August is the busiest vacation time on the Continent since the schools are closed down for the summer break and almost all places are basking in the warmth of late summer. Thus hotel prices tend to be high in this month as flights are likely to get booked quickly. However there are many other places in the world where you could holiday at a leisurely pace and without spending a bomb. Here are ten spots worth considering for a holiday in August.
- Edinburgh, Scotland
Despite the busy holiday season in Europe, Edinburgh is one of the best places to visit this time, primarily because of the Edinburgh festival which takes place through August. The festival incorporates a whole range of events like music concerts, film screenings, art shows, story-telling events, book fairs, ethnic melas and even a fringe festival. If you wish, you can extend your Festival visit to explore more of this fascinating capital city of Scotland. You can view the entire city from an incredible vantage point known as Arthur’s Seat, ramble through self-contained communities like Old Town and Stockbridge known for their distinctive character and village-like feel or make use of shopping and dining opportunities at fashionable quarters like New Town and West End.
- Aubenas, France
August can be a good time to explore the French Alps when most of the vacationing crowds are heading for the coast. Aubenas lies on an extremely picturesque location of the Rhone Alps and because of its proximity to nearly all major tourist attractions, forms the base of most holiday makers in the region. From Aubenas tourists can easily access popular destinations like Ardeche river Gorges, explore the wild beauty of the Ardeche mountains, visit the startling point of the river Loire in the Mont Gerbier de Jonc and experience the thrill of looking down from the heights of the Cevennes plateau. Besides being blessed with endless vistas of natural beauty, Aubenas is also rich in treasures of the past. The history of the town goes back to several centuries and proof of this lies in its architectural landscape which is rich with historical monuments, churches and chateaus.
- Trans-Siberian trip, Russia
If you want to have a truly special holiday this August, how about experiencing Russia through the Trans-Siberian rail trip which is reputed to be one of the longest rail-routes in the world. The Trans-Siberian rail journey begins from Moscow and continues to Vladivostok. Along the way it crosses Russian cities like Perm, Yekaterinburg, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Chita as well as Khabarovsk. Overall the railway covers 9258 km or 6252 miles in seven days. Passing through the wide Siberian region is an unforgettable experience for a traveler as the scenery gets etched in one’s memory. Food and drinks are available at all major stops along the way or else non-Russian travelers can book their meals in dining cars. One-way fares start at around 13,000 rubles or $450 in a fourth-berth sleeper while in a two-berth sleeper, fares can go up to 25000 rubles or $850. Though the Trans-Siberian Railway includes two other routes – one from Moscow to Beijing and another from Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia, it is the journey from Moscow to the eastern tip of Vladivostok which gives a real feel of the Siberian landscape.
- Stockholm, Sweden
The Scandinavian region is a good time to visit in August when the weather is great and everybody seems to be out, having fun. Built on fourteen islands and connected by 57 bridges, Stockholm offers a remarkable cityscape to its visitors. One of the most popular tourist centers in the city is the Medieval city center at Gamla Stan which is also one of the largest and oldest medieval cultural centers in the whole of Europe. Gamla Stan is the place where Stockholm was founded more than 700 years ago in 1252. Here, the narrow winding streets are bordered by medieval buildings in various shades of gold while occasional sightings of frescoes and cellar vaults take back visitors to the Middle Ages. Other than these medieval cultural attractions, Gamla Stan also boasts of some of the most beautiful churches and buildings in Europe including the Stockholm Cathedral and the Royal Palace of Sweden.
- Halong Bay, Vietnam
If you wish to holiday at a place relatively less crowded but visually striking, a good choice would be the Halong Bay in Vietnam, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located nearly 170 kms east of Hanoi, Halong Bay or “descending Dragon Bay” in Vietnamese is a scenic rock formation which includes thousands of limestone karsts as well as isles in a variety of shapes and sizes. Each of these islands is topped with thick vegetation and many of which have been hollowed out into striking grottos and caves. Geologists believe that the unique rock formations were created by several ideal factors coming together like the presence thick pale grey limestone layer, hot and humid climate as well as slow tectonic processes. Vietnamese legend however has it that when the local people were fending off Chinese invaders, the gods sent a family of dragons to help defend the land. These dragons began spitting of jewels which in turn became the series of isles dotting the bay and thus acting as a natural barrier to attacks from outside.
- Legoland California, United States
If you are looking for a family vacation idea, you cannot go wrong with a visit to Legoland, California at Carlsbad. Legoland California is divided into six villages based on different kinds of attractions. The Dino Island, Explore Village and Fun Town are especially popular with the younger kids while the Castle Hill and Land of Adventure are the areas with the bigger roller coaster. The Pirate Shores is yet another fun area which has several water-based activities and is particularly crowded on hot days. The lego-building areas and IMAX theaters are located in the Imagination Zone while Miniland USA houses iconic American lego structures built by in-house designers. In between lego-building and the hair-raising rides, you can catch your breath at the model shops where you can watch lego designers at work.
- Istanbul, Turkey
History buffs have always been intrigued by Turkey which has long straddled two continents and cultures – the European and the Asian. And what better way to experience the grandeur and complexity of its two-thousand year past than by visiting the imperial palaces of Istanbul? Most of the palaces, mosques and historical monuments are reminders of the Ottoman Empire’s erstwhile opulence and one of the grandest among them is the Dolmabahce Palace. The palace complex sprawls over 285 rooms and 43 large salons. One of the biggest highlights in the palace is a Bohemian glass chandelier which weighs over 4000 tons. While the architecture of the palace is an appealing blend of European and Ottoman traditions, the precedence of the European elements gives the palace a slightly modern look. Other places of historic interest in Istanbul are Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern, Beylerbeyi Palace and many others.
- Samoan Islands
For those of you who believe that lazing on the beach and swimming in balmy waters is the only way to spend a vacation, the Samoan Islands can be an ideal holiday destination. Located in the heart of the Pacific Ocean just below the equator, the country of Samoa is composed of ten islands. Samoa’s primary natural attraction is its coastline which includes white sandy beaches, lapped by turquoise waters and bordered by graceful swaying palms. One such pristine destination is the Lalomanu Beach on the southeastern tip of the island of Upolu. However other than offering delights of sea and sand, the Lalomanu Beach is also famous for its treasure of marine life. The translucent lagoon lying on the southern coast is in fact a protected marine reserve where visitors can watch various species of exotic tropical fishes or go scuba-diving and snorkelling. Visitors can stay at Upolu which is the biggest town in the vicinity.
- Managua, Nicaragua
The central American country of Nicaragua could be a good choice for vacationers who don’t want to venture far from the mainland and yet want a slice of overseas tropical paradise. In fact the biggest bonus of an August vacation in Managua is experiencing the Santo Domingo festival which is held every year in honor of the patron saint of Managua, Santo Domingo de Guzman. Every town in Nicaragua has its own patron saint. During the fiestas patronales held each year, Citizens of all ages honor the saint’s birthday with religious processions, music, dance, parades and rodeos. Likewise during the San Domingo festival, celebrations continue for two days during which people in traditional costumes take part in processions and parades while the ardent believers pray or seek blessings before the statue of the saint.
- Odessa, Ukraine
East Europe is a good time to visit in August when the summers are warm and the winter chill is still far away. So this year, why not travel to Ukraine to gain a surreal experience of the Odessa Catacombs? This is actually a vast maze of network of underground tunnels which extends to almost 2500 kilometers beneath the city and which has been developing for around two hundred years. There are a number of interesting theories as to how this underground labyrinth of tunnels came about. While its earliest cause may have been geological, later the tunnels were developed to serve a variety of human purposes. According to one theory, the dark and dingy tunnels of the catacomb were used by slave traders to smuggle their human cargo. Yet other and more prosaic theories have that the tunnels came to be dug as part of mining and construction activities. The Odessa Catacomb museum has an excellent display of how the tunnels were used by armies during the Second World War to store rations and weapons.