Whether you’re in Europe, North America or elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, there’s no doubt that the summer of 2019 has already been a hot one. If heat isn’t your thing, there are plenty of places you can still visit to cool off though, which is why I decided to share a few favorites today. This year I’m working with Allianz Travel Insurance to share my thoughts about travel, what makes me happy when I explore the world and why I even travel in the first place. This post is done in partnership with them and I’m excited for the opportunity to share some amazing places to visit this summer. Remember though, no matter where you go travel insurance is always a good idea, as I discuss in this post.
I’ve been to Iceland several times now, each trip focusing on a different region of the country. It has very quickly become one of my favorite places to visit for any number of reasons, including how much fun it is to explore. For the best experience though in Iceland, I firmly believe that visitors need to leave the capital city and venture out into the countryside, especially the somewhat-remote northern areas. The northern regions, particularly the Lake Mývatn area, are rich with natural wonders no matter the time of year, but in the summer months the landscapes are green and easy to access without being too hot. Whether you drive yourself or take a tour with a local, there are plenty of natural sights to enjoy from waterfalls and lava fields to natural baths and mountain landscapes. Spending time in the northern tier of Iceland feels like standing on the edge of the world because, well, you are.
Even if you do find yourself visiting a place that’s hot in the summer, there are plenty of ways to enjoy yourself without suffering from heat stroke. One of my favorites of course is to visit a great museum. I love museums, but I’m fairly picky about the ones I spend time visiting. My personal interests veer towards history and culture more so than art, and thanks to that natural proclivity I’ve discovered some fairly amazing museums around the world. Any museum I believe is to be treasured because it means that someone or a group of people cared so deeply about a subject that they devoted a significant portion of their lives to showcase what makes it so great. That’s to be admired I think and it makes the museum, almost no matter what the topic, worth at least a short visit. Granted, not all museums are made the same and believe me, I’ve visited some truly horrible ones over the years. But I’ve also had the great opportunity to visit smaller, quirky and off the beaten path institutions that I think are well worth anyone’s time to visit. So when you visit a new city, yes, seek out the famous museums but also do a little research to find those quirky spots that you’ll probably enjoy even more.
Of course if it’s summer in the Northern Hemisphere that means it’s winter in Australia and a great time to visit. One of my favorite cities in the world just after a few hours of being there – some places you just fall in love with right away and for me that was Melbourne. Still, I felt like I owed it to myself to go back and confirm whether or not this love was for real, or just a one-night stand. On one of my trips to Australia I rearranged the schedule and frankly went out of my way just to have a couple of nights in beautiful Melbourne and you know what? It was totally worth it. I don’t know if it’s the convenient downtown core or just the surprising beauty of the city, but it all clicks for me and it’s not only a place I could visit again and again, but I know I could also happily live there. I’m not alone either; Melbourne frequently makes the top list of most livable cities in the world owing to this unique combination of beautiful neighborhoods, diverse activities and just overall charm.
Cape Town, South Africa
Calling the tip of Africa home, the Mother City is one of the most popular cities in the world for a reason, it’s amazing. Routinely named to the Best in the World lists, Cape Town is unlike any other city you’ve visited before. In a quirky mix of European and African sensibilities, it’s easy to forget that you’re in southern Africa as you stroll around this colonial city. Days could be spent exploring the historical and cultural treasures of The Mother City, as well as admiring the natural beauty that is all encompassing. From the omnipresent Table Mountain to Chapman’s Peak Drive, your jaw will drop many times as you survey the beautiful landscapes that define this area of South Africa. Travel umami is something that is impossible to define, but rather the combination of all elements of a destination that culminates in a sort of perfection that has to be felt to be properly understood. That’s Cape Town and that is certainly South Africa. Long before my first trip to Southern Africa I was told that there is something in the air, something that latches onto your soul and refuses to let go. I naturally didn’t believe them until my first time experiencing it firsthand and then I understood, I got what they were talking about – this special travel umami. That’s simultaneously my top reason why everyone should visit but also the only one I can’t prove. So just trust me, plan a trip and go, go see and feel and taste South Africa and then I dare you to come back and say I was wrong.
The Aran Islands are a group of three islands located in Galway Bay on the west coast of Ireland and even in the summer they’re not usually too hot. Largely isolated throughout the centuries, their remote location has defined culture on the islands even up to today. There’s a reason why thousands of tourists visit Inishmore every week during the high season – it’s amazing. Due to its location and history, Inishmore remains a destination that honors its past in a way that is almost unique in Ireland. This is experienced through language and culture, but also the preserved thatched roof homes and ancient stone walled farms dotting the island. Although my time in the Aran Islands was all too brief, it was a highlight of my trip to Ireland. I love visiting small, remote islands, to enjoy both unique cultures as well as gorgeous landscapes. Inishmore is one of the most impressive I’ve seen around the world and instead of satiating my curiosity, my first visit has only fueled a strong desire to return and explore even more.
Like Australia, once again take advantage of the winter weather in the Southern Hemisphere with a visit to New Zealand. If you visit before the snows start, then I recommend driving around to best experience the country. Tackling the Great West Coast Drive on New Zealand’s South Island was one of the most remarkable experiences of my life. State Highway 6 is massive, extending from the northeastern corner of the South Island across the top and then down the length first along the West Coast and then across the Southern Alps. To complete the entire drive would take weeks, and I only had time for the West Coast portions, but even that brief encounter was enough to convince me that this truly is one of the world’s great road trips. The beauty of New Zealand exists on a scale unheard of in other parts of the world. Starting in Greymouth and following the coastline, it seemed as if there was another “once in a lifetime” view every few minutes. Whether it’s rainforests or glaciers, Hobbit country is just as amazing as it appears on the big screen.
Sandwiched between lakes and mountains, Seattle’s climate is famously temperate. With a moderate temperature and a vibrant atmosphere, Seattle is one of the best places in the country to escape the summer heat. The city is full of fun things to do like visiting the iconic Space Needle, towering over the city, and exploring the massive Pike Place Market where visitors and locals alike indulge their taste buds with delicious foods and shop for odd gifts. For those who would rather take advantage of the cooler temperatures of Seattle to venture into the great outdoors, the city is a good home base. Washington State has some of the most gorgeous and untouched forests in the country and are perfect for some light day hikes.
I have spent a fair amount of time exploring Canada and almost never have I had a bad experience. But not all parts of the country get equal attention by international tourists, which is one reason why I want to highlight the provinces that comprise the Maritimes. Specifically, over the last few years I’ve had the great opportunity to explore two Maritime provinces, Newfoundland & Labrador and Nova Scotia. Made famous by the ultra-luxury hotel on Fogo Island, Newfoundland has had its fair share of press lately, but there’s so much more to the province than a nice hotel. Whether it’s St. John’s or taking a coastal road trip, the scenery, food and people will quickly endear you to the province. Many of those qualities aren’t endemic to Newfoundland though, they’re part of the overall Maritime experience, as I learned after spending a week in Nova Scotia. Those same kind and very curious people made the trip remarkable, accentuated by natural wonders like the Bay of Fundy and a surprisingly high level of great food. So skip some of the more flashy provinces and instead plan to spend some time along the gorgeous Atlantic seaboard of Canada.
What would you add to this list?