From skiing around the edge of a collapsed volcano to escaping the cold on an overlooked Caribbean island, we’ve got seven ideas for December travels that will help you close out 2017 with a resounding bang.
Ski Around Oregon’s Crater Lake
The Rim Drive around Oregon’s Crater Lake is now closed for the winter season, but that shouldn’t stop you from visiting the park. From December to April this 34-mile loop reopens as an ungroomed trail for cross-country skiing. Grab a pair of skies in the nearby towns of Klamath Falls, Medford, or Bend, and plan for three days and two nights of natural camping to circumnavigate the caldera. Be sure to ask for a (free) backcountry camping permit at the park headquarters before you set off. Those with less backcountry experience can ski some of the easier trails (such as the 1.7-mile Mazama Loop) or sign up for a snowshoe excursion with park rangers.
Paddle the Everglades
December heralds the start of the winter dry season in South Florida, which not only means better weather for visitors to Everglades National Park, but also higher concentrations of wildlife. A wide variety of birds like horned grebes and American wigeons migrate from northerly latitudes to winter in the Everglades, making it a mecca for birders from across the continent. Meanwhile, retreating waters force alligators, turtles, and other wildlife to congregate at permanent swamps and waterholes, many of which are located along popular walkways like the Anhinga Trail. There are also a number of kayak and canoeing trails such as Hell’s Bay that, while buggy during the summer season, are ideal for paddlers in December, before water levels drop dangerously low from February to May.
Take an adventure cruise to Antarctica
This once inaccessible mass of rock, ice, and penguins now attracts upwards of 50,000 tourists each year. Most will visit aboard expedition cruises from the likes of Lindblad, Silversea, and Quark Expeditions, which typically depart from Ushuaia, Argentina, during a small window of time in the Southern Hemisphere summer (November to March). Unlike your average cruise in the Caribbean or Mediterranean, trips often involve educational sessions, adventurous excursions (like kayaking, hiking, and mountaineering), and harrowing Zodiac rides to some of the lonely landmasses along the way. If you’re looking for the ultimate destination to one-up your friends, earth’s remotest continent should fit the bill quite nicely.
Explore the boiling lakes of Dominica
Hurricane season is now officially over, and winter-weary Americans will soon begin their annual exodus to the Caribbean. Many will set their sights on resort-heavy islands like the Dominican Republic or Jamaica, but we’ve got a better idea: the “nature island” of Dominica. While it may not have the bone-white beaches of many of its neighbors, Dominica boasts an astounding nine out of the Caribbean’s 16 active volcanoes, making it an outdoor enthusiast’s dreamland. You can hike through a rainforest to the world’s second-largest boiling lake, swim trough the cool waters of Titou Gorge, snorkel through the bubbles of Champagne Beach, or just spend a day relaxing in one of the natural sulfur pools and hot springs around the tiny village of Wotten Waven.
Celebrate the holidays in Jackson Hole, WY
Part Wild West cowboy town, part star-studded refuge, Jackson Hole is rightfully one of America’s most intriguing destinations. This popular frontier resort lies 60 miles south of Yellowstone in a picturesque valley formed by the jagged peaks of the Teton Range. A visit over the winter holidays will inevitably involve a bout with some intense white-knuckle terrain. Yet, Jackson Hole offers so much more than your run-of-the-mill ski vacation. You can sign up for dog sled tours, head out mountaineering or set off into the serene hills for a bit of showshoeing. Visit around Christmas and you’ll see twinkling lights on every building, skiing Santas on the slopes, and lavish holiday spectacles, including both circus and ice skating extravaganzas.
Go whale watching in Todos Santos, Mexico
Late December is the start of whale-watching season in Baja California as both grays and humpbacks begin to swim along its azure shores, breaching and spy-hopping to the delight of camera-ready tourists. Both an artist colony and surfing hotspot, Todos Santos is easily the best base in Baja California for any winter whale-watching trips with local travel outfits such as Todos Santos Eco Adventures that specialize in taking thrill-seekers on week-long multi-sport adventures. These can encompass everything from kayaking with the whales to swimming with sea lions or hiking and horseback-riding along the Pacific coastline.
Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Montreal
No North American city is quite as scenic in the dark days of winter as Montreal, the bustling hub of French-speaking Canada. Our northern neighbor’s second-largest city wears its winter coat well, with public parks such as Mount Royal packed with skiers, skaters, snowshoers, and sledders. New Year’s Eve is the best time to visit as the holiday lures tens of thousands of spectators to the city’s Old Port for DJs, dance parties, and midnight fireworks.
The 7 Best Places to Travel This December appeared first on Men's Journal.
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