Travelling during low season can be very rewarding. Great value flight and accommodation options are the main attraction for most, but certain places offer amazingly unique opportunities that can hugely add to the appeal and excitement.
In Asia in particular, one of the key benefits of travelling during off-season is less crowds, which means you can have a more authentic and exclusive holiday. Listed below are my top five Asian destinations that are perfect for luxury holidays during low season:
Although most travellers flock to the teardrop island between December and April, a vacation to Sri Lanka is great year-round. May to August can be a very good time to visit Sri Lanka’s tea country, particularly the most eastern parts around Ella. The weather is lovely for exploring the lush mountains and tea plantations on foot.
Equally, the east coast enjoys wonderfully dry and sunny weather if you are looking for a relaxing beach holiday in Sri Lanka, and for taking whale watching excursions by boat. The famous elephant gathering takes place in Minneriya National Park in the Cultural Triangle between July and October where you can see an awe-inspiring congregation of hundreds of Asian elephants.
Although the popular national parks in the south and west of the country remain closed during monsoon, the period between July and September is known as the “inter-monsoon” season, when sparing the odd shower, the weather is mostly hot and dry across the country. The temperatures remain high around 29 degrees Celsius, making it a brilliant option for families looking for a tropical summer holiday focusing on culture, history, food and pristine beaches.
Explore Sisindu T, a luxury private villa set in a tea plantation near the coast >> watch the video
You might think that the winters in this ancient Himalayan Kingdom would be too cold and harsh for a holiday in Bhutan, but except for the High Himalayas above 3,000 metres, the temperatures are usually very pleasant, especially in the valleys. The air is clearest with very little humidity and the mountains covered in snow are at their scenic best, making it an ideal time for photographing the majestic Himalayan vistas.
There are hardly any tourists, and the local life moves slower during this time of year in the villages since it is after the harvest season, so spending time with the farming communities is particularly rewarding, with lots of hearty meals and sitting around Bukhari stoves sipping butter tea. There are also a few beautiful festivals held during winter, such as Druk Wangyal Tshechu on Dochu-la Pass above Thimphu and Trongsa Tshechu in the ancient castle of Trongsa Dzong.
If you don’t mind cold nights, winter is an excellent time to be up north, in the High Himalayas, rambling along deserted trekking routes surrounded by the mighty snow caps! In Phobjikha Valley in Central Bhutan, you will have the chance to see the rare, black-necked cranes that migrate to Bhutan from Tibet every winter.
Dream about luxury holidays to Bhutan >> watch the video
Rainy season, also known as the green season, is a great time to take a luxury vacation to Cambodia. The colours are vibrant, and the air is fresh making photos really stand out. The common misconception is that it rains all the time in Southeast Asia during monsoon, but in reality, it only rains heavily for a few hours every day, especially in the evening, and you have plenty of sunshine during the rest of the day.
September and October see the wettest conditions and May to July is still relatively hot and dry which makes for a perfect time to go on holiday to Cambodia in the low season. You will have the Temples of Angkor almost to yourself, which is a truly surreal experience! During my travels across Cambodia during monsoon, I have particularly enjoyed visiting the floating villages on Tonle Sap and the countryside along the Mekong with the river in its full glory.
Taking a boat trip from Kratie to see the Irrawaddy Dolphins was very special and so was experiencing the jungle with the gibbons in Mondulkiri. For a truly relaxing and indulgent break, why not finish your Cambodian adventure with a few days on the pristine Song Saa Private Island in the stunning Koh Rong Archipelago? Sunsets and sunrises are utterly remarkable here, especially during monsoon.
If you can cope with high temperatures, summer is one of the best times to go on an Indian tiger safari. Hot and dry conditions in the jungles draw the animals to watering holes, and depleted forest cover makes sightings easier. I have been on many tiger safaris in India during summer months and have always enjoyed incredible sightings; my best so far has been spotting eight tigers in Bandhavgarh National Park in Central India on a single game drive!
I find the early morning safaris far more comfortable and refreshing in summer compared to the cold and misty winter mornings. Fewer tourists mean your safari experience is far more exclusive. However, if you prefer cooler temperatures, a holiday to India in the summer ‘low season’ is still possible if you head to the mountains where the weather is ideal for walking and hiking holidays. For a wellness focused holiday, monsoon is one of the best times of year to indulge in Ayurvedic therapies in Kerala in South India.
Seeing cherry blossoms and autumn colours on holiday in Japan have been two of my most cherished travel experiences. However, if you wish to escape the maddening crowds and peak prices, it would be best to travel during summer and early winter. The period between mid-May and end of June is one of my favourite secret seasons to take a luxury Japan vacation.
The mild spring weather gives way to an early and vibrant summer where the stunning gardens of Japan are transformed into a floral bonanza. Temples and shrines are quieter, and many hotels offer attractive rates and have better availability. By the end of June, you may begin to see some occasional summer rains, but these are nothing compared to the monsoon showers.
If you are prepared to cope with some rains and occasional tropical storms, the period between September and late October is also a very good time to take a luxury holiday to Japan, especially for discovering urban areas and indoor cultural experiences including world-class museums, private ateliers and workshops, and amazing spas and onsens just to name a few.
Noto Peninsula, with its fascinating history, nature, and unique local culture, is an excellent region to explore in summer, as this is when you have a chance to witness one of the spectacular Kiriko festivals. Furthermore, the fishing villages along the rugged coast and the mountain villages with lush rice terraces offer plenty of opportunities to mingle with the locals and immerse yourself in the pristine countryside on hiking and cycling adventures on your vacation to Japan.
Kyotango area, just a couple of hours north of Kyoto, is also a great place to visit between May and September. Located on the Sea of Japan with a rugged coastline, the scenery is breath-taking. One of my favourite towns in the region is Ine with its preserved Funaya (boat houses). This area is great for discovering local crafts and cuisine, and for immersing yourself in the art of forest bathing.