The Lists

Best Luxury Travel Destinations in the Month of December

Where will December take you? Where should it? Maybe to a sophisticated city, or a rural hideaway. Or to a beach, a ski slope, or all the way to the South Pole (since the North Pole dwellers will be a bit busy this month). Wanderlust alert! Here are our top picks of the best luxury travel destinations in the month of December.

where’s the best place to go in december?

First and foremost, December is island time. You could visit a cosmopolitan city island (we’re thinking Hong Kong, Singapore or Manhattan). Or opt for a tried-and-true luxury island beach destination.  Feeling the need for adrenaline-fueled adventures? Head to a gorgeous remote island getaway filled with exotic animals and architecture (we’re looking at you, Chiloe Islands).

Of course, if an island getaway is not your thing, a luxury shopping trip abroad is always a fine idea — what better time than now? You could stroll along one of the iconic shopping streets in the world, or visit one of the great Christmas Markets of Western Europe. Personally, we’re dreaming of snow and a luxury ski trip. The global contemporary art flock will touch down in Miami during the first week of December for Art Basel. And it’s definitely time to make plans for New Year’s Eve. It’s all waiting for you. Let’s go!

our 10 picks for the best luxury travel destinations in the month of December

1. New York City.

New York is always changing, and there’s a vast array of new things to see and do in the city this holiday season. Plus the iconic classics that make for the perfect luxury visit in December. There’s shopping, ice skating, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, and the Radio City Christmas Show. New York City Ballet performs George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, and Alvin Ailey’s in town. The Holiday Train Show is perfect for kids. And the store windows are magical. What’s not to love?

Entrance to the New York Public Library

2. Aspen-Snowmass.

We love Aspen in December, and this year there are even more reasons to go. EMP Winter House, from the team behind Eleven Madison Park in New York City opens as a seasonal pop-up in mid-December. Snowmass Village is unveiling the first phase of a $600 million development project. The new 99-room, ski in/ski out Limelight Hotel is home to a five-story climbing wall. The private Snowmass Mountain Club provides members with lockers, parking, and a lounge area right at the foot of the mountain. The Hotel Jerome debuts its new makeover. And from December 17 to 22, catch the St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship. The inaugural Snow Polo Gala is sure to be big fun.

Aspen Snowmass

3. Paris.

There’s never a bad time to visit Paris. December is particularly excellent, though. Paris at Christmastime is filled with magic. Stay at a grand dame “palace” hotel. Shop at some of the most charming stores imaginable. Refresh yourself after a long day with a champagne tea. Or a coffee or hot chocolate at a chic cafe. And then revel in the City of Lights, which will be particularly bright after dark during the holiday season.

The Champs Elysee in Paris in December

4. St. Kitts and Nevis.

Most luxury guides will send you to St. Barth’s for a December Caribbean vacation. But we urge you to consider an alternative. We visited St. Kitts for the first time earlier this year, and we really love it. Nevis is always high on the list for our jet-setting friends, in part because it’s a hassle-free journey. Both of these Caribbean islands are easier to get to than ever: Delta has a direct flight from JFK to St. Kitts, joining United’s EWR route. Once you arrive, the luxurious Park Hyatt inside the 2,500-acre Christophe Harbor development combines resorts and restaurants with a super yacht marina.

The Park Hyatt St. Kitts – Nevis

5. Zermatt.

Zermatt occupies a special place in the hearts of the Swiss, and it’s easy to see why. It provides the gorgeous snowy-mountain scenes that winter dreams are made of. You’ll find horse-drawn sleighs, twinkling lights, glühwein stalls, all in a village nestled in a lovely valley beneath the Matterhorn. Best of all? You’re sure to find snow. No wonder it’s Switzerland’s top ski resort.

Zermatt, Switzerland

6. The Cook Islands in the South Pacific.

Rarotonga is the largest of the 15 Cook Islands. It’s surprisingly easy to get to: Air New Zealand stops over on the way from LA to Auckland once a week on the Saturday-evening flight. The island is dense with greenery and hilly in the center. But it’s ringed by white sand beaches. Win-win! Going stand-up paddle-boarding at night on the Rarotonga lagoon is a magical way to see the coral reefs and marine life. Pineapples, papayas, mandarin oranges, starfruit and bananas are among the local delicacies. There’s also bike riding and snorkeling. Choose from among several five-star properties, including Rumours Luxury Villas & Spa; Te Manava Luxury Villas & Spa; and Nautilus Resort. All are on Muri Beach, on Rarotonga’s southeast coast.


7. The Chiloe Islands of southern Chile. 

December is a great month to explore some of the forty islands that make up the Chiloe (pronounced “Chi-lo-ay”) archipelago running down southern Chile’s coastline. Puerto Montt – the gateway to Chile’s Lake District on the mainland – is the regional capital. The largest island in the group is Isla Grande de Chiloe or Chiloe for short. There you’ll find abundant seafood, especially shellfish. The Islotes de Punihuil, a trio of islets in the Pacific Ocean, are home to Magellanic and Humboldt penguins (it’s the only place in the world where the two species are known to share a common breeding ground). You’ll see pelicans, cormorants, kelp gulls and more: there are 110 species of birds native to these islands. Castro, the capital of Chiloe, is known for its colorful palafitos – traditional wooden stilt houses. Its wooden churches look like upside-down boats. The 4-star Hotel Parque Quilquico is a fine place to make your home base.

Chiloé’s Wharf of Souls art installation Photo Courtesy The Wall Street Journal

8. Cartagena, Columbia.

In December, the summer is approaching in this South American city. Once a 16th-century Spanish port, Old Town Cartagena is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its streets are filled with original Spanish Colonial architecture. Special Christmas markets arrive in December. Stay for the New Year’s Eve fireworks. Or use the city as a base to explore the rest of Colombia, including Barranquilla, Santa Marta and Tayrona National Park.

Bocagrande and Old Town Cartagena Colombia

9. Siem Reap, Cambodia.

December is the dry season for Siem Reap. You’ll find cloudless skies and comfortable temperatures, ideal for walking tours of Angkor Wat or cycling through the city streets. The lodging options are plentiful. The 5-star hotel Phum Baitang is comprised of 45 stilted villas perched over rice paddies. And you know you’re in the right place when hot luxury travel company 700’000 Heures is running a pop-up hotel inside a traditional Khmer house. Open through April 2019, the temporary hideaway will offer experiences like visiting local markets, riding an oxcart through rice fields, and meeting with archaeologists who are restoring the temples of Ankgor Wat.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

10. Antarctica.

If this is your dream trip, now is the time to go. Tourists can only visit during the Antarctic summer: November to March. It’s the only continent not permanently occupied by humans, making it an incredible experience of the natural world. You can fly from Cape Town, South Africa; Punta Arenas, Chile; and Ushuaia, Argentina. Or sail from New Zealand’s South Island. In December, there are 22 hours of daylight. The penguin chicks will be starting to hatch, and seal and whale sightings are common this time of year.

Crabeater Seal at Pleneau Bay, Antarctica

That’s it! The best luxury travel destinations in the month of December. Wherever the month takes you, have fun out there.

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