7 Travel Destinations That Belong on Your Summer Bucket List

Call it leftover excitement from summer breaks from school, but the warmer months are usually when people get most psyched about planning amazing vacations. Whether you’re headed somewhere distant or local, there’s something that just feels so right about taking a break from your busy schedule during the hottest season of the year. Most people know the destinations that are currently blowing up, but it can be tough to determine what’s next in travel before it gets crowded with other tourists.

That’s why we had Tom Marchant, co-founder of Black Tomato, a luxe personalized travel company, tell us exactly which spots should be on your must-visit list this summer. From far-flung locales to stateside gems, these are his go-to destinations for the season, plus why they’re worth a visit.

Lofoten Islands, Norway

Best Summer Vacations - Lofoten Islands
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You may have heard that Norway is currently the happiest country in the world, and for good reason. Along which a host of other factors, it’s a seriously beautiful place. “I can’t think of a better time to visit Norway, and during the summer months, the northern fjords, like the Lofoten Islands, offer gorgeous landscapes for hiking, kayaking, and cultural discoveries,” says Marchant.

This the perfect place to visit if you like being active on your getaways. The country is chock-full of “awe-inspiring scenery, rich fishing traditions, and incredible design boutique hotels—think converted fishing cabins and glass boxes perched over the North Sea. I feel it deserves to be on everyone’s bucket list for a remote summer adventure,” he adds. Plus, Norwegian Air has introduced a bunch of new flight routes from the U.S., making it easier than ever to get there.

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Charleston, South Carolina

Best Summer Vacations - Charleston
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Food and beaches are two of the main reasons this Southern city should be on your summer travel itinerary, and honestly, what else could you need? “South Carolina—Charleston, in particular—offers a distinctive old-world flavor of the American South, with a fascinating history, miles of deserted sandy beaches, and colonial architecture,” says Marchant.

“It’s a cultural and natural gem. Cuisine is another big draw, with a growing Southern-style food trend on the rise, which has put Charleston on the U.S. culinary map,” he adds. Get ready to eat your weight in shrimp and grits, biscuits, fried green tomatoes, and other veggies like okra and collard greens while you enjoy the scenery.

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Komodo, Indonesia

Best Summer Vacations - Indonesia
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While sailing around Greece is a more typical summer boating adventure, Marchant suggests checking out Indonesia’s plentiful selection of remote islands, including Komodo National Park. “This experience is perfect for intrepid travelers,” he says. Hiking volcanoes, scuba diving in untouched coral reefs, and paddleboard yoga are just a few of the things you can do here if you book your own boat with a skipper.

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Nosy Ankao, Madagascar

Best Summer Vacations - Madagascar
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If you’re looking for a super-remote beach locale, Marchant suggests the northern coast of Nosy Ankao, where you’ll find Miavana, a completely private retreat. “Think the Galapagos Islands fused with the Caribbean,” he says.

Aside from the typical beach relaxation and water activities like kayaking and boating, you can also observe amazing wildlife there in the summer months, like lemurs and humpback whales. And though the island is isolated, there’s a direct flight from Johannesburg, South Africa, so it’s not as hard to reach as you might think.

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Ladakh, India

Best Summer Vacations - Ladakh
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India is an insanely beautiful country with a ton to see, but choosing one of the regions that’s less popular for travel can provide a more authentic experience. “Ladakh is one of the few places on earth that is still virtually untouched and unexplored,” says Marchant. “It’s one of India’s best-kept secrets where you can enjoy the calm serenity of the fresh mountain air, amazing scenery, and monasteries.” This is also one of the best places in the world for stargazing, so an astronomy tour is a must.

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Dunton Hot Springs, Colorado

Best Summer Vacations - Colorado
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“For a totally unique summer break in the U.S., head to the old mining town of Dunton Hot Springs in Colorado, which has been converted into a rustic yet luxurious retreat that’s perfect for an active summer getaway or spa break,” recommends Marchant.

This Rocky Mountain town was once a mining location but is now a small resort with a limited number of cabins for a super-intimate feel. There are lots of local hiking trails and more than enough land to explore, stables for horseback riding, and even a local vineyard to visit; it’s the perfect place for nature lovers to get out into the fresh air, relax, and let loose.

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Highlands and Reykjavík, Iceland

Best Summer Vacations- Iceland
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Though Iceland, especially the capital city of Reykjavík, is no longer an off-the-beaten-path destination, Marchant still feels it’s worth a visit, especially if you haven’t had a chance to get there yet. “Iceland is a destination that continues to amaze me since its regions are so varied and the country offers a wealth of different experiences and landscapes,” he says.

In the capital, you can explore tourist favorites like the Blue Lagoon, enjoy Icelandic cuisine, and hit up the nightlife scene. If you’re looking to do something a bit different from what most people do, though, Marchant suggests heading to the Highlands for a more customized experience, like the new Blink pop-up hotel concept his company just debuted. “Very few travelers venture to certain parts of the Highlands, since it’s only accessible by super Jeeps or ATVs.”

Blink builds a luxe yurt-style tent kitted out in local Icelandic furnishings and also provides food and drink prepared by local Icelandic chefs from top restaurants. The whole setup is taken care of before you arrive, and after you leave, it’s gone without a trace. That’s what we’d call a seriously once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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