Best places to visit in low season: Avoid the crowds in these nine tourist hotspots

Don't travel in high season. Unless you really need to. Unless you're bound by work hours or school holidays or the thing you really want to visit is only open at a certain time of year.

If those things don't apply, then you'd be crazy to go to a destination when everyone else is going, to put up with raised prices and lack of availability and so many other travellers sharing your space just because that is the time that everyone is officially supposed to go.

Often, you'll find the shoulder seasons are better. The weather is OK. The crowds and down. Prices are reasonable. And then, sometimes, you'll actually discover that low season – the time no one is supposed to want to go – is the best.


Rome, Italy - May 16 2018: Example of overtourism at Trevi Fountain in Rome satjan5cover - 52 Things in 2019 - Julietta Jameson
Credit: Shutterstock

Summer crowds at Rome's Trevi Fountain. Photo: Shutterstock

When everyone else goes: July-September

When you should go: January-March

Summer in Rome is a nightmare. The city is chockers with tourists, huge groups of which will be constantly pushing past you and yelling around you the entire time you're there. The weather is stinking hot. And half the city packs up and goes on holiday in August, meaning a lot of the good restaurants are closed. Early in the year, however, it's paradise. The weather is crisp and clear, tourist numbers are low, queues are short, and locals all seem to be in a good mood.


When everyone else goes: July-November

When you should go: May-June


You don't want to be trekking in the Peruvian Andes, doing trails like the Inca, the Salkantay and the Lares, in true rainy season, from December to March: that's no time to be exposed to the mountain elements. May to June, however, is the tail end of the rainy season, when the grass is lush and green, the odd shower still falls, but it's usually beautifully sunny, and the tourist hordes haven't yet properly descended. This is the time to strap on your boots.


Crowded waterhole with Elephants, zebras, springbok and orix. Etosha national Park, Ombika, Kunene, Namibia. BREAKOUT SunNov4cover - Ugly but beautiful - Ben Groundwater
Credit: Shutterstock

Wildlife crowds the waterholes in Namibia's dry season. Photo: Shutterstock

When everyone else goes: June-September

When you should go: December-March

Dry season is high season for most game reserves in Africa: not only are you unlikely to get soaked while you're out spotting wildlife, but water sources are scarce for the animals, meaning they're easier to find. That's June to September in Etosha, Namibia's famed national park. However, rainy season, from December to March, does have its charms: the air is clear and crisp, the animals are breeding, large herds roam the salt pan, and rainfall is mostly in the form of predictable afternoon downpours, which are pretty spectacular for photographers.


WHISTLER, CANADA - MAY 14: Tourists and visitors at the Whistler Ski Resort, Canada. Whistler is visited by over 2 million people each year for skiing during winter and mountain biking during summer.

Photo: Shutterstock

When everyone else goes: December-April

When you should go: May-September

When I say everyone goes to Whistler from December to April, I mean everyone from Australia. This is the winter ski season, and Australians love it. In fact, winter is pretty much all Whistler is known for. However, head there in summer and you'll find a village transformed. The party atmosphere is gone, replaced with an almost wholesome appreciation for nature: this is the time to go hiking through beautiful forest, cross-country mountain-biking for more gentle good times, or do some hardcore downhill mountain-biking if that's more your style.


Museums Island, Berlin.
BREAKOUT satoct13Berlin - four distinctive Berlin neighbourhoods - text Brian Johnston
Credit: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

When everyone else goes: July-September

When you should go: December-January

Northern Europe is great in summer. It's when everyone comes out to play, when parks fill with people drinking and hanging out with friends long into warm, sunny evenings. Berlin is no exception. However, the city is also amazing around Christmas and New Year's, when celebration mode takes hold and no one seems to care how cold or ugly the weather is. It also has a locals-only feel that you'll never find in summer.


Queenstown, New Zealand

Photo: Shutterstock

When everyone else goes: June-September

When you should go: March-April; October-November

Winter is high season for Queenstown, when everyone piles in to go skiing and snowboarding by day and live it up in the town's bars by night. Summer is also becoming increasingly popular, with plenty of warm-weather activities drawing people in. But how about spring and autumn? Too hot to ski, too cold to swim. But this is a great time to be in town, to hire a bike and ride along the lakefront, to bungy jump or skydive, or to just hang out in town and soak up the more relaxed vibes.


A pedestrian takes a photographing while crossing the Brooklyn Bridge during a snow storm in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018. A fast-moving winter storm, growing stronger by the hour, has grounded 3,000 flights, delayed rail travelers in the busy Northeast Corridor and closed schools in New York and Boston. Photographer: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg

Photo: Bloomberg

When everyone else goes: May-October

When you should go: December-March

It's true, the weather is most comfortable in NYC from May to October. But, as they say, there's no such things as bad weather – just the wrong clothes. If you want to save money on accommodation and attractions, plus score restaurant bookings and theatre tickets, try hitting New York from December to March. The run-up to Christmas is a magical time to be in the city, and afterwards, when the crowds die down and everyone goes back to work, you'll have a ball with the right attitude, and the right clothes.


When everyone else goes: June-September

When you should go: November-December

Summer is a popular time to travel around Europe, but people might be surprised to find that southern destinations such as Seville, in Spain, can be baking hot in the middle of the year. We're talking up to 40 degrees in months like July and August. If you want to see Seville at its best, with lower prices, fewer tourists and better weather – as well as pre-Christmas street parades, markets and a general air of celebration – head there in November and December.


When everyone else goes: December-March

When you should go: May-October

Yes, May to October is rainy season in the Thai capital, and in the rest of the country as well. That might turn off some people, particularly given it's also the hottest time of year. However, rain in Bangkok in monsoon season usually means tropical downpours, the sort of storms you can hide out from for half an hour or so and then be on your way. There are also fewer tourists in the city at this time of year, prices are lower, and availability is higher. Well worth considering.

Have you visited any destinations in low season? Which ones would you recommend? Any that didn't work out well?



​See also: The best places to go for a holiday in March

See also: Avoid: 10 destinations overrun with tourists (and where to go instead)