Embrace the low season. If you avoid the peak period, you’ll see a very different, unique side of popular destinations like South Africa, Southeast Asia or even the North Pole.
Anyone who has ever travelled during the high season,
knows the disadvantages all too well: busy airports and hours of traffic jams, sky-high airfares and exorbitant room rates, packed beaches and crowded cities, colossal queues for museums and sights. It’s also no secret that many of the world’s most beautiful destinations can hardly cope with tourism anymore.
But that is no reason to stay at home; You just have to choose smartly where you’re going and when. One possibility is to embrace the off-season. In addition to the logical benefits of cheaper accommodations and flights, many destinations come into their own in the low and mid-season, without unnerving mobs that get in the way of their charm and authenticity.
If you do good research, you can apply this approach pretty much anywhere. Paris is also beautiful in April. At the Taj Mahal there is much less crowds in September, at the end of the monsoon and just before the crazy of the high season. Italy’s capitals of culture (Rome, Venice and Florence) are very popular and hot in summer, but they can be glorious on a cool day in November. And then there are the honeymoon favourites (the Caribbean islands, the Maldives and Mauritius) where the risk of a small haul in the off-season is a small sacrifice for the reasonable prices and wonderfully empty beaches.
Go on safari
It’s a myth that the high season is the best time for a game safari. Take South Africa. The low season runs from May to September, when it is winter there, causing prices to plummet. But that’s also the dry season in national parks like Kruger, where less vegetation makes it easier to see elephants, hippos, lions, rhinos, zebras and leopards.
Rickshaw Travel offers a 20-day tour including flights (from €2,075; zuidafrikaonline.nl). Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMI) is the gateway. More information about the park can be found on sanparks.org/parks/kruger.
Travel in the monsoon
Sudden downpours lend an exuberant beauty to much of South and Southeast Asia during the rainy season, from about June to September. Monsoon doesn’t mean it rains all day. It is a coming and going of showers and the temperature often stays high. The benefits of travelling during this period are lower room rates (sometimes only half) and less crowds at major attractions.
You can get great deals for countries like India and the Maldives during the monsoon (skyscanner.net).
To the beach in Europe
Many of us have been on a beach in the summer with hardly any room for a towel, from Majorca to the Greek islands. Italian beaches are choking in August, as the whole country flocks to la spiaggia. Go in spring or autumn, when it’s just warm enough to lie by the sea, and then you get seasonal colors as a bonus. But also ideal conditions for walking and cycling on the coast and lower prices.
Winter dip? There are European islands where the weather stays fine well into the dark months – and not just the Canary Islands. Try Malta, Madeira or Sicily.
Experience the polar night
Yes, it’s dark, but the Arctic is a magical and alien place to visit in the middle of winter, when the sun never rises above the horizon and the sky doesn’t lighten up than a deep “midnight blue.” Go there for the Northern Lights, sleds with huskies and a spectacular ice landscape.
In the pre-winter season, in November, you are the hustle and bustle in Iceland for it. In Reykjavík, a good starting point, the Northern Lights can often be seen. Arctic Adventures offers a four-hour Northern Lights tour from September to April (from €61; adventures.is).