As many of us are beginning to travel far more often, the hurried, hectic and busy holiday just doesn’t seem to cut it. We love our well-travelled destinations, but have grown weary of the fight for space.
The growing trend that travelers are getting savvy with is the ‘low season’ trip. When booking travel during the high season, it’s not unusual to have to plan for weeks (or months) in advance, in order to get a reservation for a good restaurant, or a spot on the hottest tour. Alternatively, low season travel means you can relax a little more and enjoy your holiday, even leaving reservations and decisions of where to go and what to see, to the last minute.
Now more than ever, people are swapping ‘overtourism’ for ‘undertourism’. It is another facet to getting away from the crowds by visiting a destination that is just a tad off the radar. Dare to get away from the selfie-takers and the throngs of sightseers to a place that is not so overrun, and yet still allows you to witness its offerings of great beauty and culture.
These destinations hit that sweet spot for low crowds and unbeatable culture and beauty.
The best time to enjoy the low season in Greece is November through March. The weather here in winter is generally mild with lots of sun. It is during these magic months where the real Santorini reveals itself in all its grandeur. When you look past the crystal blue water and the brilliance of the white-washed abodes, you will see its eternal cycles of destruction and renewal, its passion and creativity. You will discover its rich history, written in the rocks.
Visitors to Santorini can practically taste the story of its volcanoes — of basalt, pumice and smoke. It also holds Greece’s oldest vineyards. The volcanic soil gives life to the Assyrtiko grape, giving it a character that offers dry white wines coveted the world over.
The archaeological site of Akrotiri is an extraordinary preserved ancient city whose population was wiped out in an instant 3,500 years ago by the volcano. It was not discovered again until 1967, under several feet of ash. Surprisingly, only 1 in 20 visitors to Santorini ever make it to Akrotiri, but that is a beautiful thing — more room for you to explore on your own.
Hike the Caldera Trail from Fira to Oia. Low season is the perfect time to embark on this challenge, when the crowds are thin and the sun less hot on your back. It is the perfect way to take in the picturesque villages and striking views along the way. At 10 kilometres, it is a doable hike and not too challenging. Start in the main square in Fira and work your way north. If you really want to take your time and savour all the sights, expect to carve out most of the day for this hike. Stay in Oia for the evening and enjoy the roaring orange sunsets from the popular viewpoint that’s likely to be less populated in low season.
For a wonderful place to call home during your stay, the Pegasus Suites & Spa will envelop you in just the right ambience, located in the heart of Santorini. Offering a luxurious place of seclusion within a traditional cave-like space, Pegasus is the ultimate romantic getaway for couples or honeymooners.
The low season in Florence is also November through March, providing a great way to absorb Italy in a relaxed way, on your own terms. Granted, the weather isn’t always sunny, but isn’t that part of the charm of Italy?
Visit the Uffizi Gallery and Accademia with less crowds, taking your time to wander through. In Florence, everything remains open in the low season; the only caveat to that is perhaps a gelato shop or two shutting down to take their own holiday but there is still plenty to take advantage of.
You must visit the Duomo. Florence’s iconic landmark will likely be busy any time of year, but the low season is the best time to capture its beauty. Try to catch it when it first opens or a short while before closing in the afternoon. Then of course, there is the incredible shopping, where fine leathers play a central role.
In late February, the Carnival is a major event in the city and runs for two weeks. Florence is a relatively small city, so one of the best things you can do is simply stroll the streets, letting serendipity guide you. Who knows? You may just run into Michelangelo’s David and get him all to yourself.
Then when you need to get off your feet, do a bit of people-watching as you linger over a glass of wine. Just remember to dress in layers — if you want to fit in with the locals, wear leather shoes, button-up coats and leather gloves, with a stylishly-warm scarf for good measure.
When you’re ready to rest your head, make your home away from home at Antica Torre Di Via Tornabuoni 1. This medieval tower-turned exclusive boutique will pamper you with luxury, history and art. Not only this, you’ll be treated to soaring views of the canal below and across the rooftops of the city.
Head to a fabulous low season destination that is renowned for its year-round warm weather. Bali tends to be bustling all year round, but from March through May you have Indonesia’s “green season,” the precious time between the wet and dry seasons. The air is cleaner, with less dust in the air, and interactions with locals tend to be more satisfying, when they are not so frazzled with the normal tourist crowds. This helps to allow you to experience the authentic Indonesia, lending itself to a richer holiday.
The elephant cave of Goa Gajah is a must-do. And the hippie haven of Ubud exudes the laid-back vibe of Bali, a lush green oasis in the heart of the island. This is your chance to explore the streets and shops at your leisure, without rubbing elbows too much with other tourists. And you’ll no doubt notice the monkeys as you saunter into town, but to get the full experience, do stop at the Monkey Forest to get your fill of the cute creatures. Just be aware that some of them won’t be afraid to have a go at stealing your most possessions!
The impressive Tegenungan Waterfall is about a half-hour drive outside of Ubud and definitely worth a visit, a picturesque cascade over black stone cliffs into a quiet and secluded pool. Nyepi, the Balinese Day of Silence, falls on the Hindu New Year, running from March 25-26 — a full 24 hours of silence. So if you plan on being here during that time, take head. Having said that, the night before is a lot of fun, with parties galore. It’s like the Balinese need to get it out of their system in preparation for the quiet, when businesses and even the airport shuts down!
In late March, the colourful festival of Holi takes place, the Hindu spring festival where thousands of Balinese people celebrate the start of spring with any array of colourful powders in a vibrant and energetic display.
Villa Cella Bella, located in the lush jungle of downtown Ubud, will welcome you at the end of a day of exploring. Here, you can lounge in the netted canopy or next to the infinity pool, staring out amongst the jungle’s treetops, as you plan out your next adventure.
In Morocco, you will be transported to a different era the moment you step off the plane. Here, May through September is the low season, and ripe for seductive discovery. Marrakesh’s majestic architecture and vibrant colours, accented by its exotic cuisine, is like journeying to another world and visitor’s will enjoy weather that is neither too hot, nor too cold.
The Gateway to Morocco is a dizzy trip in diversity and culture, with much to do. Go treasure hunting in the Jemaa el Fna Medina, for starters. Here, timid travelers need not apply — expect to haggle your way through the maze of alleyways and vibrant stalls to procure that special treasure. With your sense enlivened,, you’ll be glad you did and will be negotiating like a pro in no time.
Immerse yourself in fashion at the Jardin Majorelle, a beautiful garden forty years in the making. The designers, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge, bought this place in 1980 and saved it from real estate ruin to transform it into the glorious wonder it is today. The garden is testament to floriculture; full of shady trees, exotic plants and art installations galore.
Make your home base at Riad Noir D’Ivoire. It’s where culture meets elegance and luxury. Take a dip in the inviting pool before settling in one of its lush and royal rooms that are all centred around its idyllic courtyard. Steeped in history and architecture, this riad brings the magic splendour of Morocco to the forefront of your stay.
Here in the Southern Hemisphere, June through August rules as the low season. The weather is pleasantly mild but can get rainy and windy at times. During this time, a food and wine holiday is ideal, and Cape Town has no shortage of culinary package delights.
No visit to Cape Town is complete without ascending Table Mountain. If you can, try and pick a clear day and get the most of it with the spectacular views it offers. There are footpaths all around, offering views of Lions Head, the Twelve Apostles, and the city below, not forgetting the sunsets that are truly spectacular!
At Cape Point National Park, witness the collision of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans at the Cape of Good Hope. Here you can take long hikes, birdwatch, and marvel at the scenery. The drive itself is exquisite as it snakes along the vertical cliff faces of Table Mountain.
Visit Kirstenbosch Garden. This botanical garden is one of the most beautiful in all of Africa, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The place is gigantic and there’s plenty to explore so make the most of it by bringing a picnic lunch along and enjoying an entire day of it. Walk under the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway, enjoy art exhibitions, and stay for a concert.
July and August is prime whale-watching season, when migratory whales arrive along various hotspots on the coastline. This is a sight to behold, as this friendly species interacts with other whales and dolphins in the water.
WATERLINE Villa creates a space of comfort at the end of the day. Located on the dunes overlooking Noordhoek Beach, this space allows you to enjoy expansive views of the mountains and sea and the very best of Cape Town’s famous landscapes. There are multiple levels that all seek to provide guests with spaces to truly unwind and experience varying perspectives of your surroundings.
Off-season travelling is an advantageous way to avoid the crowds while still discovering the enchantment of some of the most interesting locations in the world. So, do your research and experience the authenticity of some truly renowned destinations.
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