Top Five Picks for Off-Season Hotspots

  • WHL Group
  • 1 September 2010

School is back in session and summer is sadly coming to an end in the northern hemisphere. Luckily many holiday deals are commencing. To help you make a decision about where to go to satisfy any unfulfilled travel cravings, the WHL Group presents here five of its favourite off-season autumn holiday destinations north of the equator.

Valley Church Beach on Antigua
Overlooking the turquoise waters of the Caribbean from the serene Valley Church Beach, Antigua

Antigua & Barbuda

Head to the islands in the heart of the Caribbean. While most travellers from the northern hemisphere prefer to travel to the Caribbean between November and February, the perennially perfect beach conditions and weather ensure Antigua and Barbuda a place on our list of autumn holiday locales. Antigua alone has 365 white, sandy beaches, but going to the beach is just scratching the surface of things to see and do on the islands. Activities range from sailing and diving at one of Barbuda’s 200 ship wrecks to visiting Barbuda’s Frigate Bird Sanctuary. Antigua and Barbuda have rich music, culture, song and dance, and centuries of traditions. If this isn’t enticing enough, hotel rates are significantly lower at this time of year.

Women in traditional dress in Cartagena, Colombia
Traditional dancers wear colourful dresses along the Caribbean Sea in Cartagena, Colombia. Photo by Mona Hura

Cartagena, Colombia

Once a favourite looting ground for Caribbean pirates, Cartagena is Colombia’s most popular holiday spot. Located on the country’s Caribbean coast, it is a spirited city with colourful buildings and lively residents. Founded in 1533, the city comprises the Ciudad Amurallada, or old walled city, and the modern Bocagrande. Beautiful Spanish architecture can be seen in the walled city, a UNESCO-recognised World Heritage Site, especially the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas fortress that was built in the 17th century and the colonial houses. Cartagena’s cultural heritage isn’t its only draw. The beaches of Cartagena, gorgeous scenery and delicious cuisine make it a spectacular choice for a holiday. High season begins in December, so travel here in autumn before the prices go up and ahead of Cartagena becoming South America’s most popular destination!

A Yi ethnic minority celebration in Lijiang, China
Members of the Yi ethnic minority celebrate after a wedding ceremony in the mountains outside of Lijiang, China

Lijiang, China

Rich cultural and historical traditions along with the kindness of the local residents have made Lijiang a popular destination for Chinese and foreign tourists alike. Its Old Town was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 and the city’s unique architecture stems from its location at the confluence of Tibet, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces. Lijiang is surrounded by dramatic landscapes and snow-capped mountains where hiking and cycling are popular outdoor activities. The majority of the city’s inhabitants are ethnic minorities, particularly the Naxi, Yi and Bai, and there are many ways to experience the local, traditional way of life, particularly on a homestay trek. Autumn brings drier weather, cheaper hotel rates and fewer tourists to Lijiang. Don’t forget your hiking boots!

The Užupis District of Vilnius, Lithuania
Situated on a hill, the Užupis District has spectacular views of the Vilnius Old Town. Seen here (from left to right) in late autumn are the Church of the Holy Mother of God, the Church of St. Michael the Archangel and Church Museum.

Vilnius, Lithuania

The bizarre bust of Frank Zappa isn’t the only reason we love Vilnius. Crowned the European Capital of Culture in 2009, this picture-perfect city has one of the largest World Heritage-listed old towns in the world; ; in spite of invasions, it has beautifully preserved Baroque, Gothic and Renaissance structures. Wandering through Vilnius’ labyrinthine streets and spending time in the living museum that is the city’s Old Town transports you back to medieval Lithuania. Vilnius residents are no strangers to occupation, and because of it delight in independence, cultural events and festivals. Even the capital has its eccentricities, like the self-proclaimed independent city called the Republic of Užupis. If you’re more interested in history, travel a short distance to the medieval island castle of Trakai. Fewer tourists travel to Lithuania in autumn as the weather is turning colder, but we think it’s the perfect time to experience Vilnius without the crowds.

The turquoise waters of the Gulf of Hammamet, Tunisia

The Gulf of Hammamet, Tunisia, as seen from the whitewashed buildings in the ancient medina

Hammamet, Tunisia

Stunning whitewashed buildings aren’t only found in Greece. Though it’s billed as North Africa’s premier beach destination and is better known as the ‘Tunisian St. Tropez,’ Hammamet is a seaside destination with much more to offer those in search of R and R. The city itself is surrounded by the ancient fortification of the Hammamet Kasbah and the narrow back alleys that reach toward the old medina are full of bright, whitewashed buildings with blue trim and intricate architectural designs. Hammamet and the surrounding region of Tunisia have a glorious history and ancient Roman baths famous for healing mineral waters are located within the city’s medina, while the Roman ruins of Pupput are only three kilometres away. The cooler autumn climate and Hammamet’s proximity to the capital, Tunis, make trips to Tunis and Carthage as easy as those to other Roman ruins, like Thuburbu Majus and Dougga. The combination of past and present, the Mediterranean climate and off-season deals pin Hammamet as our pick in Africa.

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adventure travel, Antigua & Barbuda, architecture & landmarks, beaches, China, cities, Colombia, Lithuania, outdoors, top five, Tunisia, WHL Group newsletter, world heritage,

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