St Kilda waterfront – but it also excels as a launch pad for a road trip, whether it’s through the vineyards of the Yarra Valley or along the winding bends of the Great Ocean Road.
The UAE’s neighbour enjoys the same mid-twenties warmth in the European winter as Abu Dhabi and Dubai – while projecting a more refined air than the latter. Muscat certainly considers itself an artistic city – with an ornate opera house and contemporary paintings in the Ghalya Museum of Modern Art. But for many visitors, it’s all about the beaches, with the hotels of Zighy Bay offering a chic welcome.