“When is the best time to go?” It’s usually the first question — and probably the most important question — we ask when planning a trip to a place we’ve been dreaming about. We want to know what the weather will be like, the cost of transportation and accommodations during our anticipated travel dates, which local events will take place and more. Let this guide be an easy answer to all of those questions and a piece of vacation inspiration too.
Read on to discover the best destinations to visit each month of the year.
Where to Go in January: Thailand
January is high season in Thailand — and with good reason. The weather is warm and consistently sunny in all regions of the country. In January, Chiang Mai hosts the Bo Sang Umbrella Festival, a three-day celebration of colorful parasols (with fantastic photo ops galore). You might also consider going south to Ko Lipe, a small island with beaches and picturesque bungalows.
Additional Suggestions: Costa Rica, for green foliage and clear skies; Oman, for temperate weather and the Muscat Festival, a month-long celebration of culture and history that starts in mid-January.
Where to Go in February: Colombia
As a tropical country, Colombia only has two seasons — dry and rainy — and February is part of the warm, sunny dry season in most of the country. Colombia’s average temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with even cooler temperatures in high-altitude cities such as Medellin and Bogata. In February (sometimes early March) you can celebrate Carnaval de Barranquilla in Atlantico.
Additional Suggestions: Trinidad and Tobago, for Carnival celebrations; Belize, for balmy weather and little chance of rain.
Where to Go in March: Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands beckon outdoor enthusiasts no matter the time of year, but the month of March offers a few special reasons to visit. During this time, visitors have the chance to see several species nesting, including sea turtles, iguanas (both marine and land), tortoises and even penguins. Sure, the sun is intense, but nothing beats an average temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit and prime underwater visibility for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Additional Suggestions: New Zealand, for pleasant autumn weather; Washington D.C., for the National Cherry Blossom Festival (late March into April).
Where to Go in April: Morocco
Summers in Morocco can be unbearably hot, and winters quite cold. That’s why April is a prime time to plan a trip. You’ll enjoy comfortable temperatures coupled with magnificent scenery — particularly the fruit trees that blossom in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains.
Additional Suggestions: Spain, to avoid the summer heat and crowds; Paris, for the flowers at Luxembourg Gardens; Amsterdam, to see Keukenhof in full bloom.
Where to Go in May: Peru
Winter in Peru starts in May, but it’s not likely the kind of winter you’re used to. During this time the climate is dry, and temperatures — which can climb into the 80s — are especially enjoyable in the highlands. This is the best time to visit famed Machu Picchu, where you won’t find as many crowds.
Additional Suggestions: South Africa, for the wine harvest; Western Australia, for whale shark season.
Where to Go in June: Iceland
Iceland is a no-brainer during the month of June (specifically late June) when travelers can take advantage of long days — commonly known as the midnight sun. Plan to be there on June 21, when the sun sets just after midnight and then rises again around 3 a.m. in Reykjavik. The highland roads in the mountains are also open during this time (they are closed over the colder months).
Additional Suggestions: Norway, for the best scenery and warm ocean temps; Malaysia, for prime snorkeling conditions; Hungary, for summer festivals galore.
Where to Go in July: French Polynesia
There are just two seasons in French Polynesia: winter and summer. The best time to visit is actually winter, which takes place between May and October. July, smack dab in the middle of the season, is an ideal time to visit, with low humidity and temperatures topping out in the 80s. Divers also enjoy excellent visibility. It’s expensive to visit in July (or any time, really), but many resorts — over-the-water bungalows included — offer package deals.
Additional Suggestions: Botswana, for prime wildlife sightings; Barbados, for sugar cane harvest celebrations.
Where to Go in August: Indonesia
If you’re looking for perfect weather just about anywhere in Indonesia, consider a visit in August. Head to the coast of Bali for temperatures in the 70s, or climb up to the volcanoes (just wear a jacket — the highlands and mountains are chilly in August).
Additional Suggestions: Edinburgh, for summer festivals; Slovenia, for hiking in the Julian Alps and swimming in turquoise lakes.
Where to Go in September: Alaska
A bucket list destination for many, Alaska sees the majority of its visitors — many of them families — in June, July, and August. Wait until school is back in session and plan a visit in September. The weather is pleasant, and the still-long days are perfect for exploring the fall foliage in Denali National Park, fishing for salmon fishing and even trying to spot the aurora borealis.
Additional Suggestions: Argentina, for hiking in the spring sunshine; Nova Scotia, for fewer crowds and fresh lobster.
Where to Go in October: Italy
Italy is mobbed with tourists throughout the year, but October is considered shoulder season and a visit then means you’ll see slightly fewer crowds than you would in the busy summer months. You’ll also enjoy beautiful fall foliage in places like Tuscany, and cool weather on the beaches along the Amalfi Coast. Alba’s International White Truffle Fair starts in October — visit to sample the aromatic tuber and other delicacies, including wine.
Additional Suggestions: China, for hiking in the Yellow Mountains; Greece, for moderate temperatures.
Where to Go in November: Vietnam
November is an ideal time to visit both the northern and southern parts of Vietnam. You’ll find history and culture in the north, and plenty of opportunities to relax on the beach in the south. Consider a visit to Thai Nguyen for the International Tea Festival.
Additional Suggestions: Japan, for colorful fall foliage; Mexico, for Day of the Dead celebrations.
Where to Go in December: Germany
Yes, it’s cliche, but you have to visit Germany in December at least once in your lifetime. There’s a reason so many countries mimic its famed Christmas markets (weihnachtsmarkts). The pop-up events feature beautiful light displays, music, handmade gifts and mulled wine to sip as you shop. Most cities offer their own market, but the mother of all markets is Nuremberg — the oldest one in Germany.
Additional Suggestions: Austria, for its own impressive holiday markets; the U.S. Virgin Islands, for prime weather and water sports; New York City, for holiday displays and ice skating at Rockefeller Center.
More from SmarterTravel:
The World’s Most Gorgeous Gardens
Top 12 Destinations for Foodies
10 Things You Should Never Wear When Traveling Abroad
12 Spots to Fall in Love with Travel
–written by Amanda Geronikos Norcross
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.