The late autumn and winter period can be the best time to explore Europe`s natural and cultural riches without the usual tourist hustle. Here are our top picks for off-season destinations and the DMCs offering the most exciting local experiences.
The off-season is that magical time, typically during the late autumn and winter period when the crowds disperse, the prices drop, and the allure of each destination is magnified. Between November and March, Europe reveals a serene and genuine charm, inviting travellers to explore iconic landmarks and lesser-known places. Below, we are sharing our off-season favourites, ranging from the rugged coastlines of Albania and the ancient allure of Armenia to the volcanic landscapes of the Azores and the historic charm of Croatia, Greece, Madeira, Portugal, and Spain.
Offering truly immersive experiences in well-known and accessible places can be challenging, so we have also included a list of local DMCs that will let your clients get under the skin of each destination.
From November to March, Portugal unveils a quieter, more intimate side, with iconic cities like Lisbon and Porto revealing their true charm undisturbed by the crowds. The tranquil Algarve coast becomes a peaceful haven, showcasing its stunning beaches without the summer rush. These months are best for discovering Portugal's vibrant local culture, attending traditional festivals, and savouring the nation's culinary delights, from pastéis de nata to fresh seafood dishes.
The Portuguese specialists from Splendid Evasion develop both standard and taylor-made exclusive programs since 2013, offering visitors truly immersive itineraries revealing the natural landscapes and local traditions of Portugal. A well-established DMC, they have a strong focus on providing genuine and unique experiences that make guests feel alive and benefit the local communities.
Learn more about Splendid Evasion HERE
Beyond the bustling summer months, cities such as Barcelona and Madrid offer immersive art scenes, authentic gastronomy, and vibrant local festivities. Along the Mediterranean coast, destinations such as Costa del Sol and Costa Brava, embrace a serene ambience, offering a tranquil escape without the summer masses. The period between November and March is ideal for savouring Spain's rich culinary scene, with local markets and tapas bars exuding a genuine warmth, inviting visitors to indulge in authentic Spanish flavours.
Based in Madrid, SpainTOP offers customised trips with inspiring experiences. Each itinerary they design is unique and will give your clients an authentic taste of the country. For 20 years, they have become Spain`s leading specialists in tailor-made experiences with a strong focus on art, architecture, local culture, nature, gastronomy and wine routes.
Learn more about SpainTOP HERE
The off-season is the best time for the scenic levada hikes of Madeira, and exploring charming villages like Santana. The capital, Funchal, offers a more intimate experience, allowing travellers to immerse themselves in the island's rich culture and history. The late autumn and winter months are ideal for discovering the island's botanical gardens and savouring local delicacies in a peaceful atmosphere.
DMC Madeira has been designing tours in Madeira for over 15 years. They create innovative programs with a focus on authentic island experiences such as coastal boat trips, mountain hiking, breathtaking coasteering, whale & dolphin watching, botanical tours and, of course, wine tasting.
Learn more about DMC Madeira HERE
From serene hikes amidst lush landscapes to intimate whale-watching excursions, the Azores' natural beauty is most captivating once the busy season calms down. This is the time to embark on a culinary journey, indulging in fresh seafood and local delicacies, while soaking in the islands' serene ambience. Whether hiking through lush greenery, exploring volcanic craters, or enjoying the tranquillity of thermal hot springs, the off-season in the Azores offers a more intimate and immersive experience. Additionally, this period allows visitors to engage with the local culture, savouring authentic Azorean cuisine and discovering the unique charm of each island in a relaxed atmosphere.
Futurismo Azores Adventures are the leaders in ethical and responsible tourism in the Azores. They started operating responsible whale and dolphin watching experiences in 1990, and have since expanded to offer multi-activity trips throughout the Azorean islands with a focus on nature and cultural immersion.
Learn more about Futurismo HERE
With so many people visiting Dubrovnik and Split from April to October, the off-season is the time when you can truly experience the authentic ambience of Dalmatia`s gems. There is no better moment to enjoy a leisurely stroll along the ancient city walls and charming small streets without the typical summer crowds. The picturesque islands of Hvar and Korčula offer a peaceful retreat for those seeking the region's natural beauty. The locals will also be much more relaxed and welcoming, so make sure you take the opportunity to enjoy some fresh seafood and local wines in good company.
Outdoor Croatia are recognised as one of the best adventure tour operators in Croatia. They started as kayaking and rafting specialists in 2012 and have expanded to offer original multi-activity trips combining adventure and culture throughout Croatia. Safety and customer care are their biggest priorities.
Learn more about Outdoor Croatia HERE
Beyond the the peak season, Greece unveils a quieter and more contemplative side of its ancient lands. Destinations like Athens and Santorini exude a unique charm with fewer tourists, allowing for a more immersive exploration of historical sites and island landscapes. Classic gems like Crete and Rhodes offer a peaceful retreat, inviting visitors to enjoy the Mediterranean beauty without the summer hustle. This is also the best time to immerse yourself in Greek mythology and history, visiting the iconic ancient sites in peace.
Family-owned Betis Travel has been in operation since 1975 gaining extensive experience in FIT and group travel. Betis are passionate about creating itineraries that showcase the 'real' Greece and explore lesser-known islands away from the tourist crowds, whilst incorporating classic highlights.
Learn more about Betis Travel HERE
In Albania, iconic destinations such as the historic city of Gjirokastër and the beautiful beaches along the Albanian Riviera offer a more intimate experience between late October and mid April. Additionally, guests will find some ancient archaeological wonders such as Butrint, offering a serene blend of nature and history. The authentic Albanian hospitality is active all year long in the quaint villages, savouring traditional dishes and cultural festivals.
Family-owned and run, Elite Travel Albania offers an extensive range of services for FITs and Groups. They are super-fast on turning around quotations and have very effective systems to monitor quality and safety. Their itineraries incorporate unique local experiences and they offer specialist programmes such as hiking, cycling, culture, gastronomy, luxury, family, youth programs etc.
Learn more about Elite Travel HERE
In Armenia, between October and April travellers can immerse themselves in the country's rich cultural heritage by exploring ancient monasteries such as Garni and Geghard, marvelling at their architectural splendour and spiritual significance. The serene ambience allows for leisurely visits to historic sites like the Erebuni Fortress and the Matenadaran Institute, home to an extensive collection of ancient manuscripts.
Based in Yerevan, Caucasus Holidays offer group and tailor-made trips across Armenia and Georgia. Their itineraries focus on authentic experiences that help travellers uncover the hidden gems of the region, including walking and trekking, gastronomic and cultural experiences.
Learn more about Caucasus Holidays HERE