Meera Dattani finds there’s a spot in Asia suitable for a holiday whatever the season

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With differing climates and countless festivals, there’s no wrong time to visit Asia.

High season may offer dry, warm climes but off-season has its charms.

Then there are all the New Year festivities – and they’re not all on December 31 – while nature’s wonders bring springtime cherry blossom to Japan and summer flowers carpet China’s mountains.

Cast your eye over our calendar for some inspiration.


If clients are looking for winter sun, now’s the time. It’s dry, peak season for much of Asia, so there’s a wide choice of beach breaks. Suggest combining relaxation with sightseeing – maybe a classic Thai twin centre visiting Bangkok and an island.

Kuoni offers three nights in the Rembrant Hotel Bangkok and four nights in Centara Villas Koh Samui including flights from £1,382 (quote FE9377).

Or try: For something more unusual, suggest the month-long Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival in China, where they can admire the life-sized ice buildings, huge snow sculptures and colourful ice lanterns around the city. Explore has an 11-day tour that takes in the Harbin festival as well as the Terracotta Army at Xi’an and Hong Kong (from £2,448 including flights).


Lunar New Year festivities begin for much of Asia. Vietnam’s version, Tet Nguyen Dan, is celebrated with real gusto, with dragon parades and percussion – the louder the better. From the point of view of the climate, it’s one of the best months to visit the country, with dry, bright weather everywhere.

Suggest Cox & Kings’ 14-day Spirit of Vietnam private tour, from £2,855, which visits capital Hanoi, pretty Hoi An, imperial Hue and Ho Chi Minh City, and takes an overnight cruise on Halong Bay.

Or try: Singapore’s Chinatown is lively too, with lion dancers, music and red lanterns during the Chinatown Street Light Up and carnival-esque Chingay Parade.


Cherry blossom is in full bloom in Japan from late March to mid-April with ‘hanami’, or flower-viewing parties, in parks and temples – the Peninsula Tokyo hotel even offers cherry blossom themed menus.

InsideJapan’s nine-night Golden Route self-guided tour visits Tokyo, Hakone National Park and Kyoto (from £1,300 excluding flights), and Intrepid Travel’s nine-day Japan Express tour includes Tokyo, Nikko and Kyoto (from £1,195 excluding flights). Bear in mind, however, that this is one of the most popular times to visit Japan, so clients need to book as far in advance as possible.

Or try: It’s starting to hot up in Laos, so it’s a good time for visitors who like it warm but a little less crowded than earlier in the season. And there’s plenty to do.


This is one of the best times of year to visit Sri Lanka, and the island’s mix of beaches, temples, jungles, wildlife – and reasonable prices – make it a brilliant family adventure.

The Adventure Company’s 16-day Elephant Paradise has a departure during the Easter school holidays and includes elephant rides, camping in a tea plantation, and a jeep wildlife safari, among the highlights (from £2,085 per adult and £1,877 per child including flights).

Or try: Thailand’s Songkran Water Festival makes it an atmospheric time to visit, particularly in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.


With much of Asia heating up, it’s time to go farther south. Borneo is between monsoon seasons so the weather in this tropical, humid spot is at its driest.

Alongside some beautiful beaches and lush rainforests, tourists will find this island’s star attraction – orangutans. Premier Holidays offers a nine night package including flights, two nights in Kuala Lumpur and a week at Shangri-La’s five-star Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo.

Take a shuttle to sister resort Rasa Ria, and clients can visit the property’s 64-acre Nature Reserve where they’ll see orangutans plus other indigenous wildlife.

Or try: Spring is the time to try South Korea – it’s mild, and flowers bloom across the country. Regent Holidays’ eight-day Highlights of South Korea group tour visits Seoul’s palaces and markets, historic Gyeongju and the port city of Busan (from £1,095 excluding flights).


June heralds the start of a great three-month period in which to see southern China’s wetlands and lake district, with alpine flowers in full bloom in the mountains.

Incorporating BA’s new direct flights to Chengdu, Regent Holiday’s 13-day Highlights of Sichuan and Yunnan group tour costs from £2,645 including visits to see the Giant Pandas, Tiger Leaping Gorge and Zhongdian.

Or try: For diving and snorkelling, Malaysia’s east coast peninsula offers ideal sea conditions and sunny days.


It’s not quite peak season in Bali, so the island isn’t quite bursting at the seams yet, and travellers can enjoy the warm, dry days with an added refreshing breeze.

Travel 2 offers eight nights at Bali’s Alila Manggis resort in a Superior Room from £1,159, while Western & Oriental offers seven nights at the all-inclusive 100-room Samabe Bali Resort & Villas from £1,639, both including flights.

Or try: More active clients can also enjoy the region at this time of year – perhaps on Exodus’s new 17-day Volcanoes and Temples of Indonesia itinerary, which explores Java, Bali and Lombok (from £2,199 including flights).


While much of Asia is lashed by monsoons, August is the perfect time to visit one of the area’s lesser-known gems, Papua New Guinea. It’s the dry season, so trekking is at its best, and it’s also the time of the Mount Hagen Cultural Show, where more than 50 tribal groups dance and make music in traditional costumes.

Or try: August is the perfect time to head to the Bornean island of Sipadan, when green turtles gather for the mating season (hatchlings can be observed in September).

Dive Worldwide offers seven nights’ full-board at the Kapalai Dive Resort, dives and two nights at Sepilok Nature Resort for visits to the orangutan sanctuary (from £2,225 including flights).


Autumn in Kyoto is wonderful, with the red, yellow and gold leaves creating picturesque scenes among its Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines.

Suggest a white-water boat trip along the Hozugawa River to catch autumn colours by the Tanba mountains. InsideJapan offers an 11-night Kyoto Autumn Leaves and Culture trip (from £2,395 including flights, trains and accommodation).

Or try: As the monsoon ends and just before high season begins, the kingdom of Bhutan comes into its own. There is a glut of monastic festivals at the end of September, and trekkers enjoy clear mountain views and the activities of the rice harvest.



Flavour of the moment Burma is a good choice for October. It’s just before high season starts, so while the weather is still good, crowds at popular sights including Bagan, Inle Lake and Yangon’s Schwedagon Pagoda will be sparser and there won’t be quite the same struggle to secure those sought-after hotel rooms and river cruise cabins.

Next year will see the launch of two ships on the Ayeyarwady: Orcaella from Orient-Express Hotels launches in June, while the all-suite Sanctuary Ananda will set sail in December.

Or try: The start of Nepal’s dry season is one of the best times to visit. Monsoon rains turn the countryside a lush green, Himalayan views are crystal-clear and temperatures are near-perfect for trekking. KE Adventures offers trekking holidays for all levels, including accommodation in Kathmandu, guides and food (from £1,595 with flights).


In Cambodia, it’s the end of the monsoon, which brings dry weather and the year’s coolest and most comfortable chance to explore the temples at Angkor Wat.

A Mekong Cruise is a great way to experience Cambodia, and APT’s 14-day Vietnam and Cambodia Highlights tour is a sailing on AmaLotus from Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam up into Cambodia, visiting Phnom Penh, rural villages and Tonle Sap Lake before heading to Siem Reap. A November departure starts from £4,425 including flights and transfers.

Or try: As the east coast of peninsula Malaysia experiences storms, the west coast and the highlands come into their own. Luxurious beach choices abound, from resorts around Langkawi to private-island resort Pangkor Laut.


Hong Kong can be humid and hot, but not in December. Dry and mild, it’s perfect for meandering through local markets, taking the cable car up to Victoria Peak and the ferry over to Kowloon.

It’s also buzzing with the merriment of the city’s WinterFest and is a great time to shop in the run-up to Christmas. There are sales all month and the malls are decked with decorations.

Or try: Much of Asia is in high, dry season. For something different, G Adventures’ four-day Sailing Thailand – Phuket to Koh Phi Phi, takes small groups on skippered catamarans around the Andaman Sea islands (from £529 excluding flights).