With warmer weather, fewer tourists and lower prices than the peak summer months, May is the perfect time to travel in the northern hemisphere. Coupled with the fact that many tropical lands begin to see signs of the rainy season in May, it's the ideal time to visit Europe.
That said, this run-down of the best places to visit in May also includes a clutch of further-flung countries that'll put a spring in your step. You’ll find more inspiration in our run-down of the best travel destinations in 2023.
1. Snowdonia, Wales
Best for family fun and adventure
With a glorious national park at its heart, the region isn’t short of exhilarating experiences. Take your pick from scaling iconic Mount Snowdon, or ziplining repurposed slate caverns. Or how about rafting rapids at Wales’ National White-Water Centre?
Whether you’re heading there to hike, or plan to take it easy aboard the Mountain Railway, spring is an ideal time to explore Snowdonia National Park.
First up, you’ll beat the peak season summer crowds, which means no queuing for the railway, and taking your pick of places to stay.
Secondly, visiting at this time of the year offers nature-lovers a chance to see the Snowdon lily. This one-of-a-kind flower blooms between May and early June.
Then, when you fancy a rest from high-octane activities, the area boasts a bounty of enchanting villages. For example, the beauty spot of Beddgelert has lots of lovely tea shops and family-friendly pubs and restaurants.
- For an exhilarating start to the day, go on a guided sunrise hike to Snowdon's summit.
- Read our guide to what to see and do in Snowdonia National Park.
- Travelling with kids? They'll love Snowdonia's giant underground cave trampoline, and searching for the mythical monster of Bala lake.
- Get a copy of Rough Guides Staycations Snowdonia — it's loaded with local intel and rewarding walking routes.
Make the most of your time in Snowdonia
- Best for families: Macdonald Plas Talgarth Resort. Modern apartments, plus pool, in a stunning valley.
- Best for couples: Mary's Court Guest House. A charming building in beautiful Betws-y-coed.
- Best for country style: Aberdunant Hall Country Hotel. A 17th-century property in set 200-acres of woodland.
Where to stay
See more places to stay in Snowdonia, Wales.
2. Zagori, Greece
Best for hiking, retreating and top-notch Greek eating
If you think you’ve been there, done that when it comes to Greece, think again.
There’s a whole lot more to the country than its beautiful islands, not least if you’re looking for back-to-nature walks on the wild aside. And, if you follow our advice and head to Zagori, we really do mean wild.
As such, sparsely-populated Zagori is a magnificent destination for hikers. For example, the trail to Vikos Gorge traverses a wilderness of untouched forest towered over by great dolomite and limestone cliffs.
And all the better to visit in spring before the heat of summer strikes, making the region's epic hikes more challenging.
In good news for fans of Greek food, the region's pretty villages are blessed with family-run restaurants serving hearty seasonal dishes.
- Venture to Vikos Gorge on full-day guided hike.
- Immerse yourself in nature on a guided hike through the Valia Calda forest.
- Read our tips for travelling in Greece.
- Get in-depth, insider info from The Rough Guide to Greece.
- For more inspiration, explore our customisable Greece trip itineraries.
Make the most of your time in Zagori
- Best for traditional charm: Orestis House. Gorgeous stone buildings and great grub.
- Best for rustic luxury: Aristi Mountain Resort. A boutique beauty with spa and lofty views.
- Best for families: Ameliko Zagori. Warm, welcoming and near the gorge.
Where to stay
Discover more places to stay in Zagori, Greece.
3. Korčula, Croatia
Best for wining, dining and unwinding
Hankering after hotter weather without the hassle of peak-season summer crowds? The relaxed Croatian island of Korčula is one of the best places to visit in May for sunshine that'll warm your skin and soul.
What's more, the island is also famed for world-class wine that’ll warm you from the inside. Top tip for lovers of dry whites — try Pošip.
Korčula’s Old Town is a scenic stunner, with plenty of places to enjoy fresh seafood.
Travelling as a family? The quiet coves on the south coast are perfect for little ones learning to swim, and for mums and dads to soak up some well-earned rays.
Korčula is also the ideal place for first-time sailors to take the plunge. That said, while the calm waters of the Adriatic have undeniable allure, use the bus network to explore Korčula beyond its beautiful coast.
Dappled with more vineyards, groves, and Aleppo pines than you can shake an olive branch at, the island isn’t short of charming villages that’ll have you hopping off.
- Read up on eating and drinking in Croatia.
- Into the idea of multi-island adventuring? Consider booking a Croatian sailing trip.
- Read our guide to island-hopping in Croatia, and discover the top Croatian islands for getaways.
- Get The Rough Guide to Croatia.
- For shorter breaks, try the Mini Rough Guide Croatia.
Make the most of your time on Korčula
- Best for couples: Aminess Korcula Heritage Hotel. This quay-front gem oozes Old Town charm.
- Best for families: Villa Stone House Poplat. Boasts a pool, private beach and villas of various sizes.
- Best for budget travellers: Dragan's Den Hostel. Friendly, with dorms and private rooms.
Where to stay
Find more places to stay on Korčula, Croatia.
4. Scottish Highlands, Scotland
Best for glorious walks and spirited games
Mighty mountains and sweeping glens. Rushing rivers and mirror-like lochs extending as far as the eye can see. Little wonder you voted the Scottish Highlands one of the most beautiful places in Scotland.
While this region is the ideal destination for hikers and countryside-lovers at pretty much anytime of the year, the Highland Games inject extra exuberance from May.
Though the focus remains on traditional sports — think caber tossing, hammer throwing and tug o' war — these days family-oriented events are as much part of the fun.
- Walk on the wild side with The Rough Guide to the North Coast 500 — it's packed with rewarding routes.
- Be inspired by our gallery of the most beautiful places in Scotland and the pictorial Rough Guide to the 100 Best Places in Scotland.
- Discover the best things to do in Scotland.
- Book a customisable trip focused on Scotland's Highlands.
- Read The Rough Guide to the Scottish Highlands and Islands.
Make the most of your time in the Scottish Highlands
- Best for fairy-tale family breaks: The Little Houses. Cute, well-equipped cabins near Fort William.
- Best for star-gazers: Aurora Rural Retreats. Epic mountain views, clear skies and cosy comfort in Glendale.
- Best for couples: SeaBeds. Luxury lakeview lodges with hot tubs.
Where to stay
See more places to stay in the Scottish Highlands.
5. Bali, Indonesia
Best for blissful beaches, festivals and forests
There's no denying that Bali deserves its Island of the Gods epithet. With beaches so beautiful they look too perfect to be real, forested volcanoes, and exquisite temples, Bali exudes splendour at every turn.
If finding inner peace is top of your 2023 travel goals, Bali is definitely one of the best places to visit in May. And the reason? The Bali Spirit Festival runs from 4th—7th May 2023.
Expect workshops on the likes of yoga, meditation, dance and martial arts. It’s family-friendly, too, with lots of child-centred storytelling sessions, arts and crafts classes, and fun music events.
In addition, May heralds the start of the dry season — perfect for enjoying outdoor festival events, and for hitting those out-of-this-world beaches.
That said, you won't want to miss exploring Bali's interior. For example, trekking the paths, paddies and plantations of Sidemen comes thoroughly recommended. Or how about exploring the jungles and orchards of Mount Batukaru, or the spiritual majesty of Garuda Wisnu Kencana Park?
All of which means Bali offers countless opportunities to blend a relaxing beach break with cultural interests and adventure activities.
- Explore Bali's UNESCO World Heritage Sites on a guided small-group tour.
- Discover ten things you need to know before you go to Bali.
- Read our alternate guide to the Island of the Gods.
- Looking for a rejuvenating trip? Browse our Bali Yoga Retreat trip.
- Want the best of both worlds? Our customisable Best of Bali trip combines the coast and jungle.
- Read The Rough Guide to Bali and Lombok.
Make the most of your time in Bali
- Best for luxury: Munduk Moding Plantation. Exceptional service and spa in an exceptional mountain location.
- Best for nature-loving couples: Angel House Magical Eco Lodge. Enchanting bamboo villas in the jungle.
- Best for peace-seekers and divers: NusaBay Menjangan. A beachfront beauty in West Bali National Park.
Where to stay
Browse more places to stay in Bali, Indonesia.
6. La Palma, Canary Islands
Best for spring sun and soul-stirring scenery
Can't wait for the heights of summer, but don't fancy a seriously long flight? Consider heading to La Palma in May.
With daily temperatures averaging 23C, it’s the perfect month to get some sun before peak season crowds descend.
Known as La Isla Bonita (The Beautiful Island) and La Isla Verde (The Green Island), the entire island of La Palma has been declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve.
The pinnacle of La Palma’s scenic highlights is Caldera de Taburiente National Park. Shrouded in Canarian pine woods, and sliced by ravines, it's a picture-perfect paradise for walkers.
Meanwhile, capital Santa Cruz de la Palma is an attractive history-rich town that’s well worth spending a day or two in.
- Take a guided trekking tour to El Roque de los Muchachos and Caldera de Taburiente National Park.
- Want to take to the water? Go on a kayaking adventure to Cueva Bonita.
- Read our first-timers guide to the Canary Islands, and discover some of Spain's secret islands.
- Learn a little lingo with the Rough Guides Spanish Phrasebook.
Make the most of your time in La Palma
- Best for hiking couples: Hacienda San Jorge. By the beach, with a sea water pool and top tapas
- .Best for families: Apartamentos La Caleta. Boasts a kids' pool, play area, and friendly village vibe.
- Best for budget travellers: Hostel Vagamundo. A cute, cosy hostel well-sited for hikes.
Where to stay
See more places to stay in La Palma.
7. Inca Trail, Peru
Best for bucket list bragging rights
Firstly, while the rainy season has ended, the valleys remain green and lush. Secondly, major crowds don’t arrive until June.
That said, you’ll still need to plan ahead. With a maximum number of 500 people — including support staff — allowed on the trail each day, you need to book permits months in advance.
With most guided walks covering just 26 miles (42km) in four days, anyone moderately fit can handle the route. Just be aware than there are some steep sections, and you’ll be sleeping at over 3000 metres.
Alongside being a world cultural wonder, the trail also offers exceptional wildlife-watching opportunities. The Santuario Histórico de Machu Picchu boasts over 370 species of bird, 47 mammal species and over 700 butterfly species.
Notable residents include the cock-of-the-rock, spectacled bear, and condor. In addition, around 300 species of orchid are hidden in the trees of the cloud forest.
- Pre-book a two-day guided tour of Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.
- Soak up breath-taking scenery aboard the PeruRail Expedition train.
- Read our first-timers guide to Peru.
- Discover awesome alternatives to the Inca trail.
- Want to dig deeper? Consider booking our customisable Incan Empire trip, or our Female Empowerment tour.
- Get The Rough Guide to Peru.
Make the most of your time on the Inca Trail
- Best for sustainability: Eco Quechua Lodge. Rooms boast beautiful river-and-mountain-view balconies.
- Best for big occasions: Sanctuary Lodge. Five-star luxury yards from Machu Picchu's front gate.
- Best for budget travellers: Samananchis Machupicchu. A smart hostel with twin, triple, quad and family rooms.
Where to stay
Explore more places to stay near Machu Picchu, Peru.
8. Prague, Czech Republic
Best for beer, culture and classical concerts
The city's gardens and parks are full of blooms. Magnolia trees blossom along the river. Grand municipal buildings and residences are festooned with hanging baskets.
And, against such a fresh backdrop, Prague Spring Music Festival kicks off in mid-May to present three weeks of high-quality symphony, opera and chamber concerts.
With main concerts held in the riverfront Rudolfinum building and the Art Nouveau Municipal House, there's no better way to sample Prague's cultural highlights in one fell swoop.
Alongside visiting the likes of Prague Castle, Charles Bridge and the Old Town, riding the funicular railway to the Eiffel Tower-lookalike on Petřín Hill is a top Prague spring activity.
The same goes for strolling Stromovka park and Mala Strana’s Wallenstein Palace Gardens.
If you're into history and off-the-beaten track experiences, we also recommend venturing further afield to Sedlec Ossuary. This small medieval church is home to a huge chandelier of bones, and a coat of arms fashioned from skeletons.
Given that Czechs invented the world’s original Pilsner beer (pivo), you'll want to sample plenty of the good stuff during your trip. Light beer (světlé) is the norm, but many pubs also serve a tasty dark variety (tmavé or černé).
Whatever your tipple of choice, na zdraví!
- Soak up the city's splendour on a Vltava River sightseeing cruise — coffee and cake included.
- Discover how to escape the tourist trail in Prague.
- Big into beer? Read the Rough Guide to Czech beer, sample Staropramen beer during a self-guided brewery tour, and browse our customisable beer culture in Czechia, Austria and Germany trip.
- Want to escape the city? Read up on hiking and history adventures in the enchanting Czech Republic.
- Read The Rough Guide to Prague.
Make the most of your time in Prague
- Best for couples: Pension Dientzenhofer. A welcoming, family-run guesthouse in charming Malá Strana.
- Best for Old Town charm: Hotel Rott. A fine four-star just off Old Town Square.
- Best for budget travellers: Charles Bridge Hostel & Apartments. Fresh, spacious, and in a great location.
Where to stay
Peruse more places to stay in Prague, Czech Republic.
9. Brighton, UK — one of the best places to visit in May
Best for spring seafront festivals
Into architecture? Thanks to the Artists Open House concept, you can peek inside over two hundred normally closed venues, houses and studios owned by local artists. This project runs at weekends throughout the festival.
On the subject of architecture, visiting Brighton's grand Royal Pavilion made into our run-down of the best things to do in England.
- See the city on a Brighton bike tour.
- Pre-book your Brighton i360 ticket — this futuristic pod offers panoramic views of Brighton and the coast.
- Discover alternative things to do in Brighton.
- Read Rough Guide Staycations Brighton, Sussex & the South Downs.
Make the most of your time in Brighton
- Best for couples: The Charm Brighton Boutique Hotel & Spa. Bright rooms in a listed building near the beach.
- Best for families and groups: Brighton Square Apartments. Smart apartments in the heart of the Lanes.
- Best for sea views: Kings Hotel. An affordable three-star overlooking West Pier.
Where to stay
Find more places to stay in Brighton, England.
And don't forget, wherever you're thinking of heading, there's sure to be a Rough Guide to enhance every step of your journey from the moment you start planning.
Not keen on planning? Browse our customisable tailor-made trips.
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Header image: Machu Picchu, Peru © Shutterstock