The Best Places to Travel in June
From the sacred to the deliciously profane (see: super-sized peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwiches), June packs countless reasons to grab your bags and rack up some miles. Read on for eight of our favourite cases in point.
Pentecost Island, Vanuatu
Welcome to a place where “go take a flying leap” is more encouragement than snub. In this remote corner of the South Pacific, land-diving season is in full swing (every Saturday through the end of June), with brave locals attaching only vines to their ankles before hurtling themselves off 100-foot towers. The music- and dance-intensive yam harvest ritual with dysfunctional marital origins was actually AJ Hackett’s bungee inspiration—and seeing it for yourself is certainly reason enough to make the trip to Vanuatu. But there are plenty of other reasons to extend your stay: Gawk at the pyrotechnics (from a safe distance) at Tanna Island's Mt Yasur Volcano. Swim with ridiculously adorable manatee-like dugongs off the coast of Efate Island. Or take a scuba tour of Espiritu Santo’s SS President Coolidge—the world’s largest, most accessible, recreational diving wreck.
Whether you love him tender—or crush hard on him—you’ve got to make a pilgrimage to the King’s birthplace at least once in your life, and now's the time: The Tupelo Elvis Festival takes place June 5-9, with wall-to-wall impersonators, back-to-back tribute shows, plus the all-important Elvis Pet Parade (think Labradoodles in mirror shades and rhinestone jumpsuits). You’ll have ample opportunity to strut your own stuff, too, whether you croon like the king at the Tribute Artist Contest or work off all that Elvis-worthy PB&B in the Running With The King 5K race. Of course, a visit to his childhood home is a must, as is a burger at his favorite diner, and a stroll through Tupelo Hardware ("where Gladys bought her son his first guitar," per the store's slogan). For a whole King-themed circuit, check out the new self-guided Elvis bike tour. If you hit all 12 stops, you'll get a prize from the Tupelo Visitor Center—but not, alas, new blue suede shoes.
June is technically winter here, bringing down costs and crowd size—but the weather’s still lovely (highs in the mid-60s, generally) and there’s a lot going on: Vivid Sydney (May 24 – June 15) is a one-of-a-kind, multi-culti mish-mash of art, music, and technology. Check out the seventy-plus light installations—not least, Austral Flower Ballet: a psychedelic film projection on the sails of Sydney Opera House by Andrew Thomas Huang (a Bjork video alum). Carry on the global theme with the Multicultural Eid Festival and Fair (June 9) at the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Trot out your best "Eid Mubarak!" (the go-to holiday greeting), then hit the carnival rides, art workshops, and fire-breather shows. (Oh, and the stalls full of Turkish, Pakistani, and Indian treats). If you prefer your multiculturalism in cinematic form, you’ll find tons of it (plus plenty of Australia-made movies) at the Sydney Film Festival (June 5-16), where you’ll also find Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish and Wagner Moura (of Narcos fame), among others.
Scandinavia specializes in fun midsummer’s eve festivals—schnapps-fueled all-nighters around bonfires that recall pagan solstice celebrations. But only Copenhagen’s—known as Sankt Hans Aften (St. John’s eve, June 23)—comes with this add-on: the Tivoli Midsummer Concert, when The Copenhagen Royal Chapel Choir leads an evening of choral singing, folk ballads, and poetry at the Tivoli Concert Hall, on the grounds of the magical gardens. Midsummer also marks a big moment in the foodie world: Vegetable Season (vegetarian and vegan heaven) at Copenhagen’s Noma, four-time leader of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants pack—and a favourite for the 2019 awards.
Though it’s always a good time, the Montreal Jazz Fest is going all out for its 40th anniversary (June 27 – July 6) with so many legends, other cities will be operating at a talent deficit. The short list of performers includes Norah Jones, Bebel Gilberto, Chick Corea, George Benson, Leslie Odom Jr., Peter Frampton and Rodrigo y Gabriela. But if your idea of a flag waver has more to do with racetrack officials than up-tempo swing, get here earlier in the month for the Montreal Grand Prix (June 7-9), when Formula One superstars take to the state-of-the-art Circuit Gilles Villeneuve racetrack on Notre Dame Island. Hit the champagne-fuelled opening party at The Ritz Carlton) or the Grand Prix-themed five-course dinner at Bord’Elle. And if you’re feeling spendy (that's kinda how the Grand Prix crowd rolls), consider staying at the brand new Four Seasons, with floor-to-ceiling views of Golden Square Mile and a new outpost by celeb chef Marcus Samuelsson—a restaurant-terrace-lounge combo aptly named Marcus.
Cusco and the Sacred Valley
To be clear: At no point during the year would you not be awed by Machu Picchu, but June brings several bonus reasons to visit the greater Cusco metro region. The first (June 17-19) involves a three-ish hour drive from Cusco followed by a two-ish-hour hike into the Sinakara Valley, where you’ll arrive to a mind-bending display of syncretism and nature: the festival of Qoyllur Rit’i, a blend of ancient Quechua rites and Catholic pilgrimage that brings round-the-clock dancing, singing and parading in costume at the foot of an Andean glacier. (Don’t attempt the trip solo: You’ll want to book through an agency.)
Next up is Corpus Christi (June 20), a Eucharist-centric holiday celebrated throughout the region, but nowhere more dramatically than Cusco, where elaborately festooned saints take to the cobbled streets of the historic center in a seemingly endless procession. Should you find yourself at Machu Picchu the following day (June 21), don’t miss the solstice-timed appearance of the mystical light beam at the Temple of the Sun. But you’ll have another opportunity to catch the sun god a few days later (June 24) in the Saksayhuaman ruins just outside Cusco, where most of Inti Raymi goes down. Though this reenactment of the Inca-era homage to Tata Inti (Father Sun) no longer features llama sacrifice, you will likely see many deceased, plated and garnished guinea pigs. Known locally as cuy, they’re considered delicacies and are especially popular during fiestas.
For another take on eating local, stay at Explora Sacred Valley. This eco-luxe hotel set between Cusco and Sacred Valley—an ideal base camp for anyone who loves hiking and off-the-beaten-path adventures—has just partnered with the legendary chef Virgilio Martinez to produce an haute and hyperlocal menu, where the likes of potatoes, corn, and quinoa will turn up in stunning incarnations.
June marks the beginning of the short-lived puffin-watching season in the only US state that can lay claim to these avian A-listers. Start with a Puffin Watch Cruise to the thriving colony at Eastern Egg Rock on the Pemaquid Peninsula. And diehards can keep the party going on gorgeous Mount Desert Island (pardon us, the Warbler Capital of the World) at the annual Acadia Birding Festival (May 30 – June 2). And while the warblers, peregrine falcons and Arctic terns are indeed fab, you should check out the occasional supersized mammal for scale: Yes, you can see humpbacks in June, too, so hop a whale-watching cruise from Bar Harbor.
St. Petersburg, Russia
The so-called Venice of the North goes off-the-charts bucket-listy during the month-long White Nights Festival, when eternal sunshine is a near-reality—and the perfect excuse for all-night revelry. Take a jaunt through the Summer Garden, stop for a GQ cocktail (vodka, cucumber, ginger, passion fruit) at Sky Bar on the terrace of the Azimut Hotel and see a performance of Stars of the White Nights International Ballet and Opera Festival at the fabled Mariinsky Theater (May 22 – July 21). Or bust a White Nights move yourself at any of the parties along the Neva, where the vodka flows as freely as the river. If you can time your visit to one particular day, go for June 23, aka Scarlet Sails, celebrated annually on the Saturday closest to the longest White Night. This high school graduates’ holiday—which involves fireworks, a concert and, yes, an illuminated red-sailed brig—puts ye olde commencement cap toss to shame.