Travel Tips

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Discover December's Paradise: Galapagos Gems & South America's Best

December's the perfect time to explore South America. The weather's great, and there's so much to see! From sandy beaches to amazing festivals, you're in for a treat.

Tobi Miles
April 4, 2024
Discover December's Paradise: Galapagos Gems & South America's Best

Think about it. You could be dancing at a street party one day and exploring ancient ruins the next. South America's got it all. Let's dive into some of the best spots to visit.

Key Takeaways

  • Diverse Destinations: South America in December offers a wide range of experiences, from the festive atmosphere and vibrant street parties in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to the breathtaking trekking adventures in Patagonia, Argentina. Each destination provides unique attractions and activities tailored to different interests.
  • Optimal Weather Conditions: December marks the beginning of summer in the southern hemisphere, offering warmer temperatures and longer days, perfect for outdoor activities and exploring. Whether it's lounging on the beaches of Cartagena, Colombia, or trekking through Patagonia, the weather is ideal for enjoying the vast landscapes and diverse ecosystems.
  • Avoiding the Crowds: Visiting these destinations in December allows travelers to avoid the peak tourist seasons, offering a more serene and intimate experience. Whether it's exploring ancient ruins in Machu Picchu, Peru, with fewer people or enjoying the less crowded trails of Patagonia, December can be a strategic time to explore South America’s wonders with minimal disruptions.
  • Festivities and Cultural Experiences: December brings a multitude of local festivals and celebrations across South America, providing travelers with the opportunity to experience the rich cultural heritage and traditions. From the Réveillon in Rio de Janeiro to local festivities in the Galapagos Islands, there's a festive spirit that enhances the travel experience.
  • Cost-Efficient Travel: While December is the beginning of high season in some areas, smart planning can lead to significant savings. Booking early, seeking local insights for budget-friendly options, and exploring package deals can make traveling to these sought-after destinations more affordable.
  • Local Insights: Engaging with locals and heeding their recommendations can greatly enrich the travel experience, offering insights into hidden gems, optimal visiting times, and unique cultural experiences that might not be widely advertised.

Festive Atmosphere in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

If you're looking for the best places to visit in December in South America, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, should be at the top of your list. The city is world-renowned for its vibrant festivals, stunning beaches, and lively street parties, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking fun and adventure. Here's why Rio in December is a perfect choice for your travels.

Best Weather and Activities

December marks the start of summer in Rio, bringing with it warm, sunny days that are ideal for exploring the city or lounging on its famous beaches like Copacabana and Ipanema. The weather is perfect for outdoor activities, from hiking up to the Christ the Redeemer statue for breathtaking views to taking a dip in the ocean.

Avoid Crowds and Enjoy Lower Prices

While Rio is a popular destination year-round, visiting in December allows you to avoid the peak tourist crowds that flock to the city for Carnival in February. You'll find that attractions are less crowded, making it easier to enjoy all that Rio has to offer. Additionally, travel and accommodation prices tend to be lower before the holiday rush, so you can save some cash while having the time of your life.

Festivals and Street Parties

One of the highlights of visiting Rio in December is the chance to experience its festive atmosphere. The city comes alive with decorations, street parties, and events leading up to Christmas and New Year's Eve. Don't miss the famous Réveillon, Rio's New Year's Eve celebration on Copacabana Beach, where millions gather for live music, fireworks, and festivities. It's an unforgettable experience that perfectly showcases the city's love for big celebrations.

Local Insights

To get the most out of your visit, chat with locals for inside tips on the best places to travel within the city. They can point you to hidden gems, from secluded beaches to the best spots for traditional Brazilian cuisine. Engaging with the local culture and trying new foods will enrich your travel experience, giving you stories to tell for years to come.

Trekking in Patagonia, Argentina

When you're thinking about the best places to visit in December, especially in South America, trekking in Patagonia, Argentina, should be high on your list. This southern region is famous for its breathtaking landscapes, making it a paradise for adventure lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Let's dive into why December is a fantastic time to explore Patagonia and how you can make the most of your trip.

First off, the weather in Patagonia during December is ideal for trekking. It's the beginning of summer in the southern hemisphere, so you'll enjoy warmer temperatures and longer days. This means more time for you to hike and admire the stunning views of mountains, glaciers, and lakes. The best weather conditions during this time allow you to fully appreciate the beauty of Patagonia without the discomfort of cold winds or heavy snow.

Another big plus for choosing Patagonia in December is the chance to avoid crowds. While it’s starting to get into the peak season, many travelers tend to flock to more popular destinations for the holidays, leaving Patagonia’s trails less crowded than you might expect. You'll get to enjoy the serene landscapes and wildlife without bumping into too many people. This also means you can take those perfect, uninterrupted photos you see in magazines!

There aren't as many festivals in Patagonia as you'd find in other parts of South America during December, but the festive atmosphere is still palpable. Small towns and local communities might have their unique celebrations, which are charming and far less commercialized. Taking part or just observing these local festivities can add a memorable layer to your trip.

Let's talk activities. Aside from the obvious trekking, Patagonia in December offers a bunch of fun activities. You can go horseback riding, kayaking, or even ice trekking on some of the glaciers. These activities give you different ways to see the landscapes and make each day of your adventure unique.

Concerning the cost of travel, it's somewhat a mixed bag. December is the start of the high season, so flight prices might start to creep up. However, you can still find deals on accommodation and tours if you book early. Always look out for package deals or group discounts if you're traveling with friends or family. And don’t shy away from asking locals or seasoned travelers for tips on how to save a buck here and there.

Discovering the Ruins of Machu Picchu, Peru

Visiting Machu Picchu, Peru in December is an adventure you won't want to miss, especially if you're after some of the best places to visit in South America during this month. It's a magical time when you can experience one of the world's wonders with fewer people around and still enjoy pretty good weather. Let's dive into why this should be on your travel list for December.

First up, the best weather for exploring Machu Picchu typically ranges from April to October. That said, December marks the start of the rainy season, but don't let that scare you off. Mornings generally start clear and sunny, giving you a solid window of good weather to wander around the ruins. Plus, the rain can make your experience even more mystical, with mist swirling around the ancient structures.

Avoiding crowds is a big perk of heading to Machu Picchu in December. Since it's the beginning of the rainy season, many travelers opt for other destinations, meaning you'll get to explore the ruins with way fewer people around. Imagine getting that perfect shot of the Sun Gate without someone photobombing in the background!

While you might not find big festivals in Machu Picchu itself during December, the nearby town of Aguas Calientes lights up with a festive vibe, offering a cool chance to soak in local culture and warmth.

For fun activities, besides the iconic trek to the ruins, you can also enjoy some unique experiences. Take a hot bath in the natural hot springs in Aguas Calientes or hike up Huayna Picchu for a bird's eye view of the ruins. Just make sure to book your tickets in advance as these activities have limited spots.

Let's talk cost of travel. Since December is a sort of off-peak season here, you might find some of the lowest prices on accommodations and tours compared to the bustling high season. It's a smart move to book your trip a few months in advance to snag these deals. Plus, chatting with locals or folks who've been there can give you insider tips on saving money without missing out on any of the fun.

  • The early bird gets the worm: Start your hike early to enjoy the ruins with fewer people and the best light.
  • Pack smart: Bring rain gear

Relaxing Beaches in Cartagena, Colombia

When you're thinking about the best places to visit in December, don't skip Cartagena, Colombia, especially if you love the beach. This city is not just about its colorful streets and rich history. It's home to some of the most relaxing beaches you could hope to find, and December is the perfect time to enjoy them.

Best Weather for Beach Days

December brings some of the best weather to Cartagena. It's the start of the dry season, so you can expect sunny days with clear blue skies. The temperature hangs around a warm, but comfortable, 85°F (29°C). It's ideal for lounging on the beach, taking a dip in the sea, or enjoying any water sport without feeling too hot.

Avoiding the Crowds

While December is a popular month for tourists, there are ways to avoid crowds. Try visiting the beaches during the week or heading to the lesser-known spots like Playa Blanca early in the morning. You'll find a peaceful spot for yourself before most tourists even wake up.

Festive Vibes and Fun Activities

December also brings festive vibes to Cartagena. The city lights up with decorations and there's a cheerful atmosphere all around. You can join local festivals, try delicious street food, and dance to live music. Besides the usual beach activities, like swimming and sunbathing, you can also go snorkeling to see beautiful coral reefs or take a boat trip to nearby Rosario Islands.

Cost of Travel

Traveling to Cartagena in December can be a bit pricier than other months due to the high demand. However, you can find deals if you book your flights and accommodations early. Look for package deals or consider staying a little outside the main city center for better prices on hotels. Eating local food and using public transport can also help you save money.

Local Insights

To really make the most of your trip, chat with locals. They can tell you about the best times to visit beaches, where to find the tastiest seafood, or how to get to hidden gems that are not crowded with tourists. Many locals enjoy speaking with visitors and sharing the love for their city, so don't be shy.

Exploring the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Visiting the Galapagos Islands in December is like stepping into a real-life nature documentary. It's one of the best places to visit if you love wildlife and adventure. The weather is just getting warm and it's the start of the wet season, which means everything is turning green and beautiful.

Best Weather for Your Adventure

December brings some of the best weather to the Galapagos. You'll enjoy warm days with temperatures around 26°C (79°F). It's perfect for all the fun activities like snorkeling and hiking. The ocean is also warmer, making it ideal for swimming with the sea turtles or even sea lions if you're lucky.

How to Avoid the Crowds

The Galapagos Islands can get busy, especially around Christmas and New Year. But don't worry, there are ways to avoid the crowds. Try to visit in early December. Not only will you find fewer people, but you might also catch some deals on tours. Another tip is to explore the less visited islands like Isabela and Floreana. They're just as amazing but with fewer tourists.

Join the Festivities

Even though the Galapagos is all about nature, December brings a festive vibe to the islands. The locals celebrate the holidays with decorations and special events. It's a unique experience to see how holidays are celebrated in such a remote place. Plus, you might get to enjoy some local treats and music.

Dive into Fun Activities

The Galapagos is famous for its unique wildlife, and December is a great time to see it all. Here are some must-do activities:

  • Snorkeling and diving to see colorful fish, sea turtles, and maybe even hammerhead sharks.
  • Hiking on the islands to spot giant tortoises and learn about the unique plants.
  • Boat trips to see the different islands. Each one has its own special animals and landscapes.

Managing Travel Costs

Travel to the Galapagos can be pricey, but December might offer some of the lowest prices before the holiday rush. Book your flights and tours early to get the best deals. Also, consider staying in local guesthouses or looking for package deals that include meals and tours. This can save you a lot of money.

Get the Inside Scoop

Talking to locals is the best way to find hidden spots and get tips on the best times to see animals.


So there you have it! Your December adventure in the Galapagos Islands is waiting with open arms. With the perfect weather for snorkeling and hiking, you'll be making memories that last a lifetime. Remember, diving into the less explored islands can offer you a unique experience away from the crowds. And what's better than celebrating the holidays surrounded by nature's marvels? Don't forget to book early and consider staying at local places to save on costs. Plus, chatting with the locals might just unveil some hidden spots that'll make your trip even more special. Ready to embark on this unforgettable journey? The Galapagos Islands in December are calling your name!

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands for outdoor activities?

The ideal time for outdoor activities like snorkeling and hiking in the Galapagos Islands is December, due to the favorable weather conditions.

Can I avoid crowds in the Galapagos Islands?

Yes, visiting lesser-known islands in the Galapagos allows travelers to enjoy the beauty of the archipelago away from the crowds.

Are there festive activities in the Galapagos Islands during December?

Yes, the Galapagos Islands have a festive atmosphere during the holiday season in December, making it a unique time to visit.

What are some must-do activities in the Galapagos Islands?

Engaging in snorkeling, hiking to see giant tortoises, and taking boat trips to explore different islands are must-do activities in the Galapagos.

How can I manage travel costs to the Galapagos Islands?

To manage travel costs, it's advised to book early and consider staying in local accommodations. Interacting with locals can also offer tips on hidden gems and cost-saving opportunities.

What's the benefit of interacting with locals in the Galapagos Islands?

Interacting with locals can provide insider tips on hidden gems and the best times for wildlife viewing, enhancing your travel experience.

Tobi Miles
Article updated:
April 4, 2024
A nomadic wordsmith savoring the world's flavors and penning stories that turn every journey into an epic.
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