China and Central Asia spans a region that stretches from the China Sea to the waters of the Caspian and encompasses a landscape that ranges from vast plains and arid deserts, to rugged mountains and tropical jungles. Generally summers in Northeast China are hot, whilst winter temperatures can plunge well below freezing. In the south east of the country though there is plenty of rain, with semitropical summers and cool winters, whilst the south west enjoys a reputation for a temperate climate. The best times to visit generally are spring and autumn, when the temperatures across the country range between 10-20˚C.
The former Soviet republics of Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan lie amongst the arid deserts to the west and their climate is typically summed up by minimal rainfall and sharp temperature fluctuations, with blistering summers and cold winters. Kyrgyzstan has more rainfall and is therefore more lush and green with much of the mountains covered in pine trees and is best visited between May and October. Afghanistan’s weather is marked by a wide temperature variation across the country, from the drought-ridden plateaus of the south west to the sub-arctic conditions of the mountains in the north east. The best time to visit Tibet is between April and October, when temperatures rise and the festival season and the landscapes are at their best. Be aware that heavy rains can sometimes make travelling difficult though. Mongolia is subject to an extreme continental climate, with long cold winters, short summers and the effects of the Siberian Anticyclone, making the best time to visit between late May and early September.
Read our quick guide to some of the countries in Central Asia
Europe enjoys a predominantly temperate, continental climate that is strongly influenced by the Gulf Stream, with the western coasts being affected by a prevailing maritime climate, whilst the south benefits from a decidedly Mediterranean outlook. Eastern and Southern Europe enjoy hot summers mild to cold winters depending how far east you travel from the Mediterranean. The best time to visit Montenegro, Romania and Albania is generally between April and September, when both the Mediterranean coast and the sub-alpine interior both benefit from warm summers.
Turkey’s varied topography provides a range of climatic conditions, from the muggy and damp Balkan coast and the semi arid steppes of Central Anatolia, to the Aegean and Mediterranean attractions of the Turquoise Coast. Spring and autumn provide the best times to visit, when the temperatures are more clement and the crowds thinner. In the Caucasus meanwhile, the weather is affected by the clash of maritime and continental air masses, which provide hot summers and mild winters. The Caucasus Mountains generally protect the region from the Arctic air masses, while the Caspian Sea shields it from the hot air of Central Asian summers. The best times to visit are generally spring and autumn. Albania typically enjoys warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters, with the western half of the country being generally milder.
The climate of much of the Subcontinent - which includes Sri Lanka, India, Bhutan, Nepal & Pakistan - is dominated by heat, monsoons and the Himalayas. Northern India enjoy a predominantly dry, desert climate, with the months between October and March providing the best time to visit. Kashmir experiences a continental climate with cold winters and warm summers, which, like Ladakh, is best visited between April to October. The south west monsoon, which arrives around the beginning of June, begins along the Keralan coast and makes its way north east, bringing heavy rains and high humidity across much of the country. The best time to visit therefore is generally during the cool, dry season between November and March, although the northern regions can get cold during the winter months. Whilst its proximity to the Equator means that Sri Lanka enjoys a relatively constant year-round temperature, it too is affected by the vagaries of the monsoons. The best time to visit the southern and western coasts therefore are between December and March, whilst the east coast is best from the end of April until September.
The vast landmass of Pakistan has a continental climate that is characterised by extremes in temperatures. Affected by the monsoon season to a similar degree to India, its topographical extremes run from the snow-covered peaks of the north and across the hot Balochistan Plains to the cooler coastal strip to the south; tourism mainly take place in the north of the country and the best time to visit is May to October. Bangladesh on the other hand has a tropical monsoon climate, with wide variations in rainfall, humidity and temperature. The Himalayan regions are best visited during the autumn season, when the weather is clear and dry and temperatures in the mountains are not too cold. Spring (April to early June) is probably the best time to see wildlife in Nepal, when the rhododendrons are in bloom and the Terai grasses have been cut.
Guatemala enjoys a reputation for one of the best climates in the Americas, with warm days and pleasantly mild evenings year round, although the Petén and the coastal regions can be humid throughout the year. The rainy season runs from May to October, with the tourist peaks falling between November and March and July and August. Mexico’s climate on the other hand is very much determined by its topography. An ideal year round destination, the wet season generally runs from June to October, with September to mid-October heralding the arrival of the hurricane season and November and March/April being considered the best time to visit. Cuba enjoys a hot tropical climate, although winter (January/February) can get appreciably cooler, especially in the highlands. Dry season generally runs from November to April, with the main tourist season following the pattern of Guatemala.
In South America the seasons are reversed and its sheer size and variety makes it difficult to provide accurate weather predictions. In general, Northern Argentina, Bolivia and Peru are best visited between April and November, when there is little rain and the weather is reasonably settled. Winter on the Altiplano though (June-August) can get very cold, with temperatures dropping below freezing. Ecuador sitting on the equator can be visited all year round while the weather in the Galapagos Islands tends to be more determined by the ocean currents, with January to May being more tropical and June to December being drier and more overcast. The Amazon is hot and humid year round, with the wet season running from December to April, whilst on Brazil’s Pantanal the best time to visit in between April and November. Chile’s thin strip of territory crosses 38 degrees of latitude and encompasses everything from the dry, rainless Atacama Desert down to Patagonia, where the weather can be famously unpredictable, especially during the summer months.
Much of the Middle East is warm and dry throughout the year, however the coastal regions and the deserts can see rapid changes in temperatures, especially during the summer months when the deserts can become unbearable and the coasts can experience high humidity. Syria and Lebanon enjoy a predominantly Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and mild winters. The best times to visit are generally the spring and autumn months. Oman on the other hand is hot all year round, with little or no rainfall (except around Salalah), making the winter months best. Jordan is best in the spring (March to May) and autumn (mid-September to mid-November), although be aware of the khamseen, the hot desert wind that blows in from the Arabian interior in the late spring/early summer. The Yemen is the most fertile area in the Arabian Peninsula, benefitting from the monsoons that come in from the south and south west twice a year. It is best therefore just after the rains, in April and May and September and October.
Iran is best from late March until early May and again between September and the end of October. The country enjoys a rich diversity of climatic conditions, with the north experiencing hot summers and cold winters, whilst the Persian Gulf benefits from warm winter days and a pleasant spring. Iraqi Kurdistan however is typified by an extreme continental climate, with hot summers in the subtropical south and bitterly cold winters in the high mountains. Spring is considered the best season to visit, when the Kurds celebrate the Kurdish New year and temperatures average between the high teens and the mid twenties. Autumn too is dry and mild but on the high plains the winter temperatures can drop sharply, barely reaching above freezing.
Sandwiched between the Mediterranean coast and the Sahara Desert, North Africa can generally be split between mild winters and hot summers. Egypt is renowned as a year-round destination, but the peak season runs from late November through to February, when average temperatures along the Nile Valley are around 20˚C. The Red Sea is best in late spring and early autumn, but remember that during the winter the Nile and the deserts can be cold, especially in the early mornings. Morocco is best between October and April, when temperatures average around 30˚C during the day and drop down to around 15˚C at night. Winters can be perfect in the southern regions, but the desert can be cold and if you are planning to hike in the mountains, the months between April-October are best.
Summers in Algeria and Libya can be blisteringly hot and between March and June the coastal areas can be affected by hot, dusty winds from the desert. The coastal zones and the northern mountains enjoy a Mediterranean climate, with warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. The Sahara however can produce extreme temperatures in the summer months, making February to April and October and November the best times to visit. Sudan is split between the dry northern regions and the tropical and humid south. Generally the months between September and April are best, but try to avoid April to July, which are both the hottest and wettest times of the year. In Mali the climate ranges from tropical savannah to arid desert, with the wet season generally running from late May to early November. The best time to visit is between November and January, when the climate is milder.
Across Indochina climatic conditions are very much affected by the monsoons, with weather patterns being dominated by the southwesterly monsoon between May and September and the north east monsoon between October and April. In southern Vietnam the dry season is from December to late April, but along the central coast the pattern is reversed, with the rains staring between September and November. In the north it is generally warm and sunny from October to December, but the temperatures then begin to drop with the onset of winter. The best times to visit Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia therefore is generally between September and December and between March and April. Be aware of the typhoon season, which generally runs from August to November.
Thailand’s climate is tropical and can generally be categorised into three seasons - wet (May-October), cool (November-February) and hot (March-May). The rains tend to come in short tropical downpours and tend to peak in September and October. The cooler season is the best time to visit, although temperatures can still be in the 30s C. The weather in the south of the country tends to be more consistent than other areas, although the Andaman coast can get more rain that the rest of the country. Myanmar (Burma) is affected in much the same way as Thailand, with the optimum time to visit being between November and March – and if you don’t mind the odd shower May is a good time to visit when tourist are rare. Borneo has an equatorial climate, with high temperatures throughout the year. It also receives an average rainfall of some 3,000mm a year, with the heaviest rains tending to fall between November and March.
Kenya and Tanzania are generally year round destinations but April to May and November tend to be the wet season. The region is influenced by the presence of Lake Victoria to the west and by the monsoons of the Indian ocean along the coast. The safari season generally runs between June and October and December and March, with the weeks between July and September being best for the annual migration of the wildebeest in the Masai Mara. The dry season falls between June and October, when animals tend to congregate around the rapidly shrinking watering holes. Mozambique is best during the winter months of May to November, when temperatures are cooler and there is less chance of rain. Be aware though that the cyclone season during January and February can bring a lot of torrential rain to southern Mozambique.
Ethiopia’s wet season falls between May and September and it can get very wet in July and August, especially in the northern highlands. The best time to visit is during the dry season (October-April) for the historic route and the Simien Mountains, between August and October for the Omo Valley and November to January for the Danakil Depression. Straddling the Equator, the Congo’s climate is very hot and humid with the rains in the north falling between April and October, whilst south of the Equator the monsoons begin in November and end in March. Southern Africa tends to be split between wet and dry seasons, with July to October being the best time to visit Zambia, whilst Namibia fares better between May and October. If you want to see Victoria Falls at their best though, the peak time is between February and April.