Make this a summer to remember by snowboarding in the Australian Alps, stargazing in a Sedona red rock canyon, or exploring a volcanic Global Geopark in South Korea. Whether you’re craving adventure or relaxation, our editors’ list of ten Best Summer Trips—plus one reader’s choice—offers a world of possibilities.
1. Discover the Sacred Valley of the Inca
Machu Picchu, Peru
Make this the summer you take, or plan, that bucket-list trip through the Sacred Valley of the Inca to the ancient city of Machu Picchu. Get inspired closer to home at two Washington, D.C., events: the Peru-focused Smithsonian Folklife Festival (June 24-28 and July 1-5) and the National Museum of the American Indian exhibition “The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire” (June 26, 2015, through June 1, 2018). Then, book a group tour such as National Geographic Expeditions’ Peru: Land of the Inca, or a classic, four-day hiking trek to Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail.
To help protect the integrity of the legendary route, only 500 government-issued Inca Trail permits are available per day. But limited access shouldn’t dissuade people from making the trip, says Alistair Butchers of G Adventures, which leads a variety of Sacred Valley tours.
“It’s important for travelers to visit … and do so in a sustainable manner, so they can become ambassadors and help spread the word about the importance of sustainable tourism,” he says. “Through awareness and education we can help preserve iconic destinations such as the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu.”
2. Prowl Sedona After Dark
By day, Sedona’s dramatically sculpted red rock backcountry is the main draw for hikers, mountain bikers, rock climbers, and off-road “Jeepers.”
But, at night, all eyes are on the skies. Named the world’s eighth International Dark Sky Community in 2014, Sedona (elevation 4,600 feet) is one of the best places in the world to witness celestial wonders such as a blue moon.
“Don’t think for a second that outdoor adventures end when the sun goes down in Sedona,” says Jennifer Wesselhoff of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau. “That azure sky—so pure, perfect, and devastatingly blue all day—turns into a glittering blanket of heavenly bodies at night. Lack of light pollution combined with haze-free, low humidity desert skies make Sedona a paradise for stargazers.”
3. Take in the Athens and Epidaurus Festival
June 1-August 31: Experience international theater, opera, classical music, and dance performances in a variety of magnificent modern and ancient spaces. Venues for the 60th Athens and Epidaurus Festival range from the industrial Peiraios 260 (housed in a former Athens furniture factory) to the ancient theater of Epidaurus, built in 340 B.C., buried for nearly 1,500 years, and renowned for its preserved limestone tiers and near perfect acoustics. The festival program includes Greek productions (ancient tragedies and new plays), a Greco-Japanese co-production of Homer’sNekyia, and new interpretations of European classics.
New for 2015: performances designed to spark dialogue about topical Greek issues such as homelessness, job loss, financial insecurity, refugees, and immigrants. During the interactive street performance “In the Middle of the Street” (July 7), audience members can use an MP3 player and earphones to hear the voices and stories of Athens’s newly homeless.
4. Follow the Magna Carta Trails
Celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, or “Great Charter,” (June 15) by driving one or more of the six Magna Carta Trails. Located throughout England, the routes are designed to actively engage visitors in the history of the Magna Carta, the document that established the principle that no man, not even the king, is above the law. The landmark charter helped shape modern judicial systems.
Each trail includes key charter towns; historical sites related to the year 1215; and 800th-anniversary events, such as the official commemoration ceremony at Runnymede Meadows (June 15) and the Magna Carta Festival (June 13-14).
Designed for self-guided travel, the trails allow time to soak in the history of places such as the Salisbury Cathedral’s 13th-century Chapter House, which holds one of the best-preserved copies of the Magna Carta.
“The Chapter House is regarded as one of Europe’s most beautiful medieval buildings, and, with a stunning cathedral that boasts Britain’s tallest [spire], this visit is not simply a quick stop on a trail but a unique and breathtaking snapshot of world history,” says Ruth Lancey, director of Great British Trips. Her recommendation: Allow ample time to “quietly contemplate, marvel, and meditate on the sacred, significant, and spiritual wonder of all this building has to offer.”
5. Readers’ Choice Winner: Take a Walk in Jeju’s Global Geopark
Jeju’s coastal resorts are popular vacation destinations, but the wild areas beyond the beaches are why Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the entire island is designated as the Jeju Global Geopark. The park’s premier site is 6,397-foot Hallasan (South Korea’s highest mountain), a shield volcano with a summit crater lake. Additional geomorphologic features found on Jeju include spectacular volcanic cones and craters, dramatic waterfalls, ever evolving rocky shores, and the Geomunoreum lava tube system, considered the finest cave system of its kind in the world.
Three designated Geo-Trails link many of the main geological sites and connect to six Geo-Park villages. Accompanying brochures (available in Korean, English, Japanese, and Chinese) include maps and information about local geology, history, culture, and daily life. Walk the self-guided trails or book a custom eco-tour with a local, English-speaking guide such as Jejueco Tours.
Owner Victor Ryashencev, who also runs owns a Jeju eco-lodge, personally leads small group treks to waterfalls, folk villages, seaside cliffs, mountain peaks, and less-traveled island locations. One of his favorite geological wonders to share with visitors, he says, is Jusangjeolli with its hexagonal-shaped rocks reminiscent of Northern Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway.