Want to know where to travel when in 2020? Your wish is our command.
Scroll down to find out everything you need to know about timing your next great escape, with our handy month-by-month guide.
Big hitter: Mexico
Look to the Yucatán Peninsula for your go-to winter sunshine fix. Mexico’s southeastern coast is littered with emerald lagoons and cenotes for New Year bathing, plus a tiny traffic-free island (Holbox) that comes straight out of a Caribbean dream.
January is dry season, meaning prime time for exploring Mayan ruins such as Chichén Itzá without the stifling humidity of later months. It’s also slightly cooler now, with the mercury hoovering around 23-24°C.
To top it off, Mérida Fest runs to the 26 January, so you can join the hordes of artists who gather in the state capital for a fiesta of theatre, music and dance.
Also consider: Finland
If Christmas isn’t quite over for you yet, let Finnish Lapland be your solace.
The magic continues in this remote corner of northern Europe but the festive crowds are gone, with an endless Arctic horizon that’s ripe for snow-mobile safaris, skiing, husky sled rides and more.
Though skies are clearer in autumn, this is still a great time to spot the ethereal Northern Lights, with the calm waters of Lake Torassieppi reflecting a spectacular show.
Rev up across the snowscape by twilight to make the most of the long starry nights, followed by a date with a snug lakeside sauna.
And don’t forget: Vietnam and Cambodia
This is a great region to visit all year round, but January is dry season, meaning a cooler and more pleasant climate in central-southern Vietnam and Cambodia (including the temples at Angkor Wat).
More importantly, however, you can time your trip with Tet, Vietnam’s colourful Lunar New Year celebrations that fall on 25-29 January.
Arrive during this period for markets heaped with lucky peach blossom, ornate dragon processions and parades with firecrackers and beating drums. You’ll spot altars strewn with burning incense and gold leaf paper, and if you’re lucky, you may even be invited to a local family’s home for a traditional Tet spread.
A glorious infusion of colour and samba-shimmying energy, Brazil’s annual carnival is something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.
It doesn’t have to mean running the gauntlet of vast Sambódromo spectacles, either (amazing as these are). Smaller towns are equally vibrant, and sometimes even more intriguing than the hot spots of Rio and Salvador, when it comes to carnival celebrations.
This year’s carnival runs from 21-29 February, meaning you can tail-end your experience on the beautiful beaches around Paraty, with Flash Pack’s Brazil trip… what hangover?
Also consider: Rwanda
February falls right at the end of a short dry season in Rwanda, which means easier access to the tropical highlands.
Dry terrain and clear, warm days create a good backdrop for one of the country’s most special experiences: walking with gorillas in their natural mountain habitat.
Looking beyond gorilla trekking, the clear-sky climate is perfect for mountain biking and hiking in the Virunga mountains.
And don’t forget: Australia
February is late summer in Australia, meaning you’ll be guaranteed a good dose of sunshine but the students go back to school, freeing up beach space.
In tropical Queensland, the humidity equals low season, with fewer crowds around the Whitsunday Islands (hello, yacht for one).
February’s rainfall also heralds in turtle nesting season with more shark activity on the Great Barrier Reef, along with a lush bloom of rainforest wildlife and flowing streams on Fraser Island. Oh, and it’s harvest time over at the Hunter Valley vineyards.
Big hitter: North California
The weather is still a bit patchy in North California in early spring, but don’t let this stop you. Shoulder season is a great time to get familiar with this lovely region, with gentle sunshine and a hint of spring in the air.
It’s the perfect backdrop to have a ramble around the vineyards of Sonoma, as the valleys come alive buttercups and wild roses, and the vines are just starting to bud. Tourist numbers have yet to spiral, meaning more room for you to enjoy some of the world’s finest vino in hip wineries fringed by beautiful scenery. The cooler weather also makes for brilliant vineyard hopping/hiking.
The same reasoning applies to San Francisco, an hour’s drive south. Revel in America’s most bohemian city minus the crowds and sky-high prices of summer.
Also consider: Borneo
March signals the start of dry season in Borneo, and it’s an excellent time to visit; the daily rainfall in Sabah and Sarawak drops right down, but the crowds haven’t descended yet.
You’ll be able to go caving and trekking in Mulu National Park with just a handful of fellow visitors, and over on Kota Kinabalu, you’ll have gorgeous beaches all to yourself.
Best of all, the rainforest is in full bloom post-monsoon, with verdant jungle, gushing rivers and ample wildlife-spotting. After seeing orangutans, crocodiles and pygmy elephants in their natural habitat, you can hop on over to Lankayan Island for the start of whale shark season.
And don’t forget: China
March is still quite cold in many parts of China, but it also lands on shoulder season – your cue to get acquainted with this fascinating country, before the hordes arrive (and the prices shoot up).
Take advantage of the extra elbow room by perusing the sights in Beijing and Shanghai, both of which start to see in spring at this point – you may even spot some cherry blossom in gardens and ancient palaces (watch out for the Shanghai Nanhui Peach Blossom Festival).
West Lake in the city of Hangzhou is a gorgeous place to be as spring arrives, bringing together all the elements of a classical Chinese landscape – curved pagodas, stone bridges and forested banks – with the first blooms of the season.
Big hitter: Japan
Japan’s cherry blossom season can be fleeting and unpredictable, but time it right and it’s an unforgettable experience. The average year sees “mankai” (full bloom) land on 2 April in Tokyo, so late March to early April is a good bet to see the country come alive in a soft pink canvas.
“Sakura” blossoms are beautiful not only to look at, but for what they represent. This is a time of renewal and merriment in Japan, where people gather under pink trees for picnics, and stroll along blush-hued avenues at night.
Even if you happen to miss the blossom, April is still a very scenic time to be in Japan. Head to the Inuyama Matsuri festival in Aichi to see enchanting three-story lantern floats, or marvel at the beautiful carp kites that flutter across buildings around the country, ahead of Children’s Day in May.
Also consider: Cuba
Havana is an undisputed party city no matter what time of year you visit, but its effusive spirit comes to the fore during Ritmo Cuba, a week-long festival of Latin dance running from 20-26 April.
If you love nothing better than to get your hips swinging to a sultry groove, you’ll adore this exuberant event in Old Havana, the birthplace of salsa rhythm.
Pop by hundreds of different salsa classes with some of the world’s best teachers, along with seven days of parties, nightly shows and live bands. As an extra bonus, you can hop on a Flash Pack trip just before it all kicks off, and finesse your salsa moves.
And don’t forget: Austria
Pleasant spring days are just starting to kick in in the highlands of Austria come April. And there’s no better place than the capital, Vienna, to celebrate Easter and all things chocolate.
As well as some truly stunning Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture, the city is brimming with boutique chocolatiers and elegant cafés where you can get your fill of decadent truffles, rich coffee and beautifully curated selection boxes.
Other Easter events here include markets where you can shop for pretty hand-painted eggs and the Vienna Blues Spring festival. Join our Central Europe getaway for a taste of the good life in Vienna (plus a ramble through Slovakia and Poland, too).
Big hitter: Peru
May signals the start of dry season in Peru, but the landscape is still flush with greens from recent rainfall. In other words, a lovely time to visit, especially in the Inca hills around Cusco.
You can expect wonderfully clear days for hiking and cycling in the Sacred Valley, with blue skies, crisp sunshine and chillier nights. At the same time, the gem that is Rainbow Mountain becomes accessible once again, after the colder summit weather of winter.
Over in the Peruvian Amazon, it’ll always be humid, but travelling in May means you’ll skip the prime time crowds of high summer.
Also consider: Sicily
Bella Italia comes into its own in May. On the island of Sicily, temperatures rise to the mid-20s, and the sea is warm enough to swim in. But the crowds of high summer are still a way off, making for a wealth of secluded sandy coves.
Wild flowers bloom across the island, and the markets are full of seasonal harvest, from apricots and cherries to wild fennel and asparagus.
You can tee your trip with a series of May festivals, including Infiorata, an elaborate flower petal ceremony in the Baroque city of Noto, and a Greek classical theatre festival which kicks off from late May in the glorious amphitheatre of Syracuse.
And don’t forget: Quebec, Canada
The Quebec region is starting to find its groove in May, as the temperatures heat up after months of snow and drizzle.
In the cosmopolitan hub of Montreal, a series of exuberant festivals capture the spirit of a city heading towards summer. Look to the Mondial de la bière (21-24 May) for a flavour of a thriving craft ale scene in a downtown railway station, or check out the Montréal Tam-Tams 2020, starting in May, for some serious drumming action in Montreal’s parks.
Outside the city, warmer temperatures call visitors to the Laurentian Mountains – Quebec’s summertime playground – for kayaking, ziplining and more.
Big hitter: Morocco
Morocco is home to wildly diverse terrain, so you can find good times to visit at almost any time of year, depending on where you’re headed.
The Atlas hills, however are wonderful in the early summer. The weather in June tends to be mild and sunny, with rolling green pastures that come alive in a carpet of wild roses, poppies and orchids.
Beach hangouts such as Taghazout are also great during summer (although you’ll find better surf in winter months).
Also consider: Croatia
With golden beaches, adventure kayaking and a rich sense of culture, Croatia has it all. Get in during June ahead of the school holiday masses, and enjoy the turquoise waters with that bit more wallow room.
You can also make good on the country’s burgeoning music festival scene by shoehorning your trip with a ticket to InMusic, Zagreb’s alternative indie-rock festival (22-24 June).
And don’t forget: England
England’s green and pleasant land comes into its own in June, especially in the golden valleys of the Cotswolds.
With the hedgerows in full bloom and an actual chance of sunshine (crazy for Great Britain, we know), this is a lovely time of year to mooch around quaint villages and indulge in a pub garden pint somewhere suitably scenic.
Punting and afternoon teas are two must-try delights in this neck of the woods, but if you’re after something a bit more lively, tune into the UK’s thriving festival scene. Cornbury and Wilderness both bring a little rock ‘n’ roll spirit to the Cotswolds countryside, or head to London’s Hyde Park for British Summertime.
Big hitter: South Africa
The drier winter months make for wildlife gold in South Africa, and July is prime time to spot humpback whales as they migrate upwards from Antarctica.
Head to the town of Hermanus for the world’s best land-based sightings of these gentle giants, and keep your eyes peeled for their extraordinary ocean displays. You can also spy enormous pods of dolphins.
Superb game-watching awaits in the Eastern Cape, with increased visibility due to the dried-out bush, and animals flocking to watering holes.
Even Cape Town is still fairly balmy in July (its version of winter), with highs of 18°C.
Also consider: Tanzania
Tanzania’s long dry season kicks off in late June with clear, warm days that are made for bush walks/game drives.
As with South Africa, the arid, dried-out terrain creates prime spotting conditions, with watering holes that are beacons for all kinds of animals in need of a drink.
As an added bonus, you may get the best view of the Serengeti wildebeest migration in July. Watch thousands of wildebeest, zebras and gazelles cross the Mara River on the northern Serengeti plains, for a dramatic sight that will stay with you forever.
And don’t forget: Slovakia
While the masses make a beeline for Spain, Greece and the French Riviera, handsome Slovakia remains right off-radar. Sandwiched neatly between Budapest and Vienna – but minus the crowds of either – this is a fascinating area of the world to explore.
Mosey around the castles and palaces of charming Old Town Bratislava, and grab a glass of local honey wine by the tree-lined Danube river. The city’s bustling, atmospheric cafés, along with a notably laid-back vibe, put it top of the list for an alternative European break.
It’s also worth taking an out-of-town trip to Bešeňová, three hours north, for hot spring bathing and hiking in the Low Tatras Mountains.
August is bang in the middle of dry season in Colombia, creating a beautiful setting to explore the Andean countryside around cities such as Bogotá and Medellín.
Speaking of Medellín, it’s a good idea to chime your visit here with its annual flower fair (1-10 August), when the entire place lights up in a magnificent floral display that spreads across the city’s billboards, balconies and squares, alongside parades and folk song performances.
Then you can head to the lower-altitude party town of Cartagena, where temperatures stay steady around the 30°C mark, but with fewer people than peak season (December-March).
Also consider: Banff, Canada
There’s a reason why so many Canadians decamp to their lakeside cottages come August. This is a lovely month to hike and canoe in the Rockies, with long, sunny days and iconic lakes that many believe are at their most brilliant at the peak of summer.
Yes, there are more people here, but as long as you plan your trip right (avoid major public holidays), there’s plenty of space to go around. As the temperatures stretch to the late 20s, wild swimming may even be on the cards.
And don’t forget: Scotland
August is also Scotland’s warmest month, with the highland heather in full bloom and mirror-still lochs that glisten in the high-summer sunshine.
Although you can never truly rely on the weather here (waterproofs are handy whenever you go), it’s still prime time to make the most of this adventure wonderland. Dive right into the rugged outdoor landscape with kayaking, canyoning, hiking and more.
For your fix of culture, don’t miss the much-loved Edinburgh festival (7-31 August), with some of the world’s best artists descending on the city for a month-long fiesta of comedy and live performance.
With the retreat of the high summer crowds, Bali tends to be more chilled in September.
A slight dip in humidity from August means it’s easier to get around, traffic in larger towns such as Seminyak is less snarled and with fewer people about, those powdery white beaches are ripe for the picking.
The fact that it’s still dry season also helps. Rainfall is low in September, with balmy temperatures, clear seas for snorkelling, and jungle highland treks all in easy reach.
Also consider: Spain
Spain is a very savvy bet for September travel, especially if you head down south to the Andalucia region.
Temperatures still creep over the 30°C mark at this time of year, and you’ll find the sea – warmed by an entire season of Spanish sunshine – lovely to swim in.
The back-to-school crowds have also vamoosed, clearing the way for a more relaxed feel in beautiful cities such as Malaga, Seville and Cadiz. Find yourself a shady restaurant spot somewhere and settle in for a long afternoon of tapas and wine.
And don’t forget: New Orleans, USA
September sees New Orleans winding down from the giddy heights of summer season.
Granted, the atmosphere has dialled back a little from prime festival time, but there’s still plenty to see and do in this vibrant city – without the extra crowds and eye-watering prices to contend with.
Get stuck into some live jazz, feast on delicious creole and cajun food, and hop between bars in the ever-beguiling French Quarter.
Temperatures still reach 30°C here in September in the daytime, but it’s a tad less stifling and humid than summer: rock on.
October in Jordan is a magical time where the heat drops away, and the first rains begin to turn the parched landscape green again.
This makes hiking in the Dana Biosphere Reserve a delight (look out for the native Sand Cat), and at night the cool, clear skies will light up in hundreds of stars.
You’ll have easily enough sunshine to send the rose-red city of Petra aglow, but not so much that adventures in the Wadi Rum – camel rides, dune-bashing and more – feel clammy.
Also consider: Laos
Thailand and Laos does not disappoint on the adventure front, and in October, you can enjoy the latter’s Boun Ok Phansa festival that marks the end of the wet season and Buddhist lent.
To celebrate, ornate boat races take place all over the country, especially in the capital, Vientiane. Join the singing, drumming crowds by the riverside for a taste of this brilliant tradition, and wander around a vast array of street food stalls.
October also means shimmering green rice paddies fresh from the wet season, good river levels on the Mekong for a leisurely slow boat trip, and weather that is deliciously warm but not scorching.
And don’t forget: Japan
Yes, it’s Japan again – but when it looks this good, who can resist? October is a gorgeous month to visit the Land of the Rising Sun, with clear mellow days and little rainfall conspiring to create prime conditions in which to explore the country’s rich forest and mountain stretches.
The heat and humidity of summer will be long gone by now, along with the surge of visitors and booked-out hotels in all the major cities.
Feast your eyes (and your cameras) on a vivid blaze of autumn colours along the banks of the Hozugawa river, and amid the giant trees and waterfalls of the Old Hakone trail.
November is spring-time in Argentina, meaning the whole country comes alive with a fresh sense of energy and purpose.
This is especially true of the capital, Buenos Aires, where you’ll really be able to feel the buzz in restaurants, bars, and in events such as pool parties and outdoor cinema.
Meanwhile, longer, clear days form the ultimate backdrop for horse-riding in the Andean foothills, hiking in Patagonia and cycling the vineyards of the Mendoza valley.
Also consider: Zimbabwe and Botswana
Tourism in Zimbabwe and Botswana dips in November because of the rising heat, but this is actually a great time for animal-spotting.
Vegetation lost in winter is still growing back, meaning you’ll be able to see the likes of lions, giraffes and rhinos more easily through the dense African bush.
This is also low water season, so as well as admiring Victoria Falls by helicopter (a Flash Pack perk), you can happily go white-water rafting down the Zambezi, with exposed rapids creating a thrilling — but not dangerous — ride.
And don’t forget: Belize
November heralds in the start of the dry season in Belize, offering some truly gorgeous weather just as those in the Northern Hemisphere are layering up for winter.
An average temperature of 28°C paves the way for long, sunny beach days on the nation’s Caribbean cayes. Marine life here is quite spectacular, with the chance to see reef sharks and turtles on the Belize barrier reef.
Meanwhile, the lack of rain opens up the prospect of hiking and ziplining in the dense tropical interiors. And all this is still relatively quiet and untrodden compared to many other winter sun destinations.
Big-hitter: Sri Lanka
If you want the evocative tea country of Sri Lanka to stir your soul, book a December trip, pronto.
This is when the mist-clad highlands really are at their finest, with a fresh burst of lush green growth created by the south-west monsoon season.
At the same time, the rains have calmed, making way for blue skies and mostly clear, sunny days: perfect for Christmas on the Indian Ocean coast.
Also consider: Chile
Although it’s more busy in December, the height of summer in Chile is still the best time to explore its stunning Patagonian landscape.
Up to 16 hours of sunshine a day leaves you plenty of scope to explore the glaciers and giants of Torres del Paine National Park and the Chilean Lake District, while negating the turbulent weather that often plagues both regions.
Over in Santiago, temperatures hover around 25°C; great for wandering around the Bohemian neighbourhood of Bellavista, and discovering Casablanca wine country.
And don’t forget: Kerala, India
Rainfall is starting to subside in India’s green and serene coastal state by December, and start of dry season brings with it slightly cooler temperatures (although with the mercury regularly reaching above 25°C, it’s still plenty warm enough to lounge on those blissful Keralan beaches).
Whether you’re hiking in the Western Ghat mountains or kayaking the hazy backwaters, Kerala offers a fabulous antidote to Christmas madness, as well as a gentler route into the whole India experience.
Don’t miss the Kochi carnival running throughout December for live performances, beach football, floor murals and so much more – it’s a photographer’s dream.
Images: Flash Pack, Shutterstock, Rosie Kerr, Johan Mouchet, Yifan Liu and Michiel Ton on Unsplash