The heydays of summer make one of the best holiday seasons. Places like Northern Europe have long warm days and midnight sun while the mountains in many parts of the world offer a respite from rising temperatures. So check out the following places as you pack your bags and shoot off an application to your boss for some time off.
- Helsinki, Finland
Helsinki, the capital of Finland, is one of the most vibrant cities of northern Europe. Even though it started out as a small coastal town in the sixteenth century, the city really came into its own in the later part of the nineteenth century under Russian influence. Evidence of this remains in the design of Helsinki’s downtown center which was rebuilt in the neoclassical style of St Petersburg. Visitors can see the influence is structures like the Senate Square and the imposing Cathedral. While in Helsinki, you are also sure to be struck by the Art Nouveau buildings, one striking example of which is the city’s central railway station. Besides is rich and varied cityscape, Helsinki offers a large of other cultural and historical attractions like museums, art galleries, concert halls and theatres.
- Boise, United States
Though known as a popular skiing destination in winters, Boise has a lot to offer its visitors in the summer too. Tourists to this capital city of Idaho are never at a loss for things to do with adventure sports, cultural activities, festivals and shopping opportunities galore. Located at the foothills of the mountain ranges rising from the northeast, Boise is gifted with exquisite natural surroundings. The nearby mountains and forest offer ample opportunity for hiking, biking, trekking and mountain climbing. The abundance of natural streams and lakes too attract enthusiasts of angling, swimming and rafting. Among other attractions of nature in Boise is a series of public parks of which one of the most famous is the Julia Davis Park which includes the city Zoo. Outside the city limits is the World Center of Birds of Prey which has performed a significant role in the protection and rehabilitation of the Peregrine Falcon and other species.
- Caesarea, Israel
History buffs looking for a slightly off-beat destination this summer can head to the archeological site of Caesarea in Israel. The history of city site goes back to ancient Roman times as the name suggests. In about 22 B.C.E King Herod, another Roman king, seized control of the city and ordered the construction of a number of grand buildings as evidence of the might and glory of his own empire. Here you can still see an amphitheater, a bathhouse, aqueducts and other artifacts from Herod’s age. After the decline of Roman supremacy in Caesarea, the Crusaders took over in the C.E. 1100s. They constructed buildings with the prime intention of protecting the city against invaders and this architectural premise can be seen in the remains of the city walls and fortresses which survive to this day.
- Izumo, Japan
On the other hand if you are more interested in Oriental history and culture, head to the Japanese city of Izumo where historical buildings stand as a testimony to the rich traditions of the land. Here the ancient Shinto shrine known as Grand Shrine or Izumo Taisha is perhaps the biggest tourist attraction of the city. Nearby is the Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo which houses a number of interesting artifacts and relics of the past. Among other sites of interest in the city is the Izumo Dome which is reputed to be the largest wooden building in Japan. Standing at 49 meters high and 143 meters in diameter, the dome is now used as a venue of sports both modern like soccer and baseball as well as traditional like sumo wrestling. The city has several other museums which showcase the traditional handicrafts and skills like sword-making.
- Lucerne, Switzerland
Summer in Switzerland showcases an entirely different aspect of this Alpine paradise and one of the most visited cities this time is Lucerne. It is largely famous for its magnificent lake and is bordered by picturesque mountains. Lake Lucerne is the prime attraction here visitors can explore its scenic beauty by various means. There are luxury cruises for those with deep pockets as well as rides on paddle boat steamers and other motor vessels. Lucerne is also the starting point of excursion to nearby slopes of Rigi, Pilatus and Stanserhorn. Other than its lake, Lucerne is also famous as a town of churches, squares and other historical monuments. Some of the other historical sites not to be missed are the Chapel Bridge, its 17th century Jesuit church, the twin towers of Hofkirche, the monument with the figure of a dying lion as well as its numerous art galleries.
- Milan, Italy
Known as one of most important centers of fashion, Milan has a long association with beauty, art and culture. The city represents the best of Italian art and architecture, especially of the Renaissance period. Its monuments, churches as well as castles draw visitors from across the world and one of the top Milanese attractions is the Church of Santa Maria della Grazie. The complex of Church and Convent dates back to the mid-fifteenth century and was built by Italian architect Donato Bramante who introduced newer Renaissance concepts like columns in place of pilasters as well as pictorial decoration of the nave. However the Church of Santa Maria della Grazie is best known to the outside world as the home of the famous mid fifteenth-century painting “Last Supper” by Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci. The “Last Supper” together with the Church of Santa Maria della Grazie is today considered the finest examples of Milan’s Humanistic Renaissance art which is why in 1980 they were given the status of World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
- St Petersburg, Russia
June is one of the best times to visit Russia and though this vast country offers a plethora of holiday spots, St. Petersburg usually features on the must-see list of every tourist. Founded by Peter the Great in 1703 as his “window on Europe”, the city is today the proud bearer of a rich heritage in Russian arts, literature and architecture. Alongside world-famous attractions such as the Hermitage, St. Isaac's Cathedral and the Mariinsky Theatre, it is the Russian Museum which floors any visitor who comes here. Established in 1895 by a royal decree from Emperor Nicolas II, it was the first fine arts state museum of Russia. The museum has an extensive collection of paintings from Russian and international Masters. Besides acting as a treasure trove of the finest artistic productions in the country, the Russian Museum is also a major cultural and educational center. It hosts temporary exhibitions, conducts workshops, undertakes restoration projects and oversees the activities of around 260 other art museums in the country.
- Puerto Rico
For those of you who don’t want to let go of the balmy tropical waters, check out the beaches of Puerto Rico. Set in the midst of the blue Caribbean waters, Puerto Rico is in fact an archipelago of self-governing islands which falls under the unincorporated territory of the United States. The main island of Puerto Rico has vast stretches of mountains together with extensive coastal areas in the northern and southern parts Among the most popular beaches of the island are Corcho, Luquillo and Boqueronrs. Some of the mountain peaks most visited by tourists are Cerro de Punta and El Yunque. Puerto Rico’s diverse landscape means that the island is rich in forests, rivers, flora and fauna. Some of the most famous natural reserves in this island are Aguirre Forest Reserve, Guanica State Forest, the Toro Negro Forest Reserve and Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve. Tourists from the United States find it especially easy to travel to Puerto Rico because of the relaxation of visa laws.
- Las Vegas, United States
Known as the Sin City, Las Vegas is primarily associated with gaming and expensive entertainment. But it could also be the destination of a wonderful family holiday – now that the schools have their summer break – and that too on a budget. A visit to ‘Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat’ at the Mirage is a fantastic experience for wildlife lovers where you can watch white tigers cavorting in pools and dolphins splashing in tanks for an hour of $3. Again if you are wandering through the Forum, wait for the hour when its ceiling and several mechanized statues come alive as part of an advertisement for a ride called “The Race for Atlantis”. The ride costs $9 and is a lot of fun. You could also watch the Masquerade Show in the Sky at the Rio where dancers, stilt-walkers, musicians and acrobats present a thrilling performance. Among other practically free attractions in Las Vegas is the water show at Buccaneer Bay where the British Navy battles pirates as well as downtown Fremont Street light and sound show.
- Ooty, India
India is not a country you would normally associate with a summer holiday. And yet the hill-station of Ooty or Udhagamandalam, as it is now known, makes an ideal June destination before the monsoon rains set in. The place was discovered by a British John Sullivan who recognized its potential for development into a summer resort for all colonials keen to escape the burning heat of the plains. Ooty is surrounded by four hills of the Nilgiri ranges, Doddabetta, Snow don, Elk Hill and Club Hill among which Doddabetta is the highest. Known as the Blue Mountains, because of the bluish-grey color of the peaks from a distance, the Nilgiri hills are rich not only in natural beauty but in its treasure of flora and fauna. The Doddabetta peak is the highest point in these hills the telescope point built on the top offers a bird’s eye view of the entire hill station.