May tends to be a beautiful month here in the UK. It’s that glorious time in between peak spring and the first flush of summer – but it’s also a good time to travel. The creeping warmth and longer days make travel to the northern hemisphere far more appealing. While in the south, the wildlife spotting opportunities are hard to beat and dramatic landscapes are dazzling.
Plus, while much of Europe is at its most picturesque, May is still shoulder season, which means the crowds haven’t quite arrived, and costs are considerably lower than in summer. But where are the best places to travel throughout this magnificent month? There are so many places that come into their own in May, so ultimately, it just depends on the type of holiday you’d like!
To help you decide and give you some inspiration, here are 12 of the best destinations to visit in May.
1. Algarve, Portugal
The Algarve is a bit of a travel hotspot, and while there are busy resorts and crowds of tourists in certain places, there’s also an authentic, quiet side to this beautiful stretch of coastline. In May, things haven’t yet reached peak season, so if you’re looking to enjoy some peace and relax on the beach without throngs of other sun-seekers, it’s the perfect time to do so.
Plus, temperatures are around 20°C, which is perfect for exploring the region’s hiking routes; trekking along rugged cliffs, and over green hills scattered with wildflowers and olive groves. It’s also warm enough to visit the many hidden coves and crescent-shaped bays that the Algarve is known for, while in nearby fishing villages, you can feast on fresh cuisine in traditional restaurants.
Peru is a country like nowhere else. Steeped in Incan history, it’s a place of beauty and contradiction, where the imposing Andes and thick jungles hide lost cities, and where lively Lima, the modern capital, has become a gastronomic hotspot. May marks the start of the dry season in Peru, so if you want to explore its mesmerising landscape without all the crowds, there’s no better time.
Because you won’t have to battle the peak season crowds, May is also the best time to hike Peru’s famous Inca Trail. Looking out at the views of this ancient Incan civilisation which are sprawled across a lush mountaintop will likely take your breath away. Lake Titicaca is also beautiful in May. Home to many fascinating Incan ruins, the world’s highest navigable body of water simply dazzles under the bright May skies.
3. Memphis, USA
Visiting Memphis isn’t just a holiday for people who are passionate about music; often, it’s more of a pilgrimage. Elvis fans can head to Graceland to pay their respects, while blues, rock’n’roll, and soul enthusiasts can lose themselves to the live music that drifts along Beale Street. Meanwhile, barbecue connoisseurs can tuck into smoky pulled pork and dry-rubbed ribs in the many retro diners.
Memphis is deeply atmospheric at any time of year but, in May, temperatures peak around 27°C and sunset walks along the Mississippi River are a joy. The Memphis in May festival is also worth checking out. This month-long festival celebrates everything to do with blues and barbecue. Plus, each year a different country is celebrated with events, performances, and art – and, in 2024, it’s France’s turn!
4. Catalonia, Spain
If you don’t fancy Portugal this May, why not head to Spain instead? In particular, Catalonia. Spain might be most known for cities like Barcelona and Madrid, but the fiercely independent region of Catalonia has lots going for it. Home to the rugged Pyrenees Mountains, charming coastal towns with cobbled streets, and the lively beach resorts of Costa Brava, Catalonia is as compelling as it is diverse.
In May, temperatures reach 24°C, and the long days make it easy to explore at your own pace. If you fancy a city break, Barcelona’s gothic streets are an obvious choice, but Girona’s old quarter is just as beautiful. For a beach holiday, head down to Costa Brava. Try to avoid the tourist resorts, and instead visit towns like Peratallada and Pals, and swim in the turquoise waters of Aiguablava beach.
5. Bali, Indonesia
Bali ticks the box if you’re looking for a beach break with a difference. This tropical paradise is known as a spiritual sanctuary, and each year millions of digital nomads and wellness enthusiasts flock here to soak up the sights, party, and find some inner peace. May is the last month to avoid the crowds, as from June to September things often get uncomfortably busy.
May is also the first month of the dry season, and after the monsoons, the island is at its most beautiful. Temperatures hover around 30°C, so it’s perfect beach weather – and the stretches of coast at Seminyak, Nusa Dua, and Jimbaran Bay are ideal for relaxing. Inland, the cultural hub of Ubud is the place for yoga and meditation, while the views from the clifftop temple of Uluwatu are awe-inspiring.
6. Vancouver Island, Canada
Spring can take a while to arrive in British Columbia but, by May, this province has shrugged off the last of the winter chill and bursts with spring beauty. While cosmopolitan Vancouver is fun to explore, just across the water is Vancouver Island. If you’re looking for tranquillity, and to connect with nature, observe wildlife, and lower your stress levels, there’s arguably nowhere better.
Vancouver Island is synced to a slower rhythm than the mainland, and the community-focused towns are fabulous for strolling around and sampling fresh, seasonal food. In the knotted tangle of the dense, evergreen forest, bears roam, while off the coast you have a good chance of spotting whales. And, if you’re looking to get active, the surfing, biking, and hiking opportunities are exceptional too.
7. Norwegian Fjords
Spring also arrives a little later in Norway but, by May, temperatures are pleasant, skies are bright blue, and the wildflowers are flourishing. In the fjordlands, the scenery is at its most spectacular; the apple trees have blossomed, the soaring mountains remain crowned with snow, and the thundering waterfalls, fed by copious snowmelt, are truly magnificent.
As Norway’s second-longest fjord, Hardangerfjord is unmissable, and the views of blue sparkling waters, glittering glaciers, colourful villages, and the iconic Pulpit Rock will likely take your breath away. Plus, hiking trails remain pretty quiet from other tourists (and summer’s pesky midges!) – and 17th of May is Norway’s national day, so the celebrations in beautiful Bergen are worth joining too.
8. Okavango Delta, Botswana
If you’re fascinated with wildlife and have always dreamed of going on a safari, then Botswana is your best bet in May. At this time of year, Botswana’s dry season is just beginning, so the scenery is still fairly green, days are dry and warm (with highs of 25°C), and skies are clear. The conditions are also perfect for spotting the coveted Big Five – as well as giraffes, crocodiles, zebras, and hippos.
For the best chances of seeing wildlife, head to the Okavango Delta, a vast inland river delta in the north. Here, the sprawling grassy plains have flooded, and animals are drawn to the watering holes. You can spot all kinds of creatures from the safety of a boat safari. Cruising along these winding waterways – perhaps with a glass of chilled South African wine – is blissful.
9. Munich, Germany
Keen for a European city break packed with culture, food, and drink? Why not head to Munich? Germany’s third largest city often tops polls of the world’s most liveable city, and with lakes and mountains on its doorstep, a wealth of cultural and historical sights, and plenty of well-heeled shops and bars, it’s easy to see why. This is a city where tradition and modernity sit seamlessly side by side.
But, there’s another perk to visiting in May: Springfest – or Fruhlingsfest. Similar to Oktoberfest, this fun spring festival has all the beer-filled steins, sausage-based treats, and daring fairground rides, but it’s more relaxed, with smaller crowds. When you’re not sampling beers in pretty pub gardens, you can head to the beautiful Englischen Garten to relax and soak up the sun.
For the ultimate tropical escape, why not head to Barbados? Famous for its warm azure waters, soft white sand, swaying palm trees, and delicious rum, this Caribbean island is dreamy all year round. Although if you want to make the most of the pristine beaches, it’s best to avoid the rainy season. May is warm and dry, and because it’s still shoulder season, prices are lower, and tourists are fewer.
There’s more to do here than hit the beach too. The capital, Bridgetown, is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the interior of the island is scattered with beautiful farmland and gardens. The East Coast is the least developed, and it’s here you’ll find what’s arguably the most captivating scenery and wildest surf. Or, go west for silky sands, lively beach resorts, and the trendy Holetown, which has some of the best food on the island.
11. Tuscany, Italy
Few people don’t love Italian food, and if you’re looking for a relaxing holiday packed with ancient history, compelling culture, and mouthwatering cuisine, Tuscany is a wise choice. As the birthplace of the Italian language, this part of the country is packed with pretty cities, UNESCO world heritage sights, and stunningly beautiful pastoral scenery.
The capital, Florence, is popular with tourists throughout the year, but May is your last chance to explore before it gets uncomfortably hot and busy. Siena is another historic city packed with charm, and in both towns, you can sample some of the delicious cuisine this region is known for. The rolling Tuscan hills are dotted with Chianti-growing vines, so wine enthusiasts will also be spoilt for choice!
12. California, USA
Finally, if you’ve always wanted to go California-dreamin’, May could be the time to make those dreams a reality. California is an incredibly diverse state, home to towering mountains, sweeping beaches, dense redwood forests, and sprawling cities. So, if you want to experience as much as you can – and channel your inner Jack Kerouac – why not take a road trip through the Golden State?
San Diego is a surfer’s paradise, while Los Angeles has all the glitz and glamour you might expect. San Francisco is an excellent foodie spot and the nearby countryside has plenty of wine towns to explore. In May, summer is almost here, but prices are lower and sites are less crowded – although Memorial Weekend (27-29th May) is always fun, with parades, street festivals, and outdoor concerts!
May is one of the last opportunities to enjoy the perks of shoulder season before summer arrives. With lower prices and fewer tourists, it’s a great time to get more bang for your buck and see the sights without jostling through crowds.
From tropical escapes in Bali and Barbados to wildlife adventures in Botswana and Vancouver Island, city breaks in Munich and Memphis to hiking holidays in Peru and Norway, there’s a destination for everyone here – and hopefully most budgets too!
Or, to browse more holidays at great prices, check out our round-up of top travel deals below.
Have you been to any of these destinations in May – or are you tempted to go next year? Do you have any other recommendations for the best places to visit in May? We’d love to hear about your travel experiences in the comments below.