Avoiding Europe in the summer and where to go instead
We’ve seen way too many tourists this summer. Europe always has a lot of tourists, there’s a reason it is most people’s favorite continent (including ours). We’ve spent the last 3 summers in Europe. But I think we’ll be taking a break from that over the next few years. It wasn’t just our recent stay in Lisbon – we were in Split (Croatia) in July and it was unbearably packed with tourists. Split is one of the places we love but, as with Lisbon, the character of a place changes when there are too many tourists at one time: prices rise dramatically, locals are suddenly not as friendly, food quality drops. Parts of Europe also get unbearably hot in summer.
But where to go in summer if not Europe? As one reader said; the southern hemisphere is either cold or rainy, it’s monsoon season across Asia, the Caribbean is too hot, and North America is almost as busy as Europe in summer.
The goal of this post is to highlight some exceptions to the above. With some research and a lot of asking around, I’ve come up with a few alternatives for the usual June to August vacations.
1) places that, comparatively, don’t get too many tourists
2) good weather (sunny but not unbearably hot)
3) affordability for the majority of travellers
4) exotic places that you maybe just haven’t thought of visiting this time of year.
There are untravelled places in Europe (as we saw when in Macedonia) but for the purposes of this post I am highlighting places outside the continent.
This is an open post, meaning if you have any good suggestions/feedback I’ll consider adding or amending some of the information below.
Namibia, Botswana and most of South Africa (excluding the Cape) are good places to visit between June and August. It is dry and cool, temperatures rarely going over 20C (evenings and mornings can be quite cool). Skies are blue. This is a great time to go on safari and even malaria zones like Kruger National Park are almost risk-free during this period. We were considering going back to South Africa in February but now I’m thinking that summer might be a better time. In Kenya and Tanzania, it is the ideal time to see the wildebeest migration (although some of the parks like Masai Mara and Amboseli can get crowded). July – August is also a great time to visit Victoria Falls in Zambia/Zimbabwe as water levels are still high and the weather clear.
Parts of northern Argentina and Chile (and southern Bolivia) are similarly cool and dry between June and August (if you look at a map, this area is at the same latitudes as the similarly dry temps in Africa at this time of year). In Argentina, places like Mendoza, Salta and Cafayate are very comfortable. In Chile, the Atacama desert is one of the driest places on earth and you’ll get cooler (even cold) temperatures this time of year. It is also a great time to visit Iguazu Falls as well as Rio de Janeiro in Southern Brazil (August is its driest month and average highs are around 24C).
Getting closer to the equator, there are other parts of South America that, because of their altitude, have comfortable (and stable) temperatures during much of the year. In Ecuador there is Quito and Cuenca. Similarly, inland parts of Colombia (Medellin, Bogota, and the beautiful Zona Cafetera) have comfortable temperatures and low precipitation from June to August. Avoid coastal Ecuador and Colombia if you don’t like rain and humidity. Inland Peru is ideal this time of year and places to visit include Lima, Arequipa, Cuzco, and the Valle Sagrado. It’s also when people come to hike Machu Picchu (unfortunately it is peak season for this and can get quite crowded).
Much of Asia can be unbearably hot while also getting tons of rain (monsoon season). There are exceptions though. It is the perfect time to visit the southern islands of Indonesia including Bali (but there’s also Java, Lombok, Flores and Sulawesi). It is the driest time of year in this region and you’ll get average daily maximums in the 27C range. Central and East Coast Sri Lanka also has warm and sunny temperatures in July and August. Ladakh in Northern India is another exception: look forward to brilliant sunshine, stunning clear blue skies and Himalayan Mountains dotted with Buddhist temples. Another good place in Asia is Central Vietnam (Hoi An, Danang, Hue, Dalat and the Central Highlands) where it is dry with temps in the high 20’s. July and August are also good times to visit Malaysian Borneo (dry, with maximum daily temps around 29C).
Helpful link: This site lets you browse through the different countries in Asia and gives you information on weather and the best times to visit.
Most people think that Mexico must be really hot in mid-summer. You might be surprised to find Central Mexico a refreshing reprieve from the heat. I’ve visited this region each of the last 3 years and the altitude presents cool, mostly clear days with temperatures rarely exceeding 25C (with overnight lows around 12C). It is rainy season but rains come and go quickly and many days don’t get any rain at all. Places I’ve visited over the last 3 years: Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Queretaro, Patzcuaro, Puebla and Oaxaca. I love Central Mexico and I especially love visiting it in summer. It is also an inexpensive destination.
Related: Tourism…and when the locals hate you
Related: 12 Surprising Places to See (that you may never have heard of)
Related: Does the Romance of Travel still exist?
Have you been to any of the above in summer?
Do you have any other favorite places to add to this list?
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There are many things to explore in countries of Central Asia, especially Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan will be a great tour. Here you can learn the history of the Silk Road and visit glorous mausoleums, mosques and other countructions of medieal ages in Uzbekistan and enjoy breathtaking views in high Tien Shan Mountains in Kyrgyzstan. Come to visit us!
Hi dear travelers,
If you want to learn new culture and have interesting experiences, then you should visit Central Asia. You will be astonished by burning gas crater Doors to Hell in Turkmenistan, visit glorious midieval architecture in Uzbekistan, sleep in yurts and meet nomads in Kyrgyzstan, drive along the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan and enjoy national parks of Kazakhstan. Central Asia is a totally new world.
I agree about tourism in Europe during summer (just a little bit), but go to out of the way places that usually see few tourists. Places like Paris, London, Barcelona etc., I just go through to somewhere else. Occasionally though I’ve hit a tourist spot because I didn’t know it was one, mainly because I just pick a dot on the map and go. Living in London I usually can’t wait to get out of it.
Now, if I could find somewhere warm in winter that’s not thousands of miles away …..
How about Morocco in winter Ted? I was there in Nov-Dec last year and it was still quite warm. Prices are good and it’s exotic…
Frank, great theme on this post – I’ve thought about it a lot myself since I usually base myself in Bratislava during the summer months.
Maybe the question you should be asking is not where you should go in Europe during the summer months, but how you travel. From May until end of Oct. I’m bike touring around central and eastern Europe, mostly along riverside forests and farm fields, pretty villages and usually a beer garden every 5kms. Gastehauses in the rural areas usually go for around 25€ including an awesome breakfast. Most of the villages are off the tourist route and I avoid the big cities (or the boring bits) by jumping on a train with my bike and go round or just simply ride right through it. Sometimes I’ll base myself for a week in a small city or town just on the outskirts of a popular destination and just ride in (or go by train) on day trips – far cheaper and avoid the tourist hordes. Anyways, checkout the eurovelo website. You might be interested in the Iron Curtain route, eurovelo 13.
I heard you’ve recently rediscovered long distance biking……lots of great summertime options in Europe.
Ha, hate the Bruins! (Canadiens fan all my life). But good comment.
The post was actually about avoiding Europe all together but if you are going to Bratislava (or Belgrade or Skopje) you’ll definitely be bypassing a lot of tourists.
But what I really do find interesting is the way you travel which sounds like a lot of fun. I was thinking of doing a long distance bike ride in Croatia but it really is not bicycle friendly. All the islands connected by ferry, but most are catamarans and they don’t allow bikes (although there’s plenty of room in the back). I checked out the Eurovelo website but honestly a bit confused – they cite Eurovelo 8 going down the Adriatic coast. Well, that’s basically the route I did riding from Split to Makarska and there it’s very bike unfriendly. So what is the criteria for these routes? I would think they would require at least a shoulder for the cyclist…
Otherwise sounds great, and I know the Western European countries have some excellent cycle routes.
This was really enjoyable to read. Having read this there seem to be some wonderful places to visit.
Thank you Nicolleen! Yes, we didn’t know beforehand that parts of South Africa can be seen in our summer – we might do it next year.
A lot of people talk about the monsoon season in asia and are worried about rain cause they associate that scary word with storms. The reality is in tropical climates it usually rains late afternoon or night. Often the days are sunny. June/July is a great time to visit asia with cheaper prices and less tourists.
Thanks for the feedback Tom.
I think a lot has to do with your weather preferences. You’re very right about less tourists and cheaper prices in the off season in Asia. If someone likes heat and humidity then it would be fine for them, unless maybe if they’re on a short trip where they have X days to see highlights – because you never know about the weather. We were in Bangkok once in rainy season and it was nasty with some heavy rains. It’s a bit like the Caribbean – when I was younger and didn’t have much money I would go to Cuba and the Dominican Republic in the summer. Great deals on all-inclusives. Few tourists, very warm, and as you say, usually sunny early in the day with rain in the evening. But there again, have had 3-4 days in a row of heavy rains…very unpredictable time of year.
This post was more weather-centered though, I was aiming for cool and sunny (for sightseeing and activities) during the summer months as a getaway from the summer heat and massive amounts of tourists in Europe.
You’ve got some great tips here Frank. I’m ashamed to say that even though I’ve been to India lots of times to see family, the first I came to know of Ladakh was last year when a cousin went and his photos looked just breathtaking. Even though I’m London based and Europe breaks are so easy, we always try and avoid them in the summer for the reasons you’ve described, especially during school holiday times. We hoped we would escape the crowds in Croatia last week but seems September was still pretty popular and 2 cruise ships came during the time we were there so it was unpleasantly busy.
Thanks Shikha. Croatia is a funny destination – most times it is almost dead quiet…and then suddenly June 1st the tourists come in droves and it doesn’t let up until the end of September. I mentioned Split, one of our favorite places. Last year we were there April and May. This year we were there June and July. Totally different experiences. And honestly, it just gets too hot in July and August. While we were there we heard of a few tourists dying of sunstroke…locals would never go out in that midday heat and they’ll tell you to be careful.
Besides all the tourists, it’s also the prices and value for money. I looked at what we paid this summer in Europe and it just wasn’t worth it. We’ve learned – avoid it for those 3 months of the year (June – Aug). Besides, a good time to see other places that don’t see anywhere near as many tourists.
So many wonderful places outside of Europe Frank. I was going to go to Tanzania in January, until I looked at the weather map and changed it to July. Having better weather rules in my opinion. I didn’t think about low milaria risk… Great point!
Great to know it helped Paula. Tanzania, that’s really exciting – any special plans?
I’ll be volunteering in Arusha. To say I’m excited is an understatement 😉
Great post on novel places…its about getting creative and avoiding the obvious in summer. I am partial to South Africa as it is my birth place and home country. Recently we have spent tine in SEASia. Monsoon season is not a detractor for us, and the tourists usually stick to a few streets and are easy to escape.
Thanks Peta. For 20+ years I had a boss who’d tell me about South Africa (he’s from George). I also had an African experience, I lived in Zambia for 2 years when I was young. Anyway, we finally visited late last year and I loved it. We spent 3 months using Cape Town as a base, visiting the Garden Route and Karoo. I know the Cape known to be different from the rest of ZA but we are planning to be back sometime in 2017 and visit the northern part of the country as well as Vic Falls/Lesotho…was planning Feb but after having done more research for this post I think summer (in Northern Hemisphere) might even be better.
Had a quick look at your blog and love it already. Have subscribed. Looks like you’ve spent time in many of the places listed in this post. Thanks for commenting 🙂
For me it’s almost more about the heat. We love off season travel because it’s much cooler, and yes..less people. Honestly though, l didn’t mind the masses in Lisbon or Stockholm for that matter. I did mind them in Sintra as you know, but that’s because it is a tiny place that has become a tourist trap. Funny, out of all these places, Africa and Central Mexico are the ones l would like to go. I’m a creature of habit and would rather go back to places l enjoy :-).
The older the become the more we feel the same about heat. Especially since most of our holidays are not beach-type holidays but more walking around and discovering…
And again, it depends how much time you spend in a place. Lots of tourists are fine if you’re in a place a few days – but if you’re in that place a month you might just end up hating them all 🙂
Great tips posted here, lots of places to consider. The good thing is there is always somewhere new to go. As for the US in the summer, all of the highlights such as National Parks, big name cities, are in fact full of tourists and most often the temps are pretty high. My suggestion would be to head far north in the summer months in the US. As a matter of fact, summer 2017 will find us far north up into Maine where the temps are not so high. We live in northern Maryland and between the summer heat and humidity it’s not pleasant, hence, a far north road trip July 2017.
Yes, the US and Canada can go crazy in summer too. I remember a lot of our summer vacations in Canada and we always had to do a lot of planning and pre-booking.
You mention Maine. Yes, nice temps off the ocean especially towards end of summer. I went there with my son and we spent a week in Acadia national Park. Very pretty. BUT – just make sure to pre-book because it also (unfortunately) is very popular. And just watch out for temperatures because sometimes north/south doesn’t matter much – try Montreal in the summer, gets hot and humid like you wouldn’t believe. If you’re going in that area stick close to the Atlantic/St.Lawrence or in the mountains (Vermont and New Hampshire have some beautiful spots).
Either way, it’s a beautiful area and a bit wild…lots of nature and I’m sure you’ll love it.
It’s a nice post Frank! What I would add as a perfect destination for the summer months is Central Asia – Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan etc… beautiful in the summer, with great weather and at the same time so unique and virtually free from annoying tourists. They can boast both: world’s class natural and architectural wonders – it’s an adventure one of a kind!
I also just returned from Russia – and I must admit it’s completely different from how it’s shown in the western media – people are friendly and after dark it was the place I felt the safest! Much safer than in Western Europe.
I always love the off-the-beaten path places you come up with Tom!
I had a quick look. I know you’ve been to southern Kazakhstan (Almaty area) and the weather as you say seems good. Weather here (such a large country: the north, in the steppes, has colder temps and more rain in the summer). Kazakhstan weather here. I’m also linking your Kazakhstan posts here (by the way, Almaty looks as crazy as Skopje 🙂 )
Turkmenistan – yikes, I see average temps in the very high 30’s with possibility as high as 50C in summer. I think maybe not the time to go. Turkmenistan weather here
Central Asia so large and the temperatures vary widely. Southern Kazakhstan though seems a possibility for the adventurous.
How about staying put where you are and enjoy the summer with friends and family? This is what I typically do here in the PNW – the weather is perfect. I typically like to travel outside of summer. But well… if I were to suggest a place, it would have to be the PNW (Seattle, Portland, Boise, etc) has the ideal weather (it doesn’t get hotter than 85 degrees) and so much outdoor activities it’ll keep you entertained the entire summer.
Thanks Hung Thai. You’re situated close to Vancouver, one of my favorite places anywhere…I’m sure PNW is just as beautiful and have read great things about Portland. But the reason I haven’t mentioned anything in Canada/US is that everyone is on vacation in the summer months. So many gorgeous National Parks in both countries but they tend to be swarmed by campers and day trippers (I remember the struggle of pre-booking accommodations in the summer when I lived in Canada). This post was aimed at those who want to travel but are looking for an escape from the crowds during that time of year.
By the way – my mom has an Airbnb apartment in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico and she gets lots American tourists coming from California in summer. Just gets too hot for them so they escape to Central Mexico. You’d never think huh?
I was actually thinking of calling it quits, move to Mexico, buy a place by the beach and run an AirBnB thing. You’d be my first customer, right?
Of course 🙂
We’re already making plans for next year and we’re totally in agreement with you about how hordes of tourists can change one’s experiences during the height of tourist season! We’ve been talking about visiting Eastern Europe during July and August (maybe Latvia, Lithuania, Romania … ) but I really like the idea of South Africa or Botswana. Hmmm – time to do some research and thanks for your ideas!
We’ve never been to the Baltic countries, I wonder what it’s like this time of year? Romania is still slightly rough for the independent traveller but there’s lots to see and still feels off the tourist path (we were there for a month in October – but I don’t know what it’s like June-August).
Thank you for the comment Anita 🙂
Sand In My Suitcase
We hear you about Europe being too crowded in the summer… We were on a cruise a couple of years ago where we stopped in at Meteora, Greece, in September — the hordes we had to tussle with were huge even then in “off season.”
Your suggestion of central Mexico is a great one – the weather in Mexico City, San Miguel del Allende and Guanajuato would be perfect in June! (We visited in January, and it was cold at night…)
Meteora, Greece – I would never have guessed you would have a stampede of tourists there!
Yes, San Miguel and area actually gets quite cold at night in January, my mom lives there. In the summer months the temperatures just perfect though.
Some great ideas, South Africa would be top of my list. I would also suggest the Northeast of Brazil, places such as Salvador, Recife, Natal can have temperatures at around 25 degrees C and not a lot of rain.
Thanks Gilda. I’ve included a link on Salvador here. It has a tropical rainforest climate and because it is close to the equator temperatures don’t really vary that much. But one thing I would say is that it rains a lot (June is one of it’s wettest months). And it’s humid – personally not the type of weather I’d be looking to escape the heat to.
I think you’d love South Africa Gilda, one of my favorite countries. People are nice,geography fantastic…I didn’t know doing this post that summer would be a good time to see it, but the fact that you can visit Kruger (which is in Malaria country) and there’s almost no risk that time of year is a big plus.
Tanja (the Red phone box travels)
everyone’s got holidays in summer hence the crowds!:) but yes, some places should be avoided in the summer:)
The point of the post is that Europe is the most visited continent in the world and peak time is summer. And most people don’t really know what other options are available during this period. It’s personally made me rethink where we should spend some of the busiest months 🙂
I was hoping the same price range on this list. I’m from Europe, and to travel to those country’s costs a lot. Can’t you give us some list still inside Europe?
Hi Claudio – the point on this post was to highlight places outside Europe 😉
But if you are looking for ideas inside Europe I have a few suggestions off the top of my head (places we have been): Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Macedonia (where we were for 10 days before coming to Lisbon – one of the cheapest places we’ve been anywhere). All are less expensive than Lisbon (I can’t compare to prices in other parts of Portugal) and there is a lot to see in each. Other countries that are cheap but we have not been personally to date: Poland, Serbia, Albania. Spain, where are are now, we are finding to be about the same prices as Portugal.
Hope that helps.
Hello – Talia here! Since someone asked about Europe, thought we could chime in. As we’ve been in the Balkans straight through the summer, I can comment that Serbia, Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia are all great to visit, even in the high(est) season. Nary a sold-out hotel or jacked-up price in sight. On the coast of Albania in August, it is advisable to book in advance to find decent accommodations, but it is still possible to roll into the most popular beach towns (Himare, Sarande). None of the capital cities in these countries are overcrowded with tourists or feeling infrastructure strain. Only Montenegro felt like a place I would like to avoid in future summers. Also some of the most heavily touristed by locals heading away for a week or weekend: Lake Ohrid, Macedonia comes to mind.
Totally agree! We love the Balkans and just came from Macedonia where we spent 10 days, Very, very few tourists and it was a great experience. We will be back in the Balkans in December, spending time in Serbia and Croatia.
Where are you from Talia?
The only thing is that this post was about places outside Europe 🙂 But I appreciate the suggestions – there was already one commenter above who asked about inexpensive places in Europe so you’re helping people out.
Good list folks… I’ll be adding them to my Pinterest boards! Would love to visit the Blyde River Canyon!
Me too – we visited the Cape Region earlier this year and just fell in love with South Africa. We want to come back, visit Kruger and Blyde River Canyon, and also go up to Victoria Falls (which I visited often as a child when I lived in Zambia).
Any Australia tips Jane? I know you’re an Aussie.