The Best Places to Travel in May

Apr 17, 2019

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With summer in sight, your wanderlust may be heating up along with the temperatures. Luckily, May is the perfect month to travel, as it’s shoulder season in many places around the world. A number of destinations have beautiful, sunny weather that’s not too hot yet and are less inundated with tourists.

In fact, May’s the calm before the storm of tourists that Europe sees each summer, and the calm before the actual storms that hit Central America and the Caribbean during the approaching rainy season. You may also be able to score cheaper plane tickets and less-expensive hotel room rates. From our nation’s capital to one of the greatest manmade wonders on Earth, these are five of the best places to travel this May.

Want to plan ahead? Check out our guide to the 12 best places to visit every month of 2019.

Israel

The Dead Sea on a clear day. (Photo by Aeduard / Getty Images)
The Dead Sea on a clear day. (Photo by Aeduard / Getty Images)

Israel is at the top of a number of TPG staff travel itineraries this year, including Nicky Kelvin, TPG UK’s director of content, and The Points Guy himself, Brian Kelly. And it may be on the list for DC-based travelers, too, as United is launching its fourth nonstop route between Washington Dulles (IAD) and Tel Aviv (TLV) on May 22.

But a new flight from the US capital is hardly the only reason to book a trip to Israel in May. Mild, sunny temperatures are kicking off beach season in Tel Aviv and throughout the entire country — floating in the Dead Sea’s salty waters is the perfect way to ready your skin for summer.

Plus, with Israel Independence Day (sunset to sunset from May 8 to May 9) and the Eurovision Song contest (May 14-18), there’s plenty to celebrate. And getting to and from the country’s two most important cities will soon get even easier, especially since Israel working on a high-speed rail linking Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (it’s currently partially open), will which will cut the travel time in half.

Religious or not, everyone can appreciate the mix of Jewish, Muslim and Christian history and culture that makes Jerusalem one of the oldest and holiest cities in the world. Beyond all of the must-see monuments, the warmer weather encourages visitors to check on the Shabbat Friday-evening celebrations along the Kotel Western Wall in Jerusalem. Expect to see thousands of people sharing prayers and positive energy.

Spain

The Patios Festival in Córdoba, Spain. (Photo by Thomas Janisch / Getty Images)
The Patios Festival in Córdoba, Spain. (Photo by Thomas Janisch / Getty Images)

There’s never really a bad time to indulge in Spain’s delicious cuisine or to experience the country’s vibrant culture and ambience. But May is especially ideal, because despite the long days, the extreme heat of summer hasn’t yet arrived.

Start off in the southern region, where you can check out blooming blossoms in charming, white-washed courtyards during Córdoba’s patio festival (May 6 to 19). While you’re down south, check out Seville’s feria, where the sherry flows hard, ensuring you’ll start stamping and clapping in tune with the nonstop flamenco heard on every corner (May 5 to 12).

Barcelona hosts the Spanish Grand Prix on May 12, 2019, and the famous Primavera Sound Festival’s extensive lineup includes artists like J Balvin, James Blake and Erykah Badu (May 27 to June 1). Meanwhile, in the center of the country, the whole city of Madrid comes out to celebrate in honor of its patron saint, St. Isidro, with live music, fairgrounds and parades (May 11 to 15). And if you want to take partying to a whole new level, Ibiza’s opening night parties are scheduled for May 11. For a trendier ibicenco experience, check out the third edition of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Ibiza (May 30), where VIP packages include entrance to the fashion shows and a stay at the famous Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel.

Still not convinced? Iberia (a Chase transfer partner) will start operating their new A350 aircraft from Chicago (ORD) and New York-JFK to Madrid (MAD) at the end of May, so it’s the perfect time to fly to the Iberian paradise from the Midwest.

China

The Great Wall of China. (Photo by William Christen / Unsplash)
The Great Wall of China. (Photo by William Christen / Unsplash)

Admiring the Great Wall of China may already be on your bucket list, but it’ll look even more impressive with thousands of people running its length (er, 26.2 miles). And no, we’re not just talking about swarming tourist hordes — it’s China’s Great Wall Marathon, where 2,500 athletes from over 60 nations will run the wall (May 18, 2019). Plus, Beijing sees mild temperatures and little rain for the month of May, meaning exploring the wall and other outdoor tourist attractions, such as TPG favorite the Summer Palace, will be pleasant.

While Shanghai sees a bit more rain than Beijing does in May, the occasional showers shouldn’t put a damper on your travel plans. In fact, they’ll help clear the air pollution. And Shanghai’s International Tea Expo takes tea culture to a whole new level, with over 800 stalls featuring tea, clothing, ceramics, packaging machine and of course, tea (May 9 to 12, 2019).

Travelers visiting Shanghai can stay at the world’s first underground hotel — or at least one you can stay at using points. The InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland, which opened in late 2018, has only two aboveground stories with 15 down below. It may sound a little dreary, but it’s actually luminous, built into the edge of an abandoned quarry alongside waterfalls and small, rocky islets. At once eco-friendly and adventure-friendly, the hotel will organize bungee jumps and climbing experiences for its thrill-seeking guests.

Mozambique

An empty beach in Mozambique. (Photo by redcharlie / Getty Images)
An empty beach in Mozambique. (Photo by redcharlie / Getty Images)

May is the start of Mozambique’s dry season, meaning beach bums should head to the country known as the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean” for its off-the-beaten-path shores. Because the weather is unfalteringly warm in May, so are the waters, meaning it’s the perfect time for diving, snorkeling, swimming and boating.

Although May isn’t the best time for game viewing (the rainy season is better for that), it’s when Mozambique sees fewer tourists and fewer mosquitoes — a seriously underrated plus.

Travelers who want to see the Big Five should consider combining a visit to South Africa’s Kruger Park for game viewing with down time at one of Mozambique’s most beautiful beaches, like the sparkling sands of Xai-Xai. Not only is the recently opened, 1.8-mile Maputo-Katembe bridge the longest bridge in Africa, but it also shaves 90 minutes off the drive between South Africa and Mozambique’s capital city, Maputo, making it easier to visit both countries in one go.

Mozambique has more than blissful beaches, though. One of the most important cultural and arts festivals in Africa takes place in Maputo each May: the Azgo Festival (May 16 to 19, 2019). The three-day event will bring together a collection of artists from Mozambique and all of Africa to put on an incredible display of music, film and dance — even events for children, too.

Washington, DC

The Lincoln Memorial Circle Northwest in Washington, DC (Photo by Casey Horner / Unsplash)

For those wanting to stay on US soil, May is the ideal time for a getaway to the nation’s capital. Enjoy the mild weather as you stay at one of the city’s newer hotels, like the hip Moxy Washington, DC Downtown, which opened at the end of 2018, or the Conrad Washington, DC, which opened earlier this year. The Conrad even has a special grand-opening bonus offer where visitors can earn 5,000 bonus points on stays of three nights or more through Sept. 7, 2019.

It’s true that the cherry blossoms are typically gone by May, but visitors can still admire springtime blooms during the 92nd Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival (April 26 to May 5, 2019) in nearby Frederick County, Virginia. Besides viewing the blossoms, festivalgoers can attend carnivals, concerts, golf tournaments, a wine fest and cider tastings.

If you still need more floral inspiration, the Flower Mart festival (May 4) takes place at the National Cathedral, complete with plenty of buds in bloom for the adults and a vintage carousel for the kids. The sixth annual Funk Parade (May 11) will have live music and a parade featuring a variety of entertainment like roller skaters, colorful costumes, dancing and more.

If you get caught in a spring downpour, head indoors to the International Spy Museum, reopening on May 12, 2019 in a brand-new location at L’Enfant Plaza. With almost double the floor space, the museum will feature fresh exhibitions with all sorts of tools of spycraft, as well as workshops and educational programming.

Feature image by Abbie Winters/The Points Guy.

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