Let freedom ring: in July, European schools close for the summer, marking the busiest month for travel on the continent. Cities are buzzing as people take advantage of the heat with open-air cinemas and outdoor rooftop cafes, while ice cream vans sweeten the seaside towns. Families looking for sand and sea can beat the crowds by heading to the more serene European alternatives of Albania and Montenegro.
Elsewhere, July is one of the only months to visit the far Arctic, as melting ice opens the region to ships visiting its fjords and sprouting tundra. Similarly, melting snow means hikers can head for higher ground – India’s Ladakh mountains and Japan’s volcanic Mount Fuji are only within walking distance for a few months.
Much of Southeast Asia experiences monsoons, but Indonesia, whose islands are located just below the equator, sees clear skies. Bask on Bali’s beaches or cruise to Komodo National Park to spot its dragons during mating season, when dramatic fights ensue.
Eastern and Southern Africa is also in its dry season and wildlife viewing is excellent. The great migration passes from Tanzania to Kenya, mountain gorillas pass through the Rwandan rainforests and the Okavango Delta swells with water, making a boat safari the best way to spot the Big Five.
1. Provence, France
Purple panoramas span Provence this month. The lavender season is short and sweet — fields bloom from June until harvest in late July. Flowering hills are found around the Luberon and Verdon plateau regions, dotted with pretty Provençal villages. The Lavender Museum has more information about the purple plant and offers insight into the harvesting and distillation process. The lavender festivals are found in Ferrassières and Valensole, where you can stock up on scented products such as sticky lavender honey.
Nearby are the deep Gorges du Verdon, which cut through the turquoise Verdon River, its striking blue hue due to glacial minerals. Rental of motorboats, paddleboards and kayaks around the Pont du Galetas open from June to August. Glide between the steep walls of the gorge in search of small beaches to stop for a picnic and perhaps a refreshing swim in the river.
And while in France, join the July 14 festivities, July 14, which commemorates the great battle of the French Revolution. Villages across the country celebrate with parades, fireworks and parties.
Responsible travel advice: Many small villages are suffering from depopulation, but visitors can support rural communities by staying and supporting local businesses. Many eco-friendly hotels in the area have green certification – look for Green Globe, La Clef Verte or the European Eco-label.