Best places to visit in May

written by Joanne Owen
updated 1/18/2023
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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

If you’re looking for a UK break to keep everyone happy, consider exploring Snowdonia in warm-hearted Wales.

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. 

Make the most of your time in Snowdonia

Where to stay

See more places to stay in Snowdonia, Wales.

Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid), Snowdonia, Wales — one of the best places to visit in May with monster-mad kids © Shutterstock

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.

This ruggedly beautiful region of Greece's central mainland is home to the UNESCO-protected Víkos Gorge. This is the second deepest gorge in the world. In fact, only the Grand Canyon is deeper.

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.

Make the most of your time in Zagori

Where to stay

Discover more places to stay in Zagori, Greece.

Vikos Gorge in Zagori, Greece © Shutterstock

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.

Make the most of your time on Korčula

Where to stay

Find more places to stay on Korčula, Croatia.

Proizd beach, Korcula, Croatia is glorious in May © eldar nurkovic/Shutterstock

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. 

Other family-friendly Highlands highlights include visiting legend-steeped Loch Ness, the largest of the lochs which make up the Great Glen.

Riding the West Highland Railway is another fun experience for all ages. Running from Glasgow to Mallaig via Fort William, you can also use this scenic route to reach otherworldly Loch Lomond.

Make the most of your time in the Scottish Highlands

Where to stay

  • 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.

See more places to stay in the Scottish Highlands.

Scottish Highlands — ideal for scenic May walks and feisty games © taboga/Shutterstock

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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.

Make the most of your time in Bali

Where to stay

Browse more places to stay in Bali, Indonesia.

Visit Kuta, Bali in May for a blissful beach break with added culture © Netfalls Remy Musser/Shutterstock

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.

Make the most of your time in La Palma

Where to stay

  • 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.

See more places to stay in La Palma.

La Palma, Canary island is perfect in May for pre-peak-season sunshine © Balate Dorin/Shutterstock

7. Inca Trail, Peru

Best for bucket list bragging rights

May is one of the best months to visit Peru, especially if you're set on hiking the Inca Trail to see Machu Picchu.

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.

Make the most of your time on the Inca Trail

Where to stay

  • 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.

Explore more places to stay near Machu Picchu, Peru.

Fulfil buckest list dreams at Machu Picchu, Peru © Stefano73/Shutterstock

8. Prague, Czech Republic

Best for beer, culture and classical concerts

One of the most beautiful cities in the world all year round, Prague truly dazzles in May.

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!

Make the most of your time in Prague

Where to stay

Peruse more places to stay in Prague, Czech Republic.

Prague, Czech Republic — a magnificent mecca for culture vultures and beers-lovers © Shutterstock

9. Brighton, UK — one of the best places to visit in May

Best for spring seafront festivals

Brighton’s beaches may not be in the same league as the Bahamas, but the trendy seaside town springs to life in May for its annual arts festival, one of England’s largest.

Adding to the artsy vibe, the Brighton Fringe Festival and the Great Escape — Europe’s leading festival for new music — run at the same time.

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.

Make the most of your time in Brighton

Where to stay

Find more places to stay in Brighton, England.

Brighton pier © Shutterstock

Want more inspiration? Read up on our best travel destinations for 2023, and discover some of the best European summer destinations.

More ideas can be found in our run-down of the best places to visit in April and June.

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

We may earn commission when you click on links in this article, but this doesn’t influence our editorial standards. We only recommend services we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Header image: Machu Picchu, Peru © Shutterstock

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written by Joanne Owen
updated 1/18/2023
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Joanne is a Pembrokeshire-born writer with a passion for the nature, cultures and histories of the Caribbean region, especially Dominica. Also passionate about inspiring a love of adventure in young people, she’s the author of several books for children and young adults, hosts international writing workshops, and has written articles on the Caribbean and inspirational community initiatives for Rough Guides. Follow her @JoanneOwen on Twitter and @joanneowenwrites on Instagram.

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