Best time to go on a special interest vacation

When to go and when not to go?

The heat of summer can be as off putting to amateur archaeologists in Greece as freezing temperatures are to hikers in the northern Spanish winter. Conversely, the chance to visit a location covered in snow, to watch the Northern Lights or go dog sledding, for example, provides an experience to really look forward to, especially over the darker, gloomier, depths of the New Year. Photographers may also prefer an opportunity to take snaps in frost covered surroundings although waterfalls and wildflowers in spring or fiery foliage in autumn can create a broader scope of subject matter. Many of our special interest trips only run at certain times of the year so if youíd prefer not to commit to archeology in August or a Thai cooking course during the rainy season, read on for more advice on when to go and when not to.


Spring is the season for walkers to brush off their boots and embark on a hiking vacation in southern Europe before the heat of summer really kicks in. Andalucia, Tuscany or the French Riviera can get way too hot for hiking in the summer. Spring also provides a genuinely friendly and hospitable welcome prior to the vacationmaking hordes descending in summer, which is ideal for language practise in Spain.
Archeology trips, too, are advisable in spring with visits to Petra in Jordan and the Peloponnese in Greece certain to uncover success in March, April and May. Further afield, Nepalís Kathmandu Valley is an absolute delight in spring with the Hindu festival, Holi, creating endless opportunities for photographers to capture the light of the Himalayas reemerging from the darkness of winter.


The crackle of twigs and leaves underfoot, the scent of bonfires in the air, the chance to wrap up warm and embrace every last drop of sunshine Ė autumn in Europe is all about making the most of the great outdoors before itís neatly packed away for the winter. October in Crete, Provence or Umbria, for example, is the best time to enjoy cooking classes. During the harvest, olive groves, vineyards and food markets offer a variety of locally grown, organic ingredients for outdoor workshops on a woodstove or in the warmth of a farmhouse kitchen.
Walking vacations are also idyllic in the autumn with the chance to combine daily hikes with photography and language lessons as the summer crowds dissipate. Amateur archeologists and historians will appreciate the lack of tourists around key sites. Visiting Nepal in October allows you to delve into Dashain, the most auspicious festival on the countryís cultural calendar. Also, donít forget Halloween in Transylvania for the ultimate spooky party or the autumn equinox in Lapland, Sept 20th, the start of the Aurora season as well as lots more daylight for activities before nightfall.


Although winter can be a time to cotch up and reflect, itís also the best time of year for getting active outdoors with snow shoes, cross country skis, and husky drawn sleds offering all manner of excuses to explore snow covered tracks in northern Europe. The Northern Lights are also a big draw from late September through til the end of March, and photographers will be in their element as they venture closer to the Arctic Circle, surrounded by snow and ice.


Believe it or not, the north of Spain, around Picos de Europa National Park, is ideal for walking and talking in the summer with daily Spanish classes and fresher temperatures allowing for unadulterated outdoor bliss whilst the rest of the country seeks shade in sweltering temperatures. Further north youíll find summer sunshine bringing warmth and light to Scotlandís Isle of Mull and Icelandís Skaftafell National Park to provide photographers with lakes, waterfalls and sandy beaches festooned with feathers and the drama of sun rise and sun set, close to the coast.
Photo credits: [intro: Artur Malinowski] [Spring: NH53] [Autumn: USAG Livorno PAO] [Winter: Jonathan Combe] [Summer: Jennifer 8. Lee]
Written by Chris Owen
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