Whether it’s carnivals, ghost towns or turkey soup that you’re after, here’s where to head in December.
Camping in the deserts of Wihibah Sands, Oman
The winter months are the best for appreciating the sand dunes and emptiness of the Wihibah Sands, Oman’s own ‘Empty Quarter’, preferably with one of the specialist companies where you can have the full desert camping experience without any of the danger or fear of running out of food and water.
Read more in Oman: the Bradt Guide
The stunning Wahiba Sands in the Sharqiya Region © Oman Ministry of Tourism
Amphibian explosion, Madagascar
In Madagascar the ‘explosive breeding’ frog species emerge after the first rains to mate en masse, often with hundreds or thousands of brightly coloured individuals in a small pool.
Read more in Madagascar: the Bradt Guide
Christmas markets, Flanders, Belgium
These unmissable markets crop up in the town squares of most cities in Flanders at the start of December. Sample mulled wine, steaming escargots and warm waffles from the wooden huts, go ice-skating on open-air rinks and pick up handmade crafts.
Read more in Flanders: the Bradt Guide
Sample mulled wine, steaming escargots and warm waffles from the wooden huts © Emma Thomson
Skiing with the little ones in Poina Braşov, Transylvania, Romania
Located at the foot of Mount Postăvarul, Poiana Braşov in Transylvania is the best-equipped ski resort in Romania. Modernisation in 2010 expanded the ski area and lengthened the slopes. The resort is an excellent destination for families with young children, who can learn to ski on the gentle Bradul slope. Beginners soon progress on to the main ski area and, by the end of the week, most will be skiing all the way back to the village on the long, confidence-building blue run from the top of Christianul Mare. Romanians adore children and this is the perfect, and well-priced winter break destination.
Read more in Transylvania: the Bradt Guide
The resorts south of Braşov, such as Poiana Braşov, Predeal and Buneşti, can virtually guarantee snow-covered slopes from November to mid March © Rechitan Sorin, Shutterstock
Have a fowl time in turkey town, Nord-Pas de Calais, France
When it comes to talking turkey, Licques, less than an hour from Calais (Nord-Pas de Calais), is in a league of its own. Two weeks before Christmas (13–14 December), be it fair or foul, the small community of some 1,500 swells to several thousand, egged on by the Christmas spirit. Feel free to join this rip-roaring slice of rural tradition which starts on the Sunday with free cups of steaming turkey soup in the village square, and ends amid general jollity with a turkey lunch in a massive heated marquee.
Read more in Cross-Channel France: the Bradt Guide
Christmas at Kolmanskop, Namibia
No, you can’t get Christmas dinner here, but as unusual Christmas holiday destinations go, Namibia’s best-known ghost town is near the top. Close to the fishing town of Luderitz, Kolmanskop rewards the history buff, the adventurer, the romantic and the photographer. Not a bad haul if you’re travelling as a family.
Read more in Namibia: the Bradt Guide
Kolmanskop © Damien du Tout, Flickr
Nature’s Christmas trees, Botswana
Riverine trees pendulous with intricately woven nests and sparkling with raindrops: nature’s Christmas trees take some beating. And as a bonus, you get to marvel at the intricate craftsmanship of Botswana's male weaver birds, as they vie to outdo each other in the all-important task of nest-building.
Read more in Botswana: the Bradt Guide
Unashamed winter sun, Cape Verde
It’s time to finish the year with some of Cape Verde’s year-round sunshine and warmth. Many north Europeans will book themselves into the all-inclusive resorts of Sal and Boavista, missing out on a more Cape Verdean experience which can easily be found elsewhere. Why not try the island of Santiago, with a few days on its beautiful, northern beach at Tarrafal, combining your precious downtime with a walk or two in nearby Serra Malagueta Natural Parka and a visit to Assomada’s African Market, before returning south to the bustling capital, Praia. A bit of everything in moderation: that could be Santiago’s motto.
Read more in Cape Verde: the Bradt Guide
Brightly coloured boats line the sand at Tarrafal de Monte Trigo © Murray Stewart
Rock the New Year in at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
This annual three-day carnival in Zimbabwe gets bigger and bigger every year as revellers from around the region rock up for this International rock/pop festival (www.vicfallscarnival.com). But don’t arrive in town hoping to find accommodation during the carnival – the place is chock full!
Read more in Zimbabwe: the Bradt Guide
Welcoming the New Year Icelandic-style, Iceland
For such a small country, Icelanders go large on New Year’s Eve, bringing it in with tons of fireworks. Two of the best spots to watch the action in Reykjavik are at the Tjornin pond near city hall or Hallgrímskirkja church when the sky above is lit up for nearly an hour.
Read more in Iceland: the Bradt Guide
Reykjavík boasts the title of the world’s northernmost capital © Tsuguliev, Shutterstock