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When it comes to travel, it’s true to say that timing is (almost) everything. Whether you want to maximise your chance of seeing that special natural phenomenon, or minimise your chance of running into the wrong weather, you’ll want schedule your trip accordingly.
Moreover, with many of us keen to travel more responsibly in 2022 (a whopping 96% of you, according to our recent sustainable travel survey), heading to lesser-visited destinations outside peak times is another key consideration. With all that in mind, here’s our alternative month-by-month guide to the best under-the-radar destinations to visit through the year.
1. Best places to go in January
If you’re into active adventuring and want to witness nature at its most mind-blowing, January is a great time to visit Iceland. Though this ruggedly majestic island will be at its coldest and darkest, your travels will be well and truly brightened by the northern lights.
January is also the best time for ice-caving, with fewer crowds than December making those post-adventure soaks in hot springs all the more pleasurable.
Fancy exploring the waterfalls and geothermal pools of Iceland’s wild west? Or how about hiking the glacial valleys and lava fields of the enchanting east? Take a look at Rough Guides' tailor-made Iceland itineraries for inspiration. Oh, and if you’re looking for an unforgettable experience to boast about back home, head to the Silfra Fissure to snorkel between North America and Europe.
At the other extreme of the temperature scale, January is also a great time to visit west and south Sri Lanka. Think hours of sun, miles of remote soft-sand beaches and excellent surfing. Plus, Galle’s architectural allures will satisfy even the most seasoned of culture vultures.
This UNESCO Heritage Site city hosts an international literary festival in January or February each year. What’s more, the wildlife wonders of Yala National Park are also within reach.
2. Best places to go in February
Easter Island, Chile
Featured in our writers’ round-up of the best places on earth for 2022, Chile’s Easter Island is also one of the most remote places on earth. Visit in the first two weeks of February to experience the Tapati festival.
This annual celebration of Rapa Nui culture features world-class diving and surfing to enjoy alongside marvelling at the monumental majesty of the island’s famed moai statues.
With Rough Guides’ readers also recently declaring Chile to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world, intrepid travellers seeking truly off-the-beaten-track adventures might want to contact our local Chile expert to curate a once-in-a-lifetime trip to this remarkable part of the world.
With an almost Mediterranean climate and daytime temperatures rarely exceeding 30°C, visiting Oman in February offers travellers immersive experience in near-perfect conditions.
For more inspiration, read our first-timers guide to Oman and peruse our expert-curated Oman itineraries -100% customisable, they cover everything from epic dune and canyon hikes to blissful beach breaks.
3. Best places to go in March
Also selected as one of our best places on earth for 2022, Costa Rica is the perfect place to put your responsible travel resolutions into practice. A dream destination for travellers seeking exhilarating back-to-nature adventures (and beach-lovers), Costa Rica has been blazing an ecotourism trail for decades.
The good news is, it’s perfectly possible to experience the country’s diverse coast-to-coast delights during a single tailor-made trip, if (for example) you fancy turtle-watching from the shores of the Caribbean Sea, trekking tropical national parks, and surfing the Pacific Ocean.
Quintessential Costa Rican travel experiences include ziplining through the forest canopy, and staying in a cloud forest eco-lodge. As for why to visit in March, falling towards the end of the mid-November to April dry season, there’ll little rain and smaller crowds. Discover more Costa Rica travel tips.
Alluringly under-the-radar in comparison with other Caribbean islands, it’s clear to see why dramatic Dominica is known as the Nature Island and features in The Rough Guide to the 100 Best Places on Earth for 2022. This tiny island certainly breaks the Caribbean mould. In place of towering resorts, Dominica offers eco-minded boutique hotels and guest houses – from the luxury of Jungle Bay and Secret Bay, to homely Verandah View.
In addition, while Dominica has its share of gorgeous beaches, it’s most known for its 365 rivers, forested, volcanic mountains, and the Waitukubuli Trail, an island-wide network of hiking routes. Beyond land, Dominica boasts world-class diving sites, and is the only place sperm whales can be seen year-round.
That said, sightings are most common between November and March, with March also heralding the beginning of turtle-watching season.
The rare kind of destination that inspires a longing to return after a single visit, Dominica is the perfect Caribbean island for nature-lovers, hikers and travellers looking for rewarding voluntourism experiences.
4. Best places to go in April
Once the capital of Tamerlane’s Silk Road Empire, Uzbekistan’s elegant, art-rich Samarkand (one of our best places on earth for 2022) is a definite under the radar diamond. Beyond Samarkand, Central Asia’s outstanding natural and cultural attractions await in wider Uzbekistan (you won’t want to miss taking a trip to beautiful Bukhara, for example), along with Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
After reading up on reasons to visit Uzbekistan, take a look at our customisable Highlights of the Silk Road trip to take the hassle out of planning a trip to a lesser-visited region that’s best explored in late spring, when (largely) dry days can reach an agreeable 22°C.
Madeira isn’t exactly an undiscovered destination, but it certainly has plenty of under-the-radar experiences to enjoy, as revealed in our shaking off Madeira misconceptions feature. All the better if you visit in spring before peak summer season descends, and consider taking a dual-island break that combines Madeira with São Miguel.
From dipping into the natural pools of Porto Moniz and hiking a UNESCO World Heritage Site laurel forest in Madeira, to exploring São Miguel’s Sete Cidades Lagoon and Fire Lake, visiting both islands is an ideal way to appreciate the awe-inspiring beauty of the Azores.
5. Best places to go in May
Majestic mountains, emerald valleys, ancient myths and epic castles - Wales packs a whole lot of natural beauty and culture into its small mass of land. From exploring places in Wales you’re probably never heard of, to trekking Snowdonia National Park (and beyond – Wales has a host of rewarding alternative hikes), this welcoming country invites repeat visits, and affords visitors plenty of opportunities to discover under-the-radar villages and remote beauty spots.
Special mention must be made of picturesque Pembrokeshire (one of our best places on earth for 2022). Here you can hike the awe-inspiring coast path and visit beautiful beaches. You'll also enjoy some of the country’s best adventure experiences, and stay in stunning sustainable properties.
Want to get your wild on in Wales (arguably best done in late spring before summer holiday crowds descend)? The Rough Guide to Wales is a trove of information, while our inspiring Wales itineraries will set you on your way.
Boasting beautiful islands, historic villages, and incredible cuisine, Dalmatia is one of Croatia’s ultimate treasures. As a result, island-hopping is an exhilarating experience, especially if you opt to sail the immaculate Adriatic Sea ahead of peak season.
Brač delivers breath-taking scenery alongside fine wine and olive oil tasting experiences, while Hvar is renowned for its upscale restaurants. Meanwhile, Mljet National Park is a joy for romantics and nature-lovers, and the Elaphite Islands are among the most unspoiled in the Adriatic.
Fancy taking to the water but not sure where to start? Read our first-timers guide to sailing in Croatia. Alternatively, Rough Guides' tailor-made Dalmatia sailing trip will make your experience a breeze. And fear not if you prefer staying on land - we have Croatian trips for you too, or you could always contact our local expert to create your ideal itinerary.
6. Best places to go in June
Rwanda and Uganda
If you’re looking for exceptional wildlife-watching experiences in an under-the-radar area, visiting Rwanda between June and September might just be your bag - these are the best months for sighting mountain gorillas (though there are plenty of reasons to see more of Rwanda than the gorillas alone).
From capital Kigali (take a tour with lunch to discover its thriving art scene), head to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park over the border in Uganda. After journeying through tropical jungles and valleys, the reserve’s rare primate residents can be seen up close in the cloud forest.
If you fancy blending wildlife-watching with island chilling, our tailor-made trips to see mountain gorillas in East Africa can be customised to include Tanzanian safaris and a Zanzibar beach stay.
If you think you know Spain, it might be time to think again, and to consider taking an altogether more immersive trip somewhere far from the madding crowds of popular tourist hotspots, and before peak season strikes. Lovers of the good life and rural landscapes will find unadulterated pleasures in La Rioja, Spain’s most celebrated wine-producing region.
It’s a place to ramble rolling hills, enjoy long lunches in centuries-old wine cellars, and meander medieval villages. Haro and Laguardia have a way of getting under your skin, with stunning historic hotels to stay in - how about bedding down in a converted 14th-century convent?
To see Spain through new eyes, discover more places you’ve (probably) never considered and take a look at our tailor-made trip around La Rioja - an immersive experience infused with fine wine and medieval history.
7. Best places to go in July
Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way
Exploring Ireland’s unspoiled natural beauty and prehistoric sites makes for a richly rewarding, back-to-nature experience, with July a great time to enjoy warmer weather and a host of festivals (as outlined in our when to go to Ireland guide).
What’s more, if you pick your destination and route wisely (how about exploring Ireland’s wild Atlantic way, or setting off on a road-trip?), you might just have all that spectacular scenery to yourself.
If all this talk of rugged beauty has you dreaming of taking a trip to the Emerald Isle, our Pearls of Ireland itinerary includes the West Coast’s Burren National Park and the Cliffs of Moher, rounded off with time in cosmopolitan Dublin, where a number of fun, free experiences can be had.
Malaysia and Borneo
If you’re looking for a diverse travel experience that combines ancient culture, desert island idyll and wild rainforests, it doesn’t get more rewarding than visiting Malaysia and Borneo. June-August is the best time to see orangutans, and July-October best for turtle-watching.
From visiting Kampung Pulai's limestone crags and temples, to taking a trip to the Cameron Highlands, there are plenty of places to get off the tourist trail in Malaysia. Meanwhile, Borneo offers some truly great nature experiences, including opportunities to see orangutans and sun bears.
8. Best places to go in August
While thousands of visitors to Scotland flock to the Edinburgh International Festival in August, you could choose an alternate (and more peaceful) path by visiting the county’s natural beauty spots, perhaps on a walking holiday or road-trip.
Home to some of Europe’s last great wildernesses, Scotland certainly isn’t short of spectacular remote places, with its very own Big Five to find in the wild (discover more in our guide to unusual things to do in Scotland).
Travelling with kids? Our Scottish family adventure itinerary includes Loch Ness, stunning Harry Potter locations, and a trip on the real-life Hogwarts Express. Meanwhile, our Scotland’s Wildest Natural Scenery trip delivers an exhilarating blast of enchanting landscapes and remote island rambles.
Taking a top ten spot in our recent poll of the most beautiful countries in the world, visiting Norway in August means venturing to the land of the midnight sun. Summer also heralds Norway’s hiking season.
While this is a popular Norwegian pastime, it’s not hard to find your own swathes of stunning scenery – craggy coastlines, plunging valleys, thick forests and enchanting fjords. Norway really is ridiculously gorgeous.
9. Best places to go in September
Though still relatively under the radar, Montenegro’s elegant coast is growing in popularity, so we’d recommended holding out until peak season has passed. Visiting in September means less crowded beaches, evenings still warm enough to sip cocktails al fresco, and all the more space to amble charming old towns and hike Durmitor National Park.
Thinking of visiting this beautiful, bijou country for the first time? Rough Guides tailor-made trips can take the hassle of planning your magical Montenegro break. You might also want to read our first-timers guide to Montenegro.
From the restorative Dead Sea, to the Red Sea’s rich reefs, Jordan brims with natural treasures. Then there’s the cultural treasures of Amman and Petra. Another of our writers’ best places on earth for 2022, this ancient city sparks awe as it sends you back in time.
Come September, Jordan’s scorching summer temperatures have fallen, leaving you to explore in pleasantly warm conditions. Meandering Petra's monastery route is a Jordanian must-do (the views from the mountain-top are jaw-droppingly spectacular), and enjoying dessert adventures in the lunar landscapes of Wadi Rum mustn’t be missed, either.
To experience all this, our Treasures of Jordan trip has you covered. 100% customisable, you could (for example) also include a visit to Jerusalem and the Mujib Biosphere Reserve.
10. Best places to go in October
Blessed with out-of-this-world beaches lapped by the Caribbean Sea, exceptional wildlife, and a uniquely fascinating history that spans indigenous Taíno culture, Spanish colonialism, twentieth-century Communism (and beyond), Cuba really is like nowhere else on earth.
For first-time visitors and confirmed devotees alike, Cuba is an exhilarating feast for the senses, whether you choose to explore Havana in a classic car, snorkel pristine reefs off the lesser-visited Isla de la Juventud (Island of Youth), or get back to nature in the Vinales valley.
With Cuba nearing the end of hurricane season in October, and winter-sun-seekers yet to arrive en masse, this is a pretty great time to visit. And, given that it’s impossible to see everything Cuba has to offer in a single visit, you might want to consider a custom-made trip. From fun family adventures, to getting off the beaten track, our local expert can create your ideal experience.
South Moravia, Czech Republic
While you may be familiar with Prague (you may even have uncovered its alternative side), chances are you’ve yet to discover the lesser-trodden paths of the Czech Republic’s South Moravia region.
Its landscapes are perfect for outdoor adventuring, and its wine is world-celebrated – arguably best discovered by cycling the South Moravian Wine Route, 1200km of countryside trails marked with the outline of a cellar. Elsewhere, there are UNESCO Heritage Site chateaux to visit, and enchanting caves to explore - discover more in our feature on wine and adventure on South Moravia.
While visiting South Moravia in October means you won’t have the warm weather that draws outdoor types during summer, you will be able to explore the region’s heritage sites at your leisure, and autumn is all the better for appreciating cosy bars and hearty Czech cuisine. It’s also an ideal time to get cosy in a cottage surrounded by fairy tale forests.
11. Best places to go in November
Mexico offers an intoxicating cocktail of historic and natural attractions - Mesoamerican cultures, beautiful beaches, incredible wildlife, striking deserts, and colonial cities. The food’s not bad either, with the likes of salsa cooking classes and market tours available for you to up your own gourmet game.
To enjoy the beaches and Mayan sites before they’re overrun with sun-seeking tourists (and see the forests at their most lush following the rainy season), we recommend visiting in November.
Travelling as a family? Read our guide to travelling in Mexico with kids. Looking for something a bit different? See our feature on cool places to visit in Mexico. And if you’re ready to start planning your trip, it might be worth taking a look at our suggested Mexico itineraries.
Falling between peak tourist months of December and January and the onset of monsoons, November is pretty much the best month to visit India, an exhilarating destination you recently declared to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world (see for yourself in our gallery).
Culture vultures who don’t mind a bit of bustle will be drawn to the Golden Triangle, nature-lovers can enjoy exceptional safaris, while those wanting to rest-up will be spoiled by beautiful beaches to choose from. India also has plenty of places to get off the tourist trail, as revealed in our guide to undiscovered India.
12. Best places to go in December
The end of the year is the best time to visit the End of the World. Namely, Ushuaia in the the southern extreme of Argentina, where genuine off-the-beaten-track experiences await. After spending a little time in capital Buenos Aires (where you could stay in a beautiful boutique hotel and see a tango show), take a trip to Perito Moreno Glacier before plunging south to Ushuaia.
The world's most southerly city, this is a beautiful base from which to explore the glaciers, waterfalls, forests and mountains of Tierra del Fuego National Park. Board the End of the World train (what else?) to reach it.
Given its scale, it might be wise to think about contacting a local Argentina guide to help plan this kind of trip.
While Kenya’s famed mass migration of wildebeests happens during the summer months, visiting in December (and January) affords excellent opportunities to see the Big Five, along with a whole lot of elephants, zebras and giraffes, and tonnes of migratory bird species.
Winter is also a wonderful time to enjoy Kenya’s coastline, which is where our bush-to-beach safari may come in handy – there’s no better way to slip from exploring vast the lowland plains and central highlands to plunging into the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. One thing’s for sure, you won’t be short of things to do in Kenya after your safari.
For more inspiration for the year ahead, explore the best places on earth for 2022, read the results of the Rough Guide to 2022 survey, and discover the most beautiful countries in the world — as voted by you.
Don’t forget, wherever you’re thinking of heading, there’ll be a Rough Guide for every step of your journey. And if you’re keen to take the hassle out of planning, our local experts are on hand to help curate your perfect tailor-made trip.
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Header image: Cuba's verdant Vinales valley © Shutterstock