As mask restrictions loosen and the world’s population continues to get vaccinated, one thing is clear: Travel is on the horizon. If you’d still like to exercise caution and avoid large crowds, consider small-group adventure travel during the winter months. You’ll visit some of the world’s least densely populated - and most pristine - areas in a time of year that’s pleasant and with an intimate group of like-minded travelers. Ready to go? Consider these adventure travel trips this winter.
Depending on your comfort level with crowds, Egypt is exceptionally pleasant in the winter, from October to April. The average daytime temperature is in the upper 60s, with cool, refreshing evenings. The more popular tourist destinations will have heavier crowds, so consider visiting top sights early and late in the day. If you can go later in the season - March or April - the crowds will have started to wane and temperatures are in the mid-70s to low 80s. Visiting Egypt with a small-group adventure travel operator ensures that you’ll visit destinations at off-peak hours and get to know some under-the-radar sights.
Where to Go:
- Cairo: For ancient pyramids, such as Giza, Dahshur and Saqqara, side by side with the trendy Zamalek and Heliopolis neighborhoods
- Alexandria: For the citadel, on the site of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the original Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, and the Library of Alexandria
- Luxor: For East Bank and West Bank UNESCO World Heritage Site ruins, including the tomb of Tutankhamun, the Temple of Luxor and the Karnak Temple Complex
- Aswan: For Upper Egypt’s Nubian culture, the temples of Abu Simbel, the island temple of Philae and traditional felucca rides on the Nile
Costa Rica (Mid-December-April)
Costa Rica’s dry season, from mid-December to April, is the peak tourist season. However, a small-group adventure travel company can help navigate the destination so that you’re veering away from tourist hotspots and traveling off the beaten path. Plan for high humidity and temperatures from the 70s to high 80s in the thick forests of the Caribbean Sea coast and Northern Plains, and for lower humidity, but temperatures in the 90s along the North Pacific.
Where to Go:
- Manuel Antonio National Park: For three beautiful beaches, forest trails and a dense rainforest full of wildlife
- Monteverde: For nocturnal wildlife tours, coffee plantations and walks in the cloud forest
- La Fortuna/Arenal: For the cone-shaped volcano, zip-lining in the jungle, canyon hiking and the Fortuna and Pino Blanco waterfalls
- Tortuguero: For the Jungle Canals and dense rainforest, home to monkeys, sloths, crocs and caimans
- San Jose: For the street art, the markets and the Spirogyra Butterfly Garden
Oddly, the rainy season along Ecuador’s coastline (December to May when it’s hot and humid) is actually quite sunny, with clear mornings and early afternoons, with showers setting in during the late afternoon.
In Quito and the highlands, the rainy season is similar (October to May), with cooler, dryer weather occurring from June to September. If you’re in the rainforests of the lowlands of El Oriente, you can expect rain between late December and April. Remember, though, that it's unlikely to be raining all the time.
Where to Go:
- Galapagos: For unprecedented encounters with wildlife, from waddling penguins to blue-footed boobies
- Quito: For the charming Old Town, the largest neo-gothic basilica in the Americas and cable-car rides up Pichincha Volcano
- Otavalo: For hours at the renowned market, the Peguche waterfall, Cuichocha crater lake and Otavalo Condor Park
- Papallacta: For the fabulous hot springs
- Tena/Amazon Jungle: For first-hand Amazon adventures, the AmaZOOnico animal rehab center and whitewater rafting
- Banos: For the famous “Swing at the End of the World”
- Cotopaxi: For the national park and birdwatching at Laguna Limpiopungo
Photo by Susan Tuckey, Penguins2PolarBears - Shimla, India - February 2020. Can you imagine waking up to that view every morning?
Between October and March, the weather in India is predominantly warm, sunny and dry. December and January can be cooler, particularly in the higher Himalaya. Visit the southern states from November through March, once the monsoon has ended.
Where to Go:
- Udaipur: For the ghats on Lake Pichola and famous local markets
- Dungriya Khurd Village: For a glimpse into rural Rajasthani life
- Jaipur: For rose-colored architecture, the huge Amber Fort and Palace of the Winds
- Agra: For the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Kinari Bazaar
- Ranthambore National Park: For the chance to see leopards, jackals, sloth bears, flying foxes and black bucks
- Lucknow: For the Bara Imambara mosque complex and shopping for chikan embroidery at the renowned markets
- Varanasi: For oil lamps on the Ganges, labyrinthian galis (lanes) and the Vishwanath Temple
- Shimla: For its beauty in the Himalayan foothills, and its history of once being the summer capital of British India. Get there via the Kalka-Shimla Toy Train, one of India's most incredible engineering feats and most scenic railway journeys, consisting of 102 tunnels, 864 bridges, and 919 curves. (Tip: Sit on the right side of the train - the scenery is most spectacular from that vista)
- Chandigarh: For the unbelievable Rock Garden by Nek Chand Saini and seeing a vision come to life from Le Corbusier's Master Plan with great assistance by Jeanneret.
- Amritsar: For the Golden Temple, but more so to appreciate and respect Sikhism and the sense of community and volunteerism that is core to their beliefs. Volunteer in the kitchen that feeds up to one million people a day, all through volunteers. It grabs your heart.
- Wagah Border: For the amusement. The daily evening flag ceremony at this Pakistan-India International border is sure to leave your speechless. Just go! It is so much fun!
New Zealand (December-March)
Photo by Susan Tuckey, Penguins2PolarBears. Akaroa - 2010 - Too beautiful for words
Between December and March, you can expect bright, sunny days in the low 60s to mid-70s. This is an ideal time of year for small-group outdoor adventures, from the beaches to the mountains.
Where to Go:
- Auckland: For hot springs, horse trekking and wine tasting
- Rotorua: For mountain biking, the Lake Ōkareka Walkway and redwood tree walks
- Christchurch: For the TranzAlpine train ride, hiking and adventures on the Banks Peninsula, in the Southern Alps and on the Canterbury Plains
- Franz Josef Glacier: For the glacier lookout, heli-hiking and guided ice walks
- Fjordland National Park: For Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and Lake Te Anau
- Queenstown: For Lake Wakatipu, jetboating and hot pools
- Kaikoura: For the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins; a fantastic opportunity
- Akaroa: For the amazing drive, not far from Christchurch. Indulge in great fish and chips; swim with dolphins; and experience gift shops selling authentic hand-crafted goods.
And of course, our northern hemisphere winters are the best time to go to Antarctica... but you already knew that.
Ready to go? Let’s chat.