Many travel destinations have more visitors during a high season, when the weather is best, during holidays and festivals, or perhaps just because of habitual migration. These are often important reasons; travellers accept the crowds and inflated prices as trade-offs.
Occasionally, even sensible travellers disregard their guidebook’s first chapter (“When To Go”) and visit during the “wrong” season – and they win! The weather is not unpleasant, the prices are heavily discounted, the streets are free, the locals are more open, and new perspectives are unveiled. And sometimes, while out picking wild asparagus, the sky bursts with rainbows, and you really wonder: why is this the low season?
We’re interested in hearing your stories of low season wins (especially stories that are repeatable ;).
Santorini in winter
This Greek island is highly seasonal, with frenzied summers and desolate winters. For most people, summer is best: the island takes its doors off the hinges and the party is on. But only in winter can one really feel the beauty of isolation on a remote volcanic island. In summer, the sky is a monotonous blue and the horizon is covered by a haze that limits visibility. Throngs of tourists crowd Oía in search for the “world’s best sunset” only to see an orange ball descend a bit, then disappear. Once the crowds cease by the end of November, businesses and hotels put of their shutters and most people go to their winter homes in Athens. By January the streets are clear except for roaming dogs and the wind. Winter days are not always warm enough to swim, even sometimes cold, but otherwise the elements are at their best. In winter, the sky in this amphitheatre-of-the-gods is the main act. From the brink of the caldera you can watch storm clouds turn the sea into mercury, honey or chrome. Sometimes the sky and sea kiss. On clear days the sea is an incandescent mirror. From hilltops you can see neighboring islands clearly and you have a feeling the earth was made for little toy men. Wildflowers and wild thyme cover the barren hills, and their smell is in the breeze. I’ve passed a few winters in Oía, and came to realize it isn’t hard to find to find an old house for rent if you ask around. You can stay for months instead of weeks at the same price.
Morocco in Summer
It’s mostly a bad idea to visit the desert in summer: it’s reaaaally hot. On this trip, however, because summer is low season, it was easy to rent a nice car at a discount in Marrakech for a road trip across the country. We survived thanks to its air conditioning, and limiting daytime activities to exploring the Atlas mountains, kasbahs, ksars, gorges, and other cool places. Most hotels were empty and discounted (except in one town, where we arrived quite late, the only hotel took advantage of us because they knew we had nowhere else to go). We went east to the dunes of Erg Chebbi. There were no other travelers there. It was easy to arrange a guide to take us trekking into the desert for an overnight stay (departing after sundown, and coming back before sunrise 😬☀️).
Shravasti’s Korean zen temple
Shravasti was one of the six largest cities in India during Gautama Buddha’s lifetime. Today, the foundations of it and other kingdoms from that era are under two meters of soil in what are now some of the poorest states of India. Buddhist pilgrims from all over the world come and for that reason there are temples that represent the traditions of many buddhist countries: Japan, Thailand, Korea, etc. I (Quinn) was invited by a friend I had just met – and little did I know would become my wife (Alma) – to visit and stay in Shravasti’s Korean temple in winter. It’s really cold in north India in January, but so too is it in Korea, and they had imported some of their traditional means for staying warm and cozy. There was a tea-house/library which has a fireplace outside, the chimney of which passed under the floor of the building and up the far side. We would wake before sunrise to meditate with the head monk, and afterwards sit around the fire while tea was being made, then spend the rest of the morning lounging on the nice warm floor of the tea house. There were seldom guests, so we had full access to the zen master during tea time to ask our questions about meditation. The mornings were hidden in mist, offering surreal walks through timeless villages. The only cost was to leave a donation.
Peschici in May
Quinn had to take a rest from our cycle tour to do some work while passing through this medieval seaside town in Gargano, Italy and Alma needed a meditation retreat in front of the sea. It was May, a bit rainy, but pleasant enough to spend afternoons wandering its many crooked stairs and alleys with gelato in hand. Many of the prime holiday rentals were empty. I inquired at a real estate office if they new any places for rent and found a sunset-view apartment a short walk up from the beach for $25/night.
Bogotá at Christmas
This is probably a good day to get a discount at hotels everywhere, but particularly in Colombia where Christmas is spent with family, hotels are empty. We found a room in a cute boutique hotel for only $20 on booking.com, which normally sold for $120. In general Colombia is pretty cheap all year round.