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.
Where to go in January
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.
Where to go in February
The magical northern lights are likely to be spotted in Iceland in February. Failing that, the conditions are great for dog-sledding and snowmobiling. Winter mating season peaks for the snow leopards of India’s Hemis National Park, making the elusive cats easier to spot. It’s Carnival time in Rio, so samba your way through the celebrations, and also in Venice, where you can catch parades, fireworks and masked balls. A festive atmosphere can also be found in Mendoza, ahead of the grape harvest, where bodegas open for tours and tastings.
Where to go in March
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.
Where to go in April
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.
Where to go in May
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.
Where to go in June
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.