Rice terraces at sunset in Japan

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Where to go on holiday in May

May holidays

As the weather in the UK gradually improves, and we move towards the middle of the year, that familiar restless feeling kicks in and our desire for a getaway ramps up. Quench your thirst for travel – and beat the crowds – with a break in May: many resorts are quieter after the Easter holidays and sights of interest are far less crowded.

Escaping these shores in May also gives you the option of another holiday, after the September rush, without risking burnout. Plan ahead and you could even use one of May’s bank holiday weekends to extend your trip without eating into your holiday allowance.

Jordan, Japan and North China offer you the perfect climate for cultural exploration. Uncover a wealth of history as you witness iconic landmarks and UNESCO World Heritage sites first-hand, and gaze at spectacular architecture and breath-taking scenery.

If you seek the ultimate sunshine break then we can pair you with a suitably glorious destination and a luxurious resort to meet your every need. From Dubai to Brazil, and from high octane watersports to relaxing spa retreats, we’ll find your dream getaway.

If you care to tread a little further off the track, then how about Vancouver Island and its rugged trails, expansive and stunning landscapes and whale watching? Or consider heading to Peru, and challenge yourself to trek to Machu Picchu’s ancient ruins.

Here are our recommendations for the best places to go on holiday in May – whether you yearn for fascinating culture, glorious weather, or bucket-list wildlife and nature experiences.  

Vancouver Island

Best holiday destinations in May

Japan

May is a lovely month to travel to Japan – pleasantly warm temperatures, and usually dry conditions, mean that it's ideal for sightseeing. May is springtime and you’ll find ornamental gardens are in full bloom and – if you’re lucky – you can still catch the delicate blush cherry blossom on the northern island of Hokkaido, in addition to the Blue Pond with its crystal clear, spectacularly cobalt-tinged water. For nature lovers and keen hikers, May offers the ideal conditions to explore the beauty of the national parks, and the tea plantations and rice terraces – framed by snow-capped mountains – are wonderfully verdant. In terms of cultural events, Tokyo is the centre for Sanja Matsuri – a Shinto festival in honour of the three men who established the Sensoji Buddhist temple. You’ll see vibrant floats and portable shrines, musicians and dancers in traditional costumes parade between Sensoji Temple and Asakusa Shrine. You will also have the opportunity to witness sumo wrestlers in action at the Sumo Summer Basho in Tokyo. [Falling at the beginning of May, Golden Week is Japan’s holiday week and we would recommend that this is avoided, wherever possible, as sites of interest can become particularly busy.]

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Machu Picchu, Peru

May is one of the best months to explore the ancient Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. March heralds the end of the rainy season and, although rain and fog are possible at any time of year – due to Machu Picchu’s location on the edge of the rainforest – it is generally clear and dry but the valleys are still wonderfully verdant. May is considered a ‘shoulder season’ month – with a pleasant climate and cool-warm temperatures from 10 to 20ºC – the crowds don’t tend to descend until June, July and August. Trekking the iconic Inca Trail through the Andes requires some planning, since there’s a limit on the number of people permitted to take the trail. After four days of magnificent vistas, challenging terrain and sleeping at 3,000 metres above sea-level, you’ll catch your first glimpse of the spectacular ruins in all their glory. Alternatively, take a scenic train ride – a three and a half hour trip from Cuzco, along the Urubamba River in the Sacred Valley.

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Vancouver Island

May is one of the best months for a visit to Vancouver Island. With mild-warm temperatures and only the odd light drizzle, you’ll enjoy conditions which are ideal for discovering all that Vancouver Island has to offer. As spring turns to summer, Vancouver Island is the perfect location for lovers of the great outdoors: take hikes along rugged coastal trails and picturesque beaches; wander through rainforests; and immerse yourself in breath-takingly beautiful national parks and reserves and ornamental gardens. Vancouver Island is a prime location for whale watching – you’ll spot pods of orca in the north and south seas (and through to October). Migratory humpback whales usually swim through the open waters on the island’s north side in summer – in Clayoquot Sound – having spent winter in Hawaii and Mexico. You’ll also witness minke whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, sea lions and otters and on land, you’ll have the opportunity to spot black and grizzly bears roaming the wilderness. The playground of Vancouver Island also offers white water rapids, paragliding and snorkelling. Whether you opt for a luxurious glamping resort or a motorhome adventure, Vancouver Island in May is pretty perfect.

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North China

North China’s plentiful sunshine and warm temperatures – averaging 20ºC, with highs of 26ºC – make May an ideal month to explore its contrasts of fascinating culture, spectacular landmarks and exceptional scenery. With fairly dry weather – before the intense combination of summer heat and rains set in – this is one of the best times for sightseeing, whether you’re witnessing the ancient Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an or exploring Beijing’s Forbidden City palace complex. In May, spring is at its best: the sky is blue and the landscape is awash with lush greenery and wildflowers. The moderate temperatures are perfect for walking the iconic Great Wall which looks especially striking against the verdant backdrop. In addition, the summer crowds haven’t arrived yet so everywhere feels more open and easier to navigate and get great photos.

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Al-Khazneh Petra

Jordan

Although Jordan experiences regional climatic variation, due to its topography and altitude, one of the best times to visit is May. Temperatures here are warm, but not scorching, and evenings are cool. With the heavy winter rains over by March, vegetation in the valleys and forests is lush but humidity is no longer an issue. Wildflowers are blooming everywhere – some hardy species even carpet the desert. The hills are awash with colour and intense sunlight enhances the kaleidoscopic colours of the desert rocks. The climate provides ideal sightseeing conditions, from souks and the ancient ruins of Jerash to iconic UNESCO World Heritage sites such as the Dead Sea and the magical rose city of Petra. Take a hike through the national reserves, abundant with flora and fauna; or visit Aqaba for an idyllic beach retreat before the powerful heat of summer takes hold. Based on the lunar calendar, Ramadan can fall in May – during this time, Muslims fast between dawn and sunset but at night the cities are buzzing with people breaking their fasts to socialise; the Citadel Hall also hosts a series of traditional Arabic concerts.

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