The eight best places to travel in May for sunshine, snow, adventure and wildlife

From Finnish Lapland to Nepal's Mustang, these destinations delight

Finland's Ruka has both endless sunshine and snow covered slopes in May. Photo: Visit Finland / Harri Tarvainen
Powered by automated translation

May is the time of year when the weather is changing around the world, but peak crowds haven't quite arrived, meaning it's a great time for travellers to enjoy new places without having to compete with other tourists.

In the Northern Hemisphere, summer beckons, while on the other side of the world, the colours of autumn are in bloom.

If you're seeking wildlife experiences, consider a trip to Kenya, where you'll have the wilds of the Maasai Mara almost to yourself. If you want to extend winter climes beyond this month, head to Ruka in Finland's Lapland, where skiing, snowfall and sunshine await, or go down under to New Zealand for an adventure-filled escape.

Here are eight of the best places to travel to in May.

1. Athens, Greece

Escape to Greece this month and you’ll get to enjoy the Mediterranean country before peak tourist season begins. It is warm and sunny but not scorching, which makes it the perfect time to explore ancient ruins, relax on beautiful beaches and feast on Greek cuisine. Hop on a ferry and take a day trip to the nearby Saronic Islands where you can wander pine-covered Spetses or explore ancient history in Hydra.

2. Machu Picchu, Peru

May marks the beginning of Peru’s dry season, making it an excellent time to visit, and this year is a great time to go as there are still access passes available for popular attractions such as Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. The political unrest of last year has calmed and it is safe for tourists to visit again with transport to and from the mountains operating normally. Trekking the Inca Trail before the summer tourists roll in is something very special.

3. Kenya’s Maasai Mara

May falls between Kenya's two busy tourism seasons and can be a bit of an underrated time to visit the Maasai Mara, especially if you want to do so without hordes of other travellers.

The land is lush and green, making it perfect for budding photographers looking for scenic backdrops for their pictures – it is also a good time to spot lions, waterbuck cubs and elephant calves. It’s also a great month for birders.

4. Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

The green season begins in Costa Rica towards the middle of this month with rainforests blooming and green swathes taking over the country’s hills and valleys. As it’s officially monsoon, there are fewer tourists in May, but rains typically only last for a few hours each day.

Head north-west to the driest place to be this month, Nicoya Peninsula, where you can enjoy beautiful beaches and explore stunning national parks in shades of olive, jade and emeralds. Experienced surfers can also tackle awesome swells along the Pacific coast at this time of year.

5. Mustang, Nepal

May is an excellent time for adventure seekers to head to Nepal, particularly for those looking to go trekking in the Himalayas or discover off-the-beaten destinations. The weather is generally clear and warmer than the winter months, which attracts adventurers trying to scale Mount Everest. It’s also the time to head to Mustang – nestled in the Himalayas, it is surrounded by snow-capped peaks and vibrant forests.

It’s also when you can visit the Tiji festival in Nepal’s upper Mustang area. This fascinating event is full of Tibetan rituals and drums, prayers, dancing and incense, it’s also one of only a few occasions when outsiders can get a glimpse of life in rural Nepal.

6. Yellowstone, US

One of the best months of the year to visit Wyoming’s most famous national park, Yellowstone comes to life with wildlife in May. Spot bison and elk, often with their newborns, and enjoy carpets of blooming wildflowers. As the snow at higher elevations begins melting, the waterfalls and river in the park cascade, and you can enjoy it all without the crowds as peak visitor time for the park isn’t until summer.

7. Ruka, Lapland, Finland

If you’re not quite ready to be done with winter, head to Ruka in Finnish Lapland, which boasts Europe’s longest non-glacier ski season. The main slope is usually operational until June, with five or so runs in action in May. Plus, there are tubing hills and playgrounds for the kids. It’s also nearing the season of Finland’s midnight sunshine – meaning nights are very bright, giving you plenty more hours to enjoy the slopes.

8. Queenstown, New Zealand

May is the end of autumn in New Zealand – a great time to visit without the crowds that flock here in summertime. Head to the South Island, where you can enjoy glorious autumn scenes in Arrowtown, go bungee jumping in Queenstown or head off on two wheels to explore the dramatic colours along the Otago Rail Trail before the winter weather creeps in. Mount Cook is also beautiful at this time of year, just don’t forget to pack layers, the weather will be getting colder.

Updated: April 03, 2024, 11:36 AM