Where to travel in July: five of the best destinations

As the mercury rises and summer holidays commence, travel in July can be a family affair. And for those without young ones in tow, there are intrepid adventures to be had, from wildlife-watching in the Okavango Delta to seeing the Arctic tundra in bloom.

Purple panoramas stretch across Provence in July.

Photograph by Getty Images
By Stephanie Cavagnaro
Published 1 Jun 2022, 06:10 BST

Let freedom ring: in July, European schools close for summer, marking the busiest month for travel on the Continent. Cities buzz as people embrace the heat with outdoor cinemas and rooftop beer gardens, while ice cream vans sweeten up seaside towns. Families looking for sand and sea can beat the crowds by heading to the more serene European alternatives of Albania and Montenegro.

Elsewhere, July is one of the only months to visit the remote Arctic, as melting ice opens the region to vessels visiting its fjords and sprouting tundra. Similarly, snow melt means hikers can head up to higher ground — the Indian mountains in Ladakh and Japan’s volcanic Mount Fuji are only accessible on foot for a few short months.

Much of Southeast Asia is experiencing monsoons, but Indonesia, whose islands are located just below the Equator, sees clear skies. Bask on Bali’s beaches or sail to Komodo National Park to spot its dragons during mating season, when dramatic fights ensue.

East and Southern Africa is also in its dry season, and wildlife spotting is excellent. The Great Migration is crossing from Tanzania into Kenya, mountain gorillas stomp through Rwandan rainforests and the Okavango Delta swells with water, making a boat safari the best way to spot the Big Five.

1.  Provence, France

Purple panoramas stretch across Provence this month. The lavender season is short and sweet — fields flower from June until the harvest in late July. Hills bursting with blooms can be found around the Luberon and Verdon plateau regions, pockmarked with pretty Provençal villages. Le Musée de la Lavande has more information about the purple plant and offers a glimpse into the harvest and distillation process. Lavender festivals can be found in Ferrassières and Valensole, where you can stock up on fragrant products like sticky lavender honey.

Nearby is the deep Gorges du Verdon, which cups the turquoise Verdon River, its strikingly blue hue due to glacial minerals. Motorboat, paddleboard and kayak rentals around the Pont du Galetas open June through August. Glide between the gorge’s steep walls on the lookout for small beaches to stop for a picnic and maybe a cooling river dip.

And while in France, join the 14 July Bastille Day festivities, which commemorate the major French Revolution battle. Villages across the country celebrate with parades, fireworks and parties.

Responsible travel tip: Many small villages suffer from depopulation, but visitors can support rural communities by staying and supporting locally owned businesses. Many environmentally friendly hotels in the area have a green certification — look for Green Globe, La Clef Verte or the European Eco-Label.

July is one of the only months hikers can summit Mount Fuji in Japan.

Photograph by Getty Images

2. Japan

One of Japan’s biggest festivals fills Kyoto’s streets in July. Gion Matsuri dates to 869 when the emperor ordered a ritual to appease spirits during an epidemic. Celebrations happen across the month, but the most impressive processions are on 17 and 24 July, when elaborately outfitted floats are sent through streets. These mobile art museums are plump with dyed textiles, sculptures and woven fabric. The largest can weigh up to 12 tonnes and stretch to 25 metres tall. Each parade is preceded by three evenings of Yoiyama street parties, in which revellers visit floats, buy chimaki good luck charms and feast on street food.

As the rainy season abates, July is a pleasant time to visit Japan. It also remains one of the only months hikers can summit Mount Fuji, which opens from early July to early September. Peak season runs from late July to late August, making this month a sweet spot. Topping out at 12,389ft, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is often climbed in the small hours so sunrise can be enjoyed from its crater rim.

Responsible travel tip: Plastic-packed vending machines abound in Japan. Opt instead for a reusable bottle and download the MyMizu app, which has a map of water fountains and businesses that allow free refills.

Floodwaters filter into the Okavango Delta and stretch vein-like over submerged grasslands.

Photograph by Getty Images

3. Okavango Delta, Botswana

Floodwaters filter into the delta and stretch vein-like over submerged grasslands. They take around six months to reach this area, rising during the dry season, which runs from May to September, with some of the highest levels this month. July can be chilly in the Okavango Delta with highs of 25C, dropping to single digits overnight, but skies stay clear, meaning trace mosquitoes.

While the surrounding Kalahari dries out, these waters draw a wealth of wildlife in July. As reed channels are created, animals are best spotted on a mokoro canoe trip. Travellers will be at eye-level with hippos, lions, buffalo and elephants. There are also over 400 species of bird, including the kori bustard, endangered wattled cranes and the rust-coloured Pel’s fishing owl.

Beyond the Delta, the dry season means roads and trails are more traversable, vegetation thins and animals congregate around watering holes — an ideal trifecta for wildlife viewing. Head to the savannah of Moremi Game Reserve and northeast to the vast Chobe National Park, which is sliced through by a deep blue river.

Responsible travel tip: The San of the Kalahari are the world’s last remaining hunting Bushmen, but many have been forced into resettlement camps. Ensure any visit is ethical by asking your tour operator how the San benefit and if it’s sensitive to their culture. Survival International’s campaign for tribal rights has more information.

Greenland's rocky landscape blooms in July.

Photograph by Getty Images

4. The Arctic

Seek cold comfort from July heat on a polar voyage. These expeditions are a summer affair — remote reaches like Svalbard, Greenland and the Canadian High Arctic are only briefly accessible between June and September, when receding ice allows navigation by ship.

Destinations that open up include Ilulissat’s icefjord and Disko Bay on Greenland’s west coast, the Geographic North Pole and Spitsbergen, which boats can circumnavigate via the Hinlopen Strait.

The climate is also at its warmest, climbing to a cheek-chilling 3-7C, while daylight is at its longest. The sun peers over this frozen region for close to 24 hours a day due to the Earth’s tilt, which means ample illuminated opportunities to spot its wild inhabitants. This cold world is home to polar bears, Arctic foxes, seals, reindeer, walruses and whales, whose populations boom while they’re in their summer feeding grounds. There are also scores of migratory seabirds nesting on cliffs and in the tundra, which is flowering with vegetation this month. Tumble into a Zodiac or kayak to explore iceberg-specked fjords, rugged glaciers and white mountains.

Responsible travel tip: According to WWF, the Arctic is warming at a rate of almost three times the global average. Rapidly melting polar ice caps affect wildlife, increase heat waves and raise sea levels. Oil drilling is also a threat to much of the region. Ensure cruise operators are members of AECO, which manages responsible, environmentally friendly tourism in the region. Donate to Greenpeace’s Save the Arctic campaign and read more about how to help on WWF Arctic.

The Peak District is the UK’s oldest national park.

Photograph by Getty Images

5. Peak District, England

This lung-filling landscape spans moorland, meadow, limestone peaks, river valleys and dense forest. The Peak District is the UK’s oldest national park and is a sprawling alternative to busy beachsides this month — a playground for active families and nature nuts. It’s threaded with 1,600 miles of walking paths and 58 miles of cycle routes, and July’s warm days mean it’s high time to hit the trail.

Hop on two wheels and trace Monsal, High Peak or Tissington Trail — all disused railway tracks transformed into wide paths. The latter rolls into the stone market town Bakewell, home of the tasty almond-jam tart. Big kid-friendly hikes include The Roaches, Padley Gorge or Hathersage, which traverses a series of ancient stepping stones. Cool down with a wild swim at Three Shires Head, where waterfalls crash into peaty plunge pools.

There is also a chock-full calendar of events, including The Foodies Festival and Buxton International Festival, showcasing opera, classical and jazz. For more tunes, try Y Not Festival, which spills across rolling Derbyshire hills. The Libertines, Super Furry Animals and Two Door Cinema Club have played, while circus performers, paint fights and a cinema keep revellers entertained.

Responsible travel tip: Peak Walking Adventures offers sustainable small group hikes across moorland and hills. Learn about the fragile upland ecosystem and discover the guides’ recommendations for locally owned accommodation, food and products. Some walks are accessible to those using public transport, too.

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