Memorial Day might be the unofficial kickoff for summer, but why wait until then to take a vacation? There are plenty of reasons to squeeze in a trip before peak season starts, whether you want to see one of the world’s natural wonders in both its wet and dry states, or a chance to celebrate with Pride a little earlier than we might stateside. Here are our 10 best places to travel in May.
May is great for: an adventure among Africa’s northern mountain regions
Morocco tends to be wet in March and April, which brings the rugged landscape to life; by May, though, the climate is much better, dry and warm, if a little windy, without the chill evenings of the winter. Come to explore that countryside while it remains lush, and head into the Atlas Mountains for an unexpected outdoorsy experience that’s just two hours or so from Marrakech.
It’s here that Morocco’s Berber population holds sway, a group indigenous to the Maghreb (call them the Amazigh, as they do themselves). It retains a still-distinct culture, which earns a living often as nomadic farmers, though the Amazigh are also known as dyers and weavers. The elaborate craftsmanship in pottery, weaving, and jewelry has remained unchanged for centuries.
Come to the mountain range to meet them and explore the rugged countryside—you can climb the highest peak, 13,671-foot Mount Toubkal, in a couple of days if you’re reasonably fit and can handle the heady altitudes. If you’re a movie fan, visit the ksar at Ait Benhaddou: The earthen buildings that form this settlement on the one-time caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech make it equal parts Biblical and otherworldly. No wonder it’s been a favorite filming backdrop for hits like The Mummy, Star Wars: A New Hope, and Gladiator.
Where to stay: Kasbah Tamadot
- Book now: Kasbah Tamadot
The Kasbah Tamadot has 28 spots to stay—rooms, of course, but also nine lush Amazigh-inspired tents with views of the mountains right from the foothills. But this is no rough camp: There are indoor and outdoor pools plus two tennis courts and even a kids club.
How to get to Morocco
Long-haul international flights are funneled via Casablanca—Royal Air Maroc’s routings to the United States offer direct nonstops from Washington, D.C. and New York. Consider, too, opting to break your journey in Europe, which allows you to connect to a short-haul flight to Marrakech, Tangier, Fez, or elsewhere.
2. Montreal, Canada
May is great for: all the late bloomers out there
If you missed the chance to go blossom-spotting earlier this year—whether in Philly or Newark or elsewhere—don’t worry: You can head to Montreal this month instead. The colder climates here mean that cherry trees proper don’t thrive, but it has a raft of alternatives, mostly crabapple and magnolia. They’re ranged around the city, but the best place to view flowers is the Botanical Garden, which hosts special Japanese-style picnics for this hanami-inspired season.
It’s also Museum Month here, where more than two dozen institutions come together to create a de facto cultural treasure hunt: Each showcases favorite items from its collections, challenging you to make connections and links between them. Pick up a museum card for cheaper entry to multiple locations, or wait until May 28—that’s Museums Day, when all 43 museums across the Greater Montreal area will be completely free.
Where to stay: Hyatt Centric Ville-Marie Montréal
- Book now: Hyatt Centric Ville-Marie Montréal
The affordable, handily located 177-room Hyatt Centric opened late last year in Old Montreal—the rooftop pool there will debut this summer.
How to get to Montreal
Take your pick: Montreal is handily connected year-round to many U.S. cities—summer-only routes on Air Canada include BNA, PIT, and SEA.
3. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
May is great for: getting a rainbow-colored jump start on summer
Pride Month stateside may be in June, but if you’d like an excuse to start celebrating early, head down to Mexico’s west coast, home to arguably the country’s most LGBTQ+-friendly destination. Puerto Vallarta’s (call it PV as the regulars do) rising popularity with the community started in the 1990s, when activists championing gay rights became prominent here—and soon lured similar-minded Americans to visit, most of them flocking to the aptly named Zona Romantica.
This month, during May 20–28, Pride Week offers a chance for every shade of the LGBTQ+ rainbow to celebrate: Expect the kickoff Pink Dinner at the Montamar Beach Club, four nights of circuit parties, a stand-alone Bear Pride, Drag Derby, talent show, and more. This year, it’s expanding its reach with a Miss Vallarta pride pageant, 5K race, and a Queer Ball.
All that, plus balmy midseason weather, too: Consistent daytime temperatures in the 80s and cooler evenings in the 60s mean you can stay in your swimwear most of the time.
Where to stay: Casa Kimberly
- Book now: Casa Kimberly
Liz Taylor is in the premium pantheon of gay icons, so nod to the late superstar by staying at the one-time home built for her by two-time husband Richard Burton as a 32nd birthday gift. Casa Kimberly has been renovated as a nine-suite boutique hotel—splurge on her namesake suite to soak in the pink marble heart-shaped tub Taylor herself installed.
How to get to Puerto Vallarta
PVR’s links to the United States are extensive: Direct nonstops include Alaska Airlines (SJC) and Frontier (DEN).
4. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
May is great for: the best of both worlds at a famous site
The 4,000-square-mile salt plain at Salar de Uyuni is the remnant of an ancient lake that dried up millions of years ago. May—the tail end of the wet season and the beginning of the dry season—is an ideal month to visit: The flats are more accessible, and thanks to the mix of sunny and rainy days, travelers may be able to see the salt flats both dry and when they are flooded, which creates the surreal mirror effect captured in countless photos. (Remember to bring sunglasses—the brightness of the reflection on the salt is unpleasant unless your eyes are shielded.)
Where to stay: Luna Salada
- Book now: Luna Salada
Luna Salada, a hotel on the salt flat that’s constructed from slabs of sodium chloride, offers an irresistible premise. With rooms overlooking the environmental wonder, rest assured you’re taking full advantage of your environment. Inside, you’ll find a homey Andean-inflected vibe to the decor.
How to get to Salar de Uyuni
Uyuni is the nearest town to this natural wonder; book a day tour at one of the agencies in Plaza Arce. There are regular connections for the hour-long flight from La Paz to Uyuni; reach La Paz from the United States on Latam and Avianca, among other airlines.
5. London, England
May is great for: mourning monarchists keen to boost their mood
The death of Queen Elizabeth II last fall sparked widespread mourning, in Britain and around the world. This May, her son Charles will officially take over as monarch via his coronation, a joyous counterpart to the somber events of last year.
May 6 will be a one-time public holiday for the Brits—a definite mood-lifter—and that entire weekend will likely be dragooned into celebration. Expect classic British street parties, complete with sandwiches and Union Jack bunting (as long as the weather holds) plus concerts, parades, and the like. As for his coronation itself, details remain fuzzy; reports suggest it may differ from his mother’s in several ways—a public anointing with holy oil rather than one hidden by a canopy, for example, as well as scaled-back spending—but expect pomp, ceremony, and lots of gold carriages.
Where to stay: Stafford Hotel
- Book now: Stafford Hotel
The 105-room Stafford Hotel in St. James is a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace, and the five-star spot has had royal associations from Queen Victoria until today—Zara Phillips and her husband are regulars.
How to get to London
London Heathrow is connected to almost every major gateway stateside with nonstop flights. Check pricing, though, on London Gatwick, the city’s secondary airport, which now has service from JetBlue, Delta, and Virgin Atlantic; prices are often cheaper.
6. Vienna, Austria
May is great for: exploring Europe’s buzziest capital right now
The 150th anniversary of the World’s Fair here happens in 2023, and the city is celebrating that milestone in several ways. The local Weltmuseum Wien, for example, launched a special exhibition in its honor in January. But this grand old city isn’t simply looking back: There’s a vibrant sense of possibility and energy in the city right now. Several new museums have opened, like the contemporary space owned and operated by Heidi Horten for her collection and the Whitney-like Albertina Modern. A slew of new hotels are appearing, too—including a 99-room Rosewood, the reimagined Ring Hotel (now the Amauris), and a soon-to-debut Mandarin Oriental.
As the weather improves in spring, don’t miss the chance to amble along the Danube’s banks, which will be lined with cafés and places to stop in the warmer months. Take advantage of the season by kayaking in the water or renting a bike to ride along the riverside into the nearby woodlands. Extend your stay a few days to take in Graz, too, a two-hour drive away: This month, its Lendwirbel festival is a creative arts celebration with edgy music and art throughout the city.
Where to stay: Almanac
- Book now: Almanac Palais Vienna
The pick of those new hotels is undoubtedly the just-opened Almanac, housed in a pair of converted palaces dating back to the 1870s. It overlooks the Stadtpark, the city’s first green space, and is within walking distance of most local cultural landmarks, including the State Opera House.
How to get to Vienna
Hop an Austrian Airlines direct flight from Chicago, Los Angeles, New York–JFK, Newark, or Washington, D.C.
7. Baltimore, Maryland
May is great for: an underappreciated, over-the-top thoroughbred race
On the third Saturday in May each year—this year, that’s May 20—the Preakness Stakes takes place at the Pimlico Race Course here, the 148th running since it started in 1873. It’s the second of the three Triple Crown races—it follows the Kentucky Derby but precedes New York’s Belmont Stakes. It is the shortest of the trio, at 9.5 furlongs, and only 14 horses are allowed to take to this track for the race.
The thoroughbreds competing here are trying to snare a share of more than $1.5 million in prize money for their owners, but it’s often overlooked in favor of the other two races. It’s a shame, as Baltimore’s race is full of pageantry, celebration, and swagger. It even has its own cocktail—instead of Derby-ready Mint Julep, sip a Black-Eyed Susan. It’s named after the state’s official flower and is a potent mix of vodka, bourbon, and peach schnapps with a little juice to cut the kick.
Where to stay: Ulysses Hotel
- Book now: Ulysses Hotel
Soak up some Maryland history at the 116-room Ulysses Hotel, housed in the Latrobe Building, a one-time apartment building named after long-tenured Baltimore mayor Ferdinand. It isn’t all fusty throwbacks, though: Look for the carved flamingos on the bedside tables, a nod to the eccentric, Baltimore-bred John Waters, director of Pink Flamingos.
How to get to Baltimore
All the major U.S. carriers service BWI, including Southwest and Alaska, and offer direct flights from much of the Eastern Seaboard as well as Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, and Denver.
May is great for: taking to the waters in the Mediterranean’s new hot spot
Montenegro has a startlingly beautiful coast: Boka Bay, its main entry point, resembles green Norwegian fjords transplanted wholesale by some giant hand to the edge of the Adriatic. No wonder, then, that Montenegrin life is so focused on the water. On May 11–14, the sea here fills with more boats than ever, a sign that the World Match Race Tour is underway.
The event is a three-day endurance fest that tests the mettle of even the saltiest sailors and is one of only eight major events worldwide for the sport, including the America’s Cup. Come to marvel at their skill, or opt for an easier time a little later in the month during the Lim regatta. It usually takes place at the end of May (water levels permitting) and involves fleets of rafters bobbing through the 75-mile-long reaches of the namesake river, which connects the north of the country to neighboring Serbia. All that, plus the chance to experience an alternative carnival: The coastal town of Budva, the anchor to the southern Riviera of the country, hosts a three-day event with masked balls, a parade, and concerts May 2–4.
Where to stay: One&Only Portonovi
- Book now: One&Only Portonovi
The plushest spot in the newly reimagined Boka Bay is undoubtedly One&Only Portonovi, which has its own mile-long strip of coast; the spa by Swiss firm Chenot Palace is a standout for its combo of Chinese and Western medicines.
How to get to Montenegro
This month, United reinstates its seasonal direct nonstop service from EWR to Dubrovnik in Croatia. It’s a one-hour drive from there to Boka Bay.
9. Mumbai, India
May is great for: catching some South Asian culture in Bollywood’s home
From May 5 to 7, the Nehru Centre in Mumbai’s Worli peninsula will host the more than decade-old Indian Art Festival, a homegrown culture confab that intends to bolster the profile of emerging and established contemporary artists in and from India and its surrounding regions.
The free-to-enter show features more than 50 galleries and hundreds of artists in all media, including prints, painting, sculpture, and photography. This year, it has added a new Digital Artist in Residence program, a nod to the sector’s engagement with metaverse creativity. The festival now operates satellite shows in New Delhi and Bengaluru, but the original and still most impressive outpost is here, in India’s glitziest city where culture has long been dominated by the movie industry. Come browse the surprisingly affordable offerings, with plenty of impressive art on sale for less than $100.
Where to stay: Leela
- Book now: Leela
The five-star, 394-room Leela is an oasis amid the chaos of India’s Maximum City, set in its own gardens—more a resort than a city hotel proper. There’s an impressive high-end Indian restaurant, Jamavar, on site, too.
How to get to Mumbai
There are direct services to BOM on Air India: it’s a 14–15 hour flight from EWR and JFK or almost 17 hours from SFO.
10. Meridian, Mississippi
May is great for: America’s oldest, genre-spanning music festival
The Delta blues emerged in Mississippi in the late 19th century among the freed African Americans who lived here in huge numbers as a result of the plantation economy; it’s made music of all kinds synonymous with the state.
Come to relish the blues, and much else, at the Jimmie Rodgers Music Festival this month, which runs from May 6 to 14. It’s the 70th year for this long-running shindig, which takes place in Meridian and honors the namesake musician who was born there, and died in 1933. His eclectic musicianship, taking in what’s now country and blues both, made him an early star of hit parades. This year’s lineup will honor that genre-spanning skill.
If you make the journey to Meridian, don’t leave without making the 90-minute journey to Ridgeland, north of Jackson. There you can take a tour this month with a naturalist to see the Snappy Sync Fireflies, a distinct species of this insect that can coordinate and syncopate its flashes almost as in rhythm. How fitting.
Where to stay: The Threefoot Hotel
- Book now: The Threefoot Hotel
The Threefoot Hotel, a 1920s grande dame of the city, has just seen its art deco glory restored by an in-depth renovation that preserved details like light fixtures and a mosaic facade while upgrading the guest rooms. Make sure to head to the rooftop lounge, the Boxcar, for a cocktail or two.
How to get to Meridian
The best access to Meridian is via JAN airport, in Jackson, about a 90-minute drive away. American and Southwest Airlines offer the most options; there are direct flights from HOB, MEM, CLT, and ATL among others.