Time your bucket list adventures to perfection: WHERE to go and WHEN in 2020 according to the travel experts at Lonely Planet
- In January, February and March track gorillas, see the Northern Lights and visit the Iguazu Falls
- April, May and June are the months to see cherry blossom in Japan, hiking in Montenegro and a Zambia safari
- Between July and December options include white-water rafting on the Zambezi and thermal beaches in NZ
Timing is everything – especially when it comes to travel.
After all, turning up to see animals migrate when they’ve all left or visiting a fascinating desert city when it’s 45C is no fun at all.
Luckily, help is at hand from the adventure experts at Lonely Planet, who have produced a ‘where to go when’ guide for 2020, which lists the optimum times for truly jaw-dropping experiences. Scroll down for a month-by-month bucket list itinerary.
Where to go in January
Around half of the world’s mountain gorillas can be found in the forests of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and the best time to see them is at the start of the year, when conditions are ‘dryish’, according to Lonely Planet
There are around 1,000 mountain gorillas left in the wild, with about half living in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
January is the time to go, says Lonely Planet, because ‘it’s dry season (or dryish), which means good conditions for tracking [them]’.
Other January musts, according to Lonely Planet, are Vienna for its winter ball season, skiing in British Columbia, for ‘amazing powder’, and the Sydney Festival, which showcases ‘the very best in music, theatre and visual arts’.
Where to go in February
Dazzling: An ideal time and place to spot the Northern Lights is Iceland in February
February is a great time to be dazzled by the Northern Lights in Iceland, spot snow leopards in India’s Hemis National Park – because it’s mating season, so they’re less elusive – and get your samba on at the Rio Carnival, according to Lonely Planet.
Venice hots up, too – with fireworks, parades and masked balls.
Mendoza in Argentina is also lively, the guide says. That’s because it’s pre-harvest time in the vineyards, so there are tours and tastings aplenty in the shops and cellars.
Where to go in March
March is a great time to visit the Iguazu Falls, on the border of Argentina and Brazil, because they’re in full flow
Top tips for March? Visit the ‘mighty’ Iguazú Falls. They ‘thunder down a gorge that divides southern Brazil and Argentina’ and will be in ‘full flow’.
It’s also a good month for gazing at pear trees in Sichuan, in southwestern China, because they’ll be in full bloom, and panda-watching in Ya’an Bifengxia Panda Base, Lonely Planet says.
Plus tiger-spotting in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India becomes even more worthwhile, because it’s the dry season, so there’s less grass to camouflage the creatures.
Where to go in April
Cherry blossom season is in full bloom in April in Japan. Pictured is the Okazaki Canal in Kyoto
April is a bloomin’ lovely time to visit Kyoto, Tokyo and Hiroshima because, Lonely Planet points out, cherry blossoms are flourishing.
The baseball season will be starting, meanwhile, in the ‘sports-mad’ city of Boston, which also hosts the ‘world’s oldest city marathon’, on April 20.
The guide carries on spinning the globe and reveals that April sees ‘great conditions’ on the 75-mile Haute Route ski tour in the Alps and that the world’s biggest water fight takes place in Songkran, Thailand, to mark the Thai New Year.
Where to go in May
Hiking enthusiasts should head to Montenegro in May, advises Lonely Planet, when tourist numbers are lower
Montenegro in May is, according to Lonely Planet, ‘the place for a multi-activity holiday’. Why? ‘May is the start of rafting season, conditions are good for hiking, and the coastal spots aren’t yet packed with visitors,’ says the guide.
Other top May destinations are Abruzzo in Italy – for emerging wildflowers – Indonesia’s Rinca or Komodo islands for the chance to see dramatic mating-season fights between male Komodo dragons, and Prague, because it’s Beer Festival time.
Where to go in June
Head to Greenland in June for the best chance to glimpse the traditional lifestyle of Inuit communities and spot whales, Lonely Planet advises. Pictured is the town of Tasiilaq
The White Nights festival in St Petersburg takes place in June, with Lonely Planet summing it up as an event ‘where the sun doesn’t set and the city is buzzing with ballet, opera and music’.
Another place to visit around midsummer, according to the travel pros, is Greenland. ‘Look out for whales in Disko Bay and learn traditional lifestyles from Inuit communities,’ they advise.
Lastly, they point travellers in the direction of Zambia, the home of the first walking safari, where it’s the start of the dry season. In the country’s South Luangwa National Park it’s possible to spot elephants, giraffes and birdlife.
Where to go in July
The high-dive competition in the city of Mostar in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina has made it on to Lonely Planet’s list of July highlights
July is a ‘superb’ time for wildlife watching, advises Lonely Planet.
Go to Porto Jofre in Brazil for jaguar-spotting, Katmai National Park in Alaska for fishing grizzlies, Australia’s Kangaroo Island for newborn roos and Svalbard for all manner of Arctic creatures.
It’s not all about animals, though. The travel site also recommends the high-dive competition in Mostar, trekking on Mt Fuji and watching wrestlers at the Nadaam festival in Mongolia.
Where to go in August
August is a big month for adrenalin junkies. For starters, it’s when the Victoria Falls, pictured, calms down, so conditions for white-water rafting on the Zambezi are optimal
‘It’s another big month for nature,’ says Lonely Planet.
Cue the wildebeest migration at the Mara River in Kenya and humpback whales travelling from Antarctica to Tonga to have their calves.
It’s also a big month for adrenalin junkies, with the guide recommending hitting the trails in the Pyrenees, the slopes in Australia’s Snowy Mountains, and the Zambezi River for white-water rafting, because in August, the flow of the Victoria Falls calms down, apparently.
Where to go in September
If travelling along the ancient Silk Road and visiting Uzbekistan, pictured, is on your wish list, then September is the best time to go, advises Lonely Planet
September is the best time of the year to hit the ‘vast’ Silk Road, says Lonely Planet, because it’s ‘not too hot in the ancient cities of Uzbekistan and the deserts of Turkmenistan, or too snowy on the lakes of Kyrgyzstan’.
The adventure experts also flag that it’s the start of the lobster season on Sweden’s Bohuslän Coast, where you can take a ‘seafood safari’ to catch and cook your own, and that you can ‘enjoy some arts performances’ at Dublin’s Fringe Festival (September 5-20).
Where to go in October
A beachgoer enjoys a thermal bath on New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula, which is less crowded in October, but usually still warm
The Lonely Planet team rates truffle hunting in Italy’s Piedmont as a highlight in October, and points out that it’s also grape harvest season for Rioja. ‘Tastings throughout the region are an absolute must,’ says the guide.
You might also like to head to the mystical city of Petra in Jordan, because the temperatures will be mild (around 27C).
And the crowds will have moved on, the guide says, from the golden sands of Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand. But it ‘should still be warm’. If it’s chilly – you can always dig your own thermal bath.
Where to go in November
The ‘Day of the Dead’ festival in Mexico is a top November attraction, according to Lonely Planet
Día de Muertos – the Day of the Dead – is 1-2 November – ‘expect skeleton outfits, sugar skulls and tequila across Mexico in honour of the departed’, says Lonely Planet.
It adds that ‘a slightly different kind of celebration takes place in the Cayman Islands, when the serene Caribbean isle hosts Pirates Week’.
The travel experts, meanwhile, point autumn sun-seekers in Europe towards Malta, where temperatures in November tend to be a pleasant 21C.
Where to go in December
A chance to visit Father Christmas and enjoy the festive atmosphere of Finnish Lapland is too good to miss in December, according to Lonely Planet
Lonely Planet says that while Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland is the ‘official’ year-round home of Santa Claus, ‘for the real festive feeling, it is best visited in December’.
A top December itinerary might also list diving among the sharks, turtles and reef fish around the Similan Islands off Thailand’s Andaman Coast, bird watching in Peru’s Tambopata National Reserve and checking out the giant manta rays in Micronesia.
And rounding off the year with Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh.
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