The Best Places to Travel in August

Jul 5, 2019

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When August arrives, it may already feel like summer is winding down, and that it’s time to start thinking about back-to-school shopping and pumpkin spice lattes. But you don’t have to go full-on autumn mood just yet — there’s still time for one last summer getaway.

This August, it’s best to avoid some of the rainy, hurricane-prone Caribbean, Central American and southeastern US destinations. Instead, take advantage of mild weather, convenient flight routes and animal migrations for August summer travel inspiration and head to spots within Europe, Africa and even our neighbor to the north, Canada.

Ready to plan the rest of your 2019 travels? Check out our guide to the 12 best places to visit every month of 2019.

Scotland

There’s never really a bad time to visit the sweeping highlands or the 750-ish islands of Scotland.

But one of Scotland’s most famous events — the Edinburgh Fringe Festival — spans almost the entire month (August 2 to 26), making it one of the most exciting times of the year to visit. The festival deems itself as “the world’s greatest platform for creative freedom,” featuring an array of entertainment like cabarets, concerts, drag shows, comedy, children’s performances, dance, theater, circus acts, silent discos, tours and guided walks, opera, poetry readings and more. There are even some 1,200 groups performing family-friendly events every day along spots like the Royal Mile.

Then there’s the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo festival, which has nothing to do with inking up. Instead, see military and cultural acts, as well as music and dance (think: bagpipes and drums) with the iconic Edinburgh castle as a backdrop (Aug. 2 to 24). The festival is aptly timed, with the same dates as the Fringe Festival so you can enjoy both in one visit.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. (Photo by Roberto Ricciuti / Getty Images)

Although whisky month isn’t technically until next May, you can always enjoy a dram at any time of year. With over 120 different distilleries across the country (and plenty of bars, too), you have endless opportunities to sample the malted spirit.

Farther north, you can check out some of the Killin Highland Games in spots all throughout the Highlands region on various dates throughout August and into September. The games are usually one-day events in the countryside featuring traditional Highland sports, like tug of war and a hammer throw. Expect to join in on the real Scottish Highland traditions, while enjoying parades, dancing, music, craft and food markets and more.

While here, you can also check out Scotland’s just-launched Heart 200 tourist route, which circles around Perth, Stirling; The Trossachs; and Highland Perthshire.

Through the end of October, you can continue to fly nonstop on American’s seasonal route from Philadelphia (PHL) to Edinburgh (EDI) on its 757 aircraft daily.

Rwanda

August marks peak season in Rwanda, when it’s dry and warm — perfect conditions for gorilla trekking. And considering the somber legacy of civil unrest, poaching and habitat loss, it’s not surprising there are only about 1,000 mountain gorillas left in the region, many of which live in the Virunga Mountains and Volcanoes National Park. See them soon, because these elusive creatures are endangered — and permit costs are on the rise.

In an effort to minimize the impact of humans, only a limited number of permits are issued per day. Permits are also extremely expensive — doubling in price from past years, they now cost $1,500. Book as soon as you have your dates confirmed to ensure you’re able to enter while on your trip. While the price may seem extreme, just remember that you’re helping to protect these gentle giants and preserve their habitat.

A gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. (Photo by Mint Images Art Wolfe / Getty Images)
A gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. (Photo by Mint Images Art Wolfe / Getty Images)

While trekking may not be glamorous, your stay in Rwanda certainly can be at Singita’s brand-new Rwandan property, Kwitonda Lodge, slated for an August opening. The property is located on 178-acres at the edge of Volcanoes National Park. Rooms will feature fireplaces and private plunge pools, and the property will have its own wine cellar, spa and the Kwitonda Nursery, which will grow some of the fruits and vegetables served in meals.

Game viewing isn’t limited to gorillas either, especially in August at the Akagera National Park. Dry weather means fewer watering holes, so more animals must gather together where they can find it. For this reason, animals in herds or groups are much easier to spot at this time. Keep a lookout for elephants, buffalo, lions, zebras, waterbucks, antelopes, baboons, leopards and hyenas.

Another highlight? The annual Umuganura festival is celebrated throughout the entire country on the first Friday of every August, falling on Aug. 2 in 2019. The festival, which is a celebration of the harvest, features processions, parades, fashion shows and typical Rwandan sports and games.

Michigan

Frolicking in freshwater is an easy beach vacation to pull off in the state of Michigan. Besides bordering four out of the five Great Lakes, the state has more than 60,000 lakes, meaning there’s definitely enough sand and water for your annual summer getaway. In August, the weather is warm and usually sunny, and Michigan is easy to reach, especially if you’re already based in the Midwest.

Michigan Lake beach stairs summer
Lake Michigan in the Upper Peninsula. (Photo by ehrlif / Getty Images)

The state has some exciting events to check out in the month of August, too. Jazz seems to be the music of choice here, with the Lansing Jazz Festival (Aug. 2 and 3), the 8th Annual Grand Jazz Fest in Grand Rapids (Aug. 17 and 18) and the Labor Day Jazz Weekend on Mackinac Island (Aug. 30 through Sept. 2).

But art and cinema are also appreciated here, and travelers can check out the Traverse City Film Festival (July 30 to Aug. 4) and the ArtFeast in Lansing on Aug. 17. Experience some culture with the Grand Rapids Hispanic Festival (Aug. 9 to 11) and the Saginaw African Cultural Festival, which falls on the same dates. You’ll also find  bumping beats at the Summer Music Fest in Frankenmuth, which has everything from polka to vintage rock n’ roll from Aug. 8 to 17.

We recommend spending at least a night or two exploring Detroit, which is experiencing a renaissance after falling out of favor for decades. Stay at the Shinola Hotel, which opened earlier this year. The design property has rooms that may seem chic and simple at first glance, but vintage elements like rotary phones and record players add character to the space. Make sure to dine at the hotel’s Italian restaurant, San Morello, which is run by star chef Andrew Carmellini.

Iceland

Despite the collapse of low-cost Icelandic carrier WOW earlier this year, there are still plenty of ways to get to Iceland from the US this summer, including seasonal routes on the national flag carrier, Icelandair. And because WOW’s demise may have triggered a decline in tourism, travelers may find there are fewer other tourists to compete with on the island than usual this summer. Although flights may be more costly, once you arrive, expect to spend a bit less. The exchange rate has improved for US travelers, with a rate of nearly 126 Icelandic Krona per US dollar — one of the best rates this year so far.

August is one of Iceland’s warmest months, making it one of the best times to visit. And, you may just catch the tail end of the midnight-sun phenomenon. Although the full midnight sun is most visible around the summer solstice, at the beginning of August, the sun dips below the horizon for a very short period of darkness at midnight and then rises right back up. With only a few hours of darkness each evening, plan to pack your favorite eyemask! If you’re visiting at the end of the month and get lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights as the hours of darkness slowly increase.

The mild weather in August is ideal for getting outdoors and exploring the glaciers, black-sand beaches, waterfalls, hot springs and more. You can even spot more than 20 species of whales migrating from the Atlantic to the Arctic, including orcas and humpbacks, white-beaked dolphins and porpoises. The puffin migration is also a site to behold: Over half the world’s puffins reside in Iceland and the nation’s waters. These adorable birds spend most of the year at sea but return to Iceland in the summer.

Puffins Iceland Migrating
Puffins off the coast in Iceland. (Photo by Neurobite / Getty Images)

August in Iceland also sees its share of festivals in the capital, such as Reykjavík Pride (Aug. 8 to 17) and Reykjavík Culture Night (Aug. 24), the latter of which is a one-day festival with street food, performances and other events culminating with a fireworks display at midnight.

Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Canada scored a spot on our July list thanks to new connections between the US and Montreal and Toronto, as well as the Quebec Summer City festival. But the country’s most eastern province, Newfoundland, deserves to be on of our list of top August picks as well.

One of the main reasons to visit during the late summer is to see one of the world’s largest populations of humpback whales migrate along the coast. They’re joined by 21 other species of whales, as well as dolphins. You can see the majestic animals ply the waters from the shore or book a whale watching boat trip. If your trip to the region occurs at the beginning of August, you could be lucky enough to spot icebergs that have floated down from Greenland.

During your trip, had to Gros Morne National Park — one of the biggest lures to the region. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to fjords and waterfalls, many of which are accessible by boat or even kayak or canoe. And St. John’s, the capital of the region, may just be one of the most charming cities in the country. It’s famous for its colorful houses along Jellybean Row, though these vibrant, terraced houses can actually be found throughout the entire city.

Trout River Pond inGros Morne National Park, Newfoundland. (Photo by Robert George Young / Getty Images)
Trout River Pond in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland. (Photo by Robert George Young / Getty Images)

For a unique accommodation experience, stay overnight at one of the four corners of the Earth at the Fogo Island Inn. Perched on rocks jutting out into the ocean, the hotel sports floor-to-ceiling windows that afford the contemporary and luxurious cabins incredible views of the ocean’s waves battering the coast.

Budapest

Eastern Europe is great for travelers who aren’t in the mood to fight the August crowds and intense heat that plagues many other European and Mediterranean destinations such as Spain, Italy, Greece and France.

The pleasant temperatures and sunshine ensure plenty of exciting activities in the Hungarian capital. Boat parties occur on ships that sail the Danube, providing booze and evening excitement along the river. And bath parties, though the title is a bit vague, are Budapest’s version of a summer evening pool party, where the famous thermal baths turn into nightclubs, featuring laser light shows and music, all of which you can enjoy while having a swim.

Budapest riverfront daytime danube
Budapest from the Danube. (Photo by holgs / Getty Images)

The Formula One Hungarian Grand Prix car race takes place every year in the tiny town of Mogyorod, a short drive from Budapest (Aug. 2 to 4). The month also has a number of festivals including Budapest Summer Fest, which has indoor and outdoor concerts, art, theater and more (dates are scattered throughout August).

Consider checking out the Festival of Folk Arts, if only to see its beautiful location on Castle Hill (Aug. 17 to 20). And from Aug. 7 to 13, the Sziget Festival on Hajógyári Island is famous for its daredevil attractions, like bungee jumping, as well as trippy art installations (think: a wooden rainforest with colorful lights) and popular musical acts like Post Malone, Ed Sheeran and Macklemore. And definitely don’t miss the most famous event, the celebration of St. Stephan, which is commemorated with concerts, food vendors and an impressive fireworks display over the river on Aug. 20.

Although the W Budapest and Hyatt Regency Budapest won’t be opening until 2020, you can still rest your head at the recently renovated and reopened Parisi Udvar Hotel Budapest, a newly acquired Hyatt Unbound Collection property. The hotel’s 110 rooms were decorated by Hungarian artist and designer Agnes Toth, inspired by art nouveau with a nod to Hungary’s diversity and history. Rates for the Category 2 property start at 8,000 point per night.

Featured photo of the Virunga Mountains and Volcanoes in Rwanda by stellalevi / Getty Images.

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