Baking beaches in August not your thing? From forest retreats in Scandinavia and polar bears in Spitsbergen, to Australia's Great Ocean Road and the ski slopes of Chile, our writers reveal 30 great escapes from the summer heat.
Britain and Ireland
1. It’s a breeze
There’s no danger of mosquitoes or baking-hot sand on the coast of Northumberland. What you will find in Bamburgh, Alnmouth and Beadnell are miles of dunes, pancake-flat sands, open spaces and stiff breezes to spring-clean the cobwebs. Take a boat trip from Seahouses to seal-watch on the Farne Islands, explore mighty castle ruins such as Dunstanburgh and Warkworth, then feast on fresh crabs and lobsters.
- Coastal Retreats (0191 285 1272; coastalretreats.co.uk) offers self-catering cottages including The Alnmouth Boathouse, from £455 for three nights (sleeps two) and Smuggler’s Hide, Beadnell, from £475 for three nights (sleeps five).
2. Highlands cycle ride
A thin blue line of lakes sandwiched between the Cairngorms and the northern Highlands provides a handily flat(ish) route from Inverness to Fort William for a nine-day self-guided cycling tour, following mostly traffic-free trails from the Moray Firth to Oban. See Loch Ness, Culloden and Glencoe, bed down in magnificent mansions and castles – and stop off for a fortifying dram at a whisky distillery.
- The Carter Company (01296 631671; the-carter-company.com) offers an eight-night coast to coast tour from £3,380 in luxury accommodation; £1,590 in boutique accommodation.
3. Train takes strain
With so much talk about the future of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, now seems a good time to jump aboard the Belmond Grand Hibernian. There are a number of summer journeys with themes such as “legends and loughs” or “taste of Ireland”. The six-day northbound Grand Tour of Ireland travels seamlessly between south and north, taking in highlights such as the Blarney Stone, Galway and Dublin in the south and the award-winning Titanic Experience in Belfast.
- The Grand Tour of Ireland costs from €9,459 (£8,331) per person with Belmond (belmond.com).
4. Puffins ahead
It’s been said that the craggy coast of far south-west Wales is Cornwall without the crowds – and it boasts a coastal footpath the equal of England’s longest national trail on empty beaches and cliff-top tracks, past islands and coves sheltering seabirds, seals and dolphins. Spot puffins and razorbills on Skomer island, visit pretty fishing villages and bijou St David’s Cathedral on the self-guided Best of Pembrokeshire walking holiday.
- Macs Adventure (0141 530 5004; macsadventure.com) offers seven nights in B&Bs, with luggage transfers and route notes from £590.
5. Hobbit-hole hiatus
Just in case it is a little hot in the Lake District (it does happen), go underground. The “hobbit holes” – wooden cabins built into the hillside at The Quiet Site campsite near Ullswater – are “burrow-living with comforts”. Tucked into the gently sloping site, a 30-minute walk from Ullswater below, they’re toastily insulated, have sleeping benches, their own loos, and a covered patio handy just in case it rains (this also occasionally happens in the Lakes). Very handily, there’s a bar housed in the site’s 18th-century barn.
- From £100 per night in high season, minimum three-night stay, for two adults and four children (07768 727016; thequietsite.co.uk).
6. Sun, sea and Strandkörbe
In the rush for the Med, the string of resorts lining the Ostsee (Baltic Sea) and the Nord See (North Sea) coast in northern Germany get very little look-in from British visitors. Resorts such as Kühlungsborn (the “German Riviera”) are filled with Strandkörbe (wicker basket chairs) that offer protection from both sun and wind.
- Hotel Polar-Stern (0049 38293 8290; polar-stern.com) in Kühlungsborn offers double rooms from €136 in the high season. Fly to Hamburg.
7. Camp Ice Cap
In a country covered mostly with ice, there’s little risk of sleepless, clammy nights – especially if you pitch a tent in its frozen far reaches. For a gentle introduction to the life of an Arctic explorer, join a guided two-hour trek from Kangerlussuaq, using crampons and poles to tackle the Greenland ice cap and reach a ready-made expedition camp for the night.
- Magnetic North Travel (01664 400103; magneticnorthtravel.com) offers a four-night break including one night at Camp Ice Cap from £2,150 per person. Flights extra.
8. On track for heights
The line to the highest point a train reaches in Europe has to be the best way to escape the heat. Travel the beautiful valleys of the Bernese Oberland south from Interlaken, climbing to Jungfraujoch station at 11,332ft. Look down Europe’s longest tongue of ice, the 14-mile (23km) Aletsch Glacier, over lunch in one of the five summit restaurants.
- Interlaken-Jungfraujoch return costs from £137; bookable through Swiss Travel Centre (020 7420 4900; swisstravelsystem.co.uk).
9. Pining for the fjords
Norway is a great choice for a summer cruise because you are never far from the shore – and for much of the time it is light. Enjoy the beauty of the fjords or sail all the way to the northernmost point of the European land mass – Nord Cap – and beyond to Kirkenes, a stone’s throw from the Russian border.
- Hurtigruten (020 3131 6585; hurtigruten.co.uk) offers a seven-day voyage between Bergen and Kirkenes in August from £1,360, excluding flights.
10. Curonian class
During the Cold War, the white sand beaches lining the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were popular with Soviet bigwigs such as Leonid Brezhnev and Boris Yeltsin. Their favourite was the dacha-filled resort of Jurmala, a short drive from the Latvian capital of Riga. Nowadays we can all enjoy this spectacular coast. For something really special, search for amber on the Curonian Spit between Lithuania and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.
- Regent Holidays (0207 666 1244; regent-holidays.co.uk) offers a seven-night trip to the Lithuanian capital Vilnius and the resort of Nida in August from £870 per person; includes flights with Wizz Air.
11. Delicious Dolomites
The Alta Badia valley in northern Italy is famed for hotels and restaurants spangled with Michelin stars. Each summer its mountain “huts” (an unduly modest term for alpine eateries, many of them very stylish) offer an extensive menu of gastronomic activities to fuel hikers, cyclists, horseriders and rafters.
- Powder Byrne (020 8246 5300; powderbyrne.com) offers a week-long tailor-made package from £2,800, including half-board accommodation, three lunches; but not flights.
12. Mountain majesty
In a country of mountain vistas and cool lakes, the Salzkammergut region to the east of Salzburg has a particular majesty. Cultural treasures abound, such as the exquisite Gothic altarpiece crafted by the 15th-century master Michael Pacher in the pilgrimage town of St Wolfgang. History buffs can head to the spa town of Bad Ischl, where Emperor Franz Josef summered for more than 60 years in succession.
- An Emperor Room with lake view balcony at the Im Weissen Rössl (White Horse Inn) on Lake Wolfgang costs from €330 a night: weissesroessl.at.
13. Polar bear ahoy!
In the high Arctic, overheating is rarely a problem despite 24-hour daylight in midsummer. But look out for polar bears – spotting the world’s largest land carnivore is a highlight of a cruise around the icy Svalbard archipelago. On Zodiac (and, weather permitting, kayak) excursions you may also encounter walrus, white beluga and thriving bird life, as well as old whaling stations and the summery-sounding 14th of July Glacier.
- Exodus Travels (020 3733 2535; exodus.co.uk) offers a 13-day cruise around Svalbard from £6,000 including flights.
14. Masurian magic
The land mass of Poland can get pretty hot in the summer, so many Poles keep cool in Masuria, the heavily forested eastern part of the country known as the “land of a thousand lakes”. Galery69 is a delightfully arty hotel on the shores of Lake Wulpinskie. Eat, walk, kayak and swim. Then drink wine on the jetty right on the lake. Repeat.
- Hotel Galery69 (telegraph.co.uk/tt-hotel-galery69) has rooms in August from £130 a night. Wizz Air (wizzair.com) flies between London Luton and Olsztyn-Mazury.
15. Into the wild
The four-seasons-in-one-day climate of this Atlantic archipelago prompted British troops stationed here during the Second World War to christen it “The Land of Maybe”. But if its weather doesn’t lure sun-seekers, visitors are amply rewarded with epic landscapes – plunging waterfalls, cliffs bustling with seabirds, valleys studded with turf-roofed timber farmhouses – and some of Scandinavia’s finest seafood in the capital Torshavn.
- A self-drive week with Magnetic North Travel (01664 400103; magneticnorthtravel.com) costs from £1,395, including flights from Edinburgh, seven nights’ B&B accommodation and car hire.
16. Glaciers and hot springs
The world’s largest man-made ice cave, Into the Glacier, has been carved into the slopes of Langjokull Glacier, and can be reached only by an eight-wheel-drive modified military missile launcher. After chilling in the tunnels, take a dip in Grindavik’s Blue Lagoon. New on-site hotel The Retreat has its own steaming pool of geothermal water, reserved only for guests.
- Regent Holidays (020 7666 1244; regent-holidays.co.uk) offer a three-night stay at The Retreat from £2,985 per person, with a visit to Into the Glacier. Flights included.
17. Black Forest bonanza
These densely wooded hills loom large in the German psyche. You can hike, bike or ride a hi-tech scooter for five miles down the Schauinsland mountain. Don’t miss Freiburg, with its fine cathedral, fun taverns and award-winning vineyards nearby. And definitely don’t miss a slice of Black Forest gateau…
- Fred.\ Holidays (0808 250 7755; fredholidays.co.uk) offers a three-centre week in the Black Forest from £959, including car hire, B&B accommodation and flights.
18. Ace archipelago
There is a danger that the temperature on the 30,000-island-strong archipelago surrounding Stockholm could rise to 86F (30C) in the summer. But it could equally be reassuringly below 60F (15C). Come what may, there will be ample opportunity to retreat to your forest cabin, enjoy car-free calm, shady refuge beneath pine trees, swims in fresh water oases and lazy boat rides from island to island. Combine with time in Stockholm, or the rugged islands around Gothenburg.
- Nature Travels (01929 503080; naturetravels.co.uk) offers a six-day Island Hopping and Hiking itinerary in the Stockholm Archipelago from £762, excluding flights.
19. Musk ox safari
Africa has elephants and rhinos, but head north to Dovrefjell National Park, near Trondheim, to track musk oxen on foot. The animals were translocated from Greenland in the Thirties and in the summer, females come down to the Driva river to give birth – so less chance of overheating on a hike.
- Hikes of five-seven hours cost £41 from Oppdal Safari (moskussafari.no); Norwegian (norwegian.com/uk) flies to Trondheim from Gatwick from £90.20 return.
20. Peak in the Picos
Never mind baking in Benidorm, the northern region of Spain is delightfully temperate and in addition to the cultural, coastal (and culinary) treasures of Bilbao and San Sebastian, is also home to the Picos de Europa mountains and national park. Give yourself a few days to explore – not least because those spectacular peaks can frequently be shrouded in cloud.
- Brittany Ferries (brittany-ferries.co.uk) sails between Portsmouth and Santander, Portsmouth and Bilbao and Plymouth and Santander; lowest standard return (Portsmouth-Santander) is £428 (car and two passengers).
21. Garden glories
Sandwiched between the Outeniqua mountains and the Indian Ocean, this coastal strip is watered by an intricate network of rivers and lakes. Winters are balmy, with sunny dawns pushing the mercury to an average 64F (18C), ideal for the many wine estates. It’s popular in peak season, but get here in August and the natural playground is yours to explore, and accommodation prices are rock bottom. Best done as a looping road trip from Cape Town.
- Africa Travel (africatravel.com 020 7843 3500) offers a seven-night Garden Route itinerary in August from £1,595 per person, including accommodation, car hire and flights from Heathrow on British Airways.
22. Rocky mountain high
Enjoy the trip of a lifetime in Western Canada, where moist air blows in from the ocean. Take VIA Rail or the Rocky Mountaineer from Jasper through the peaks to Vancouver, North America’s best – and most affordable – foodie scene. A 45-minute flight gets you to Tofino, on Vancouver Island. Explore the Pacific Rim National Park; hike the rainforest; go kayaking; surf next to empty sandy beaches.
- Canada As You Like it (020 8742 8299; canadaasyoulikeit.com) has two-week Western Canada adventures, including the train trip across the Rockies, Vancouver and five nights in Tofino, from £2,195, flights and accommodation included.
23. Let’s ski
There’s snow on the Andean peaks above Santiago year round. The grand old resort of Portillo, with 18 runs, is 100 miles from downtown and comprises three separate valleys, together making up South America’s largest skiable area. Beyond the central region there’s good skiing in Chillán, Pucón and on the Osorno volcano in the lakes – and on the other side of the Andes, at the Argentine resorts of Las Leñas and Bariloche.
- Pura Aventura (01273 676712, pura-aventura.com) packages up Portillo with an Atacama stay; 15 days from £5,450 plus flights.
24. Monsoon magic
The monsoon season may seem a counterintuitive time to visit India, but Coorg is at its best in August, a fresh and green landscape with spectacular waterfalls. Sometimes called “the Scotland of India”, it’s in the southern state of Karnataka and is dotted with coffee and cardamom plantations, orange groves, paddy fields and tropical forests. The area’s hill-station capital, Madikeri, is small-town India at its most engaging.
- Cox & Kings (020 3642 0861; coxandkings.co.uk) has a 14-night private tour of southern India in August from £3,195; includes two nights in Coorg, flights, transfers, excursions and accommodation.
25. Fall for the falls
“Iguazu” means “great waters”. The two-mile wide canyon of thundering falls is certainly that, but it’s the rainforest framing it, alive with morpho butterflies and toucans, that makes it magical. The Awasi Iguazu lodge offers luxury stays with superb dining. This is the sub-tropics, so winter is a bit cooler, and once July is out of the way, the crowds are smaller.
- Journey Latin America (0208 747 8315, journeylatinamerica.co.uk) visits Iguazu on its Buenos Aires to Rio 10-day “Value” tour, from £1,517 plus flights.
26. Whales and wildlife
There’s no shortage of cool in Alaska (travelalaska.com), an area six times larger than the UK. It’s not too cold, with an average July temperature in the state capital Juneau of 63F (17C). A cruise from Vancouver is a great summer introduction to the region, with the chance to see whales and an immense medley of islands, fjords, mountains and glaciers.
- Crystal (020 7399 7601; crystalcruises.co.uk) offers Alaskan cruises including a July 2 six-day Vancouver-Anchorage voyage from £1,899, excluding fights.
27. Treehouse treat
Sleeping in a treehouse, surrounded by the fresh foliage of poplar, pine and birch: what could be more romantic? Canopées lits, literally treetop beds, are cosy log cabins perched on stilts 17ft above the ground. Rustic comforts include proper beds, kitchenettes, electricity, shower and eco-friendly dry loos. At the main lodge are games, the campfire – and Wi-Fi. Nearby, Saguenay Fjord offers dramatic cliffs, hiking, kayaking and whale-watching cruises. It’s 20 minutes from the village of Tadoussac.
- Windows on the Wild (020 8742 1556; windowsonthewild.com) offers two weeks in Quebec, including five nights at Canopée Lit from £1,845, including car hire, accommodation, flights.
28. Great Ocean Road
Australia in the depths of its winter has less than baking temperatures – and far fewer visitors. Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth are all much more manageable in cooler climes and, while it may still be a little chilly to drive the Great Ocean Road in July, a month later you should be getting the first inklings of spring sunshine as you approach the Twelve Apostles. The Great Otway National Park will be suitably lush, and hardy surfers in wetsuits will be riding the waves. Should you want to combine with something a little warmer, there’s always Darwin in the north…
- For Great Ocean Road driving tips, see australiaroadtrip.co.uk. The Private Tour Guide (0061 0400 054 015, theprivatetourguide.com) has a three-day private guided tour for two, including meals and two nights in four-star hotels for AU$3,610 (£2,030).
29. Time to tango
Buenos Aires may be the “Paris” of the River Plate but it doesn’t feel like that when the weather is sizzling. In winter, though, BA has a nostalgic feel. This is the season for locro bean stews in its old restaurants and hot chocolate and churros in the grand cafés. It’s a good time for dancing, with the annual BA International Tango Festival from Aug 9-22. The country’s main agro fair, La Rural, brings prize bulls and gauchos on July 18-29.
- British Airways (ba.com) flies London to BA direct from £854.
30. Safari express
Travel in an elegantly restored sleeper train – the Stimela Star – from the Victoria Falls to Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. The tour, launched in June, has a couple of departures in August, when the wildlife in the game park will be at its best and the temperatures will average 77F (25C) in the daytime and a beautifully chilly 41F (5C) at night. Pack a jumper!
- Expert Africa (020 3405 6666; expertafrica.com) offers a 10-day package including time at Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park and a journey on the Stimela Star from £4,596 per person. Includes flights.
Contributions by Paul Wade, Kathy Arnold, Stephen McClarence, Paul Bloomfield, Sarah Marshall, John Wilmott, Adrian Bridge, Pippa de Bruyn, Chris Moss, Helen Pickles and Tim Jepson.