For those in the Northern Hemisphere, winter is fast approaching. Though some of us are still having sunny days and good weather, soon the inclement side of things will be rolling in. After ending up “accidentally” backpacking through central and Eastern Europe last winter, I can’t recommend anyone try to repeat this. Traveling is already challenging enough when you don’t have to factor in hauling around snow boots and heavy coats and freezing half to death when lost or waiting for a host. So, unless you’re very fond of winter sports, perhaps it’s best to head somewhere warmer for your winter holidays. You can choose to go to the southern hemisphere, where spring and summer are just beginning, or just move a little closer the equator, where the weather is warmer and the main travel season kicks off over after the overly sweltering summer ends.
Central and South America
The benefits of traveling in Latin America include inexpensive accommodation, transport, and food. You can travel in multiple countries quite easily by bus, explore a variety of ecosystems (beach, mountains, rainforest, city), practice your Spanish (or perhaps Portugese or Quechua), or check out Carnival in Brazil (around the beginning of April). There are many opportunities to volunteer or wwoof. Of course many countries in Latin America are close to the Equator and fairly warm most of the time, but for those farther south, summer will be beginning soon. In the summer, cities can often become smoggy and unbearable, so head to the beach.
One of my most memorable destinations in South America was a little beach town called Montañita in Ecuador. Montañita has a very young, international vibe and is filled with people who came for a visit and never left. The surf is good, people are generous, and while there isn’t a huge dance club scene, you’ll have to fight to not find yourself still up at 7am.
Sophie has blogged about her love for Melbourne. I’ve never been to Australia, but I’ve had enough friends visit and never want to return, that it’s become a must-do on my list. Australia boasts great beaches and opportunities for snorkeling and diving, as well as many national parks. Check the coastal cities, swim in the Great Barrier Reef, tour the outback, hang out with some cute marsupials, and learn about the complicated history of Australian indigenous peoples, such as the Aboriginals.
The peak travel season in India is from October to February, when the heat of the summer abates and some of the wetter regions in the Northeast dry out. If you are interested in trekking in the Himalayas it is best to go during the border seasons (September-November or March-May), but otherwise the cooler months remain ideal. The winter months also seem to hold more festivals and celebrations such as Dussehra, Durga Puja and Diwali. Holidays such as Christmas and Easter are also apparently celebrated, but in a unique Indian fashion. Yet again, India has an extremely diverse array of landscapes, cities, and peoples. I imagine you could spend your entire winter and more exploring the different regions and seeing all of the ways various groups of people interact and coexist.
The Middle East and North Africa
As with India, many countries in the Middle East experience scorching temperatures in summer and become more amenable to travelers in the fall. Autumn seems to be the best time to go. While some balk at the idea and think traveling in this region to be dangerous, I’ve heard many accounts from friends who have had nothing but positive experiences. Autumn seems to be the best time to go. The climate on the Aegean Sea in Turkey is rumored to be “perfect”, and nations such as Iran, Syria, and Jordan have more moderate temperatures as well. Kite surf in Egypt, float in the dead sea, check out the architecture at petra, and fill yourself with delicious foods like hummus, fool medames, and falafel.
Winter is a pretty good time to visit nation in West Africa, right after the heavy rains of the wet season but before things get too arid. Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Cape Verde, Senegal, Mali, Togo, Benin, and Niger are just a few of the countries considered “West Africa”. Here you will find people speaking various combination of French, English, Portugese, as well as various creoles of these languages and local tribal languages. The roads are not always very good, so don’t expect fast luxury travel. Most people get around in minibuses or “bush taxis”. To save money you can bring a tent and camp near villages or parks, but it’s not a good idea to do this near major cities. Stroll the markets in Dakar, check out the Niokoko Koba National Park and the Bassari tribal lands in Senegal, canoe in the Gambia, learn about the history of the slave trade along the coast, and hop around tropical islands in Cape Verde. This website is very helpful for looking at different attractions and route planning trips in West Africa.
With all of these destinations you should of course look more thoroughly into visa requirements, health and safety (such as vaccinations, malaria medication, and advice on water and food consumption), and precautions issued from your nation about traveling in certain regions. It’s also a good idea to pay attention to the relations of the countries in a region to each other. For example, in the Middle East you are unable to cross the border between Syria or Lebanon with Israel and some countries may not let you enter if you have a stamp from Israel on your passport. It’s a good idea to find out about things lie this beforehand and plan around them to avoid complications during your travel.
And of course my apologies for not covering every wonderful place to travel this winter! Do you have any additional suggestions? Please share with us!
post by Jackie ClarkTweet