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 Morocco to Mauritius, and from high octane watersports to relaxing hammam 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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New Orleans

May is a time of celebration and culture in New Orleans, with music lovers and foodies alike revelling in The Big Easy’s vibrant festivals. With temperatures averaging around 26°C during the day, visiting in this cooler month means avoiding more humid and intense weather, allowing you to discover the birthplace of jazz in comfort. New Orleans’ historic French Quarter buzzes with the sound of jazz spilling from the many Bourbon Street bars, and colourful street performances. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival will be in full swing, promoting fantastic local musicians and restaurants as well as hosting international stars – previously including the likes of No Doubt, Stevie Wonder, Lorde, and Aerosmith. Tuck into authentic Cajun and Creole cuisine, from hearty po’ boy sandwiches to spicy jambalaya and andouille sausage. Celebrating Mexican-American culture, Cinco de Mayo sees the arrival of vivid street parties and parades, with restaurants across the city offering mouth-watering Mexican empanadas, enchiladas, tacos and delicious margaritas. Wind down from the festivities with a relaxing stroll through the picturesque Garden District, admiring the splendour of its ornate 19th century mansions, before hopping aboard a streetcar and seeing everything this charming city has to offer.

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South Africa

May is an ideal month to visit South Africa. With peak season crowds having died down, the dry season offers improved game-viewing opportunities, and cooler, comfortable temperatures, allowing you to explore cosmopolitan Cape Town at ease. As animals begin to congregate around the remaining water sources, there’s no better time to visit Kruger National Park than in dry season. Embark on a thrilling 4x4 safari expedition through the vast plains in search of the Big Five, buffalo, hyena and vervet monkeys. Head skywards aboard the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, climbing 1,067 metres to the peak, where you can take in spectacular panoramic views across Cape Town, Table Bay and the infamous Robben Island – where Nelson Mandela was once incarcerated. Marvel at the vivid hues of the Mother City‘s Bo-Kaap district and its coloured houses, and take a scenic tour of the Garden Route with its variety of stunning landscapes, including rugged mountain ranges, expansive coastlines, ancient forests and rolling hills. Look out across the resplendent Knysna Lagoon and keep your camera primed for breath-taking scenery as you embark on one of many hikes through indigenous woodlands. Take a relaxing catamaran cruise across the lagoon and reflect on your South African adventure as you watch the sun set over the harbour.

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Morocco

Visiting Morocco in May means enjoying temperatures of around 25°C, low humidity and the calmest conditions for hiking, whether you decide to tackle the awe-inspiring High Atlas Mountains or the less-demanding but equally as scenic Riff Mountains. Weave through the winding souks (North African marketplaces) and browse the local wares, from woven rugs and carpets to antiques and handmade jewellery, from Marrakech’s ancient medina – a UNESCO World Heritage site. Wander the bustling heart of the medina, the Djemaa El Fna public square, taking a moment to enjoy the spectacle of its many street performers and snake charmers, before visiting the towering Koutoubia Mosque and gazing up at its 70-metre high minaret. Immerse yourself in the arts at the quaint port city of Essaouira (meaning ‘little picture’) at one of its many galleries and indulge in a little retail therapy at its vibrant marketplaces; the fragrance of scented thuya wood in the air. Admire the historic pink ramparts, built in 1760 to defend Essaouira, and lie back at the beach as kites flutter about in the midday breeze. Dine on delicious fresh seafood and sample aromatic Moroccan pastille. Meanwhile, wine connoisseurs can sample some of the best African wines at the Val D’Argan vineyard, before traversing the otherworldly expanse of the Agafay Desert on foot or by camel. Climbing its many dunes for breath-taking vistas, you can also enjoy a romantic, freshly-prepared candlelit banquet under the stars.

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Mauritius

Crystal-clear waters, dazzling white sands, cascading waterfalls and hilltop jungles – Mauritius in May might just be what you’re after. This island paradise maintains an average temperature of around 27°C throughout May, and will see significantly less footfall as this month marks the beginning of the Mauritian winter. Keen divers will be at home in the warm Indian Ocean, with upwards of 30 dive sites catering for beginners and professionals alike. Teeming with exotic marine life, you can expect to see the likes of clown, trumpet, angel and parrot fish, and as many as 200 different species of coral. Lie back on the palm-fringed Belle Mare beach and wind down, or head to the Riviere des Galets for prime surfing opportunities. Trek through dense jungles at the base of Bamboo Mountain, engaging in exhilarating quad-biking excursions, horse riding and picturesque wildlife hikes from Domaine L’etoile. Pack your binoculars for a trip to Ile Aux Aigrettes, searching for the endemic pink pigeons, egrets, the Mauritius kestrel and the intensely red Mauritius fody. Observe the vibrant array of indigenous plant-life at the Pamplemousses Botanical Garden, including talipot palms, giant waterlilies and the native palmier bouteille, alongside extensive spice gardens. A remarkable feat of nature, here you’ll also find the Seven Coloured Earths of Chamarel, with its surreal blue, cyan, red and brown volcanic sands carved by the rains.

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