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TravelThe best places to travel on holiday in May 2024

The best places to travel on holiday in May 2024

Truth be told, you can’t beat May. There is something seriously charming about this bridge between the seasons that makes it the ultimate time to travel. The northern hemisphere is in full post-winter mood at this point, while the wildlife spotting opportunities south of the equator can’t be beaten.

May is a time of the year when the weather is improving and the crowds still haven’t quite cottoned on, meaning travellers get to enjoy the fruits of the world without having to share them with every other living, breathing being. Where are the best places to travel in May? Everywhere on the planet, to be blunt, and we’ve put together a selection of the best of the best for your perusal. 

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Countries and places to travel in May

Hokkaido, Japan

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1. Hokkaido, Japan

Too late for Japan’s famed April cherry blossoms? Fear not. Up north in Hokkaido, sakura flower a month later than they do elsewhere, bringing the island to life in early May. Matsumae Park is one of the best places to spot them; it has around 250 varieties of cherry blossom and 10,000 trees to marvel at. Later in the month, shibazakura (pink moss) blankets vast swathes of the countryside—Higashimokoto Park even holds a festival dedicated to the otherworldly flower. 

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Athens, Greece

Photograph: Demetrios Ioannou

2. Athens, Greece

May in Athens is the perfect time to have the city’s playground of ancient ruins to yourself before the summer months’ unbearable heat and equally unbearable crowds descend on the city. Though a city steeped in ancient history, Athens is also home to a number of trendy bars and cafés and an innovative art scene with a range of exciting contemporary arts galleries. Heaven for history buffs and foodies alike, once you’ve had your fill at the Acropolis and Temple of Poseidon, fill your appetite with some souvlaki or the innumerable excellent restaurants in Athens. Or simply whittle away your time walking the streets of any number of the charming neighbourhoods in this constantly evolving cultural capital.

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Utrecht, Netherlands

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3. Utrecht, Netherlands

Hailed as the cosier version of Amsterdam, Utrecht has many of the same selling points of canals and pretty Dutch architecture, but with fewer crowds and marginally lower costs. And as Amsterdam surges its tourist tax this year, it may be time to pay a visit to ‘Little Amsterdam’ instead. A split-level university city, Utrecht is modern cool meets Medieval. May’s moderate, if still a little chilly weather is a great time to explore the number of cool independent boutiques and lively cafés and bars in the city’s car-free Old Town. Feeling active? Climb the 465 steps of the Dom Tower, the Netherlands’ highest church tower, for some well-deserved outstanding views of the city below. And to quench your thirst from all that walking, sip on some Belgian beer at café Olivier, a converted church-turned-pub.

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West Coast, Australia

Photograph: Shutterstock

4. West Coast, Australia

Want epic beaches and unforgettable wildlife encounters? Buckle up for a road trip along Australia’s West Coast, where you can spot stingrays, dolphins, Australian sea lions, fairy penguins and more. In Ningaloo Marine Park, May is prime time to dive with whale sharks (the largest fish in the world), and there’s even an annual whale shark festival in Exmouth. On Rottnest Island, a 30-min ferry from Perth, you’ll find quokkas and their young. The island is car-free, so hiring a bike is a great way to get around.

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Paris, France

Photograph: John Towner

5. Paris, France

May might just be the perfect month to go to Paris. The weather is mild, spring blossoms burst into colour, and the summer crowds are still weeks away. Culture lovers are spoilt; La Nuit des Musées (on the third Saturday of May) grants visitors free entry to the city’s museums, which stay open late for the occasion. Elsewhere, Tous à l’Opéra offers free concerts and theatre tours, and the Jazz Festival in Saint Germain des Prés gets toes tapping with free performances and workshops.

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Wales

Photograph: chrisdorney / Shutterstock

6. Wales

It would be disingenuine of us to promise perfect weather in Wales in May. Truth be told, it’ll probably rain a decent amount of the time, but the drizzle will be accompanied by warmer temperatures and the occasional blast of glistening sunshine, making May the best time of year to tackle the great Welsh Bucket List. That means climbing Snowdon, exploring Portmeirion, getting absolutely blitzed in Cardiff and maybe, just maybe, walking the entire Wales Coastal Path. That’ll take more than a month, but see how far you can get before June arrives. 

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Lisbon, Portugal

Photograph: Manuel Manso

7. Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon is one of the best cities on the planet to travel to year-round, but visiting in May presents the extra opportunity to grab a surfboard and hop on the waves when the coast is still pretty clear. Surf town Ericeira (less than an hour from Lisbon) has beginner-friendly waves. Just be warned – Portugal’s Atlantic waters are typically colder than those in the Med and are still pretty chilly in May — but don’t let that stop you. 

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Nepal

Photograph: Shutterstock

8. Nepal

If you’re unsure what time of year to make the pilgrimage to Nepal, consider May. After all, the weather is just about as pleasant as it gets, and two of the country’s biggest festivals take place during the unofficial best month of the year. Tiji Festival is a celebration of the (presumed) triumph of good over evil, while Buddha Jayanti is a colourful love letter to the life and times of Gautam Buddha. If you need more than two massive festivals, remember that the temples of Bhaktapur are arguably at their most accessible during May. 

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Florence, Italy

Photograph: Flickr/Gary Bembridge

9. Florence, Italy

If you’re after the certainty of a good time, Florence never disappoints. There’s a certain romance (no offence Paris) about this European epicentre of art, food, wine and, lest we forget, Negronis. Fill your arty boots by visiting Renaissance classics at the Uffizi – where the gallery itself is a work of art – and Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia, then visit his and other famous Florentines graves (the likes of Galileo and Machiavelli) at the jaw-dropping Santa Croce basilica. It’s hard to miss the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower (or the Duomo) at the city centre, and climbing its 463 steps is totally worth it for the vista at the top across Florence’s terracotta rooftops.  

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Memphis, USA

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10. Memphis, USA

There are plenty of reasons to get giddy about visiting Memphis in May, but the creatively-named Memphis in May festival might just be right at the top of that list. A month-long festival (unsurprisingly, held throughout May), each year sees a different country from around the world celebrated through live events, exhibitions, screenings, performances and art. 2023 is Malaysia’s time to shine, so expect a whole lot of colour in Memphis this May.

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Los Angeles, USA

Photograph: Courtesy Pawell Nolbert

11. Los Angeles, USA

In Los Angeles, May is all about the anticipation of summer: the weather is heating up but isn’t scorching, and the key sites are nowhere near as busy as they’ll be in July and AugustMemorial Day weekend (27-29 May) packs a punch with parades, street festivals and alfresco concerts. And if you need even more glitz and glamour, there’s always the eleganza extravaganza that is RuPaul’s DragCon (12-13 May).

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Sydney, Australia

Photograph: Leah-Anne Thompson/Shutterstock.com

12. Sydney, Australia

Sydney may be on the cusp of winter, but don’t let that deter you; days are mild and often sunny, and the high season crowds are long gone. The sea’s a bit nippy, but it’s still a lovely time for beachcombing and coastal walks; pick a portion of the 80-kilometre Bondi to Manly trail, or tackle the lot over a few days. Back in the city centre, don’t miss Vivid Sydney, a luminous festival of light, music and ideas.

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Okavango Delta, Botswana

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13. Okavango Delta, Botswana

If you’re keen to channel your inner Attenborough, now is the time. Botswana’s dry season is just beginning, meaning landscapes are still reasonably green, days are rain-free (if a little cold at night), and the skies are clear. Wildlife spotting is pretty much on a par with the high season; as the floods retreat, the Big Five (along with giraffes, zebra and hippo) converge at watering holes across the Okavango Delta. Pair a safari with a trip to Victoria Falls, which will be at its most thunderous.

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