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Where to Go in May: The Best Places to Travel

Brook Wilkinson | April 1, 2016

Mild. Temperate. Those are the words used to describe the agreeable climate in many parts of the globe come May. In so many destinations, it’s an oh-so-lovely time to be hiking, rafting, sightseeing, or simply people-watching at an outdoor café.

(If you prefer to know which destinations are ideal for booking in any given month, see our Where to Book Now series, and don’t miss our comprehensive guide to the benefits of booking early.)

The California Coast

Bixby Bridge on the Big Sur coast of California

Bixby Bridge is one of the landmarks on the Big Sur coast of California. Photo: Visit California/Myles McGuinness

In May the weather is generally nice, even in the north of the state, but the busy summer season hasn’t yet kicked in. —Sheri Doyle, Trusted Travel Expert for Washington, Oregon, and California

Read Sheri’s Insider’s Guide to California Coastal Road Trips, and reach out to her through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

The American West for River Rafting

people white-water Rafting in the american west

Though water levels and weather vary from river to river, May is generally a great time for rafting in the American West. Photo: O.A.R.S.

Though water levels and weather vary from river to river, May is generally a great time for rafting in the American West (except for the Northwest, where it’s still cool and sometimes wet): It’s not yet too hot, and many free-flowing waterways—think Cataract Canyon, the Tuolumne, and the Salmon—are at their peak. This year is shaping up to be a great one for thrill-seekers, with high water expected in California and Utah thanks to heavy snowfall over the winter. Mindy Gleason, Trusted Travel Expert for American West River Rafting

Read Mindy’s Insider’s Guide to River Rafting in the American West, and reach out to her to get the best possible trip.

 

Anguilla, British West Indies, Caribbean

Four Seasons Anguilla

Pool view of the Four Seasons Anguilla. Photo: Four Seasons

On May 30, Anguillan Independence Day, you can mix with locals for a trooping of the colors, a parade, and an around-the-island regatta. All of Anguilla turns out for this hotly contested race of traditional craft. By May, the Caribbean has entered its shoulder season, meaning that the spring break crowds and prices are gone. Plus, it’s not yet hurricane season, which technically kicks off in June (though it’s rare to see a hurricane that early in the year); May typically gets mild, sunny days with a few showers here and there. —Lindsey Epperly, Trusted Travel Expert for the Caribbean, Florida, and Beach Vacations

Read Lindsey’s Insider’s Guide to Finding Your Perfect Caribbean Island Resort, and reach out to her through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

 

Los Cabos, Mexico

Lovers Beach Cabo San Lucas Mexico

Lover’s Beach, or Play del Amor, Cabo San Lucas

I love May, when the weather is mild and there’s no chance of rain. Plus, villa rates are lower than in high season (December through April), and it’s less busy. — Julie Byrd, Trusted Travel Expert for Cabo Villa Vacations

Read Julie’s Insider’s Guide to Los Cabos Villa Vacations, and reach out to her to get the best possible trip.

 

Machu Picchu, Peru

Springtime at Machu Picchu Peru

Springtime at Machu Picchu. Photo: Luis Felipa

May is my favorite month for hiking near Machu Picchu: Skies are mostly clear, hillsides are green following the heavier rains that have ended by mid-April, and there are fewer crowds. Temperatures are also warmer on average than the peak (June through August) season. —Tom Damon, Trusted Travel Expert for Chile, Ecuador, Galapagos, Peru, and Patagonia

Read Tom’s Insider’s Guide to Machu Picchu, and reach out to him through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

 

Quito, Ecuador

Quito plaza, Ecuador

Quito Plaza, Ecuador. Photograph courtesy Allie Almario

Quito is called the City of Four Seasons for a reason: The weather can change in the blink of an eye. May falls during the shoulder season, when the temperature is mild, usually reaching the high 60s, and there are fewer travelers. — Allie Almario, Trusted Travel Expert for Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands

Read Allie’s Insider’s Guide to Quito and the Northern Andes, and reach out to her to get the best possible trip.

 

Rio de Janeiro and the Pantanal, Brazil

a toucan in Pantanal, Brazil. Photo: Matueté Brasil Travel Design

Pantanal, Brazil. Photo: Matueté Brasil Travel Design

Given its large mass and varied geography, the perfect time to visit Brazil depends on what parts of the country you hope to see. May makes for a good city-country combo: some of the best animal sightings in the Pantanal wetlands, and the sunniest skies and a gentler mood in Rio. —Martin Frankenberg, Trusted Travel Expert for Brazil

Read Martin’s Insider’s Guide to Five-Star Brazil, and reach out to him through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

 

The Cotswolds, England

England, Cotswolds, Hidcote gardens. Photo: Jonathan Epstein

Hidcote Manor Gardens in the Cotswolds, England. Photo: Jonathan Epstein

By May spring has taken hold, so flowers are blooming across the Cotswolds—fruit-tree blossoms, clematis, and wisteria are everywhere. The air smells so fresh, and there are so many shades of green. Hotel rates are also lower than in the summer high season. Jonathan Epstein, Trusted Travel Expert for England, Ireland, and Scotland

Read Jonathan’s Insider’s Guide to the Cotswolds, and reach out to him to get the best possible trip.

 

Scotland

Sunrise at Saint Andrews, Scotland

Sunrise at Saint Andrews, Scotland. Photo: Jonathan Epstein

In May the weather is mild and even warm on occasion, and you won’t have to deal with the August crowds. Since this month falls before peak season (June to September), you can find some bargains, and the hills and roadways are dotted with blooming gorse, a bright-yellow flower. Jonathan Epstein, Trusted Travel Expert for England, Ireland, and Scotland

Read Jonathan’s Insider’s Guide to Scotland, and reach out to him to get the best possible trip.

Barcelona and Madrid

La Rambla, Barcelona, Spain

La Rambla, Barcelona, Spain. Photo: Ronny Siegel/Flickr

Terraces and cafés open and residents head outdoors to enjoy these beautiful cities before the heat sets in. Spring is the perfect time for strolling and picnicking in the sparkling Mediterranean light. In Madrid, everyone pours into the streets in mid-May to celebrate San Isidro. —Virginia Irurita, Trusted Travel Expert for Spain and Portugal

Read Virginia’s Insider’s Guides to Barcelona and Madrid, and reach out to her through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

The Algarve, Portugal

Photo: Made for Spain

Photo: Made for Spain

The weather is beautiful from March to mid-June, and the coastal towns are not too busy yet, so you can get a table in the restaurants and enjoy uncrowded beaches. —Virginia Irurita, Trusted Travel Expert for Spain and Portugal

Read Virginia’s Insider’s Guide to the Algarve, and reach out to her through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Barcelona

La Rambla, Barcelona, Spain

La Rambla, Barcelona, Spain. Photo: Ronny Siegel/Flickr

Terraces and cafés open and residents head outdoors to enjoy this amiable and architecturally dazzling city before the heat sets in. Spring is the perfect time for strolling and picnicking in the sparkling Mediterranean light. — Virginia Irurita, Trusted Travel Expert for Spain and Portugal

Read Virginia’s Insider’s Guide to Barcelona, and reach out to her to get the best possible trip.

 

Umbria, Italy

The Corsa dei Ceri festival in Gubbio, Umbria, Italy

The Corsa dei Ceri festival in Gubbio, Umbria, Italy. Photo: Concierge in Umbria

Lots of delicious local crops are in season, from cherries and strawberries to fava beans, wild asparagus, and artichokes. It’s also festival time, when the reserved Umbrians really let down their hair for small but rollicking historical and religious celebrations. This year, Gubbio’s Corsa dei Ceri happens on May 15, Assisi’s Calendimaggio (a contest between the upper and lower town staged in medieval costumes) on May 3–6. —Maria Gabriella Landers and Brian Dore, Trusted Travel Experts for Italy

Read Maria and Brian’s Insider’s Guide to Umbria, and reach out to them to get the best possible trip.

 

Sicily, Italy

Sicilian coastline, Ortigia

View of the Sicilian coastline from Ortigia. Photo courtesy Marcello Baglioni.

May is an ideal time to visit, as the countryside is filled with wildflowers, the seas are getting warmer, the weather is more stable (and without the heat of summer), and the tourist areas are relatively calm. In towns such as Siracusa, there are live performances of the ancient Greek Tragedies in the actual theaters where these cultural events were staged thousands of years ago. Marcello Baglioni, Trusted Travel Expert for Italy: Sicily

Read Marcello’s Insider’s Guide to Sicily, and reach out to him to get the best possible trip.

 

Croatia

Hvar Croatia boats in marina

The harbor in Hvar, Croatia. Photo: Dan Weisberg Photography

In late April and May, you have nice weather, the crowds aren’t there, and prices are a little lower than at the height of summer.Mariana Fisher, Trusted Travel Expert for Croatia

Read Mariana’s Insider’s Guide to Croatia, and reach out to her through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

 

Santorini, Greece

Sunset in Santorini from the Grace Santorini Hotel

Sunset in Santorini. Photo: Grace Santorini Hotel

The weather is warm in May but not hot, and hotel rates are more competitive than in summer. What’s more, the crowds are thinner, which has the added benefit of ensuring the service will also be better (during the hectic summer months, service suffers). Visiting in May means you’ll feel more like a local than a tourist. Christos Stergiou, Trusted Travel Expert for Greece

Read Christos’s Insider’s Guide to Santorini, and reach out to him to get the best possible trip.

 

Aegean Coast, Turkey

A wooden gulet is an enticing way to explore the hidden islands of Turkey's Aegean coast

A wooden gulet is an enticing way to explore the hidden islands of Turkey’s Aegean coast. Photo: Sea Song Tours

In May the sun is out but it’s not sweltering; the sea is calm; and summer crowds haven’t arrived. Plus, rates are up to 50% lower than during the high season of July and August. — Karen Fedorko Sefer, Trusted Travel Expert for Turkey

Read Karen’s Insider’s Guide to Turkey’s Aegean Coast, and reach out to her to get the best possible trip.

 

Mediterranean Cruises

Celebrity Reflection cruise ship

The Celebrity Reflection cruise ship. Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

May is the sweet spot: The weather is gorgeous, temperatures are ideal for sightseeing, and crowds are not as abundant as in summer, when kids are out of school and both overseas visitors and Europeans flock to the Mediterranean. —Tom Baker, Trusted Travel Expert for Large-Ship and River Cruises

Read Tom’s Insider’s Guide to Mediterranean Cruises, and reach out to him through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip. 

 

Japan

men in conical hats poling a boat down a river in Kurashiki Japan

Kurashiki, known as the Venice of Japan. Photo: Scott Gilman

May (after Golden Week, which ends on May 5th this year) brings great weather and vivid colors. In the springtime, you can enjoy the sweet scent and beauty of the cherry blossoms permeating the country; the entire nation comes alive to celebrate hanami, or flower viewing, in colorful kimonos. —Scott Gilman, Trusted Travel Expert for Japan

Read Scott’s Insider’s Guide to Classic Japan, and reach out to him through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

 

Jerusalem

The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, Israel

The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, Israel. Photo: Touring Israel

The optimal time to visit Jerusalem is after Passover—which ends on April 18 this year—but before summer: During this window, the weather is pleasant and the hotel rates are lower. Particularly wonderful is the transition from Memorial Day to Independence Day (April 30–May 1 in 2017)—a two-day holiday when the country goes from national mourning into instant celebration—and to be at any of the thousands of kibbutzes that dot the country for the festival of the first fruits for Shavuot (which happens on May 31 this year). — Joe Yudin, Trusted Travel Expert for Israel

Read Joe’s Insider’s Guide to Jerusalem, and reach out to him to get the best possible trip.

 

Fiji

Warriors in Fiji

Traditional warriors on Savasi Island. Photo by Chris McLennan.

May falls during the islands’ drier “winter,” but outside the peak months of June and July, when Aussie and Kiwi vacationers drive up airfares and hotel rates. During the winter, temperatures are at their coolest (with highs hovering around 80), and the occasional rain showers are brief. With less humidity there are also fewer mossies (mosquitoes). — Lynette Wilson, Trusted Travel Expert for Fiji and Papua New Guinea

Read Lynette’s Insider’s Guide to Fiji, and reach out to her to get the best possible trip.

 

Zambia and Zimbabwe

Elephants at the Royal Zambezi Lodge in Zambia Africa

Elephants at the Royal Zambezi Lodge in Zambia. Photo: Royal Zambezi Lodge

In May, everything is still verdantly green from the rains and the temperature is delightful, but it’s dry enough that you see plenty of wildlife and there are virtually no mosquitoes or tsetse flies. Game viewing during this time is not quite as intense as later in the season, when it is very dry and dusty, but the landscape is more beautiful and the animals more at ease. —Cherri Briggs, Trusted Travel Expert for Safaris: Southern Africa

Read Cherri’s Insider’s Guides to Zambia and Zimbabwe, and reach out to her to get the best possible trip.

 

Namibia

NamibRand Nature Reserve

Flying over Namibia’s NamibRand Nature Reserve. Photo courtesy Cherri Briggs.

In May, temperatures are mild night and day, the occasional rains tease the desert wildflowers into bloom, and the animals are fat and happy. —Cherri Briggs, Trusted Travel Expert for Safaris: Southern Africa

Read Cherri’s Insider’s Guide to Namibia Adventures, and reach out to her through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

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