Where To Go When
Need some time off but, not sure where to go to make the most of your holiday?
Here are our month-by-month suggestions, based on an in-depth knowledge of local festivals, sporting events, seasonal activities, weather patterns and the movements of the world’s most extraordinary wildlife. With these as inspiration, we can help you make the right choice of holiday for the time of year you wish to travel. But remember that these are only recommendations – give us a call for ideas of hundreds of other ways to tailor-make your holiday.
Central America is glorious in January. This is the perfect time to explore the abundant exotic wildlife in the mysterious cloud forests of Costa Rica, or to go diving amongst the colourful marine life in the sizzling hot Caribbean. If you’re after wildlife but don’t fancy going west, it’s calving season in the Serengeti, or alternatively you could enjoy Chile’s warm summer before heading even further south to Antarctica, where temperatures at this time of year reach their annual height of about 5 degrees Celsius, and you can glimpse vast colonies of Emperor and King penguins. If it’s adventure you’re looking for, January offers bungee jumping, rafting and mountain biking galore in Queenstown, New Zealand; it is also one of the clearest months for trekking in the Himalayas – at other times of year it can sometimes be too hazy to enjoy the spectacular views. If you’d rather stay a bit closer to home, this is the time of year to catch the spectacular Northern Lights in freezing Sweden, Finland or Norway. For a burst of culture, in January Sydney enjoys its biggest annual arts festival, the Sydney Festival, and Italy hosts the Verona Carnival, a grand parade of masks, regattas and abundant gnocchi. Head to the Far East in late January to soak up the celebrations around Chinese New Year, or for something a bit more unusual, celebrate a late Christmas, known as Timkat, in Ethiopia on 19th January.
Although February is perhaps the gloomiest time of year in the UK, elsewhere there is plenty of sunshine and exuberant culture to lift your spirits. It is during this month that majestic Orca whales can be seen off the Valdes Peninsula in Argentina, a trip you could combine with a wine tasting tour in sunny Mendoza, which is celebrating South America‘s most lavish and spectacular wine festival at this time. In February millions of beautiful orange Monarch Butterflies begin their migration in Mexico, and across the ocean in Kenya two million pink flamingos congregate in the Great Rift Valley. In nearby Indian Ocean gem Zanzibar the Sauti za Busara music festival is in full swing – old, charming Stone Town is host to this four day festival of Swahili music, theatre and dance, African rap and hip hop artists, under sunny skies and looking over turquoise waters teeming with marine life. There is also plenty to see and do in Egypt at this time of year – the Abu Simbel festival on 22nd February, the anniversary of the coronation of Ramses II, draws crowds to watch the sunrise slowly creeping through the stone to illuminate the temple’s inner chamber, an event that occurs only twice a year. It is the ideal weather in which to take a cruise down the Nile, which you could combine with a trip to the pyramids, the sphinx and the ancient temples. Sri Lanka and the Indian subcontinent are delightfully dry and warm at this time, while if you fancy some more bracing weather you could try your hand at dog sledding during the Quebec Winter Festival. Finally, let’s not forget that February is Carnival time worldwide – the most spectacular celebrations of course take place in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, with vibrant colours, music and costumes galore, although the Caribbean is also awash with festivities at this time, notably in sunny Trinidad and Tobago.
In March, India is King. Tigers are easier to spot at this time, when the grasses have died back, and the glorious Festival of Colours celebrates the beginning of spring, filling the streets with multicoloured powder paint and towering bonfires. Elsewhere, the Rugby Sevens are a good reason to visit Hong Kong, while the world famous gay Mardi Gras festival in Sydney fills the streets with lavish and outrageous costumes in celebration of all things LGBTQ. March is still a wonderful time to take advantage of Europe‘s best ski resorts away from the Christmas crowds, or alternatively you could do some trekking, horse-riding, climbing or kayaking during Patagonia‘s warmer months in Chile or Argentina. This is a good time to dive in the Maldives, before the monsoon season sets in, as well as to enjoy a desert trip in North Africa or the Arabian Peninsular, where Oman, for example has thousands of miles of unspoilt dunes and empty starry skies – otherwise the High Atlas mountains in Morocco are wonderful at this time. Take advantage of the timing to visit Mexico – during the Chichen Itza Equinox on March 20th-21st, thousands flock to the ancient pyramid to see the sun’s rays transformed in a dramatic display of splintered light.
April is cherry blossom season in Japan, when for weeks up and down the country millions of fragrant, pale pink petals flutter to the ground, marking the height of the balmy spring weather. This month you can also view humpback whales in Maui, Hawaii, while enjoying an escape from the crowds during what is paradoxically its low season. The magnificent Iguazu Falls on the Brazilian-Argentine-Paraguayan border are most impressive at this time of year after heavy rain and flooding, as are the Victoria Falls in Zambia. April is as good a time as any to marvel at the rare wildlife in the Ecuadorian Galapagos Islands, from albatrosses to giant tortoises, friendly seals and enormous, lazy iguanas. Witness the solemn but beautiful Semana Santa (Holy Week) Easter celebrations all over Spain and Latin America, or for something more exuberant, join in the New Year Water Festival in Thailand – expect to get very wet! April is a good month for star-gazing in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile where many of the world’s biggest telescopes are positioned because of the almost perpetually clear skies. Closer to home, try camping in the peace and silence of Jordan‘s desert, or diving in the rich marine life of the Red Sea.
For some spectacular wildlife viewing, head to Canada in May to see enormous grey whales breaching off the coast of British Columbia and to enjoy the beginning of warmer weather before the mosquitoes descend, amid fresh pine forests, majestic glaciers, roaring waterfalls and an abundance of wildlife. This is also a good time to visit the Pantanal in Brazil, the world’s largest inland wetlands, brimming with wildlife and lush vegetation, or alternatively the departing rainy season has left Namibia fresh, lush and dry in May. If you are a water sports enthusiast, both the Seychelles and Tahiti host sailing regattas this month, although they are also wonderful beach destinations in their own right, boasting clear waters, white sands and dependable sunshine. Alternatively Mauritius offers quieter beaches but still pitch perfect weather during its low season. If you’d rather stay in Europe and avoid the summer crowds, sun seekers could head to Andalucia in southern Spain over the bank holiday, which at this time is delightfully warm, not oppressively hot as in the height of summer. Smog free days also make May a great time to walk the Great Wall in China, and to pay a visit to the frenetic, fascinating city of Beijing.
In June the spectacular Okavango Delta in Botswana is lush and green following floods, brimming with big game and exotic fauna. Further north, in Oman the seaside oasis Salalah is bursting with greenery and colourful flowers, a welcome break from the aridity of the desert dunes. In Latin America, Peru is the destination of choice in June, as the Inti Raymi winter solstice festival takes place at the spectacular archaeological site of Sacsayhuaman, just above the ancient Incan capital of Cusco. Alternatively, enjoy the White Nights Festival in St Petersburg, a cultural event showcasing Russia‘s greatest opera, ballet and classical music to celebrate the summertime midnight sun. It is also the perfect time to visit Scandinavia or Alaska, when the days are long and the locals stay up all night to make the most of the warm weather – travel in June and you will also avoid mosquito season. For music, head to Montreal for the famous Jazz Festival or to Fes in Morocco for the week long Sacred Music Festival. A slightly more bizarre option is the Nadaam Festival in Mongolia: the most important annual event, Nadaam is a traditional nomad sporting competition during which contestants compete at horse riding, archery and wrestling. The Great Barrier Reef in Australia boasts calm waters and high visibility in June, when Minke whales can be glimpsed. For sunshine and relaxation, the Seychelles are enjoying favourable trade winds in the Indian Ocean, or alternatively relax in the Southern Dutch Antilles – Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao – which avoid the hurricane season at this time.
July is peak flooding season in the Amazon – the ideal time to view the jungle’s most extraordinary wildlife in Brazil. For a jungle holiday in Africa, head to Uganda to track rare mountain gorillas in the Bwindi National Park, or climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania while the weather is benign. It is also the coolest time of year in Australia‘s Red Centre, which makes a visit to Uluru most pleasant. This is ski season in the southern hemisphere, so head for the slopes in Argentina or Chile for some powder snow. If you prefer trekking to skiing, the Andes are there to be explored the length of the South American continent, not just in the snowy south – there are hundreds of trails in the highlands of Peru with jaw-dropping mountain scenery, including but not exclusively the famous Inca Trail, which ends at the ancient Inca settlement Machu Picchu. Closer to home, enjoy some spectacular productions at the Budapest Summer Opera & Ballet Festival in Hungary, or ride the unforgettable Trans-Siberian Railway during Russia‘s summer.
In August, drive the Garden Route in South Africa to see the spectacular flowers blooming in Namaqualan, as well as vineyards, immense underground caves and stunning mountain scenery. For a bit of desert island paradise, head to Fiji or Tahiti for guaranteed rest and relaxation amid gently waving palms and fine white sands. Alternatively, dive with manta rays on Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia. In Europe, the arts festival in Helsinki is a wonderful cultural escape, or for a more bizarre celebration, join La Tomatina festival in Buñol, Spain, the culmination of a week’s festivities when locals crowd to together in one enormous tomato fight. It’s the perfect time for windsurfing in Oregon, USA, and cooler temperatures and lack of rain in Indonesia make it a wonderful time to explore the beaches and temples of Lombok, Bali or some of the more secluded, smaller islands.
September is a wonderful time for wildlife viewing – whether you choose the crocodiles in Kakadu National Park in Australia, wildebeest and zebra in the Maasai Mara in Kenya, or the whale watching festival in Hermanus in South Africa when the Southern Right whales arrive in the Cape Region – all three destinations are a great way to forget that September marks the end of summer in the northern hemisphere. Autumn isn’t all bad though, as it brings out spectacular russet colours on the east coast of the USA and Canada – head to Maine, Vermont or New Hampshire for some of the best displays. Nature is in full glory in Madeira, the Portuguese island off the coast of North Africa – the flower season makes walking or hiking in the volcanic hills particularly beautiful at this time of year. In Europe, Prague’s Autumn Festival of orchestral music has rapidly gained a reputation for attracting the world’s great artists and ensembles and September is a lovely time to visit while the nights are still long and the cold kept at bay.
October is brimming with exciting festivities worldwide – not least the famous sixteen day long German beer festival, Oktoberfest, held in Munich. Elsewhere visit the Melbourne International Arts Festival in Australia, or head to Oaxaca for a particularly vibrant celebration of the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico on 1st-2nd November. Paro Tsechu is the biggest and most spectacular of the Buddhist festivals celebrated in Bhutan, deep in the Himalayas, during which people receive blessings and watch masked dances and allegorical plays in traditional finery. The Rajasthan international folk festival is also a good reason to visit India, where conditions are perfect for trekking at this time of year – not to mention in neighbouring Nepal and Southern China. To make the most of the Great Outdoors, see polar bears slide across the frozen tundra in Canada or enjoy springtime in the ChileanLakeDistrict, with its turquoise blue glacial melt waters. For sunny relaxation, the islands of the Indian Ocean are particularly alluring at this time, from Mauritius to the Seychelles or the Maldives – coral reefs, white sands and secluded properties for the perfect quiet getaway. Finally, in Italy this is white truffle season so head to Alba in the northern Piemonte region to hunt, cook and savour one of the most delicious and coveted foods in the world.
During the November full moon the sleepy town of Pushkar in India is transformed by vibrant, colourful festivities as it hosts the annual Pushkar Camel Fair, with camel racing amidst singing and folk-dancing in the amphitheatre. Now is the perfect time to see turtles on the Pacific beaches of Costa Rica, or to go whale watching in Kaikoura, New Zealand, or Madagascar. Head to Argentina to experience years of cowboy tradition in an estancia in the vast plains of Las Pampas during the annual Gaucho festival, and watch the Polo finals in Buenos Aires. Combine peak ski season in Colorado with a roast turkey, yams and cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving in the USA. In Zambia, wildebeest numbers peak in November on the Liuwa Plains. This is one of the best months for spotting the northern lights in Lapland, in Norway or Sweden, as it is not quite so cold as deep winter. Autumn colours make this a beautiful time to visit Japan.
Although dark and cold, in December European cities come alive with Christmas markets, where you can find hot doughnuts, mulled wine and sausages galore. Head to Prague, or Tallinn in Estonia for some of the most picturesque. Outside Europe there is plenty of exoticism to be found, from Blue whales in Sri Lanka to penguins, seals, whales and walruses in Antarctica’s ‘summer or to elephant trekking in northern Thailand. This is a good time to visit Siem Reap and Angkor Wat while the humidity is low in Cambodia, or to go surfing in Australia and New Zealand and join in the Christmas beach fun. For a more traditional, northern hemisphere Christmas celebration, take the kids to Santaland in Lapland for a magical snowy experience. To get off the beaten track and away from commercial celebrations, take the Trans-Siberian railway and see Lake Baikal turn viscous with slushy waves as it begins to freeze over amid a Russian winter wonderland. If you are looking for some winter sun, the Caribbean and Indian Ocean Islands are perfect beach destinations.
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