Where to go when: Phil’s holiday calendar
As one of our product managers, it's Phil’s job to scout out exciting destinations, research routes and plan the tours that you see in our brochures and on our website. Drawing on his years of expertise and insider knowledge, we asked Phil to pick out his favourite times of year to visit the destinations he covers. From experiencing colourful festivals in India and Uzbekistan, to catching a glimpse of baby pandas in China, he’s got the inside scoop on when to go where...
My pick for February would be Sri Lanka. Travel to Sri Lanka any time between December to March and you won’t be disappointed, but I’d say February is the perfect month weather-wise – beautifully warm days with minimal rain and reduced humidity. An added benefit of travelling in February is that you might be around to catch the annual independence celebrations, which take place on the 4th.
It’s also a great time to visit Sigiriya, as visibility is at its best. That said, it can be hot, so if you’re planning to capture the stunning views from the top by climbing the 1,000-plus steps (which takes around an hour), then make sure you’ve got a bottle of water, a hat and sunscreen for the journey!
Many consider the month of March to be the best time to visit northern India and undertake the classic Golden Triangle route. Temperatures are pleasant and, most importantly, dry. March is the month of Holi, the ‘festival of colour’, where vibrant powder paints are thrown in celebration alongside magical dancing and singing.
Take the time to venture to Udaipur in late March and you should catch sight of the cheerful celebrations of the Mewar Festival, which heralds in the spring and all the positivity that comes with it. Brightly dressed ladies sing and dance through the streets carrying votive images and statues of Isar and Gangaur above their heads. These icons are then led to Lake Pichola where they are placed aboard a grand boat and rowed around the lake.
Egypt is at its prime in the month of March. The country emerges from its winter, and the weather is warming up but not too hot. These pleasant temperatures make discovering the ancient sites a joy. Along the River Nile there are also warm breezes, which in April turn into the phenomenon known as khamsin - a dry, hot and dusty wind that isn’t so pleasant.
Finally, March is an ideal time to visit the stunning country of Iceland. Usually the extremer weather has passed by this time, but the Northern Lights are still at their best. The other advantage of travelling in March is that it’s still considered low season and therefore you’ll beat the crowds, making for a more relaxing experience.
April is a wonderful time to discover the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Many of the native wild flowers are blossoming, leaving a carpet of spectacular colour across the country. Days are warm and nights are cool and comfortable. If you’re planning to hike to some of Petra’s famous sites or you fancy a soak in the Dead Sea, it’s a great time of year to visit.
Further east, how about China? Everybody’s heard of Japan’s stunning cherry blossom, however China has a similar event each year which few know about. When the harsh winters subside in late March, the Chinese blossom springs into life through to the end of April with stunning colour and vigour. This season is hugely symbolic to the Chinese as it represents new love and a fresh start, there’s also a great gratitude for the beauty of nature.
For May, I’d recommend Uzbekistan. The Silk and Spice Festival often takes place in the month of May in Bukhara. It’s a wonderful demonstration of Uzbekistan culture and an effort to revive the historical legacy of the ancient Silk Route. It is also warm and dry, and, as the country enters its low season, crowds at major sites begin to thin.
Or try an epic cross-country tour of Canada. Throughout the year the landscapes here change to reflect the different seasons. After a cold, hard winter, spring sees temperatures beginning to rise, and the country comes alive again with flora and fauna. And on this 'Ultimate Titan Tour', you will experience it all as the magnificent scenery changes in front of your eyes. From the east to the west coast, spring slowly makes its way around, as colours begin to bloom and lakes begins to thaw.
If you want to explore the natural wonders of Namibia, but are concerned about the notoriously warm weather, June is the month for you. June tends to be a cooler time of year, while the evenings are often fresh. An added bonus of travelling in June is that there’s a lack of rain in the preceding months, so vegetation is thinner and animals are easier to see in national parks such as Etosha.
June is also a fantastic month to visit western Canada and Alaska. As well as enjoying warmer weather, it’s a great time for spotting wildlife in Jasper National Park – and it’s usually the last month where you’ll be able to see Lake Louise in all its frozen splendour (quite a contrast to the turquoise waters you’d see in the height of summer!). The natural phenomenon of the annual Salmon Run happens from May through to September in Alaska and British Columbia. June is an incredible time to visit, as the run is normally in full flow by then.
If you’re interested in a safari, July is an incredible time for wildlife-spotting in South Africa’s Kruger National Park as the bush is very dry. This also lends itself perfectly to photographic opportunities. The light in the mornings and evenings is stunning – like a hazy, mellow yellow colour which switches to orange and deep ruby red as the sun sets.
Or try our Zimbabwe safari holiday – it includes time at Victoria Falls, and I’d recommend July as the month to see the cascades at their very best. For a slightly different wildlife experience, there’s Madagascar. It’s best explored in July – the temperatures have dropped to a pleasant level and its dry, which makes for ideal trekking conditions. The rainforests are teeming with animals and activity and there is also the added bonus that humpback whales set up base off the coast of Ifaty at this time of year.
Closer to home, July is a wonderful time to explore Russia – surprisingly to many, the summers are warm and extremely pleasant. July also sees the finale of St Petersburg’s ‘White Nights’ celebrations, where the locals welcome 80 days of nearly round-the-clock light after the oppressive winter. There are numerous events and celebrations – the city really comes alive at this time of year.
August in Kenya is when the great wildlife extravaganza of the wildebeest migration takes place in the Masai Mara; there is no better time to be here. On our Kenya Tracks and Trails tour you should also get spectacular views of Mount Kilimanjaro, too, from Amboseli National Park.
Eastern Canada follows similar seasonal patterns as the UK, so visiting during August is a great time to explore as for warm and dry weather – you can really make the most of the stunning Canadian landscape. Festivals are in full swing, including the Montreal Jazz extravaganza, while summer is also the best time to visit the mighty Niagara Falls.
The wild beauty of Alaska is at its best during the state’s short summer, when days are long (expect around 19 hours of daylight in Anchorage). August is also peak whale-watching season in Alaska, which lasts until September – look out for majestic humpbacks and killer whales.
September in Armenia and Georgia is the start of autumn – temperatures start to subside and rain can fall. The amazing kaleidoscope of autumn colours is spectacular and the commencement of the harvest season often starts around this time, making for some amazing culinary and photographic opportunities.
September is also is one of the best wildlife-spotting months in Kruger. It’s the nearing the end of the dry season, so vegetation is thin and waterholes are few and far between, making animals easier to spot. All areas are much less crowded as local school holidays have finished, and there’s the added bonus that mosquitoes also begin disappearing.
October is the perfect time to venture up into the Himalayan foothills. Temperatures have subsided, making for a pleasant time for leisurely walks in the beautiful surroundings.
If you're a fan of giant pandas and you want to see the adorable baby ones, I'd recommend travelling to China in October. Pandas normally have their young in the summer and it takes a few months for the baby pandas to become recognisable as those cute, squeezable bears we know and love.
It’s also a great month for baby animals in South Africa. Many of the species will have given birth to their young and the subsequent dramas unfold. November is a brilliant time for birders too, as all the migratory birds have returned by this time.
Between September and November each year, the jacaranda trees of South Africa explode into a stunning purple bloom. It’s especially vibrant in the cites of Pretoria and Johannesburg, which both contain more jacarandas than any other South African city.
November is an ideal time to visit Kenya if you’re interested in birdwatching. By this stage, all the migratory birds are arrived and are mixing with the native species. It’s truly a sight to behold!
If you want to explore the holy lands of Israel without the heat, December is the month to travel. The days are generally cool, making for pleasant walking conditions, plus you’ll see signs of Christian celebrations as the big day draws closer.
For more holiday inspiration, why not order a free copy of our Worldwide brochure?
Phil has a love for wildlife and often finds himself being drawn back to Africa to search those ever-active plains. He recently returned from visiting the gorillas and chimpanzees of Uganda – a life-affirming experience and one which created memories that’ll never fade.
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