JANUARY: Ras Al Khaimah, UAE
Via Ferrata in Ras Al Khaimah (Dreamstime)
Why? Start the year as you mean to go on: with an epic adventure. Clip yourself into Ras Al Khaimah’s new 470m-long via ferrata in the UAE, which opened late last year. Scramble across the rockface of Jebel Jais (1,934m) – the true summit of which actually lies across the UAE/Oman border – while taking in the ruggedness of the Al Hajar mountains. Plus, January’s cooler temperatures will make it that much more comfortable to traverse.
Also pencil in... Yellowstone NP, USA for tracking wolves in the snow; Northern Sweden for the northern lights; hot-spring-basking snow monkeys in Honshu, Japan.
FEBRUARY: Michoacan, Mexico
Butterflies in Michoacan (Dreamstime)
Why? The migration of 150 million-odd Monarch butterflies from Canada to Mexico’s Michoacán state is an incredible sight. TV wildlife expert Nigel Marven lauded it as the ‘most amazing biological phenomenon ever’, and it’s at its most spectacular in February when the butterflies start returning to Canada, lifting off the trees and blanketing the sky like a bright-orange ticker-tape parade.
Also pencil in... Rio and Salvador’s Carnival in Brazil; Transylvania, Romania to see wolves in the wild.
Tiger in India (Dreamstime)
Why? It’s the ideal time to see Bengal tigers, India’s iconic big cat. Spring provides a tolerable precursor to the summer heat, while retreating jungle greenery and shrinking water sources maximise your chances of spotting a tiger. You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to locations, too: Pench Tiger Reserve, Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve and the grasslands of Kanha NP all boast healthy big cat populations.
Also pencil in... Valencia, Spain for the fiery Fallas Festival; migrating grey whales in the waters off Vancouver Island, Canada.
APRIL: Kyoto, Japan
Cheery blossoms in Japan (Dreamstime)
Why? Ancient Kyoto is blooming (literally) marvellous in springtime (late March–early April), when its flowering cherry blossoms make for a charming backdrop as you wander the city’s shrines and temples. At night, the trees are lit up for an enchanting display, and be sure to catch a traditional geisha dance, too, held daily throughout April.
Also pencil in... Brecon Beacons NP in Wales turns 60; Brazil’s Iguaçu Falls is at its most dramatic; Ningaloo, Australia for whale sharks.
MAY: Xi’an, China
Terracotta Army (Dreamstime)
Why? Because you’re one flight away from the Terracotta Army. Tianjin Airlines launch a direct link from London Gatwick to Xi’an this May, so you can now easily see its UNESCO-listed statues, created to serve the Xin Emperor in the afterlife, in the flesh (well, clay). Meanwhile, Xi’an’s ancient wall, bell tower and Wild Goose Pagoda offer extra incentives to visit one of China’s oldest cities.
Also pencil in... Peru for the new Cusco-to-Lake Titicaca sleeper train; hunting for treats at Hong Kong’s Cheung Chau Bun Festival.
Gorilla in Rwanda (Dreamstime)
Why? It’s the best time for gorilla spotting in Volcanoes NP. Tracking Rwanda’s primates isn’t wallet-friendly (one-hour permits are US$750 [£590]), but June marks the beginning of the long dry season, making its jungle trails far easier to navigate. And if you head there early in the month, it’s also the best period to spot chimpanzees in the Nyungwe Forest NP.
Also pencil in… Reykjavik, Iceland for midnight sun; Papua New Guinea for spotting its birds of paradise.
Jasper National Park (Dreamstime)
Why? Canada’s year-long open day reaches its peak. The country has flung open its national parks, with free entry for all throughout 2017 to mark the nation’s 150th birthday. The big day is on July 1 (Canada Day), and capital city Ottawa will be hosting much of the festivities, from firework displays to parties and exhibitions.
Also pencil in... Spitsbergen, Norway for 24-hour sunshine; wrestling, horseriding and archery at Mongolia’s Nadaam Festival; migrating wildlife arriving at Botswana’s Okavango Delta.
AUGUST: Wyoming, USA
Solar eclipse (Dreamstime)
Why? Catch the first solar eclipse in the US for 26 years. Note down August 21 in your diary for the great spectacle, which slices through the heart of the country, from Oregon to South Carolina.
Wyoming’s Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks offer some of the best vantage points, so combine a visit to their natural wonders with some sky-gazing.
Also pencil in... Sri Lanka for the carnival-like Esala Perahera Festival; Tortuguero in Costa Rica for nesting turtles.
Wildebeest crossing river (Dreamstime)
Why? To see the Great Migration across the Mara River. Between August and September, a million or so wildebeest will be taking the plunge to cross its waters – in plain view of lurking crocs. And in northern Kenya, you’ll be able to spot black rhinos in Samburu-land for the first time in 25 years, too, thanks to the opening of Saruni Rhino Camp back in February.
Also pencil in... Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest; Minneriya NP, Sri Lanka for mass elephant gatherings.
OCTOBER: Patagonia, Argentina/Chile
Fitz Roy Massif (Dreamstime)
Why? Retrace Bruce Chatwin’s footsteps, 40 years on. The travel writer’s book, In Patagonia, brought the South American region into focus for many readers in 1977. Four decades on, follow his lead and hike in the shadow of the Fitz Roy Massif, see the icefields of Los Glaciares NP and admire a slice of Argentinian Wales.
Also pencil in... Churchill, Canada for migrating polar bears; the Scottish Highlands for rutting deer.
NOVEMBER: Tasmania, Australia
Blue Derby switchbacks (Dreamstime)
Why? Saddle up for a new biking adventure. The cooler temperatures of Tasmania’s spring make it the ideal time to pedal the recently extended Blue Derby Mountain Bike Trails.
Meanwhile, new guided trips on the three-day Blue Derby Pods Ride offer a chance to explore the rugged beauty of north-east Tasmania, passing tieredwaterfalls and huge eucalypts as you pedal the Blue Tier Forest Reserve.
Also pencil in...South Georgia for penguins; dancing redcrowned cranes in Hokkaido, Japan.
Travellers in Wadi Rum (Dreamstime)
Why? Lace up your boots and take on a new section of the 600km Jordan Trail. Scheduled for completion in mid-summer, by December it will be in full swing and more manageable than in the baking summer heat (if a bit chilly at night).
Take on a rugged section between two of Jordan’s icons, Petra and Wadi Rum, or tread the lesser-visited (and greener) north, from the Roman ruins of Um Qais to medieval Aljoun.
Also pencil in...Albatross chicks in Otago, New Zealand; manatees in the freshwater springs of Florida, USA.
Main image: Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, Canada (Dreamstime)