All Articles 10 incredible places to visit in May around the world

10 incredible places to visit in May around the world

From wildflowers to icebergs, we’re embracing the wonders of late spring.

Nicholas DeRenzo
By Nicholas DeRenzo12 Mar 2024 8 minutes read
Springtime in Petite France, Strasbourg

Memorial Day Weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, and while we’re all for kicking the season off with few lazy, barbecue-filled Saturdays and early beach trips, that’s just one way to spend the waning days of spring. Sunnier days and warmer temperatures make the shoulder season a stealthily affordable time to enjoy major cities before the crush of summer crowds. And the natural world is just as alive with possibility, whether you’re chasing icebergs in Canada’s easternmost province or walking through wildflowers in America’s most visited national park. Here, our 10-point plan for making the most of your May vacation.


Faro, Portugal

For shoulder-season deal hunters

Average temp: 73ºF high, 57ºF low

Lagos beach in Algarve, Portugal
Praia do Camilo in Portugal's Algarve region
Image: Carol Yepes/Getty Images

This May, United Airlines begins flights between Newark, New Jersey, and Faro, marking the first time Americans will be able to fly directly to the sun-drenched beaches, surf towns, and historic villages in Portugal’s Algarve region. Bonus, it’s particularly warm and lovely here during the springtime shoulder season, before European crowds begin descending on the sand, and you can spot hills of wildflowers in Ria Formosa Natural Park.

The gateway to the Algarve is Faro, which is home to the Museu Municipal de Faro, an archaeological museum with an extensive Ancient Roman collection, and the Igreja da Ordem Terceira de Nuestra Señora do Monte do Carmo, a popular church with a separate chapel constructed with the bones of 1,245 monks. Recently, the city also welcomed its first five-star hotel, 3HB Faro, which features minimalist rooms, a spa with a sauna and a Turkish bath, a rooftop bar, and the Restaurante Hábito, where you can try traditional dishes like açorda de gambas (bread soup with shrimp) and Iberian pork tenderloin.

Explore top attractions in Faro

Indianapolis

For urban explorers

Average temp: 73ºF high, 52ºF low

Exhibit at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum
Image: Melissa Harms/Courtesy of Visit Indy

The Indy 500 is a Memorial Day Weekend classic. While it brings enormous crowds to town (with skyrocketing hotel prices to match), the rest of the month is an ideal time to explore this Midwestern metropolis. And you can still experience the city’s automotive history even if you skip the race: While the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is closed through April 2025 for an extensive reno, it's offering a number of guided tours, including an itinerary that lets you take a lap around the oval in a mini bus and then “kiss the bricks” at the finish line—a winning tradition since 1996.

But the city is more than just a set of wheels. There’s tons of new openings worth traveling for, including The Stutz, a former car factory that’s been reimagined with new restaurants (including Café Patachou, owned by activist Martha Hoover), a comfy neighborhood dive (Turner’s Bar), and a retail incubator (St’Artup 317). If your tastes skew more outdoorsy, Frank’s Paddlesports Livery lets visitors rent canoes, kayaks, or stand-up paddleboards or book guided tours along the White River.

And you won’t be missing out on big-ticket events early in the month, either. Mid-month, the city’s American Legion Mall hosts the new I Made Rock ‘n’ Roll music festival, which highlights the contributions of Black musicians to the birth of rock, showcasing the likes of Janelle Monáe, Gary Clark Jr., and Joy Oladokun.

Explore top attractions in Indianapolis

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

For wildflower watchers

Average temp: 78ºF high, 52ºF low

Sunset and flowers in springtime in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Image: jaredkay/Getty Images

You might be surprised to find out that out of all of North America’s national parks, the one with the most flowering plant species (at more than 1,500) is not in some remote rainforest—it’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park, on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. At the start of each May, the park hosts an annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, which includes talks, exhibits, and guided hikes where you can see Indian paintbrush, flame azaleas, and lady slippers at peak bloom. If you’d prefer to go it alone, some of the best wildflower walks include the Oconaluftee River Trail, the Deep Creek Trail, and the two-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail between Newfound Gap Road and the Road Prong Trail.

Tip: If you’re wondering where to stay, the Tennessee side of the park recently welcomed two reimagined motor lodges: The Wayback, Pigeon Forge, A Tribute Portfolio Hotel, which has mid-century design elements and a swanky swim club that would be at home in Palm Springs, CA; and Gatlinburg’s Rocky Waters Motor Inn, set in a 1930s lodge with cabin-themed rooms and an Appalachian restaurant with a stellar whiskey selection.

Explore top attractions in and around Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Strasbourg, France

For book lovers

Average temp: 68ºF high, 49ºF low

Woman reading under tree as Petite France boat passes by, in Strasbourg

Located along France’s border with Germany, this Alsatian city feels like a perfect blend of the two cultures. You’ll find storybook timber-framed houses in the Petite France district, a grand Gothic cathedral that started construction way back in 1015, and a cuisine that borrows heavily from both sides of the border (don’t miss classics like choucroute garnie, a dish of sauerkraut with sausage, and flammekueche, a cheese-topped flatbread).

Beginning in April, Strasbourg officially began its tenure as the 2024 UNESCO World Book Capital, and a visit will give you the chance to channel your inner Belle, that most bookish—and French!—of Disney princesses. Honor the city’s literary spirit with a visit to the Bibliothèque Nationale et Universitaire, an academic institution and museum that houses a world-class collection on the history of books and writing, including papyrus and medieval manuscripts. You should also simply stop into a bookshop like Librairie Quai des Brumes, pick up a novel or history of the city (perhaps something by Goethe, who studied at the university here), and take it for a peaceful reading session in the Parc de l’Orangerie or Place de la République.

Explore top attractions in Strasbourg

Seattle

For Asian art aficionados

Average temp: 63ºF high, 50ºF low

The new Park Lobby in the Asian Art Museum, in Seattle

May marks Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month across the US, and one of the best cities to celebrate it is in Seattle. A great first stop is the Seattle Asian Art Museum, which is located in a gorgeous 1933 Art Deco building in Volunteer Park; it’s currently exhibiting the works of Tacoma, Washington–based Anida Yoeu Ali, a member of the Cham Muslim minority who fled from Cambodia in the ’70s.

Next, head to the city's Chinatown-International District. No trip to the neighborhood would be complete without a meal, and you can either go traditional at the city’s oldest Chinese (Tai Tung, opened in 1935) or Japanese restaurant (the 120-year-old Maneki Restaurant) or try something new: At her innovative Filipino spot Kilig, chef Melissa Miranda serves dishes like fish-sauce-glazed wings, Filipino spaghetti (with American cheese, condensed milk, and hot dogs), and shots of bulalo (beef-shank broth) and cognac.

Tip: The neighborhood’s must-visit is the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience. A tour of the historic 1910 hotel building in which it’s housed is included with the price of admission, but the museum also offers raved-about Chinatown walking and food tours to give you a lay of the land.

Explore top attractions in Seattle

Twilingate, Canada

For iceberg enthusiasts

Average temp: 50ºF high, 35ºF low

Couple watching iceberg pass by in Newfoundland and Labrador
Image: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Sure you can birdwatch or stargaze, but the coolest nature-spotting hobby just might be iceberg viewing. In spring and summer, the waters off the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador are cluttered with icebergs, which come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, from pure white to deep blue. They break off from the glaciers of Greenland and the Canadian Arctic and then drift southward to an area known as Iceberg Alley, which sits along the eastern coast of the province. The ‘bergs are most plentiful in April and May, and they become easiest to spot in late May.

You can watch the enormous chunks of ice from the shore in towns like Twilingate, which is known as the Iceberg Capital of the World, or head out in a boat with outfitters like Iceberg Quest Ocean Tours or Iceberg Man Tours. While you’re here, check out IcebergFinder.com, which uses satellite and user-uploaded images to share the best spots to see these slow-moving behemoths.

Explore the top attractions in Newfoundland and Labrador

Tijuana, Mexico

For design nerds

Average temp: 69ºF high, 56ºF low

Exterior of the Tijuana Cultural Center, in Mexico
Tijuana Cultural Center
Image: cesar fernandez dominguez/Getty Images

For the first time ever, two cities in different countries are sharing the title of World Design Capital: San Diego and Tijuana. The year-long celebration of art, culture, and innovation is an excellent excuse to head south of the border and explore a city in the midst of reinventing itself. The museum scene is booming, thanks to institutions such as the Tijuana Cultural Center (CECUT) and Mullme, a private collection of more than 9,000 pieces of lucha libre memorabilia. If you don’t want to go it alone, Art Scene Baja offers small-group tours of museums, galleries, and artist’s studios, led by a visual artist and a design professor.

While here, be sure to check out the city’s thriving food scene, too. Tijuana is the home of the Caesar salad, invented at Caesar’s in the 1920s, but it’s also a paradise for taco lovers: Stop by Tacos Aarón Soler for tacos guisados (basically tacos filled with stew), Tacos El Franc for flame-grilled meats, and Tras/Horizonte for unique creations like smoked tuna birria and pit-barbecued duck.

Explore top attractions in Tijuana

North Shore, Oahu

For beginner surfers

Average temp: 82ºF high, 64ºF low

Couple learning to surf on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii

In the wintertime, pro surfers—and the fans who love to watch them—flock to the northern shore of Oahu to tackle the monster waves that churn, barrel, and crash at spots like Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach Park, and Ehukai Beach Park, home to the Banzai Pipeline. Around May, these waters finally start to calm down, making them an ideal spot for swimming, snorkeling, and learning to surf. Beginners can get their feet wet with a lesson at the family-run North Shore Ohana School of Surfing or the female-owned North Shore Surf Girls Surf School. As you’re exploring these shores in the quiet season, you might see green sea turtles, spinner dolphins, or highly endangered Hawaiian monk seals. Cute alert: This is peak pupping season.

As the temperatures begin to rise, this is also a great time to embark on a shave ice crawl through Haleiwa to sample the super-sweet syrups at spots like Kaimana Shave Ice, Aoki’s Shave Ice, and Matsumoto Shave Ice. Don’t skimp on the condensed milk for sweetness and azuki beans or mochi balls for texture.

Explore top attractions in North Shore Oahu

Tokyo

For wisteria lovers

Average temp: 74ºF high, 59ºF low

Wisteria in Ashikaga, Japan
Ashikaga Flower Park
Image: chuck/Getty Images

From late March to early April, Japan welcomes millions of international visitors to view its stunning cherry blossom display, but after the bloom peaks, the floral display isn’t over for the year: In May, it’s wisteria’s turn. These pastel vines (fuji in Japanese) come in purple, blue, pink, yellow, and white and can often be seen dramatically draped from trellises or shaped into fairytale-like tunnels. Using central Tokyo as your base, you can spot them in tons of gardens and parks, including the Koishikawa Korakuen Garden, Jindai Botanical Park, and the Kameido Tenjinsha, a Shinto shrine where the purple vines were planted during the Edo period. (Consider visiting the shrine at night, when the wisteria is illuminated.)

Farther afield, Ashikaga Flower Park is located about 90 minutes outside of the capital and is something like Japan’s answer to the Netherlands’ Keukenhof Gardens. It’s home to 350 wisteria plants, including a 160-year-old tree that sprawls for more than 10,000 square feet, and a white wisteria tunnel that stretches more than 250 feet. (And don’t miss the wisteria-flavored soft serve.)

Explore top attractions in Tokyo

Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique

For adventurous amateur marine biologists

Average temp: 81ºF high, 63ºF low

Dolphins in the Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique
Image: Peter Pinnock/Getty Images

Known for its white sand dunes and crystalline waters, this chain of six islands off the coast of Mozambique is emerging as a laid-back alternative to Indian Ocean hot spots like the Seychelles and the Maldives. May is a particularly lovely time to explore the islands: The end of the rainy season means underwater visibility is at its peak, but temperatures on land are manageable. The islands are part of a national park, where, depending on the season, you’ll be able to spot sea turtles, whale sharks, manta rays, dolphins, and thousands of species of fish. But the islands’ most notable residents are the shy dugongs, close relatives of manatees that buoyantly glide offshore.

The best way to experience the “Galápagos of the Indian Ocean” is to pick a beachfront resort that prioritizes underwater adventure. At andBeyond Benguerra Island, for instance, you can snorkel along the on-site reef, while Anantara Bazaruto Island Resort can set you up on a scuba diving expedition or a whale-watching cruise to see the whale sharks that congregate in these parts from April to July.

Tip: It’s a roughly 90-minute flight from Johannesburg to Vilankulo, the archipelago’s mainland gateway town, and then most of the resorts offer boat or helicopter transfers for easy access.

Explore top attractions in the Bazaruto Archipelago

Nicholas DeRenzo
Nicholas DeRenzo is a freelance travel and culture writer based in Brooklyn. A graduate of NYU's Cultural Reporting and Criticism program, he worked as an editor at Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel and, most recently, as executive editor at Hemispheres, the in-flight magazine of United Airlines. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, New York, Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, Afar, BBC Travel, Wine Enthusiast, and more. Follow him on Instagram at @nderenzo to see his many, many pictures of birds.