Barcelona, where I live, is in the midst of a drought. It hadn’t rained for weeks until one recent afternoon when the storm clouds rolled in and the sky opened up, finally cleansing the city of its thick political tension and soaking me to the bone as I happily marched through puddles to the local market.
The capital of Catalonia is hardly a rain-prone destination, but the downpour continued for two more days and the city revealed itself to me in new ways. I started thinking about the merits of a purposefully wet vacation.
It’s not something most travelers do—seek out stormy weather on holiday—but “rain tourism” is becoming an actual thing, and its appeal is undeniable: Wet weather has the magical effect of allowing a tourist to feel like a local.
The trend has parallels in the global adoption of the Danish concept of hygge—that snug sensation that comes from sitting by the fire as the elements go wild outside. Travelers are purposefully placing themselves in chillier climates as a setup for the warming sensation that comes later in the day.
And with more and more travelers boarding planes in search of a sense of calm, a rainy day can be cheaper and more enjoyable path to serenity than a full spa service or silent meditation retreat.
Embracing Rain in Nature
Phil Torres is a biologist and science communicator who travels around the world. Follow his Instagram story and you’ll get a firsthand account of how he embraces rain from the Adirondacks to Asia, all while making it look like the dream getaway.
When AFAR caught up with Torres, he had just experienced a rainstorm on the island of Borneo and was enthusiastic about sharing the joys of finding himself in the midst of a rainy day.
“The Peruvian rain forests I visit have rainy afternoons at least a few times a week, so me, a hammock, and a book I’ve been meaning to read have a date planned for those times. It is too easy for me to always go go go on a trip and not take a moment to relax. Rain gives my brain the excuse it needs to get some rest and relax for a minute,” writes Torres.
As a biologist and photographer, Torres also appreciates how rain can make a place come alive.
“Rainy areas tend to have green year-round and more animals to see, from the birds eating the fruit in the trees to the slugs on the ground. I was just in Penang for a week and there happened to be no rain the entire time. You could really sense how nature was waiting for a good soaking to come out and feed again,” he says.
“There were hardly any frogs by night or birds by morning. Sure enough, we got rain on our last night and the forest was alive again the next day with the sights and sounds that I’m used to.”
Torres is hosting three trips to South American next year where travelers can experience the vitality that rain brings and much more alongside a guide.
If the idea of Torres’s hammock date sends you into a damp daydream of your own, then we suggest five destinations that are better in the rain.
Seattle is perhaps the most obvious rainy day destination. Light precipitation only falls an average of 152 days each year, but the city’s notoriety for rain is unparalleled in the United States, and many travelers come here precisely for that reason. And the city is happy to embrace its reputation for precipitation: Look for the secret street-art installations at Seattle bus stops that only appear when it rains.
While biking the Berlin Wall and picnics in Tempelhof Field top any Berlin trip list, the city is rich in indoor adventures. Start your day by indulging in Berlin’s slow coffee movement with a caffeine crawl. Then head to our favorite indoor market, Markhalleneun in Kreuzberg, where you meet dozens of local chefs who create specialties from around the world. With a full belly, choose from any one of the city’s hundreds of galleries and cinemas for an afternoon rest without a shred of guilt.
3. Keramas Beach, Bali
Bali’s rainy season lasts from November to March, but with milder temperatures and smaller crowds, it is also an ideal time to visit. The rain cools the island to a more pleasant temperature, beaches and surf breaks are much less crowded, accommodations are cheaper, and the surrounding vegetation explodes with life that’s unseen during the hot summer months.
4. Mawsynram, India
The village of Mawsynram in northeastern India is reported to have the highest average rainfall on Earth, with an estimated 467 inches of rain per year—13 times that of Seattle. Visitors come ready to get wet. One of the most beautiful results of the rain is the series of “living bridges” created by the manipulated roots of rubber trees. These natural bridges become stronger every year and add a mystical element to the region.
Africa usually brings visions of dry plains and a huge beating sun—but stick with us here. Kenya’s main rainy season lasts from April to June, with a more sporadic second rainy stretch during the autumn. While coasts can become unpleasantly humid and rainforests face the risk of flooding, safari destinations in East Africa are greener and less crowded during these periods. And, like the rain itself, travel prices fall at this time of year, too.