7 Trips to Book for Summer, From a Botswana Safari to a Brazilian Pride celebration

Skip your usual summer vacation plans with these destinations.

Green hills with dark green foliage near a town

Planning a summer trip? Consider places like Gstaad for your next vacation.

Photo by Roger Gruetter

It’s almost inappropriate not to make the most of summer’s quiet stretches and skip off for a trip somewhere new. This is bona fide vacation season, after all. And while destinations with special summertime appeal abound, remember that our summer is winter in the Southern Hemisphere—a prime time to explore countries there, not just for the temperate climate, but also for the wild seasonal events.

Here are seven glorious places for a summer jaunt, each with a must-see reason to go right now.

1. Gstaad, Switzerland

Gstaad is an appealing destination in summertime (June through September), when the slopes are transformed into green hiking trails; try the Rinderberg panorama ridge trail or stroll around Lauenensee Lake. Come earlier in the day to avoid the crowds, and don’t forget to pack a bathing suit for a chance to swim in the astonishingly clear waters.

There are major sporting events here in summer, too. There’s the Hublot Polo Gold Cup from August 22 to 25, which takes place on the grounds of Gstaad airport, and the Swiss Open, which runs from July 13 to 21 this year; it was won by Argentinian Pedro Cachín last year.

Where to stay

This hotel helped establish this town as a jet-set getaway when it opened more than 100 years ago; it remains ground zero for glamor in 2024. Save some energy to party in the 1970s-style nightclub GreenGo.

How to get to Gstaad

The best international hub for Gstaad is Zurich, served by Swiss from Miami International Airport (MIA), Chicago O’Hare Airport (ORD), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), and John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) nonstop; the airport at Gstaad is mostly restricted to private jets. Road connections to the town are notoriously circuitous, so the best option is a train: It takes about three hours to pull into the small station downtown.

Drone aerial view of downtown Montgomery in Alabama, the AL Skyline

Montgomery, Alabama, was home to many Civil Rights Movement protests, including the Montgomery bus boycott.

Photo by Kevin Ruck/Shutterstock

2. Alabama

Spend a contemplative Juneteenth in Montgomery, Alabama, where the Equal Justice Initiative operates several world-class sites, all intended to spotlight the troubled racial history of the United States. EJI’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice confronts the history of lynchings: Visitors walk through a forest of tombstones hanging from the ceiling, each representing a county where lynchings took place. The Legacy Museum nearby offers in-depth accounts of life as an enslaved person. The latest addition will be the 17-acre Freedom Monument Sculpture Park (set to open March 27), filled with 48 sculptures by more than two dozen artists, including Wangechi Mutu and Kehinde Wiley, as well as a monument to the millions emancipated at the end of the Civil War.

Combine that with a visit to Birmingham, an hour’s drive or so away: The city has a vibrance epitomized by the reboot of the dead space under the interstate—a former divider between racially distinct neighborhoods—now named CityWalk BHAM, an outdoor rec area with a skate park, roller rink, and pickleball courts.

Where to stay

Stay at Birmingham’s The Painted Lady, slated to open in July. The 22-room spot, in the former automotive district, is inspired by the life and work of Louise Curtis Wooster, renowned as both a high-end brothel keeper and a devoted nurse during the cholera epidemic.

How to get to Alabama

Flying to Birmingham is the best option, with direct nonstop service to airports including Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) on American, Denver International Airport (DEN) on Southwest and United, and Detroit Metro Airport (DTW) on Delta.

A guanaco on snowy grass with a snow-covered mountain in the background

During Chile’s winter period (from May to August), places like Torres del Paine National Park get fewer crowds and feel more wild.

Photo by Foto 4440/Shutterstock

3. Patagonia, Chile

Chile’s southern tip in midwinter (June through August) is brutal at times—expect temps to remain consistently around freezing—but the reason to come to this rugged terrain now is that it’s peak puma-spotting season. When the land is green and lush, the cats are more scattered, chasing their prey, guanacos, around wide swathes of land; as the snows carpet the higher altitudes here in winter, the guanacos are driven down to graze in smaller patches of greenery, bringing the pumas in high numbers to the same small spaces.

There are also more than 100 species of birds, including black and white condors and flamingos whose bright-bubblegum plumage seems cartoonish in the wild.

Even better, since visitor numbers crater in winter, there are fewer humans to scare the skittish cats: Chile’s most popular national park, the approximately 700-square-mile Torres del Paine, is home to between 50 and 200 pumas.

Where to stay

Awasi operates a 14-villa lodge in a private reserve right next to that national park. The floor-to-ceiling windows offer spectacular views.

How to get to Patagonia

Punta Arenas is the starting point for adventures in this part of Chile. Fly to the capital, Santiago de Chile, on LATAM from JFK or LAX, then connect on the same carrier’s domestic service.

Greenery beside a dock leading to a river

Viti Levu is Fiji’s largest island.

Photo by Viktor Hejna/Shutterstock

4. Fiji

If you’ve never ventured into the Pacific region, consider Fiji as your first place to touch down. The country comprises about 300 islands, but the population is concentrated on two, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. The infrastructure is superb, whether you travel by air, road, or sea, and English is the lingua franca, which makes engaging with locals and learning more about the Indigenous culture much easier.

Hands down the best time to come is during July and August, when temperatures will be warm—usually steady in the upper 80s—and rain is minimal. Dive into the waters and you’ll be startled at the quality and health of the soft coral. Rakiraki, off the main island of Viti Levu, is ideal for diving for both beginners and pros, while experts should beeline for Namena Island. It’s surrounded by a horseshoe-shaped barrier reef that’s home to more than 1,000 species of fish.

Where to stay

Indulge your inner Robinson Crusoe with a stay at this private island resort, which was the personal playground of Red Bull entrepreneur Dietrich Mateschitz, complete with its own vast farm, a water sports center, and a spa. Book the overwater villa, which has its own pool carved into the rock face, if you can.

How to get to Fiji

The local namesake airline has a near monopoly on service to the islands: Daily service runs from the capital, Nadi, to LAX, and there are flights six times weekly to SFO.

People in a canoe looking at an elephant climbing out of water nearby

A traditional canoe, called a mokoro, lets you explore Botswana’s Okavango Delta without the din of a motorboat.

Photo by Ger Metselaar/Shutterstock

5. Okavango Delta, Botswana

The Okavango Delta in Botswana is the world’s largest inland delta and the best place to experience an African water safari. Though July is technically the peak dry season, the water level here is at its highest; that’s because it takes several months for the rains from the Angolan Highlands to trickle down and pool here on the plains. Of course, the delta is an easy place to score a full house on the so-called Big Five: lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhino (though an uptick in poaching has recently threatened the population of the latter).

Avoid motorboating around and instead opt for a mokoro, or traditional canoe, a puntlike vessel that allows you to drift in near silence through the reeds to spot jewel-colored insects, startled birds, and beautiful plants up close.

Where to stay

The luxury lodge in the heart of the Delta is known for a superb, signature suite: the Baobab Treehouse, a man-made tower festooned with metal branches, where you can spend the night out in the bush. The best place to sleep is alfresco on the roof, listening to the caws and roars in the darkness.

How to get to the Okavango Delta

The easiest intercontinental gateway to Botswana is Johannesburg in South Africa. Connect from there to the capital of Maun, and then you’ll likely need to take a charter puddle jumper to most safari camps.

Activists carry a big rainbow flag in a crowd of people.

The moderate temperatures in São Paulo make it ideal for Pride celebrations in the summer.

Photo by Nelson Antoine/Shutterstock

6. São Paulo, Brazil

June is Pride month, so where better to spend it than enjoying the largest Pride celebration in the world, which takes place in São Paulo—this year, from May 29 through June 2. The event-capping parade last year drew more than 3 million people. It’s a nod to the city’s status as one of the first in the Southern Hemisphere to introduce anti-discrimination laws expressly protecting people from discrimination on the grounds of sexuality, in 1997. The five-day event includes circuit parties thrown by Superfestas, a well-known local promoter, and a 15-hour marathon pool party, before concluding with the hours-long parade, which runs from Rua da Consolaçao to Praça Roosevelt.

Where to stay

The swanky, Philippe Starck–designed hotel right next to Consolaçao is a plush hideaway, with a rooftop pool and typically quirky interiors: The rooms are festooned with musical instruments, and the bathrooms are large enough for an armchair.

How to get to São Paulo

São Paulo/Guarulhos International Airport (GRU) has a dozen direct nonstop routes from the United States, including Orlando, Houston, and Chicago, on carriers such as LATAM and United.

Beach in front of tall green mountains

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many hotels have been reporting 90 percent occupancy or higher during the summer, adding a jolt of energy to St. Barths.

Photo by Christian Graugart/Shutterstock

7. St. Barths

St. Barths is a staple of the festive season, a place to celebrate Christmas in a dry-clean-only bikini. Pause for a moment, though, and opt for an alternative reason to visit this party-centric island.

More than half the land here is designated as a green zone, which means it can’t be used for construction. This translates to huge swathes of hike-friendly land and surprisingly less-trafficked beaches. Le Colombier, for example, which is only accessible on foot, offers superb snorkeling off its white-sand beach (the mansion overlooking the bay, now largely unused, was built by David Rockefeller). The three-mile-long trail to Gouverneur Beach on the south side is more bracing but rewards you with a superb spot to take a dip—and don’t worry about wetting that bikini, as this is one of the rare clothing-optional spots on the island.

Where to stay

The OG luxury hotel here was carved out from the onetime home of pioneering aviator Rémy de Haenen, whose Hollywood connections helped establish its early cachet (Greta Garbo was one of his guests).

How to get to St. Barths

Nervous fliers, take note: The short, awkwardly situated runway at the airport on the island makes it viable for pro-level pilots only, and the descent can be nail-biting. If you’d like to sample it yourself, charter specialist Tradewind offers service from Anguilla, Antigua, St. Thomas, and San Juan in Puerto Rico. Otherwise, fly into St. Maarten and take the breezy, 45-minute ferry across.

British-born, New York–based Mark Ellwood has lived out of a suitcase for most of his life. He is editor-at-large for luxury bible Robb Report and columnist for Bloomberg Luxury. Recent stories have led him to hang out with China’s trendsetters in Chengdu and learn fireside raps from cowboy poets in Wyoming.
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