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10 Destinations That Are At Their Absolute Best In Summer

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Timing is everything in some destinations. For these 10 places, from the High Arctic to the beaches of Santa Monica, summer is the golden season. It's when the ice recedes. Ocean bays glow with bioluminescence. Elusive wildlife emerges. The sun still shines at midnight. Sand warms your bare toes. And there's absolutely nowhere else you'd rather be in this summer moment.

10 Destinations That Are at Their Absolute Best in Summer
Timing is everything in some destinations. For these 10 places, from the High Arctic to the beaches of Santa Monica, summer is the golden season. It’s when the ice recedes. Ocean bays glow with bioluminescence. Elusive wildlife emerges. The sun still shines at midnight. Sand warms your bare toes. And there’s absolutely nowhere else you’d rather be in this summer moment.

(Photo: Twenty20)
Alaska
Summer in Alaska heralds unusually long days (think 18 to 24 hours of daylight) that offer the novelty of playing in the midnight sun. It’s common to see locals fishing and glacier trekking at all hours of the night. Golf courses even book midnight tee times, and late-night baseball games sometimes run until 1:30 a.m. on fields with no lights.

In summer you can access remote areas that in winter would require studded tires and parkas rated to -40 degrees. Hiking trails are open and the opportunity to see diverse wildlife is excellent. More than 2,200 brown bears live in Alaska’s Katmai National Park and in July they gather at Brooks Falls where you can watch them compete for a spot to catch sockeye salmon jumping off the falls. Major cruise lines depart from Seattle and Vancouver in summer, making America’s last frontier more accessible and affordable.

(Photo: Shutterstock)
High Arctic
Between July and September the ice thaws in the High Arctic, allowing ships to cruise the top of the world. It’s the only time of year most ships can reach Arctic Circle destinations such as the North Pole, Greenland, Iceland, Northern Norway, Northern Canada, the Russian Arctic, and the Northwest Passage.

In summer, ships of all types, from massive icebreakers and luxury liners to small converted research ships, move through the ice pack searching the floes for polar bears and walruses. Wildlife adventure tour companies such as Wildfoot Travel will also show you the antics of humpback, beluga and orca whales at sea. For polar bear viewing, don’t miss Wrangel Island, Russia. According to Cruise Critic, it’s often called the “polar bear maternity ward” due to the high number of polar bear dens and young cubs born there.

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(Photo: Shutterstock)
Macchu Picchu
Summer is the height of the sunny, dry season at altitude in the Andes Mountains–ideal conditions for exploring Machu Picchu and trekking the Inca Trail. “You'll have the best views, clearest night skies, and don’t need to worry much about rain and snow,” says Domingo Atao, adventure guide and Ayni Peru Travel co-founder. The only time the ruins are safely accessible in Machu Picchu’s sister city, Choquequirao, is in summer. During the rainy season the steep river canyon walls below the ruins are prone to landslides and rock falls.

Summer also brings several festivals, so there’s plenty to do before and after your trek. Hundreds of thousands of people pack the streets of Cusco for Inti Raymi, the Andean New Year celebration. Three hours away by car, Paucartambo celebrates the religious Virgen del Carmen Festival with parties and processions.

(Photo: Shutterstock)
England
This August marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, England’s famous son of garden design, who broke away from the centuries-old trend of stiff, enclosed gardens to create a new, natural approach that would become known as the signature “English garden” style. To celebrate, the country has named 2016 the Year of the English Garden with flower shows and other events that run throughout summer. Visit more than 150 Brown-designed gardens, including some not usually open to visitors. You can wander abbey gardens in Cambridge, secret gardens of the Cotswolds, and gardens of the rich and famous—from Jane Austen to Agatha Christie. Check out the National Trust’s top summer garden picks or Visit England’s list of gardens featured in films including Harry Potter and The Duchess.

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(Photo: Shutterstock)
Africa
Summer is Africa’s dry season, when herds of animals congregate around the permanent waterholes, making certain areas predictable places to spot wildlife. Thanks to sparse foliage during this time of year, it’s also easier to see animals in the bush. June, July and August offer the most thrilling opportunities to witness the Great Migration of nearly 1.5 million wildebeests making their yearlong 1,200-mile trek from Tanzania’s Serengeti to the Masai Mara in Kenya and back again.

Hundreds of thousands die en route, falling to lions and cheetahs, or crocodiles at high-drama river crossings. “It’s an endless symphony of life and death played out by predator and prey,” says Karen Cleary, Boundless Journeys’ destination manager who has traveled on Tanzania safari numerous times. Here’s a migration timeline by Abercrombie & Kent outlining month-by-month highlights of the spectacle.

(Photo: Shutterstock)
Outer Mongolia
Wedged between Russia and China, Mongolia is one of the highest countries in the world. It’s a landscape of harsh extremes with towering mountains, vast plains, thick forest, barren desert, and unforgiving winter temperatures that dip to -22 degrees Fahrenheit. Summer is the only time it’s warm enough to explore comfortably.

With Intrepid Travel you can stay in yurts, called gers, the dome-shaped tent-like structures where many nomadic Mongol people still reside. Intrepid’s Wild Mongolia summer trips also include horse trekking excursions, camel rides, rafting, and a day at an iconic cultural festival. The Naadam Festival in July celebrates the three national sports: wrestling, horse racing, and archery. Also in summer, you’ll have the chance to try Mongolia’s seasonal drink, airag. Made only in summer, airag is fermented horse milk enjoyed in pop-up yurts across the country.

(Photo: Shutterstock)
Vancouver Island
Like Seattle and the rest of the lush Pacific Northwest, Vancouver Island spends most of the year beneath rain clouds, but when the sun finally emerges for summer, it’s glorious. You can shed your waterproof jacket for all types of outdoor adventures. Go whale watching and see the pods of resident orcas that spend summer months in local waters. And bear watching boat tours cruise remote shorelines to spot foraging black bears.

Summer also brings the opportunity to reel in a huge sockeye salmon or snorkel among thousands of them in the river as they run upstream. On late night snorkeling and kayaking tours you can play in the ocean’s glowing bioluminescence created by the summer phytoplankton bloom. For wine tasting and free outdoor concerts on vineyard grounds, follow the roadside winery route signs. Culinary tours also peak in summer; Canada’s first estate-grown tea farm opened in the island’s Cowichan Valley in July.

(Photo: Shutterstock)
Santa Monica
Southern California’s summer beach scene is iconic, and this year you can take it in without the usual traffic drama. In May, Santa Monica opened a long-awaited metro line that links downtown Los Angeles to downtown Santa Monica just a few blocks from the beach. With traffic, the drive takes 90-minutes but the new train gets you there in only 45. Santa Monica also recently launched a bike share program with 500 bikes and 80 racks around the city and on the beach bike path. So you truly can leave your car behind and bike to the city’s favorite summer traditions: surfing and beach volleyball, free weekly twilight concerts on the pier, outdoor movies, Main Street food trucks, the farmers’ market, spotting sports stars and celebs working out on the Santa Monica stairs, and outdoor cocktails around a fire pit or ping pong table at The Bungalow.

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(Photo: Shutterstock)
Australia
Winter in Australia, June to August, falls during the dry season when temperatures are milder and the humidity is more comfortable than any other time of the year. It’s an ideal time for exploring. “I did a 4,500 kilometer road trip along the coast of Australia from Adelaide to Cairns one year in June,” says Tae Lee, CEO of event-based trip planning tool TRAVO. “I had never, and still have not, seen a country as naturally beautiful as Australia.”

During this season you can earn unique bragging rights by snowboarding in Victoria and snorkeling Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef in the same day. In western Australia the world’s largest collection of wildflowers blooms in winter and whale sharks and humpback whales arrive at Ningaloo Reef. Get didgeridoo lessons at the aboriginal Garma Festival in August, and, if you’re a sports fan, don’t miss Aussie football games at the Melbourne Cricket Ground with a local host who can explain the traditions.

(Photo: Shutterstock)
Quebec
It’s festival season in Montreal! And no other city fills a summer calendar quite like this sophisticated Quebec socialite. Montreal is known for its hip International Jazz Festival, hilarious Just for Laughs Comedy Festival, andFrancoFolies, which features 180 free outdoor concerts in 10 days. The birthplace of Cirque du Soleil, this city packs its streets and parks for high-flying outdoor performances during July’s Montreal Cirque Festival. Crowds also love the Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada and the International des Feux Loto-Québec, a fireworks competition that runs throughout summer.

When you need a city break, head for the hills. Quebec is home to several national parks that offer hut-to-hut backpacking experiences in stunning coastal and mountain landscapes. Don’t miss the return of the beluga whales and 12 other cetacean species to the salty waters of the Lawrence River in summer.

RELATED: 17 Surprising Reasons to Visit Quebec and Montreal This Summer

Read the original story: 10 Destinations That Are at Their Absolute Best in Summer by Jamie Moore, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

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