The best travel destinations for every month of the year 

With 2022 fast coming for us and 2021 feeling like it only just got started, now is a good time to plan so next year doesn’t pass us by like the last. As international borders begin to reopen and Zoom meeting schedules ease up, we are freer than ever to book our vacations for the year. But freedom of choice can often be a burden with so many places vying for our traveller attentions. Which is why we’ve put together a list of the best places to travel by month, looking at weather, tourist numbers and affordability. Fill your calendar with a cool destination every month of the year, with our guide to the best places to visit in January right through to December.

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Zermatt, Switzerland | Photo: Joshua Earle

1. January

Hey there month no.1, looking fine in crisp weather and clear skies. Even more so in Northern Europe where the aurora borealis presides over the skies, dancing in pastel greens, blues and reds. Consider countries like Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Greenland to see the aurora, while Austria and Switzerland also appeal to those wishing to ski the alps during the post-Christmas holiday quiet. Ski resorts in January will often give good deals and promos at the start of the year, as will all the best ski gear brands who also launch their products at this time. Bear in mind that January will be the coldest month to visit but the pistes will be powdery as ever after a blast from the resorts’ snow cannons.

Among the best places to visit in USA in January for skiers is Utah’s Powder Mountain, less than an hour from Salt Lake City. Hosting 154 runs and 12.5 meters of snowfall on average each year, Powder Mountain resort gives Vancouver’s Whistler a run for its money, with varied slopes and snow-shoeing alongside skiing and snowboarding in January.  For some warmer options to consider in January, the Caribbean and Central America, as well as much of Southeast Asia are all brilliant early in the year, less humid than spring yet still largely warm. For surfers and whale watchers meanwhile, Hawaii takes the prize when waves are at their peak and humpback pods in the area.

Photo: Joan Oger

2. February

Southeast Asia becomes ever-more popular in February as the weather heats up (to a bearable level) and crowds remain under control. Of the hot places to visit in February, Thailand is a winner thanks to average temperatures of around 25-34°C and rain showers that last just a while. Other warm places to go in February include the Caribbean and Central America, looking closely at the Dominican Republic if budgeting is high priority. The DR is one of the cheapest countries to visit in the Caribbean, offering all-inclusive relaxation in places like Punta Cana or city culture and a UNESCO-listed old town in the capital of Santo Domingo, all at an average of 28°C. Also in the region, hikers might consider Chile and Argentina for vineyards and Patagonian trails, such as the W trail within Chile’s Torres Del Paine National Park.

South Africa also arrives on every wine lover’s radar of places to visit February, especially Cape Town which lies close to some of the nation’s best wineries as well as beautiful beaches. Boulders Beach in particular is great in February, sharing the sand with an African penguin colony. For penguins in colder climes, however, consider Antarctica a continent at its best early in the year.

Carnival seekers meanwhile have a toss-up between Brazil and Italy, both celebrating in the week running up to Lent. The former comes warmer of course, showcasing ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ on the streets of Rio across 5 days for upwards of 2 million people. Italy then, despite still feeling the chill of winter, offers Venice Carnival, a masked celebration taking place on the city’s waterways and in San Marco square. Travellers wishing to conquer North America’s carnival scene meanwhile can try Mardi Gras in New Orleans, also before Lent.

Cenote Dominican Republic North Coast

Dominican Republic | Photo: Dan Moore

@ThePrivateTraveller Champions Parade Rio Carnival Brazil

Rio Carnival, Brazil | Photo: ThePrivateTraveller

3. March

One of the commonly cheaper months to travel is March, firmly in the shoulder season between spring blossom and summer holiday periods. Furthermore, Mediterranean countries have already started to heat up, meaning less crowded beach days are up for grabs. More reliable weather can be found still in Southeast Asia, with the additional options of Sri Lanka for travellers hoping for a bit of adventure before monsoon season hits the region. Cities like Colombo and Galle come with both culture and history, Yala in the southeast is the place for safari, while the coast is good for whale-watching, all at a consistent 27-29°C. Holi festival also takes place at this time, making neighbouring India – especially the capital of Mumbai – another great consideration.

Malaysian Borneo is another of our holiday destinations for March, when dry season is in full swing and orangutans are more likely to be spotted. Trekking then is the perfect activity at this time without the crowds, notably on Mount Kinabalu (where only 135 people are permitted each day) or within any of the region’s numerous national wildlife parks. In South America, trekking is also a popular choice, based perhaps in the Colombian culture-filled city of Cartagena and venturing out to the north for hikes through Cocora Valley and the Lost City of Teyuna, ending at the mud baths of Totumo Volcano.

Photo: Dimitry B

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Malaysian Borneo is another of our holiday destinations for March, when dry season is in full swing and orangutans are more likely to be spotted

4. April

Our top April holiday destinations centre around the Mediterranean, such as warm island nations like Crete, Cyprus and Malta. The Canary Islands led off the northwest coast of Africa, are also guaranteed good weather at this time. Speaking of African sun, also among the places that are hot in April include Morocco, Tunisia and northern territories where temperatures are still bearable and the Atlas Mountains are in full bloom. Further south in Africa meanwhile it’s dry season when there’s better visibility on the Zambezi River and Zambia and Zimbabwe make a show with the largest waterfall in the world; Victoria Falls.

Tunisia | Photo: Sergio Gómez

Canary Island | Photo: Massimiliano Morosinotto

5. May

By the month of May the whole of Europe has bloomed, whether that’s wisteria in Naples, peonies throughout Provence or the Fiesta de los Patios in Córdoba. Even the UK is warm enough for tulips. But, if flowers don’t cut it for you, North America’s Niagara Falls is in good form, as is Indonesia’s Tumpak Sewa of Java. Or, if a party is in need after the winter, May also sees Ibiza nightlife back in full swing. Of the best holiday destinations May, Hungary and Italy are notable as they still hold less crowds than peak summer, while Portugal’s beaches and the Czech capital of Prague still have room to move. Try the Spring Music Festival in Prague or go north to Scandinavia where the bitter weather and dark skies have moved on to be replaced with 24 hours of sunshine in certain parts. Among the attractions, the Norwegian fjords by railway is a real experience, closely followed by Sweden’s Ice Hotel.

Further afield, China has particularly nice weather May, offering comfortable temperatures throughout and perfect hiking across Everest and Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit. Ever more east, Indonesia’s Bali is just coming out of rainy season, making for more great hikes up Mount Batur and cultural tours in Ubud, Seminyak and the islands. Then, in South America, hiking is also the call of the day, particularly in Peru for the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu without the crowds that come later in the summer. For hot countries in May meanwhile, consider South Africa which, although cooling down for autumn, still offers warm days for safari and celebrating the Cape Winelands Harvest Festival in Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl.

Machu Picchu

Photo: Victor Rodriguez

6. June

Things are hotting up across the northern hemisphere in June, meaning Europe’s tourism industry is making bank, specifically northern European countries with their blue skies and midnight sun. To join in with the summer solstice revelries across Europe, consider Norway’s Sankt Hans festival, Estonia’s Jaanipaev or Mallorca’s Nit de Foc, or follow the gays and attend one of the many Pride parades across major cities.

If hiking is appealing, be aware that while Peru is now beginning its winter, other South American countries like Brazil are looking perfectly mild, particularly up north and around Iguazu Falls. In North America there are also a number of June festivities you’ll want in on; in Canada, it’s Canada Day, the Montreal Film Festival and International Jazz Festival, while in California, alongside reams of summer parties, Yosemite National Park steals the show with its iconic waterfall displays.

On the African continent, things are also getting exciting, with Eastern African countries including Tanzania and Kenya seeing the Great Wildebeest Migration triggered by the start of dry season and running from June to October. After safari-ing in style, laze on the Indian Ocean coastline of Zanzibar or experience ancient Swahili culture in Kenya’s Lamu Archipelago. Also of the best holiday destinations June is the Arctic, where cruises through melting ice are now possible.

Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya | Photo: Jason Hafso

Mr. Hudson highlight image

On the African continent, things are also getting exciting, with Eastern African countries including Tanzania and Kenya seeing the Great Wildebeest Migration

7. July

Now at the peak of summer, Europe and North America’s party schedule and tourist numbers are also reaching their zenith. In the USA, Independence Day takes precedence with fireworks, carnivals and outdoor activities, while in north-eastern Canada, nature has its own party to celebrate the thawing temperatures. In Newfoundland, highs of 18°C sweep in allowing for city breaks in St John’s and greater exploration of the region, such as within Torngat Mountains National Park to climb the peak of Gros Morne Mountain.

Alternatively, July sees the start of winter in French Polynesia. Rather than being cool, the islands are perfect at this time, seeing low humidity and highs of 30°C. The Seychelles are another great island break for July, providing the best conditions for surfing, sailing, scuba diving and even birdwatching. And, as in June, a safari in Eastern Africa or a cruise of the Arctic both remain fabulous choices, though Fuji’s volcanic wonders and cultural Bula Festival may turn your head.

Photo: Frank Mckenna

Photo: Aaron Huber

8. August

Preparing for the end of summer, August is a surprisingly busy time for tourism, especially among American families who hope for one last summer vacation before the start of school. Europe and the Mediterranean remain popular, notably Spanish and Portuguese beach towns such as the Algarve, closely followed by Croatia and her iconic sailing excursions and music festivals. You might also consider Switzerland in August, which turns most beautiful (and most crowded) during the summer. Though Zurich and Geneva are well-trodden and pricey, looking at lesser-known attractions in the Swiss countryside around Lake Lucerne, Lauterbrunnen Valley and Grindelwald will reward you handsomely.

Slightly cooler yet no less cool is the country of Scotland which becomes a mecca for comedians, dancers and performers throughout the month of August as its capital Edinburgh launches its annual Fringe Festival, the largest festival of arts and culture in the world. For nature lovers meanwhile, Eastern Africa’s Great Migration continues, coinciding with the start of Botswana’s Okavango Delta Floods, a time when hippos, elephants, leopards and lions flock to the delta to drink.

Algarve | Photo: Humphrey Muleba

Algarve | Photo: Max Zed

9. September

September sees the Mediterranean countries cooling off and emptying out, but this could be all the more reason to visit for mellow vibes and several interesting cultural festivals. Of the top things to do in September in Europe, try grape-throwing parties in Mallorca or see the fireworks of San Michele in Sicily, followed by polyphonic singing in Corsica. Octoberfest in fact starts at the end of September in both Germany and Austria, lasting 16 days and seeing upwards of 7 million visitors in Munich alone. Alternatively, for a tankard of Weissbier in quieter surrounds, try Bavaria’s Gau Boden Volksfest (starting mid-August), Vienna’s Wiener Wiesn Fest (late September to mid-October) or Switzerland’s Zuri Wiesn (mid-September to mid-October)

September can also be a great time to vacation in order to avoid those pesky children on their summer break from school. Alaska is one such destination that becomes more beautiful for lack of kids, allowing for perfect fall foliage snaps in Denali National Park or aurora-hunting after dark. Also looking good in September is India, emerging from its long monsoon season with a shoulder season that offers fewer crowds and leisurely Himalayan adventures. As in August, Peru and Nepal are still in a good season for hiking, as with the Alps, the Andes and many of the ranges across China and Japan. If China seems tempting, make sure to make the most of the mild weather by exploring top cultural landmarks around Beijing, such as the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall.

Great Wall of China | Photo: Johannes Plenio

10. October

The beer starts flowing in earnest come October in Germany and Austria, though, if partying with Lederhosen-wearing fellas in their millions isn’t your idea of fun, perhaps a trip to Montenegro is in order. Like Croatia, Montenegro in shoulder season is still warm but comes a lot cheaper. Of the best attractions, Lake Skadar on the Albanian border or the medieval towns of Kotor and Budva are recommended for epic mountain scenery all to yourself. If guaranteed sun is what you’re after, Turkey and Cyprus are great places to go in October, particularly the beachside city of Antalya. Another of the best vacation destinations in October is Italy, owing to the ebbing of summer crowds leaving Tuscany to relax into its fall colours and the Amalfi Coast to cool to a balmy 12-22°C. October’s International White Truffle Fair in Alba is also a must for foodies and wine lovers.

September saw the start of spring in Argentina but in October the season truly launches, allowing for dry and sunny weather across much of South America. Consider Argentina, Uruguay and Chile before the summer crowds pile in from December to February. For a fall vacation off the beaten track, the Middle East also makes a play for attentions, especially countries like Oman, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates when temperatures drop. Dubai is every modern architecture lover’s dream, while Egypt’s Cairo remains an ancient culture capital of the world.

Also among the top things to do in October is certainly to see fall foliage, in North America and outside. New England gets a name for itself for leaf gazing, including Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and beyond, though thinking more internationally, Japan’s mountains and its leafy cities like Kyoto also provide a spectacle worth seeing.

Photo: Andy Kogl

11. November

It’s the start of low season in the northern hemisphere but there’s plenty of warm weather and activities to keep us amused. Cuba is one of our favourite November holiday destinations for its dry climate and more bearable heat, with cities like Havana, Trinidad and Viñales the perfect bases for exploration. A number of Caribbean islands also do better at this time, when hurricane season is ending and drier weather breezes in.

In Europe, the best places to visit November are Prague and its Old Town, for bohemian vibes and charming streets minus the summer crowds. In Portugal, both Porto and Lisbon remain appealing with temperatures ranging from 9-17°C, warmer than elsewhere in Europe. Warmer still is Southeast Asia, with Thailand again offering its islands and city breaks at less humid temperatures. The full moon festivals of Loi Krathong and Yi Peng are key reasons to come, though Chiang Mai and various other cities offer culture, beaches and wildlife for days. India is another of the best places to visit in November, and though for Agra this is peak season, sunrise tours of the Taj Mahal are hard to beat.

Other destinations to consider include Morocco for its mosques, bazaars and desert camping experiences around Merzouga, while in the USA, Hawaii wins out for surfers or Colorado for skiers. Then in the Southern Hemisphere, New Zealand makes an appearance, with perfect conditions for exploring the great outdoors. NZ’s Queenstown is at the centre of all the action, close to bungee jumping, hiking, rafting and jet boating excursions.

New Zealand | Photo: Laura Smetsers

Bondi Beach, Sydney | Photo: Belle Co

12. December

Being the season of good will to all men and all that, we’ve also compiled a whole article of top places to visit in December, cold, hot and all types of festive. Among them, you’ll find the aurora-lit region of Northern Europe, the ski paradises of Austria and Switzerland, as well as warm weather escapes of Central America and the Caribbean.

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Asturias, Spain | Photo: ELG21

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