The 12 Perfect Places For Each Month of the Year

July 8, 2024

The 12 Perfect Places For Each Month of the Year

May 29, 2023

“And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, not dimmed by familiarity, and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.” - Pico Iyer

Who am I to write a travel blog post today when the famed travel writer and philosopher (and my hero) Pico Iyer starts teaching at MEA Santa Fe tonight? But, I’m struck by just how much a vacation can allow you to vacate your monotonous habits and threadbared identities. My recent Iceland trip was the third time my partner Oren and I’d tried to make the pilgrimage to the land of fire and ice, elves and gnomes, and more shades than Pantone ever imagined. Illness and Covid put a halt to those plans, but the third time was a charm. As if there’s a travel god who karmically is repaying me for being in the hospitality business for so long, I can’t think of a better week to have been in Iceland. 

This got me thinking. Are there perfect times to be in certain places? For me, Iceland was the right time, the right place, and the right company. Of course, it’s often more expensive during these times of year, but there’s always RVing, camping, and Airbnbs as an option. As of today, here’s my line-up of the best places to visit by month.

January. The holidays afford us extra time to travel, so if you’re from the U.S, it’s an opportune time to make the long trek to South Africa (New York City to Johannesburg is 15 hours non-stop). Being in the southern hemisphere, it’s warmer and it’s a great time of year to see wildlife at the preserves. It’s also festival season including Kaapse Klopse (Cape Town Minstrel Carnival), on January 2 and 3 when tens of thousands of troupes play an eclectic mix of Indian, Malay, Indonesian, East African and European music. 

February. In 2013, I was fortunate enough to experience the once-every-twelve-years, largest collection of humanity in history at the Maha Kumbh Mela, the devotional Hindu festival that brings 100 million people to the Ganges River. As I like to say, if you don’t love humanity - in all its blessed, smelly forms, you won’t like India. If you go in February, make sure you experience the Jaisalmer Desert Festival February 22-25 in the majestic Rajasthan.

March. Japan is a sublime, otherworldly place and my favorite month there is early spring (late March), the quintessential time for flower viewing, known as Hanami with peach and cherry blossoms stealing the show. Being a hot springs connoisseur, this is also a great time to experience the onsens while it’s still brisk outside and they haven’t jacked up the summer prices yet.

April. Speaking of otherworldliness, New Orleans is one of the few cities in America that doesn’t really feel American. And, yet the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest is a classic American community experience with neighbors throwing BBQs in their front yards and such a colorful, idealistic mix of cultures. Don’t miss the gospel tent as it’s usually the most soulful. This is also a comfy time to be here before the summer humidity.

May: Morocco is one of my favorite countries to visit any time of year, but I particularly appreciate the Festival of World Sacred Music in Fez in late May when you’ll witness the meeting of Sardinian polyphonic singing with the Mongolian overtone chants and all kinds of other unique musical collaborations. It’s warm but not hot which is perfect for being a flaneur in Marrakech, one of the world’s great walking cities, and then head to the coast to windsurf as the season starts in the spring in Essaouira.

June: If you want to imagine what it’s like to gorge on awe, visit Iceland for Summer Solstice. The land of the midnight sun offers you round the clock, round the island beauty whether it’s the blooming lupine, the melting glaciers, or the multitudes of waterfalls. The very well-organized tourist industry truly appreciates their short window this time of year to make króna so they bend over backwards and are proud of their country. Have a puffin-fancy? This is a perfect time of year to see these rare birds. And, here’s an itinerary for a hot springs tour (we tried four of the five places mentioned). 

July: Italy!
I know that may sound absurd to those of you who think I’m talking about Rome, Florence, or the Italian beach towns. They’re hot and way too crowded. That’s why I would recommend experiencing Il Palio de Siena on July 2 (a Renaissance fair meets bareback horseback race that gives you an indelible inkling of Italy at its best), check out the nearby secluded, secular monastery Eremito (I wrote about my experience there last summer in this blog post) and then hightailing it for the cooler Lake Garda or town of Belluna in the Italian Alps. Rent a car and enjoy all the little Alpine villages at the best time of year. 

August: Bali!
Ok, I know: a Balinese aficionado wouldn’t recommend Bali during peak season, but - to tell you the truth - year round is peak season in overcrowded Bali these days and I appreciate this less rainy, buggy time of year. The Tirta Gangga festival happens this month at the splendid water palace. It’s a perfect way to experience Balinese culture. Once you arrive on this magical island, the first thing to do is to ask about whether any cremation ceremonies are happening while you’re there as this cultural celebration is the ultimate window into the devotional Balinese lifestyle (and “deathstyle"). 

September:
Speaking of magic, Peru isn’t just the land of ayahuasca, it has more landmarks than I have fingers. Machu Picchu, Cusco (one of my fav hotels in the world, Monasterio, is there) the Sacred Valley, Lima (primarily for its cuisine), Vinicunca Mountain, and even the underrated beaches. September offers highland trekking without the crowds and the rains. And, you just might meet a shaman along the way.

October:
I’ve gotta put a plug in for my favorite time of year in New Mexico due to all of the color whether it’s the kaleidoscope of changing leaves in the mountain trees (Ski Santa Fe offers chair lift visual tours of the aspens on weekends) or the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, the world’s largest hot air balloon extravaganza. It’s also past the big summer tourist rush in Santa Fe so it's easier to get into SF’s famous restaurants. The Santa Fe International Film Festival and Artist Studio Tours also happen this month. 

November
. One of my favorite trips of all time was spending Dia de los Muertos in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico in early November. If you love the film “Coco,” you’ll appreciate this colonial, artistic city that goes all out when it comes to this annual celebration. While it can occasionally feel overrun with too many expats, the local families’ faithful and colorful remembrance of those who’ve passed is deeply inspiring especially if you hang out in one of the flower-filled cemetaries. 

December:
I’d balance your Summer Solstice in Iceland with Winter Solstice in New Zealand at the Aotearoa Stonehenge near Wellington, built only twenty years ago, not 5,000 years ago like the one in the U.K. I like kiwi-land this time of year because it’s at its greenest and affords a two-week vacation which is ideally how long it takes to leisurely explore both islands. In Auckland and Christchurch, there are usually large outdoor concerts on December 25 known as Christmas in the Park.

-Chip

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