The thought of a summer vacation shakes us with excitement. As we grind away at work, daydreams of endless sun, spotless beaches and a cool glass of wine (or three) combine with watching the clock until our flight time. But sometimes the idea is better than the reality. Just as we jump into a country head-first, hoards of tourists stop us in our tracks. A thick line greets us at main attractions. Our clothes cling to us within seconds of walking the sun-drenched streets. And we haven’t even mentioned the early-morning scramble for sunbeds. In contrast, a travel escape outside of the summer season can be incredibly enriching. Here’s why.
Perks of travelling outside of the summer season
No one steps on your toes
Off-season adventures offer a blissful escape. Instead of jostling for that perfect photo angle at the Trevi Fountain (Rome), hearing your stomach grumble in a restaurant queue in Paris, or feeling rushed at an art gallery in Florence – you can cherish the best of travel. Unhurried and uninterrupted.
You can immerse yourself easily
Have you ever felt like a tourist in a new country? It’s a strange feeling. Sometimes large tourist trails can dilute a destination’s authentic culture. That’s why travelling outside of the summer season lets you delve a little deeper. Whether it’s getting insider secrets and learning some language phrases from locals, or listening to an Italian chef explain the history of the menu at your table. You can immerse yourself in local life easily.
The charms of autumn, winter and spring
Autumn, winter and spring travel is bursting with unique charms. Firstly, you can admire spring flowers blooming into delicate purples, pinks, reds, yellows, oranges and white hues (March-May). While pleasantly warm (not stifling) temperatures add a spring to your step. The streets are still. And increasing daylight hours make for dreamy dinner-time sunsets.
Elsewhere, autumn adventures (September-November) greet you with the crunch of red leaves, ever-changing scenery and kinder prices. Plus ripe vineyards for wine-lovers.
GET INSPIRED BY: Autumn Colours tour (New England, USA)
Last but not least, winter is an enchanting time to roam uncrowded cities. As well as gaze at phenomena like the northern lights (in Iceland, Norway and Sweden) in perfect clarity. There’s a mood for every traveller in winter (December-March). From snuggling in front of the fire and watching snow fall over the Austrian alps to soaking in balmy winter sun in Marrakesh, Australia and Vietnam.
Since we know you’re itching to get away… here are places to consider for your next vacation.
5 things to see and do outside of the summer season
Taste new Ports in Portugal’s Douro Wine Valley
A 100km journey east of Porto takes you to Douro Wine Valley – the oldest demarcated wine region in the world (dating back to 1756) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Autumn is the perfect time to explore these gorgeous terraced fields, carved in steep, glowing green valleys. The new harvest is here, which means new wines. Plump grapes are stomped and also stripped from their vines – and the whole region is given an ethereal haze by gentle autumn sunshine. There’s optimism for the delicious Port about to be produced: the signature, sweet, fortified wine that originated in Porto. You’d be foolish to leave Portugal without a bottle or two.
Elsewhere in Douro valley, you can embark on hiking trails which zig-zag through steep hills and olive oils. Pure bliss.
GET INSPIRED BY: Best of Portugal tour (includes Douro Valley)
Secure a gondola spot (stress-free) on Venice’s canals
No doubt your instagram is flooded with sunny pictures of Venice’s canals. But the reality is, it can be hard to move around ‘The Queen of the Adriatic’ on a busy day. Let alone secure a gondola spot.
Time in Venice (outside of the summer season) means you can explore every inch of this beautiful city: stress-free. You must grab the opportunity to admire the sunset over the Venetian Lagoon. Roam the central square (Piazza San Marco) at leisure, where you can explore Renaissance and Gothic palaces and gaze at Byzantine mosaics in St Mark’s Basilica. Or simply sip an exquisite espresso and watch the local life flow. “Belissima!”
GET INSPIRED BY: Italy Bellissimo tour (includes Venice)
Explore Istanbul‘s Grand Bazaar in cooler temperatures
Nothing stirs the senses like Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. This covered market was commissioned by Sultan Mehmet II in 1455 to make Constantinople the trading powerhouse of the Ottoman Empire.
This becomes clear when you venture into this labyrinth of 4000 stores extending across 61 streets. Over 90 million people visit every year, just one of the reasons an Istanbul trip outside of the summer season makes sense. Locals tell us that March and April is the best time to visit – as moderate temperatures (about 20°C) make it easy to discover Istanbul’s charms on foot and the streets are free.
Lose yourself in a world of spices, hand-painted Ottoman ceramics, colourful carpets, genie lamps (and much more) as you enter the Bazaar. Even a week in this maze would not be enough time to explore it all, so target your favourite-looking stalls and give them good attention. Oh, and of course, remember to barter for a fair deal.
Take in Madrid’s Golden Triangle of Art with more time and space
Madrid attracts art-lovers with its exceptional exhibitions and museums. But to truly appreciate the ‘Golden Triangle of Art’ – the Prado Museum, Thyssen-Bornemisza museums and Reina Sofía – time and space to explore at your own pace is a must. And that’s where travelling outside of the summer season hits the sweet spot.
Elsewhere in the Spanish capital, the portico-lined Plaza Mayor is a stunning sight on a quiet day. Likewise, Madrid’s Royal Palace (the largest in western Europe) is a brilliant example of Baroque and Neoclassical styles that deserves attention. And lastly, remember to taste ‘churros con chocolate’ (chocolate with churros) during your visit.
GET INSPIRED BY: Northern Spain tour (includes Madrid)
Enjoy chaos-free cycling on Amsterdam’s cycle lanes
There’s no better way to immerse yourself in Amsterdam than on two wheels. The Dutch capital is famed for its 513 cycle paths that run 767 kilometres around the city. They’re a wonderful way to soak in the meandering canals, flower-lined streets, beautiful architecture and vibrant local life.
Understandably, the school holidays in July and August can cause chaos in the lanes, which is why visiting outside the summer season is always a good idea. We also recommend you park (and lock) your bike, before roaming cosy side-streets on foot; and pop in to the Van Gogh and Banksy museums for some outstanding art.
GET INSPIRED BY: Amsterdam Explorer tour
Did you enjoy these top travel destinations to explore outside of the summer season? Please feel free to drop any questions or comments below.