Destinations to Top This Summer's Travel List

  • 8 min read

For many, summer brims with opportunities for adventure. Warmer weather and longer days offer ideal conditions to explore new places, peoples, and cultures. And after two years of tension and tip-toeing around travel, we can’t wait to fill the coming months with new discoveries.

Whether you long to revisit iconic capitals of art and design, crave a wild and rugged getaway immersed in nature, or hope to fill the season with sun-soaked beach days, we’ve rounded up 9 destinations that deliver three kinds of travel vibes. Here are some of the places you might consider visiting this summer.

For the outdoor enthusiast

Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Black Rocks of Presque Isle Park in Marquette, Michigan.Black Rocks of Presque Isle Park in Marquette, Michigan. Photo: Aaron Peterson for Star Tribune.

Known colloquially as the “UP,” Michigan’s Upper Peninsula extends from the northern reaches of Wisconsin and arches toward the tip of Michigan’s mit, like the curve of a bird’s wing. It’s bordered to the south by Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, and to the north by Lake Superior. This remote, forested region abounds in natural beauty. The lack of light pollution makes for some of the best stargazing in the country, and sometimes — if you’re lucky and patient — you can see the northern lights from Lake Superior’s black-sand beaches. Hiking, kayaking, and mountain biking are popular activities during the summertime. If you stay in one of the rustic cabins at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, you can do all three, plus play a round of golf on their beautiful course. After a day filled with outdoor adventure, dine on exceptional seafood at the Mariner North Restaurant or Harbor Haus in Copper Harbor. Or, for a little more action, drive an hour south to Houghton, a college town with plenty of lively bars, quaint shops, and pretty views.

Scottish Highlands

Loch Beannacharain in Scottish Highlands.Loch Beannacharain. Photo: Rob Howard for Conde Nast Traveler.

Vast, open moors, craggy cliffs, and rugged mountains…the image evoked by the name “Scottish Highlands” would make any nature lover’s heart race with yearning. Start your visit in Edinburgh, Glasgow, or Inverness — all three offer plenty of cosmopolitan comforts and easy access to incredible outdoor sites, from national forests riddled with trails to mist-shrouded lochs. If time allows, plan to stay a night on the Isle of Skye. This remote, windswept paradise is just two-and-a-half hours from Inverness by car and is home to several restaurants that have earned Michelin stars since opening — The Three Chimneys is a favorite. Stay at the Tingle Creek Hotel for a cozy, authentic experience. If you truly want to feel as though you’ve gone back in time, plan a few nights at the Fife Arms in the Cairngorms National Park. Guests here can take advantage of all kinds of immersive outdoor activities, including sporting classes, stalking excursions, and foraging workshops. Design lovers will also appreciate the hotel’s decor — all 46 guestrooms and suites were inspired by noble visitors, Scottish authors and poets, and historical croft houses.

Italian Dolomites

View of a lake in the italian dolomites.

Lago di Braies. Photo: Susan Wright for The New York Times.

Though best known as a world-class ski resort, the Italian Dolomites are equally dazzling in the summertime, when wildflowers blanket the foothills and ski runs turn into hiking and biking trails. Those craving a bit more adrenaline can paraglide from the peaks of Mount Spinale and Pradalago. Or hit the water on a rafting tour along the river Noce — the course features exhilarating descents with waterfalls ranging from 2-12 meters. One of the best places to stay is Madonna di Campiglio, a beautiful town located in the heart of the Dolomites. You’ll find all kinds of lodgings ranging from quaint bed-and-breakfasts to more luxurious yet still authentic retreats, like the chalet-style Sporthotel Romantic Plaza. The town features great options to refuel after a day of outdoor activities, including the casual Pub Dolomiti and Arnica Cafe. In the city center, there’s the always-buzzing Bar Suisse (where the bartenders craft delicious negronis), as well as Cafe D’or, which keeps the party going with prosecco and craft cocktails until 2 a.m.

For the beachcomber

Turkey's Turquoise Coast

View from The Edition Hotel BodrumThe Edition Bodrum, Turkey. Photo: Courtesy of hotel.

If your ideal summer getaway involves beautiful beaches, a trip to Turkey’s Turquoise Coast may be in order. The coast is dotted with breathtakingly beautiful towns like Oludeniz, home to a tranquil natural lagoon with crystalline water — a favorite locale among paddleboarders. There’s glitzy Bodrum, one of Turkey’s most iconic beach towns home to glamorous shoreside clubs, five-star resorts, and endless ways to elevate every moment of your vacation. Make sure you check in to the Edition Hotel when you visit — it’s the most coveted reservation in the region. If you’re into diving, there’s no better place to venture beneath the waves than Kas. This coastal town boasts some of the best diving in the Mediterranean. Whatever you do, definitely plan to spend a few days at the beginning or end of your visit in Antalya and Fethiye, located at opposite ends of the Turquoise Coast. In Antalya, the Olympos Lodge offers a secluded, luxurious stay with just 17 rooms and prime access to a beautiful stretch of beach. Meanwhile, the 18th-century manor home-turned-hotel, Tuvana, will please design aficionados with its overlapping architectural styles. In Fethiye, you can’t go wrong at the Yacht Boheme Hotel or the stunning Hillside Beach Club.

Portugal’s Algarve

Beaches of Algarves, PortugalAlgarves, Portugal. Photo: Courtesy of Turismo do Algarve.

Another fabulous option for beach lovers is Portugal’s southern coast. Known as the Algarve, this picturesque region is best known for its stunning beaches framed by dramatic rock formations, and for its idyllic fishing villages perched precariously on cliffs. Spend some time in laidback Lagos, home to lots of history and a stone’s throw from beautiful beaches like Meia Praia and Praia do Camilo. If you’re looking to lounge the day away in luxury while sipping crisp vinho verde, make a stop at the glitzy PuroBeach Club in Vilamoura, where the bass is always thumping. The pretty town of Albufeira is also a good option for those who prefer to return to a livelier nightlife scene after a day of beach-hopping along the coast. Just a 40-minute drive from Fado Airport, it serves as a wonderful homebase for any Algarve holiday and offers great access to popular beaches, the tranquil countryside, and more. The W Algarve is a good option to stay at, placing you steps from everything the city has to offer. If you prefer a more secluded retreat, unwind beachside at Vila Joya Sea or at the sprawling, activity-driven Vila Vita Parc, located in nearby Carvoeiro.

Tulum, Mexico

Outside of hotel room in tulum with hammock and mini pool.The Beach Hotel, Tulum. Photo: Courtesy of hotel.

If you’re based in the U.S. and looking for an amazing beach getaway a little closer to home, there’s no place like Tulum. Though one can hardly call this Riviera Maya destination “undiscovered,” it has retained much of its magic despite its popularity. The vibe in this easygoing, bohemian beach town is something else. Visitors flit from the beach to bars and back again all day, and thanks to the abundance of palapa-style lodgings, it's possible to spend the better part of your visit without ever truly venturing “indoors.” The boutique hotel brand, Ahau, does a terrific job of achieving this with its collection of beachside properties, designed to keep guests immersed in nature. Habitas, Casa Malca, Nomade, and The Beach Hotel also do a stellar job of providing top-of-the-line comforts and luxuries in a laid back, natural setting. Go for a stroll along Tulum’s postcard-pretty, white-sand beaches, stopping at La Zebra’s shoreside bar for their mezcalita happy hour. Once the sun goes down, head to Casa Banana, Arca, or Heartwood for a crave-worthy gourmet dinner made from locally sourced ingredients using traditional cooking techniques. Dedicate a day to visiting nearby cenotes tucked away in the Yucatán wilderness — you’ll find several just north and south of Tulum. And let the salty air, relaxed atmosphere, and piney scent of copal incense awaken your sense of adventure.

For the architecture aficionado

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago TheaterChicago Theater. Photo: Sawyer Bengtson on Unsplash.

After fire leveled Chicago in 1871, architects raced to rebuild the city better and more beautifully than before. It was dubbed the “Great Rebuilding,” and gave birth to a new style called the Chicago School of architecture. Other styles would also emerge from the mad dash to rebuild. The world’s first skyscrapers went up, artisans came to the city from Europe to contribute to its reconstruction, and a rich blend of styles began to flourish. Nicknamed “The Paris on the Prairie,” Chicago is an ever-evolving architectural museum. Visitors who opt for one of the walking, train, or river tours offered by the Chicago Architecture Center can oggle a vast array of styles, including brutalism, postmodernism, Art Deco, Prairie School, and more — all existing in aesthetic harmony. Lush green parks and spaces punctuate the city’s stately avenues, and a stroll along the Lake Michigan waterfront yields dazzling views of sapphire waters to one side and impressive pre-war highrises to the other. Stay at the Ace Hotel or the Freehand in River North and enjoy drinks at the Broken Shaker, Arbella, Beatnik on the River, or Gilt Bar, which runs one of the city’s best happy hours. Conversely, you can make leafy Lakeview East or Lincoln Park your homebase to be closer to the iconic Wrigley Stadium, quiet streets lined with the city’s hallmark graystones, and top-notch restaurants and bars like Cafe Ba-ba-ree-ba, Coda di Volpe, Wilde Bar, and Wood. The Laugh Factory, one of Chicago's top comedy clubs, is also located nearby and makes for a great night out.

Barcelona, Spain

Cityscape of BarcelonaBarcelona cityscape from Parc Güell. Photo: Neal Clarke for The Telegraph.

For the perfect blend of architecture, cuisine, culture, and coastal vibes, there’s beautiful Barcelona. Vibrant, laidback, and bursting with art and history, this unforgettable city is a fabulous summer vacation destination. Reserve a room at the contemporary H10 Cubik hotel near Plaça de Catalunya, the stylish Kimpton Vividora in the Gothic Quarter, or The Cotton House, a neoclassical stunner in Eixample. Once you’ve established your home away from home, fill every moment of your stay with architectural marvels built across the ages. There’s the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, which served as Barcelona’s religious heart for many centuries. The oldest parts of the structure date back to the late 13th century. There’s also the Palau de la Música Catalana, a captivating example of Art Nouveau style built at the dawn of the 20th century and now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And of course, no escape to Barcelona is complete without visiting the various whimsical creations of famed Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudí, including Casa Milà, also known as “La Pedrera,” Casa Batlló, Parc Güell, and of course, La Sagrada Familia cathedral. After taking in the sights, tuck into fresh seafood paired with local wines at Cañete, nibble on tasty tapas at Quimet & Quimet, and enjoy handcrafted cocktails at any of the city’s amazing bars — Paradiso, Dr. Stravinsky, Boadas, and Bobby’s Free are local favorites.

Vancouver, British Columbia

Ariel view of Vancouver - CanadaPhoto: Courtesy of Tourism Vancouver.

For more big-city vibes with an eclectic aesthetic, consider a getaway to Vancouver. This West Coast wonder dazzles fairytale homes, awe-inspiring skyscrapers, and unique architectural finds — like the Sam Kee Building. Just six feet wide, it’s the narrowest building in the world. Vancouver’s first highrise, the 13-story Dominion Building, is also noteworthy for its striking red and mustard facade and its Beaux-Arts features, including a grand Parisian roof. Among the most whimsical of Vancouver’s architectural marvels are its “hobbit houses.” Built in the 1940s, these charming structures are reminiscent of the rustic cottages found in the English Cotswolds, complete with rubble masonry, wavy roofs, and red brick chimneys. While staying in Vancouver, opt to spend the night at the historic Fairmont Hotel. The chateau-style property opened its doors in 1939 and has been one of the city’s prime destinations ever since (not to mention its on-site restaurant, Notch8, is legendary). When it comes to food, you’ll have no shortage of great options. Some top spots include Hunnybee Bruncheonette for breakfast, Caffe La Tana for Italian, Kingyo Izakaya for Japanese, and Vij’s for Indian cuisine. For cocktails, don’t miss the Keefer Bar, the Narrow Lounge, Guilt & Co., and The Shameful Tiki Room.

Ready to start planning your summer vacation? We hope we’ve given you some food for thought with these exceptional destinations. Whether you choose to explore abroad or chase adventure closer to home, make sure you pencil in some time to explore this season.

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