Summer is like the fun friend that sneaks into a party and then sneaks out just as quietly. It shows up a little late, is in the backdrop to some unforgettable memories, and before you know it, it’s gone. August is your time to catch summer before it leaves without a word.
If you haven’t made travel plans yet this summer, the clock’s ticking. Luckily, August is the ideal time to visit many destinations. It’s the month when the initial summer rush has passed, kids are starting to go back to school (or preparing to do so), and people are already looking forward to fall. This month’s list includes enticing domestic destinations. And, in honor of the recent reopening of many European countries to US citizens, destinations on the Old Continent. From Rockland, Maine, to the beaches of Parnu in Estonia, these places (listed from international to stateside locations) belong on any August travel wish list.
1. Ajaccio, Corsica
This island in the Mediterranean, located off the coasts of France and Italy, is more than just the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte. Though part of France, Corsica has its own culture and culinary traditions that make it a unique summer getaway. Ajaccio, the island’s capital, is your best bet for a home base. It will immediately become evident to you that the city is inextricably bound to its Napoleonic past. The central thoroughfare, Cours Napoleon, was built at the direction of Bonaparte. In addition to several statues in his likeness, you’ll find that monuments, hotels, restaurants, cafes, and the airport bear his name.
Once you’ve thoroughly brushed up on your Napoleonic history by exploring the city’s old town, which dates back to the 15th century, check out the island’s green side just minutes from the city. Go west toward the Lava Gulf, where you’ll find some of the best views and beaches on the island. You can also take a boat trip from Ajaccio itself to enjoy the coastal scenery from the water. Make sure not to skip Iles Sanguinaires (which translates to the Blood Islands), an archipelago west of Ajaccio known for its reddish hue and a lighthouse from 1870.
Corsica is also known for its canyons. The natural features present a perfect opportunity for nature lovers who want to get their hands dirty. From the family-friendly Vecchio Canyon, which has a river that’s perfect for children to swim, to the Zoicu Canyon near the village of Soccia, located in the Corsican Mountains, Corsica has no shortage of outdoor adventure.
2. Tisno, Croatia
This small town of just over 3,000 people on the Croatian coast may look unassuming, but it’s home to one of Europe’s most epic music festivals. From August 5-10 this year, Tisno will host Defected Croatia, a house music festival featuring acts like Gorgon City, Armand Van Helden, and Todd Terry. If August travel to Croatia isn’t on the horizon for you, the town also hosts other festivals throughout the summer, including Love International, Outlook, and Dimensions.
Located primarily on the mainland and partly on the small island of Murter, Tisno is a quiet destination when there are no festivals in town. That means you can strike a balance between sleepless nights and a relaxing beach vacation. There are two main beaches in Tisno: The pebbly Jazina Beach on the mainland and Iza Andrija on Murter Island. The coast is perfect for diving, and Tramonto Diving can help get you outfitted and prepared to hit the water.
From Tisno, it’s easy to visit Vransko Lake Nature Park, one of Croatia’s most picturesque nature parks. The park is home to Croatia’s largest lake, as well as over 260 bird species like herons and egrets. You can also set up camp at one of the park’s campsites or hike the panorama trail around the lake.
3. Stockholm, Sweden
You’re probably familiar with Stockholm, Sweden’s capital city, but you might not be quite as familiar with the city’s archipelago, which is composed of approximately 24,000 islands and islets. Easily accessible by ferry, many of these islands serve as summer vacation destinations for Swedes, much the same way that Cape Cod is a popular summer retreat for New Englanders. However, unlike Cape Cod, you don’t have to sit in traffic for four hours to enjoy the archipelago — just hop on one of the Waxholmsbolaget ferries.
Vaxholm is one of the archipelago’s most popular islands for both Swedes and tourists alike. The capital of the archipelago, Vaxholm, has museums, art galleries, restaurants, and an old town with pastel-colored wooden houses. Also, make sure to check out Vaxholm Fortress, a defensive citadel dating back to the 1500s, which was once used to defend Stockholm.
For a more nature-centric experience, visit the island of Grinda, known for its beaches, trails, and outdoor adventure. Part of a nature reserve, Grinda is considered one of the most beautiful islands in the archipelago, and it’s perfect for a day trip since it’s under a two-hour ferry ride from Stockholm. From kayaking around the island to exploring its forest hiking trails and sunbathing on the beach, look no further than Grinda for a summer day trip.
For a truly relaxing experience, check out Svartsö — a smaller island known as the “greenest” in the archipelago. Swim in the lake, or rent a bicycle and travel the picturesque trails or rock-lined roads. Since the island only has 100 residents, you’ll truly feel like you’ve escaped the masses.
4. Parnu, Estonia
Northeastern Europe might not come to mind when you envision a summer vacation, but that’s probably because you’ve never been to the beaches of Estonia. The Baltic country is a bit far removed from classic European summer destinations that usually make these lists, but that’s precisely what makes it so special. Between the country’s beach towns, national parks, and lake retreats, Estonia is one of Europe’s best summer vacation spots.
One of the country’s most popular leisure destinations for locals, Parnu is filled with small, locally owned shops, tree-lined streets, and pastel-colored buildings reminiscent of a Caribbean resort town. In Parnu, it’s all about the Beach Promenade. This walking and biking path is the best way to access the beach. While it lacks the bustle of Barcelona’s beachside strip, its simplicity is exactly what makes it so appealing. With warm water, surfboard rentals, ice cream stands, and a park, what more do you need?
For an island escape, head to the island of Saaremaa. To get there, travel an hour northwest of Parnu to Virtsu and take the short ferry ride to Muhu Island. From there, you can drive to Saaremaa. Sareema is full of hiking trails, traditional Estonian villages, and of course, beaches. Its capital of Kuressaare is home to a 14th-century castle standing on an artificial island surrounded by a moat. Outdoor concerts are often held in the castle’s yard throughout summer.
5. Echternach, Luxembourg
Sandwiched between Belgium, France, and Germany, Luxembourg is often overlooked by travelers who choose to visit the country’s larger neighbors. That’s great news for travelers looking for a summer trip where they won’t have to share with thousands of like-minded tourists. Echternach is the perfect home base for a trip to Luxembourg, though since the whole country is smaller than Rhode Island, you’ll never find yourself with an accessibility problem no matter where you choose to stay.
Echternach is located right on the German border, on the banks of the Sûre River. Although the city is known for its proximity to the famous Mullerthal Trail, you could easily spend a few days in Echternach exploring the seventh-century abbey and the expansive old town center (not to mention ducking into the many bars, restaurants, and cafes). However, the Mullerthal Trail is most certainly the area’s chief attraction, with three loops of some of the best hiking and cycling in the country. The 70-mile trail begins in Echternach and brings you through a lush green forest and past epic rock formations, small waterfalls, canyons, and caves.
Just under an hour’s drive from Echternach is the Moselle Valley, otherwise known as Luxembourg’s wine country. With wine producers who grow riesling, pinot gris, chardonnay, and pinot noir, the Moselle Valley is home to plenty of wineries that are more than happy to let you sample their craft. The Kox winery in Remich is a family-owned operation producing Luxembourgish wines since the 1970s and offers tours and tastings. Make sure to try the cremant, a sparkling wine that’s pretty much the country’s unofficial national beverage.
6. Rockland, Maine
Visiting Maine in the summer isn’t exactly a brand new idea, but many travelers never make it farther north than Portland. It’s worth the extra drive to venture up the coast to Rockland, about an hour-and-a-half north of Portland. Downtown Rockland is full of art galleries, including the Farnsworth and the Dowling Walsh Gallery, historic buildings, and seaside views that will leave you with no doubt that you’re in Maine.
Rockland is perhaps best known for its old-fashioned schooners, which depart regularly from Rockland during the summer on tourist trips along the coast and to Maine’s many islands. The Maine Windjammer Association operates many cruises, and the company fully immerses passengers in the sailing experience, including setting the sails or bringing up the anchor.
If an August travel experience in Rockland is in your future, make sure to coordinate your trip with the Maine Lobster Festival. Taking place this year from August 3-7, the festival began back in 1947 as a way to revive coastal Maine communities. Now it’s become one of the state’s most widely recognized and longest-held traditions. Each year thousands of hungry visitors and lobster fishers come together to share their love of lobster and dine together on Maine’s signature seafood.
7. Payson, Arizona
At first glance, Payson might not look like it’s in Arizona at all. Located at a high elevation in Arizona’s Mogollon Rim, this town of 15,000 people has a geographic anomaly in a state known for its desert: It’s surrounded by the Tonto National Forest and is home to a lush park with a popular fishing lake. You can find the best fishing along the Mogollon Rim that surrounds Payson. The area has several lakes and rivers brimming with native fish.
In Payson itself, Green Valley Park is considered to have some of the best urban fishing in the country, with a lake, fountain, and multiple covered areas for picnics. There is also an abundance of walking trails. If you’re looking for a more adventurous outdoor experience — and don’t mind the summer heat — check out the Mazatzal Mountains, about an hour northeast of town. Here, you can hike to an altitude of 8,000 feet and see birds, bears, and mountain lions (hopefully from a distance) along the way.
Payson’s biggest claim to fame is the Payson Pro Rodeo — the world’s oldest continuous rodeo that’s been in operation since 1884. Since you really can’t take a trip out West without seeing a rodeo, you might as well schedule your visit for the weekend of August 20 this year, which is when the rodeo takes place. You’ll be treated to some of the rodeo industry’s finest saddle bronc riding, bull riding, steer wrestling, tie-down roping, barrel racing, and mutton bustin’. And if you don’t know what any of that means, it’s the perfect time to learn.
8. Memphis, Tennessee
When you visit the birthplace of rock n’ roll, you can expect your trip to be all about music. While that’s partially true, there’s more to Memphis than its storied musical past. Located on the Mississippi, Memphis is one of the best gateways to exploring the river. The Big River Crossing pedestrian and bike bridge extends across the river from Memphis to Arkansas, with dramatic views of the mighty Mississippi the whole way. At night, an LED display illuminates the bridge for an even more dazzling effect.
In the city itself, make sure you spend some time on Broad Avenue. The city’s arts district is perfect for casually wasting a summer afternoon. Home to more than 70 boutique shops, art galleries, artist studios, restaurants, and bars, this district embodies the character of contemporary Memphis better than anywhere else. From The Liquor Store — which is actually a Cuban diner and bar — to the delicious Muddy’s Bake Shop and the locally renowned T Clifton glass art gallery, Broad Avenue is the beating heart of Memphis.
But of course, you can’t leave Memphis without at least a tiny dose of rock n’ roll. You can visit Elvis Pressley’s Graceland estate any time of year, but in August, there’s an entire week dedicated to the music legend himself. Elvis Week occurs from August 11 to 17 this year at Graceland, including concerts, contests, special tours, and panel discussions. If you didn’t care about Elvis before coming to Memphis, you sure will when you leave.
9. Grand Junction, Colorado
Most visitors of Colorado focus their attention east of the Rocky Mountains in Denver or flock to the mountains for world-class skiing in the winter and trails and outdoor activities in the summer. The Western Slope of the state, however, shouldn’t be missed. Grand Junction is a beautiful four-hour drive across the Rockies to the desert-like landscape of Western Colorado. While the whole state is ideal for outdoors enthusiasts, Grand Junction is home to a vast network of hiking and biking trails at Colorado National Monument and Grand Mesa, not to mention the rafting, skiing, and other outdoor sports the area is known for.
The area’s two main geological highlights are undoubtedly Colorado National Monument and Grand Mesa. The latter is a laptop wallpaper-esque landscape of red rock formations dating back as far as a billion years. Go bicycling along Rim Rock Drive, explore the various canyons, hike the numerous trails, or spend the night camping at the Saddlehorn Campground. Grand Mesa is about an hour-and-a-half east from town, but the drive is worth it. The largest flat-top mountain in the world, Grand Mesa, towers over the surrounding landscape 10,000 feet above sea level. You can hike its trails or just drive the byway stretching 63 miles through the forest for incredible mountain views.
In Grand Junction, August is synonymous with the Palisade Peach Festival. No, Georgia doesn’t have a monopoly on peaches. The annual festival has been held in the neighboring town of Palisade for the past 52 years, with vendors from all around the region, live music, a “biggest peach” contest, peach throwing contest, orchard tours, parade, car show, and more. There’s even a “backyard peach BBQ throwdown,” in case things were looking a little too friendly for you. This year’s festival is being held across four days, from August 19 to August 22.