These Unexpected Summer Destinations Are Free Of Seasonal Crowds

Book your trip now, before everyone else does.

summer vacation destinations

With warm weather, long days, and endless sunshine, it’s no wonder summer is the most popular season for traveling. That also means sky-high prices, low inventory, and crowds at hotspots around the globe. While some destinations (ahem, the Hamptons and the Amalfi Coast) seem to be at the top of everyone’s list, others fly under the radar. Can’t decide where to go in June, July, and August to escape the hordes of tourists? We’ve got you covered.

Love a beach getaway? While the masses are catching rays in Saint Tropez and Ibiza, veer off the well-trodden tourist path and roll out a towel on the shores of Comporta. Craving a culture-filled European city break? Set your sights on Ljubljana. Fancy a wine-tasting trip? Stellenbosh delivers all the vino-fueled charm of Napa Valley sans the busloads of causal sippers.

With the sunny season just a few months away, it’s the perfect time to start planning a trip somewhere fabulous (and, ideally, not super crowded). Scroll on for 10 less obvious summer vacation spots that you’re sure to love, from Folegandros to Sun Valley.

Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy


Golfo Paradiso often gets overlooked by travelers. But this tiny stretch of Ligurian coastline in northern Italy has all the magic of the Amalfi Coast without the throngs of bikini-clad tourists. And while A-listers and jetsetters have long flocked to Portofino, the neighboring town of Santa Margherita Ligure remains delightfully unbothered — and that’s how locals like it. Situated about 22 miles southeast of Genoa and connected to the city by regional train service, the former fishing village is a delightfully low-key Mediterranean gem that’s ideal for summer holiday goers who want to catch rays on the sun-splashed beaches, eat delicious food, meander along quiet cobbled streets, and revel in the authentic ambiance.

Where to stay: The picture of art nouveau refinement, Grand Hotel Miramare, a member of Leading Hotels of the World, is the grandest option in Santa Margherita Ligure. Owned and operated by the Fustinoni family since 1945, this enduringly upscale coastal retreat continues to shine with well-heeled amenities — including a seawater pool, restaurant, spa, and beach club — and timeless rooms.

Melides, Portugal


Throngs of tourists head to the Algarve in the summer. Most don’t even know about the coastal charms of Alentejo. An even quieter alternative to chill Comporta, just 15 minutes up the coast, Melides is a tiny hidden treasure tucked between hillsides and the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. A few days in this easygoing, under-the-radar village gives you plenty of time to shop at the local boutiques, laze on the white-sand beaches, see dolphins jumping above the azure tides, feast on fresh seafood at unassuming local haunts, and maybe even try surfing.

Where to stay: One of the most anticipated hotel openings in Europe last year, Vermelho Melides — the exceedingly stylish hotel from shoe designer Christian Louboutin — inspires awe with its audacious design. More than just a place to admire azulejos tiles and the now Insta-famous handcrafted silver bar, the 13-key respite encourages guests to sip cocktails on the terraces and take a dip in the pool.

Folegandros, Greece


While everyone else is living it up in Santorini and Mykonos, you’ll be better served to venture beyond the well-trodden tourist path. Folegandros, a tiny island in the Cyclades, has a charming chora (main town), unspoiled natural beauty, and remote appeal. With a population of just 765 inhabitants, it never feels too busy. Even when that number rises in the summer, there’s still an uninterrupted sense of placidity. Spend your days doing boat trips to secluded coves and swimming in the sparkling Aegean Sea. For dinner, head to homespun eateries for authentic souvlaki, Greek salad, and octopus plucked straight from the water.

Where to stay: The first ultra-luxe resort to open on the under-wraps island of Folegandros, Gundari trades the traditional whitewashed Cyclades aesthetic for natural stone that plays into the raw, natural presence of the property that sits on 80 untamed acres. In addition to suites with private pools, expect delicious food and a blissful spa for wellness rituals that draw inspiration from ancient Greece.

St. Barts


Most people avoid the Caribbean due to the threat of weather in the summer, but St. Barts is a rare exception that’s great in June and July. If you've always dreamt of visiting the chic, glamorous, French-speaking island, it’s worth considering a summer trip for a more peaceful escape. You’ll enjoy near-empty beaches and avoid peak-season rates (many hotels offer discounts and special programs to entice travelers) and it’s way easier to snag a table at the famously swanky beach restaurants. This overlooked period also brings with it warm weather, daylight that stretches well into the evening hours, and events such as Gustavia Day.

Where to stay: On an island awash with five-star stays, Hôtel Le Toiny, a resplendent Relais & Chateaux property, sets itself apart with unmatched service and amenities. The turquoise sea and sparkling pool are the perfect spots to cool off. Then again, refreshing drinks at the breezy beach club do the job, too. When it’s time for some shut-eye, luxe villas with plush beds and a soundtrack of crashing waves await.

Stellenbosch, South Africa


Winter in the Cape Winelands (for reference, that's summer in the Northern Hemisphere) is South Africa’s best-kept secret. That’s because the cool, crisp temps keep fair-weather sippers away, the native fynbos shrubs are out in full force, and trips to the mountain-backed wineries feel super intimate and special without the peak-season visitors. Oenophiles who don’t mind a long-haul flight should hop on a plane bound for Stellenbosch — a charming enclave an hour outside of Cape Town — to traipse through verdant vineyards, learn about the winemaking process, sample new releases, and chat with local winemakers.

Where to stay: Lean into the agritourism trend with a stay at Babylonstoren. One of the oldest Cape Dutch farms in South Africa, the pastoral property has gorgeous produce gardens, a sleek tasting room overlooking the vineyards, and a lovely spa. Start the day with a farm-to-fork breakfast at Babel, followed by a flight of estate-grown vino or a botanical-laced massage, and end the night cozied up by the fire in your cottage.

Ljubljana, Slovenia


Ljubljana is low-key one of the most photogenic capitals in all of Europe with beautiful architecture, river views, and green spaces galore. Because it doesn’t have the name recognition of Paris and London, nor a big airport that fields stopovers from the United States and across the continent, Slovenia’s largest city is never overrun with tourists. Summer is the prime time to stroll sprawling Tivoli Park, experience the historic Old Town, sip local wine at an outdoor café, and check out some of the well-regarded art museums. From a budget perspective, it’s also a great destination to stretch your dollar, err euro.

Where to stay: The tallest and most luxurious stay in the city, the InterContinental Ljubljana commands attention. Recognizable for its sky-grazing glass exterior, the five-star hotel supplies an award-winning rooftop restaurant where the vistas are as fantastic as the food, a serene spa, and a prime location that makes it an ideal home base for sightseeing.

Byron Bay, Australia


A bohemian beach community that’s Australian to its core, Byron Bay epitomizes laid-back coastal vibes. And while the town peaks in the summer (the months of December, January, and February), the off-season is a sleeper hit. The waves draw wetsuit-wearing surfers. Plus, there are seasonal opportunities for whale watching and pleasant weather for hiking to the lighthouse. Rainforest walks and farm visits show off a more pastoral side of the storied seaside destination. It’s also a holistic haven with spas, yoga studios, and alternative healing practitioners. However you choose to spend the day, be sure to get back to the main beach in time to unfurl a blanket and watch the sunset over the ocean.

Where to stay: Channeling the nostalgia of old-school motels in a fresh, contemporary way, The Sunseeker oozes retro cool factor and has plenty to appeal to present-day holiday goers as well. The stylish refuge reflects Byron Bay’s vibrant-meets-chill ethos. Artful touches are everywhere, from the tropical tiki bar to the grid-worthy mineral pool, which is heated in the winter months (summertime in the U.S.). E-bikes for tooling around town are a nice touch, too.

St. Moritz


Swooshing down the legendary slopes of St. Moritz is a cherished pastime for Olympians and recreational skiers and snowboarders alike. When the white powder gives way to green mountainsides and sunshine, this postcard-perfect town in the Swiss Alps becomes a hotbed for outdoor activity. In between hiking, biking, and paragliding, ride the highest railway, dine at the top-notch restaurants, unwind at the luxury spas, and shop the luxury stores. With prices way below the going rate in the busy winter months, it’s a great time to visit this ritzy alpine resort without breaking the bank.

Where to stay: Badrutt's Palace Hotel is a legend known for its spectacular setting, extensive amenities, and recreation opportunities. Summer highlights include an outdoor pool, alpine yoga, and tennis clinics, plus sailing and stand-up paddleboarding on the nearby Upper Engadin Valley lakes. The iconic mountain resort also boasts a fabulous spa for revitalizing rituals and rooms that promise restful zzzs.

Tokyo, Japan


Tokyo tops the travel bucket list for many travelers. And while Japan’s sprawling megapolis capital is a hugely popular and bustling travel destination all year, things actually slow down in the summer months. Admittedly, the oppressive heat has a lot to do with that. If you can get past sweating while touring, it’s a great time to avoid crowds at Tokyo Skytree, Meiji Shrine, and Sensō-ji Temple and explore neighborhoods such as Shibuya and Ginza. You’ll also skip the notoriously long lines at Toyosu Market’s queue-worthy sushi joints and up your chances of snagging hard-to-come-by reservations at Michelin-rated omakase spots.

Where to stay: Shangri-La Tokyo is a luxurious overnight in the central business district that’s close to the Imperial Palace and steps from Tokyo Station. For a midday sightseeing break, head to the lobby lounge for posh afternoon tea. A seasonally-inspired body scrub, wrap, and massage at the tranquil spa feels especially fitting after exploring in the steamy summer months.

Sun Valley, Idaho


Sun Valley is a favorite winter sports destination that’s known for skiing and snowboarding. When the piles of snow melt and the sun shines bright above the verdant landscape, it’s super pretty — and surprisingly empty. That translates to wide open spaces to roam. In between hiking the alpine trails, navigating hundreds of miles of mountain bike paths, and stopping to snap photos sans droves of other tourists in the wildflower-filled meadows, ride the scenic gondola to the summit of Bald Mountain, and hit the links. Besides outdoor recreation, carve out some time to grab a beer at Sun Valley Brewing Company and visit the Sawtooth Botanical Garden.

Where to stay: A springboard for outdoor adventure, Limelight Hotel Ketchum provides easy access to nature and custom itineraries to help guests make the most of the season. Of course, it’s not just about the thrills. The property also has a lounge for hanging out, refueling with wood-fired pizzas, and listening to acoustic music as well as comfy rooms to crash at the end of action-packed days.