Why not use these winter months to visit one of the below iconic destinations? While most people tend to travel to them during the summer holidays, visiting such popular destinations outside of peak season offers many benefits: destinations are less crowded, more affordable and in many cases, offers a much more authentic experience than in the high season.
1. Florence, Italy
The city of Dante, Da Vinci and Michelangelo is a treasure trove of Renaissance art. Famous for its fine art collection but also for its queues, the Galleria degli Uffizi is one of the most visited art museums in the world – but visit it in winter and you can often walk right in. Take in the famous cityscape of Florence and warm up over espresso or a scrumptious ribollita soup (a hearty Tuscan potage made with vegetables and leftover bread), or by climbing the 463 steps of Il Duomo.
When to go? Florence is at its most popular in June – but if you happen to visit in January you can find average accommodation prices that are over 30% more affordable than during the peak season. Go in February and you will even find accommodation at an average of half the price of the high season.
2. Kyoto, Japan
The former imperial capital of Japan, today Kyoto is home to the world’s largest collection of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Explore samurai castles, serene moss-covered gardens and find the famous lacquered shrines covered in a layer of fresh snow. Find shelter from the cold in one of the nearby Onsen (natural hot spring baths), over a steaming bowl of Yudofu (a traditional dish of boiled tofu) or sipping on a cup of hot sake.
When to go? Kyoto is especially popular in Spring and Autumn – but those willing to travel in January (when you might even experience a beautiful snow flurry) will find that accommodation is on average over a third (37%) more affordable than the most expensive month of the year (April).
3. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Famous for colorful carnival, stunning beaches and majestic mountainous surroundings, Rio is one of those cities that many people want to visit at least once in their lives, and for good reason! Revel in an improvised samba session during a night in Lapa, the party district. Spend the next day recovering on Copacabana beach or take a hike to the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, which watches over the city at 710 meters (2,329 feet) above sea level. Rio has something for everyone!
When to go? Winter in the Northern Hemisphere is summer in the Southern Hemisphere, so prices in Rio are at their highest in January and February. But go in the “soft shoulder” season in March and you will find accommodation prices an average of 30% more affordable than during peak season – particularly towards the end of the month. In early March you will catch the carnival so prices are slightly higher, and throughout the month you will be more likely able to enjoy the beach without the heavy rainfall that often happen during Brazilian summer.
4. Hualien City, Taiwan
Hualien city is the perfect base camp to explore the east coast of Taiwan. Many travelers stop here to visit the famous Taroko Gorge, but there are many other hiking trails and natural wonders to be explored in the region. Hualien itself is a foodie’s delight, with myriad teahouses, food markets and restaurants serving delectable local specialties. Learn more about local customs and crafts by visiting the Stone Art Street, one of the many temples or the Chihsing Tan Katsuo museum, a quirky museum dedicated to dried skipjack tuna.
When to go? March is technically the start of the shoulder season, so it will be less crowded. However, early March is also the end of the cherry blossom season (which takes place earlier in Taiwan than in Japan). Nevertheless, accommodation prices are more than 25% more affordable than in the high season in June.
5. Riga, Latvia
Some cities may just be best to visit in winter. Riga, allegedly the birthplace of the Christmas tree, is one such destination. Enjoy an authentic Latvian sauna experience, head to Arena Riga to watch a game of ice hockey (one of the most popular sport in Latvia) or one of the other many winter activities offered in this beautiful city. Also don’t forget to join one of the walking tours: according to UNESCO, Riga’s historic centre is “unparalleled anywhere in the world” for the quality of its Art Nouveau architecture. Afterwards, warm up with a Black Balsam-laced coffee (the local spirit), or over a plate of hearty Latvian fare.
When to go? Riga is over than 40% more affordable in December, February and March than in the most expensive month of the year, August.
Text and photos courtesy of Booking.com