This feature is brought to you by Qantas, who are proud to play a part in bringing travellers together with the people they love from around Australia and across the globe.
Ever sat through ten days of monsoon weather during a Thai beach holiday? Have you been in Madrid at the height of summer, when all the locals have had the wisdom to leave? One of the keys to successful travel is to know when to go. It’s not just a matter of avoiding bad weather, either. If you time your trip well, you can avoid peak tourist seasons, you can catch special cultural events and you can be there, camera at the ready, when nature unlocks its best seasonal secrets.
Research is the best way to get the most out of your next holiday and our month-by-month guide is a great way to get started. Break out your diaries folks, here’s the best place to visit each month of the year.
January — Chile
Stretching long and thin down the neck of South America, Chile has wildly different weather patterns in the north and south, but January is the height of summer in the southern hemisphere and offers the best of all possible worlds.
Dance in the streets during the massive Santiago A Mil festival, explore the red mountains of the Atacama Desert (in the rain) and have your mind blown by the epic beauty of the Torres Del Paine National Park. Located in the wilds of Patagonia, the park is all but shut down in winter, when howling winds and blizzards can make exploration difficult.
Pro tip: Carry tissues! Smiles are plentiful in Chile but toilet paper can be hard to find.
February — Laos
Summer in Oz means dry season in South-East Asia, which means mild heat and clear skies for temple hopping and ocean swimming. Unfortunately it also means vast numbers of tourists, particularly on the heaving beaches of Thailand or Bali.
There are many corners where you can escape the crowds, but Laos is our pick for a February trip. Eat like a local at Vientiane’s Vieng Sawan restaurant, go caving in Vang Vien and drink in the beauty of UNESCO World Heritage–listed Luang Prabang, all at a dreamy jungle pace.
Pro tip: Find a little backstreet vendor and get your hair washed by a local. For next to nothing, you’ll get the lather and head massage of your dreams. Warm water is extra.
March — Jordan
Jordan is rich in culture, history and geological wonders year-round, but in spring its deserts are blanketed in wildflowers. The mild warmth of March is the best time to explore the 2000-year-old city of Petra, carved into sandstone in a hidden valley, and to float like a cork in the hypersaline waters of the Dead Sea. March is also the time that Mawoulid An-Nabawi – the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday – is celebrated across the country.
Pro tip: The Bedouin Meditation Camp in Wadi Rum (The Valley of the Moon) is a great way to experience Bedouin culture while seeing the sun set over the red desert sand.
April — Japan
Eastern, Western, wild, well-mannered; Japan is one of the most distinct, beautiful and bizarre countries on the planet. From the techno fever dream that is Tokyo to the moss carpeted forests of Kagoshima to the peaceful wooden temples of Kyoto, there are so many shades to discover. And April, when the cherry blossoms are blooming, is the best time to do it.
Pro-tip: Rechargeable IC Cards are your ticket to ride on pretty much all public transport (bus, train, subway) in all major Japanese cities. You can also use them in select convenience stores to buy crazy Japanese convenience store things.
May — St Petersburg
A stately jewel on the Baltic Sea, St Petersburg is all but frozen in winter. The best time to enjoy the richness of this Imperial city, from the age-spanning art collection of the Hermitage Museum to the ornate domes of the Church of the Savior on Blood, is when the ice has melted. May sees the start of the White Nights Festival and the first glimpses of the midnight sun, before the summer tourist crowds descend en masse.
Pro tip: Don’t miss St Petersburg’s Street Art Museum, newly built in a former plastics factory and housing some of the most progressive voices in the country.
June — The NT’s Top End
Escape the bitter cold of the Aussie winter with a trip to our wild frontier, to the wide-open skies and secret waterholes of the vast Top End of the Northern Territory. The heat in the Red Centre is turned down in June, and the rains have receded from the billabongs of Kakadu National Park, but it’s early enough in the dry season that the waterfalls are still running.
Pro tip: Crocodile attacks are real! The Kakadu National Park service has warnings on their website and everything. Keep your arms in the boat and only swim where swimming is advised.
July — Kenya
Kenya is the picture perfect dream Africa, where Mt Kilimanjaro sit majestically above endless rolling plains, and the desert runs into grasslands which flow to the edge of the Indian Ocean. The wildlife is breathtaking, from lions on the prowl to flocks of pink flamingos to herds of Amboseli elephant and thousands upon thousands of zebra.
Go on safari in July and you will see one of the greatest natural wonders on earth – the migration of two million wildebeest from the Serengeti National Park to Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve.
Pro tip: Be careful where you go. While Kenya is safe and beautiful, there are serious warnings about travel near the Kenyan-Somali border.
August — Edinburgh
Edinburgh is stunning year-round, even in the depths of a frosty northern winter; the cobbled streets and winding streams of the medieval old town are some of the most uniformly beautiful in Europe, laid in gentle slopes at the foot of Edinburgh’s very spectacular castle.
If you want to see the city in full flight, you need to visit in August, when the Edinburgh Fringe kicks off. The Fringe is the world’s largest arts festival: with more than 3000 shows on offer, you’re guaranteed to find something you like.
Pro tip: Leave room for the unexpected! Popular shows will sell out, but if you try and cram your schedule with pre-booked Fringe tickets, you’ll miss the weird, whimsical stuff that presents itself out of nowhere.
September — Croatia
Croatia has risen up fast in the last few years as the emerging jewel of Eastern Europe. It’s had an even bigger bump recently thanks to Game of Thrones – the medieval cities lining the Dalmation Coast serve as backdrops for the TV series. The walled city of Dubrovnik (aka King’s Landing) is particularly beautiful, but at the height of summer cruise ships off load thousands of tourists onto its white stone streets.
A September visit will see you dealing with smaller crowds while the weather is still decent; perfect for finding a terrace seat and enjoying a glass of Croatian white.
Pro tip: Book a sailing cruise to travel up the coast from Dubrovnik to Split, island hopping and exploring national parks along the way.
October — Galápagos Islands
October is the tail end of the tourist season in the Galápagos Islands, but it’s the peak season to see Charles Darwin’s universe at full speed. Visit the Pacific archipelago this time of year to see blue footed booby chicks hatching on the islands of Isabella and Española, penguins courting and sea lion pups gambolling about, and many other rich wonders of the natural world.
Pro tip: Before you go, learn the unbelievable true history of the archipelago’s human residents by watching The Galápagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden. It’s a mind-blower.
November — Norway
Though many of Norway’s summer attractions shut down as the Arctic winter blows in, November is the perfect time to catch the spectacular northern lights (and Norway is the best place to do it). The stunning landscape is no less beautiful when blanketed in snow, from the thick woodlands in the east to the deep fjords in the west, and ski bunnies can enjoy the early start to the season that far northern Norway provides.
Pro tip: Bring sturdy, waterproof hiking boots. The best of Norway is found outdoors and you really need decent shoes.
December — New York
New York may be action packed in the summer, but winter is when the dame sparkles brightest. Brave the inclement weather and you’ll see The Holiday Season in full bloom – five miles worth of Christmas lights dressing the giant tree at the Rockefeller Centre, lights and decorations twinkling up and down Fifth Avenue and dozens of ice-skaters circling Wollman Rink in the middle of Central Park. Pray for a fresh blanket of snow to make your trip utterly postcard perfect.
Pro tip: Book ahead to see the Rockettes do their classic Christmas Spectacular in the art deco grandeur of Radio City Music Hall.