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13 places to visit in May for every type of traveler

Business Insider logo Business Insider 3/12/2018 Mark Abadi

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  • The best places to visit in May are probably already on savvy travelers' lists.
  • Business Insider looked at airfare trends, climate data, and peak travel times to find the best places to visit in May 2018.
  • The destinations include food havens, sites of ancient ruins, and island paradises.

May is when many savvy travelers aim to cross another destination off their bucket list. Conditions are perfect — many of the world's greatest destinations start to heat up, and summer tourists have yet to descend, leaving prices relatively low and giving you plenty of space to enjoy your trip.

There are endless unique travel experiences to seek out in May, from the spiritual paradise of Bali, Indonesia and the jaw-dropping views of Machu Picchu in Peru to the world-famous barbecue competition in Memphis, Tennessee.

Business Insider looked at airfare trends, climate data, and peak travel times to figure out which vacation spots should be on your radar.

Read on to find the 13 best places to visit in May:

Asheville, North Carolina

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May is the perfect time to visit the funky mountain town of Asheville, North Carolina. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville offers a crisp breath of fresh air from the rest of the South, whose heat and humidity will be ratcheting up by May.

Asheville is a magnet for lovers of music, beer, and the great outdoors. Time your trip right and you'll catch the LEAF Festival for local and world music (May 10-13) or the Montford Music and Arts Festival (May 19).

Memphis, Tennessee

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If food is your top priority, it's hard to pick a better destination in the US than Memphis. Barbecue is king here, and you could spend days sampling the best ribs in the city. Memphis is also a mecca for Elvis fans, and Graceland is a must-see for first-time visitors.

What makes May an especially great month to visit is the annual Memphis in May International Festival, running from May 4 to May 26. Each year features music, art, and cultural performances celebrating a different country — this year's honoree is the Czech Republic. And of course, it wouldn't be a Memphis festival without food, so check out the world-famous barbecue contest that takes place each year.

Yellowstone National Park

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There's arguably nowhere in the United States that boasts more natural beauty than Yellowstone National Park. If you're a nature lover, prepare to spend several days marveling at erupting geysers, observing animals like moose, elk, and grizzly bears, and exploring the surrounding mountains and canyons.

Beat the crowds by visiting Yellowstone in May — the weather will be mild, and you won't have to fight through families on their summer vacations.

Vancouver, Canada

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There's a good reason why Vancouver is one of the most popular springtime travel destinations in Canada. Tourists flock to the British Columbian capital for its vibrant culture, breathtaking scenery, and diverse food scene.

The weather should be warm enough for a stroll along the Stanley Park Seawell or an excursion to Granville Island, a hub for music, art, and food. For a real cultural experience, check out Gastown, the historic downtown district encompassing one of the biggest Chinatowns in Canada.


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The weather remains comfortable but the prices drop in May on the island paradise of Barbados.

The Caribbean gem is renowned for its beaches, especially at the extravagant resorts on the island's West Coast. Boat trips and day cruises are another fun activity for visitors, as is exploring Bridgetown, whose downtown area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Cusco, Peru

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May is considered one of the best times to visit Cusco, the former capital of the Inca Empire and the gateway to the wondrous Machu Picchu ruins.

It's then that you'll get the optimal combination of pleasant weather and relatively sparse crowds on the trails and at the citadel itself. The city of Cusco itself is home to impressive colonial churches and the remains of other Incan sites, a distinction that led Lonely Planet to call the city "the undisputed archaeological capital of the Americas."

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Crowds start to dissipate and hotels begin to lower their prices in May in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's vibrant tourism capital.

Lounge along the beach at Ipanema, enjoy the spectacular sights like Christ the Redeemer without having to fight through crowds, and if you're up for a thrill, check out a soccer match at world-famous Maracanã stadium — there will be games going on all month.

Lisbon, Portugal

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Iconic historical sites, winding cobblestone streets, and colorful architecture await in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon.

May is the sweet spot where the hotels are cheap, precipitation is down, and the weather's warm enough for you to squeeze in a few days at the beach. Make sure you check out the remarkable Belém Tower before you go.

Florence Italy

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Soak up the Italian sunshine in Florence, which starts to heat up in Florence after a cool April. If admiring world-class art and indulging in gourmet food are your ideal travel activities, there's arguably no better place in Europe than this Tuscan capital.

Known as the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence is home to some of the greatest art museums in the world and historic cathedrals along its rolling hills. Visit in May and take advantage of the the numerous art and cultural festivals that pop up in the city center.

Budapest, Hungary

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Visitors to Budapest, Hungary, can bask in some of the most stunning architecture Central Europe has to offer. Admire views of the Basilica of St. Stephen and the Hungarian Parliament building, and take a leisurely stroll along the Danube in the evening.

And no trip to Budapest would be complete without a soak in one of the city's famous thermal baths. There may be some occasional rain, but the weather generally holds up in May.

Siem Reap, Cambodia

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The Cambodian town of Siem Reap is the gateway to the awe-inspiring Angkor Wat temple complex. The temples, built between the 9th and 15th centuries, combine both Hindu and Buddhist influences, and collectively are the oldest religious monument in the world.

Devote at least a couple of days to explore the sprawling complex, which contains dozens of temples and stretches for more than 200 miles. Sunrise and sunset make for the most stunning views, so you can strategize your trip accordingly. When you head back to town, head to the aptly-named Angkor What? Bar and enjoy one of their famous 50-cent beers.

Bali, Indonesia

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The scenic, tranquil island of Bali offers travelers a transcendent experience you won't get anywhere else.

Between peaceful Hindu temples, iconic views of sprawling rice terraces, and vibrant coral reefs along its sandy beaches, it's no surprise why Bali is one of the most beloved tourist destinations in the world. Travel in May to avoid monsoon season and enjoy close to 12 hours of sunshine — you're going to want to be outside as long as possible here.


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The tiny island of Mauritius off the coast of Madagascar is home to powder white-sand beaches, exotic wildlife, and some of the most alluring views in the Indian Ocean.

All manner of water activities are encouraged here, from kitesurfing to to scuba diving. In May, the weather dips into the 70s, sending the majority of tourists packing and leaving much of the island for yourself.

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