Dig out your passport and get inspired as we take you on a month-by-month journey around the globe to discover ancient temples, glorious beaches, desert landscapes, iconic city sights and natural wonders.
Beat the January blues by heading to Cuba for some winter sun. Spend time in Havana, with its crumbling colonial buildings and vintage American cars, then explore the rest of this magical country – you’ll find great nightlife wherever you go, and dancing under the stars to salsa or reggaeton is a classic Cuban experience. Away from the cities are some fantastic beaches. Varadero is Cuba’s largest: stretching for almost 25km, it’s pure Caribbean fantasy complete with palm trees, white sands and azure sea. Jump right in!
The approach of Lent means only one thing in Brazil: Carnaval. In Rio, the party kicks off on the Saturday before Shrove Tuesday with the bandas as singers and drummers lead revellers through the streets. The climax is Shrove Tuesday night, when the city’s samba schools parade through the Sambódromo, vying for ever-more-glitzy and original costumes and floats. Brazil’s mainly tropical climate means that sunny weather is virtually guaranteed – perfect for a few days of post-Carnaval chilling on one of the country’s gorgeous beaches such as Rio’s iconic Copacabana.
The cool, dry season between November and March is the best time to visit much of India, including Agra, site of the Taj Mahal; holy Varanasi, where pilgrims bathe in the Ganges; Rajasthan, with its amazing palaces and forts; and Madhya Pradesh, renowned for its ancient temples and tiger sanctuaries. Go in March and you get to experience Holi, celebrated the day after March’s full moon. Also known as the Festival of Colours, it’s a joyous free-for-all when people take to the streets to throw coloured water and multi-coloured powder over each other – friends and strangers alike.
In April, the hills and valleys of Jordan are carpeted with wildflowers, and even the desert is in bloom. The weather is comfortably warm, rather than blisteringly hot, making it an ideal time to visit the ancient desert site of Petra, where tombs and temples are carved into pink sandstone cliffs; float in the Dead Sea; explore the dramatic desert landscape of Wadi Rum, with its sandstone outcrops and unusual landforms; and dive or snorkel in the Red Sea resort of Aqaba, home to a well-preserved coral reef and magical marine life.
May is a great time to visit New York as the weather is usually warm and sunny – ideal for exploring the city’s many sights, from the Statue of Liberty to Central Park, the Empire State Building and the moving National September 11 Memorial & Museum. There are amazing views from the Top of the Rock observation deck in the Rockefeller Center, and world-class art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum. Art lovers will also enjoy the annual Frieze Art Fair, showcasing more than 1,000 contemporary artists.
Morocco is hot in June. But the Atlantic coastal town of Essaouira is nicknamed ‘Africa’s Windy City’ and its strong breezes keep things pleasantly cool, even in summer, and make it a popular windsurfing destination. With ramparts hugging the rocky shore, an old white medina and a picturesque harbour, it’s one of the country’s most charming spots. For four days in June it’s transformed into a musical hotspot for the popular Gnaoua Festival, which attracts global artists from jazz, pop, rock, soul and contemporary world music to perform and party in the town.
It’s summer and time to visit Croatia for sun, sea and glorious scenery. You won’t find much sand here; instead there are pebble beaches lapped by crystal-clear waters. Zlatni Rat is the most famous, but you’ll find hidden stretches everywhere. Summer in Croatia also means festivals, including Love International in Tisno. There’s more natural beauty inland in the country’s national parks, including Plitvice Lakes and Krka. In Split, the remains of the Roman Diocletian’s Palace are occupied by parts of the modern city, with bars, restaurants and shops set among its pillars and temples.
Head to Kenya for an unforgettable safari experience. Visiting in August, during the dry season, means that animals are easier to spot as the bush is less dense, and the weather is sunny and clear. July to October is the best time to see the wildebeest migration – the world’s largest movement of animals – as they make their way from the Serengeti in Tanzania to greener pastures in Kenya’s Maasai Mara. The Kenyan coast is another draw: the beautifully preserved historic Swahili town of Lamu, on the tropical island of the same name, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Iceland’s dramatic geology provides plenty of natural thrills, with the so-called Golden Circle home to geysers, glaciers and hot springs. But the main reason many people visit Iceland is to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis. These moving swirls of greens, blues, pinks, reds and purples lighting up the night sky are one of nature’s most ethereal and spectacular displays. They’re most easily visible in or near the Arctic, so Iceland is a good bet, but they’re also pretty elusive. September is one of the prime viewing months – but no guarantees!
The Mekong river cuts a swathe through this small, lush nation, passing through Phnom Penh, with its ornate Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, and the paddy fields and sugar palms of the countryside. In a country packed with ancient temples, Cambodia’s stunning Angkor Wat complex, surrounded by a vast moat, stands out as a truly world-class piece of religious architecture. October is a great time to visit: the rainy season is on its way out, the countryside is fresh and green, the weather is warm, and the temples are far less crowded than during the dry season.
With many fascinating remnants of its pre-Columbian past, such as the Chichén Itzá pyramid complex in Yucatán, as well as two coasts with superb beaches and the wild and remote Baja California peninsula, Mexico has so much to offer visitors. Come at the beginning of November to experience the famous Day of the Dead, when Mexicans welcome the spirits of the deceased into their homes. The skull is the symbol of the festival – you’ll find them everywhere, often made of sugar and usually with a humorous twist.
December is summer in Australia and it’s the ideal time to explore Sydney, with its iconic Opera House and curved, steel-arched Harbour Bridge, as well as mile upon mile of beaches stretching out from the city centre – famous Bondi Beach is a favourite Christmas Day destination. Away from the cities, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef, even visible from space, and the Northern Territory is home to dramatic Uluru, or Ayer’s Rock, a massive sandstone outcrop in the desert that’s sacred to local indigenous people.