As summer draws nearer, vacation is on the minds of many. Whether you’re looking for an affordable, family-friendly summer trip, hoping to knock some European landmarks off your bucket list, or just looking to take a much-needed break, it can be tough to decide just where in the world you should go. If you’re having a hard time narrowing down your vacation wish list, we suggest you look at the vacation spots that really are best seen during the summer months.
Summer doesn’t have to mean a top all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean or a journey to a far-flung Pacific island. Those sorts of destinations are always warm, and perhaps you’d do better to consider a destination that finally sees some sun and nice weather in the summer, such as a Scandinavian country or a destination in the more northern, chillier parts of North America. There are also some Southern Hemisphere destinations where you can beat the summer heat, but it’s still warm enough that you don’t need a jacket. Believe it or not, there are also destinations where summer isn’t peak travel season, meaning you can save on hotels or airfare and beat the crowds of tourists. If you’re looking to take a mid-year vacation and can’t decide where to go, check out these destinations that you should only visit in the summer.
As gorgeous as snow can be, the days in Alaska can get very short in the colder months. To get the most out of this vast and magnificent state, a trip in the summer is best. Anchorage in particular is a fantastic spot to beat the summer heat, with temperatures averaging around 60 degrees at the height of summer and days that are 18 hours long. Alaska’s beauty really shines through in the summer in gorgeous towns like Sitka, as well as Instagram gold mines like Denali National Park and Reserve.
Summer is peak season in Amsterdam, but there’s a reason for that. The Netherlands are quite chilly the rest of the year, and summer temperatures average in the high 60s and low 70s. Over 300 festivals occur in the city every year, and the vast majority of them are in the summer; you’ll find festivals celebrating food, music, culture, and art nearly every weekend. When you’re not partying outdoors, you’re likely to be eating or drinking there; Amsterdam’s food scene is impressive, and restaurants and bars tend to take things outside once the weather gets nicer.
Copenhagen might be one of the best places to celebrate Christmas, but we still think the freezing temperatures can put a damper on the festivities. You’ll have far more fun at Tivoli Gardens in the summer when open-air concerts and gorgeous flowers take over the amusement park and high temperatures in the city average in the low 60s. Just outside Copenhagen you’ll find beautiful beaches along the Danish Riviera, as well as Funen, an island with castles, manors, and public gardens that was the birthplace of famed writer Hans Christian Andersen.
Part of our island bucket list, Rapa Nui, or Easter Island as it’s popularly known around the world, is located in the Southern Hemisphere. As a result, June through August is the winter season there, but temperatures still average in the low to mid-60s — the perfect climate to enjoy its famous moai, the large-headed figures that populate the island, as well as Anakena Beach, one of the best beaches in the world.
Not only should you definitely visit Greenland this year, but you should also consider doing so in the summer. This northernmost North American country is generally freezing most of the year, and so average temperatures reach a cool average of 50 degrees in the middle of summer. You can still enjoy the glaciers and mountains of this large island nation in addition to its unique cuisine, but summer also means you’ll have fewer crowds to deal with as well as a chance to see the awe-inspiring midnight sun — a phenomenon in the northern two-thirds of the country in which the sun is up for days or even weeks. Go around the summer solstice and the sky won’t even go fully dark, with the sun only setting for a short while at night.
One of the safest cities in the world, Helsinki is best seen in the summer when temperatures are far more comfortable and the days are far longer as opposed to the colder days throughout the rest of the year. Enjoy the Scandinavian sunshine in the city’s many outdoor bars and cafes, and visit the sea fortress of Suomenlinna. Helsinki also has plenty of interesting museums and beautiful parks, and the average temperature at the height of summer is around the mid-60s.
Iceland has been a top destination for the past few years now, and summer is when its beauty truly shines. The country’s Independence Day falls on June 17, right before the summer solstice, when you can join the festivities amid 72 hours of continuous sunlight. Visit Skogafoss Waterfall, a 60-foot fall with a pool at the bottom, and Snaefellsnes Peninsula, where you’ll find picturesque landscapes full of glaciers, volcanoes, and wild horses.
Enjoy the best of the Emerald Isle when it’s at its greenest and sunniest. There are plenty of magical spots in Ireland, which is known for its rolling hills, green landscapes, and picturesque waters, and summertime is the best time for a drive, hike, or a bike ride through the Irish countryside. Ireland has an abundance of beaches to offer, as well as famed music, art, and food festivals throughout the summer.
Pronounced “MAK-i-naw,” Macinac Island is the hidden gem of Michigan with its Victorian charm and fun activities for the entire family. The island is a three-in-one destination: You can visit Active Mackinac for a more outdoorsy time with biking, hiking, horse-riding, and paddling; Grand Mackinac for a more upper-class experience at the Grand Hotel resort; or Fudgie Mackinac to indulge your sweet tooth with the island’s famous fudge amid historic and shopping sites. As it is located between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan, Mackinac is chilly through most of the year, and outright freezing in the snowy winter, making this destination most enjoyable in the summer sun. Tours of the island are available on foot, bike, or even via kayak or stand-up paddle board, both of which are available for rentals. We also recommend bringing your own bicycle; Mackinac is known for its island-wide motor vehicle ban.
Oslo is another top destination this year thanks to the king and queen’s golden wedding anniversary as well as recent expansions to Oslo’s airport. The city is full of museums and parks, all of which will be more enjoyable (and more likely to be open) in the warmer months, as well as restaurants and cafes full of great food and fantastic Norwegian coffee. Mid-summer temperatures average in the mid-60s, meaning you won’t be sweating as you would in much of the rest of Europe, which makes it the best time to go island-hopping in the Oslo Fjord for amazing views of blue waters against the backdrop of white mountains.
The northern Indian city of Shimla is an absolutely magical mountaintop town. Lying in the southwestern Himalayas on top of a mountain ridge with a stunning view, its mild climate drew many British officers in the early nineteenth century, turning the area into a resort town of sorts. Eventually, it became the summer capital of the British Raj, as the warmer months truly turn this chilly destination into a wonderful oasis. Today you can still find plenty of neo-Gothic and Tudorbethan colonial architecture here, and the Kalka-Shimla Railway line that will take you up to the city amidst breathtaking scenery is also a legacy of colonial rule. Shimla has still maintained its local culture, however, as demonstrated by its many festivals and local arts and crafts.
South Africa offers everything from safaris to cosmopolitan city life to beaches to historical sites. Being located in the Southern Hemisphere, the summer months of the Northern Hemisphere are actually wintertime here. Tourism is at its lowest and the weather is at its coldest — which actually isn’t too cold, with high temperatures averaging in the upper 60s and low temperatures rarely going below the upper 30s. Enjoy iconic street food like bunny chow, hit world-class beaches like Camps Bay Beach, and stay in affluent hotels in the Western Cape. Hotel rates drop by as much as 40 to 50 percent, and safaris and tours are much cheaper as well. And if you really are a safari buff, South Africa’s winter is the best time for one; as it’s dry season, animals are more likely to be found at water sources and are also easier to see with shorter grass and barer trees.
A city made up of 14 islands and over 50 bridges, Stockholm really is best visited in warmer weather. Summertime sees a truly pleasant average of the low 70s, perfect for sailing among the Baltic Sea and enjoying freshwater swimming. Whereas Stockholm only receives about six hours of daylight in midwinter, summertime can get you up to 18 hours of sunlight and therefore more time to the city’s ports, amazing architecture, and hiking and biking opportunities. Boat tours are particularly popular for enjoying the city’s sights and history, and the warmer the weather and the more daylight you have, the more enjoyable they’ll be.
Another one of the safest cities in the world, Tallinn is particularly popular in the summer, and for good reason. With a history that goes back to medieval times, as seen with the medieval houses and cobbled streets in its absolutely gorgeous Old City, the capital of Estonia comes alive once the cold weather leaves. Estonian beaches are lively with tourists and locals, and the city also has plenty of parks and gardens to enjoy. Summertime also sees multiple festivals in Tallinn, celebrating music, culture, and art.
Known for being cold and, in many parts, rainy throughout much of the year, the United Kingdom — made up of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland — is a prime summer vacation spot. Take a tour of diverse and ever-popular London, the music and arts scene of Manchester, Welsh culture in Cardiff, the political and historical monuments of Belfast, and the hub and capital of Scotland, Edinburgh. Outside of summertime, the U.K. can be quite sleepy, so take advantage of the season’s many festivals, markets, and events. Average temperatures can vary between high 50s and mid-60s, so you’re not sweating it out, and the coastlines are full of picturesque beaches and stunning cliffs. Because the U.K. is a far better place to be in the summer than any other time of the year, however, prices can go up quite a bit; to avoid breaking the bank in order to plan the perfect summer vacation, make sure you use the right tips and tricks to land cheaper flights.
More from The Daily Meal: