Hot springs in Yellowstone NP (Shutterstock: see credit below)
List 02 July

13 of the best off-season trips

Off-season doesn’t necessarily mean bad season. Sometimes it can be worth putting up with a bit of dodgy weather to experience the best wildlife encounters, natural phenomenon, lower prices or smaller crow

1. Northern Lights in warmer weather

Autumn Aurora Hunt, The Aurora Zone
When? Oct & Nov

The Aurora Zone’s new Autumn Aurora Hunt in Torassieppi may seem off season but there are bonuses to travelling during the ruska. The lack of snow means darker skies – all the better for aurora, which you might see reflected in as-yet unfrozen lakes.

Plus warmer climes not only make it more comfy but mean the wildlife is more active. There’s also lots of daylight for visits to a reindeer farm and husky centre, and hikes in Pallas National Park.

How to photograph the Northern Lights | Tips for incredible snaps
5 warm ways to watch the Northern Lights | Mmm, toasty!

2. Traverse Burma's Golden Land

Golden Trails of Burma, Mountain Kingdoms
When? Oct - Dec

Experience the lush-green of Burma’s wet season on Mountain Kingdoms’ Golden Trails of Burma tour. A perfect time for photographs, the rains are irregular and you can still balloon over Bagan, explore the sites around Mandalay, and visit the floating villages of Inle Lake.

Bagan, Burma (Shutterstock)
Bagan, Burma (Shutterstock)

Visits to sights such as Shwedagon Pagoda and the iconic U Bein bridge will be timed to avoid the crowds, and supplemented by offbeat walks.

5 unique experiences in Burma | To make your trip unforgettable
Discover the real Burma | Gems for intrepid travellers

3. Journey to Bolivia's salt plains

Classic Bolivia, Audley Travel
When? Nov - Mar

Watch one of the world’s natural wonders turn into a giant mirror. During the rainy season, Bolivia’s famous salt flats are submerged in a layer of water – and the reflections make for great photos.

Audley’s Classic Bolivia tour will further cover a sizeable chunk of the country, driving through the high plains of Uyuni, catching flamingos, lagoons and rock formations at Villa Mar and Sand Cristobal. Other ports of call are the town of Sucre, mining city of Potosi and the capital, La Paz.

Bolivia's 10 unmissable street foods | Which would you gorge on first?
Bolivia's best landscapes | Off-season is the best time to travel

4. Flora and fauna in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Encompassed Tour, Tucan Travel
When? July - Oct

Take in a wealth of jungle wildlife on Tucan Travel’s Costa Rica Encompassed tour, as you rub shoulders with nesting green sea turtles during the rainy season at Tortuguero National Park.

Sea turtle, Tortuguero National Park (Shutterstock)
Sea turtle, Tortuguero National Park (Shutterstock)

Visits to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and a hike to Arenal Volcano pack in more leafy scenery, while relaxation can be found on the beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park and Cahuita National Park.

Crossing Costa Rica with manpower | 12 people, 2 weeks, 273km by raft, bike & foot
The Wanderlust guide to the best of Costa Rica | Start planning your trip!

5. Dive with dolphins in the Maldives

Dive Baa Atoll, Dive Worldwide
When? May - Oct

Travel during the wet season to go diving with sharks, rays, and dolphins – minus the crowds. Dive Worldwide’s Dive Baa Atoll trip lets you choose from over 35 dive sites with seldom other divers around, while being surrounded by uninhabited islands.

Wild dolphins in the Maldives (Shutterstock)
Wild dolphins in the Maldives (Shutterstock)

Rainfall is heavy but often short and predictable – so during sunny spells you can relax on sandy beaches amid tropical vegetation and turquoise lagoons.

Practical tips for Maldives liveaboard trips | Essential reading for divers
6 cultural experiences in the Maldives | It's not all paradise beaches, you know

6. Take in Russia's snow-covered sights

St Petersburg Short Break, Regent Holidays
When? Dec - Mar

See St Petersburg at its sparkliest on a Regent Holidays’ St Petersburg Short Break in winter. The city never looks picture-postcard prettier than under a dusting of snow; and it’s cheaper too.

Wrap up warm to revel in St Petersburg's wintery charm. Visit the Hermitage Museum, the palaces of Tsarskoe Selo and other historic gems.

An artistic weekend in St Petersburg | Where they LOVE the Beatles
The Wanderlust guide to the best of Russia | Advice for your adventure

7. Gawp at gorillas in East Africa

Gorillas and Gameparks, Oasis Overland
When? Apr & May

Travel on Oasis Overland’s Gorillas and Gameparks tour in April/May and save: in these off-peak months, a gorilla-trekking permit is £225 cheaper!

Mountain gorillas in Rwanda (Shutterstock)
Mountain gorillas in Rwanda (Shutterstock)

The Oasis trip starts and ends in Nairobi, and travels through Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. Over 19 busy days you'll tick off East African gameparks, Nile cruising, white-water rafting and, of course, close-up gorilla encounters.

One perfect hour with Uganda's mountain gorillas | Mark Carwardine's experience
Face-to-face with Rwanda's mountain gorillas | Meeting a moody mountain gorilla

8. Try another route to Machu Picchu

Andes and Amazon, Dragoman
When? Feb

Even though the classic Inca Trail is closed in February, you can still experience Machu Picchu in all its glory on Dragoman’s Andes and Amazon tour – it takes an alternative route up to the world icon.

If you’re hungry for more relics of ancient civilisation, the trip also visits the Inca city of Cuzco and the pre-Inca Sillustani ruins, as well as the floating villages of Lake Titicaca and the Bolivian capital, La Paz.

South America's 12 best walks (that aren't the Inca Trail)
| They're Inca-redible
Walking the Lares Trek, Peru | A 'community trek' from the village of Lares

9. Spy hippos and leopards in Zambia

Rivers & Rainbows, Wildlife Worldwide
When? Jan - Apr

Wildlife Worldwide’s Rivers & Rainbows tour operates just at the end of the rains, when the Luangwa River is high – the only time boat safaris run.

The river is bursting with life, while leopard, elephants and other game thrive on its banks, as do 450 species of birds. Night drives and treks are available too.

A walking safari in South Luangwa Valley
| With a World Guide Awards winner
What's your safari style? | By foot? By boat? By hoof?

10. Walk on Chile's wild side

Torres del Paine,  Journey Latin America
When? Jul - Oct

Spotting one of nature’s most impressive big cats, the puma, will be easier thanks to Journey Latin America’s Torres del Paine tour. In these cooler climes, you will seldom see other travellers in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, meaning the mammal is less likely to hide in the undergrowth.

Guanaco in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile (Shutterstock)
Guanaco in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile (Shutterstock)

It’s not just pumas: geese, guanaco and condors will all be more frequent, while the autumn colours or snow – depending when you go – is great news for photographers.

4 great Chile itineraries | Volcanoes, deserts, vineyards and glaciers
10 roads you must ride in Chile and Argentina | Roadtripping heaven

11. Serengeti safari in rainy season

Serengeti Explorer, Tropical Sky
When? Mar - Apr

Flock to Tanzania during the off-season to see more than 500 species of migratory birds, including the great white pelican, Caribbean flamingo and lesser spotted eagle. The rainy season is the only time of year to see them.

Lionesses in the rain, Serengeti (Shutterstock)
Lionesses in the rain, Serengeti (Shutterstock)

The quieter period during Tropical Sky’s Serengeti Explorer tour means navigating its parks such as Tarangire National Park and Lake Manyara National Park will be easier, as well as spotting the ‘Big Five’.

Great Migration, Serengeti | Read our travel guide
Great Migration calendar | 12 months, 12 ways

12. See Yellowstone in wondrous white

Yellowstone Winter Wildlife, Peregrine Adventures
When? Jan - Mar

Take in the snow-dusted peaks of two of the USA’s superlative national parks, Yellowstone and Grand Teton, with Peregrine Adventures' Yellowstone Winter Wildlife tour.

Grand Prismatic Spring with snow-covered hills, Yellowstone (Shutterstock)
Grand Prismatic Spring with snow-covered hills, Yellowstone (Shutterstock)

Spotting wolves, bears and bison will be easier against the snow too, so don your snowshoes for a hike through Grand Teton and enjoy a night under the stars with an evening of astronomy at Spring Creek Ranch.

Trips of a lifetime: USA | Adventures in big, bold, beautiful USA
Tracking wolves in Yellowstone National Park | A winter wonderland

13. Visit Angkor Wat without the crowds

Cambodia Overland, All Points East
When? Sep - Mar

Think Cambodia’s rainy season is relentless monsoons and unbearable heat? Think again. Its rainy season is short and sharp and the temple of Angkor Wat and the streets of Phnom Penh glisten after their hose down – you'll see it all on All Points Easts' Cambodia Overland tour.

Buddhist monk at Angkor Wat (Shutterstock)
Buddhist monk at Angkor Wat (Shutterstock)

Explore the lush scenery with a forest hike up Bahkeng Hill to visit the Phnom Bahkeng Temple and the jungle ruins of Preah Khan. Take advantage of the flooded forests for a boat tour to the floating villages of Battambang, before clambering aboard its famous ‘bamboo train’.

Angkor Wat: temple by temple
| How to see the best bests
Angkor Wat by bike | It's a great way to get around

Main image: Hot springs in Yellowstone NP (Shutterstock)

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