Knowing where to go and when is the key to travel planning. And while summer means peak travel season across the world, some destinations still outshine the rest.
For cities in the far Northern Hemisphere, summertime brings a much-needed respite to cold temps that ward off tourists during winter. Conversely, below the equator, warm destinations cool off and settle into a more temperate winter season. These weather conditions make the following spots worthy of your coveted summer trip.
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Summer is peak travel in Amsterdam, and for good reason. Temperatures average in the high 60s and low 70s. Accordingly, many of the country’s 300-plus annual festivals take advantage of the pleasant weather and host celebrations of culture, food and music nearly every weekend. Considering it’s one of the world’s safest cities, feel secure navigating Amsterdam's vast network of canals and bike paths as you head to local alfresco restaurants and bars.
Join in the June celebration of National Day of Iceland in none other than the nation’s capital, Reykjavik. Summertime in Iceland means midnight sun. Summer days run long into the night, with each averaging 20 hours of daylight. Bright skies and warm weather are great incentives to take the two-hour trek to Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Marvel at the gorgeous landscapes of volcanoes, glaciers and the 60-foot Skógafoss Waterfall. Or stay in Reykjavik and visit one of the weirdest museums you will not believe exists: the Icelandic Phallological Museum, known for its collection of preserved animal privates.
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Tucked at the top of the southwestern Himalayan mountain ridges, Shimla, India, offers majestic mountain views and a wealth of historical significance. In the 19th century, British officials, drawn to the area’s mild climate, turned Shimla into a resort town. Soon, the location turned into the summer capital of the British Raj, the rule of the British crown over the Indian subcontinent. Today, you can take the Kalka-Shimla Railway line up to the city to discover its still-standing colonial architecture.
Temperatures are more comfortable and daylight hours much longer during summer in Helsinki, Finland. Home to many outdoor bars and cafés, Helsinki is not just a safe tourist spot, but a sustainable one too. The nation's capital encourages visitors to take to the city with care, choosing eco-friendly public transit over cars and locally sourced foods and goods over mass-produced ones. So take a breath and your time as you enjoy the city’s museums, parks, lakes and Suomenlinna sea fortress.
Skip the Chicago windchill, lake-effect snow and other extreme winter weather phenomena and visit the city in the summer. Dine on deep-dish pizza and travel back in time at one of the coolest boardwalks, Navy Pier. Enjoy the area’s boating scene and several summertime festivals, most notably Lollapalooza and the Chicago Jazz Festival.
Take in all of Lugano, Switzerland’s mountain scenery, rolling hills, and fantastic lakes in the summer season. The Swiss city has a Mediterranean feel heavily influenced by neighboring Italy. Tour town squares, olive tree trails and gardens of freshly bloomed camellias and magnolias. Set aside the time to visit the area’s awe-inspiring places of worship, chief among them the mountainside Santa Maria degli Angeli church.
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J.K. Rowling began plotting Harry, Hermione and Ron’s mischief and mayhem inside several of Edinburgh’s cafes and coffee shops. So it stands to reason that this Scottish capital is chock full of magic. Split into Old Town and New Town, both halves of Edinburgh are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Lest we forget one of the world’s most enchanting castles, Edinburgh Castle, which is built upon the site of a 340-million-year-old extinct volcano. Lastly, 10 points to Scotland for being voted the most beautiful country in the world by travelers.
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Niagara Falls, the top natural wonder in New York, can be so completely covered in sheets of snow and ice during winter that guests assume the falls have frozen over. Warm weather negates this issue. Whether from onboard a boat or at a further distance, the falls are most majestic during summer when all concerns of snow and cold melt away. Both sides, New York and Ontario, have plenty of museums, restaurants and shops for you to peruse in front of the falls.
The Estonian capital city Tallinn comes to life in the summer. The city sports modern living while still looking like it's stuck in time, a style most apparent in its cobblestone-covered Old Town. From the 13th to the 16th century, Tallinn was a member of the Hanseatic League, a medieval trade network. Merchants bustled across the city trading salt, the area’s hottest commodity. Following the re-establishment of Estonia’s independence in 1991, the city was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Temperatures are warmest in July, however warm never creeps too close to hot. Even in July, temps stay below 70 degrees.
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Visiting one of the coldest cities in the world during winter is not ideal. So instead, head to Anchorage, Alaska, during the summer when temperatures stay comfortably between 50 and 65 degrees. If you hold out until late August or early September, you can catch a glimpse of the northern lights. Otherwise, take a dog sled ride in the ceaseless summer sun or spend the long summer days hiking, biking and kayaking.
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A trip to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, is worthwhile if just for a visit to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. Stop at Turtle Rock before beginning a hike toward the Ariyabal Meditation Temple. Shaped like an elephant head, the temple can be entered via 108 steps, symbolic of the creature’s long trunk. Temperatures in Mongolia are cold to freezing most of the year, but summers are far more bearable.
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The Newport Cliff Walk, the most romantic spot in all of Rhode Island, can be found in Newport along the Atlantic coast. The scenic path, lined with some of the biggest mansions in America, is 3.5 miles long. If not in the mood for a stroll, take a drive down the 10-mile Ocean Drive instead. Make time for a stop at America’s oldest lending library, Redwood Library & Anthenæum, and the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
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Home to thrilling safaris and stunning beaches, no South African summer adventure compares to those to be had at Kruger National Park. Being in the Southern Hemisphere, June through August marks South African winter. That means low tourist traffic, cheaper airfare and temperate winter weather. However, more importantly for visitors of Kruger National Park, winter is dry season. Animals gather around water sources, and bare trees and short grass do little to inhibit your safari view.
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With eight centuries of eventful history, Moscow is a place you need to visit in your lifetime. Home to amazing architecture and diverse culture, the Russian capital freezes in winter. So take the time to explore the city’s parks, gardens and history during the warmer-weather months. St. Basil’s Cathedral, with its iconic colored steeples, looms over the city’s famous Red Square, known as the site of several 20th-century military parades and feats of Soviet strength.
If in the market for a more moderate summer, head to Nuuk, Greenland. In this capital of North America’s northernmost country, summer temperatures barely graze 50 degrees. Sip on coffee, watch for humpback whales and take in the northern lights. The city’s Old Harbor balances the business of the more modern sector. And like Iceland, Greenland too experiences a summer-time midnight sun.
Full of storied streets, Berlin has much to offer in the way of summer fun. Stand-up paddleboard on the Spree River and or sit back relax and take in the city's sites on a boat cruise. Cap off the evening with a snack at a local ice cream parlour and a stop under the iconic Brandenburg Gate. Set aside time to visit the remnants of the Berlin Wall and tour the city’s 175 museums reflective of the rich local culture and history.
Some 50 bridges string together the 14 islands that make up stunning Stockholm. Summer temperatures reach their highest in July, peaking at a sunny 71 degrees. Enjoy freshwater swimming and sailing in the Baltic Sea and celebrate the summer solstice at local open-air museum Skansen’s Midsummer festival.
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A natural beauty, Vancouver, Canada, is best explored over a sunny summer weekend. Looking for adventure? Bungee jump, paraglide or zip line on Grouse Mountain. Or stick to the beaches and British Columbia wine country. Because it’s a major seaport, many cruise ships leave from Vancouver in the summer and the city’s calm beaches are frequented by locals and tourists alike.
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Bali, Indonesia, experiences two distinctive seasons: dry and rainy. To avoid the onslaught of other tourists during the dry summer months, visit this hot travel destination in June or September. During the first and last months of summer, the rainy season has passed and water sports like snorkeling and scuba diving are in full swing. This Southeast Asian island also counts mountains and volcanoes among its most visited attractions. So bike in the mountains, hike in the jungle or try your hand at sea walking, kayaking and more.
Another capital city to cure your overdue cold-weather blues, Copenhagen, Denmark, makes a strong case for itself. Ride coasters and a carousel at Tivoli Gardens amusement park, one thing every American should do abroad. Meet the real-life Little Mermaid, a century-old bronze statue of Danish author Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale mermaid at Langelinie Pier. And do not forget to snack on world-renowned pastries and lunchtime smørrebrød. The Danish Riviera just outside the city offers gorgeous coastal views and access to a sprinkling of other Danish islands like Fyn, home to picturesque gardens, manors and castles.
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Greenest and liveliest during the summer, Dublin, Ireland, the jewel of the Emerald Isle, is a must-see. Full of magical places like Abbey Theatre, Christ Church Cathedral and the Trinity College Library, Dublin has offerings for everyone. Shoppers may shop at Grafton Street, where street vendors peddle colorful flowers and street performers pour their hearts onto the cobblestoned streets. Meanwhile, Guinness enthusiasts can learn the history of Ireland’s signature drink at the Guinness Storehouse.
A city known for its urban style as well as its natural beauty, Seattle hosts many promising summertime activities. Hike at North Cascades National Park, paddleboard at Puget Sound and take an obligatory trip to Pike’s Place Market. There, feast on seafood, tour famous movie locations and grab a caffeine boost at one of the first Starbucks coffee shops, a slice of the large corporation’s humble beginnings.
Sleepless sun and timidly warm weather make Oslo, Norway, an ideal summer home away from home. Visit local sculpture parks and take a dip in public pools. Dine at one of the city’s many rooftop terrace restaurants before heading to the Oslo Fjord to island-hop.
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An underrated tourist attraction, Mackinac Island, Michigan, has Victorian charm in spades. There, motor vehicles and chain hotels are banned and famous fudge recipes passed down generations. Tour the island on foot, bike, horseback or carriage. Then, learn the processes of 19th-century cooking at Biddle House or American war-time history at Fort Mackinac. To fully experience this location, you have to go in the summer. Shops and businesses tend to close up around Halloween and reopen in the spring.
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During the Northern Hemisphere summer, Rapa Nui, more commonly known as Easter Island, experiences a pleasing 60-degree winter. In the bearable heat, discover the stone statues of heads and torsos around the island, called moai. Afterwards, soak up some sun and sand at Anakena Beach, one of the best beaches in the world.
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