May is one of the best months to travel. No matter where you go in the world, you’re bound to experience beautiful weather and the seasons changing. If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, expect blooms and warm weather, while in the Southern Hemisphere, you’ll experience some welcome cool air as fall sets in.
The changing of the seasons–particularly the change to spring–also means a wonderful batch of fresh produce will be making its way to your plate. Depending on where you visit, specialties like artichokes, asparagus, truffles, and more will be the stars of any seasonal menu.
Here are some of the best places to visit in May.
Tulips in Amsterdam
For color and flowers as far as the eye can see, a visit to Holland in May would fit the bill very nicely. The tulip growing areas of the Kop van Noord-Holland and the Bollenstreek are two of the most prolific. May is on average the sunniest month of the year in Holland, when the temperature averages around 17ºC (63ºF) through the day and there is little rain.
Tulips love the weather in Holland. The spring is cool as the beautiful flowers start to bloom and the soil is well-drained, which tulip bulbs love. The tulip season in Holland starts in mid-March and lasts through until the end of May. In May in Holland, wherever you travel, whether by train, car, or bike, the countryside will be a patchwork of brightly-colored flowers stretching in every direction.
Keukenhof near Lisse is a great place to see many of the different varieties growing together with around seven million bulbs planted every year in the gardens. Keukenhof is commonly referred to as the Garden of Europe and is the largest flower garden in the world.
Jerez de la Frontera, Spain
Spain can be lovely anytime of the year, but in May, the flowers are blooming, the weather has a hint of summer, and everywhere, the beaches are pleasantly full but not overcrowded.
Close to the Atlantic coast of Spain is the town of Jerez de la Frontera, and in May, the town celebrates the Feria de los Caballos, or horse fair. For seven days, the streets and parks are filled with colorful processions and parades of horses and riders. Splashes of color come from the ladies riding side-saddle in their bright flamenco dresses, cuddled up tight behind their aristocratic men in tight trousers, leather chaps, and frilly shirts.
The Feria is in two parts: a mini-village with hundreds of Casetas, plus a huge fun-fair. The Casetas serve traditional food and drink accompanied by plenty of entertainment right through the day, well into the wee hours. The most popular drink is locally-produced Fino sherry, sometimes mixed with lemonade into a cocktail called Rebujito.
Jerez is the home of the Royal Andalucían School of Equestrian Art and one of the highlights of the fair is undoubtably their display of Dancing Andalucian Horses. In the dressage competitions, the immaculately dressed riders perform intricate moves across the sandy arena and there are show jumping competitions as well. The Feria de Caballos is about more than just horses; there are bullfights, livestock exhibitions and auctions, singing and dancing, floats and fireworks, and of course the switching on of the impressive feria lights.
May is an excellent time to visit San Francisco. The temperature is pleasantly warm and great for sightseeing, and hotel prices haven’t yet rocketed for the summer months. The Pacific Ocean might be too cold for diving, but for pounding the pavement and taking those all important holiday photos, the spring weather will be ideal.
San Francisco in May is home to many carnivals and street fairs, so there is always plenty to see and do. The International Film Festival draws crowds from around the world to see the 200 or so films and events that are on. The Cinco de Mayo Festival celebrates Latin American and Mexican cultures, and at the end of the month, the two-day Carnaval is an explosion of Caribbean and Latin American music, food, and fun. Throughout the month, there are zany road races, giant flea markets and fairs for tinkerers and DIY fans, ballet festivals, and swimming galas.
No trip to San Francisco would be complete without a ride on the famous cable cars. Fast passes allow unlimited travel on the cable cars, street cars, and buses. From the Powell/Market turntable, you can ride the cars as they groan up the hills, bells a clanging to destinations such as Nob Hill, Bay Street, and Fisherman’s Wharf. The California Street line takes you through the Financial District, China Town, and through to Van Ness Avenue.
Rio de Janeiro
The rainy months of December to April have passed and the temperature averages around the mid to high twenties Celsius, so May is great in Rio. The scenery is stunning and still lush and green from the winter rains, but the beaches are warm, dry, and inviting. Ipanema Beach is a beach for activities: volleyball, surfing, wakeboarding, and beach soccer all take place there.
Copacabana Beach is, of course, known worldwide and is one of the favorites for visitors. The beautifully landscaped promenade is ideal for a stroll and there are plenty of pavement kiosks to stop at for a chilled coconut drink or frosty glass of beer.
The summer crowds won’t have arrived yet, so it will be mostly locals on the beaches taking advantage of the early summer warmth. Away from the sand and sea, the Laje Park is a beautiful area to visit with historical houses, picnic areas, caves, and playgrounds. Downtown, there is plenty of history to learn about and churches to see while the Centro Cultural Banco de Brasil is one of the most visited museums in the world.
Don’t miss seeing the statue of Christ on top of Corcovado Mountain, and a hike up Sugarloaf Mountain is a definite must. For hiking on more level ground, head for the trails of the Tijuca Forest and check out the Chinese View.
North Africa and Egypt
May is a great time to visit the African continent, especially the northern countries. Cairo will be hot and dry, but not unbearably so, and the Great Pyramids of Giza won’t be overcrowded.
Further west, Morocco is a good choice as well, with warm days and cooler evenings. Families will love Agadir, and for couples Casablanca, Marrakesh, and Tangier are great for city breaks.
Tunisia is a blend of Mediterranean sophistication and North African atmosphere, and offers some excellent all-inclusive holidays. With miles of white sandy beaches, colorful reefs for scuba-diving, and amazing history and culture, there is something for everyone.
The United Arab Emirates are lovely in May. The rain has gone, the humidity is still low, and the evenings are warm. Best of all, the daytime temperatures reach the late thirties Celsius, so it is ideal for some sunbathing, but not too unbearably hot for sightseeing or shopping. In the summer months it would be too hot and humid to even consider sitting outside at a restaurant or sidewalk café, but in May, it is still possible to sit and watch the world go by.
The wonderfully modern and streamlined hotels and shopping centers all have super-efficient air-conditioning, so even if it does get a bit too warm outside, cooling off is never a problem.
A visit to the Bastakiya quarter shows a different side to the city. In this 19th Century area of Dubai, the old wind towers display an early and effective form of air-conditioning and the small museum is worth exploring. Afterwards, sit by the Al Khor or Creek and watch the passing boats and abras. If you fancy a ride on the water, it is a quick ten minute ride across from the Abra Dock in Bur Dubai to Deira. The boat captains display great skill as they weave through the river traffic ferrying visitors and commuters alike between the two main city center districts.