After two years of very little to no travel, there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel. The world is finally opening up and the holiday travel season is upon us! Here are the best places to travel to in December 2022 and January 2023.
Destination #1: Peru
Best for: Rainforests
If you’re looking to swap the city views with unending lush sceneries, then the Peruvian Amazon is the perfect choice. Replace the bustling sounds of the rat race with the peace and calm of the mighty Amazon River.
In Peru, you will find the most direct and accessible route to the heart of the rainforest and source of the Amazon. The port of Iquitos is only a two hour flight from the capital of Lima and the archeological treasure trove of Cusco. Aria Amazon and Aqua Nera sail the lush Amazon headwaters and the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, where the waters are low in sediment and rich in aquatic life, making it the ideal location for wildlife encounters.
There are two key seasons in the Peruvian Amazon: a low water season that lasts from June to November and a high water season from December through to May.
The end of the year is known as the summer and autumn months in the Southern Hemisphere, and the flooded season brings cooler and wet weather, averaging 86 degrees Fahrenheit or 30 degrees Celsius (12 degrees cooler than the dry season). The seasonal pulses cause river-level fluctuations ranging from 13 to 23 feet, allowing for the navigation of smaller rivers, creeks and lakes, making the diversity of Amazon plant life and wildlife areas much more accessible.
The rise in water levels allows guests to be that much closer to the jungle canopy. You’ll get to see monkeys play and exotic birds roosting, among many other sights!
Destination #2: Indonesia
Best for: The islands of Raja Ampat
As the largest archipelagic country in the world, Indonesia straddles three time zones and two oceans, with the open sea making up three quarters of the country’s area. Over 18,000 tropical islands belong to Indonesia, with Raja Ampat making only a small percentage of it.
Comprising over 1,500 small islands, cays and shoals, Raja Ampat translates literally to ‘Four Kings’. The name represents the four main islands of Misool, Salawati, Batanta, and Waigeo. The highlight of these limestone karst island clusters are their historical significance, dramatic landscapes, secret lagoons, and exotic wildlife.
Raja Ampat is also the epicenter of the Coral Triangle, which a staggering number of corals (nearly 600 different species of reef-building corals) and marine life call home. The region alone nurtures six of the world’s seven marine turtle species (the Pacific leatherback turtle often nests on Raja Ampat’s many beaches) and more than 2,000 species of reef fish.
Aqua Blu sails Raja Ampat from December through to February, when the monsoon season runs opposite to most of the country. Due to its equatorial location, Raja Ampat’s temperature remains fairly constant, with daytime maximums of 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius) and nighttime lows of 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius), while rainfall remains constant at an average of 211mm per month.
Because of its microclimatic nature, it is not uncommon for rain to fall for a short period (five to 50 minutes) only for bright sunshine and blue skies to return afterwards! The best time to visit is from September to April, when large numbers of manta rays are present at cleaning stations. Calm waters and the best visibility can be found in December and January.
Destination #3: Galapagos Islands
Best for: Endemic Wildlife
Ever dreamt of being in a David Attenborough documentary? This is exactly how you will feel when visiting the Galapagos Islands aboard the Aqua Mare. This remote Archipelago of 18 islands and more than 100 small islets lies around 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. Its proximity to the equator, volcanic activity, and influence from three ocean currents created a distinctive set of environmental conditions that allowed for unique land and marine ecosystems to develop over the course of four million years.
Each island offers a different landscape, from mountainous terrains scattered with shield volcanoes and lava fields to beautiful white-sand beaches and turquoise waters. Its remarkable levels of endemic plant and animal life are what truly set the Archipelago apart from any other destination. Nearly 80 percent of land birds and mammals and over 90 percent of reptiles found on the Galapagos Islands are native to the archipelago. This includes species such as the Galapagos sea lion, giant tortoise, flightless cormorant, and Darwin’s finches.
The best thing about the islands’ remoteness is that the animals have been completely undisturbed by human presence, which allows for the rare opportunity to observe them in their daily life, up close and without fear!
The Galapagos Archipelago is a year-round destination, but December to May is characterized by clear blue skies and plenty of sunshine. It is the hottest season, and the Panama current brings warm waters to the Archipelago, making it ideal for snorkeling as it is also when the visibility underwater is the clearest and swimming with penguins in January, as this is when they are most active.
Heavy but short rain showers are frequent during the afternoons signaling the beginning of the wet season, transforming the landscapes with lush green vegetation. For wildlife, you will have the chance to observe the green turtle mating season, male iguanas competing with each other in a bid to win a mate, and the hatching of Giant tortoise eggs in December, while January brings nesting land birds such as red-footed boobies, flightless cormorants, and frigatebirds.
Destination #4: Cambodia
Best for: Culture
Over 2,000 years of heritage make Cambodia an epic destination of choice. Whether it is for the stunning palate of flavors or in search of rich heritage and traditions of a glorious past, Cambodia is best explored by a river voyage aboard Aqua Mekong. Opening a window into the 9th-century to 15th-century Khmer empire and modern-day Theravada Buddhism, travelers can take advantage of our expert local guides to uncover intriguing cultural facets of the Mekong, well beyond the region’s beautiful golden-roofed temples and ancient relics. Guests are able to experience an authentic, seldom-seen aspect of the Mekong way of life and practices that have endured for many centuries.
Our highlights include insights into the magnificent royal Khmer silverware in the silversmith village of Koh Chen, visiting Koh Oknha Tey, Mekong’s famed ‘Silk Island’, to learn how artisans handcraft traditional krama silk scarf, exploring daily life in the pastoral villages dotting the picturesque river bank, and even receiving a ceremonial blessing by a monk in the enigmatic floating village of Moat Khla!
December to mid-August marks the dry season where visitors can expect crystal clear blue skies, brilliant green landscapes, and lower levels of humidity; making it excellent for outdoor activities such as cycling, hiking, and kayaking. It is at this point in the season where water levels of the Mekong River, which during the high water season from mid-August to November receive increased flows originating from the Plateau of Tibet and China, empty into the South China Sea.
This causes the water to drain from the Tonle Sap Lake back down into the Mekong, switching the direction of its flow, a naturally-occurring phenomenon known as ‘flood pulse’ system, thus making the lake inaccessible to river ships. All guests traveling with Aqua Mekong during this period will have the option to continue their journey onwards with complimentary flights to Siem Reap for all itineraries ending in Phnom Penh.