In countries around the world, summer is festival season. From traditional dances, parades and contests, to jazz and classical music under the stars, the range of cultural offerings is just about endless. Here are a few of the most spectacular celebrations:
(Jul 7-14): This event (and for many, the town itself) is known for the running of the bulls, which starts off the festival each day for a week, followed by bullfights and late-night celebrations.
Il Palio, Siena
(Jul 2; Aug 16): The fierce rivalry between Siena’s districts plays out in these two annual horse races, surrounded by pageantry and ritual. During the races, ten horses representing ten of the city wards are ridden around the main piazza. The horse that finishes first (with or without its jockey) wins.
Gion Matsuri, Kyoto
(July): At the centerpiece of this famous, month-long festival are dozens of elaborate floats, which are paraded through the city on July 17. For three days before the parade, the streets of downtown are closed to traffic, as festival-goers view the floats, hear traditional music and feast on traditional delicacies.
Montreux Jazz Festival
(Jun 29-Jul 14): Celebrating its 46th year, this prestigious festival on Switzerland’s Lake Geneva attracts jazz greats and well-known rock performers. Many of the venues are free.
(Jul 20-Sep 2): This is among the most prominent of Europe’s many summer music festivals. The event features opera and drama as well as concerts.
(Jul 14-23): Considered Europe’s largest cultural festival, this open-air celebration combines four international events—a theater festival, a Puppet Busker festival, a jazz festival and an electronic music festival—along with concerts in a variety of music genres. Most performances are free.
International Fireworks Competition, Montreal
(Jun 30-Aug 3): In this annual competition, countries from around the world vie for the best fireworks extravaganza.
Great Trips Now
Get festive, see the wild side, and keep your cool at these global destinations between June and August:
Some of Japan’s biggest and most colorful festivals happen during the summer months. The mountain resorts and onsen villages of the Japanese Alps make a pleasant escape from the summer heat; this is also an ideal season to explore Hokkaido’s unspoiled parks and lakes.
While much of Asia can be unpleasantly hot in summer, the higher elevations offer cool temperatures and spectacular scenery. Now is the time to visit the hilltop monasteries of Bhutan and Ladakh, or the tea plantations of Darjeeling.
Summer means mild temperatures and endless daylight in St. Petersburg and Moscow. St. Petersburg takes advantage of the season with its annual White Nights Festival, a two-month program of musical and theater performances.
Long days and pleasant temperatures make this the best time for an Alaskan adventure. The wild salmon run during the summer months, attracting bears, while orcas and humpback whales are regularly seen in the waters off the coast.
Summer offers a huge variety of activities, both outdoorsy and cultural. There’s the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, the Food & Wine Classic, several film festivals—not to mention excellent hiking, biking, fishing and rafting.
Cusco is dry and cool but sunny this time of year. Jun-Aug is peak season for hiking the Inca trail; the number of hikers is restricted, so book your trek well in advance. Cusco is also the starting point for a journey to Manu National Park, one of the most biodiverse places on earth. May-Oct is the dry season, and the best time to see wildlife.
Apr-Sep is the dry season in the Pantanal, the world’s largest freshwater wetland. Animals congregate at the edge of rivers, making them easier to spot. Jun-Aug are the driest months in Rio, and pleasantly warm, with temperatures in the mid-70s.
Plan your visit to
in June, when the weather is dry and not too hot, and summer crowds are still manageable. Summer is the best time for sunning and swimming along the Amalfi Coast, where temperatures rarely rise above 90 degrees. In Siena, don’t miss Il Palio, the famous horse race held in the main piazza every Jul 2 and Aug 16. (But book well ahead.)
Provence, June means mild temperatures and fields full of wildflowers. Jul-Aug can be hot and crowded; these are the months to rent a villa with a pool, and make forays into the villages for market days and fêtes. In
Normandy, summers are generally warm and sunny, with brisk winds off the coast. Throughout France, summer is celebration time, with major festivals in Aix, Avignon and Anjou (and that’s just the A’s). June 21 is the Fête de la Musique—every city and town has musicians lined up in streets and alleys, playing music all day and all night long. Bastille Day (Jul 14) is celebrated with fireworks, dancing and celebrations all over the country.
Inland temperatures remain mild through June. Jul-Aug on the mainland tends to be hot and crowded, but sailing the islands is very pleasant this time of year.
Warm, dry weather makes June a prime month for visiting the beautiful beaches and islands of the Dalmatian coast.
Jun-Aug is green and lush; this is a good time to spot baby animals.
Uluru is very pleasant during these months, with warm, sunny days and cool nights.
Balmy weather and good visibility makes this the best (and most popular) time to visit the Great Barrier Reef.
Kakadu & The Kimberley:
Jun-Aug is the dry season, meaning accessible roads, clear skies and bigger crowds.
In Botswana, wildlife viewing is most predictable in the dry season (Jun-Oct), after the Okavango Delta has flooded. Jun-Nov is the dry season in Tanzania, causing animals to gather around watering holes. This is also peak tourist season, so be sure to book ahead.
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