Where to go in December 2014: The Best December Travel Experiences

Which ones will you add to your bucketlist?


Where to go in December

The ultimate travel inspiration list for independent and adventure travel, including: the best outdoor treks, adrenaline list, cultural experiences, animal encounters, JUST PLAIN CRAZY and more…

For all other months, go here: The Best Travel Experiences

December brings you more great travel experiences that push the limits, engage with authentic culture, encounter animals in the wild, participate in the most iconic athletic challenges and find pure bliss. Everyone has different tolerances for risk, so please check safety conditions and plan appropriately.

December includes some of the most unique adventure sports across Patagonia, Central America and New Zealand like the glow worm caves of Waitomo and ice climbing the world’s most active accessible glacier. Timeless cultural experiences include hot air ballooning over Laos and the isolated Inle lake people of Myanmar.  Get up close with sea creatures as the humpback whales migrate along the Mexican coast and the strange jellyfish lake in Palau.

You can find links to some of the best travel blogs, experts who have been there and official information sites to make your research easier. This is an evolving list and I am always looking for fresh and exciting experiences to add, so let me know any amazing things you’ve heard about and your favorites so I can make sure they stay on the list.

Just Plain Crazy December Experiences (Don’t Try This at Home)

Gansbaai, South Africa – Cage Dive with Great White Sharks:

Lower your cage into ocean waters teeming with with the world’s largest predatory fish furiously anticipating a tasty meal. During this time of year, great white sharks head for the shallows of Shark Bay in great abundance. Prime beach season runs from December through February bringing festivities and outdoor activities in all directions.  Nearby adventures include penguins and ostrich racing. Highlights Around Cape Town

Phnom Penh, Cambodia – Shoot Rocket Launchers (at cows?):

Cambodia has a novel way to dispose of stockpiles of unused munitions from the war, charge tourists unload heavy weapons. Rumor has it, you can even pay extra for a rocket launcher and tours are eager to let you blow up houses and even even more to blow up a cow!? (this has not been verified) Shooting Bazookas in Cambodia

Antarctica – The Polar Bear Plunge:

Strip down, run across the ice and jump into the the freezing waters of the coldest place on earth, Antarctica. You’ll barely notice the icebergs floating by as you run shivering and shrieking to the sauna but you will definitely come out of it with a sense of accomplishment.

Leon, Nicaragua – Volcano Boarding a Smoking, Active Volcano:

You have to be slightly insane to strap a plywood board to your feet and sand board down this active, smoking volcano in Nicaragua.  Wait to see what happens at the end. The best time for hiking is the dry season, November to April. Volcano Boarding Nicaragua

Where to go in December: The Adrenaline List

Perito Moreno, Argentina – Ice Climb the World’s Most Active Accessible Glacier:

Ice climb the world’s most active accessible glacier as you feel it cracking and shifting beneath you. The Perito Moreno Glacier moves so fast in the warm season that glaciers the size of skyscrapers fall into the water every few minutes. Tours can climb the glacier surrounded by the echoing sounds of the ice sliding down the slope. Also nearby, you can Glacier Hike on the Franz Joseph Glacier

Antarctica: Kayak in Antarctica:

Paddle past floating icebergs and playful penguins in the ghostly quiet of Antarctica. This truly surreal experience can impress upon you exactly how isolated and precious Antarctica really is. How to Cruise Antarctica

Nepal – Parahawking With Asian Vultures:

Soar with Asian vultures trained to find the thermals amongst the world’s tallest mountain range. Paragliding in the Himalayas is one thing, but parahawking — described as paragliding combined with the ancient art of falconry — has been called the “ultimate flying experience.” Interact with these endangered birds of prey in their natural hunting environment. Egyptian vultures lead fliers into warm currents of rising air that enable effortless flight, with clear skies present throughout the month of December. Parahawking in Nepal

Where to Go in December for the Best Cultural Experiences

Tulum, Mexico – Find Your Spiritual Side in a Mexican Sweat Lodge

Find your spiritual side in a traditional Meso-American temascal sweat lodge ceremony. December is one of the best months to visit the Riviera Maya, and temazcal connects you both to ancient Maya culture and to yourself.  Heated rocks form clouds of steam in the enclosed clay dome, which works with healing herbs and intoxicating chants to aid in personal purification. Azulik Tulum has an excellent temazcal ceremony

Hampi, India – The Ruins of a Lost Empire:

Explore the ancient city of a lost empire set against heaps of giant boulders in the Indian countryside.  Go temple hopping, rock climbing, or simply marvel at the ruins and natural wonders.  The former capital of 14th century empire Vijayanagar is best explored by bicycle, especially during the cooler season starting this month. This is one of the best places in India to charm a king cobra. There’s a Monkey in My Bed! – A Trip to Hampi, India.

New York City, USA – The Skating Rink Trump Had to Have:

Strap on ice skates and plunge in to the holiday spirit of New York City on the iconic skating rink in Central Park. ’Tis the season to enjoy the magic of New York City’s holiday spirit. There is perhaps no better place to celebrate the holidays than the ice rink of Central Park, decorated with Christmas cheer against the dramatic backdrop of the city skyline. The Trump Rink in Central Park

Amritsar, India – The Traditional Golden Temple Experience:

Join in with welcoming pilgrims in experiencing this holy site in the center of the Sikh universe.  Get fitted for a turban, serve food to the thousands of pilgrims, even stay at the lodge in the famous temple.  Be sure to stay and see the Golden Temple glitter in the warm sun during the day as well as lit up by night. The Golden Temple of India

Inle Lake, Burma- The Leg-Rowing Fishermen and Floating Islands:

See the famous leg-rowing fishermen of Burma’s Inle Lake as you paddle through bustling markets, stilted homes, and floating gardens all built on the surface of the shallow water. The people of Inle have adapted their lifestyle around living on the lake, including the fishermen who curiously row with one leg to see above growing reeds. December brings the cooler season but is still before most tourists arrive. Itineraries for Burma

Hobbiton, New Zealand – Explore the Hobbit Village from ‘Lord of the Rings’

Explore the hobbit village of Middle Earth from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films.  Watch your head as you duck past the small dwellings, surrounded by green rolling hills. The buildings created as a film set remain permanent fixtures in Matamata, New Zealand, in which December is a prime summer month to visit.

Where to Go in December for the Best Outdoor Adventure

Waitomo, New Zealand – Glow Worm Caves:

Drift silently through dark caves lit only by thousands of tiny glowworms emitting their own natural light.  Hanging from cave ceilings, New Zealand glow worms only live where they can shine their bioluminescent lights to attract food.  December is a great month to visit the Waitomo region where these particular conditions can be found. Legendary Blackwater Rafting The Black Abyss

Wadi Shab, Oman – Find Your Own Personal Oasis in the Desert Canyons of Oman:

Float in bright turquoise pools hidden throughout Wadi Shab, an unspoiled oasis carved into the rugged deserts of Oman. Hike through the towering orange and yellow sandstone canyon walls and cool off with a refreshing swim in the clear, calm streams shaded by banana palms. You’ve found desert heaven.  December is the perfect time to go without getting overheated.

Blue Lagoon, Iceland – Step into the Milky Blue Geothermal Pools of Iceland:

Dig your feet into the white silica mud in the milky waters of this geothermal lagoon under the glow of the northern lights. Heated waterfalls, geothermal steam baths and indulgent spa treatments abound, not to mention a bar in the middle of the pool. For the easiest view of the Aurora Borealis, IcelandAir offers free stopovers between Europe and North America.

Vang Vieng, Laos – A Timeless Journey Through Laos by Hot Air Balloon:

Float lazily above the iridescent valleys of Laos in a hot air balloon as limestone karsts rise sharply in all directions. The dramatic landscape of rural Laos, carved by the mighty Mekong River, is one of the most naturally beautiful and relaxed areas of the world. This month the rivers are at full flow, making it the best time to trek, kayak, and go tubing amongst these mountains. Hot Air Ballooning Over Vang Vieng for $70

Bay of Islands, New Zealand – The Floating Hostel Through New Zealand’s Bay of Islands:

Cruise through New Zealand’s Bay of Islands on a floating hostel with barbecuing, stargazing and phosphorescent night kayaking. Activities on “The Rock” floating hostel include nightly barbecues, rubber ducky shooting, fishing, phosphorescent night kayaking and stargazing through 144 bay islands to private islands The Rock Floating Hostel

Carrera Lake, Patagonia – Kayak the Color Changing Blue Marble Caves in Patagonia:

Kayak these color-changing marble caves in Patagonia as crystal waters change all shades of emerald, turquoise, aquamarine and azure. Carerra Lake is the second deepest lake in South America with crystal clear waters changing colors. Bizarre Marble Caves surround the lake including a network of caves called the Marble Cathedral

Where to Go in December for the Best Animal Encounters

Baja/Sayulita, Mexico: Snorkel with Humpback Whales: (Dec-Mar)

Snorkel with playful humpback whales migrating to the Pacific coast of Mexico to breed. Humpback whales migrate past the Pacific coast of Mexico form December through March with January being the peak time for breeding. You can also Swim with Whale Sharks

Impenetrable National Park, Uganda – Track the Mountain Gorillas in Central Africa:

Stand a few feet from a fully-grown silverback gorilla in the misty hills of Impenetrable National Park in the highlands of Central Africa. These impressive creatures can punch 6 times harder than a heavyweight boxer. December brings the dry season to sister parks on the corner of Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. January and February are great months to avoid the Holiday crowds.

Jellyfish Lake, Palau – Freedive Through Swarms of Jellyfish:

Swim carelessly through endless swarms of jellyfish which have evolved without stingers in this isolated lake in the South Pacific. These jellyfish have thrived in isolation over the last 10,000 years without natural predators. December brings an end of the rainy season and the best weather of the year to this tropical archipelago.


Belize – Shark Ray Alley:

Watch helplessly as your captain chums the waters to attract hoards of sharks then invites you to jump in. at shark ray alley in Belize. The best time to visit Belize is from late November to mid-April, during the country’s dry season.

photo credits

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