There's a fine line between shoulder season and a lousy time to visit, but this list does manage to get the times right that will help travelers avoid crowd and high prices and still have a good trip.
Source: Daily Telegraph
By Nick Trend
There are plenty of drawbacks to off-season travelling. A cold, wet, windy seaside resort where the cafés are boarded up and most of the hotels are closed is hardly appealing. But some places come into their own at times when most visitors might consider them too hot, cold or wet. Visit then and not only can you enjoy the sights without the crowds, and benefit from much, much lower prices, but you may get a glimpse of the true character of a city or a landscape.
I first had an insight into this experience during a couple of winter holidays: once when I arrived in Bruges in January and it snowed overnight, transforming the town into a something out of a Brueghel painting; and once when travelling across Siberia by train in December, when the immensity of the landscape was made even more mind-blowing by the intensity of the cold. Here are 10 other places around the world that I have particularly enjoyed out of season.
1 Marrakesh in August
The wall of hot air that hit me as I stepped off the air-conditioned overnight train on to the platform for my first visit to Marrakesh was something I had never experienced before.
It took a day or so to get used to it, but the desert heat is very dry and it seems to intensify the exotic side to the city – somehow the colours seem brighter and the sounds and smells more exotic. If it gets too hot, escape into the cool of the nearby Atlas Mountains.
2 Tuscany in October
This is harvest time, and it is a wonderful season to explore a region that is so fixated on its food and wine. Enjoy the grapes, the nuts, the mushrooms, the figs, the olives and the chestnuts, the many local harvest celebrations, and the general air of fun and festivity that breaks out after most of the tourists have gone home.
3 Tanzania in November
The great sight for safari-goers in Tanzania and Kenya is the wildebeest migration heading north in August. Prices are sky-high and the parks and lodges crowded. But wait until November and you can see the animals on their way back south – in, for example, the Lobo Valley in northern Tanzania. You will find that prices are lower and the all-round experience is just as fascinating.
4 Venice in November
In summer, heat draws some pungent odours from the canals; in winter, Venice can be bitterly cold. However, there is a window between the sudden fall-off in visitors at the end of October and the start of winter. In the first two weeks of November, the crowds have gone but there is still some warmth in the air, and you can enjoy the first atmospheric mists of autumn.
5 Caribbean in November
The tourist season in the Caribbean starts with a bang at Christmas, prices rise sharply and the hotels are booked out.
But the hurricane risk is over, and the weather has been settled and dry for weeks before this. Travel in late November when the beaches are empty, rates and air fares are at their lowest and there are lots of last-minute offers.
6 Reykjavik in winter
Ever bathed in a hot spring while the temperature outside is below zero and there is snow on the ground around you? Ever done it while watching the Northern Lights electrify the sky above you? Try Reykjavik in winter and you have a chance to do both, as well as enjoying lively nightlife and some very good restaurants. It’s great for a an offbeat, off-season winter weekend.
7 St Petersburg in December
Russia is all about winter – ask Napoleon. Unlike him, the Russians know exactly how to cope with it. As long as you bring the right clothes, you will never be cold, you can enjoy the Hermitage without a sea of tourists and you will experience a snowbound city with a very special atmosphere.
8 Rome in January
Although it is generally mild enough to be pleasant for exploring outside sights during the day, Rome in January can be chilly, especially at night. But the Romans are used to this and make their restaurants and hotels surprisingly jolly and cosy in winter – you will even find open fires in some of the back rooms.
9 Provence in February
There is a risk in visiting Provence out of season – it can be cold and grey. But the first taste of spring comes extremely early. I have basked in warm sunshine in mid-February, when the almond blossom is already out, the skies are luminous, and there are virtually no tourists at all. Reduce the risk of bad weather by watching the weather forecast and booking late, when a warm spell is on the way.
10 Cyprus at Easter
Cyprus is one of the few places in the Mediterranean where you can be reasonably sure of decent weather at Easter. The season has yet to start but days are pleasantly warm and sunny, the orange trees are in fruit and summer seems just around the corner.
Have a confidential tip for Skift? Get in touch