In North America and Europe, July all but guarantees sunshine. And I don’t mean a bit of sun poking out from behind the clouds like the icon on your iPhone weather app. Oh, no. I’m talking about the kind of sunshine that bathes the land in a golden glow until bedtime.
July means getting outside and absorbing some of that much-needed vitamin D. If it means pausing your Netflix marathon, then so be it.
The southern hemisphere, however, is a whole different ballgame. Down south, July translates to peak winter, and this time of year is considered either ski season or stay-inside-and-wait-out-the-storm season. Sure, there’s fun to be had in the snow, but the real adventures in July happen under that northern sunshine.
With that in mind, go find the settings in your email and select the “automated” email option. Write something along the lines of, “I’m out of the office on vacation, so leave me alone.”
Hire a dog sitter if you must—I’m sure your best buddy owes you for something. Reschedule any appointments; they can wait. And then go stock up on some sunscreen.
1. Vancouver, Canada for Urban and Outdoor Adventures
Vancouver is the kind of city that has everything, and July is the perfect time to enjoy it all. The sun is out and the notoriously rainy city is at its driest.
The city itself is a pulsing metropolis complete with ice cream parlors, brunch spots, malls, museums, and all the other requisite modern conveniences. And, in just an hour’s drive, the entire landscape can completely change.
Drive north out of Vancouver and you’ll encounter the Sea to Sky Highway, a road that winds all the way up into the Rocky Mountains. Follow the road for around 45 minutes and you’ll get to the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish. If you’re interested in breathtaking views and natural beauty (who isn’t?) then hop in.
At $45 for a day pass, the gondola isn’t the most budget-friendly activity, but there are two reasons why it’s worth forking out. First, you get front row views of the Howe Sound, a network of beautiful fjords—think mirror-like water flanked by rugged green slopes.
Second, once you reach the top of the gondola, you can spend all day exploring the nature trails through the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park. The Panorama Trail is a popular one since it’s just over a mile long and has several viewpoints that look out over the Fjords.
Drive west out of Vancouver and you hit the beach. Second Beach in Stanley Park is perfect for a BBQ and pitch and putt, while Kitsilano Beach is better for swimming thanks to its calm water. If you’re feeling more adventurous, shed your swimwear and head to the clothing-optional Wreck Beach.
2. Mongolia for Off-the-Beaten Track Travel
Mongolia is the Wild West of Asia. It has the lowest population density of any country in the world (just 1 person per square mile) and is home to one of the last groups of nomadic people.
A trip to Mongolia means spending a lot of time out in staggeringly beautiful nature. The capital, Ulaanbaatar, is the country’s only city and is also home to the majority of the population. This means not only do you have loads of beautiful nature to explore, but you’ll also have it virtually all to yourself.
There is a good chance that, if you venture off into the Mongolian countryside, you will not see another living soul for days on end. What you will see, however, is the gorgeous Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake, the formidable mountains of Altai Tavn Bogd National Park and Gorkhi-Terelj National Park’s lush, endless valley.
But, the countryside is only half of the story. July in Mongolia is all about the Naadam Festival—the biggest festival of nomadic culture in the world, happening annually between July 10-12. The main Naadam Festival is in Ulaanbaatar, but every province holds their own version. There are three core events at the festival: wrestling, horse racing, and archery—each done with its own Mongolian flare.
Interspersed between the “three manly sports” as they are known, men, women and children perform dances, songs and parades. It is a loud, colorful event, unlike anything you will have ever seen. If you want an experience that will make you sound interesting at dinner parties, this will do the trick.
3. Lofoten Islands for Adventure
Not everyone wants the scorching heat of the Mediterranean for their summer vacation. Some people would rather enjoy a milder climate and be able to spend more than five minutes outside without sweating.
If that’s you, you should consider going to Norway’s Lofoten Islands. In July, the weather will be pleasant if a little erratic—don’t worry though, bad weather spells turn into glowing sunshine within 10 minutes or so.
Each endowed with a name you would humiliate yourself trying to pronounce, the Lofoten Islands are a mecca for adventure-seekers. Surfing is a popular activity in the water surrounding the islands. Even if you’ve never surfed before, have a go just so you can tick “surf above the Arctic Circle” off your bucket list.
On land, there are dozens of hiking trails through the glorious fjords. The path to the Reinebringen lookout point is one of the most spectacular routes—mainly due to the uninhibited views you’ll get over Reinefjorden and the Lofoten Wall.
If you visit the Lofoten Islands in July, you will also witness the midnight sun. This natural phenomenon occurs in the Arctic Circle from mid-May to July. For around six weeks the sun never sets. Instead, at night, the land is doused in a soft twilight that is a long way from the darkness. This means you have 24 hours a day to enjoy the stunning scenery of the islands.
4. Belize for Great Diving
Unlike the rest of Central America, Belize was once a British colony, which means everyone there speaks English. Also unlike the rest of Central America, the people and culture in Belize are Caribbean, not Latino. So, this little gem stands out from its neighbors, and you don’t even need a phrasebook on hand to help you get by.
In July, the temperature hovers around the low to mid-80s and, while this is technically the rainy season, it is one of the better months to travel.
We all know by now that travel companies hike up their prices during peak season and July is often when they are at their most exorbitant. However, July in Belize is not peak season despite the warm weather. If you can handle the occasional bit of rain then July is a cheap and temperate time to visit Belize.
Once you get to Belize, I recommend heading straight out to the islands of Caye Caulker and Caye Ambergris. The number one activity on these islands is scuba diving—in particular diving in the world famous Great Blue Hole. This giant sinkhole is teeming with hammerhead sharks, sea turtles, giant groupers and every color of tropical fish you could imagine.
Don’t have time to go to the islands? The ATM caves near San Ignacio on the mainland are ripe for adventure. Tours take you floating on a rubber ring through the extensive cave river network with stops for exploring the cave by foot. If you’re lucky your guide will let you cliff jump into the deep and icy cave pools.
5. Switzerland for Mountain Hiking
Forget about skiing in the Alps just for a second and try to picture Switzerland in the summer. Instead of endless ski pistes, the iconic mountains of Switzerland are fully thawed and blanketed with a layer of lush, green grass. It’s the kind of scenery that makes you want to run around and burst into song like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.
July is the most beautiful and happiest time of the year to visit.
Switzerland might not be the biggest country on the map, but it sure packs a punch when it comes to adventure activities. There are around 250 miles of hiking trails leading through the picturesque Zermatt region. Be sure to snap a photo or two of the oh-so-impressive Matterhorn looming in the background.
Lake Geneva is another summer hotspot, blessed with scenery that will stop you in your tracks. The lake itself shimmers under the sun while Lausanne and Geneva hug its shoreline. Either stroll around the edge of the lake and take it all in from the comfort of dry land or grab a paddleboard and head out onto the water.
Side note for people with a sweet tooth (like myself): Switzerland is the home of chocolate. Do with this information what you will.
6. Seychelles for Beaches
The Seychelles are the definition of paradise islands. White sand, impossibly turquoise water, coconut palms, year-round sunshine—this archipelago ticks all the boxes. While there are 115 islands in the Seychelles altogether, you will spend most of your time on the three main islands: Mahé, Praslin and La Digue.
On Praslin, you will find the UNESCO World Heritage Vallée de Mai, a nature reserve known for its outstanding beauty. Here, you can walk under the giant leaves of the endemic coco de mer palm trees and listen to the cries of the rare black parrots.
Looking for some peace and quiet? La Digue is almost free of motorized vehicles—and roads for that matter. The best way to explore the island is on two wheels. Cycle across the little island to the Veuve Nature Reserve and see if you can spot the Seychelles Black Paradise Flycatcher, one of the rarest birds in the world.
One requirement of a trip to the Seychelles is at least one (but probably more) day spent on the beach. Anse Coco on La Digue, Anse Intendance on Mahé and Anse Georgette on Praslin are among the most pristine thanks to their pearl white sand and notable lack of trash. Honestly, though, any beach you choose will be amazing.
7. Estonia for City Fun and Spa Treatments
In July, Estonia’s temperature is utterly delightful and there is very little rain. On top of that, due to its northerly location, the month of July bears witness to virtually 24-hour sunshine. If you’re looking for adventure in Estonia, there’s no better time of year to visit.
Start your vacation by getting to grips with the capital: Tallinn. At its center is a city cut through with narrow streets and enclosed by towering medieval walls. Check out the town square and climb the 115 steps within the tower attached to the town hall for just a couple of euros—from here you’ll get a panoramic view over the capital.
Now it’s time to head out of the city to Pärnu, Estonia’s summer capital. During the warmer months, this town is packed with people looking for spa mud treatments and beach time. It is the kind of place you go to stroll through parks and take it easy.
You can also use Pärnu as a springboard to explore the Soomaa National Park. This comprises predominantly bog and swampland, but it’s super pretty, I promise.
There are various trails that wind through the park. There’s also a boardwalk that runs over the top of the swamp. The Beaver Trail is the best route if you want to spot wildlife. This includes elk, foxes, lynx and, you guessed it, beavers.
It is a cardinal sin to spend your whole summer in the office. This year, treat yourself to a break from the mundane and seek out an adventure overseas. You’ll come back refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to bore all of your friends with traveling stories.
Which of these places has you frantically packing to get away?