The ultimate travel calendar: the best places to go every month of the year

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Pip Cook
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Can we just be on holiday all year round?

Dreaming of Dubai but don’t know when to go? Keen for a Kenyan Safari but nervous you’ll miss the migration to the Masai Mara? There’s nothing worse than jetting off on your long awaited holiday only to realize you’ve got your timings wrong. There are sandstorms in the Sahara, monsoon rains in Mumbai and it’s hurricane season in Honduras. To help you make sure you’re always in the right place at the right time, we’ve put together a go-to travel calendar of where to go and when all year round. 

Best places to go in January 

Sunrise at Table Mountain, Capetown

Where’s hot in January?

Swap long nights and icy sleet for sunny days and summer parties in the southern hemisphere. Best of the bunch, cosmopolitan Cape Town is hot, laid-back and surrounded by stunning landscape. Plus, you’ll be able to make the most of your trip jet lag free thanks to the teeny two-hour time difference. 

Oman and Dubai are also hot, averaging a pleasant 24 degrees, making it a perfect time to bask in blissful Middle Eastern heat without feeling like you’ve stepped off your plane into an oven.

January is also prime Caribbean time, but you don’t have to be a celebrity to get your fix of white sand beaches and crystal blue waters. Swap overpriced and over-packed Barbados for lower-key but no less beautiful Dominican Republic, and claim your own personal slice of paradise.

Where’s quiet in January?

If you’re in desperate need of a post-Christmas break but can’t face heading south with the sun-seekers, why not do something different and make the short trip to Venice. The city is at its most romantic this time of year, wonderfully quiet and peaceful before the summer hoards descend. In winter it’s misty, a little flooded and utterly beautiful. 

Gondolas on the Grand Canal, Venice

Places to avoid in January

Stockholm is gloomy and cold, with short days and long nights. Better to wait until the endless summer days to do it justice. 

Best places to go in February 

Aurora Borealis on a frozen lagoon, Lapland

Where’s romantic for a Valentine’s getaway?

It’s the perfect time of year to see the northern lights in Lapland - temperatures are higher than January, with fewer snow clouds and clearer skies increasing your chances of seeing the show. Don your matching thermals and witness one of the most magnificent wonders of the natural world. 

Alternatively, head to Marrakech. The Moroccan city boasts warm, sunny weather this time of year, making it the perfect destination for couples in need of a vitamin D boost.

If you’re looking for something more traditional, Rome and Romance go hand in hand like you and your other half as you wonder around the blissfully quiet city, which benefits from off-season heel cooling. Like Venice, another of winter’s best kept secrets. 

Dusk on the Tiber River, Rome

Where’s warm in February?

If you’re in search of some sun but don’t want to plunge your finances into outer darkness, consider Goa in India. Beaches empty out between now and monsoon season, but there’s always fun to be found in India’s notorious party state. If dancing all night isn’t your thing then there’s plenty of room to relax -with more than 100 km of coastline, you’re bound to find your perfect patch of paradise. Best to book ahead and negotiate great rates from hoteliers keen to keep rooms occupied. 

Places to avoid in February 

Iceland, where a serious storm season is in full swing. There were 53 of them in the first 70 days of 2015 alone. 

Best places to go in March 

Koh Tao, Thailand

Where’s warm in March?

March offers low cloud cover and little rain in the Gulf of Thailand, which enjoys a period of relative quiet between the Christmas holidayers leaving and the summer backpackers descending. You may even find some of the usually busy islands like Koh Tao deserted, leaving you with hotels and hammocks aplenty. The water visibility is at its best this time of year, so you can enjoy the world-class diving in peace. Things are also warming up in California, but it’s still relatively crowd-free. Take advantage of the quiet by visiting national parks such as Yosemite, where the snow will still be falling but rates are lower than during the summer holidays. If warmer weather is what you’re after, then temperatures are beginning to rise in nearby San Francisco. 

Where’s best to go in Europe in March?

Love Paris in the springtime? It’s a song, so you know it must be good. Lose yourself in the city of love as the bitter winter comes to an end. Be sure not to forget your brolly, though – the escapism doesn’t stretch to drizzle.

Where’s best for a ski holiday in March?

Bag a bargain and head to the high-altitude ski resorts in the Austrian and French Alps, where you can still find plenty of snow this late in the season. Obertauern, Soelden, Tignes and Val Thorens are the best of the bunch, where you’ll be spoilt by sunny days and longer lift openings. The towns may be beginning to closing up and quietening down, but there’s still more than enough fondue and beer for one last cheap hurrah. Prost!

Obertauern, Austria 

Places to avoid in March

Canada, where regular rain and melting snows make for a sad and soggy stay. 

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Best places to go in April 

Antigua, the Caribbean 

Prices are beginning to fall but temperatures are staying strong in the Carribean, making April the perfect time to get your fix of sun, sea and sand. Book for the end of the month and you’ll find better deals and emptier islands. Many airlines are still running non-stop services to Antigua and Barbados.

Where’s best to go in Europe in April?

Head south to Sicily or Andalusia in southern Spain, where the sparkling Mediterranean is starting to warm up in the strengthening sun. It’s not quite bikini weather yet, but April brings pleasant conditions for wiling away the days exploring the Gothic cathedral in Seville, or to unearth treasures in the markets of Palermo.

Val de Catania in the shadow of Mount Etna, Sicily

Flower Power

It’s impossible to think about springtime in Japan without imagining the beautiful blooms of cherry blossom that spread northwards through the country from March to April. If you’re prepared to brave the crowds and higher room rates, Tokyo is awash with ‘hanami’ (which literally translates to ‘looking at flowers’ and refers to the national pastime of flower appreciation picnics) spots. Just remember to book well ahead!

If you want your flower fix but can’t make it to Japan, it’s prime tulip time in the Netherlands. The blooms are at their best around the middle of the month, but if you want to enjoy the fields of flowers and avoid the crowds wait until the UK May bank holidays, when the Dutch are still at work. 

Cherry blossom over the Meguro River, Tokyo

Places to avoid in April

Cancun in Mexico, which is inundated with US students for their infamous Spring Break. Unless foam parties and keg stands are your thing, of course…

Best places to go in May 

Giraffes in Kruger National Park, South Africa

May to September is the best time to visit South Africa’s game parks - it’s low season, so usually sky-high prices are moderate. The days are hot and dry but the nights are clear and chilly, so be sure to pack plenty of layers. 

Spring is also the perfect time to explore the Scottish Highlands, where the wildflowers are in bloom and you can enjoy the stunning scenery without getting mauled by midges. Fill up your hip flask with Scottish whiskey and walk the West Highland Way.

Where’s hot in Europe in May?

The usually scorching summer destinations such as Crete and Portugal are pleasantly warm this time of year, so make the most of the pre-high season prices.

Sitia, Crete

Places to avoid in May

Egypt, where May’s khamasin desert wind often causes sweltering heatwaves of over 40 degrees.

Best places to go in June 

Lower Yellowstone Falls, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Now is the perfect time to visit Yellowstone National Park, the oldest in the US, where geyser activity and grizzly bear spotting are at their best in June. The Wyoming park is two million acres, so you don’t have to worry about crowds even in high season.

Or you can swap grizzly bears for blue whales in Iceland, where it’s peak season to see the majestic animals. Reykjavik is busier this time of year, but you can soon lose the crowds while exploring the virtually uninhabited rest of the island as mountain roads open up for drivers and walkers alike. Plan to coincide with the Secret Solstice Festival at the end of the month if you want to make the most of the 24-hour sunlight with a four day party.

Closer to home, June is a great time to explore Cork, Galway and other places around southern Ireland, where it’s statistically the driest month of the year. Pack a mac just in case. 

Whale watching near Húsavik, Iceland

Places to avoid in June

Venice, where the crowds are getting bigger, the canals smellier and the mosquitoes thirstier. 

Best places to go in July 

4th of July fireworks, New York City

Parties are kicking off all across the USA to celebrate the 4th of July. Head to New York, Philadelphia and Washington for the best firework displays – totally fantastic, and free. 

Where’s best for the Scandinavian summer?

Head to Sweden for a city break in Stockholm or Gothenberg where the long nights bring an endless party vibe, with bars and cafes open til the early hours. If you’re feeling more leisurely head to Lapland, which transforms from a snowy playground into a summer oasis, and make the most of the midnight sun.

Stockholm, Sweden

Where’s best to ski in the summer?

Can’t hack the heat? It’s winter in the southern hemisphere, where the ski season is in full flow. This coincides with low season in New Zealand, so bag yourself a cheap flight and head to The Remarkables just outside Queenstown.

The Remarkables, Queenstown, NZ 

Places to avoid in July

India, where the monsoon rains are pouring.

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Best places to go in August 

Wildebeest in the Masai Mara, Kenya

In Kenya, the annual migration of wildebeest and zebra from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara beats the annual migration to the choked beaches of Europe hands down. But be prepared for sky-high prices.

Where’s best for summer sun in Europe?

If you’re in need of a beach fix but want a patch of sand bigger than a post-it, pick a local hero. The Spanish head for the white sand of the rugged northern Basque Country or wind-cooled Tarifa on the Costa de La Luz in southern Spain. If you prefer chilling by a pool rather than the sea then landlocked Umbria in Italy is the savvy travelers’ choice, as the Italians head for the coast and the Brits to Tuscany, leaving it quiet and cheap even in August.

If you’re looking for a long weekend in a European city then Porto in Portugal is a peaceful alternative to busy Lisbon. Alternatively, head to the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro to make the most of Europe’s best kept secret before it becomes crowded like neighboring Croatia. 

Bay of Kotor, Montenegro 

Places to avoid in August

The French Riviera, where it feels as though the entire population has decamped en masse for the holidays. 

Best places to go in September 

Tangalle, Sri Lanka

In between the two monsoon seasons, September offers the best odds for good weather in Sri Lanka. It’s not as busy as later in the year, so make the most of the calm by wandering where you wish with no need for set plans. The rains have also finally stopped pouring in India, leaving the country fresh, lush and full of life. Go now to make the most of shoulder season prices. It’s technically still wet season in the Maldives, but the dramatically cheaper prices are worth putting up with the odd shower.

There’s one last hurrah in Ibiza before the party season finally comes to an end. Temperatures are still high but accommodation prices are low - as are most nightclub admissions, apart from the pricey closing parties. If you’re looking to put your feet up after dancing all night, escape the towns and head to the hills for your pick of beautiful villas.

Places to avoid in September

The Caribbean, where the rock bottom rates are undoubtedly tempting, but be warned - hurricane season is still at its peak in the Caribbean, Florida and Louisiana. 

Best places to go in October 

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, Hindu Temple, Bali

If you’re brave enough to ignore the fact that it’s technically the start of monsoon season, it’s a good time to visit the usually busy Bali. The rains generally hold off until the end of the month, rewarding your steely nerves with high temperatures, low prices and empty beaches. If you’re hoping to do a volcano trek, check they’re running beforehand to avoid disappointment.

It’s still warm in Turkey, Cyprus and Greece’s Dodecanese islands, but out of season sunshine comes at the price of bustling town centers, as many shops and restaurants close at the end of the tourist season. The seafront resorts of the Canary Islands are still busy, but venture inland to explore unexpected volcanoes and lush forests in the pleasantly warm temperatures, still averaging around 25 degrees.

For the realists among you, give in and admit it’s autumn. Find joy in the doom and gloom by heading to New England and Virginia for a burst of colour, where the red and gold Fall leaf shows are nothing short of spectacular. 

Autumn colours in New England, USA

Places to avoid in October

China, as the first fortnight is ‘Golden Week’ - a national holiday that guarantees packed attractions and high prices. 

Best places to go in November 

Buttermere, Lake District

Don’t let the drizzle put you off exploring some of the most beautiful scenery Europe has to offer – no flight needed. Make like Wordsworth and find literary inspiration whilst hiking through the rugged landscape of the Lake District, or just curl up with some poems by a crackling fire in a cosy pub.

At the other end of the spectrum, the party season is in full swing in New York City, but temperatures and prices aren’t quite as bitter as in December. Think shopping at Bloomingdale’s, cocktails at altitude and cheek-reddening rambles through central park.

Another city in its element in November is Hong Kong, as both the typhoon season and the stifling humidity ease off. There are no big events here this month, which keeps hotel prices steady and the city streets quieter than usual. 

Junk boat, Hong Kong

Places to avoid in November

Brittany, where there’s no escaping the wind and rain.

Best places to go in December 

Christmas markets in Prague, Czech Republic

Where’s best to go in Europe in December?

If you’re on the hunt for a good Christmas market then set your sights on Prague, where you can sample delicious Czech treats in the shadow of the glorious Baroque buildings. Berlin is also a great place to limber up for the festive season, though there’s an urban edge here that takes the twee out of it all. The vast canvas tents of Gendarmenmarkt house quirky artistic gifts and nightly jazz concerts provide a welcome break from carols.

Where’s best to ski in December?

Avoid the French Alps, which can be unreliable this time of year, and head instead to the high-altitude resorts where the snow is piling up. For early powder head to Ischgl or the Hintertux glacier in Austria, or Saas Fee in Switzerland. If you want to venture further afield, Colorado is always blanketed by now. 

Where’s warm in December?

As Europe shivers Australia sizzles, so why not ditch the Santa hats for sun hats and head down under for Christmas. The laid back capital of Western Australia, Perth boasts 10 hours of sunshine per day, which is enough to perk anyone’s spirits up. After you’ve had your fill of sun and surf, head to Sydney to bring in the New Year watching the fantastic fireworks at Harbour Bridge. 

Kangaroos at Lucky Bay, Western Australia 

Places to avoid in December

Barbados, where you’ll find silly prices and even sillier celebrities. We’re looking at you, Simon Cowell. 

Images: Getty


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