Keep the spirit of summer adventure alive with an October trip to a warm, exotic destination. Two countries that fit the bill: Chile and Costa Rica.
Chile: It may be cooling off in the Northern Hemisphere, but in the Southern Hemisphere it’s the beginning of spring. Take this opportunity to visit Chile while the weather is mild and the landscape is blooming. The country offers everything from urban adventure to desert exploration during this time. In the capital, Santiago, you can enjoy clear skies and a buzzy urban scene, along with nearby wine regions like the Maipo Valley, perfect for wine-tasting tours. This month is also ideal for exploring the Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world, with its otherworldly landscapes, salt flats, and starry nights. Patagonia starts to become more accessible, allowing for hiking in Torres del Paine National Park. The coastal town of Valparaiso, with its colorful houses and street art, is a visual feast.
Costa Rica: Known as the birthplace of ecotourism, Costa Rica delivers on its promise of unsurpassed natural beauty combined with an ethic of conservation and responsible tourism. Be awed by the spectacular contrasts of Manuel Antonio National Park: lush tropical forest extending to the edge of the pristine beach. You will likely see abundant wildlife, including squirrel monkeys, capuchin monkeys, and sloths. Arenal Volcano, a live volcano, is a must-see, if only to witness its perfect cone, although there are also lava fields, forest trails, and plenty of wildlife. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve is an exquisite example of a successful combination of conservation and responsible tourism. Only 160 tourists are allowed within its borders at a time, ensuring that the healthy rivers, blooming trees, and intense biodiversity remain protected. This is a chance to witness the wilderness Costa Rica is famous for.
Also great in October: Argentina, Australia, Botswana, Brazil, China, Egypt, Japan, Morocco, Namibia, and Tanzania.
November is the beginning of the dry season in Southeast Asia and it’s still warm enough for comfortable travel. Expect temperatures in the low 80s and little to no rain.
Laos: November is the beginning of the dry season here. It’s a fantastic time for exploring the UNESCO World Heritage city of Luang Prabang, with its stunning architecture that blends indigenous and French colonial styles. It’s also a great time for cruising the Mekong River or taking a boat trip to the Pak Ou Caves, famous for the thousands of Buddha statues adorning their walls. For nature lovers, the Bolaven Plateau in the south offers stunning waterfalls and coffee plantations. Meanwhile, trekkers can explore the remote beauty of northern provinces like Luang Namtha and Phongsali.
Cambodia: The end of the rainy season and the cooler temperatures make November an excellent time to visit Angkor Wat (“city temple”) in Siem Reap, as the surrounding moats and reservoirs are full, enhancing the beauty of the temples. Built on a grand scale as the funerary temple for Suryavarman II, who ruled from 1112 to 1152, Angkor is known for surreal bas-reliefs and intricate building details. The temperate weather is also great for exploring other historical sites like the Bayon Temple and Ta Prohm. In Phnom Penh, the capital, you can comfortably tour landmarks such as the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda. November is the month of the Water Festival (Bon Om Touk), a spectacular event with boat races, fireworks, and festivities, particularly vibrant in the capital and along the Tonle Sap River.
Also great in November: Argentina, Chile, China, Egypt, Guatemala, India, Japan, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Some people deal with cold, snow, and arctic temperatures by escaping to tropical destinations. Others embrace the winter weather with gusto. For those, there’s no better place to be for the winter holidays than Finland and Iceland, two countries where winter is an art.
Finland: December in Finland offers a magical, snowy landscape that's perfect for a variety of winter activities. In Lapland, the northernmost region of the country, you can experience the enchanting beauty of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), a highlight for many travelers. The snowy forests and frozen lakes provide excellent opportunities for husky sledding, snowmobiling, and reindeer safaris, as well as skiing, skating, snowshoe hiking, and bracing sessions of ice swimming. Be like a Finn and cap off your rigorous outdoor activity with a delicious sauna. In Rovaniemi, the official hometown of Santa Claus, according to Finns, you can immerse yourself in a festive atmosphere with a visit to Santa Claus Village. Helsinki goes all out for the holiday too, with Christmas lights adorning the streets and food and crafts markets, creating a cozy, festive, and warm environment despite the freezing temperatures (average temperature for December: 25 degrees F, much colder in the north).
Iceland is another country that knows how to do winter right. The country is alive with merriment and holiday activities throughout December. Make sure to see the Northern Lights as they dance across the sky. Try some of the many snow and ice activities: ice caving, snowmobiling, or hiking on the many glacier trails, including on Europe’s largest glacier, the Vatnajökull. Follow up with a dip in a warm geothermal spring. If you are there at Christmas, you can participate in some of the country’s many unique traditions around the holiday, including the Yule Lads and the witch Grýla with her ghostly Yule Cat. Join in the winter celebrations with some jólabjór (Icelandic Christmas beer) and smoked lamb.
Also great in December: Argentina, Cambodia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, India, Laos, Namibia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam.
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