We all crave that sweet serendipity of being in the right place at the right time: When the Northern Lights are most likely to dance; when that sleepy scruff-bucket town transforms for its once-a-year fabulous fiesta; or, when a mass mob of whales gathers at the nearby reef. That's why our book, The Best Place to Be Today, exists -- to help zoom in on precise dates or periods to ensure the very best experiences, be they wildlife migrations, active escapades, raucous festivals or cultural showstoppers. Each month we'll pick two of these timely experiences right from the book and share them here.
If you want to find out the best place to be on any day of the year -- today, tomorrow, your birthday or wedding anniversary -- check out our interactive calendar.
This month, we invite you to witness autumn in the Yukon and dive with humpbacks whales in the Pacific.
To catch the brief, golden blush of autumn in the remote mountains
Tombstone Range, Yukon
Late August to early September
Straddling the Arctic Circle, Canada's Yukon is historically a place of gold rushes - but it is in autumn that parts of the territory really shine. Right now the endless Arctic days are beginning to fade away into eternal night, but on the Tombstone Range, out of Dawson City, the colours are only getting brighter. Autumn here is almost subliminal, blowing in and out seemingly in a moment. But, though brief, it is spectacular, with the Arctic tundra turning a variety of reds and golds, the vivid colours offset by the black granite peaks of the range.
The hiking possibilities in the Tombstone Territorial Park are extensive. For those who prefer their adventure on wheels, the park is cut through by the Dempster Hwy, a gravel hell-raiser that begins 40km out of Dawson City and rolls 747km north to Inuvik on the shore of the Beaufort Sea. It was once a dog-sled track, and services are few and far between. There's a service station at the southern start of the highway, and from there it's 370km to the next. Ferries cross the Peel and Mackenzie Rivers or, if the freeze has already begun, they are crossed on ice bridges.
In Dawson City itself, the adventure of choice is a little more distasteful. Inside the Downtown Hotel, you can join the Sourtoe Club - to become a member you must drink a shot of whisky with an amputated toe in it, and the toe must touch your lips...--travelyukon.com
You can swim in crystal-clear waters with mothers and calves
350km north of Nuku'alofa
July to September
Southern hemisphere humpback whales suffered tremendous hunting pressure until the 1970s; only 500 remain in the once mighty Tongan calving grounds. Given this history, it is remarkable that these gentle 15m-long giants readily approach and trust snorkellers and swimmers in the breathtakingly clear waters of Tonga, making an already incredible experience even more moving.
Humpbacks migrate from Antarctica to Tonga's Vava'u Group to give birth from July to September, when the warm waters are most ideal for their vulnerable young calves. A handful of licensed whale-watch operators from Vava'u follow Tongan guidelines in approaching the whales, letting curious whales swim as close as they choose, but not approaching within 30m. Boat operators also bring along underwater microphones so you can hear one of the most complex and beautiful songs produced by any animal. If you'd rather watch from land, try the Toafa Lookout on west Vava'u island.
Amazingly, so few tourists visit Vava'u that you might feel like you're having this once-in-a-lifetime experience to yourself. The flip side is that the infrastructure is pretty basic - but if swimming with mighty whales in an unspoiled island paradise is your version of heaven, that won't worry you at all.--www.thekingdomoftonga.com
Excerpted from The Best Place to be Today, 365 things to do and the perfect day to do them.