4 June 2013 by Alex Stewart
If you're planning ahead for summer, June and July are superb months for travelling, with a wealth of holiday experiences on offer around the world.
If you haven't booked a break yet, we round up the best places to travel to over the summer months of June and July, with a view to sharing some of our favourite escapes, and also look at shoulder season destinations that offer great value alternatives to the main, in-season spots. All ideal to experience over the next couple of months, all you need is to grab your passport and get out from behind the desk.
Additionally, we've a wide range of superb late getaways and great value offers available for this period that could see you secure substantial savings on your summer escape.
European beaches and perennial favourites in France and Spain start to come into their own as the weather in the Mediterranean is amongst its best, boasting long sunny days, warm seas and gentle breezes that prevent the scorching heat of August. Cyprus, Malta, Mallorca and a plethora of Greek Islands make for good alternatives. Rented villas allow a degree of independence and help to keep costs under control whilst good value deals on offer ahead of the school holidays also make a last-minute beach break more affordable.
In East Africa the spring high season is over but the weather in Kenya and Tanzania is still dry and the coastal crowds aren't due to arrive until September. Alternatively, travel to Mozambique, at the heart of Africa's luxury beach scene, to discover great Indian Ocean beaches. Head to Malaysia, or a laid-back Thai island such as Koh Samui, to enjoy early season prices and far fewer crowds. Otherwise, go further afield and relax in the Turks & Caicos or Tahiti. It's low season in the Maldives, but June is the 'driest' of the 'rainy' months and rates can be a fraction of what hey are from January to April, making it well -worth considering. Finally, in the Caribbean you'll enjoy excellent weather and low prices before the school summer holidays begin.
City and cultural breaks
June sees summer start in the northern hemisphere; head to Madrid in Spain or Rome in Italy for a cultural short break, or travel to Amsterdam to take in the newly reopened Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum at the heart of the city's vibrant cultural scene. It's also a good time to visit the German cities of Cologne and Berlin. Porto provides the perfect gateway to explore the unspoilt beauty of the Douro Valley in Portugal. With a little more time, consider a twin-centre break in destinations such as Italy and enjoy the chance to uncover the delights of Florence and Verona.
June marks the beginning of the Verona Opera Festival, with classical performances held in a magnificent candlelit Roman amphitheatre. Elsewhere, Salzburg hosts a festival of Mozzart's music. If it's music you're after and are prepared to travel, further afield, there's the Chicago Blues Festival in the USA and the Montréal Jazz Festival in Canada. Of course, if it's adrenaline and excitement that you crave, travel to Pamplona in Spain for the running of the bulls.
June and July are great months for wildlife watching. The fêted Great Migration is moving through the Western Corridor of the Serengeti in Tanzania on its way to cross the Grumeti and then Mara rivers before entering Kenya. This is also a great time for big game viewing in both countries, with particularly good options in southern Tanzania. Meanwhile, it's a good time for gorilla tracking in Rwanda and spotting animals in Namibia's Etosha National Park. The Okavango Delta in Botswana is in full flood so teeming with wildlife, whilst conversely it's the dry season in Zambia with the country's camps all opening in anticipation of eager wildlife-watchers. In South Africa southern right whales arrive in bays along the Cape coast to give birth and humpback whales congregate off the northeast coast of Madagascar.
Outside of Africa, the dry season starts in Brazil's Pantanal, making it a good time for mammal sightings, whilst finding jaguars is at its best in Guyana. It's also the midst of bear watching season in Finland; polar bears gather in Svalbard whilst brown bears feast on salmon in Alaska and British Columbia too. Then there are water birds gathering in Kakadu's wetlands in Australia, seabirds breeding in the Galápagos Islands and various types of turtle coming ashore in Costa Rica's Tortuguero National Park in order to nest...
Activity and adventure trips
High season arrives in Peru, with the Inti Raymi festival at the end of June a focus before increased numbers of trekkers and day trippers descend on Machu Picchu; consider an alternative Inca Trail to a ruin such as Choquequirao to escape the crowds. Much of the Middle East is stiflingly hot during June-July so consider heading to the coast for cooling breezes. Australia is cooler; temperatures in the Northern Territory are comfortable, making it a great time to explore or drive to Uluru. Alternatively, in New Zealand it's the start of the ski season in Queensland, which also hosts a lively annual Winter Festival in June.
Closer to home, in Europe, the Croatian coast and archipelago of attractive islands offers a wonderful alternative to island hopping in Greece, whilst a luxury river cruise on a European waterway lets you watch the world slip by even as you indulge in gourmet cuisine and fine wines. Meanwhile, the island idylls of Sardinia, Sicily and Corsica provide rugged landscapes and wonderful local food scenes to enjoy; the latter is also hosting the 100th Tour de France for the first time, with three stages of the epic race showcasing the best of Corsica's stunning countryside. Alternatively, travel to Scandinavia and see what this traditional winter destination has to offer during the summer months, with dramatic landscapes to visit in Iceland, fjords and glaciers to marvel at in Norway and the possibility of experiencing the Midnight Sun in the Lofoten Islands and northern reaches of the continent.