Whether you’re after beaches, culture or countryside, June’s glorious weather and long days make it the perfect month to travel in Europe. Elsewhere, wildlife enthusiasts can spot whales in Iceland or bears in Yellowstone, while the World Cup will be in full swing in Brazil.
While most of Asia is in the throes of monsoon season, the east coast of Malaysia remains dry and sunny in June with calm sea conditions and average highs of around 30°C. The Perhentian Islands, off the northeast coast, close to Thailand, consist of Besar (large) and Kecil (small); Besar is the more developed of the two, while Kecil is more geared towards backpackers. If a tropical paradise is what you’re after, you’re in luck: you'll find white-sand beaches, turquoise water, gorgeous beach huts, top snorkeling and diving opportunities (with visibility of up to 20m) and a wonderfully easy-going atmosphere to top it all off.
Take a trip to Húsavík, just south of the Arctic Circle on Iceland’s north coast, and you can see some of the greatest creatures on earth under a midnight sun. Whale populations in the Skjálfandi bay are strong despite the 2006 lift on the whaling ban, and chances of seeing some action on a half-day trip are high. The area is known for minke whales, but you can sometimes see humpbacks, orcas and the phenomenally large blue whales, which are commonly spotted in June. White-beaked dolphins and harbour porpoises are a frequent sight, too, and if you don’t see a whale on a trip with tour operators North Sailing, they’ll book you on another voyage, free of charge.
Sprawling across the northwest of Wyoming, Yellowstone is the largest and oldest National Park in the USA, established in 1872. June is one of the best times to spot wildlife here: gangly, long-limbed bighorn lambs and elk calf are taking their early steps, grizzly bears are on the prowl and wildflowers are sprinkled across the lower mountain slopes. Yellowstone also has a host of year-round geothermal attractions (the park contains over half of the world’s geysers), of which Old Faithful is perhaps the most popular. Local schools are out by now, but two million acres can absorb quite a few crowds.
Picture the Grand Canyon, and you'll probably think of the view from the top. But, as anyone who’s done it will attest, there’s no better way to really get to grips with the world’s longest and most awe-inspiring canyon than to spend a week or two looking up at its majestic walls from the very bottom. Embark on an adventure like no other, winding your way down the Colorado River on a raft, through the full length of the canyon (277 miles, or 446km). This is not for the faint hearted – this stretch of the river has an estimated 161 sets of rapids. Opportunities for mini hikes to tucked-away waterfalls or into side canyons filled with jungle-like foliage are abundant, and you camp on the riverbanks under star-filled skies. Trips don’t come cheap, and you can’t simply hop in a raft and make your way downstream – you’ll need to book yourself onto a commercial trip with a qualified guide; try Arizona Raft Adventures, based in Flagstaff.
Whether you choose to spend your time at the tiller of a traditional yacht or lounging aboard a modern cruiser, the best way to explore the UK's largest protected wetland is undoubtedly by boat. Slightly questionably marketed as “Britain’s Magical Waterland”, the Broads are actually man-made, created from flooded peat cuttings. June’s long and sunny days are the perfect time to potter about these 125 miles of waterways; you’re likely to encounter water voles, warblers, bitterns and swallowtail butterflies as you float along.
In the sixteenth century, Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun) was the largest and most important ceremony to take place in the Inca capital of Cusco. With the sun at the furthest point away from earth in the southern hemisphere in June, the sun-god Inti needed some seriously reverent devotion and, of course, a whole lot of (animal) sacrifice. Since the mid-twentieth century, spectators have been able to watch a reenactment of this dramatic ceremony on June 24th in Sacsayhuamán, a fortress ruin a few kilometres from Cusco. A dancing procession is followed by speeches in Quechua, the Incan language, and a simulated llama sacrifice on a hill-top, complete with the frequently-satirized holding up of the heart. It’s not exactly the real deal, but we’re all five hundred years too late for that, and the modern version is still a tremendous spectacle and a good opportunity to party with the locals.
Ominously sited in the shadow of Vesuvius on Italy’s west coast, Naples divides opinion. Its reputation for grime and crime might be somewhat valid, but that means there are some great travel deals to be had. There is also one area where everyone agrees the city excels: pizza. This once-humble dish is now protected by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, which has been promoting “true Neapolitan pizza” since 1984. A range of classes allow you to try your hand at becoming a pizzaiolo for a day or two, while temperatures in the mid-twenties afford excellent weather for day trips. The Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum are within easy striking distance, or you can hop aboard a boat to the island of Capri.
The Suffolk coast, just a few hours from London but far, far removed from the hectic capital, boasts some of the UK’s most unspoilt coastline. The region also gets two hours more sunshine on average per week than the rest of the country, upping your chances of a good few pleasant days on the beach or of some rain-free coastal walks. The Aldeburgh Music Festival takes place over three weeks in June, showcasing some of the country's best classical music, and you can keep clear of the hubbub by staying in campsites around the area – some right by the water’s edge, such as in the lovely fishing village of Sizewell, five miles from Aldeburgh.
With the mercury creeping into the early 30s and an inordinate number of sunny days, Andalucía is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in June. Bypass the Costa del Sol to explore the region’s cities: Seville, Córdoba and Granada, site of the majestic Alhambra palace. Foodies can lose themselves among the bodegas of the sherry triangle, while inland the Sierra Nevada offers biking and hiking aplenty. Still hankering for some beach time? Try the Costa de la Luz. Heading down towards Tarifa, the Levante wind blows in from the east in June, creating excellent conditions for windsurfers.
In Sweden, Midsommar is celebrated on the weekend nearest to the 24th of June. This commemoration of the summer solstice has its roots in pagan celebrations, and the current tradition of erecting a maypole – or midsommarstång – supposedly originates from this time. Ideally you’ll want to wrangle an invitation to spend the day in the countryside with a Swedish family. Midsommar is a celebration for all generations, a long evening of merriment fueled by meatballs, pickled herring and copious amounts of aquavit. In the far north of the country, the sun barely sets.
Divided in two by the river Danube, Hungary’s capital is split into historic Buda and modern, grittier Pest. Aside from the ample distractions provided by the city’s Turkish baths, ruin pubs and Art Nouveau architecture, there’s a host of events in June. Two festivals celebrating beer, including the Craft Beer Festival or Főzdefeszt, kick things off. The Summer Festival and Danube Carnival then start in mid-June, with traditional folk dancers and foreign acts adding to a varied programme of music and drama at the Margaret Island open-air theatre.
This feature updated April 2016.
Top image: Liberty Bridge, Budapest © Shutterstock