The best of both worlds…that’s what you get when you visit one of these beautiful cities in the summertime. Outdoor enthusiasts (and those just in need of a little nature therapy) will love the happy and healthy balance these places provide. Whether located among mountains or beside the sea, these are 10 gems you won’t want to miss.
With summer right around the corner, put these cities to the top of your list.
1. Willemstad, Curaçao
Rich in architecture and culture, Willemstad—the capital of Curaçao—is a UNESCO World Heritage harbor city. This bustling town is the gateway to 38 beaches in Curaçao, as well as coral reefs teeming with marine life that draws people from all over to snorkel and dive in its waters. The best part? Its stunning, secluded beaches are still considered off-the-radar. Interestingly enough, the majority of the island is actually wild and undeveloped, and lined with desert-like cacti. Rocky terrains and dramatic cliffs? They have that, too. Less than an hour drive from the city is Christoffel Park, the largest national park and wildlife preserve in Curaçao, which is worth checking out.
2. Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver has acquired quite the reputation these days, in the best way possible. It’s even been called the cool North American sibling. Everywhere you look in this sophisticated city, you’ll see water or mountains…or both. You’ll find ski slopes just 30 minutes from downtown and beaches filled with sunbathers in the summer. Rainforests and gorgeous foliage also make Vancouver one of the most beautiful cities in the world. As you can imagine, outdoor adventures are never too far—whether you want to explore Whistler, the Canadian Rockies, Victoria, or Vancouver Island nearby.
3. San Juan, Puerto Rico
Old San Juan will charm you with its cobblestone streets and candy-colored homes, scenic waterfronts, centuries-old forts, historic plazas, tropical beaches, and warm, vibrant culture. But what you might not know is that right outside the city is a whole other world—green and lush with natural treasures waiting to be discovered. Dubbed the Island of Enchantment, it truly lives up to its name with nearly 300 beaches, 14 state forests, including El Yunque rainforest and the Guánica Dry Forest. For an out-of-this-world adventure, don’t miss the chance to go kayaking over one of Puerto Rico’s three bioluminescent bays.
4. Seattle, Washington
Seattle is nicknamed the Emerald City for a reason—its greenery can be enjoyed year-round. There are so many ways to take in the city’s natural beauty: paddle, boat, sail, or fish, go whale watching, peek at Mount Rainier, or hike any of the three nearby national parks. Let the stunning panoramic skyline views of this Pacific Northwest urban oasis sweep you off your feet. With Lake Washington in the east and Puget sound to the west, you can partake in all the water sports and sightseeing cruises your heart desires.
5. Napa, California
What used to be sleepy downtown Napa has gone from country-casual to cosmopolitan with an influx of celeb-chef restaurants, upscale accommodations, and luxe tasting rooms. Visiting Napa puts you at the center of California’s beloved wine country, which means access to over 400 flourishing vineyards and wineries. Sip wine here in the spring and enjoy captivating views of the hillsides turning bright green as they start to fill with beautiful golden hues of mustard flowers in bloom.
In Singapore, you don’t need to leave the city to appreciate nature. According to the Environmental Performance Index, a sustainability study by Yale University and the United Nations, Singapore happens to be the greenest city in Asia. Visitors are often shocked by just how green the island really is despite its high population density. But this is exactly why Singapore is committed to being a green city. Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew dreamed that it would someday be known as the “City in a Garden.” You’ll notice many green buildings around the city, but one initiative that really stands out is the Gardens by the Bay, which consists of vertical gardens (up to 164 feet high!) that fill its Supertree Grove.
7. Reykjavik, Iceland
Iceland is filled with magical, otherworldly landscapes that’ll make you wonder if you’ve just stepped into a fantasy novel. And the entry to this enthralling country is Reykjavik. Once you arrive there, you can access countless natural wonders like canyons, glaciers, volcanoes, lava fields, waterfalls, freshwater springs, dramatic coastlines, black-sand beaches, fjords, and geothermal lagoons. Maybe you’ll see the Northern Lights or go whale watching in this whale-watching capital of Europe. Spy some puffins in the summer. Trek through nature reserves. No matter where you look, there’s something striking to be amazed by here.
8. Lucerne, Switzerland
Nestled between mountains, the Lake Lucerne region of Switzerland offers plenty of ways to take advantage of its natural landscape. In the summer, it’s all about exploration. You can enjoy breathtaking panoramas in the mountains. Go for a hike and admire crystal-clear lakes. Ride a bike or try some water sports in the fjord-like inlets and countless natural beaches nearby. The possibilities are endless.
9. Auckland, New Zealand
It’s no surprise that Auckland has been rated the third most livable city in the world, with its mix of urban adventures and natural wonders. In this metropolis, everything is within a half hour of gorgeous beaches, islands, and hiking trails. Its sunny climate doesn’t hurt either. You can immerse yourself in this stunning natural playground by exploring lush rainforests that plummet downhill to meet the sea on black-sand beaches. Or get lost in nearby vineyards, country gardens, pristine forests, and calm bays. For an amazing view of the city and harbor—or a perfect picnic spot—check out one of Auckland’s 48 volcanic cones. Our summer is New Zealand’s winter, which is a perfect time to visit thanks to its mild temps and smaller crowds.
10. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona can make for a relaxing nature trip that goes well beyond its famous coastline. While there, you can visit the Serra de Collserola natural park, where you can get some amazing views of the city. This Mediterranean forest offers a great way to explore the local wildlife while you hike its trails and is just a 15-minute ride from Barcelona. About an hour away is Montseny, one of the oldest, best-preserved natural parks in Catalonia. On a day trip to this scenic mountain range, you’ll be able to relax and recharge amongst its many cliffs, streams, meadows, and forests. And you can’t forget Montserrat. Here, you can see the ancient Benedictine abbey—one of the spiritual centers of the region which has also attracted a Buddhist community. The area’s calm and serene energy alone is worth the trip, not to mention the majestic views that await.
Ready to get outdoors? Contact your travel agent to start planning your customized summer vacation.