Summer is the perfect time to travel. You’ve been saving up all year. The weather is way too nice to be stuck inside. These all are the places where you can enjoy the summer season and just have the best summer ever.
Europe’s low-key affordable and uncrowded alternative to the Alps. The Pyrenees Mountains form a natural boundary between France and the Iberian Peninsula. They go from the Basque Country on the Atlantic 430 kilometers to Catalonia on the Mediterranean.
Whether you approach them from Spain, France, or the micro kingdom of Andorra, expect to find peaks soaring to up to 3000 metres, castles, forests, and so much more. A good place to start is the Ordesa Y Monte Perdido Parque Nacional in Aragon, Spain. If you want to see a lot in a short period of time, walk the Camino de Santiago along the Camino Frances. You start in Saint Jean- Pied-de-Port in the French Basque Country You walk up the historic Roncesvalles Pass, stay in a hermitage overnight and a few days later, you arrive at Pamplona.
If you’d like to cover some serious ground, consider doing a bicycle trip. I basically rode my bicycle from San Sebastian in Spain up into France all the way from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and back, stealth camping and basically soaking in all of the natural beauty of the Pyrenees one pedal at a time.
My recommendation is to travel through Western Norway on a cruise through the deep glacially carved valleys that Norwegians called “fjords”. The way to do it is on the Hurtigruten ferry. It started as a mail delivery service, delivering mail to the isolated fishing ports of the region. Now, it allows tourists to tag along for a ride, from Bergen in the south all the way up to the Norwegian Arctic stopping at thirty-four ports along the way.
The whole trip takes twelve days, and you can hop on and off at some pretty amazing locations. Just feel like hanging out with the indigenous Sami reindeer herders in Lapland, you can do all of that and much more. The cruise does run for 365 days a year, but I would highly recommend you do it in the summertime because Norway in the middle of winter is a little bit cold.
Southern Alps, New Zealand
I had a weird winter here in North America. So if you didn’t get enough pow, head down to New Zealand for the endless winter. Some of New Zealand’s best mountains are available on the Mountain Collective Pass, which operates in 16 resorts around the world. Coronet Peak and the Remarkables are both within striking distance of Queenstown, the most lively city on the South Island. And if you’re not into snowboarding or skiing, there’s plenty of other activities to get your blood pumping. From the Shotover Jet to the birthplace of bungee jumping, not to mention skydiving because you can do that there too.
For something more mellow drive three hours down south to Mount Cook, New Zealand’s largest mountain and the world’s largest dark sky reserve to see why the Maori called Mount Cook.
Ecuador is one of the most geographically diverse countries on the planet, from the headwaters of the Amazon River to the Avenue of the Andes Mountains and of course the world-famous Galapagos Islands. You may go in August when the rainforest ain’t that rainy, and it’s the perfect time to bike Cotopaxi, hike a cloud forest, or go deep into the Amazon.
Summer is the best time to catch the wildebeest migration, which is one of the largest wildlife migrations on earth. Between July and September of every year, 1.5 million wildebeest complete their annual circular migration from Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park in June to Kenya by August crossing the Masai Mara River in dramatic fashion.
Timing is critical and guides are necessary, which is what makes this experience more expensive. There’s only a small window, tons of demand, and limited space. But if you can afford this experience, camping on the plains of Africa, and meeting the Masai tribe will make a summer to truly remember.
Turquoise Coast, Turkey
Turkey’s Turquoise Coast is a stunning stretch of beach, inlets, and resorts along the Aegean Sea. Technically, it’s in Asia Minor, but it is a stone’s throw away from the Greek Islands, and it’s much less expensive. There are plenty of budget options. There are all-inclusive resorts, but the money move is to rent a gulet, a traditional Turkish sailing boat, that you can get for a day, a week, or two weeks.
Turkish food is incredible, and the region has plenty of cultures, including the Ruins of Xanthus and just a little bit further north, the legendary Ruins of Troy. A lot of travel experts say that the Turquoise Coast is safe. For those of you willing to make the trip to Turkey, chances are you’ll have the beaches to yourself.
If you’re looking for a beach destination in Asia, you should consider Sri Lanka. it’s affordable, beautiful, full of great food, and really good surf. Sri Lanka is big, and the weather varies from coast to coast. The southwest could be getting soaked, but the northeast could be perfect to visit and far off the beaten path. That’s because until recently the northeast of Sri Lanka was the homeland of the Tamil Tigers, a separatist group that fought for independence from the central government for 26 years until their military defeat in 2009. Twenty years later, the situation has stabilized, but the crowds have not yet returned.
Surfers are paving the way in search of an alternative to the crowded beaches of Bali. Whether you surf or not, there’s no shortage of reasons to visit Sri Lanka, from the iconic Sigiriya Citadel Rock to the thousands of wild elephants roaming the island.
If you’re really looking for a perfect beach on an island full of animals, no farther than Borneo, a Southeast Asian island divided between Malaysia and Indonesia and Brunei, and home to the Man of the Forest, aka the orangutan. The dry season runs from April to September; that’s the best time to visit, not only for viewing orangutangs but catching the turtles returning to secluded jungle beaches and hatching their young.
If you somehow get bored by endless beautiful beaches, you could volunteer at an orangutan rehabilitation center, visit indigenous communities in the interior, or swing by the Rainforest Music Festival.
Today a modern nation wedged between China and Russia; historically home to the Mongols, a tribe of fierce warrior nomads whom in the 13th century united under Genghis Khan to conquer everything between Beijing of the Bosphorus, forming the largest contiguous land empire in history.
While the days of pillaging are over, 30% of modern Mongolians still live as nomads. So the best time to visit is in July during the Naadam Festival where Mongolians compete in the manly arts of horsemanship, archery, and wrestling. Few festivals offer such an open invitation to living history. So soak it up, stay in a yurt, go on a horse track, but maybe leave the wrestling to the professionals.
In Argentina, August is the perfect time to grab a local and learn how to dance at Tango Buenos Aires, the world’s premier festival of tango music and dance. A few years back, I got to spend all of August in Buenos Aires. I caught some competitions at the tango festival. I listened to classical tango music at El Boliche de Roberto, and I even learned a few steps at local Milongas, which are dance halls like La Catedral, which gives beginners classes every night at 6. It’s super welcoming, and a great place to learn.
August is the perfect time to visit because the weather is still pretty cool, and there aren’t a lot of crowds. Also, there are art fairs, flea markets, and small galleries galore throughout the entire city. For example, check out the Galleria Local in Palermo, which is a hip boutique, coffee shop, tattoo parlor, and art gallery all under one roof.
Papua New Guinea
The hills of Papua New Guinea for the Mount Hagen Cultural Show where every August dozens of formerly warlike tribes gather for the country’s largest sing-sing, a highly-decorated dance-off.
It is a place of very well preserved traditions and not very well developed tourist infrastructure. Chances are those tribes that you want to go hang out had very little contact with foreigners. So if you go, join a tour; be prepared to rough it, and always ask permission before showing your camera in a tribesman’s face.
Galicia in Northwest Spain. While Catalonia and the Basque Country get most of the attention for the incredible food of Spain, Galicia is a culinary underdog worthy of some serious recognition. It has historically been one of Spain’s poorest regions, and the cuisine is simple yet delicious. Fresh seafood, scallops, goose barnacles, octopuses harvested in the local coastal fjords known as “rias”.
During the Spanish conquest of the Americas, Galicians emigrated in huge numbers to the New World and traded recipes across the Atlantic. They were the first ones to plant the potato in Europe that gave Argentinians empanadas, and today you can get an asado with chimichurri that rivals anything you can find in Buenos Aires. Top it off with some highly quaffable Albarino wine, a minerally white grown along the coast.
For something more urban and edgy, you may go to Berlin. During The Cold War, the Berlin Wall was a symbol of division. But in the quarter century since reunification, Berlin has become a leading example of how to balance strong local heritage with global influences. You may taste currywurst, a German sausage mixed with ketchup, and Indian curry powder brought to West Berlin by British soldiers stationed there during the Cold War. The “doner,” a type of kebab invented in Berlin by immigrants from Turkey.
Recently, Berlin’s become even more globalized as American craft beer culture has shaken up 500-year-old beer purity laws, vegan chefs have replaced pork knuckle with plant-based cuisines, and immigrants from around the world have turned Berlin’s food scene into a buffet of international flavors. Throw in tons of cool bars, a thriving underground club scene, and some of the cheapest prices of any capital city in Europe, and Berlin is looking mighty tasty.
Baja California, Mexico
Over the last decade, Baja California has quietly become one of the most interesting food scenes on the planet by developing a cuisine that transcends borders. Blending the craft beer culture of San Diego with indigenous Mexican recipes and world-class innovation. Baja has some top-notch restaurants, incredible craft beer, and rustic vineyards at a fraction of the cost of other wine regions.
Late August is the perfect time to swing through the offbeat vineyards of the “Valle de Guadalupe” right before harvest. Swing through Tijuana to eat at Verde Crema, and don’t forget to try the award-winning beers at Agua Mala Brewery in Ensenada.