Team Wanderlust | 24 April 2023
The 27 best places to visit in July
Here are some of the world's top destinations for immersing yourself in local nature, wildlife and culture in July, from Australia to the Azores...
Here are some of the world's top destinations for immersing yourself in local nature, wildlife and culture in July, from Australia to the Azores...
July is usually one of the busiest months for travel. School's out, and the weather in many parts of the world is at its warmest and sunniest. In the northern hemisphere, summer celebrations are in full swing, national parks are prime for exploring and the world's best beaches burst into action.
Whatever you're looking for from your July getaway – be it sunny and sweet, or packing in as many culture and natural highlights as several weeks allows – you'll surely find something to suit you from our selections.
Skip ahead to your chosen travel type by clicking on one of the below, or keep scrolling for the full list:
July is one of the hottest months of the year in Portugal, with average temperatures of 24°C during the day. The Portuguese islands of Madeira and the Azores in the North Atlantic are a few degrees cooler, but all three destinations are ideal if you’re seeking the sun.
Nicknamed the Floating Garden of the Atlantic, Madeira is in bloom all year round. As the name suggests, Pride of Madeira – a bush with purple cone blooms – is native to the island, but if you visit in July you’ll see magnolias, red hot poker trees and hydrangeas. Hydrangeas are also popular in the Azores, particularly around Sete Cidades near Lake Azul.
Festival goers might want to book a trip around Fiesa, an annual summer sand sculpture festival in Pêra on the mainland. As well as watching artists carving 12m high sculptures and seeing them illuminated at night, visitors can attend workshops. Meanwhile, over in Tomar, women parade through the town carrying bread on their heads during Festa dos Tabuleiros, which is held every four years. The next one takes place in July this year (2023).
Over on Madeira, visitors can attend a 24-hour folk dancing festival in Santana, a jazz festival in Funchal and a canoe regatta and games during Sea Week in Porto Moniz. The Azores meanwhile hosts a week-long party and regatta on Sao Jorge Island and Santa Maria Blues festival on the eponymous island. And while spring is best for whale-spotting in the Azores, sperm and minke whales do ply its waters year-round, so take a whale-watching trip or keep your eyes peeled from land.
Set on the southern tip of Spain, this peninsula hits highs of 28°C in July and benefits from 11 hours of sunshine a day. If you’re after beaches, visit the east side of Gibraltar and you will find the colourful, Italianesque Catalan Bay, and Sandy Bay, best suited for swimmers and water activities.
Visitors can explore the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens all year round, while the endemic Gibraltar sea lavender blossoms on rocks and cliffs around Europa Point and Camp Bay in July. Plus, you're almost guaranteed to spot hundreds of dolphins when joining a boat tour that takes you out into Gibraltar Strait, offering fantastic views of the dominating Gibraltar Rock.
The height of summer is also the best time to experience festivals. Calentita Food Festival takes place in early July, while Gibraltar Regatta is usually held later in the month.
Most of Europe benefits from sparkling weather in July, but along with August, it's when you'll find the beaches most crowded, and the cities packed with visitors.
Fortunately, it is possible to find a European hot spot that, even in peak season, is slightly less crowded than the others: the Balkan country of Albania. Temperatures here reach hot heights of 30°C to 35°C.
Spend a few days in Albania's capital Tirana for an unusual city break, and discover that the resort town of Sarandë is a dreamy combination of beaches, history and hiking.
The River Vjosa flows through Albania and has recently received national park status, becoming the first wild river national park in Europe, so there's no better time to explore this protected ecosystem.
And finally, don't miss The Blue Eye natural spring in Muzinë. This UNESCO-listed site has bubbling blue waters that can reach up to 50 metres in depth.
Provence in July is often visited for its endless rows of lavender fields, but if you look beneath the surface, there’s so much more wilderness to explore across the region.
The steep terrain makes Alpes-de-Haute-Provence perfect for adventurers, with activities such as hiking, rafting and mountaineering all possible to experience. Head to Verdon Natural Regional Park for superb gorges, turquoise glacial river waters, and wildlife spotting, or UNESCO-listed Luberon Region Natural Park for its fields of vineyards, limestone mountains, and medieval villages that perch on rugged hilltops.
Beyond the blissful summer scenery, a July visit to Provence should also be well timed with France's national day, La Fête Nationale, commonly known as Bastille Day. It's an annual celebration in France taking place on 14 July, often marked with festivities, fireworks and the odd parade.
And if you're determined to set your sights on lavender fields before you go, the spa town of Digne-les-Bains is the self-proclaimed lavender capital of France.
Expect glorious weather across the Indian Ocean archipelago to continue throughout July, reaching pleasant highs of around 28°C, usually averaging out around 25°C to 26°C.
And where better to enjoy such warm sunshine than on one of the 115 islands that make up the Seychelles? Beach relaxation is a given, but you can certainly make an adventure trip out of the islands.
Seek the elusive giant Aldabra tortoise, snorkel and admire the natural beauty of St Pierre Island, or get your feet dirty hiking through the rich green forests of Morne Seychellois National Park.
There's never a better-time weather wise to get in your car and road trip through Ireland (unless, maybe, you count March, for St Patrick's Day). In July, you can expect 18 hours of daylight, and a cool temperature. There may be the odd surprise summer shower, but you can't have it all...
Where you drive is up to you, but a stop in colourful Kilkenny can lead you straight to the capital, Dublin, via County Carlow's wild countryside.
If you can, ensure you stop over in Galway, and pay a visit to Connemara National Park, soaking up the nature and hikes, and also the coves and bays along the coast. County Cork is also a must-visit... but we could go on.
Alternatively, the little-visited northwest tip is glorious in the summer. The Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal has enough to occupy you for days, with white-sand beaches without the crowds, numerous blustery coastal walks, and fantastic local pubs serving hearty meals.
Many people associate Switzerland with the winter, as skiers and snowboarders flock to destinations such as Zermatt and St. Mortiz. But they're really missing out on something special. In summer, the Swiss Alps transform into an adult playground for outdoor enthusiasts, without having to step into snow boots. July is an ideal time to visit, as temperatures range from 18 to 28 °C.
Head to the town Interlaken, known as the 'Adventure Capital of Europe'. Located in the Bernese Oberland, you can enjoy everything from endless alpine hikes and guided kayak tours on turquoise lakes, to adrenaline-pumping activities such as white-water rafting, canyoning and paragliding. This region offers some wild fun in a beautiful setting.
Don't miss taking the 100-year-old cogwheel train up to Schynige Platte, where you'll be met with botanical gardens and unbeatable vistas. And before you go, make sure you tuck into a hot cheese fondue at one of the many restaurants serving traditional Swiss cuisine.
Sun-seekers can rejoice in Mexico's July temps, reaching highs of a hot 28°C. It does cool off in the evenings, so you won't be sweltering all day. You may fancy a lightweight jacket, and even a brolly just in case there's a touch of summer rainfall.
Mexico's best-known beaches and hidden coves are often found on the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula in Tulum and Cancun. But there are other benefits to the warmth beyond catching a few rays for yourself: July is peak sea turtle season in Mexico.
There's also nature reserves and national parks aplenty, but to cool off from the heat, visit one of the many cenotes. These natural pools were once key water sources for the Mayans, and also believed to be portals to the underworld where Mayan gods would visit. Now, they offer incredible guided swimming, snorkelling and diving experiences for travellers.
While you can see sheep, cows and Icelandic horses – a breed of intelligent, petite horses – all year round, in summer you can also spot herds of reindeer around Snaefell and colonies of Atlantic puffins breeding on cliffs around the isle. July is also peak season for whale watching. The best place to take a trip to see humpback, minke and blue whales is from Husavik, in the north of the island.
The days are long, the temperatures at their highest, and so this is the perfect month to really explore Iceland's delights
Early to mid July is often the best time to spot a brown bear in Finland, Sweden or Arctic Norway. Typically, brown bears arise from hibernation around April time, and tend to disappear for mating in June, before becoming visible again – often to feed.
Your best bet of a sighting is at night, often from a 'bear hide' hotel, and with the help of a specialist guide – a.k.a. a 'bear safari'. You'll have plenty of tours and locations to choose from.
The Lakeland region of Finland is covered in thick forests, and has approximately 2,000 bears in its midst. In central and northern Sweden, it's even harder to catch a glimpse of the region's reported 3,000 brown bears – though Hälsingland, Bollnäs and Sandviken are all popular choices.
Honestly, it's much rarer to see a bear in Norway – if you do, it'll be near the Swedish and Finnish border.
The 80 islands making up the Pacific Ocean county of Vanuatu may not have the largest number of birds in history, but the ones it does call its own are rather special.
There are thought to be 30 rare species flying around, 11 of which are said to only appear in Vanuatu. The rainbow lorikeet, for example, might be native to Australia, but it frequents Vanuatu – and is quite the colourful sighting for a keen birder.
There's also the coconut lorikeet, the weird and wonderful Vanuatu megapode, and the super cute red-tailed tropicbird, to name a few... a must for fans of sensational birdlife.
July is midwinter for Australians, though don't expect minus temperatures and piles of snow. There may be a little rain, but temperatures rest around a palatable 14°C.
Kangaroo Island is off South Australia and, despite the devastating fires of 2020, it's back to being a must-visit for fans of marsupials. Kangaroos roam the island freely and can be spotted on farmland and along the verges. Wallabies are shyer but keep your eyes peeled at dusk and after dark.
Expect to see koalas, and a variety of beautiful birdlife too, including wedge-tailed eagles (Australia's largest bird of prey) and very rare glossy black cockatoos. Head to Flinders Chase National Park for seals and bird life. Also worth a visit is Seal Bay Conservation Park, to see protected sea lions doing their thing.
One of the world's biggest and boldest wildlife migrations is the Great Migration of wildebeest and zebra. It starts in northern Tanzania's Serengeti, and over 1.5 million animals move towards the Masai Mara Nature Reserve in Kenya, as they thirst for water and fresh grass.
You can actually experience a part of the migration at almost any time of year, as our Great Migration calendar goes to show. In July, you can expect to see the herds "spread out from Grumeti Game Reserve and Ikorongo Game Controlled Area to the northern reaches of the Serengeti," according to our expert William Gray.
The crossing over into Kenya really depends on rainfall in Tanzania, so you have to play it by ear. The migration could occur in mid-June, if the waters have run dry – or as late as September, if the zebra and wildebeest aren't so thirsty. There's often opportunity to spot the crossing in July, so choose your timings wisely.
A polar bear sighting in the wild is one of life's great joys, whether you're hardcore into wildlife watching, or find it makes up only part of your travel experience.
In the Svalbard archipelago, April to September is prime wildlife spotting season – including polar bears as they roam on a ceaseless search for food. This is when official tours take place, and is your best shot of getting an up-close glimpse of these deceptively gorgeous (and quite dangerous!) creatures in their homes. Sadly, you can't really go off polar bear-seeking on your own.
The most popular way of exploring Svalbard is to take an expedition cruise up Spitsbergen's west coast and around the archipelago. These last several days and mix shore excursions with wildlife spotting from deck. Polar bears are often seen on the cliffs and beaches as they look for any marine life that has been washed up. Alternatively, base yourself in Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen and take tours from there. In July, you'll have missed the deep snows of earlier in the season, and the ice won't have quite melted, as it does by the end of the season. So, July's often thought of as one of the best times, weather-wise, to explore.
We've talked plenty about the beauty of Belize on Wanderlust, and we reckon July's a great time to take in all this Central American gem has to offer.
The weather, firstly, is at its best. Hot days are followed (often) by rainy nights, with a cooling breeze rolling in shortly after. Now's your chance to dive the Belize Barrier Reef and Glover's Reef, explore ancient Maya cities such as Lamanai, and marvel at the Blue Hole – a natural large sinkhole off the coast that is both mysterious and the largest of its kind.
You could spend weeks soaking up Belize, but make it a multi-country trip (if you've got the time to spare) and tick off the neighbouring Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador while you're at it.
There's a small window for Alaska's peak season: late May to July. There'll be 17 to 18 hours of daylight each day during a July excursion, and it's also the warmest time of year to visit – with highs of approximately 18°C.
It may not be the cheapest time in-season to visit (that's probably late May), but it is the best for exploring. The prime weather makes exploring the vast Denali National Park and Glacier Bay National Park a total joy. It's a highlight for any nature lover.
Whalewatchers will also benefit from a July trip, as that's when you're most likely to spot humpback whales swimming in the sea. Anglers meanwhile will find it's also the best month for fishing for Alaska king salmon.
It's true that Namibia, in Southern Africa, is a country that has it all. Famous for its towering red sand dunes, it's also a wildlife hot spot, with a sprawling sandy coast.
We'd say you'll need the best part of two weeks, if not longer, to really take it all in. July's just the time to do it. The weather is pretty sensational, for one thing. There's low chance of rain, and the temp typically hovers around 20°C – making exploring the Sossusvlei dunes and the desert expanse much cooler than you'd expect.
The lack of rain is perfect for wildlife lovers, too: Etosha National Park's many animals will be gathering around the water holes to quench their thirst, so you've a good chance of spotting zebra, giraffes and elephants side by side.
Where do we begin with Indonesia? The island-hopping? The many moving and unusual religious festivals that take place? The melting pot of cultures, evident particularly in its cuisine? There's so much to see and do - you could spend months here and never get bored.
It won't be the quietest month in Indonesia, as temperatures reach up to a scorching 30°C and visitors do come to many of the 17,000+ islands that make up Indonesia for a dose of glorious sun. But as its dry season, you've got a good chance of ideal weather on all the islands.
Bali is a classic, as is Java – the most populous island in the country, where you'll find the capital city, Jakarta.
We'd also suggest Sumatra, and Komodo Island for a unique glimpse at the Komodo Dragon in its natural habitat. Finally, Nusa Tenggara (the Lesser Sunda Islands) are all good places to start.
French Polynesia is a long-haul destination worth every minute of the journey, with its largest island Tahiti and neighbouring island Bora Bora being the most sought-after. Nowhere is perfect, but this volcanic archipelago comes pretty close, with its crystal-clear ocean waters, black-sand beaches, waterfalls, and some of the world’s most idyllic accommodation (you’ve undoubtedly seen the island’s overwater bungalows on your Instagram feed). Not to mention its weather, which hovers around 30°C year-round, with July being the midst of its dry season.
But beyond its beauty and weather, July is when you can experience Heiva Festival. It’s one of the world’s oldest festivals, showcasing Polynesian heritage through a colourful, two-week-long celebration. Most of the islands participate in the festival in some form, with events including everything from song and dance performances, to sporting competitions (the canoe race is best known).
French Polynesia is perfect for adventurers. Follow walking trails on foot or horseback to breathtaking lookout points, or go diving or snorkelling to see the thriving wildlife in the island’s surrounding waters. As a bonus, July is also the beginning of whale-watching season in French Polynesia.
July is rainy season in Thailand, but rainy season gets a bad rap. You have to expect downpours of course, but they rarely last all day and have the added bonus of creating incredible waterfalls. Accommodation tends to be cheaper, too.
Visit the north of Thailand in July to experience Phi Ta Khon, or Ghost Festival. The festival's origins are partly based on one of Buddha's past lives when he was a prince who was presumed dead after a long journey – but his safe return led to celebrations so huge they were said to wake the dead. As well as parades, music shows and pageants, you can watch locals dressed in ghostly masks compete in games.
Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival also takes place in the north this month. What began as a Buddhist tradition of donating candles to monks has morphed into spectacle of float-like candles parading to local temples.
A sprawling, metropolitan city in the United States of America seems an obvious choice for July, right? San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Portland, Houston, or pretty much anywhere will be sure to offer you the full red-white-and-blue experience. There'll be fireworks and parades galore in celebration of Independence Day, taking place annually on the fourth of the month.
We've picked Philadelphia due to being slightly more off the radar compared to other big-hitting US cities, but more so for its history. Philly is where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, so we really couldn't think of a better spot to honour the occasion. Expect a week full of concerts, parades and fun activities, with the city's main event being the firework display above the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Kyoto's Gion Matsuri (Gion Festival) is one of Japan's most famous annual celebrations, taking place throughout July. It's been going since the year 869, when the reigning emperor ordered worship at the Yakasa Shrine, in hopes that it would prevent the plague.
It's part of the fabric of the city, with rituals, ceremonies and parades taking place throughout the month. On the 17 and 24 July, traditional parade floats glide through packed streets, and the festivities culminate on the last day of the month, resulting in another street celebration, known as the 'purification' closing ceremony.
It's worth witnessing the magic, especially if you have a keen interest in Japanese tradition and culture. But if you want to experience Gion Matsuri among welcoming locals, you should book what needs booking well in advance.
What makes this year even more special? The event has been cancelled in the past three years due to coronavirus, so 2023 will be an exciting return.
Montreal's Just For Laughs festival does involve people in the streets and arty parade floats, but it's all decidedly a bit less serious.
The comedy festival started in 1983, and has laughed its way to the top: it's now said to be the largest comedy festival in the world. Typically, it takes place over two to three weeks in July, and offers locals and visitors a variety of stand-up shows, comedy nights and evening events – taking place in many different locations across the city.
Expect showcases for the biggest names in US and Canadian comedy, a few of British comedy's biggest stars, as well as new talent and a bit of off-beat entertainment...
One of the four main Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, Mallorca comes alive in mid July with the Virgin of Carmen Festival (also known as Día de la Virgen del Carmen fiesta). The festival dates back to the 13th century, when a monk had a vision of the Virgin Mary with her baby son in her arms. Today, particularly in coastal areas, visitors can watch an effigy of the virgin guide a procession of floats carried by fishermen down to the sea, where the parade continues on illuminated boats as fireworks are set off to music.
Later in the month, on 28 July, you can also attend a festival dedicated to Saint Catalina Thomas, Mallorca's only patron saint. A procession of carriages decorated with ribbons and flowers takes place in the saint's former home town of Valldemossa.
July is the high season for tourists, but it's possible to get off the beaten track after you've finished enjoying the festivities. Visit the UNESCO-listed Serra de Tramuntana mountains that line the backbone of the island to follow scenic winding roads (beware, you'll need a head for heights) and visit the traditional villages nestled into its valleys, such as Sóller and Deià.
Every July, Mongolia celebrates the country's culture and unique sports at Naadam Festival. Its name roughly translates to 'Manly Festival', and focusses on three main nomadic events: archery, horse racing and wrestling. Although women do not take part in the latter, young girls can now compete in the horse racing, and women in the archery.
As one of the biggest festivals in Mongolia's cultural calendar, you'll see participants and locals dressed in traditional clothing. Beyond the sports, there are concerts and parades to keep you entertained, plus plenty of opportunities to sample traditional cuisine, such as khuushuur (fried dumplings) and airag (fermented mare's milk).
All the main events take place in Ulaanbaatar, but the festival can be enjoyed across Mongolia. Those who want to have a more remote, intimate experience should head into the countryside: Khovd in the west or Khatgal in the north are known to also known to put on a show.
St Lucia Carnival is the highlight of summer in the Caribbean. Celebrations are centred around the Castries, which comes to life with Soca, Calypso, and steel-pan performances by artists from St Lucia and neighbouring islands. If planning your visit, make sure to sign up to your favourite fetes (planned parties) before they sell out.
The event culminates on the final days during the National Parade, where thousands take to the streets as part of marching bands, wearing brightly-coloured costumes embellished with feathers and sequins. Visitors and locals can spectate, but can also join the bands as they take to the streets, if registered early enough.
St Lucia Carnival originated in 1947, when a small crowd first paraded the island. More than 75 years later, around 30,000 revellers join the party every year.
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