May is one of the most popular months to go on a holiday. And with good reason too – the weather is warm and sunny without the humidity of late summer. Roses are in full bloom everywhere and it is a great time for outdoor activities. So if you have your annual vacation planned for May, here are ten places worth considering.
- Cote d’Azur, France
Better known as the French Riviera, Cote d’Azur is the place to see – and more importantly be seen – in the summer months. The region refers to the Mediterranean coastline of France including the separate country of Monaco. May is the time when the Cannes Film Festival is usually hosted and planning a vacation here at this time is sure to help you do some star-spotting. However if you are more into nature, you can check out the Rose festival in Grasse hosted in this month. Those interested in living in the fast lane, can head to Monaco to catch the Formula One Grand Prix Championships. On the other hand you can simply laze on the beaches of Saint Tropez or go sightseeing the historical buildings in the Alpes-Maritimes region. However be prepared for a bit of jostle wherever you go since at this time of the year, even the most expensive resorts on the French Riviera can get crowded.
- Paphos, Cyprus
If you want to frolic on the sands without having to bump into a dozen people, you could go further east to the beaches of Paphos in Cyprus. Paphos is lucky to miles of lovely sandy beaches washed by turquoise blue waters. The beach on Coral Bay is especially popular with visitors because of its calm waters, sparkling sands and varied sports facilities. You can also pick up curios and local crafts at the beachfront shops or sample the fish and Cyprus delicacies served at the many taverns and restaurant lining the beach. Two of the other beach destinations in Paphos are Lara Bay and Latchi Beach. While the beach at Lara Bay is beautiful for its remote and untouched ambience, more famous is the wildlife found here. The Lara Bay is well known as the hatching ground for loggerhead and greenback turtles besides serving as the natural habitat of the rare Mediterranean monk seal.
- Bodrum, Turkey
History buffs can make it a point to travel a little further to Bodrun, a coastal town in Turkey famous for its medieval art and architecture. The most significant historical monument of Bodrum is the St Peters Castle which repeatedly figures in the collective consciousness of the city. This medieval castle stands as a sentinel at the mouth of Bodrum’s stunning blue bay where the waters of the Aegean and Mediterranean seas meet. Built by the Knights of Rhodes, the St. Peters Castle at Bodrum has five towers, each built after the people - French, English, Italian, Spanish and German – who defended the Castle and the city against the Turks. Today the Castle is not only famous for its numerous relics, tombstones and towers but also for housing the Museum of Underwater Archeology which is reputed to be one of the best in the world.
- Brownsville, United States
For those of you who do not wish to travel far, a slice of memorable history can be found nearer home as well. How about visiting the Brownsville Heritage Museum this summer to get a feel of how the rich lived in nineteenth century America? Located in Brownsville, Texas, the Heritage Complex includes the Stillman House Museum and many other treasures of nineteenth century living. The history of the city of Brownsville goes back to 1850 when Charles Stillman founded the community in this part of Texas. The house he built is now designated as the Stillman House Museum and in fact it is the only historic residence in the Rio Grande Valley that continues to remain in its original location and even after more than a century retains its furnishings from late 1800s. The Brownsville Heritage Complex also contains maps, photographs, costumes and other artifacts which detail the history of Brownsville and other nearby ranching areas. For its excellence in preservation of historical treasures and the superior maintenance of the museum, the Brownsville Heritage Complex was honored with an Award of Merit by the Texas Historical Commission.
- Fiji Islands
If however you are looking for a purely romantic holiday, the Fiji Islands could be the veritable tropical paradise. Located in the South Pacific Ocean, Fiji is actually an archipelago of around 322 islands among which the two main are Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, with the latter being more popular of the two. Vanua Levu is rich in long stretches of golden, palm-fringed beaches which are greatly popular with honeymooners. Couples can also go on cruises which take a tour through some of the best coastal sceneries and also give guests a sample of traditional Fijian hospitality. Visitors to Vanua Levu can also avail of other aquatic sports like yachting and diving. Facilities for these activities are easily available towards the south of the island around the town of Savusavu.
The small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is an ideal destination if you are looking to combine nature’s beauty with ancient tradition and spirituality. While the Greater Himalayas in the northern part of the country are covered by tall alpine forests, towards the south the mountains lose height until they descend into foothill cultivations and semi-tropical forests. The western region of Bhutan is most frequented by visitors who wish to experience the Himalayan sights. All the major valleys in this region like the Ha Valley, Paro Valley and Punakha Valley are well above 7000 feet in elevation. Tourists who come here are fascinated by stunning mountain sceneries, fruit orchards gracing the slopes and rivers cascading down the hills. The town of Paro in this region makes a good base from where one can explore the surrounding mountains and valleys.
- Sofia, Bulgaria
May is one of the best times to visit Eastern Europe when the temperatures are comfortable but the mad rush of summer tourist season is yet to start. And for the culture-conscious, the city of Sofia showcases some of the best of Eastern Christian Art and its supreme example is the Boyana Church which has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Located on the outskirts of the city, the Boyana Church is primarily famous for its splendid medieval architecture and its delicate murals. Painted as far back as 13th century - almost 400 years before the arrival of European Renaissance - the murals on the walls of the Boyana Church continue to amaze visitors of today with their fragile beauty, expressiveness and a deep understanding of human nature. The murals of the Boyana Church include paintings of national saints and martyrs besides depicting the royal Bulgarian couple, King Constantine and Queen Irina.
- Alaskan Cruise
If you want to do something really special this summer, how about taking an Alaskan Cruise? Alaska is a land of wild beauty – covered with glaciers, ice mountains, endless forests and rare wildlife. Adventure enthusiasts can opt to go for several outdoor offshore excursions which include activities like dog sledding and fishing so that they can experience the thrill of working with great big Alaskan huskies or catching a rare Wild Alaskan Salmon. Guests interested in socio-cultural aspects of Alaska can even visit the mines and learn how the miners lived and worked in Alaska’s unforgiving conditions. After all the tough work and harsh weather of the offshore excursions, you can head back to the luxuries of the cruise liner. Here you can wine and dine on the greatest delicacies and then head to the dance floor to boogey away the night. Or if gambling is more like your cup of tea, you may want to woo Lady Luck in the casino.
- Hadrian’s Wall, England
May is a good time to visit England when the rains and sleet are on their way out and summer is making a definite appearance. Best known for its castles and cultural offerings, England is not usually associated with Roman architecture but one of the most famous structures from the Roman past is located in North England - the Hadrian’s Wall which is listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.. Ordered by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 122 A.D, this stone and turf fortification runs westward across the breadth of North England from Segedunum at Wallsend on the River Tyne to the shore of the Solway Firth. The major purpose of construction was the defense of the Roman Empire in England against attacks by Pictish tribes. Today the middle section of the Wall remains best preserved and acts as the biggest tourist attraction in North England and one of the best places in England to view the Wall is Greenhead, a village in Northumberland.
- Keukenhof, Holland
Finally don’t let May end without viewing the riot of colors at the Keukenhof Spring Gardens of Netherlands. For just two months in a year, the Keukenhof gardens offer a stunning display of tulips and other horticultural creations. The garden is the largest bulb park in the world and sprawls over 30 hectares with around fifteen kilometers of footpath. According to sources at least seven million flower bulbs are planted by hand every year. Besides tulips, the garden also has orchids, lilies, daffodil, hyacinths, narcissus and other exquisite garden sculptures. In 1857, the gardens were landscaped by reputed Dutch architect Jan Zocher and the first spring display was held in 1949. Ever since the Keukenhof Gardens have thrown open to public display during spring each year. Tourists can visit the Keukenhof gardens from Amsterdam or Leiden while the nearest village is Lisse.