It’s all about the heat come July, with the northern hemisphere’s sizzling summer temperatures adding an extra shine to some of the world’s most popular travel destinations.
Europe is bathed in sunshine, bringing the Mediterranean beach scene to the forefront, while in the tropics dry season signals prime wildlife spotting opportunities. Colder regions also benefit from the heat, with Arctic areas at their most accessible. Finally, there are summer festivals and celebrations that bring fun and adventure to many destinations around the world.
Whatever your preference, here are our picks of where to go in July.
Where are the best places to travel to in July for relaxation?
Why now? Delve into Stone Town and the Indian Ocean under blue skies.
The spice island Unguja – known to most as Zanzibar – is a scent sensation. Stroll the maze-like alleys of old Stone Town on a warm evening and you’ll catch whiffs of nutmeg, clove and cinnamon in the Darajani Market, frying seafood at stalls in Forodhani Gardens, and the aroma of black coffee in Jaws Corner, where old men gather to watch TV and gossip. Zanzibar’s historic heart, with its crumbling palaces and heartrending slavery-era relics, is just one gem of this treasure-trove island, at its best in July, in the middle of the dry season. Board a dhow to snorkel off the west coast, watching for dolphins; sniff the leaves and buds of a spice plantation; and find your own patch of coral-sand perfection on one of the wonderful beaches.
Andros & Bimini, Bahamas
Why now? Alternate activity with indolence on and under the water.
The Bahamas are almost the Caribbean – yet, crucially, not quite. True, this speckle of islands and cays between Cuba and Florida boasts limpid waters and beautiful beaches. But summer here, though “rainy,” is less afflicted by the storms that often hit other islands. July brings calm, clear, warm seas, ideal for enjoying superb diving and snorkeling off tourist-light Andros; its east coast is protected by the world’s third-longest barrier reef. Hop across to Bimini for manta ray encounters (peaking in July, when sharks are less prevalent) and the chance to come face to smiling beak with an Atlantic spotted dolphin. Add mangroves, excellent fishing, thriving birdlife and white-powder beaches, but subtract crowds – Andros is even quieter and better value in July.
Why now? Cool off with a great lake break.
In Wisconsin’s warmest month, the shores of Lakes Michigan and Superior lure hordes of heat-fleeing urbanites. Unsurprisingly, the pretty waterfront villages and beaches of Door County, dubbed the “Cape Cod of the Midwest,” bustle with vacationers, though there’s still peace to be found on Washington Island and in Newport State Park. For a real retreat, head northwest to the shore of Lake Superior – stopping en route to dip or fish in one of the glacial lakes peppering Vilas and Oneda Counties. Charming Bayfield, its streets lined with Victorian buildings, is likable enough in itself – but, more importantly, it’s the jumping-off point for the Apostle Islands, a mostly still-wild archipelago of 22 russet fringed emerald specks.
Where are the best places to travel to in July for wildlife and nature?
Coral Coast, Western Australia
Why now? Meet charismatic sea creatures, roam red-rock canyons and wander among wildflowers.
Stretching over 1000km (621 miles) between Cervantes and Exmouth, the “Coral Coast” of Western Australia encapsulates much of the country’s appeal in miniature, making this relatively little-touristed stretch ideal for a winter road trip through empty expanses. Here, you’ll discover dramatic rock formations – the Pinnacles, limestone needles punching through the sand near Cervantes – and the russet Tumblagooda Sandstone gorges in Kalbarri National Park. You’ll experience surfing and subaquatic adventures along the world’s largest fringing reef – 300km (186 miles) of coral that’s home to some 500 fish species. And you’ll meet miraculous wildlife, like when whale sharks gather in their hundreds on Ningaloo Reef (March to July), along with manta rays – more numerous off Exmouth May to September – and humpbacks arrive to join the fun, too.
Northwest Territories, Canada
Why now? Run the river wild to immerse yourself in Indigenous culture.
This vast region of tundra and taiga is as empty as it is wild, with a population smaller than the tiniest Caribbean nation scattered across a land nearly as large as Mongolia. To discover the natural and cultural wonders of the Northwest Territories, take a river journey into its untamed heart, possible for just a few weeks from late June when temperatures are (relatively) balmy and days stretch forever. Canoe a stretch of Canada’s longest river, the Deh Cho (Mackenzie); raft the South Nahanni from the thundering, 96m(315ft)-high Virginia Falls in the sky-piercing Mackenzie Mountains; or enjoy a gentle kayak on Great Slave Lake, North America’s deepest. En route, learn about the traditional culture of the Dene peoples who have adapted to this challenging environment over tens of millennia, and watch for caribou, Dall sheep, black bear, moose and wood bison – the continent’s largest land mammal.
Where are the best places to travel to in July for culture?
Why now? Absorb Silk Road history and Tibetan culture.
While the lowland regions of China swelter in summer heat, summer is the time to explore the high Tibetan plateau, when the temperatures are pleasant and the trails are free of snow. Cupping the northeastern arc of the plateau, Gansu province is popular with domestic tourists, renowned as the gateway of the ancient Silk Road and the home of jaw-dropping grottoes, notably at Mogao near Dunhuang. But away from those hot spots, you’ll find peace, along with rich Tibetan culture and wild landscapes, especially in Gannan prefecture south of provincial capital Lanzhou. Here, the chants of lamas waft across Xiahe from Labrang Monastery – one of the six great monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism; walk the 3.5km (2-miles) kora (pilgrimage circuit) around reputedly the world’s longest stretch of prayer wheels, before refueling on momo (Tibetan steamed dumplings).
Aarhus and Jutland, Denmark
Why now? Celebrate sunny days and balmy evenings in a cultural and culinary hotspot.
Denmark’s second city is buzzier than a beehive. Founded by Vikings some 13 centuries ago, today Aarhus is eminently contemporary, with its groundbreaking ARoS art museum, rejuvenated waterfront cultural center, Dokk1, and innovative Iceberg apartment blocks. Even the Moesgaard Museum, home of the 2000-year-old, bog-preserved Graubelle Man, offers a cutting-edge tour through the past. Come evening, the city reveals its true colors, with cafes, cocktail bars and clubs showingcasing that quintessentially Danish blend of smiles and smarts. High summer brings a host of festivals celebrating flowers, jazz, Viking heritage and more, plus warm sun (nudging 20ºC/68ºF) for basking on sandy Baltic beaches: try Den Permanente near the center, silky-soft Bellevue just to the north, and the blissfully empty strands of eco island Samsø, just a short ferry ride away.
Where are the best places to travel to in July for food and drink?
Why now? For tasty times on the prairie.
Peak summer typically means peak crowds – but on Canada’s endless prairie, it’s not hard to lose the hordes. Landlocked Saskatchewan is a landscape of space and silence – indeed, an audio-ecologist deemed its Grasslands National Park one of the world’s quietest places. It’s also a great place to eat and drink. The province is the breadbasket of Canada, encompassing 50% of its arable farmland, not to mention a heap of extremely photogenic grain silos. Super-cool Saskatoon, which sits amid all this fertility, has become one of the country’s hottest foodie spots. A raft of distillers, craft brewers, artisan bakers and cocktail shakers have popped up in the small-but-mighty “Paris of the Prairies.” Take a foodie tour and cooking class, and visit nearby farms to meet producers. July also sees the sweet, nutty Saskatoon berries ripen – try them in everything from pies to wine.
Alta Badia, Italy
Why now? Sample superb cuisine amid marvelous mountains.
If the Dolomites are the Alps at their most magnificent, the Alta Badia valley in South Tyrol promises the Dolomites at their tastiest. This jagged array of deep valleys, high plateaus and piercing pinnacles in northern Italy echoes with poignant history: between 1915 and 1918, Italian and Austro-Hungarian forces fought amid these unforgiving peaks, and today you can hike routes such as the Kaiserjäger to discover their own trenches and gun emplacements. Alta Badia is renowned for its skiing, but in summer the cable cars and mountain huts reopen to serve hungry hikers, cyclists, paragliders and trail runners instead. The region is spangled with Michelin stars, but even simple refuge dishes up good-value but top-notch cuisine (think mountain cheeses, pasta and strudels).
Where are the best places to travel to in July for adventure?
Why now? Wake up and smell the coffee in a mini dry season.
Caribbean beaches, mountains, plains, jungle, desert: Colombia encompasses an astonishingly diverse array of landscapes, with correspondingly varied climates. July and August bring a period of drier weather perfect for touring fincas (coffee farms) amid the beautiful, rolling hills of the Zona Cafetera; admiring dazzling birdlife in Reserva Ecologica Rio Blanco; sleeping beneath the stars among the cacti and otherworldly rock formations of the Tatacoa Desert; hiking the lush highlands around Popoyán; and discovering the pre-Columbian tombs, petroglyphs and huge carved heads around San Agustín and Tierradentro. Also visiting this month are giants: between June and November, humpbacks calve off Colombia’s Pacific coast – join a whale-watching tour in Nuquí or from Buenaventura into Bahía Málaga to spot breaching behemoths. It’s also the driest month to spy sloths and pink river dolphins in Colombia’s slice of the Amazon.
Khardung La, India
Why now? Snowless roads for a magnificent drive.
There are breathtaking road trips – and there are literally breathtaking road trips. The Khardung La is both. This 5600m (18,373ft) pass near Leh, amid the Indian Himalayas, was a key thoroughfare on the Silk Road and is now one of the world’s highest drivable highways. Crossing it by bus is an adventure; crossing it astride a classic Enfield Bullet motorbike even more so. Either way, both mountain views and soaring altitudes will leave you gasping. The roads here are only open for a few months a year, so make the most of the warm, snow-free conditions. Bikers could zigzag up from Manali (Himachal Pradesh) to Leh (Ladakh) – one of the world’s best mountain rides. Or fly from Delhi to Leh to visit the town’s Tibetan-style palace and stupas before taking the Khardung La into the isolated Nubra Valley.