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The best places to travel in May 2023

Explore fascinating cities and thrilling festivals this spring with our list of the best destinations for this May

Written by
Emma Sparks

Truth be told, you can’t beat May. There is something seriously charming about this bridge between the seasons that makes it the ultimate time to travel. The northern hemisphere is in full post-winter mood at this point, while the wildlife spotting opportunities south of the equator can’t be beaten. May is a time of the year when the weather is improving and the crowds still haven’t quite cottoned on, meaning travellers get to enjoy the fruits of the world without having to share them with every other living, breathing being. Where are the best places to travel in May? Everywhere on the planet, to be blunt, and we’ve put together a selection of the best of the best for your perusal. 

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best places to travel

Best places to travel in May

May might just be the perfect month to go to Paris. The weather is mild, spring blossoms burst into colour, and the summer crowds are still weeks away. Culture lovers are spoilt; La Nuit des Musées (on the third Saturday of May) grants visitors free entry to the city’s museums, which stay open late for the occasion. Elsewhere, Tous à l’Opéra offers free concerts and theatre tours, and the Jazz Festival in Saint Germain des Prés gets toes tapping with free performances and workshops.

Discover the best things to do in Paris 


Hokkaido, Japan
Photograph: Shutterstock

2. Hokkaido, Japan

Too late for Japan’s famed April cherry blossoms? Fear not. Up north in Hokkaido, sakura flower a month later than they do elsewhere, bringing the island to life in early May. Matsumae Park is one of the best places to spot them; it has around 250 varieties of cherry blossom and 10,000 trees to marvel at. Later in the month, shibazakura (pink moss) blankets vast swathes of the countryside—Higashimokoto Park even holds a festival dedicated to the otherworldly flower. 

Discover the best things to do in Japan


Photograph: chrisdorney / Shutterstock

3. Wales

It would be disingenuine of us to promise perfect weather in Wales in May. Truth be told, it’ll probably rain a decent amount of the time, but the drizzle will be accompanied by warmer temperatures and the occasional blast of glistening sunshine, making May the best time of year to tackle the great Welsh Bucket List. That means climbing Snowdon, exploring Portmeirion, getting absolutely blitzed in Cardiff and maybe, just maybe, walking the entire Wales Coastal Path. That’ll take more than a month, but see how far you can get before June arrives. 

Memphis, USA
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Memphis, USA

There are plenty of reasons to get giddy about visiting Memphis in May, but the creatively-named Memphis in May festival might just be right at the top of that list. A month-long festival (unsurprisingly, held throughout May), each year sees a different country from around the world celebrated through live events, exhibitions, screenings, performances and art. 2023 is Malaysia’s time to shine, so expect a whole lot of colour in Memphis this May.


Portugal’s Atlantic waters are typically colder than those in the Med and are still pretty chilly in May—but don’t let that stop you. All you need is a wetsuit and a rental board to take advantage of the beginner-friendly waves in surf town Ericeira (less than an hour from Lisbon) at this time of year. Springtime in Sintra and Porto is cooler but delightfully quiet, while shoulder season prices and near-deserted beaches make the Algarve—overrun with sun-seekers come summer— an appealing choice.

Discover the best things to do in Portugal 

Sydney may be on the cusp of winter, but don’t let that deter you; days are mild and often sunny, and the high season crowds are long gone. The sea’s a bit nippy, but it’s still a lovely time for beachcombing and coastal walks; pick a portion of the 80-kilometre Bondi to Manly trail, or tackle the lot over a few days. Back in the city centre, don’t miss Vivid Sydney, a luminous festival of light, music and ideas.

Discover the best things to do in Sydney



May is an extra tasty month in Italy, with food festivals tempting hungry travellers all over the country. Head to Monterosso in Cinque Terre for their lemon fest, where you can sample local limoncino and lemon cakes; Sessame in Piedmont, where they’ve been raving about risotto since the thirteenth century; or San Terenziano to sample the best porchetta sandwiches in all the land. Need the inspiration to burn off those calories? Watch the world’s best cyclists as they whizz across Italy during the Giro d’Italia from 6-28 May.

Photograph: Shutterstock

8. Nepal

If you’re unsure what time of year to make the pilgrimage to Nepal, consider May. After all, the weather is just about as pleasant as it gets, and two of the country’s biggest festivals take place during the unofficial best month of the year. Tiji Festival is a celebration of the (presumed) triumph of good over evil, while Buddha Jayanti is a colourful love letter to the life and times of Gautam Buddha. If you need more than two massive festivals, remember that the temples of Bhaktapur are arguably at their most accessible during May. 


In Los Angeles, May is all about the anticipation of summer: the weather is heating up but isn’t scorching, and the key sites are nowhere near as busy as they’ll be in July and AugustMemorial Day weekend (27-29 May) packs a punch with parades, street festivals and alfresco concerts. And if you need even more glitz and glamour, there’s always the eleganza extravaganza that is RuPaul’s DragCon (12-13 May).

Discover the best things to do in Los Angeles


West Coast, Australia
Photograph: Shutterstock

10. West Coast, Australia

Want epic beaches and unforgettable wildlife encounters? Buckle up for a road trip along Australia’s West Coast, where you can spot stingrays, dolphins, Australian sea lions, fairy penguins and more. In Ningaloo Marine Park, May is prime time to dive with whale sharks (the largest fish in the world), and there’s even an annual whale shark festival in Exmouth. On Rottnest Island, a 30-min ferry from Perth, you’ll find quokkas and their young. The island is car-free, so hiring a bike is a great way to get around.

Discover the best things to do in Perth



The Olympic Games might be an international event these days, but Greece is where it all began; visit Olympia and the wider Peloponnese region in May to get the original ancient stadium as well as crumbling amphitheatres, Byzantine fortresses, mountain-top villages and lesser-known beaches practically to yourself. The islands of Crete, Kefalonia and Mykonos are gorgeous (and relatively crowd-free) at this time of year too—Corfu is also worth a visit on May 21, when it celebrates the Ionian Islands’ unification with Greece with parades.

Discover the best things to do in Greece


Okavango Delta, Botswana
Photograph: Shutterstock

12. Okavango Delta, Botswana

If you’re keen to channel your inner Attenborough, now is the time. Botswana’s dry season is just beginning, meaning landscapes are still reasonably green, days are rain-free (if a little cold at night), and the skies are clear. Wildlife spotting is pretty much on a par with the high season; as the floods retreat, the Big Five (along with giraffes, zebra and hippo) converge at watering holes across the Okavango Delta. Pair a safari with a trip to Victoria Falls, which will be at its most thunderous.

Need more travel inspiration?

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