Ever got to a city to find the sights closed for a national holiday? Ever started your beach break during the monsoon? Lonely Planet’s guide on where to go when offers up inspiration to help you plan the best times for your travels through the year.
It’s dry season (or dryish) in Uganda, which means good conditions for tracking endangered mountain gorillas. It’s estimated that approximately 700 of these magnificent creatures survive, with half of them in the forests of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. For a shot of culture, head to Vienna for its winter ball season to dress up in your finest gear and waltz with the locals. Ski fans should look to British Columbia for amazing powder, or Bulgaria for decent budget ski conditions. Sydney Festival runs for three weeks in January, showcasing the very best in music, theatre and visual arts
The mighty Iguazú Falls are in full flow in March, thundering down a gorge that divides southern Brazil and Argentina. Conditions in Vietnam are usually variable, but March is fairly fine across the country. Go trekking in Sapa, enjoy the beaches of Mui Ne or Phu Quoc, or explore the historic town of Hoi An. Pear trees are in full bloom in Sichuan, and it’s a good time to go panda-watching in Ya’an Bifengxia Panda Base. In Madhya Pradesh the dry season means less grass but greater visibility, making it the best time of year to try your luck spotting a Bengal tiger.
It’s sakura season in Japan, which means cherry blossoms are blooming They spread northwards, appearing in Kyoto, Tokyo and Hiroshima in late March and April. Baseball season starts in early April in the sports-mad city of Boston, which also hosts the world’s oldest city marathon this month. Conditions are great on the Haute Route, a 75-mile (120km) ski-tour through the Alps. Songkran, the world’s biggest water-fight, is taking place mid-month across Thailand to mark Thai New Year.
Montenegro is the place for a multi-activity holiday. May is the start of rafting season, conditions are good for hiking, and the coastal spots aren’t yet packed with visitors. On the other side of the Adriatic, Abruzzo in Italy is taken over by wildflowers and butterflies. It’s the start of mating season for Komodo dragons, and you may be lucky enough to see a dramatic fight between males in Indonesia’s Rinca or Komodo islands. It’s Beer Festival time in Prague, so now’s the time to head to the Czech Republic’s atmospheric capital for brews and spicy sausage.
It’s White Nights festival in St Petersburg, where the sun doesn’t set and the city is buzzing with ballet, opera, music and other cultural events. The midsummer days also make this an excellent time of year to wonder at the landscapes of Greenland — look out for whales in Disko Bay and learn traditional lifestyles from Inuit communities. Zambia is the home of the first walking safari. Head to South Luangwa National Park at the start of the dry season to spot elephants, giraffes and birdlife.
Where to go in July
July is a superb time for some wildlife watching. Head to Porto Jofre for the best chances of a jaguar sighting in Brazil’s Pantanal wetland; the grizzlies are fishing for salmon mid-river in Katmai National Park in Alaska; newborn roos can be seen on Australia’s Kangaroo Island; and all the Arctic creatures are out in Svalbard. For non-animal experiences, marvel at the high-dive competition in Mostar; join the recently opened trekking season at Mt Fuji; or watch wrestlers at Nadaam festival in Mongolia.
It’s another big month for nature — the wildebeest migration is underway at the Mara River in Kenya and huge humpback whales are travelling from Antarctica to Tonga to have their calves. Adrenaline-junkies will find plenty to occupy themselves on the trails and mountains of the Pyrenees where there’s no snow, or, if it’s snow you’re after, the ski conditions in Australia’s Snowy Mountains are likely to be perfect. In August, the flow of Victoria Falls has reduced, which makes for thrilling white water rafting on the Zambezi.
It’s the start of lobster season on West Sweden’s Bohuslän Coast, where you can take a “seafood safari” to catch and cook your own. It’s one of the sunniest months of the year in Dublin, so explore this lively historic city and enjoy some arts performances at the Fringe Festival. It’s not too hot in the ancient cities of Uzbekistan and the deserts of Turkmenistan, or too snowy on the lakes of Kyrgyzstan, so if travelling along the vast Silk Road is on your bucket list, then September is the best time to do it.
It’s time to hunt for truffles and sample other seasonal specialities in Piedmont as the red grape harvest takes place. Rioja too is mid-harvest, and tastings throughout the region are an absolute must. Autumn temps in Jordan are around 27ºC/81ºF, making it a decent time to visit the mystical city of Petra and follow the old Bedouin paths onwards to Dana. The crowds have moved on from the golden sands of Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand. It should still be warm, but if it does turn chilly, dig your own thermal bath at Hot Water Beach.
Where to go in November
November in Ethiopia is dry, but the landscapes are still lush from the recent rains, so now is the time to plan a trek in the Simien Mountains. Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) is 1-2 November, so expect skeleton outfits, sugar skulls and tequila across Mexico in honour of the departed. A slightly different kind of celebration takes place in Cayman Islands, when the serene Caribbean isle hosts Pirates Week. Sun-seekers in Europe might want to head to Malta, where the temperature in November is around 21ºC (70ºF), for a bit of warmth.
Where to go in December
Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland is the “official” year-round home of Santa Claus, but for the real festive feeling, is best visited in December. Expect great visibility when diving off the Similan Islands off Thailand’s Andaman Coast, where you might see sharks, turtles and diverse reef fish. For more marine life, go to Micronesia where it’s mating season for giant manta rays. It’s prime time for spotting birdlife in Peru’s Tambopata National Reserve as the macaws gather at the clay licks. Round off the year with Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh.