Cool-Weather Summer Vacations for When It's Just Too Hot

People camping by lake

Scott Cramer / Getty Images

Summer vacations are great and all, but sometimes the temperatures are just too sweltering hot to bake in a beach chair all day long. For the more cold-blooded travelers of the world, tropical destinations can be more toilsome even than being at home. Thankfully, there are plenty of places with cool summer climates to choose from.

The general rule for staying cool in the summertime is to flock to higher elevations and waterfront destinations. You'll find that places with harsh winters feel refreshingly tolerable during the warm months. Remember, finally, that the further away from the equator you get, the cooler you will be.

Canada

Canada in January is not for the faint of heart. In July, however, temperatures in the Great White North call for t-shirts and shorts (perhaps even a light jacket, depending on where you go). The mild summer climate here is a consequence of its northern position, soaring peaks, and surrounding oceans.

Both coasts—with the devastatingly charming Nova Scotia to the east and buzzing city of Vancouver to the west—seemed to have been made for summer vacations. The oceans provide peaceful oases and a scenic backdrop for barbecues and parties alike.

Beaches don't tickle everyone's fancies, though, so some head instead to the cozy mountain towns of the Canadian Rockies. Banff, Jasper, Revelstoke, and Golden are popular choices that maintain comfortable temperatures all summer long.

Alaska

Speaking of the north, Americans don't even have to travel internationally to visit this otherworldly place (although the landscape could fool you into thinking you've left the planet entirely). Cruising to—and within—Alaska is a popular pastime for visitors thirsting for a taste of the state's highlights: glaciers, icy-blue vistas, waterfalls, and every other thing that makes up a person's dreams during those sweaty dog days of summer. For those who eschew the luxurious cruise ship option, the Alaska State Ferries are a more cost-effective choice.

From the port, you can take a helicopter ride to the top of a glacier, pan for gold, or ride the train deep into the wilderness of Denali National Park. Super-remote lodges, some of which are only operational from June to September, may even offer a glimpse of the local grizzlies catching fish.

Iceland

Temperatures in this Scandinavian haven rarely exceed 60 degrees, even in July, when the sun stays high in the sky all throughout the nights. Its cool summer climate is the reason people flock from all over the world to hike its dramatic landscape, dotted with volcanoes, hot springs, and lava fields.

After a long day of walking, tourists are partial to a soak in the mineral-rich waters of the world-famous Blue Lagoon. Naturally heated to 100 degrees or higher, this geothermal spa is like a holistic stress reliever.

The UK

While the masses flock to the Greek islands, the Italian countryside, or even Paris—which is certainly no stranger to a heatwave—you could be cool as a fresh-from-the-fridge cucumber during your summer vacation in Europe. The perpetually moody coast of Scotland, for instance, may not be the best place to get a tan, but it sure does make for a dramatic landscape worth putting in a picture frame back at home.

If you find yourself wearing a wet t-shirt after exploring the hundreds of castles and cathedrals in this cluster of countries, it's more likely to be from a mid-summer storm than from sweat, let's just say.

South America

South America tends to conjure imagery of sun-drenched ruins, palm-clad beaches, and tropical rainforests, but if you travel far enough south, you'll find snow in the middle of summer. The southern hemisphere experiences opposite seasons, so while much of North America is absolutely sweltering, some Argentinians are skiing. Bariloche, for example, is a town near Patagonia where winter sports reign from mid-June to early October.

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