Where to Travel in May

Craving a dose of vitamin D? Plotting a last-minute city break? We’ve got you covered. These are the best destinations to visit in May, from a sexy Brazilian beach town to an off-grid Scottish isle.

Long weekends left, right and centre, baby-blue skies, light-drenched evenings... It must be May. As the British summer gets well and truly underway, we're looking forward to chilled-out barbecues, weekend beach trips and picnic lunch breaks aplenty. While we'd argue there's no place that does it like London (when the sun decides to make an appearance, that is), we also wouldn't say no to an entire week of good grub, sun-sure lounging and an empty calendar. So, we've done some digging and drawn up a shortlist of our favourite destinations for getaways long and short to take this May.

Magnificent May: the best destinations to visit this month

menton-france

Menton

France

The South of France is loved for many reasons, its glittering coastline, rolling lavender fields and world-class wine being just a few of them. But, having been made popular by writers, artists and celebrities, many of its stretches of golden sand have become something of a haven for sunburnt holidaymakers. We suggest skipping the tourist-swamped Nice and St Tropez and, instead, savouring a slice of traditional French culture in the delightful harbour town of Menton. Stroll palm-fringed avenues, hop between serene beaches - Plage Rondelli is our favourite - and taste your way through the area's delicious culinary specialities, which include hearty bouillabaisse and fluffy lemon desserts (this being the centre of France's lemon industry).

Fez

Morocco

Positioned at the crossroads between Morocco's major cities, the "Athens of Africa" has a vibrant charm all of its own. It's the oldest of Morocco's imperial cities, making the ancient medina here prime territory for exploring. This Unesco World Heritage site is one of the world's largest car-free urban zones. Wander through twisting lanes and dodge donkey-drawn carts to find colourful spice markets, sizzling food stalls and hidden doorways leading to rooftops overlooking the city's colourful minarets. Visit in May, before temperatures peak, but when the weather is warm enough to spend days wandering around souks and gardens.

Folkestone

Kent, UK

One of the grittier members of Kent's family of seaside towns, Folkestone is a place that prides itself on creativity and a resilient, two-fingers-up brio - it was here, remember, that someone spray painted a penis over a Banksy mural. You'll find a fierce artistic energy running through its independent galleries, stores and workshops. Make a beeline for the Creative Quarter, where you'll find rainbow-hued galleries and artists' showrooms huddled together on steep lanes, stroll down to The Leas, a cliffside promenade designed by the same architect behind Kew Gardens' Palm House, or slip away to Sunny Sands, a rugged beach backed by fields of wildflowers and thyme. As far as UK seaside getaways go, Folkestone's got buckets and spadefuls to offer.

Merimbula Australia

Merimbula

Australia

Bordered by Queensland and Victoria, New South Wales is situated on Australia's glorious east coast. Originally home to Aborginal tribes, its population today stands at around eight million, making it the country's most populous state. Head for one of its most magical towns, Merimbula. Water babies will love this southern end of the Sapphire Coast, and the pristine Merimbula Lake. While tiny, it's the town's sense of community and busy calendar of local events that have allowed it to flourish, its windsurfing and kiteboarding festival and the Pambula Merimbula Golf Club's legendary annual competition having caught the attention of cool creatives.

Cagliari

Sardinia

Bursting with evidence of the city's rich history, Cagliari's cobbled alleys are replete with Roman ruins, ancient churches and towering palazzi. Rent a Vespa and zip through the city streets in true Italian style, stopping only for a quick espresso at any of the charismatic cafés that line the narrow roads. Beautiful beaches fringe the city's bay: while Spiaggia del Poetto is the most popular, its white sands stretching over 8km, we suggest heading to Mari Pintau, a secluded bay just a short drive from the city. In the evening, head to Castello, the walled citadel perched on a hilltop overlooking the city. What appears to be a sleepy neighbourhood comes alive when the sun goes down. Locals at bars, cafés and restaurants spill out onto the street, enthusiastically directing tourists towards their favourite boltholes.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka spells lush landscapes, misty forests, tea plantations, waves gently lapping the shore and a diverse local culture. Don't miss out on some of the most scenic rail travel out there, with one of the best routes involving heading east from the capital of Colombo to the Badulla district, in hill country. If you're after a sea breeze, board the coastal train to Matara (on the southern tip of the tropical island) and soak up the views from your simple cabin.

Mostar

Bosnia Herzegovina

Over a decade after the destruction of Mostar's most famous landmark, the so-called Sloping Bridge, the city is rebuilding itself. An attraction for travellers looking for destinations off the regular tourist trail, Mostar's old town is all cobbled streets and laid-back cafés set against a backdrop of rolling hills and rustic villas. Come here to fill your socials with images of Ottoman-inspired architecture and bursting-with-flavour traditional Balkan cuisine.

Bergen Norway

Bergen

Norway

Nestled amid the city's seven mountains, Bergen's web of timber houses, cobbled roads and green spaces make strolling through its streets feel like an adventure in itself, and a step back in time. But don't be fooled: dig a little deeper and you'll find a youthful mentality driving the city. Book onto a street art tour and you'll see what we mean.

Saint Malo Brittany France

Saint-Malo

France

Famed for its dazzling coastline, this small French town clings to the western edge of Brittany. Originally built as a defence against pirates and other seafaring enemies, Saint-Malo is characterised by history-drenched medieval ramparts, caressed by sapphire waves, though you'll find some great boutiques tucked along its cobbled streets, too. To appreciate it in all its glory, take the 2km walk around the ramparts. As you lose yourself in the labyrinth of narrow streets, stop by Maison du Québec, where you'll learn about Saint-Malo's role in the founding of Canada. Hankering for a hike? Climb to the top of the great keep of the 13th-century Château de Saint-Malo and you'll be rewarded with some spectacular views.

Viseu Portugal

Viseu

Portugal

Set on a steep hill, this provincial city offers postcard-worthy vistas across terracotta-tiled roofs to the surrounding Centro region, where vineyards, pine forests and mountains form a pastoral patchwork. It's small wonder Viseu is ranked among Portugal's best cities in which to live. Encircled by 15th-century ramparts, the hilltop historic quarter is best explored on foot. Roam between plazas and alleyways, stopping at Rua Escura, Rua Direita and Rua Augusto Hilário for photo ops, before dipping into gourmet shops and tavernas whose menus are packed with local produce. Earthy red plonk from Dão (one of Portugal's oldest wine regions) is popular here, alongside quality cheese and sausages.

Rathlin Island Northern Ireland

Rathlin Island

Northern Ireland

This is the ideal destination for splendid isolation. With more seabirds than souls (the population of the island stands at around 150), this is where we're heading for a digital detox and complete reboot. Shrouded in medieval myths and Gaelic folklore, this tiny isle hovers 6km off of the coast of Ballycastle and 17km from Scotland - a stepping stone for the giants who once frolicked on the causeway further west. As expected, an island this size has little in the way of extracurricular activities, so if you're not a fan of long, blustery walks and birdwatching, we'd suggest planning a weekend break in Belfast, instead.

Martha's Vineyard

US

With Memorial Day Weekend marking the official beginning of summer weekends away in the U.S. at the end of May, scheduling a trip to Martha's Vineyard is a fantastic way to start off a series of beachside getaways. A less crowded alternative to the Hamptons, the island is brimming with authentic New England charm, winding biking trails and incredible waterfront cafés.

Ulcinj

Montenegro

With temperatures climbing, sun, sand and icy rosé are the only things on our minds. The small Montenegrin town of Ulcinj is the ultimate getaway location for kitesurfing lessons by day and dancing the night away at beach bars after dark. Pack your bikini and head to the glimmering Adriatic coast - at a price that would be impossible to find seaside in Spain or Italy.

Asheville North Carolina

Asheville

North Carolina, US

A concrete jungle this is not. Encircled by the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is quickly becoming a hot-ticket destination for millennials lured in by boutique boltholes and farm-to-table restaurants. Expect bougie back-to-nature vibes and a city centre that's robust with live music, outdoor beer gardens and a unique arts scene. Despite its southern location, Asheville is known for its progressive ideals, and strives to promote inclusivity.

Dugi Otok Croatia

Dugi Otok

Croatia

Sharing the Adriatic coast with the likes of Slovenia, Hungary and Montenegro, Croatia marks Europe's centre point. Head to the pocket-sized Dugi Otok - meaning "long island". Blessed with craggy cliffs, low-slung villas and rust-coloured roofs, this place is home to some of Europe's best beaches, promising gin-clear waters and baby-blue skies. While it's almost impossible to peel yourself away from the seafront, trust us, it's well worth doing so to discover the isle's many handsome old towns, of which Sali, Luka and Savar are our favourites. The perfect day? A morning hike along one of its many trails, a lunchtime spent bobbing in the waves and an evening that entails feasting like a true Croat.

Paraty

Brazil

Famed for its food, art deco architecture and bohemian vibe, Brazil has a sexy and invigorating charm like no other. We're bookmarking the beach town of Paraty as the ultimate destination. Slotted between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, the place has long served as a road-trip pit stop. But, having undergone something of a renaissance, its palm-fringed streets now offer a bevy of glitzy hotels and glamorous restaurants. After unpacking and refuelling, we recommend filling your days with strolls around the colourful town, snacking on local truffles, and dipping in and out of sunny, rock-hewn coves.

What's happening in the world in May?

1 May: Hawaiaiian Lei Day

1 May: May Day Bank Holiday

29 April-8 May: New Orleans Jazz Festival, Louisiana

17-28 April: Cannes Film Festival, France

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