There’s no way around it: late summer is one of the most popular times to travel. The season may be entering its twilight phase, but the climate remains warm and balmy, the trees are green and lush, and the thought of another school year is still a distant reality. For many, August is the last chance to sneak in one final vacation before the warm weather draws to a close.
The month’s steadily comfortable temperatures and abundance of vegetation allows for some of the best opportunities to spot wildlife in their natural habitats. The cool, dry atmosphere of Kenya in August spurs the great migration, when herds of wildebeest and zebra shift their grazing territory from the Serengeti to the Mara plains. If marine life is more your speed, August is considered one of the better times to head to the Galápagos, where playful whales, sea lions, penguins, and albatross make regular appearances.
As September—and fall—looms ever closer, many travelers scramble to pack in some last-minute summer fun. Luckily, August hosts some of the year’s most exciting events. Out west, Nevada’s third largest city rises from the dusty desert into Burning Man, a social gathering that lasts a week but draws thousands more attendees each year.
If it’s culture and cuisine you’re after, look to Berlin or Ljubljana, Slovenia, each with their own vibrant mix of European history and innovative chefs and vintners reinventing the local menu. Portland, Oregon, one of America’s best food towns, is always a great option for re imagined global cuisine—not to mention its famous coffee and craft beer.
Of course, there’s no better time than summer to take in the great outdoors. Few destinations offer as much versatility in the way of active adventure as Vancouver, from nature walks in Stanley Park to hiking, camping, and kayaking off Vancouver Island. Are you more of a night owl? Places with dark-sky-park status like Big Bend, Texas, become a hot ticket in August for stargazing, when the Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak.
Itching to maximize your late summer exploits before the season transitions into fall? Take a look at the best places to see and be seen this August.
Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
The sprawling natural landscapes and sheer abundance of wildlife keep Kenya high on Africa’s safari docket. August in Kenya, which is dry and cool, signals the start of the great migration—considered the eighth natural wonder of the world. Here, herds of wildebeest and zebra depart the Serengeti for Kenya’s Mara region, where wildlife spotting is at its very best. Enjoy an Out of Africa moment at Angama Mara, a 30-suite lodge on a Great Rift Valley escarpment where the movie was filmed, as you watch the herds move across the plains.
Big Bend National Park, Texas
With America’s National Park Service turning 100 on August 25, its centennial has spawned celebrations around the country—and newfound interest in the country’s great parklands. Big Bend, in Texas, earned International Dark Sky Park status for its pristine, clear skies void of light pollution (in fact, it has the least amount of pollution compared to any other national park in the lower 48 states). Here, viewers can see the distinct streak of the Milky Way. The famous Perseid meteor shower, considered the best meteor display of the year, peaks in August—and there might be no better place to watch it than from the isolated reaches of far west Texas. If you go, be sure to bring your stargazing essentials.
Black Rock Desert, Nevada
Everything is bigger and wilder in Nevada: Las Vegas, the Mojave Desert, and, every August, the mesmerizing social experiment turned annual cult gathering known as Burning Man. Each year, tens of thousands of resilient individuals take their bikes and Winnebagos out to Black Rock City, a temporary community raised out of the desert sand, to live out a week of artistic self-expression, self-reliance, and camaraderie. It’s a phenomenon that continues to evolve and grow—last year welcomed 70,000 attendees, making it the third largest city in the state—but one thing remains certain: dusty selfies have never been in more demand.
It’s a long time coming, but America’s Comeback City has officially made its way back into the tourism circuit. What was once a town in dire straits is now an incubator for development, welcoming sleek new hotels, a redesigned riverfront park, luxury retail outlets like John Varvatos and soon-to-come Nike, and over 100 new restaurants in just the last few years.
Travel to this buzzy European capital in August and you’ll score its lowest hotel rates of the year—but it’s a mystery why. Berlin’s culture calendar saves its best for the summer, and this month is no exception, welcoming the city’s beloved International Beer Festival as well as Dance in August, one of Europe’s most important contemporary dance festivals. On the food front, local restaurants have recently upped their game, with international chefs serving up innovative fare in artsy new outposts, such as the Vietnamese-influenced Madame Ngo, the high-society hangout Le Petit Royal, and Louis Pretty, known for its German twists on American Jewish deli staples
Galápagos Islands, Equador
August is high season in the Galápagos, one of the best places to travel, when the weather has cooled down and summer’s undercurrents have brought nutrients to the water’s surface—spawning a feeding frenzy for local wildlife. The biodiversity here is unparalleled: spot Minke and Sperm whales off Isabella Island, sea lions and their pups around San Cristobal and the Plazas, giant tortoises on Santa Cruz, Galápagos penguins on Fernandina, and waved albatross adolescents adjusting to life on their own on the island of Espanola. Weeklong cruises make the most of this trip of a lifetime, with stops at smaller islands and onboard naturalists ready to unleash their knowledge.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Ah, Vancouver. Framed by snowcapped peaks, evergreen forests, and the tranquil Pacific Ocean, this boomtown is Canada’s jewel of the Pacific Northwest, a hub for eco-friendly hotels, restaurants serving the freshest seafood and Asian fusion, an ever-strong cocktail culture, and endless outdoor pursuits. Its ideal position on the western coast makes summer days more crisp and pleasant than hot and sticky. Spend time exploring the city’s shores by kayak, hiking mountain trails, browsing modern art galleries—or better yet, make it a starting point on an odyssey across the country.
Slovenia’s capital is a time capsule into Eastern Europe of old, home to a 9th-century castle rebuilt in the 16th, majestic palazzos turned hotels, aging squares, and winding sidewalks connecting by stone bridges. This year, it became an official European Green Capital: imagine a downtown free of cars (instead, bikes everywhere) and more trees than you’d expect from the largest city in the country, found everywhere from Tivoli Park to its two-century-old botanical gardens. A food movement has emerged here, focused on molecular cuisine born out of traditional Slovenian dishes. You’ll find it at Špajza, whose bistro fare draws from family recipes, and Vinoteka Movia, showcasing the region’s many vintages
St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Caribbean
As in the rest of the Caribbean, prices and crowds drop in the Grenadines during the late summer. Rain is a constant threat in August, but that just means the island will be at its most lush. Embrace the glamorous lifestyle by island-hopping via yacht, or pick your favorite and stay awhile. Rub elbows with the style set on the resort-strewn isle of Canouan, a magnet for billionaires thanks to its yacht-filled marinas, award-winning restaurants, and dreamy villas overlooking the turquoise surf. This month, keep a lookout for events surrounding the Breadfruit Festival, which pays homage to the island’s heritage.
In recent years, Portland’s profile has far surpassed Seattle’s, thanks in no small part to its eccentric start-ups, too-hip restaurants, explosion of microbreweries, and enviable laidback lifestyle. August is consistently warm in Stumptown, and locals are in their element, taking advantage of the city’s indie coffee shops, eclectic festivals, and storied outdoors culture. There are tons of free activities to take part in, from biking to browsing farmers’ markets to gallery hopping. Whatever you do, don’t miss Bite of Oregon on Waterfront Park, an annual August festival that celebrates local food, wine, and craft beer with Iron Chef competitions, local music, and more tastings than you’ll likely have time for.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
New hotels, museums, and even entire districts have been built or rebuilt in preparation for the crowds, including the innovative Museum of Tomorrow, the modern Museo de Arte do Rio, and a Grand Hyatt in a coastal suburb. With its mountains, beaches, and distinctive bossa nova, this dynamic Brazilian city is a bucket-list destination in and of itself, but this year becomes a scene you won’t want to miss—if you can score a ticket
Westman Islands, Iceland
During Iceland’s harsh winter, daylight is scarce, museums are closed, and many of its interior roads are clogged with ice and snow, closing much of the island to travelers. Summer is a different story, when days experience up to 20 hours of sunlight and routes to some of the island’s most spectacular settings—the Highlands, the Westfjords—reopen, their rolling green landscapes primed for mid-day hikes and horseback rides. Come August, bird-watching enthusiasts make a beeline for the Westman Islands, in the south, to watch adolescent puffins take flight from their cliff-side nests for the first time. And in late summer, another local pastime resumes: berry picking, when the blueberry-like wild bilberry ripens to ideal sweetness.