A view of South Korea (Dreamstime)
Article Words : Elizabeth Atkin | 03 April 2019

The 20 best places to visit in May

We reveal the best destinations to travel to in May, for ideal weather, natural wonders, cultural highlights, primetime wildlife watching experiences and longer-term trips...

May is such a lovely month for many places around the world: for wildlife watching, optimum weather and arts and culture experiences – so figuring out where to go and what to see can be tricky.

So, whether you’re looking for planning a longer-term trip, or are just looking for a May short break somewhere pleasantly sunny, we’ve got recommendations for you. 

Here are the 20 best places to visit in May…

The best May destinations for nature and ideal weather

1. South Korea

Gamcheon Culture Village in Busan, South Korea (Dreamstime)

Gamcheon Culture Village in Busan, South Korea (Dreamstime)

There seems to be a million and one good reasons to visit South Korea in May.

Firstly, there’s the pleasant weather, with lows of 13°C and highs of 23°C. Clear skies and warm days are on the horizon, before the humidity picks up in summer.

Early May also sees Damyang’s annual Bamboo Festival take place, with opportunities to try bamboo stalk-brewed booze, make bamboo crafts and fish with a bamboo basket yourself. There’s also the Boseong Green Tea Festival. No medals for guessing what that’s about!

Flights are often reasonably-priced in May, too – given that peak season is March to May and September to November.

2. Japan

Fuji surrounded by cherry blossoms, Japan (Dreamstime)

Fuji surrounded by cherry blossoms, Japan (Dreamstime)

May marks the end of Japan’s spring, when the weather is starting to get a little warmer. It arrives just before the start of the rainy season in June, which lasts all summer until August.

Early May makes a lovely time to visit Japan, especially if you want to enjoy hanami (cherry blossom viewing). Throughout spring, the country’s famous pale pink cherry blossoms are in full bloom.

Blooms of wisteria are also prime for viewing in early May. Plants are tucked away all over. Ashikaga Flower Park, and the wisteria tunnel at Kawachi Fuji Gardens in Kitakyushu, are particularly stunning.

3. Morocco

Ait Ben Haddour Ksar, a Berber town in Morocco and a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Dreamstime)

Ait Ben Haddour Ksar, a Berber town in Morocco and a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Dreamstime)

All being well, you’ll be able to enjoy warmth during the day (with temps ranging from 15 to 29°C) and relax during the cooler evenings – before temps across the country start to soar as summer begins.

It’s an especially good time to visit the coast (Rabat, Casablanca and Essaouira are all cities nearby), or go on a serious hike. The weather in the Atlas Mountains, for example, should be mild enough, day and night, to make longer treks more pleasant (despite maybe the odd shower).

Like Japan, Morocco is at its most naturally beautiful during springtime. Expect to see lots of vibrant green as you get out in nature.

4. South of England

An idyllic image of Aylesford village in the county of Kent, South of England (Dreamstime)

An idyllic image of Aylesford village in the county of Kent, South of England (Dreamstime)

We can’t pretend the weather in England is always easy to predict. Or that it will definitely be on your side if you visit in May. But it is usually brightening up and getting a bit less chilly. You’ll also have a better chance weather-wise down south than up north, where it’s usually a fair few degrees colder.

The south is also where you’ll be able to enjoy some of the region’s blooming bluebell woods in Kent, Wiltshire and beyond. There’s also the Chelsea Flower Show taking place in London throughout May.

The rest of London needs no introduction – but there are plenty of free things to do. If you do fancy London, keep an eye out for the end of May half-term week, and try to avoid a clash to avoid further crowds.

5. Bahamas, Caribbean

The Bahamas from above (Dreamstime)

The Bahamas from above (Dreamstime)

Sun-seekers should head to the Bahamas in early May, where temps go as high as 29°C during the day, and stay warm in the evening, averaging around 22°C. Later in May and going into June, you're looking at rainy season.

With over 700 islands making up the Bahamas, there's plenty to do beyond lounging on the beach. You could dive the Abacos, the third largest coral reef in the world, or go birding in Inagua National Park, which is home to 50,000 pink flamingos.

6. Washington D.C.

The United States Capitol (Dreamstime)

The United States Capitol (Dreamstime)

The United States’ capital city experiences highs of 23°C and lows of 12°C in May. Summer in D.C. is usually called 'sticky' - though this way you're still catching a few spring rays.

The National Memorial Day Parade takes place in May, as does Passport DC throughout the month, with workshops, exhibitions and fun festivals taking place to celebrate its diplomatic community. 

You may also be lucky to catch a free jazz concert at the National Gallery of Art, if the weather's nice enough.

The best longer-term travel experiences to take on in May

7. Sri Lanka's East Coast

Arugam Bay Beach in Sri Lanka (Dreamstime)

Arugam Bay Beach in Sri Lanka (Dreamstime)

You could spend months in Sri Lanka, but regardless of long you’ve got to explore, there are a few key reasons why May’s a great time to go. The less-popular east coast has plenty of dreamy beaches to visit this time of year, and won't be suffering from monsoon season.

In the south east, it's also the right time to see leopards. Yala National Park is particularly pretty over the summer months. In May, palu trees grow fruit, and you may be able to spot sloth bears coming out to eat.

Vesak, a Buddhist holiday marking the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha, is also widely celebrated across Sri Lanka in May.

8. Uzbekistan, along the Silk Road

Shah-i-Zinda Necropolis in Samarkand, Uzbekistan (Dreamstime)

Shah-i-Zinda Necropolis in Samarkand, Uzbekistan (Dreamstime)

Weather-wise, April to May is one of the better visiting windows for Uzbekistan. Being a desert country, it's often rather hot and dry during the summer.

So, May is the ideal time to explore this part of the Silk Road, voted top emerging must-visit destination by Wanderlust readers in our Reader Travel Awards 2019. 

There are countless routes to choose from, but a visit to the city of Samarkand in Uzbekistan, known for its impressive mosques and mausoleums and distinctive blue mosaics, is an absolute must. 

 

9. Inca Trail, Peru

Inca Trail in Peru (Dreamstime)

Inca Trail in Peru (Dreamstime)

It's long been thought that hiking the famous Inca Trail is best done in May. It won't be quite as busy as it will be in the summer, and the weather's very palatable: not much rainfall, and easy temperatures (with lows of 11°C and highs of 25°C).

Fortunately, it'll be less chilly on nights in May, as it does get colder as the sun goes down in June, July and August. You'll be avoiding rainy season, which takes place from December to April.

10. Trekking in Northern Vietnam

The rice fields of Sa Pa, in Vietnam (Dreamstime)

The rice fields of Sa Pa, in Vietnam (Dreamstime)

Hiking the rice fields and mountains of Vietnam isn't advised during the rainy season of June to September. It'll take you longer, and it's likely there'll be far more Vietnamese visitors trekking during these months.

Instead, outdoor activities in towns like Sa Pa, Ha Giang, Bac Ha, and Mu Cang Chai should be done in May, right before rainy season begins, while the weather's still warm and dry. 

11. Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

A view of the active Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica (Shutterstock)

A view of the active Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica (Shutterstock)

Early May is the very start of rainy season in Costa Rica, but with the added benefit of not really being that rainy.

It does have a few more benefits: the lushness of the transitional 'green season' is in full force and you'll also find it's less crowded. Chances are you'll be more likely to find better deals on accommodation and flights.

Despite a little bit of unpredictability with the weather, it is a good time to see the active Arenal Volcano and take part in the many outdoor activities in the surrounding national park. For best views of the volcano, visit early in the morning or later at night.

The best May destinations for arts & culture

12. Brighton, UK

Brighton Pier, UK (Dreamstime)

Brighton Pier, UK (Dreamstime)

If you do find yourself in the South of England in May, it’s worth checking out the annual arts festival in Brighton and Hove.

It’s a multi-art festival, so expect exhibits, events and activities across the creative board, including (but not limited to) music, dance, literature and film throughout the month.

13. Barcelona, Spain

Arcade Fire performing at 2014's Primavera Sound in Barcelona, Spain (Dreamstime)

Arcade Fire performing at 2014's Primavera Sound in Barcelona, Spain (Dreamstime)

Prepare for lots of crowds in Barcelona at the very end of May, as visitors pour in for Primavera Sound music festival.

The main event takes place in Barcelona, but if you can’t bear a tourist trap, then you could always go to the festival’s slightly-less-manic second location in Porto, Portugal.

14. Vienna, Austria

Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria (Dreamstime)

Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria (Dreamstime)

Recently voted the best city in the world to live in 10 years running, you don’t really need a reason to visit Vienna, the capital of Austria. Whatever the weather, there’s something for you to do, plenty of coffeehouses to visit and museums to explore.

If you do need an excuse, Austria’s biggest food festival comes to town for 3 days in May. Head to the glorious Stadtpark for Genussfestival Food Fair in mid-May, and try many of the country’s national dishes. Viennese potato gulash is a must-eat.

15. Prague, Czech Republic

A view of Prague from above (Dreamstime)

A view of Prague from above (Dreamstime)

Similarly, visiting Prague at any time of year will reap rewards – despite how busy the main attractions (like the padlocked Charles bridge) may get.

May is a particularly good time to go to the Czech Republic’s gorgeous capital if you want to experience what the city’s known for: beer! Yep, there’s a 17-day event each May called the Czech Beer Festival.

It looks like the 2019 event is cancelled, though you should be able to – keep an eye on updates here.

The best May destinations for wildlife watching

16. Komodo Island, Indonesia

A Komodo Dragon, the world's largest lizard, on Komodo Island (Dreamstime)

A Komodo Dragon, the world's largest lizard, on Komodo Island (Dreamstime)

The famed Komodo Island is known as the homeland of the world’s largest lizard, the Komodo Dragon. In May, it’s mating season! So, an interesting time to visit…

Unfortunately, reports suggest the island is actually closing down to visitors for a year. So, if you can’t get there in 2019, you’ll have to wait until 2020.

17. Phillip Island, Australia

A penguin peeking out on Phillip Island, Australia (Shutterstock)

A penguin peeking out on Phillip Island, Australia (Shutterstock)

Phillip Island is a well-known destination for wildlife watchers keen to see penguins. In May, penguins start their nest building, and can usually be spotted around 5.30pm. There’s also a ‘penguin parade’ at sunset, whatever the weather.

From May to October, there’s a chance of seeing whales, too. Humpback whales and southern right whales are often spotted along the Victoria coast. There are numerous trails and update pages to help you with the best chance of spotting.

18. Botswana

A leopard hanging out in the Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana (Dreamstime)

A leopard hanging out in the Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana (Dreamstime)

Dry season begins in May and lasts until October, and low season for safari parks is December to April – so May is an ideal time to visit any of Botswana’s main safari reserves, including Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta.

Not only does it have some of the best weather conditions for safari (clear skies, warm weather without overbearing heat and only a small chance of rainfall), but it’s also before the absolute peak season begins in June.

(Click here for more of the best places to view leopards in Africa)

19. Svalbard, Norway

A polar bear adrift in Svalbard, Norway (Dreamstime)

A polar bear adrift in Svalbard, Norway (Dreamstime)

Polar bears can be spotted around Svalbard all year round – there are said to be around 3,000 in the region.

There aren’t ‘safaris’ as such – the best way to see them is via a cruise around the archipelago. You’ll need a guide with you to ensure you’re safe. Polar bears aren’t as cuddly as they look.

May is the beginning of the season, and is the best time to go if you’re a wildlife photography enthusiast, as the ice hasn’t quite melted yet. You’ll be in for some epic shots.

20. Galapagos Islands

A green turtle swimming around the Galapagos Islands (Dreamstime)

A green turtle swimming around the Galapagos Islands (Dreamstime)

Not only is the weather in the Galapagos beautiful in May, with milder temperatures and a lower humidity, but its effects can be seen across the islands in the lush green foliage.

There are typically less visitors in May, which is useful info if you want to avoid the crowds. It’s ideal for animal lovers, who’ll be able to witness green turtles hatching from their eggs. Penguins nest in May, and you may be able to spot them from Fernandina Island or certain parts of Isabela Island.

Birdwatchers will also be able to spy blue-footed boobies doing their courtship dance, waved albatross and greater flamingos, among a host of other species, across various islands.

 

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