As summer and winter get into full swing in their respective hemispheres, wise travellers seek to make the most of the weather in July.
Take to the twinkling, snow-capped peaks of Queenstown with your skis; dip a toe in the cool, crystalline waters of Austria’s lakes; or celebrate all things America on the golden coast of California with these tips from Lonely Planet’s travel experts.
Make a splash in Austria’s lakes
It must be one of life’s greatest pleasures – jumping into deliciously clear, cool water on a hot summer’s day. Austria is one of the most scenic places in the world to do just that, with any number of its natural lakes perfect for a spot of outdoor swimming. In most cases, the waters have warmed up considerably by July, to the less-than-bracing mid-twenties°C.
Head to Carinthia’s Millstätter See for open water swimming, divebombing from lakeside jetties or just a relaxed paddle. As it’ll be high season, the public bathing foreshore is likely to be crowded with holidaymakers, but you can hire a boat to take you to the more peaceful opposite shore. The rest of the country is dotted with equally beautiful lakes to try out – consider Lake Wolfgang in Salzkammergut for a wide selection of watersports and Lake Mondsee in Upper Austria for a particularly sensational mountain scenery backdrop.
Helen Elfer – Destination Editor for the Middle East and North Africa. Follow her tweets @Helen_Elfer.
Embrace winter in Queenstown, New Zealand
Nestled by the inky blue waters of Lake Wakatipu under the snow-capped peaks of the Remarkables, New Zealand’s Queenstown is spectacular every day of the year – but really lights up in winter.
From late June to early July, Queenstown is abuzz with 45,000 people celebrating the ski season and the Queenstown Winter Festival (winterfestival.co.nz). This 10-day festival shows off the best of Queenstown's community with music, comedy and activities for families. At night, as well as the spectacular starry skies, there are fireworks and street parties.
The closest ski fields are a short drive or transit bus ride away in the Remarkables and Coronet Peak. If you’re staying longer you can also head over to Cardrona Alpine Resort and Treble Cone near Wanaka for more terrain to carve up, unless that Winter Festival hangover keeps you in town enjoying the local culture instead.
Tasmin Waby – Destination Editor for New Zealand. Follow her tweets @TravellingTaz.
Celebrate fourth of July by the beach, California
The entire USA celebrates America’s independence on 4 July and if you want to join in the fun and get some beach action at the same time, there’s nowhere better than California’s coast. Every seaside town and city in the state offers great weather and some kind of festivity for the nation’s birthday party, with most rounding off the day with fireworks.
San Diego has a spectacular pyrotechnic display in its bay that can be viewed from several vantage points in the city. Farther north, most of Los Angeles’ famous beaches have their own fireworks, along with plenty of activities for kids during the day and bars to continue the celebrations into the night for the grown-ups. If you want to get away from the crowds completely, California has hundreds of quiet stretches of sand where you can enjoy a picnic, the setting sun providing the only firework you’ll need.
Clifton Wilkinson – Destination Editor for California. Follow his tweets @Cliff_Wilkinson.
Climb Mongolia’s highest peak
Climbing Khüiten Peak may just be the most remote mountaineering experience in the world. Its peak sits on the trilateral border of Mongolia, Russia and China, three countries known for their inaccessible backwoods.
July offers warm, dry weather and is a great time to summit Khüiten. The ascent is not difficult by mountaineering standards and can be achieved by most hikers who have a reasonable level of fitness. The surrounding wilderness features glorious flowering fields and vast open tundra inhabited only by nomads – everything you would expect of the plains of Mongolia.
If you’re looking for culture, opt instead for Naadam national festival on the eastern side of the country. From 11-13 July every year, locals gather to compete in archery, wrestling and horse riding events. Once a religious ceremony, Naadam now officially commemorates Mongolia’s 1921 revolution, when it declared itself a free country.
Explore Japan’s blossoming north, Hokkaidō
Though best known for its ski slopes, Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaidō comes to life under the July sun with festivals, flowers, and a chance to explore some of the country’s most spectacular wilderness. Compact and friendly capital Sapporo makes a great base, as the Summer Festival (20 July to 17 August) transforms the city’s central park Ōdōri Kōen into an enormous beer garden (until 15 August) for around 13,000 revellers.
Elsewhere, blossoming flowers speckle the Hokkaidō countryside with colour – the bright fields of lavender and poppies in Furano are so admired that a special train station opens to accommodate the influx of visitors. Off the tourist trail, national parks that are inaccessible in the colder months, such as Shiretoko and Daisetsuzan, become prime hiking destinations as the snow melts. And getting to Hokkaidō just got easier – the island is now connected to Tokyo via a new bullet train service that started operating in March.
Laura Crawford – Destination Editor for Japan. Follow her tweets @crawfplanet.
Pack your wellies for Great Britain's summer festivals
The British summer brims with music festivals, and July is their fun-packed peak. Perthshire’s T in the Park (8-10 July, tinthepark.com) is the UK’s second-biggest (after Glastonbury), and features the Stone Roses and Calvin Harris. Suffolk’s Latitude (14-17 July, latitudefestival.com) has New Order and the National, as well as comedy and theatre. Indeed, festivals don’t just offer the opportunity to see pop’s biggest names. Llangollen’s International Musical Eisteddfod (5-10 July, international-eisteddfod.co.uk) celebrates the music and culture of Wales and beyond, and Womad (28-31 July, womad.co.uk) features everything from Senegalese funk to Kurdish love songs.
If you fancy a wider trip, there are all manner of options: T in the Park sits at the edge of Scotland’s glorious Highlands, Latitude is a short hop from the beaches of Suffolk, Llangollen is right by the headspinning Pontcysyllte aqueduct, and Womad sits in England’s historic heart, with the Cotswolds to the north and Stonehenge to the south.
James Smart – Destination Editor for Britain, Ireland & Iceland. Follow his tweets @smartbadger.