With festival season in full swing, August offers no end of opportunities to party, from the off-the-wall Burning Man to the arty Edinburgh Festival; but there are plenty of options for chilled-out breaks too. Here are our tips for the best places to visit in August and what to do while you're there.
TheBlack Forest close to Freiburg in the south-west of Germany may be best known for its cuckoo clocks and stickily indulgent gâteaux, but this lush mountain region is also growing in popularity as a haven for bikers and hikers. Crisscrossed with trails, it’s a fabulous spot for a bike ride in high summer when the days are warm, through an idyllic landscape of sun-soaked vineyards, tranquil lakes and quaint chalets (with echoes of those cuckoo clocks). You could even bike your way along the Badische Weinstraße, a route leading through the wine-growing Baden region, timing your visit to coincide with one of the many summer wine festivals in August.
Maine is justifiably proud of its lobster. The cold-water crustacean has been farmed along the coast here for generations, thriving in the chilly, clean water. There’s no shortage of places to dine on prime specimens, from fancy restaurants to casual lobster shacks, where you can enjoy your juicy tails and claws in the salty open air. Lobsters are farmed year-round but the annual Lobster Festival in Rockland makes Maine one of the best places to visit in August. The festival is an old-school celebration of all things lobster, with fun and games, a big parade – and the world’s biggest lobster steamer.
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In August, when all of Italy is on holiday, the locals flock to the coast – to be avoided, unless you enjoy crowds, queues and general chaos. Instead, enjoy some peace and quiet in the landlocked region of Umbria. It shares many of the attributes of its bigger, glitzier neighbour, Tuscany – picture-perfect hill towns, sun-dappled olive groves, great food and wine – but it’s cheaper, more down-to-earth and refreshingly quiet in August. Hole up in a hilltop villa or get back to nature at an agriturismo, and spend your days exploring gorgeous medieval towns such as Perugia, Assisi and Todi, chilling out at tranquil Lake Trasimeno or sampling the earthy local cuisine.
The biggest arts festival on the planet, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival sees the city transformed into a hive of cultural activity, its hugely varied line-up a mix of fresh new talent and world-famous acts, making this one of the best places to visit in August. The best approach is to dive straight in without too many fixed ideas – inevitably, it’s the act you’ve never heard of that blows you away. Accommodation and tickets for the big names are in high demand, so book ahead.
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For South Africans, the first glimpse of a Namaqualand daisy is a sure sign that spring has arrived. Four thousand floral species – a quarter of which are found nowhere else on earth – burst into bloom in South Africa’s Northern Cape in August, creating a dazzling superbloom flower-carpet in Day-Glo shades of pink, purple, orange, yellow and white, that stretches across the veld for hundreds of kilometres. The vast swathes of colourful flowers are a breathtaking sight – especially when you consider that they’ll give way to arid desert within just two months.
Within striking distance of cosmopolitan Gothenburg lies the Bohuslän coast, a rugged, 10,000-island archipelago that makes an ideal summer escape and one of the best places to visit in August. The islands vary widely in character: some are completely barren, others harbour timewarp fishing villages, while a few boast chic spas or fine-dining restaurants. Unsurprisingly, seafood is a big deal here, and lobster safaris and fishing excursions form the bulk of the local activities – crayfish are a speciality in August.
Once a year in late August, fifty thousand people descend on a remote patch of desert in northwest Nevada to take part in the world’s ultimate counter-culture festival: Burning Man. With no big-name acts or programmed activities, the temporary residents of “Black Rock City” live by Burning Man rules: no commerce is allowed, and “Burners” must participate in the festivities in some way. Many construct huge, otherworldly sculptures, flashing with lights or flames, which contribute to the surreal atmosphere after dark when the desert comes alive with all manner of surreal projections and anything-goes performances. Some say the festival has become too popular in recent years, with luxury camping options and the like, but it's still one of the most unusual experiences to be found anywhere on the planet.
Slovenia’s Soča River is world-renowned for its white-water rafting – the perfect way to cool off in the sweltering August heat. The so-called Emerald River lives up to its name: a dazzlingly bright green, it flows for 140km along the border with Italy through a craggy wooded valley. The river is suitable for all comers, from total beginners to hardcore rafters, as it offers both calm, easy stretches and fearsome, fast-flowing torrents.
If you already have your August travel sorted, check out our tips on where to travel in September.
Top image: Soča River in Slovenia © marcin jucha / Shutterstock