If you’ve been saving up your PTO for August—when sunny days and warm weather are the norm in the Northern Hemisphere–here are our top 10 places to spend them.
What does your ideal summer look like: Hiking in a national park? Soaking up the sun on a Caribbean beach? Enjoying outdoor activities on a remote Atlantic archipelago? Whatever your dream summer trip, one of these 10 destinations will fit the bill.
August is good for: nature lovers, outdoor adventurers
August is prime time to visit Alaska. The days are long, so your chances of spotting a humpback during a whale-watching tour (or a bear while on land) are a lot higher. Summertime means there are plenty of opportunities to see the state by ship, including four August itineraries on the new National Geographic Venture with Lindblad Expeditions. On the seven-night trips, travelers may kayak along the coast, admire towering glaciers, and learn from expert naturalists.
If you choose to see Alaska by land, Anchorage is a gateway to the state’s larger-than-life outdoors offerings. Denali National Park and Preserve is home to the highest mountain peak in North America and more than 200 animal species, among them caribou, grizzly bears, bald eagles, and Dall sheep. Take a hike (but be sure to read up on wilderness safety) or go flightseeing for a different perspective on the landscape; some companies, including Fly Denali and K2 Aviation, have special permits to land right on the glaciers. You can even stop by and meet the only sled dogs that work for the National Park Service. The park is about a five-hour drive from Anchorage, and the National Park Service has plenty of information about transportation to and within the park for independent travelers.
Or for a truly remote backcountry Alaskan experience, head 200 miles east of Anchorage to the largest national park in the United States, Wrangell–St. Elias. —Sara Button
August is good for: island fans
The Azores, a nine-island volcanic archipelago set 900 miles west of Portugal, are home to deep-blue lakes, oceanside bluffs, and a patchwork of fields in every imaginable shade of green. Now that travelers can fly to the capital of the Azores from New York City with Delta in less than five hours, the autonomous Portuguese region won’t be a secret much longer. On São Miguel, the biggest island, black and white cobblestones in geometrical designs called calçada portuguesa cover the plazas of regional capital Ponta Delgada; hiking trails surround the crater lakes of the Sete Cidades area; and the five-star Grand Hotel Açores Atlântico recently emerged from a renovation. On the vineyard-filled isle of Pico, grapevines grow out of black basalt rock; on Flores, named after its abundant flowers, hydrangeas bloom in the summer. The best way to see it all: A new program from tour company Azores Getaways allows travelers to design their own island-hopping adventure (airfare included).
Delta flies nonstop from JFK to Ponta Delgada between May and September. Plus, cruise lines Azamara, Norwegian, and Regent Seven Seas will stop at the islands of São Miguel and/or Faial on select 2019 itineraries. Pro tip: The Azores have a temperate subtropical climate, and the weather, while mild all year long, may cycle through clouds, wind, rain, and sun in a matter of hours—pack accordingly. —Sara Button, as seen in the January/February 2019 issue of AFAR Magazine
August is good for: artsy types, anyone in search of an Americana-laden summer
In 1999, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) transformed a 19th-century factory mill complex in the state’s bucolic Berkshires region into a center for world-class art. Momentum has been building ever since. Last year, John Stirratt, the bassist with Chicago alternative rock group Wilco, reopened the rundown Redwood Motel in the city of North Adams as Tourists, a sleek 48-room lodge. This spring, the hotel opened a new lounge and eatery, The Airport Rooms, in its 1813 farmhouse adjacent to the lodge. And MASS MoCA welcomed A-OK Berkshire Barbeque to set up shop in a disused guardhouse on its campus. About a mile south of Mass MoCA, Rising Glass Brewery is scheduled to open June 2019 in the repurposed Fraternal Order of Eagles lodge. Nearly 20 miles south in Pittsfield, the Museum of Dog, a canine-themed art collection, reopened in late spring. And 10 miles farther south in the town of Lenox, the summer abode of the Boston Symphony Orchestra—known as Tanglewood—will debut the Center for Music and Learning in summer 2019, complete with a newly built performance space and café offering year-round concerts and events.
Most towns in the Berkshires are about a three-hour drive from Boston and New York City. The closest major airport is in Albany, New York, an hour’s drive northwest of the Berkshires. And 2019 could be the year that Amtrak initiates the Berkshire Flyer, train service that would run between Pittsfield, Massachusetts, New York City, and Albany on warm-weather weekends in the summer and fall. —Lyndsey Matthews, as seen in the January/February 2019 issue of AFAR Magazine
August is good for: foodies, travelers jonesing for java
Summertime in one of the world’s most livable places means mild weather and long, sunny days—perfect conditions for sitting on a café patio, sipping a cup of coffee, and people-watching. And partly thanks to acclaimed restaurant Noma (which reopened in 2018), many small cafés, eateries, and bars strive to likewise think big. The result? Copenhagen is packed full of sweet places that are trying something new—perfect for wiling away summer hours .
For cafés, it’s hard to beat Granola for homey Nordic dishes (skip the weekends, though; its popularity has resulted in it being too crowded for comfort), but stylish Café Auto comes close, serving up burgers and croque madame. Bowl Market, which offers amazing porridge bowls, is perfect for breakfast. For coffee, meanwhile, seek out the Coffee Collective, run by a gang of young Danes utterly devoted to making the perfect cup of coffee (and who provide most of the local cafés with premium beans).
Book lovers will delight in Paludan Bogcafé, where first-rate coffee can be enjoyed while browsing a robust collection of secondhand books. Or opt to enjoy your caffeine and homemade pastries with a side of bicycle shopping at Wecycle Copenhagen—in addition to a cup of joe and treats, it sells upcycled bikes and also offers bike rentals for exploring the city. After an afternoon bike ride, head to Bertels Salon for a coffee and its amazing array of cheesecakes. —AFAR Editors
August is good for: wine drinkers, Game of Thrones geeks, festival aficionados
Often dubbed the “pearl of the Adriatic,” Dubrovnik won AFAR’s 2019 Travelers’ Choice Award for Cultural Capital. Summer can be hot and crowded, but this year it’s worth braving the masses for the 70th anniversary of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, which features opera, music, dance, and theater; it runs from July 10 through August 25.
Though you shouldn’t miss a stroll in the city’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site that Game of Thrones fans know well as the fictional city of King’s Landing, we recommend going beyond the walls to try winetasting at local vineyards. (Tyrion Lannister himself couldn’t find a better way to spend his time.) Croatia has been producing wine for over 2,000 years, and while many varietals are unknown beyond its borders, the country’s high-quality wines are worth discovering. (Some wineries are set up for independent visits, but it’s easiest to book one of the popular winetasting day tours from the city; Dubrovnik Wine Tours offers a number of options.)
Closest to Dubrovnik is the Pelješac peninsula, a breathtaking coastline of karstic limestone and home to some of Croatia’s best-known wines, most notably the tannic plavac mali–based reds. A visit to Hvar Island, meanwhile, where lush vineyards meet shoreside cliffs, will likely mean a day of sipping pošip, a white wine crisp with apple and citrus flavors and almond notes.
If you can’t make it out of Dubrovnik, check out Wine Bar Matuško, a brick-lined wine bar in the Old Town owned by a winemaking family whose vineyard is in nearby Pelješac (their wines have won several awards). Another city wine bar is located on a romantic, narrow lane, the ever-popular D’vino Wine Bar. It’s an excellent spot to sample the local tipple by the glass, with informed staff ready to make recommendations and a friendly mix of locals and visitors. —AFAR Editors
Ho Chi Minh City
August is good for: the street market savvy, bargain hunters
Just because August is the wet season doesn’t mean you should avoid Vietnam altogether. Downpours don’t usually last more than an hour or so, and the rain cools down the temperature. Travelers willing to explore the city with a poncho at the ready may find better deals on lodging in August and an interesting perspective on how locals live in Ho Chi Minh City, which deserves its reputation as Vietnam’s most dynamic city.
And where else to feel its dynamism than the markets? The best (and most famous) place to start a browsing odyssey is Ben Thanh Market, one of the city’s most iconic sights. Items span the useful (intricate lacquerware, handmade bags) to the useless (nodding golden cats and flimsy toys). It’s a fascinating experience nonetheless, but don’t forget to haggle hard—start at 50 percent below asking then work up. If you’re there during mealtime, stop by the food stalls, and look for places that are crammed with locals.
For Vietnamese crafts, head to An Dong Market. The ground-floor stalls focus on food, and the stalls on the top level showcase the skills of the artisans who continue Vietnam’s proud heritage of lacquer and woodwork. Other charismatic retail hubs include Soai Kinh Lam Fabric Market, where you can find fabric for bespoke clothing, and Le Cong Kieu, better known as Antiques Street. —AFAR Editors
August is good for: hotel hunters, the contemporary art crowd
There are countless things to do in Los Angeles every day, whether you want to spend time at the beach, shop on Rodeo Drive, or take a studio tour for a behind-the-scenes look at your favorite TV show. But right now, Downtown LA (DTLA) is having a hotel renaissance. Last year’s opening of the NoMad was only one of many new additions to the neighborhood, which was already home to trendy spots like the Freehand and the Standard. Along with upcoming openings of a new Hoxton, Proper, and SoHo Warehouse, this August the Wayfarer DTLA is set to open. The hotel is pet-friendly and has a focus on community: Guests can cook in a fully stocked kitchen or drink and dine at one of the three on-site spots, and there are options to book private rooms or a bed in a two-bunk shared room (also a solid option if you’re traveling with a crew).
But DTLA isn’t simply a hotel hub; there are plenty of galleries, eateries (check out Grand Central Market for an array of choices), bars (snag a cocktail and watch the sunset from Perch LA), and museums in the area to keep you busy. Head to The Broad for contemporary artworks by the likes of Jean‐Michel Basquiat, Yayoi Kusama, and Kara Walker; until September 1, catch the special exhibition Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, 1963-1983. See more at the Museum of Contemporary Art, with a pair of locations, one across the street from The Broad and another less than a mile away, where a monumental wall work by feminist conceptual artist Barbara Kruger is on display until November 2020.
Another benefit of basing yourself in Downtown Los Angeles? It’s actually pretty easy to get to the many other parts of the city from there. The Los Angeles Metro can take riders from DTLA to places like Santa Monica in 45 minutes and Universal City in 20, and rideshare options abound. —Sara Button
August is good for: cultural history hounds, nature nuts
June into September is the stretch to enjoy New Brunswick’s outdoor wonders and explore the culture of the Acadian people (descendants of the region’s original French settlers). But go in August: The city of Moncton, where a third of the population is French speaking, will celebrate the World Acadian Congress August 16–23 with music, dancing, food stalls, and other festivities.
New Brunswick has always been known for nature—it’s home to the Bay of Fundy, the site of the world’s highest tides—but thanks to a handful of new additions, it’s easier than ever to adventure outdoors. Explore the bay and try your hand at marine research in the historic town of St. Andrews, where the Huntsman Marine Science Centre will be running new boat tours aboard the Fundy Spray. Help gather specimens, perhaps examine your finds under a microscope, then lunch on scallops while scanning the waters for seals. You can camp in comfort at several new rustic-meets-luxury accommodations. Cielo Glamping Maritime recently built five geodesic domes on the Acadian Peninsula, at the province’s northeastern tip. Gather your own oysters by day, watch the sunset from a wood-fired hot tub, then stargaze from a cushy queen-size bed. To really get away from it all, head inland to hike a portion of the newly completed Nepisiguit Mi’gmaq Trail—it stretches 87 miles along the Nepisiguit River, with spectacular views of Mount Carleton, the Maritimes’ highest peak. For centuries, the native Mi’gmaq people used this trail to reach tribal hunting and fishing grounds; it still traverses an unspoiled wilderness.
New Brunswick is about a four-hour drive from Portland, Maine, and 5.5 hours from Boston. Or fly into Moncton, Fredericton, or St. John; the latter puts you closest to the Bay of Fundy. —Barbara Peck, as seen in the January/February 2019 issue of AFAR Magazine
August is good for: gorilla spotters
More than two decades after a violent civil war, Rwanda is enjoying a peaceful period, and attracting visitors with its coveted gorilla trekking experiences—by far the country’s biggest draw. But Rwanda offers even more than the chance to encounter the majestic apes, and August, part of the country’s dry spell, is a good time of year to go. The capital of Kigali, treated by most travelers as a quick stopover before their safari, is home to a thriving arts scene and new restaurants that reward an extended stay. The year-old Heaven Retreat, with its sustainably grown teak furnishings and private patios, offers an ideal central base. A 2.5-hour drive to the east, 433-square-mile Akagera National Park is home to 18 black rhinos, reintroduced in 2017, which means you can now see the Big Five without leaving the country. Wilderness Safaris is bringing luxury to the park for the first time with the recent debut of Magashi Camp, which will feature six tents facing Lake Rwanyakazinga. In the southwestern reaches of the country, the new One&Only Nyungwe House offers tours through misty tea plantations and hikes that track chimpanzees and colobus monkeys. And for those set firmly on gorilla trekking, two hotly anticipated lodges are slated to open in 2019: One&Only Gorilla’s Nest and Singita Kwitonda.
RwandAir’s direct flight from New York to Kigali is still in the works, but in the meantime, travelers can fly to Kigali via Nairobi with Kenya Airways on a new 15-hour flight from JFK in New York City to Nairobi. Or they can take a connecting flight from JFK or LAX to Kigali via Addis Ababa on Ethiopian Airlines, via Istanbul on Turkish Airlines, or via Amsterdam on KLM. —Sarah Khan, as seen in the January/February 2019 issue of AFAR Magazine
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
August is good for: bold beach bums
The commercial center of the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas rises up from the teal-blue sea, a wild jumble of steep green hills, pastel colonial buildings, goats on the road, and cruise ships in the ports. And although hurricanes Irma and Maria pummeled the island in September 2017, it’s well on its way to recovery, with most of the island back on track to welcome visitors. This summer, United is serving up direct flights from Houston to Cyril E. King International Airport in St. Thomas until August 19 (more new routes to the island on other carriers will likely come later in 2019). Also, August is a low travel season due to the risk of hurricanes, although this year predictions indicate that the storms will be closer to normal; that means you might get some sweet travel deals to the Caribbean, as long as you’re informed about the weather.
If you go, skip the popular Magens Bay and head a short distance west to Hull Bay. It’s a bit of a locals’ secret, and more low-key, where folks anchor their boats and hang out on the beach to watch sunsets. It’s also the island’s surfing hot spot so rent a board and head out to catch a wave. The beach offers a canopy of trees, perfect for shading sunburnt skin from the sun.
For off-the-beaten-path paddling excursions, Virgin Islands Ecotours offers several options. Take a guided kayaking-and-snorkeling trip through a mangrove lagoon or a similar jaunt to a nearby deserted island and its 200-year-old fort. Sunset birding expeditions and stand-up paddleboard trips are also available, or you can rent equipment for a DIY exploration. —AFAR Editors