Listen, travel in the summer months is great: it’s bikini and board shorts weather, golden hour pics are so golden and so perfect, the crowds are massive and queues are long, restaurant, hotel, and transportation prices spike… wait, what?
That’s right, travelling during peak season certainly has its perks, but it can also have some disadvantages, and honestly if you’ve never travelled in the off season then you’re only seeing half the world! While some places light up in July and August, others really shine on the shoulder months. We’ve compiled a list of the best off-season travel destinations so you can be a worldwide traveller all year round (yes, this applies to you too, our Southern Hemisphere friends!).
Why you should travel off season
Sure the weather may not be as nice (though this honestly depends on where you go), but travelling off season is just as good as travelling during peak season, and here’s why.
First of all, everything’s cheaper: from flights to hotels to restaurants and tourist attractions, the prices fall drastically. Where you might normally be inclined to opt for cheaper stays like hostels in the summer, dare to take a peek at hotel rates in the winter and watch as the numbers get smaller – it’s all about the little luxuries, right?
It can be a more unique experience as well. Why not spend Christmas on the Amalfi Coast instead and see how the locals celebrate? What about skiing in Japan or catching hippos lazing about in Africa’s rainy season? All amazing and awe inspiring experiences you’d miss if you only travel between the months of June and August.
Where you should go
Well, that’s the question isn’t it, and why we’re all here. Where should you go? Of course all the usual suspects like Europe and Asia still apply, but let’s broaden our horizons a little bit. The best off-season travel destinations are the ones you may not have thought about. Have you considered Africa or Latin America? Places that, in June or July, might be too hot, but in September to October are just right? The best off-season travel destinations are the ones that can give you what you’d normally get on holiday and so much more. So, without further ado, let’s get cracking!
1 – Egypt in Autumn
While you might be inclined to visit Egypt in the peak of Summer when the sun is at its highest and brightest, this may not be the best idea, unless you love sweltering heat. The best months to visit Egypt are actually between October and April, especially the early fall, as this is when the heat is manageable and the nights are cool – gotta sleep in a cold room to get that beauty rest!
You’ll still get the gorgeous sun beating down on you as you explore Cairo’s intricate architecture, or take a breezy sail down the Nile. You’ll just be a lot more comfortable; there’s nothing worse than navigating a busy city when you’re sweating through your shirt and in desperate need of water. We recommend booking a trip to Egypt and the Nile in the early autumn so that you can catch those last summer rays before tucking into a chilly winter back home.
2 – Amsterdam in Spring
Amsterdam is cute all year round, no matter what season you decide to visit it in. The canal, the endless sea of bikes, the gabled houses – it’s like a fairytale. In our humble opinion an ideal time to visit Amsterdam is in the Spring. Why’s that? Because it’s tulip season!
If you haven’t seen Amsterdam’s tulip season, you simply haven’t lived. Imagine rows and rows and rows of flowers of all colours that span all the way to the horizon. Couple that with a setting of windmills and blue skies, some lovely weather, and you’ve got the perfect break away. Travel with us to Amsterdam for Easter and you’ll get a glimpse of those gorgeous tulips, as well as a taste of legendary Holland chocolate.
3 – Ireland in Winter
One of the best off-season travel destinations is also one of the most underrated: Ireland. With its rolling hills and steep coasts, with its rich history and culture and cosy feel, Ireland is an absolute gem of a destination. The summer is a good time to visit Ireland, but the busy streets make it lose some of its homely charm. Why not travel to Ireland in winter when it’s at its brightest and most festive, and that’s during Saint Patrick’s day in mid-March!
Watch as the entire country comes alive with festivities that bring family and friends together. We recommend going on a classic pub crawl to try local pub dishes and a few pints, and making the most of everyone’s friendliness and good mood.
Image source:Anna Church / unsplash
4 – Norway in Winter
Sounds chilly, BUT aren’t you willing to live with a little cold in exchange for the chance to catch a real life aurora borealis? Norway is beautiful all year round, but in the winter months it’s downright sensational. The coupling of sparkling snow and bright blue skies is irresistible, and Norway’s towns and cities aren’t bad either!
The northern lights are the real show though: these mystical ribbons of rainbow colours in the night sky have fascinated travellers forever and make Norway a very popular destination indeed. Travel with Contiki on our Norway Fjords and Northern Lights trip and you’ll get to experience the aurora borealis as well as many other unique activities like an overnight cruise and feeding of Santa’s reindeer.
5 – Mexico in Autumn
If you fancy a Mexican Fiesta, then you should make your way there in Autumn, specifically October. Why? Because that’s when Mexico celebrates La Dia de los Muertos and it’s a festival of colour and life you don’t want to miss.
Not only that, but the crowds become much more manageable, and Mexico’s typical heat has died down a little and you can enjoy some cooler evenings and refreshing dips in the sea. You’ll want to visit every museum and tourist attraction Mexico City has to offer, so getting there when queues are minimal is ideal. The food will still be as delicious, the vibes will still be as amazing, and the locals will still be as welcoming.
6 – Germany in Autumn
Germany is quite a large country and every corner of it is so vast. There’s the vibrant and dynamic cities like Berlin, and then there’s more charming and fairytale corners like the forests and castles of Bavaria. The temperature is quite mild in Germany so you’re sure to never over heat and we reckon a great time to go is in the fall for Oktoberfest.
Oktoberfest, if you didn’t already know, is a yearly traditional celebration that takes place in Munich and it is a beer festival and carnival all rolled into one. Generally it takes place in September or October, and it’s a great time guaranteed! Hop on Contiki’s Oktoberfest trip to experience the fun with a group of like-minded travellers from across the globe!
7 – Argentina in Spring
The spring time is usually the best time to visit Argentina as not only are you avoiding scorching hot weather, but also hurricane season. From June to November, Argentina, and a few other Latin American countries get hit with quite a few hurricanes, so it’s best to stay away from those. This makes Argentina a natural fit for our best off-season travel destinations list then (don’t you just love it when the world lines up like that?)
You’ll get to visit Buenos Aires sans crowds, walk along the impressive Iguazu Falls, and get a blast to the past at the San Ignacio Mini ruins. Why not tick two stellar destinations off your bucket list at once and travel with us to Argentina and Brazil?
Image source:Nathana Rebouças / unsplash
8 – Austria in Winter
This one’s a no brainer really, but the number one reason to travel in the off-season, specifically in Winter, is because you can go skiing! And where should you go skiing? None other than the sloping Alps of Austria!
Relax in a chalet, kick your feet up after a long day by the fire, drink some Aperols (it’s tradition) with your friends, and then get a good night’s sleep for full days of drifting down the mountain on smooth and glittering snow. In your down time you’ll get to admire all the pines and just how beautiful the mountain face is, while also getting a taste of Austrian culture, like staying at Contiki’s very own Gasthof! Ski vacations are just a dream, aren’t they? And our 2 weeks in Austria do them best.
9 – Japan in Spring
Again, Japan is one of those countries where no matter when you visit you’ll have the most perfect time. One of the best things about Japan is that the countryside and its idyllic landscapes change so much with the seasons. Autumn is bright red and gold, winter invites blankets of snow, summer is cheerful and warm, but spring in Japan is where it’s really at.
The temperature is mild and the rural areas will be not too busy, not too empty, just right for you to roam around for days. But the real showstopper of Japan in spring is, you guessed it, cherry blossom season – the time when the whole country starts to bloom and bursts into a beautiful explosion of pink. Delicate sakura drift from their trees and float around in the wind, and you’ll be treated to them your entire stay, whether you’re in crazy Tokyo or quiet Nara.
Witnessing the cherry blossom season is a truly unique and special experience that everyone should participate in if they can. Travel to Japan in a week and discover just how amazing this place is in the gentle spring.
10 – India in Autumn
Catch those final rays of summer in India during the early fall. Why? You guessed it, the heat is more manageable and so are the crowds so you’ll actually be able to take a good picture of the Taj Mahal and maybe have your main character moment. No matter the time of year, India is just as beautiful and you can lounge around all day absorbing the sun until it sets and eating the most phenomenal foods your taste buds will ever touch.
We recommend sticking around for Diwali for a true and wonderful deep dive into Indian culture. This is a very important holiday, so make sure to stay respectful, but you’ll learn so much more about the locals and their lives by visiting at this time instead of any other. Experience India with a local tour guide and new friends on Contiki!