UNITED KINGDOM (National Geographic) —
We know Nashville is awesome. People who visit (and whoo! here) know it's the best. But now National Geographic acknowledges it's #1 destination in the world in June. IN. THE. WORLD.
Wow. (Come visit, but don't move here).
Here's the Top 5 published by National Geographic U.K:
1. Nashville, Tennessee
Music City hits a high note this month. Its chock-a-block calendar of music festivals includes the annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. ‘Bonnaroo’ is Creole slang for ‘good stuff’ and there’s heaps of it: over 150 performances, as well as comedy, cinema, interactive art installations, food trucks, yoga and even sustainability workshops. It sprawls across a 700-acre farm on the city’s outskirts, a short shuttle ride from the centre.
While in the Deep South, take a deep dive into country music at the annual four-day CMA Fest in downtown Nashville. Musicians like Dierks Bentley, Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood perform free to help raise funds for the Country Music Association Foundation’s music education programmes.
There’s plenty more to sing about, too, with tons of free music in June. Make Music Nashville takes tunes to the streets, sidewalks, breweries, parks and even the airport each solstice (21 June, this year), while concert series Musicians Corner hits the stage at Centennial Park each weekend in May and June. Inspired by London’s Speakers’ Corner, this Nashville version was created as both a musical landmark and community gathering space, drawing artists such as Emmylou Harris, Chris Stapleton and Vince Gill.
Responsible travel tip: The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development has more information on festivals, attractions and accommodation with sustainable practices, including Tennessee Music Pathways. This state-wide programme aims to highlight Tennessee’s rich music legacy by connecting visitors to people, places and genres across small communities and big cities.
2. Pembrokeshire, Wales
Puffins parade across windswept Skomer in June. The island off the Pembrokeshire coast is a wildlife haven, hosting around half the world’s population of manx shearwaters, plus guillemots, razorbills and great cormorants. From April to September, boats slip between Martin’s Haven, on the mainland, and Skomer, but this month is when Atlantic puffin numbers are at their peak. They migrate en masse, waddling along cliff tops pocketed with pink thrift and red sea campion or soaring towards burrows with broad, multicoloured bills bursting with sand eels. Skomer’s offshore rocks and sheltered bays are also visited by dolphins, harbour porpoises and curious grey seals.
For more of the wild west, lace up your hiking boots for the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, a trail tracing 186 miles of coastline, passing soaring, heather-dotted cliffs, sandy coves and salt-licked towns. Flora and fauna are on display this month, with some stretches of the path plied by wild ponies. Adrenaline junkies can try coasteering, a sport invented by surfers in the county in which the foreshore is a playground: ride swells, hop across rocks, explore caves and jump off craggy cliffs.
Responsible travel tip: Fuel up at St Davids’ sustainable restaurants. Insects are a green (and brown) alternative to meat at The Bug Farm, whose buzzing wildflower meadow is harvested to stock its Grub Kitchen. Try mixed insect pakoras or spiced cumin and mealworm hummus. An eco-conscious shop and seasonal restaurant in The Really Wild Emporium serves wild plants and seaweed foraged from Pembrokeshire, including laver, pepper dulse and rock samphire.
3. Malaysian Borneo
Swing into the Sabah rainforests for sightings of the increasingly rare orangutan. These rust-red primates are found only in the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo — the latter shared by Indonesia and Malaysia.
Borneo is one of the few dry spots in Southeast Asia this month, basking amid warm and humid days. It’s also fruiting season, which coaxes the arboreal apes down from the canopy to feast on the forest floor. Keep your eyes peeled as you head along Sabah’s Kinabatangan River and through the lush Danum Valley.
Slow things down on remote Selingan Island, where turtle-hatching season is starting. A pinprick off the northeast Bornean coast, it’s one of three islands that form Turtle Islands National Park, a conservation sanctuary for green and hawksbill turtles since 1977. Only 50 visitor permits per day are issued for Selingan Island and all visitors are required to stay the night there — no bad thing, because as darkness falls, turtles slink ashore to lay eggs in the velvety sand. Guests can also help release turtle hatchlings into the sea.
Responsible travel tip: Deforestation is devastating this fragile island, home to many endemic species. It’s lost over half its forests in the past four decades to palm oil plantations and logging. Make an impact by visiting forests and research stations, supporting local communities and buying Fairtrade products. WWF has more information on how to help support Borneo’s rainforests.
Sleepless in Sweden? Daylight stretches into night north of the Arctic Circle this month due to the Earth’s axial tilt. In Swedish Lapland, the sun lingers low on the horizon from June until mid-July, painting the evening sky an ethereal gold. Night owls can try the Aurora Sky Station’s midnight sun hike in Abisko National Park, which takes trekkers up Nuolja mountain in a chairlift before a climb to the summit, where forests, mountains and an alpine lake glow beyond. The long hours mean days packed with outdoor pursuits, from whitewater rafting and moose safaris to river plunges.
While you’re wide-eyed, experience the merriment of Sweden’s midsummer parties. As the fields burst with wildflowers, revellers rush to their sommarstuga (summer cottage) for the national holiday at the end of June. There’s maypole dancing, flower garland stringing, garden games and a feast of new potatoes, pickled herring and plump strawberries.
Dalarna, peppered with green forests and red cottages, is a great spot for traditional celebrations. If you can’t bag an invite, don your floral crown for a three-day festival at Stockholm’s open-air Skansen museum.
Responsible travel tip: The Swedish Nature & Ecotourism Association is behind Nature’s Best, the nation’s only sustainability label for nature-based experiences. Conscious travellers can check their list of approved responsible companies.
5. Cusco, Peru
Sun worshippers congregate in Cusco in June. This ancient city in the lofty Peruvian Andes becomes a stage for Inti Raymi, a 500-year-old tradition dating back to the days of the Inca Empire. The Festival of the Sun culminates in a celebration of the benevolent Inca sun god on the winter solstice, marking the beginning of longer days ahead. It involves a procession from Qoricancha that passes through the main square and ends at the ruined Inca citadel of Sacsayhuamán. Salute the sun with a faux llama sacrifice, folk dancing and traditional Peruvian bands.
Investigate more Inca heritage on a four-day trek to the 15th-century citadel Machu Picchu, whose legendary ruins dot a rugged mountain slope. June is in the dry season in the Peruvian Highlands, meaning ideal conditions to strike out on the sun-soaked Inca Trail. It’s less crowded at the ruins outside the July-August peak, too, but only 200 trail permits a day means places have to be booked in advance. A less-trodden alternative is the five-day Salkantay Trek past coffee farms, glacial lakes and cloud-covered mountains.
Responsible travel tip: Many Inca Trail porters experience poor working conditions and low wages. Rainforest Alliance’s Green Vacations is a good resource on ethical operators. Two pioneering sustainable operators are Llama Path and worker-owned Evolution Treks, whose porters carry only cooking and camping equipment. Evolution Treks has also launched women-only treks using Machu Picchu’s first female porters after a long history of only men being permitted to do the job.