Missed out on the European summer season this year and not sure where to take a holiday in the coming months?
Choosing the right time for your holiday can be daunting, especially if you are trying to make the most of your precious days off. There’s a lot to consider – the weather, what the rand’s doing, national holidays and so on.
“We prefer to avoid the busy high peak season, with costly flights and overbooked accommodation, but we also don’t want to miss out on seeing the highlights of a destination,” says Teresa Richardson, Managing Director of The Travel Corporation, of which Insight Vacations is a luxury brand.
To help you achieve the balance, Insight Vacations offers this year-long calendar of the best seasons to visit some of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations:
Autumn: Enjoy the harvest in Italy or marvel at the Northern Lights in Iceland
Harvest in Italy
Italy is unique because there is not one ideal season for travel. Several destinations are suitable for each of the four seasons, depending on what you want from your holiday.
Autumn is magical here, especially if you want to enjoy the beginning of the harvest season in Tuscany. September is wine month, and October and November are popular for olive harvests, truffle hunting and tasting chestnuts.
With Insight Vacations, guests can partake in the Olive Harvest and learn how to cook local food, or simply enjoy the local produce and wines the region has to offer. As an added bonus, autumn is generally less busy, so you can have a more authentic experience travelling village to village through the countryside.
Northern Lights in Iceland
Believe it or not, autumn is actually a better time to witness this natural phenomenon, and temperatures are a bit milder than in winter.
More importantly, in autumn, the snow clouds have not yet gathered but the nights are full and dark. At this time of year, the lakes and rivers have not yet frozen, and it is not uncommon to see the Northern Lights reflected on the open water.
Winter: Explore the Christmas Markets in the European Alps or in Russia
Skiing and Christmas in Austria
Austria transforms itself into a winter wonderland over the December holidays. “The country is home to some of Europe’s loveliest Christmas markets. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a scene straight out of a Christmas holiday card.”
Austria also has excellent local ski schools and features a range of nursery slopes and intermediate runs to build new skiers’ confidence. More experienced visitors can test their skill on mighty moguls, race tracks, powder off-piste routes and challengingly black downhill runs.
Culture and chilled temps in Russia
Although winter in St Petersburg and Moscow is definitely cold, it feels quite similar to the winter temperatures in northern Europe. “As long as you are well wrapped up, Russian winter temperatures can be braved plus for South Africans, you don’t need a visa to visit the destination anymore,” comments Richardson.
Russia is magical in winter, with its snow-dusted cities and the festivities of Russian Orthodox Christmas in full swing at the beginning of January. “The skies tend to be remarkably bright and clear, and you will avoid the throngs of people who crowd the streets during the summer months.”
Discover Amsterdam and Dublin in Spring
Visit the Netherlands’ Tulip wonderland in Spring
As Europe awakens from its winter slumber, think pretty flowers lining elegant boulevards, scintillating scenic coastlines and fine wines.
“Spring is a lovely time to visit Amsterdam. The days are getting longer, the flower fields on its outskirts are enchanting, and you can enjoy a drink or meal outside next to Amsterdam’s canals until late in the evening.
“It is a great idea to explore the countryside by bicycle. The country produces a staggering 70 percent of the world’s commercial flower output. With Holland’s famous flower strip in full bloom, you will be surrounded on all sides by a rainbow of flowers: purple hyacinths, pink crocuses, countless varieties of tulips and bright yellow daffodils. Don’t miss one of the world’s most photogenic attractions, the Keukenhof flower gardens, which opens for just eight short weeks each year in May and June.”
Enjoy the Spring Festivals in Dublin
Early to late spring is an ideal time to be in Dublin, when daylight hours are longer, and the weather is generally more pleasant. You will also have the best chance of sunshine, as May and June are considered the sunniest months.
“What truly makes Dublin great during spring are the numerous festivals and celebrations, the most famous of which is St Patrick’s Day. Ireland’s national saint provides an excellent pretext for parades, street carnivals and all manner of free entertainment. The parade showcases pageantry and performance on the streets of the city and musical talent from Ireland and across the globe gather to perform in a colourful celebration of fun festivities.”
St Patrick’s Day isn’t the only festival held in spring, you can also enjoy Music Town, the Dublin Dance Festival or the International Literature Festival.