WHEN to go where?
Middle East and North Africa
The climate in most of this region is uniformly torrid, except for the Sahara desert. The flatter the land the hotter the weather, especially in summer, so if you’re hot head up to the highlands, where altitude can make winter downright cold – as can desert nights in all seasons.
The West African climate goes from hot and dry in the Sahel, just south of the Sahara, to hot and humid along the tropical coast. The nearer the coast, the greater the rainfall. Summers are stifling and muggy, winters are dryer and cooler. As with most of Africa, avoid the rainy season – rain makes dirt roads muddy and travel difficult – and you’ll constantly be swatting mosquitoes.
East and Central Africa
This is the Africa of the tropics, with majestic rainforests and humidity so thick you could cut it with a knife. In the northern part, around the Horn of Africa, the weather is hot, with some areas – such as the below-sea level Danakil Depression in Eritrea – among the hottest on earth.
The region also has some of the highest cities on the planet, with cold nights and cold winters. You might freeze, but you’ll take amazing photographs in the crystal clear light of Ethiopian winters.
Don’t forget – the further south you go, the colder it gets in winter! April to October, autumn and winter, are usually the best for weather and climate – no rain, warm sunny days, and cool nights. The rains, from Nov-March, are bearable as long as you are well above sea level. Madagascar, go in September or October.
US and Canada
A nice season is during the fall foliage in the northeast US and Quebec, followed closely by winter across half the US and all of Canada. The worst season? Mid-winter in the windswept prairies and high summer in the southeast US are tied. May can be beautiful anywhere on the West Coast, as can September.
The climate in most of Central America is hot and humid – especially near the coast. To escape the heat, go upwards, into the mountains. The dry season between Dec-April is the most pleasant travel climate. The rest of the year, brace yourself for heavy rains and tropical storms.
Despite variations that always occur, the weather throughout the Caribbean is pretty similar. The best time to visit is sometime between Nov-April, although seasons on some islands are shorter. The rainy season takes up the rest of the time, but of particular note is Sept-Oct, the hurricane season.
Depending on which side you’re standing from the Equator, winter and summer are reversed.
In the north, in Colombia and Venezuela, the dry season and best for visits is usually winter, sometime between Christmas and Easter.
To visit Macchu Picchu go in winter, between May and mid-September.
Chile, more than 4000km long, has several types of climate, as does Argentina – they range from desert through tropical to nearly Antarctic – from bikini to parka in a single country.
In the Amazon, humidity is just about 100% most of the time with violent storms in the afternoon.
The best time to travel is June to October. If you’re headed to Rio, the Jun-Sept summer is pleasant, although the water can be a bit cold.
Central and South Asia
Central Asia’s winters are frigid and snow is frequent, with springtime the best season to visit. The South Asia climate, by contrast, is warmer and more humid, with monsoons for part of the year – and cold winters. The climate is also extremely diverse – a country like India ranges from tropical in the south to temperate in the north, near the Himalayas.
East and Southeast Asia
Climate for this region ranges from temperate Japan in the north to tropical Borneo in the south – and everything in-between. Southeast Asia has a tropical climate with plenty of rainfall, except in the more northern mountainous areas, where the weather is a bit cooler. The northern part of the continent is more diverse – it can be very cold in Japan in winter.
The European continental climate tends to be relatively stable – cold in winter, which lasts from around Dec-Feb, becoming warmer as summer (Jul-Aug) nears. The further north you go the colder it becomes, with the northernmost tips nearly Artic in winter and the south scorching in summer. Spring can start early and then freeze again. There are distinct rainy seasons in the autumn (Oct-Nov) although areas with Atlantic coasts seem to have longer rainy seasons. And even if the London climate tends to be miserable in December, there’s a wonderful Christmas spirit in the city so don’t let weather alone be your judge.
Australia and New Zealand has a good travel climate almost anytime, although Australia’s summer (Dec-Feb) can be quite hot – but that’s what beaches are for! Pacific Islands’ weather differs from island to island, although they do share in common tropical wind systems and even cyclones, so – as you should for every other place – check before you go.