August spells adventure across the globe, whether it's climbing volcanoes in Ecuador, riding the white waters of the Zambezi, kayaking Britain’s coastline or exploring the highs and lows of the Spanish Pyrenees.
Thrill seekers, this is your prime time! Get the adrenaline pumping with these expert recommendations.
Hike, bike, kayak, abseil and raft this Spanish mountain playground
If the Alps are Europe’s mountain model, the tall, leggy pin-up, the Pyrenees are the pretty girl next door. Some Alps resorts have been made over for tourism, but in general that’s not true of the Spanish Pyrenees. Here, towns and stone-built villages perched amid glorious mountain scenery provide bases for outdoor activities with a family bent: hiking and cycling trails, canyoning gorges, abseiling, kayaking, rafting – with guesthouses and restaurants providing boltholes in which to rest and feed before the next day’s adventures.
In August, the weather is most consistent, high paths free from snow, and outdoor facilities ready for action. Popular bases include Vielha and Sort (great for river rafting) near Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park in northern Catalonia, and Berdún in neighbouring Aragón province.
- Trip plan: Depending on which part of the Pyrenees, Bilbao, Toulouse or Barcelona (Girona) airports might be most convenient. Tour operators offer family adventure holidays in northern Catalonia and Aragón.
- Need to know: Though activities may be tailored to kids, be sure yours are comfortable cycling and swimming outdoors.
- Other months: Jul-Sep – summer; Oct-Nov – weather variable; Dec-Feb – winter, skiing; Mar-Jun – snow on passes.
Climb volcanoes, delve into rainforest and browse markets in Ecuador
Little Ecuador packs the best of South America into one handy-sized package. It has colonial architecture in Quito and Cuenca; Inca remains at Ingapirca; indigenous markets at Otavalo, Saquisilí and Zumbahua; magnificent cones (including picture-perfect Cotopaxi) along the ‘Avenue of the Volcanoes’; and profuse wildlife in the Amazon, the Galápagos and the northern cloud forests.
Both highlands and rainforest are driest in August, so it’s prime time for absorbing the cultural highlights and getting active on volcanoes and rafting whitewater rivers. Ecuador’s a bargain, to boot, with great-value accommodation.
- Trip plan: From capital Quito, head north to spot iridescent hummingbirds in Mindo cloud forest and onto the bustling market at Otavalo (pausing en route to hop back and forth across the equator). Then dip back south to hike on Cotopaxi or Chimborazo, soak in the thermal waters at Baños, explore the Inca remains at Ingapirca and admire historic Cuenca. It’s worth spending time and money flying deep into the Amazon along the Napo River to stay in one of the wonderful community-run eco-lodges.
- Need to know: A Galápagos cruise is less appealing in August, with rough seas and more cloud.
- Other months: Jan-May – cool, wet in highlands and Amazon; Jun-Sep – driest months in highlands and Amazon; Oct-Dec – wet in Amazon, dry in highlands.
Get the adrenaline pumping on a coastal family adventure in the far west of Britain
The broad beaches, pretty fishing villages and seabird-bustling cliffs of the Pembrokeshire coast rival perennial British holiday favourites such as Cornwall, yet draw a fraction of the crowds. Bring the family in August and you won’t be alone, sure – but it’s easy to find a patch of shoreline to call your own.
There’s a full roster of activities, too: hiking, coasteering, climbing, cycling, surfing and kayaking, for starters. Add imposing castles at Pembroke, Carew and Manorbier, the hidden cathedral at St Davids, porpoise-spotting cruises, and boat trips to the puffin-and-seal havens of Skomer, Skokholm and Ramsey Islands, and you have a heady brew for family adventures.
- Trip plan: Base yourself at an appealing seaside town or village – Tenby or Manorbier in the east, Lower Solva or Porthgain to the west, Fishguard or Newport on the north coast – or historic St David’s, Britain’s smallest cathedral city. A reasonably comprehensive bus service runs in summer.
- Need to know: Access to Skomer, Skokholm and Ramsey Islands is limited – book the few beds in advance and arrive early for boat trips. Puffins depart Skomer during August, so come earlier for larger numbers.
- Other months: Mid-Jun-mid-Sep – warm, larger crowds; Apr-mid-Jun & mid-Sep-Oct – shoulder seasons, quieter; Nov-Mar – winter, good walking from Feb.
Run the whitewaters of the Zambezi
You might think the best time to raft some of the world’s wildest white water is in the wet season. You’d think wrong. When the flow of Victoria Falls (Mosi-oa-Tunya – ‘the smoke that thunders’) starts to thunder more quietly, from August till the end of the year, falling water levels in the Batoka Gorge beneath the 354 ft-high (108m) cascades provide the most thrilling rafting.
Oblivion, Washing Machine, Gnashing Jaws of Death – these are just some of the rapids that flip adrenaline-pumped paddlers from their rafts. If you can catch your breath, gaze up at the cliffs, watching for birds including the rare Taita falcon. Once you’ve dried off, take a dip in the Devil’s Pool on Livingstone Island at the very edge of the falls, before venturing on a wildlife drive in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park to spot elephant, buffalo and giraffe.
- Trip plan: Fly to Livingstone via Johannesburg or Lusaka. Rafting trips range from half a day to four days. Add on visits to the Livingstone’s markets, viewing spots for Victoria Falls, a safari in the national park and perhaps a day kayaking above the falls.
- Need to know: Rafting trips also run from Victoria Falls town in Zimbabwe.
- Other months: May-Aug – cool, dry; Oct-Nov – hot, dry; Dec-Apr – wet (Aug-Dec: rafting best).
Looking for more inspiration? Check out our book Where To Go When for 360 ultimate escapes from family-friendly adventures to animal encounters and relaxing retreats.