Get close to nature on a self drive safari

May is often seen as an odd time to go on holiday, but savvy travellers know that it can be one of the best times to get away. Experiencing the quiet before the storm of summer of visitors often means shorter queues, comfortable temperatures and lower prices. Here’s our guide to where to go on in May.

Best May holidays for… cities

Short haul: Berlin, Germany

Berlin Brandenburg Gate 200Brandenburg Gate
Berlin is experiencing something of a renaissance as travellers discover that Germany’s capital city has much to offer. Great museums, designer boutiques and trendy clubs abound and whilst classic European destinations such as Paris and Venice may trade more on their historic charms. Here, the juxtaposition between the new and the old lends Berlin an energy unmatched anywhere else.

Music buffs should seek out the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra - led by conductor Simon Rattle, it is one of the best in the world. Those interested in the arts will be spoilt for choice as the city has many museums, one of the best being The Neue Nationalgalerie, which houses a great collection of modern art. May is also a wonderful time for foodies to visit as it is Spargelzeit (asparagus season). Menus will pay homage to the white variety of asparagus that grows in Germany, and the markets will be piled high.

Long haul: Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town 200Table Mountain is a must see
Buoyed by the success of the South Africa hosting the World Cup, Cape Town has emerged as a vibrant tourist destination in its own right. It’s a sociable city that retains its cosmopolitan vibe with glittering nightlife and sophisticated shopping. Spectacular attractions such as Table Mountain, miles of wonderful coastline and verdant vineyards nearby entice visitors, while must-sees such as Robben Island and trips to nearby townships give a level of historical insight that goes deeper than most museums ordinarily might.

May is towards the tail end of the high season when temperatures start to dip slightly (as do prices!) but the weather is still balmy and this is a great time to see the vineyards in bloom, or to go whale-watching.

Best May holidays for… beaches

Short haul: Bodrum, Turkey

Bodrum Turkey 200Bodrum is one of the most popular beach resorts in Turkey
Situated on the Aegean coast, Bodrum is one of Turkey’s most luxurious beach resorts and with good reason. The ‘Turquoise Coast’ alone – named because of the vivid blue colour of the sea here – would be enough to entice visitors, but Bodrum, despite its popularity, still retains the charm of a small resort, populated as it is with bright white-walled houses. Go shopping within the narrow streets, where you can pick up souvenirs from the local arts and crafts stalls such as handmade leather sandals, textiles and copperware.

Bodrum is also home to some of Turkey’s most chic restaurants, catering to owners of the million pound yachts bobbing about in the bay, but there are eateries to suit all tastes (and budgets!). Go now to beat the summer crowds and grab pride of place on the beach.

Long haul: Trancoso, Brazil

Trancoso 200Relax on the beach in Trancoso, Brazil
Creative Commons / MichellZappa
Why visit a sleepy, rustic village in the depths of northeastern Brazil? Well Trancoso is no ordinary village. Haven to wealthy Paulistanos seeking to escape Sao Paulo’s frenetic streets, it’s the perfect antidote to the tribulations of urban life and has been touted as one of Brazil's most up-and-coming destinations.

The pace here is slow. Do as the locals do and sit in the beautiful quadrado, which forms the focal point of village life – make sure to investigate the converted huts on its perimeter which now house restaurants and artists’ workshops and boutiques. Pay a visit to Igreja de São João Batista, the second oldest church in Brazil. After lunch, make your way down to the beach to swim off lunch, or just sit and watch the waves gently lap the shore.

Best May holidays for… outdoors

Short haul: Reykjavik, Iceland

Reyjkjavik Iceland 200Try a glacier trek in Iceland
Despite the ash cloud disruption of last year, and the turbulent economic climate of recent times, Iceland is still an excellent place to visit, particularly in May as the days lengthen (nightfall occurs at around 11pm). It’s a photographer’s paradise as the country is dense with natural-world attractions – geysers, the Aurora Borealis, whale-watching, the Blue Lagoon, the Snaefellsjokull glacier, the list goes on. Most of these can be done in a daytrip from Reykjavik, but the city itself also has numerous cultural goings-on to entice the visitor, as well as a burgeoning reputation for a fun nightlife.

A trip to Iceland is perfect for those seeking an outdoor holiday, and there are lots of tour operators that can put together a personalised itinerary so that you can explore this bewilderingly beautiful country at your own pace.

Long haul: Namibia

Namibia safari 200Explore Namibia's wild landscape
Hikers, safari-goers and thrill-seekers alike will love Namibia, appealing as it does to all those with a love of active holidays. Dramatic desert landscapes, majestic wildlife, mountainous terrain and sumptuous beaches will thrill visitors, while the friendly people and decent infrastructure mean that travelling in Namibia is reasonably easy (self-drive safaris are common) and safe.

Head to one of the wonderful national parks – Etosha National Park, a park almost the size of Switzerland, is home to a plethora of wildlife, including elephants, antelope, lions and rhinos. The desert is another must-see. Visit the towering dunes of Sossusvlei and go quad biking along the various trails.

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