If the mere mention of a relaxing break in August has you wishing your morning coffee were a cocktail on the beach, we've got the magic formula for you: sunny skies, stunning landscapes and a whole lot of peace and quiet. With these island escapes, cultural excursions and rustic retreats your day-to-day will feel miles away.
Head to Ko Samui for the best Thai beach break in August
The bad news for travellers hoping to catch some sun and sand in Thailand in August is that most of the country is being rained on. The good news: Ko Samui pretty much isn’t. This beguiling isle in the Gulf of Thailand fulfills most fantasies of a tropical paradise – swaying palm trees fringing soft sand, fabulous food, a wide range of accommodation, heady nightlife if you want it, and peaceful patches if you don’t. It enjoys relatively dry (though very hot) weather this month, making it ideal for a beach break.
If you can wrest yourself from the wave-lapped sand, day trips to nearby Ang Thong National Marine Park offer spectacular snorkelling and kayaking among emerald-green cliffs rising from the tea-warm, jade-hued sea.
Trip plan: There are direct flights to Ko Samui from cities with intercontinental connections including Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong, and ferries from mainland ports including Don Sak. Then simply choose a coast and pick your beach.
Need to know: An admission fee for Ang Thong Marine National Park may be payable on top of tour costs. The marine park closes in November and December.
Other months: Dec–Feb: dry; Mar–Aug: hot, mostly dry; Sep–Nov: wet.
Find your rural retreat in central Italy’s gorgeous countryside
Let’s not pretend: Italy in August is hardly a secret retreat – least of all with Italians who holiday en masse this month. But pick the right spot and it’s a splendid time to visit. That spot might well be Umbria: Tuscany’s quieter neighbour has the rolling hillsides, the medieval-walled hill towns, the artistic gems and the food (oh my, the food) and wine, but far fewer visitors.
Quintessentially Italian agriturismos – mostly self-catering accommodation in rooms or apartments within working farms, many with pools – provide wonderful rural bases for couples, families or larger groups. From your cool hilltop lair, you can explore the Roman amphitheatres, frescoes, palaces and basilicas of Spoleto, lovely Gubbio and Assisi (of St Francis fame), and sample Norcian truffles, white Orvieto wine and Perugian chocolates.
Trip plan: Perugia, Umbria’s provincial capital, receives international flights, as do Rome, Florence and Ancona, all a drive or train journey away. Car hire is essential for exploring. Various websites list details of agriturismos; try agriturismo.it.
Need to know: In early August in particular, popular towns such as Assisi, Spoleto and Orvieto will be busy with Italian tourists, and some restaurants may be closed.
Other months: Apr–Jun & Sep–Oct: pleasant weather, towns uncrowded; Jul–Aug: peak season, sights busy; Nov–Mar: chilly.
Snorkel the crystal-clear lagoons of the Cook Islands
These Pacific paradise isles are at their best in August, when rain is at a minimum and the cobalt-blue lagoons are clear and warm. Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Islands, is the most popular destination. Its lushly clad volcanic pinnacle rises from the azure ocean, with a natural infinity pool enclosed by its circling reef off the south and east coasts. Coconut palms sway, flowers scent the air and fine white sand sifts through the toes.
If you can tear yourself away from the beach, there’s fabulous snorkelling and diving – particularly off Muri on the east coast, where dazzling reef fish flit past your mask – and rewarding hikes into the hilly interior. Experience the islands’ Maori culture at an ‘island night’ – a bonanza of song, dance and local kai (food). For an even more laid-back ambience, take the short flight to Aitutaki, a desert-island idyll with a spectacular lagoon and fine diving.
Trip plan: Direct flights from Pape’ete, Auckland and LA serve Rarotonga; Aitutaki is 50 minutes from Rarotonga by air.
Need to know: Malaria isn’t a problem on the islands, but dengue fever outbreaks occur, and mosquitoes can be pestilential – use insect repellent.
Other months: Apr–Oct: drier, cooler; Nov–Mar: wetter, hotter.
Sail a traditional gület on Turkey’s Turquoise Coast
If diving off the wooden deck of a twin-masted sailboat (gület) into the blue of the Mediterranean is your idea of heaven on a hot August day, you’re not alone. Back in the 1920s, renowned Turkish writer Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı took to hiring local sponge-divers’ boats to cruise along the so-called Turquoise Coast from Bodrum on what he called ‘Blue Voyages’.
In the intervening decades increasing numbers of Turkish and foreign tourists recognised the appeal, and today a plethora of vessels – some more traditional, some built specifically for the cruises – ply the waters along the Aegean and Mediterranean Coast from Bodrum, Marmaris and Fethiye, stopping to visit ancient sites such as Letoön and Patara, to swim, lounge on a beach, eat and drink. It’s a perfect holiday for families, too.
Trip plan: Dalaman is the nearest international airport to both Marmaris and Fethiye; Bodrum has its own airport. Plan ahead for an August departure, to ensure a place on a quality boat. International tour operators offer one-week or longer packages.
Need to know: Not all gülets use their sails. Check in advance whether your chosen vessel will be sailing or using a diesel motor.
Other months: May–Oct: dry, warm; Nov–Apr: cooler, more rain.