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Where to Go in May: The Best Places to Travel

by Brook Wilkinson | April 25, 2018

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.

(Don’t miss the rest of our “Where to Go” series on the best destinations for each month of the year. If you’re wondering when’s the best time to book your destination to get the best value for your dollar, see our “What to Book Now” series.)

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.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Your Perfect California Coast Road Tripand Ask Wendy to find the right travel specialist for your needs and to plan the best possible trip.

The American Southwest for River Rafting

rafters on the Yampa River

The Yampa River, in Dinosaur National Monument, is a tributary of the Colorado River, with a limited season from May to early July. Photo: OARS

May is a great time for rafting in the American Southwest, when desert rivers are at their best. The free-flowing Yampa River, in Dinosaur National Monument, is the last commercially run, free-flowing tributary of the Colorado, with a limited season from May to early July—making it one of the most sought-after river adventures in the U.S. Further south in the Four Corners region, the underappreciated San Juan River is an archaeological treasure chest, and in May you’ll likely catch the desert in bloom.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to River Rafting in the American West, and use Wendy’s trip request form to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Anguilla, British West Indies, Caribbean

Four Seasons Anguilla

By May, the Caribbean has entered its shoulder season. Photo: Four Seasons Anguilla

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.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Finding Your Perfect Caribbean Island Resort, and use Wendy’s trip request form to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Los Cabos, Mexico

Villa Cielito Los Cabos looking out over an infinity pool and ocean

In May, the weather in Los Cabos is mild and there’s little chance of rain. Photo: CaboVillas.com

In May, the weather is mild and there’s little chance of rain. The bustle of spring break has passed, so it’s much less busy than just a month prior. That means less crowded beaches and restaurants—but more comfortable temperatures than the very hot summer months ahead. Plus, villa rates are lower than in high season (December through April), with great deals to be had.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Los Cabos Villa Vacations, and use Wendy’s trip request form to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Machu Picchu

Springtime at Machu Picchu Peru

Springtime at Machu Picchu is a wonderful month for hiking. Photo: Luis Felipa

May is a wonderful 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.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Machu Picchu, and use Wendy’s trip request form to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Quito, Ecuador

San Francisco Plaza in Quito Ecuador, with 2 wine glasses in the foreground overlooking the city

Quito is called the City of Four Seasons for a reason: The weather can change in the blink of an eye. Photo: 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.

Ask Wendy to find the right travel specialist for your needs and to plan the best possible trip.

Rio de Janeiro and the Pantanal, Brazil

birds in Pantanal, Brazil. Photo: Matueté Brasil Travel Design

Brazil’s Pantanal is full of wildlife. 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.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Five-Star Brazil, and use Wendy’s trip request form to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

The Cotswolds, England

England, Cotswolds, Hidcote gardens. Photo: Jonathan Epstein

The Hidcote Manor Gardens in the Cotswolds, bloom as the weather gets warmer. 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.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to the Cotswolds, and use Wendy’s trip request form to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Scotland

Sunrise at Saint Andrews, Scotland

May in Scotland brings mild weather. 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–September), you can find some bargains, and the hills and roadways are dotted with blooming gorse, a bright-yellow flower.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Scotland, and use Wendy’s trip request form to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Spain

La Rambla, Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona’s La Rambla comes alive in May. Photo: Ronny Siegel/Flickr

Terraces and cafés open and residents head outdoors to enjoy these beautiful cities before the heat sets in and the crowds arrive. 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.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guides to Barcelona and Madridand Ask Wendy to find the right travel specialist for your needs and to plan the best possible trip.

Portugal

a house and vineyard in Douro Valley, Portugal

In spring, Portugal’s Douro Valley is green from the winter rains. Photo: Mike Korn

The country’s weather is beautiful from March to mid-June. In the Algarve, the coastal towns are not too busy yet, so you can get a table in the restaurants and enjoy uncrowded beaches. The Douro Valley’s rolling hills are lush and green from the winter rains, and there is excitement in Porto as the city prepares for summer festivities.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to the Algarve, and Ask Wendy to find the right travel specialist for your needs and to plan the best possible trip.

Umbria, Italy

The Corsa dei Ceri festival in Gubbio, Umbria, Italy

The Corsa dei Ceri festival takes place in May in Gubbio, Umbria, Italy. Photo: CIU Travel

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 2–5.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Umbria, and use Wendy’s trip request form to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Sicily, Italy

The Greek Theater of Taormina as the sun sets behind the smoking Mt. Etna, Sicily, Catania, Italy

The Greek Theater of Taormina as the sun sets behind the smoking Mt. Etna, Sicily, Catania, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

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.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Sicily, and use Wendy’s trip request form to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Croatia

Hvar Croatia boats in marina

The harbor in Hvar, Croatia—one of many spots that are less crowded in May. 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. 

Contact Wendy to find the right Trusted Travel Expert to plan your best possible trip. 

Santorini, Greece

white hotel room deck overlooking the blue ocean on Santorini island Greece

Visiting Santorini in May means you’ll feel more like a local than a tourist. Photo: Canaves Sunday Suites

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.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Santorini, and use Wendy’s trip request form to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Romania

Valena Zalanului, guesthouses, Romania

Romania has many traditional-style accommodations, like the Valena Zalanului, guesthouses.

May and June offer prime weather with the fewest crowds at the country’s dozens of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Available activities range from horseback riding and skydiving to truffle hunting and wine tasting.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Romania, and use Wendy’s trip request form to be marked as a VIP and 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.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Turkey’s Aegean Coast, and use Wendy’s trip request form to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Scandinavia

Stora Vånskär, Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

Stora Vånskär, Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden. Photo: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se

After months of darkness, May’s longer days bring locals out to soak up the sunlight, making the outdoor cafes lively. You’ll also find an abundance of freshly caught seafood, and celebrations throughout the countryside leading up to the summer solstice.

Ask Wendy to find the right travel specialist for your needs and to plan the best possible trip.

Iceland

In May, Iceland has fewer crowds, more availability and brighter sunshine. Photo: Timothy Baker

In early May, you’ll find fewer crowds, more hotel availability, and better prices than in the summer high season. It can be chilly, with daytime temperatures in the 40s, but there is plenty of sun.

Ask Wendy to find the right travel specialist for your needs and to plan the best possible trip.

Mediterranean Cruises

Celebrity Reflection cruise ship

May is a sweet spot for Mediterranean cruises. Photo: 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.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Mediterranean Cruises, and use Wendy’s trip request form to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip. 

Japan

women in kimonos look at cherry blossoms in Japan

Two young women in kimonos view the cherry blossoms at Koishikawa Korakuen Garden in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Ben Simmons

May (after Golden Week, which ends on May 6 this year) brings great weather throughout the entire country. While the cherry blossoms generally peak in April, you can still enjoy the sweet scent and beauty of the blooms in May, but without the crowds.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Classic Japan, and use Wendy’s trip request form to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Jerusalem

Tower of David, Jerusalem, Israel.

The City of David, in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, is an archeological site with remains dating back more than 5,000 years. Photo: Noam Chen

The optimal time to visit Jerusalem is after Passover—which ends on April 7 this year—but before summer: During this window, the weather is pleasant and the hotel rates are lower. Particularly wonderful is 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 19 this year).

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Jerusalem, and use Wendy’s trip request form to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Fiji

The Blue Lagoon Villa at Savasi Island, Fiji, is just one of the archipelago’s beautiful accommodations. Photo: John Ferguson

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).

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Fiji, and use Wendy’s trip request form to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Zambia and Zimbabwe

Elephants at the Royal Zambezi Lodge in Zambia Africa

Elephants herd around a water hole 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.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guides to Zambia and Zimbabwe, and use Wendy’s trip request form to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Namibia

Namib Desert, Namibia

Namibia’s Namib Desert is right on the Atlantic Ocean. Photo: Shutterstock

In May, temperatures are mild night and day, the occasional rains tease the desert wildflowers into bloom, and the animals are fat and happy.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Namibia Adventures, and use Wendy’s trip request form to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Other Good Options This Month

Click on any of the destinations below to find out why May is a good time to go.

Bali

Brazil: Rio de Janeiro and the Pantanal

China

China: Yunnan Province

Costa Rica: Pacific and Central regions

Cuba: Beachside R&R

Czech Republic

England: Castles, Manor Houses, and Gardens

European Canal Barge Cruises

France: Paris, including Apartment Rentals

Germany: Bavaria

Greece: Athens

Hawaii: Maui, Oahu, and the Big Island

Hungary

India: Trekking and tiger reserves

Ireland: Killarney and County Kerry

Italy: Venice

Italy: Villa vacations

Mexico: Puerto Vallarta

Mexico: Riviera Maya

Mexico City

Montana and Wyoming: Yellowstone National Park

Morocco

Myanmar’s higher elevations

Nepal

Netherlands: Amsterdam

New Zealand

New Zealand: Queenstown hiking and cycling

Peru

Russia: Moscow

Russia: St. Petersburg

Seychelles

South Africa: Cape Town and Winelands

Spain: Andalusia

St. Barts: Beach and villa vacations

Turkey: Istanbul

Utah’s national parks

Vietnam

Washington, D.C.

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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