Last minute holiday destinations

Need some late holiday inspiration? Here, we’ll regularly update the best last minute holiday destinations for you to visit over the next three months. To some travellers, booking three months in advance might not seem like ‘last minute’ at all, but if you’re hoping to do something that usually requires booking a year or so in advance, like hiking the Inca Trail, gorilla watching or climbing Kilimanjaro, then three months in advance is actually super last minute – especially if you need to get training in. Read on to find out what kind of adventures are waiting to be grabbed.

January last minute holidays

If you just want to embrace winter, then January has interesting options such as Japan, which – if you can find last minute spaces to go skiing or winter walking – is very de rigeur. Europe's mountains (including the Alps, Carpathians, Dolomites, Pyrenees and Sierra Nevada) also have plenty of snow for winter activities. Places like Scotland, Slovakia and Romania are not always the most obvious ones to book, but just as stunning and with much more tranquil vistas than some of the more traditional snow destinations. For more winter wanderlust, head to Sweden, Finland or Norway for snowshoeing, igloos, husky sledding, skating and, of course, seeing the Northern Lights.

For sunshine, it’s southeast Asia that you want, where it is dry and warm but not too hot. Other popular destinations at this time of year are the Galapagos Islands, where there are calmer seas and warm weather, although you might still get spots of rain. You'll find similar weather in Costa Rica, but in general January brings warm sun.

You might get a bargain in the Patagonia sale when it comes to the shop, but it's unlikely in the destination where summer warmth, long days and access to the whole region make it peak season. But if availability does pop up, it is magical at this time of year, and will get your new year off to the most inspiring start. Kerala in southern India is another great destination for some sun. The Himalayas, Delhi and the Golden Triangle are best avoided, though – they're freezing. However, if you bring your layers for those morning safaris, this is one of the best times for tiger watching. You won’t need layers in southwestern Sri Lanka, where the sun will shine. Just avoid travelling to the northeast, where the monsoon will have started.

Don’t write off Europe for sunshine off the pistes; parts of Andalucía can top 20°C in January and rainfall is rare. This is actually a much more pleasant time to take a walking or cycling holiday than midsummer – when 40°C heat makes any activity unfeasible. And if you head up into the mountains, you'll find plenty of the white stuff to keep you busy too.

February last minute holidays

Another tricky one for late availability – the beginning of the month is what is known as the ‘shoulder season’ in many countries, with more chances of late availability as February is outside the peak season. Until school half term holiday kicks in towards the end of the month, and then bookings can go crazy again. Also, a lot of families forget that February half term is coming, as they are just recovering from Christmas, so they also rush to book at the last minute. It is also hard to gauge where best to go at this time. Some unusual choices include carnival season in the likes of Venice or Trinidad. Which will blow away any winter worries, for sure. If you want to treat a loved one to a sunny holiday for Valentine’s Day, watch last minute availability cropping up in Southeast Asia, where it is dry and warm but not too hot. But hot enough for Valentines.

Kerala in southern India is a great destination for a bit of February sun. A wildlife holiday in Costa Rica is a top choice, too. The Galapagos Islands are wild and wonderful all year round, but in February you will love the calmer seas and warmer weather – although there's the risk of showers too. Bookings pick up towards the school holidays, as these islands are very popular with families. Don’t overlook mainland Ecuador at this time of year, especially before the school holidays, when last minute availability is more likely to happen.

In southwestern Sri Lanka, the wildlife is abundant in Yala National Park and whales can be seen off the coast. February is also one of the top times for tiger safaris in India and Nepal. These book up way in advance, however, so if you spot late availability, you’ll need tiger feet to grab it quickly.

February is also a time when people in the Northern Hemisphere get cabin fever, feeling the impact of the short days. You will soon shake off this feeling if you can get a last minute trip to Patagonia, where there is summer warmth, long days and easy access to the whole region.

It might not be chilly in Chile, but it will still be freezing in Finland, Sweden and Norway. But the Northern Lights will lift you out of February’s dark moments. Plus, the 24-hour darkness is lifting here in February, so you can enjoy snowshoeing, skating and husky sledding in the bright snow. If it’s snow that you want, Italy and Spain's mountains also still have plenty of the white stuff for cross country skiing and snowshoeing – with the option of heading back down to the milder coastal areas for a bit of hiking.

March last minute holidays

We love activity holidays at this time of year and, as they are often small group holidays, you have a good chance of getting a last minute place in the group. For example, the spring time sunshine in southern Morocco is just perfect for activity holidays, as it is not too hot, as long as you don’t want to go too high in the mountains, where there may still be snow. But then again, you can combine snow with fun in the desert and the coast, so a win-win for those sprightly March hares out there. Costa Rica is dry and mostly sunny, so this is a great time for combining wildlife watching with activity holidays and the Galapagos are great just now for action, especially if you pick a land based holiday from where you can totally immerse yourself in real island life, and also their beaches.

For snowy winter activities, check out late availability in Sweden, Finland and Norway. The 24-hour darkness has, thankfully, lifted, but the snow remains in the northern regions, as do the Northern Lights. Serious trekkers might want to bag a ticket – as well as a mountain – in Nepal in March as the winter snows have melted and the monsoon season hasn’t hit yet. Monsoons still haven’t hit Myanmar (Burma) either, where it is dry and warm, but not too hot in March. Cuba is at its driest in March too, with the winter chill having passed on.

You will still feel a chill in the air in Andalucía of a March morning, but the air heats up quickly, creating warm sunny days for walking or cycling holidays, with the aromatic orange blossom also in bloom at the end of the month. If March madness means splashing out on a wildlife holiday, this is a great time to keep an eye out for last minute holidays to Kenya and Tanzania. You can get good deals at this time, as the rainy season is due to start. The rains seem to arrive that bit later every year, though – so you could get lucky with pleasant weather, low prices and few other vehicles crowding round the wildlife. March is also the month to spot the biggest mammals of them all – whales. These trips do book out in advance, so if you can spot a place opening up last minute in March, head to Antarctica, the Azores or Sri Lanka for cetacean perfection.

April last minute holidays

Southern Europe starts to warm up in April. It isn’t quite beach weather yet, but the kayak trips kick off (albeit with wetsuits). And if you aren’t climbing too high, hiking and cycling breaks can be good too, as long as you pack your waterproofs. And your wildflower books, as this is when the hills start to bloom. The skies are coming to life in Scotland at this time of year too, as migratory birds like puffins start to arrive, and other wildlife starts to thrive. Sicily, Sardinia and the south of Spain are starting to slowly simmer at this stage, however, for both water and land activities. The Northern Lights are usually still burning brightly in the far north of Europe, including Iceland.

Further south, April is the best month for spotting as many species of whales as you can in the Azores. We also think that this is one of the best times to visit Morocco, especially if you're after desert adventures. Further afield, this is a good time to visit Borneo, as it’s the driest season. Cuba and Costa Rica are also at their driest in April, and wildlife at its most prolific, although Cuba is very de rigeur right now, so if you see late availability, grab it. It’s a hot ticket these days. This is also a great time to head to China, the north having thawed from the winter chill, while the summer heat and humidity haven’t yet kicked in in the south. Heat has kicked in big time in India’s Golden Triangle, however, so if there is late availability, be prepared.

South America is wonderful in April. The Galapagos Islands enjoy calmer seas and warmer weather - making this the best time to visit, despite the greater chance of rain. Peru’s coast is still hot and you can head into the mountains too. Inca Trail last minute availability is rare, though, as the permits go in a heartbeat. Much of Patagonia is still accessible in early April – and the penguins are starting to arrive. You'll avoid the crowds and the high prices, while still enjoying some pleasant weather.

Our top Last minute Holiday

Antarctic Peninsula Cruises

Antarctic Peninsula Cruises

An inspiring wilderness & wildlife journey of a lifetime

From £3850 to £8930 11 days ex flights
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Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Paxson Woelber] [December: Zdenek Machacek] [January: Sam Lee] [February: Frank Kovalchek] [March: Robbie Shade] [April: M. Zonderling] [May: Marien van Os] [June: Make it Kenya] [July: Juan Alberto Garcia Rivera] [August: Lecouteausuisseduweb] [September: Joshua Earle] [October: Philipp Klausner] [November: Oguz Serbetci]
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