Some notes on winter travel in Europe and the Middle East

A reader named Jon recently wrote with some questions about traveling in winter. “What advice would you give for vagabonding during the winter in the Middle East and Europe?” he wrote. “Is it even advisable to travel during the winter months? Are there advantages to vagabonding during the “off-peak” tourist/travel season compared to the more frequented spring and summer months?

Here’s what I told him:

Winter months are great for travel in Europe, since it’s “off-season,” and you won’t be surrounded by other tourists everywhere you go. In Europe it’s going to be cold, which means you’ll have to bring more clothes, but you’ll see a side of the continent most summer tourists don’t see. I.e. you’ll see a more “real” side of the continent — Europeans at work and play in the down months when not many tourists are around. This will also mean prices will be cheaper for you (though seasonal closures mean there might not be as much hostel availability, for example, as in the summer). If the cold gets to you in Europe, just head down to the warmer Mediterranean regions — Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, etc.

As for the Middle East, winter is actually a great time to visit, since the summer can get unbearably hot. When I visited the Middle East several years ago, I went in January, and it was a great time weather-wise. Just keep in mind that it does get cold, though — it snowed in Jerusalem when I was in the Sinai — so prepare accordingly. The great thing about the Middle East is that it’s a lot cheaper than Europe — and, in my opinion, more interesting and friendly.

Good luck on the road!

Posted by | Comments (4)  | July 27, 2009
Category: Vagabonding Advice

4 Responses to “Some notes on winter travel in Europe and the Middle East”

  1. Liv Says:

    I used to do my European traveling exclusively in the winter. Rock bottom rates, low-key, tasteful Christmas decorations, and a relative dearth of tourists made up for the cold. Also, as long as I had my coat on I didn’t worry about packing super fashionable items. Loved it!

  2. Says:

    Great article. Not many people would think to travel during the off-season because they prefer to be around for festivals and be in the warm weather. It’s a great idea because you avoid all of the tourists and can really get to know the locals. You get to be part of their daily life and get a chance to really get to know them and the country.

  3. RM Says:

    While I’m not a fan of freezing weather in the UK or Germany in the winter, Greece and Turkey are great places to hang out long after the crowds have gone home. The water is warm enough for swimming till at least mid-October, and there are few other tourists around, so everyone from waiters to store owners has time to slow down and chat with you.

  4. Emily Liedel Says:

    I have visited Morocco twice, once in early March and the second time in July. I wholeheartedly agree that for the middle east, or even southern Europe, the weather is actually much better during the winter. My July trip to Morocco was extremely hot and also much more crowded. It is good to check out the weather in each specific destination, however, because altitude can make a big difference in the overall weather conditions.