Laid-back July is the beating heart of the holiday season; a time when half of Europe and America are packing their bags to hit the beach. To paraphrase the inimitable Will Smith, it’s just a just a bit of a break from the norm.
Play your cards right, however, and you can still find places that are tucked away from the summer madness. Take Slovakia’s High Tatras mountains, a wild and remote wilderness that comes into its own in the long, sunny days of midsummer. Or Botswana’s Ogavango Delta, a vast wetlands playground that you can paddle around by dugout canoe for a front-row view of hippos and crocs.
Here are 11 smashing destinations to tick off your bucket list this July – we won’t tell the masses if you don’t…
Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula
Average temperature: 28ºC / 82ºF
Cultural attraction: Head to Isla Mujeres for the annual Whale Shark Festival, which raises awareness around conversation of these beautiful creatures. The full moon causes hundreds of them to gather in the shallow bluewater ringing the island.
With its colourful towns and vine-covered cenotes, Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula and the Mayan Riviera are popular choices all year round. But it’s slightly quieter in July, towards the end of the rainy season. Yes, you’ll likely catch a few daily tropical downpours, especially if you’re on the Caribbean coast, but the torrential rain will start to lose steam. And yet, the hordes have yet to pick up, especially around the crowd-pleasing Mayan pyramids.
Average temperature: 27ºC / 81ºF
Cultural attraction: The Festival d’Avignon from July 7-26 is not to be missed, with nearly three weeks of world-class theatre, music and dance performances playing out in the handsome Mediterranean city.
Ancient towns, beautiful valleys and the glamour of the French Riviera: Provence truly has it all. This gorgeous region of France comes into its own in July, with balmy temperatures that are perfect for lounging on the beaches of Nice, Cannes and Saint Tropez (Bardot sun hat optional but recommended). In rural areas, the lavender fields hit their full and spectacular bloom, while Bastille Day celebrations on July 14 offer fireworks and street parties for all.
The Rockies, Canada
Average temperature: 19ºC / 66ºF
Cultural attraction: Take advantage of the warmth with a dip in the glacier-fed lakes that dot across Banff, followed by a Canadian-style cookout between the pine tree shrubs.
Canadians migrate en mass to their lakeside cottages during summer months, and it’s only right to follow their lead. The Rockies are so vast and majestic, you should still be able to find a spot of your own if you time it right (don’t travel during public holidays). The long, hazy days of July sees temperatures hit a high of around 22°C in Banff National Park; beautiful conditions to kick back and explore.
Average temperature: 25ºC / 77ºF
Cultural attraction: Hiking in the Tatras Mountains offers a secluded wonderland of waterfalls and lush valley views. And don’t miss Pohada Festival, the country’s largest open-air summer fiesta.
While the beach crowds descend on Spain and the Italian Riviera, Slovakia remains right off the tourist radar. This is a gorgeous corner of Europe sandwiched neatly between Budapest and Vienna, but minus the throngs of either. Mooch around the castles and palaces of charming Old Town Bratislava, and grab a glass of local honey wine by the tree-lined Danube river.
Zimbabwe and Botswana
Average temperature: 25ºC / 77ºF
Cultural attraction: Canoeing on Botswana’s Okavango Delta, for an intimate way of seeing hippos and crocs in their natural habitat.
July falls into peak dry season in Zimbabwe, creating prime conditions for wildlife spotting. The dried-out bush means it’s easier to see Africa’s finest creatures stroll across the Savannah and gather around watering holes for a well-deserved drink. Temperatures are also cooler and there are less mosquitoes compared to the steaming humidity of the wet months. In neighbouring Botswana, waters have flooded the lower Okavango Delta, making it navigable by dugout canoe.
Average temperature: 17ºC / 63ºF
Cultural attraction: Roll up for awesome Highland views, and also the start of Scotland’s festival season: get your wellies on for Edinburgh Jazz Festival, Edinburgh Craft Beer Festival, the Tiree Music Festival, and Rewind Festival: to name but a few.
July is one of the warmest months in Scotland, with long twilights making the lochs and glens of the Highlands even more beautiful than usual. Plus, the further north you go, the more daylight you’ll get. This is prime time to hurl yourself into the Great Outdoors, with canoeing, canyoning, hiking and more. You won’t necessarily avoid the rain, but with scenes as breath-taking as these, who really cares. High summer also sees Scotland’s cultural life in full swing, on the run-up to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August.
Average temperature: 26ºC / 79ºF (cooler in the Bogotá region)
Cultural attraction: Bogotá’s annual Festivales al Parque series hits home in earnest during July, with free open-air concerts from hip-hop to opera bringing the capital alive.
July is shoulder season in Colombia, lying comfortably beyond peak tourist footfall in December-March. It also lands within a short dry spell. So, you’ll have less rain on the Caribbean coast, with its splendid Rosario Islands and Tayrona National Park. And the conditions are ripe for rambling around the Andean highlands outside Bogotá and Medellín; think long, cloudless days and fresh alpine air.
Average temperature: 26ºC / 79ºF
Cultural attraction: Not many people think of Japan as a beach destination, but the coast around the Okinawa islands, Japan’s southernmost region, is a dream for sun-lovers come July.
July is hot and humid in Japan, but on the flip side there are fewer visitors in the main cities. So, you can soak up the timeless allure of Tokyo’s riverside restaurants, temples and parks in relative peace. You’ll find solace, too, in the Hakone alpine region, as Mount Fuji opens for climbing in July with spectacular views. And let’s not forget this is prime time for firework shows, an integral Japanese summer past-time that kicks off just after sunset with a cheery festival atmosphere.
Average temperature: 18ºC / 64ºF
Cultural attraction: Head for The North Cape, Mount Rønvikfjellet or other midnight sun hot spots to see the sun cast a magical glow over Norway’s northern islands, towns and mountain ranges.
With its beautiful fjords and icy peaks, Norway’s outdoor landscape is awe-inspiring – and in July, you can really get up close to it. Inland and forest lakes here often reach around 18 degrees in summer, so swimming is a popular activity, along with kayaking, hiking and cycling. You can do any of these activities and more long into the night, thanks to the fact that it never really gets dark in midsummer months. Norway also has one of the longest coastlines in the world, meaning there’s plenty of opportunity for sailing, too.
Australia's East Coast
Average temperature: 18ºC / 64ºF
Cultural attraction: The annual Splendour in the Grass festival is a great excuse to visit the coastal town of Byron Bay, with its laid-back surf culture and array of hip cafés. It’s held just north of the town from 22-24 July .
Australia is, of course, a year-round destination but July is their winter and it works well on a number of levels. In Northern Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef, rainfall is at its lowest but it’s still warm and sunny. Prime conditions, in other words, for snorkelling, swimming and sailing the Whitsunday Islands. Further down in New South Wales, you may well catch a glimpse of humpback whales migrating up the East Coast. And it’s considered low season for domestic airlines, which means cheaper fees as you navigate this enormous and beautiful country.
Average temperature: 29ºC / 84ºF
Cultural attraction: The Belize Barrier Reef is the second-largest coral reef in the world. It’s home to a riot of exotic colour, and incredible marine life including sea turtles, manatees and the American marine crocktail.
Some seriously delicious weather beckons in Belize come July, with long, sunny days and a cool breeze in the evenings (along with the occasional thunderstorm). Lobster season is also well underway, meaning there’s plenty of chance to feast on lobster curry, spicy lobster soup and more as you hop between palm-fringed cayes. On top of that, you have ancient Mayan ruins tucked away in the jungle and, of course – the gem in the crown that is the Belize Barrier Reef.
Images: Flash Pack, Shutterstock, Erin Jeglinski and James Orr, Michiel Ton and Carl Jorgensen on Unsplash
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