Where to go on holiday in May
May is one of the best months of the year to go on holiday – you’ll find sensational weather in many of the world’s best destinations, and mouth-watering bargains.
In the Mediterranean, most tour operators start their summer flight programmes in May, but the crowds have yet to arrive, so prices are invariably low. Long days of warm sunshine are all but guaranteed, yet it’s rarely too hot to wander into town or do some sightseeing.
May is also a great month to fly long haul. Prices in the Caribbean plummet after the Easter holidays, yet the weather is all but perfect with several months to go before the start of the hurricane season. Here’s our guide to where to go on holiday in May.
Note: all the travel companies featured on this page are personally recommended by our editors.
Mediterranean beach holidays in May
The welcome in May is unusually warm – it’s too early in the season for waiters and taxi drivers to start feeling jaded, and everyone is pleased to see the start of a new tourist season. The weather will be amazing, the sea is warming up and the countryside is still dotted with spring flowers. Best of all, prices are low so you can pick up some cheap holidays in May.
Where should you go? In the Med, almost anywhere. In Spain, I recommend the unspoilt beaches of the Costa de la Luz and the beautiful coastline of Catalonia. On the islands of Mallorca and Ibiza you’ll find some first-class villas. See my full guide to the best destinations in Spain.
Greece is magical for May holidays. Head to the quite island of Paxos to chill out, or explore fascinating Crete where you’ll find stylish houses to rent and the contemporary Daios Cove hotel. On the mainland, I recommend the Sani Resort where I enjoyed a superb holiday with my family.
I love the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia, home to two of the Med’s finest hotels, Forte Village Resort in Sardinia and the Verdura Golf & Spa Resort in Sicily. On mainland Italy I recommend the beautiful Amalfi Coast and the gorgeous region of Puglia in the “heel of the boot”. It’s also a great time for a cheeky break in Rome. See my guide to more Italy holiday ideas.
Another classic destination for May – although not in the Med – is the Italian Lakes. It’s perfect for boat trips, walks along the shores, eating in charming local restaurants.
If you’re feeling flush, you could rent a luxury staffed villa with Scott Dunn in the Mediterranean, complete with a private pool and the services of a private chef, villa host and fully-qualified nanny. Also towards the luxury end of the spectrum, Simpson Travel has a lovely collection of villas with private pool in popular regions including The Dordogne and the Côte d’Azur.
If you’re on a budget, try a self-catering apartment at a holiday village in France or Spain.
Long haul beaches and adventures
Low season rates in the Caribbean mean that previously unaffordable destinations become genuine bargains. You can push the boat out in Barbados or live it up in all-inclusive style at Sandals Royal Plantation, Ocho Rios in Jamaica.
A nice alternative to staying in a hotel is to rent a luxury Caribbean villa which comes fully staffed with CV Travel. If you travel with friends the price is surprisingly affordable. See my pick of the best Caribbean holidays and details on weather in the Caribbean in May.
Many people mistakenly believe that Bermuda is in the Caribbean. It’s actually in the Atlantic and gets rather chilly in winter but by May the weather is superb and you can enjoy stunning pink sand beaches, immaculate gardens and golf courses and hotels including Cambridge Beaches and the budget-friendly Grotto Bay Resort.
May is one of the best months to visit Peru – a once in a lifetime destination where you can visit the Lost City of Machu Picchu, explore colonial towns, Andean mountain villages and the Amazon rainforest. Find more holiday ideas in Peru.
It’s also a perfect time to be in Costa Rica as the weather is good, but you’re paying low season prices. You’ll find an exciting combination of jungle, beach, volcanoes, cloud forest, hiking trails and rivers for rafting. British Airways flies direct from the UK and you’ll find great value tours such as this two-week Coast to Coast self-drive holiday.
In Asia you need to pick and choose your destination – some are too hot in May for many tourists. This is a good time to explore the beaches and jungles of Borneo where you can see orang-utans. It’s also the beginning of the dry season in Indonesia which is emerging as one of the exciting holiday destinations in the region. For an introduction, try this Essential Java and Bali tour, or delve deeper with this Sulawesi, Java and Bali trip, including a remote village trek with a local Balinese priest.
In Africa this is an excellent time for a safari holiday in Botswana or a tour of Namibia where the weather is dry but not too hot. It’s also a good time of year for a gorilla tracking safari in Rwanda. The Indian Ocean is ideal for beach holidays in May, particularly the Maldives, Mauritius and the Seychelles.
May is also a good month to visit Japan. Temperatures in the capital Tokyo are mild, the gardens are in full bloom and the mountains are green. Kenrokuen gardens in Kanazawa are considered amongst the most beautiful in Japan. Find more holiday ideas in Japan.
For something more adventurous, how about Iran. It’s springtime in this fascinating and friendly country where you’ll be blown away by exquisite palaces and mosques, the souks of Tehran, the ancient capital of Pasargadae, cosmopolitan Shiraz, and the Zoroastrian temples of Yazd. This Treasures of Persia group tour is a great introduction.
UK holiday ideas in May
Long days of sunshine and warm temperatures can make the UK one of the best holiday destinations in May. Both Devon and Cornwall offer the prospect of good weather, ideal for family visits in May half term. (Find more half term holiday ideas.)
The Isle of Wight offers an popular combination of beaches, countryside and indoor attractions. If you love the idea of camping but aren’t so crazy about the idea of soggy canvas, take a look at Trevella Park on the coast of Cornwall.
A boating holiday on a river cruiser or narrowboat is great value and a wonderfully relaxing way to explore the British countryside. Options include the Norfolk Broads where you can explore 250 miles of waterways, motoring gently through reed marshes, meadows and woodland. There are plenty of riverside pubs and restaurants where you can moor up. Real Enid Blyton stuff.
If you want a weekend break in the countryside, try Gilpin Lodge in the Lake District, or the stately Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa near Bath. On the Suffolk coast, The Wentworth Hotel is a gorgeous bolthole overlooking the beach at Aldeburgh, one of Britain’s prettiest seaside towns.
From London it is an easy journey to Maison Talbooth, a charming, family-run hotel on the Essex-Suffolk border.
Often overlooked by holidaymakers tearing down to Devon and Cornwall, the delightful county of Dorset has lovely countryside and a dramatic coastline. I recommend renting one of these cottages.
Join a tour of the Great Houses of England or choose from a wide selection of small-group cultural tours of the UK led by an expert in art, music or architecture.
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay with a large group of family or friends, you could rent a large house. I recommend The Big Domain which has a great collection of properties in the UK and abroad that all sleep 12 or more.
We’ve discovered a wonderful collection of short breaks in Scotland including a steam train journey on the West Highland Line and self-drive tours in classic cars. You can take a whisky tour of Islay and spot Minke Whales on Mull.
Activity holidays in May
With the heat of the summer yet to descend, May is a great month for an activity holiday – whether you want to push your body to the limits or just enjoy some leisurely exercise in beautiful surroundings.
Northern Spain offers rolling hills, empty beaches and dramatic mountains – great for hiking, biking and white-water rafting. It’s very good value and the food is excellent. Find out more from Casas Cantabricas.
May is an ideal month for cycling in the UK. I recommend Saddle Skedaddle which has a range of escorted and independent trips exploring the best of the British countryside, including both road cycling and mountain bike weekends. They are aimed at all levels and you don’t even need your own bike. Try the Lake District, Wales, the Scottish Highlands or the Cotswolds.
I also recommend Martin Randall which specialises in expert-led cultural tours in some of Europe’s most fascinating destinations. Travelling in a small group, each tour is themed around art, architecture, gastronomy, music or history. See the website for details.
If you crave adventure, how about Star Clippers which runs tall ship cruises on traditional masted sailing boats. Peter Sommer Travels also runs gulet cruises in Turkey, Italy and Greece accompanied by an expert guide to show you around cultural sites.
Indulge your mind and body at a luxury spa retreat in the South of France or Andalucia. If you want to stretch yourself, how about a fitness holiday in the Italian Dolomites or a dedicated yoga holiday with healthy food and expert yoga teachers in a choice of beautiful destinations including Crete and Italy. Details from Destination Yoga.
It’s also a great time to visit the Azores with warm weather suited to walking and cycling. You’ll find incredible volcanic landscapes, along with whale and dolphin watching – plus there are direct flights from the UK.
Head to Norway in May as midsummer approaches and you’ll see some of the world’s most spectacular wonders bathed in long hours of sunshine. Take an independent tour of fjords, lakes and mountains or a coastal voyage on a ship used by locals. You can spot whales in the Lofoten Islands, visit the Land of the Midnight Sun or ride on Europe’s highest railway between Oslo and Bergen on this four-night Roof Across Norway break.
May is a perfect time to head to Eastern Europe for a city break. I recommend the historic capitals of Prague and Budapest. Or paint the town red in Barcelona, or Madrid where you’ll find art galleries, pavement cafes, tapas bars and grand architecture.
Got some cash to splash? Celebrate a big birthday or anniversary by booking a private jet holiday to France with Jet Escapes. If you travel with a few friends or family, a day trip or short break can cost less than £1,000 per person.
America: luxury holidays in May
Spring is the perfect time to visit the Eastern US cities of New York and Boston. You can expect fabulous sunny weather on a fly-drive around New England or, for a really stylish entrance, how about arriving in the Big Apple by transatlantic cruise, perhaps on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2.
Rent a car and you can explore the highways and byways of America at your own pace. You could take a fascinating and emotional journey along the Civil War route or motor south from Miami to the Florida Keys (where we recommend the gorgeous Little Palm Island).
If you don’t fancy driving, how about a luxury coach tour – options include a trip around the Icons of the American Heartland from Chicago to Tennessee. We’ve also found some great foodie tours of America, such as this Tastes and Sounds of the South trip.
It’s a great time to explore the South before the heat of summer descends. Stay in gorgeous plantation houses on the route from New Orleans to Charleston. If you want somebody else behind the wheel, try one of these escorted coach tours of the Deep South.
California is sunshine all the way. Take it easy at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica. There are plenty of great fly-drive options including the Pacific Coast Highway, one of the world’s most scenic drives. Why not do it in a convertible!
When are the May bank holidays in 2017?
The May Bank Holidays in 2017 are: Monday 1 May and Monday 29 May (Spring Bank Holiday).
Last updated: 4 January 2017
Try our holiday quiz
If you’re still stuck for ideas, why not try our fun holiday quiz. Answer 10 easy questions like the one below to find out what kind of holidaymaker you are, and get personalised travel recommendations. Try the quiz now.