In normal years, July means one thing in the northern hemisphere: party time. Summer’s in full swing, bringing parades, music festivals, national holidays and street fairs, and making July a great (if crowded) month to travel. Of course, 2020 was a bit different. But with the vaccine rollout dangling a return to normality, we’re hopeful that we’ll still be able to pay a visit to some of our favourite destinations this July.
Here are our top recommendations for the best places to travel in July 2021, from Montreal and Madagascar to Amsterdam and New Zealand. Many destinations are at their busiest during July, so get planning and booking. With any luck, we’ll see you there – with a cocktail in our hand, of course.
Note: We’ve included destinations in this list that we hope will be open to visitors by July – but make sure to check our ‘Where can I travel?’ page before you plan a trip. Likewise, some events mentioned in this list may not happen as planned, so always check before you travel.
July in Amsterdam is all about good food, good weather and good vibes. Lazy summer days are best spent hanging out in Vondelpark, where you can often catch free open-air comedy, dance and musical performances, or at Roest urban beach, which comes complete with an adult-friendly jungle gym. And although the city’s usual festivities are likely to be muted this year, keep an eye out for street food markets and events marking the city’s normally effervescent Pride season.
Sound the road trip klaxon! California and the Pacific Northwest are calling. Apart from July 4, when roads in the US will be rammed with long weekenders on their way to family barbecues and baseball games, this month is a fine time to discover the best of the American and Canadian West Coast. Whether you want to catch some rays in San Diego, forest bathe in Oregon, tour Seattle’s street art or simply make the most of Vancouver's least rainy month of the year, this slice of North America is as diverse as its days are long.
Montreal’s Canada Day celebrations kickstart a whole month of summer fun in a city more often associated with icy winters. The highlights usually include Sainte Catherine Street Fair (the largest in the country) and the world’s biggest international comedy festival, Just for Laughs, while Cirque Festival ensures you won’t have to bend over backwards to find street entertainment – performers from Cirque du Soleil, the National Circus School and others put on tonnes of shows to celebrate one of Quebec’s most famous art forms. But if festival-hopping isn’t an option this year, July is still a great time to discover this incredible city – and fuel up courtesy of the city’s best chefs at Time Out Market Montreal.
Touted by some as ‘the new Iceland’, Greenland may be more popular than ever before, but it’s still a long way behind its oversaturated sibling – all the better for those wanting to get off the beaten track. July is technically high season here, and hotels do book up fast, but this is the world’s largest (and arguably wildest) island, and there are plenty of opportunities to find relative solitude. In it for the icebergs? Join a nighttime cruise of Unesco-listed Ilulissat Icefjord (the size of 66,000 football fields), where until around the 24th of the month the midnight sun sets a cast of creaking bergs aglow in hues of pink, purple and orange.
As the monsoon rains fall in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, savvy travellers in Vietnam head to the central coast, where the weather is dry and warm. Some of the country’s most beautiful beaches are right here, along with Unesco-listed cities and jaw-dropping national parks. Step back in time in historic port city Hoi An, where lantern-strewn streets reveal Chinese temples and ancient teahouses. Then head out of town to laze on the stretches of white sand around Da Nang; brave Hai Van Pass on a motorbike tour; and visit Hue’s Imperial citadel before heading inland to see the gargantuan Phong Na Caves.
If you’re lucky enough to have tickets to the Tokyo 2021 Olympics, we salute you. Japan’s capital and other key sights will be hot, expensive and heavily crowded during the games, rescheduled from last summer and hopefully still on track. So if you can, make time earlier in the month to explore the likes of Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima, as well as lesser-known spots such as Shiretoko Peninsula or Hateruma Island. Or if you’re shorter on time, stick to day trips from the city and complete your own athletic feats by summiting Mount Fuji or catching some waves in surf town Kamakura.
With sweet ski slopes, luxury hot springs and fantastic whale watching opportunities, New Zealand’s South Island is a no-brainer when it comes to winter escapes. The coldest months also offer the chance to witness the aurora australis (southern lights) dancing along the horizon, best spotted in Dunedin close to a new moon. And there are yet more reason to look skyward in July: the rise of the Pleaides star cluster marks the start of Matariki (Maori New Year) which is celebrated with cultural festivals and feasts. Visit Mt John Observatory in Tekapo, which sits within an international dark sky reserve, for unbeatable stargazing.
From Avignon and Marseille to Nice, St Tropez and Cannes, Provence is packed with historic cities and stylish towns – but don’t forget the swathes of pastoral bliss in between. Come in July to sample crisp dry rosé at Château Gassier (which usually runs outdoor tastings and a cinema under the stars in the summer months), frolic in the lavender fields around Aix en Provence and Senanque Abbey before the harvest, join the Fête Nationale celebrations in pretty much every single town and village, or catch a glimpse of Tour de France riders along the dizzyingly high trail of Mont Ventoux.
Singapore is a food lover’s dream year-round, but to taste it at its best, you’ll want to head there in July. That’s when the island city celebrates its multicultural cuisine with the Singapore Food Festival. From cooking masterclasses and fine dining events to a street food extravaganza, this week-long celebration of local flavour is worth skipping breakfast for. Had enough of the heat? Find refuge in the air-conditioned malls on Orchard Road and indulge in a spot of retail therapy – the Great Singapore Sale runs nearly all month, offering great deals and steep discounts. Both events took place virtually in 2020, but we’re hoping for an IRL shopping and eating spree this year.
Home to some of the most diverse wildlife on the planet, Madagascar is a joy to visit in July, when the weather is cooler and drier, making lemur spotting on rainforest treks more comfortable. Humpback whales migrate here to calve their young at this time of year – spot them in Tulear and Nosy Be, or experience the humpback whale festival on Nosy Boraha. In Morondava, the local community celebrates the island’s precious ecology with the Baobab Fosa festival, where you can spot fosa (a relative of the mongoose) and walk the dazzling Avenue of the Baobabs.