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14 Best Places to Travel in May

Written by Anietra Hamper
Oct 3, 2019

May is the beginning of the summer season in the Northern Hemisphere, which means warmer weather, family vacations, and tourist crowds are beginning to build. It is a shoulder month for many destinations because the summer swarms are not in full swing yet, and the temperatures in most places are still quite comfortable, without the heat of June, July, and August.

The bonus is that while hotel and airfare rates will start to rise in May for popular destinations, they are not yet at peak prices. May is a great month to travel to take advantage of the full blooms of tulips and the festivals in places like Ottawa and Mackinac Island, and get to European destinations like Italy before the big crowds arrive.

Discover more top destinations around the world with our list of the best places to travel in May.

1. Ottawa, Canada

Canadian Tulip Festival and the Parliament Buildings

The month of May is a beautiful time to visit Ottawa in Canada, when winter is in the rearview mirror, and the spring flowers are in full bloom. It is one of the best times of the year to visit because of the spectacular Canadian Tulip Festival, featuring more than one million tulips and attracting more than half a million visitors. It commemorates the first of many outdoor festivals of the season.

There are so many other things to do in Ottawa, from a walk on Parliament Hill to a boat trip along the Rideau Canal when the city is in full bloom. Besides the spring display of flowers, May weather is comfortable, with warming temperatures, but it is not hot.

Visiting Ottawa in May also means you will beat the summer tourist rush and still get reasonable hotel rates.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Ottawa: Best Areas & Hotels

2. Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu

If you have dreamed of hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru, then May is the ideal month to do it. The rainy season will have just ended, and this is a small window before the popular tourist season starts in June. You will see lush green valleys and cooler temperatures, which make for perfect hiking conditions. It can get chilly at night at this time of year, so you will want to pack a few extra layers.

You will want to book many months in advance to reserve lodging and obtain the necessary permits for hiking, as they are becoming more restrictive. May will have far fewer hikers on the trails as you make your way to Machu Picchu, one of the top UNESCO World Heritage sites, with gardens, temples, and the unforgettable scenery of this ancient Incan city.

3. Mackinac Island, Michigan

Mackinac Island

A vacation on Mackinac Island in Michigan is a magical yesteryear spring vacation that is great to do in May, when the island's gardens and landscapes are blooming and before the summer crowds descend. You will have to take a ferry from Mackinaw City or St. Ignace to get to the island.

There are no cars on Mackinac Island, so you will travel by horse and carriage, by bicycle, or by foot. Take a trip up the hill to the Grand Hotel to learn about its history on the island as a getaway for the social elite in the late 1800s.

Mackinac Island is a vacation for the senses, too. Feel the cool breeze coming off Lake Huron as you relax in an Adirondack chair. Smell the scent of the lilac trees coming into full bloom. See the hundreds of gardens being planted as the official tourist season gets underway.

May is a nice time to visit the Mackinac Island State Park, which you can do by horseback or by walking on the trails.

4. Nepal

Mount Everest base camp

If you are eager to visit Nepal, it makes sense to go in May for several reasons. The primary reason is that there is great weather in May for hiking and sightseeing. The June rains in the Himalayan Mountains have not yet started, and the skies are blue. Since it is such a great month for mountain treks, you will want to plan far in advance to make sure that you get the lodging and hiking tours that you want, as they can book quickly.

There are several treks in Nepal to consider. The most popular will be the trek to the Mount Everest base camp, where you will see some of the Sherpa villages and Buddhist Monasteries. Another is the Annapurna Circuit trek, which offers great views of the region and the opportunity to see some of Nepal's cultural diversity along the trails.

5. Yellowstone National Park

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park

There is a reason that Yellowstone National Park is crowded in the summer vacation months with tourists-it is one of the most spectacular national parks in the United States. That is why May is one of the best times to go.

From the dense forests and pristine natural lakes to jaw-dropping geysers, quiet streams, and an abundance of wildlife, Yellowstone is a bucket-list trip for many. There are more than 3,000 square miles to explore as you snap photographs of bison and elk that roam the open landscape.

In May, you will find the tail end of winter making its way out of sight, and the trails opening to visitors. With the exception of Memorial Day weekend, which is crowded, May is a great time to visit. Temperatures are cool, and summer vacation travelers are not visiting yet.

You can grab a front-row spot to see Old Faithful, walk the trails, view the formations at Mammoth Hot Springs, kayak on Yellowstone Lake, and hike the many trails with natural surprises like waterfalls and clean, fresh air.

Accommodation: Where to Stay near Yellowstone NP: Best Areas & Hotels

6. Tanzania

Wildebeest migration in the Serengeti

Having the opportunity to witness the great Serengeti wildebeest migration in Tanzania is an experience you will never forget, and targeting May for your travel presents one of the best opportunities to see it. May is still on the tail end of the rainy season, but given the wildlife viewing opportunities, it is an easy trade-off. Late season rains have tapered off in recent years, and when there is rainfall, it typically does not last all day.

Migration patterns are dictated by the seasonal rainfall, which changes each year, so you will want to look into that before booking your trip. Generally in May, the Serengeti wildebeest are moving north through the Moru Kopjes, so you will want to focus your stay in that region.

While the wildebeest migration is one of the top reasons to go in May, there are many other sites and attractions in Tanzania to explore, from Mount Kilimanjaro to the beaches of Zanzibar.

7. Italy

The village of San Gimignano in Tuscany

Sicily and Tuscany are two regions in Italy that are ideal to visit in May. The countryside of Sicily is in bloom with wildflowers, and the summer tourists have not arrived. Weather is stable and comfortable, and the outdoor theaters and festivals are getting underway. Many of the typically busy tourist areas will also be easier to visit and take less time to explore.

Tuscany is another region that is nice in May. You will find flowers in the windowsills and picturesque scenery in the countryside. Green fields with red poppies and roses will surround you. May temperatures are pleasant for enjoying the outdoors and the village festivals that get underway this month.

Early in the month, you can wear short-sleeve shirts and take a jacket for evening. By the end of May, temperatures will begin to heat up along with the uptick in tourists.

8. Casablanca, Morocco

Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca

May is one of the best months of the year to visit Casablanca and really any of the regions in Morocco. The summer temperatures can hit sweltering highs, making visiting the busy markets and mosques uncomfortable for most tourists. The temperatures in May are more conducive to walking in the outdoor sun and visiting this vibrant city, which is also a popular cruise ship port.

Casablanca is known to many people from the famous 1945 movie of the same name. It is the country's largest city with an abundance of activity, especially in the Old Medina, the historic part of the city, and the Hassan II Mosque, the most iconic landmark in Casablanca.

If you want to visit several cities in Morocco, you can base yourself in Casablanca and make side trips to places like Fes and Marrakesh. May offers a great opportunity to take part in excursions like a camel trek through the Sahara, which would be unbearable to do in the summer months.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Casablanca: Best Areas & Hotels

9. Miami, Florida

Miami, Florida

There is almost no time of the year when Miami, Florida is not bustling with visitors, but May is a great time to go for the weather. The Miami beaches are hard to resist, and a visit in May means the spring breakers have left for the season, and the summer vacationers have not yet arrived. Temperatures in May are summer-like and not yet at their peak, so a day on South Beach is comfortable.

If the beach is not your scene, you can find many other things to do in Miami, from taking an airboat ride through Everglades National Park to visiting more than 150 shops at the Bayside Marketplace. Be sure to take in some of Miami's diverse food scene at one of the many outdoor dining restaurants by the water.

Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in Miami

10. Greece

The beautiful village of Loutro in Crete

Some of the most popular tourist destinations in Greece like Athens, Crete, and Santorini, are best experienced in May. It is the shoulder season in the country, so rates for hotels and airfare are more reasonable than the high summer tourist season.

The biggest advantage to visiting in May is that the crowds are much smaller, so lines for getting into popular tourist attractions will be shorter, which could be the difference of several hours for visiting each attraction on your itinerary.

May does come with a slight risk of occasional inclement weather but the trade-off is worth it. You will have fewer people around as you stroll through old sections of the cities and in the marketplaces that can even be crowded by locals during the low-season. The other advantage of fewer tourists means you have an edge when it comes to haggling for souvenirs at the markets.

There are many fun flower festivals in Greece in May, like the famous Rhodian Flower Festival.

11. The Bahamas

Stunning beach on Stocking Island, Exumas, The Bahamas

The Bahamas any time of the year is a great vacation destination, but May has some advantages. The weather in May is moderate, meaning there is almost no chance of a hurricane, humidity is low, mosquitos (which can quickly ruin a vacation) are not in full force, and the temperatures are hot but not uncomfortable. The weather conditions are ideal for sailing whether you arrive with your own boat or book a charter for a sunset cruise.

If you like to swim and snorkel, the water temperature in May feels like a warm bath. This month is great for lower tourist numbers at the beaches and for excursions. Since there are fewer tourists this time of year, you can find great rates for hotels and more availability on flights to the islands.

Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in The Bahamas

12. Jackson Hole, Wyoming

View of the Tetons from Schwabacher Landing, Jackson Hole

After the winter snow melts from the popular ski slopes in Jackson Hole, Wyoming there is a short spring window in May, when you can experience a western vacation unlike any other. From fly fishing and horseback riding to hiking in Grand Teton National Park, there is so much outdoor adventure to enjoy in Jackson Hole. May weather offers comfortable conditions to enjoy them all.

You will also find reduced rates at many hotels and even upscale resorts in Jackson Hole. You can save that money and use it towards a guided wildlife tour to see animals like elk, eagles, moose, and maybe even a bear coming out of hibernation. You can also enjoy a fat bike ride or a scenic float trip down a pristine waterway in Grand Teton National Park.

Accommodation: Top-Rated Places to Stay in Jackson Hole

13. French Riviera

The colorful town of Menton on the French Riviera

If you want to head to the French Riviera in May, you will not be disappointed, but you better plan to spend a lot of money, on everything. While the scenery is beautiful any time of the year, you will see an abundance of luxury in May, from over-the-top extras at resorts to private yachts.

May is when the Cannes Film Festival brings the social elite and celebrities to the French Riviera, so you will have a front-row seat to all of the excitement surrounding the 12-day spectacle.

May is also the month for the Monte Carlo Formula 1 Grand Prix in Monaco. If you are looking for the most exciting and lively time to visit the French Riviera, and you can afford it, May is your month.

If you do not have extra cash to burn then you may want to consider your trip for a different time of the year when you can visit the Metropole Shopping Mall and other attractions without the distractions and extra costs.

14. Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro

May can be a perfect time to visit Rio de Janeiro, when the days have cooler temperatures and the vibrant life of the Brazilian city is in full swing. Hotel prices in May will have dropped a bit after the heavy tourist rush for Carnival festivities and many visitors have gone home. You will have great beach weather without the sweltering temperatures of the summer season, which runs from December through February.

May is comfortable for outdoor sightseeing of iconic places like Sugar Loaf Mountain and taking a tour through the Tijuca Rain Forest. One of the best ways to explore Rio is on foot through the various neighborhoods, where you can get a feel for the culture and local food. There are many walking tours available if you do not want to venture out on your own.

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More May Travel Ideas: Another consideration for May is other destinations in Europe that will become tourist traps once the summer vacation season gets underway. Some options to consider are the historical sites in Austria, visiting some of the colorful cities in Denmark like Copenhagen, or staying at one of the many European resorts along the Italian Riviera or in the Canary Islands.

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