Summer Travel

10 Surprising Places You Need to Visit This Summer

This summer, leave the Hamptons, Cape Cod, and Ocean City to the masses. There are so many incredible places to go where you won’t have to dodge hordes of tourists. From a picturesque Swiss lake town to an underrated wine region in the Pacific Northwest, these ten destinations offer an alternative to the usual summer spots. What are you waiting for?

An avid Italophile, Laura is always on the hunt for the next great travel trends, luxury hotels, best places to eat and drink, and hidden gems. Her writing has appeared in dozens of publications. She also co-wrote "New York: Hidden Bars and Restaurants," an award-winning guide to the city's speakeasy scene.

See recent posts by Laura Itzkowitz

Bedroom at Hotel Eden Roc
Dining room at Hotel Eden Roc
Pool view at Hotel Eden Roc
Boots in the harbor in Ascona Switzerland

Ascona, Switzerland

While everyone else crowds into the resorts lining Lake Como, make a dash for this charming town on the Swiss side of Lake Maggiore, just over the Italian border. Ascona is located in Ticino, the country’s only Italian-speaking canton, so its culture and cuisine have a lot in common with nearby Italy. Check into the Hotel Eden Roc, a member of Leading Hotels of the World. With a glamorous midcentury design and a pool overlooking Lake Maggiore, it looks like a Slim Aarons photograph come to life. In between Aperol Spritzes by the shore, enjoy days spent boating on the lake, exploring the nearby Brissago Islands, and hiking in the Alps.

Bedroom at The Retreat at the Blue Lagoon
The Retreat at the Blue Lagoon


While Northern Lights-chasers flock to Iceland in the winter, summer is an equally appealing time to go, when Iceland becomes the land of the midnight sun. (Seriously, you can be out after midnight and it will feel like noon.) More daylight hours means more time to explore the country’s surreal landscapes, frolic on black-sand beaches, and soak in the hot springs. Book a room at the Retreat at the Blue Lagoon, which opened last year, to have a section of the country’s most famous attraction all to yourself. Part of the Blue Lagoon is reserved for hotel guests, who can try an in-water massage floating in the lagoon and take part in the spa’s cleansing ritual that purifies your skin using silica, algae, and minerals specific to this part of the world.

RELATED: First Look: Inside the Retreat at Blue Lagoon Iceland

Exterior of Woodstock Inn & Resort at night
Bedroom at Woodstock Inn & Resort
Dinner set up at Woodstock Inn & Resort
A small deck in the middle of a lake in Vermont.


Let the crowds have Cape Cod—Vermont is the place to be on the East Coast this summer. The whole state oozes quaint New England charm, but for quintessential small-town vibes, the best spot to hole up is Woodstock. Stroll through the center of town and you’ll find a bookshop, ice cream parlor, a boutique selling locally-made plaid blankets and clothes, and an old-timey general store. At the Woodstock Inn & Resort, which was established by Laurence and Mary Rockefeller and revealed a $6.5 million renovation last year, you’ll have four restaurants to choose from including the elegant Red Rooster and the more casual Richardson’s Tavern. The slopes won’t be open, but golfers can play on the property’s 18-hole course.

Vibrant fisherman boats in Malta.


While Europeans flock to Italy’s famous islands when the weather warms, you could be soaking up the sun in Malta. A former British colony with a fascinating history, Malta comprises five islands just south of Sicily. Bed down at The Phoenicia Malta (beloved by Queen Elizabeth II) and spend a few days exploring Valletta, the capital, whose narrow streets are lined with limestone buildings housing cafés, restaurants, bars, and shops. You can even get a peek inside the home of one of the Knights of Malta at Casa Rocca Piccola. From the main island, take a ferry to visit the beaches and salt pans of Gozo or Comino, which draws sun-seekers to the Blue Lagoon to sunbathe and swim in the crystal-clear sea.

Deluxe bedroom at Tivoli Palacio de Seteais
Lounge at Tivoli Palacio de Seteais
Pool view at Tivoli Palacio de Seteais
The Castle of the Moors is a hilltop medieval castle in Sintra, Portugal

Sintra, Portugal

Most visitors to Portugal make a beeline for Lisbon, often saving Sintra as a day trip, but you would do well to dedicate more time to this regal city. Located about an hour outside the capital, Sintra is where Portuguese royalty built their summer palaces. For couples, its misty mountains combined with fairytale castles and pastel-painted buildings make it an especially romantic escape. The most famous castle to visit is Pena Palace, but there are several others worth seeing like Quinta da Regaleira and the Palacio Nacional de Sintra, which has incredible azulejo tiles. Experience the palace life for yourself during a stay at Tivoli Palácio de Seteais, whose rooms are replete with beautiful frescoes and period furniture.

RELATED: The 18 Most Beautiful Places in Europe to Add to Your Bucket List

Traditional old style boat in Business district in marina bay Singapore


While Thailand, India, and other Asian countries get slammed during monsoon season, Singapore’s weather is a bit more stable. The island nation is reliably hot year-round with some intermittent rain (it is tropical, after all), but the weather doesn’t change dramatically in summer—making it a great place to go during the steamy summer months, when you can combine a few days exploring the city with a break on Sentosa Island. This year is an especially exciting time for the city. This spring, the new Jewel Changi Airport opened with the world’s tallest indoor waterfall and Singapore’s largest indoor plant collection. In June, Singapore will host the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards gala, cementing its status as a top destination for foodies. Finally, the iconic Raffles Singapore is slated to reopen in August after a top-to-bottom renovation that began in 2017.

Lobby of Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi
Bedroom at Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi
Lounge at Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi
Downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico at dusk.

Santa Fe, NM

Dreaming of the desert? Santa Fe offers all kinds of cultural riches. This month, the new Downtown Santa Fe First Fridays program kicked off, where participating shops and art galleries offer specials during extended hours on the first Friday of every month. Time your visit anytime between July 12 and 21 and you'll be able to attend the city's inaugural Santa Fe Art Week, which begins with the International Folk Art Market and ends with Art Santa Fe. For classic Southwest vibes, the place to stay is the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi. When you do, be sure to book a table at the property’s Anasazi Restaurant—a destination in its own right.

Restaurant at CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa
Beach at CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa
Aerial view of CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa


While some islands are still recovering from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Anguilla has bounced back. Though traveling during hurricane season might give you pause, odds are it’ll be fine. If you’re willing to take the chance, you can score some great deals in the Caribbean this time of year, since most resorts have low occupancy. CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa, for example, is offering a special deal through December 20: pay for five nights and you’ll get two free. The sprawling, Mediterranean-inspired sleep has a strong culinary focus; it’s home to five restaurants and bars, including the best Japanese restaurant on the island.

RELATED: 9 Caribbean Islands You NEED to Visit in 2019

mount cook national park in south Island New Zealand

New Zealand

Can’t stand the heat? Consider making the trek to New Zealand, where June, July, and August spell winter months. Last year, Air New Zealand began offering nonstop service from Chicago to Auckland, making it easier to get to the North Island—home to the Hobbiton movie set. You could start there and then go skiing on the South Island at Coronet Peak—one of the country’s most popular ski resorts—or Cardrona, which is great for families.

Book Hotels in New Zealand

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Napa’s tasting rooms get mobbed any time of year, so if you're looking to plan a wine country trip without the crowds, get off the beaten path instead and explore Oregon's Willamette Valley. About an hour south of Portland, this picturesque region boasts rolling hills, fantastic vineyards, and uncrowded tasting rooms. The Willamette Valley has over 500 wineries known for producing excellent Pinot Noirs—a grape that thrives in the cool, Pacific Northwest climate. While you're here, check into the Allison Inn & Spa, an eco-friendly property set on 35 acres dotted with sculptures by Oregonian artists. From there, you can hit up the best wineries in the area, including Sokol Blosser, the Stoller Family Estate, and Domaine Roy & Fils.

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