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10 Best Places to Travel in July

By AFAR Editors

05.13.19

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Vevey’s Fête des Vignerons, which dates to 1797, includes ornate parades, pop-up restaurants, and cultural activities.

Courtesy of Kirk Gulden/Shutterstock

Vevey’s Fête des Vignerons, which dates to 1797, includes ornate parades, pop-up restaurants, and cultural activities.

Soak up the midsummer sun with a glass of wine in Switzerland. Dance your way around town in Brazil. Lace up your hiking boots in Australia. If you’re looking to go on holiday this July, endless opportunities await.

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With warm weather in much of the Northern Hemisphere (and school holidays in full swing), the month of July is a popular time to travel. Whether you want to experience outdoor adventures in an Australian national park, spend your vacation learning to dance the samba in South America, or relax on a Caribbean beach, there’s somewhere in the world for you to do it in July. Here are 10 ideas to get you started.

Visit Santa Barbara for design-forward accommodations, top-notch eats, and some of California’s best wine.
Santa Barbara

July is good for: families, California dreamers

A year after wildfires and massive mudslides in neighboring Montecito led then-Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency, Santa Barbara is back in full swing. The Hotel Californian, with its original 1920s Spanish colonial revival facade, has injected elegance and energy into the city’s historic waterfront. Martyn Lawrence Bullard—the designer behind many celebrity homes, including those of Cher and Eva Mendes—dreamed up the interiors, infusing the 121 rooms and suites with Moroccan elements, such as geometric patterns, arched entryways, and gilded sconces. Step outside the hotel, and the best of the city is within walking distance. West Beach is just steps away, as is the innovative new MOXI discovery museum, where kids can play with 3-D printers and create their own movie sound effects.

Also close: the tasting rooms of the Funk Zone and several new restaurants that round out the city’s maturing food scene. There’s Blackbird, a Mediterranean restaurant led by a French Laundry and Per Se alum who uses locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, and three new spots—including the Vietnamese restaurant Tyger Tyger—from the prolific Acme Hospitality group. In April, the Rosewood Miramar Beach officially opened with 124 rooms and 37 suites on a secluded beach 10 minutes south of downtown. And if you’re not going to Santa Barbara to enjoy any of the above during its idyllic July weather, go for the annual California Wine Festival (this year, July 19–20), which celebrates some of the best wines in the state, including those from the nearby Santa Ynez Valley, with two days of tastings and food-and-wine pairings. —KIRSTEN WHATLEY, as seen in the January/February 2019 issue

The Fête des Vignerons, a Swiss winegrowers’ festival, takes place this year from July 18 to August 11.
Switzerland

July is good for: oenophiles

We’ll cut to the chase: From July 18 to August 11, the Fête des Vignerons returns to Vevey, the gateway city to the lauded Lavaux wine region in Switzerland. The Lavaux region’s winemaking history dates to the 11th century; its 1,000-year-old terraced vineyards have landed it on the UNESCO World Heritage list, and its famous chasselas white wine has landed it in the hearts of oenophiles everywhere. In tribute to that long history, the Fête des Vignerons is staged in Vevey once every generation, up to five times a century. The festival dates to 1797, when the Brotherhood of Winegrowers launched a small parade to mark the end of its annual meeting. Today it mounts a much bigger spectacle, featuring three weeks of ornate parades, pop-up restaurants, and cultural activities.

The main event is an elaborate music-filled pageant that follows a young girl as she works and feasts with her grandfather during the harvest, learning about the winegrower’s life and the bounty of the vineyards. (This year, spectators can watch from a new 20,000-seat arena constructed specially for the festival.) Of course, there will also be wine. Sample one of two wines made specifically for the fête—one red and one white—at the many caveaux (open cellars). In between tastings and other activities, don’t forget to drink in the beauty of Vevey. Stroll the palm-lined lakeside promenade, bike and hike Les Pléiades and the nearby Alps, or hop on the Lavaux Express or the Lavaux Panoramic, trains that loop through the vineyards. To get there, take the train from Geneva (1 hour) or Lausanne (15 minutes); buy a Swiss Travel Pass—which includes rail, water, and bus routes—for discounted rides. —BILLIE COHEN, as seen in the January/February 2019 issue
The new Polish Vodka Museum offers tastings of potato-, wheat-, and rye-based vodkas.
Warsaw

July is good for: vodka drinkers

July, when the sun shines and tables spill out to the sidewalks and streets, is the best time to visit Poland’s capital. As Poland continues to emerge from the shadow of communism, Warsaw is experiencing a widespread creative wave—including a vodka revival. In Praga, once one of the roughest parts of the city, the new Polish Vodka Museum tells the 600-year story of the spirit.

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In this former vodka factory, visitors can walk fragrant wooden floors made from old barrels, and finish with a tasting that showcases potato-, wheat-, and rye-based vodkas, then continue to consume innovative drinks along with some of the best food in the city, at the new crop of vodka bars. At WuWu, chef Adriana Marczewska, who went far on Poland’s version of Top Chef, puts an upscale twist on classic Polish pub dishes (even the communist ones, including the “pork luncheon,” a Spam-like concoction served in its own tin, which turns out to be a tasty, salty wonder) and pairs them with a list of dozens of vodkas. The Roots, a snug bar across from the national opera house, distills its own spirits, including a vodka that’s barrel aged with Polish herbs for three months. And trendy Woda Ognista (or “firewater,” taken from the old Polish words for vodka) celebrates the interwar years in Poland, a time of freedom and intellectual ferment, in two ways: with its seasonal cocktails (a recent menu, called “cocktail melodies,” was based on famous national songs from that era), and via its small collection of historic, alcohol-themed art pieces (shakers and cocktail menus displayed in cases on the walls).

Travelers can make their home base the five-star Raffles Europejski—once the most stylish address on the rail line between Paris and St. Petersburg—which reopened last June with 106 rooms, a carefully curated collection of Polish art, and a double-distilled vodka commissioned for exclusive use in the hotel. —TIM JOHNSON, as seen in the January/February 2019 issue

Head to Chile for the next total solar eclipse, taking place on July 2.
Chile

July is good for: eclipse chasers

Winter in Chile, from June to August, is usually the slow season in the high-altitude Elqui Valley, which stretches from the Pacific coast to the Andean foothills. Not this year. The 90-mile-wide region will be in the path of totality—the swath in which the moon completely blocks the sun—for the next solar eclipse on July 2, and more than 500,000 people are expected to gather to watch the action.

With 300 sunny days a year and minimal light pollution, the arid Elqui Valley offers some of the best stargazing in the world. More than a dozen observatories stand along the valley’s 65-mile Ruta de las Estrellas, or Route of Stars, which begins in the coastal town of La Serena and ends in the Andean village of Alcohuáz. Vicuña, the valley’s largest town, is the best jumping-off point for eclipse-related activities. Take in the celestial spectacle with astronomers from the Mamalluca or Pangue observatories or set up camp in the temporary observation spots local officials will arrange for the event. While larger hotels throughout the valley are already booked, some campsites, private homes, and smaller hostales (inns) are still available, as are hotel rooms in La Serena and other towns on the coast. An alternative: Time your visit for the days following totality, when crowds are expected to disperse and the new moon allows skies to remain dark enough to see the Milky Way. Book a stay at Elqui Domos, where you can stargaze from the comfort of your own bed, either in a geodesic dome with a zippered viewing panel or in a cabin with a panel of skylights.

La Serena, the gateway to Elqui Valley, is a one-hour flight or 5.5-hour drive north of Santiago. Officials recommend arriving at least two days before the eclipse to beat traffic: Highway 41 is the only route into and out of the valley. —SARAH FELDBERG, as seen in the January/February 2019 issue
Pittsburgh’s Fourth of July festival features live music, a historical reenactment, and a fireworks display over the river.
Pittsburgh

July is good for: fireworks fans, pickle pundits

Summer in Pittsburgh produces reliably warm days, ideal for watching a Pirates baseball game, kayaking on the Monongahela River, or walking across the scads of bridges. (Fun fact: the Steel City has 446 bridges—the most in the world.) But why July is the perfect time to visit is twofold: the Fourth of July festivities and Picklesburgh.

Independence Day brings the city downtown to Point State Park overlooking the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers that form the Ohio River. During the day’s celebrations, listen to live music, get your face painted, see 18th-century re-enactors at Fort Pitt, eat plenty of snacks, or stake out a spot on the grass and bring a picnic (note: no alcohol is allowed in the park). The night culminates with a jaw-dropping fireworks display over the water.

The end of the month holds a unique reason to visit: Picklesburgh. Only in its fifth year, the quirky three-day food festival (July 26-28) featuring all things pickled has grown so much that this year the space is doubling in size. Get your fill of dill pickle ice cream, pickle puns, and plenty of other pickled fun.

If you can’t make it to either of those events, there’s still plenty to do: visit the National Aviary, the country’s largest nonprofit bird zoo; wander through the beauty of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens; or check out the famous soup cans at the Andy Warhol Museum. SARA BUTTON
San Juan offers both small and larg sandy stretches to soak up the summer sun.

San Juan

July is good for: beach bums

Like most of Puerto Rico, San Juan was battered by the 2017 hurricane that swept across the island. But if the capital was knocked down, it certainly wasn’t knocked out. This July, check into the Caribe Hilton, reopening after more than a year of closure. While you’re there, be sure to order a piña colada—the fruity cocktail was born at the Caribe Hilton and became the island’s national drink. Once you’ve sipped to your heart’s content, head to the beaches, many of which are easily accessible and offer a variety of experiences.

Escambrón and Condado are two smaller beaches that are popular destinations with locals and visitors, as are the longer stretches of sand in Ocean Park and Isla Verde and at Balneario Carolina. Head farther to the east by car, taxi, or public bus, and you can enjoy swathes of sand, surf, and sun along Piñones, running all the way to the town of Loíza. Try alcapurrías (plantain and taro root fritters stuffed with meat) and look for a piragua vendor—this shaved ice treat is a Puerto Rican favorite. For a truly unique experience, head to one of Puerto Rico’s three bioluminescent bays (there are only five in the world): Laguna Grande and La Parguera off the main island and Mosquito Bay on the island of Vieques. Upon arrival, you’ll likely only see dark water, but once the water is disturbed, you’ll be amazed at the bright blue-green twinkles that single-cell organisms called dinoflagellates produce. It’s a truly magical experience. —AFAR EDITORS

Santa Fe markets feature goods by local artisans, including jewelry, pottery, and other traditional wares.
Santa Fe

July is good for: folk art fans

Welcome to Santa Fe, home to a 400-year-old city of high-desert lore, art, and culture. Situated over 7,000 feet above sea level, the historic town is beloved for its low-slung, earthy adobe aesthetic and ever-shifting views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Art lovers and collectors flock to Santa Fe for its wildly diverse art scene. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum may be the city’s best known museum, with the largest permanent collection of her work, but in July the reason to go is for the folk art.

Perched atop Museum Hill, the Museum of International Folk Art shows over 100,000 objects from more than 100 countries, including Alexander Girard’s marvelous folk art collection. From July 12-14, the 16th annual International Folk Art Market will showcase goods by artisans from over 50 countries, including Iraq and Bulgaria. For even more traditional wares, at the end of the month Santa Fe welcomes the 68th traditional Spanish Market, where 250 artists (selected by jury) preserve craft techniques from the past 400 years.  

And to purchase something by local artisans, head to the Palace of the Governors, where approximately 1,000 people set up shop every day under a shaded portal. You’ll be able to browse jewelry, sand art, pottery, and more. —AFAR EDITORS

North of Sydney, Melbourne, and other major Australian cities, Brisbane offers plenty of opportunities to explore the outdoors.
Brisbane

July is good for: outdoorsy folks

Brisbane has emerged from the shadows of its more famous southern sisters and is basking in a newfound confidence that can only come from a glorious tropical climate, a stunning setting, and a thriving cultural scene. The Brisbane River meanders through the heart of this green and gleaming metropolis while beyond the city the rest of Queensland beckons. In July, check into The Calile, selected by AFAR editors as one of the world’s best new hotels. If you’re not lounging in the spa there, take advantage of Queensland’s mild winter weather and lace up your hiking boots.

Down near the border of New South Wales, Lamington National Park is a wonderland of lush subtropical rain forest, gorges, waterfalls, and caves. It’s also home to abundant wildlife, including bowerbirds and pademelons (small wallabies). The easy treetop trail will take you up into the canopy, while the more serious hiker will want to tackle the 15-mile trail. Closer to Brisbane, Tamborine Mountain offers a great hike through dense rain forest to Curtis Falls. As always when you hike, take plenty of water and pack sunscreen, insect repellent, and a hat to help ward off the bright sun. —AFAR EDITORS

Historically rainy Ireland sees its highest daytime temperatures in the month of July.
County Clare, Ireland

July is good for: nature lovers

With tiny villages full of lively pubs, ancient castles, and Ireland’s longest river, the Shannon area in southwestern Ireland offers riches of nature, history, and wildlife for visitors. Though weather in Ireland is rainy year-round, July sees some of the country’s highest daytime temperatures, hovering in the high 60s. It’s also a great month to spot marine life. Take a boat trip on the Shannon Estuary to see the bottlenose dolphins that live at the river mouth—if you’re lucky, you’ll glimpse of one of the calves, which are born in the summer. Gray seals and whales have also been seen in the area from time to time.

Birders may enjoy searching for gulls, kittiwakes, cormorants, and fulmars near the Estuary. The Cliffs of Moher, which stretch almost five miles along the Atlantic and rise to a height of over 700 feet at their highest point, are also popular nesting grounds for birds like razorbills, guillemots, gulls, and puffins. You’ll see plenty of bird habitats on cliff path walks or boat trips along those cliffs or the ones at Loop Head. —AFAR EDITORS
A number of bars throughout São Paulo welcome locals and visitors alike to dance the samba.
São Paulo

July is good for: dancing fiends

By July, travelers from the United States, Canada, Australia, and Japan can escape Brazil’s visa fee. It’s not a bad excuse to get your samba on in São Paulo, one of the world’s largest cities. With roots in West African dance styles, samba takes on different traits depending on the region where it is performed. In São Paulo, for example, dancers might be segregated, with men on one side while women stand on the other, and the music often incorporates city elements and landmarks into the songs and dance stories.

One of the best spots to listen to live samba, chorinho, and pagode is Ó do Borogodó in Vila Madalena, which gets going from 10 p.m. most nights. On one of Brazil’s most famous musical corners (Avenida São João and Avenida Ipiranga in Centro, forever popularized by Caetano Veloso’s 1978 love song to the city, “Sampa”) sits Bar Brahma, a hugely popular—if a tad too touristy—hot spot for live samba and other related genres.

Another staple of the local scene is Vila do Samba, located in the neighborhood of Casa Verde, which is said to be samba’s original home. Here, charming townhouse villas have been transformed into samba central at least four nights a week. However, numerous bars around the city feature live samba on a regular basis—simply follow your ears (and your feet). —AFAR EDITORS

>>Next: Gorgeous Summer Destinations Where Your U.S. Dollar Will Go Far

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