14 Best cool destinations to avoid the summer heat

For most of the year we help people find destinations with “great weather” and that usually means that it's warmer there than where you live. But more of us are living in places with scorching summers that never seem to end, and the list below is for those of us looking for a place to cool off rather than warm up.

We've got recommendations for places around the world, going from west to east starting in Alaska, so there should be a few for you no matter where you are starting from. The destinations below also range from quite cheap to extremely expensive, so hopefully each of us can find something suitable for our budget and travel style.

Basically, this is where to go in July or August if you live in a hot climate

Many of us live in places where the summer is often hot or very hot, but many of those places have some cooler days mixed in to make the summer not seem so long. Others of us live in places like Arizona or Texas or Florida or Spain or Turkey or India or Thailand where every single day feels hotter than the last. The list below is mainly for the second group.

All of the destinations below have pleasant temperatures in July and August, and some of them are so cool that you'll have to wear a jacket some or all of the time.

Alaska or Alaskan Cruise

  • August avg high: 64F/17C
  • August avg low: 49F/10C
  • August avg precip: 3.2″/8.3cm

data for Anchorage, Alaska

Especially for Americans, one obvious place to beat the heat in summer is Alaska. Flights into the 49th state can be more expensive than you might expect, which is another reason why so many people prefer to visit on a cruise ship leaving from Seattle or Vancouver. July and August are the most popular and expensive months for Alaska cruises, so it's not going to be cheap, but at least it also won't be hot.

Nature buffs rave about Denali National Park, which is a bit north of Anchorage, but cruise passengers usually have that as a shore excursion option and they also get to see the famous glaciers and other natural beauty on the coastline where the highways don't go.

Vancouver and Vancouver Island, British Columbia

  • August avg high: 71F/22C
  • August avg low: 56F/13C
  • August avg precip: 1.5″/3.8cm

data for Vancouver, BC

If you visit Vancouver (or Seattle or Portland) in the summer you'll almost immediately wonder why everyone doesn't move there (you have to come back in winter for that answer). Vancouver is not only a lovely and photogenic city, but it's also pleasantly mild and dry almost every day of the summer. Unlike northern cities elsewhere in the same latitude, very hot days are extremely rare.

Flying into Vancouver is a great start, but you can also visit the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort area, which has a wide variety of summer activities including skiing, believe it or not. Or you could combine Vancouver with the lovely city of Victoria on nearby Vancouver Island, which feels much more like being in England than in Canada (except for the accents).

Oregon Coast/Cannon Beach

  • August avg high: 69F/20C
  • August avg low: 53F/12C
  • August avg precip: 1.2″/3.0cm

data for Astoria, Oregon

Unless you've studied your map you would probably expect the cities of PORTland and SEAttle to be on the coast, but neither are really even close. Actually, both of those are pretty reliable summer choices for those escaping the heat, although both of them can be scorching if you get unlucky with your timing. For an even better choice to avoid heat you should head to Cannon Beach or one of the other cities along Oregon's windswept coastline.

You won't find any large cities or major resorts, and that's partly because it's rarely warm enough to even sit on the beach much less go swimming, even in August. On the other hand, the hotels that are there tend to be reasonably priced and it's the opposite of overrun, so you'll feel more like Lewis or Clark than Mickey Mouse. The Tillamook cheese factory is always a fun stop for cheese samples and an ice cream cone.

San Francisco, California

  • August avg high: 68F/20C
  • August avg low: 55F/13C
  • August avg precip: 0.1″/0.2cm

Without stooping to repeat one of the famous jokes about San Francisco's “summer,” let's just focus on those average August temperatures along with how little rainfall you are likely to get. If you are drained by nonstop sizzling temperatures where you live, you can always fly to San Francisco in the summer for a “big city” vacation where pneumonia feels more likely than sunstroke.

San Francisco is famously expensive for hotels as well as homes, but it feels like a special place so most agree that it's worth a splurge once in a while. If you are really avoiding the hot weather you'll have to stay in or close to the city limits because it can get much hotter almost anywhere else in the Bay Area.

Mexico City, Mexico

  • August avg high: 74F/23C
  • August avg low: 53F/12C
  • August avg precip: 6.7″/16.8cm

That's right, Mexico City. Most people are surprised to learn that Mexico City is at such an elevation where the temperatures are mild all year round. It does rain a bit in July and August so that keeps the heat away a bit more as well, but it's usually easy to avoid and the public transportation system is quite good.

Not only can you avoid heat in summer in Mexico City, but it's generally a massively underrated city that is far safer and more interesting than almost anyone expects on their first visit. The huge central districts are filled with museums, statues, monuments, shopping malls, restaurants, bars, and just about anything else you can think of. Speaking at least some Spanish helps, but you can get by on English and gestures if you prefer.

Medellin, Colombia

  • August avg high: 83F/28C
  • August avg low: 62F/17C
  • August avg precip: 6.1″/15.3cm

While Colombia's main Caribbean resort city of Cartagena is hot and humid every day of the year, Medellin is in an elevated valley where the climate is described as eternal spring. I've yet to make it to Medellin myself, but I've heard great things among not only visitors but new expats who want that climate all year round.

There are actually a few similar climates around the world and the key is to be fairly close to the equator and also have a high elevation. That combination gets you warm days and mild nights all year round, and usually quite a bit of rain as well. You might also check out nearby Quito, Ecuador and La Paz, Bolivia, which both have similar year-round climates.

Buenos Aires or anywhere in southern South America

  • August avg high: 63F/17C
  • August avg low: 48F/9C
  • August avg precip: 2.8″/7.0cm

data for Buenos Aires, Argentina

Needless to say, when it's scorching summer in the northern hemisphere it's winter in the south. Buenos Aires has the good fortune of not being too far south so it has mild winters similar to that of Los Angeles or Sydney (see below). This is a wonderful city with fantastic nightlife, food (particularly for beef fans), and wine. The flight won't be short or cheap, but once you get there you'll be all set and you'll even get to bring a sweater or jacket.

The shorter days in winter are not ideal for an outdoor vacation, however it's not bad in August and Argentina has so much more to see and do than just Buenos Aires. There is the wine region of Mendoza, the outdoor mecca of Bariloche, and of course the amazing Iguazu Falls.

Iceland

  • August avg high: 55F/13C
  • August avg low: 46F/8C
  • August avg precip: 2.4″/6.0cm

data for Reykjavik, Iceland

Iceland probably deserves to be at the top of this list, even if the main point wasn't just trying to avoid the summer heat. Its far-north latitude means that you'll need warm clothing every day of the year, but it's really all about the amazing scenery. The capital city of Reykjavik is honestly kind of a dud by European standards, so don't linger there longer than you have to and rent a car if you can for the best experience.

Iceland is also famously expensive and you can check out our article on how much things in Iceland cost and how to keep it cheap. If you have 7 or more days you should consider driving the Ring Road all around the island. If you have less time than that it's best to focus on the southern coast between the capital and Hofn for the highest density of amazing sights.

United Kingdom or Ireland

  • August avg high: 71F/22C
  • August avg low: 56F/13C
  • August avg precip: 2.1″/5.3cm

data for London, UK

Once it a while England will have a hot spell in summer, but in any given week in July or August it's usually going to be very mild during the day and a bit chilly at night. If you are sick of your hot summer climate then this could be ideal for you. London is near the southern coast and of course it gets cooler the more north you go, so why not head up to Inverness (pictured) in Scotland to explore the Scottish Highlands? If you do, skip Loch Ness though.

Unsurprisingly, Ireland has a very similar climate and it's another wonderful place to go in summer where you won't be sweating through your shirt twice a day. Dublin is a fine city but really the magic of Ireland is in its small towns and castles and scenery, so rent a car or do a tour if you can.

Copenhagen or Stockholm or both

  • August avg high: 68F/20C
  • August avg low: 55F/13C
  • August avg precip: 2.2″/5.5cm

data for Copenhagen, Denmark

No exaggeration, Copenhagen and Stockholm are two of the most beautiful and underrated big cities in all of Europe. As you can see, they never get very warm either, and that's a big part of the problem in that they only feel that lovely a few months a year at most. It's worth visiting both of them because they are quite different from each other.

Denmark and Sweden are also famously expensive so these are not good options for those on backpacker budgets. Food and especially alcohol are shockingly pricey, but of course there are ways of spending less with a bit of planning ahead. Surprisingly, flights into both cities are often quite affordable due to competition among a few low-cost carriers, and that includes flights from North America.

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania

  • August avg high: 68F/20C
  • August avg low: 54F/12C
  • August avg precip: 3.3″/8.3cm

data for Tallinn, Estonia

Like the idea of visiting Scandinavia but don't think you can afford it? These three Baltic countries just south of there are almost as impressive at half the price or even less. If you are on a backpacker budget and you want to escape the summer heat a trip from Tallinn to Riga to Vilnius (or the other way around) might be just what you are looking for.

Tallinn and Riga are both popular cruise ports so they can get a bit crowded when a ship is in town, but Vilnius (pictured) is delightfully landlocked so at least you won't have to deal with it there. The flights in and out probably won't be cheap, but you can always fly into Helsinki and then take a short ferry ride to Tallinn, which might be cheaper.

Swiss Alps/Interlaken

  • August avg high: 74F/23C
  • August avg low: 55F/13C
  • August avg precip: 5.7″/14.3cm

data for Interlaken, Switzerland

This one is probably even more expensive than Iceland, but equally amazing and worthwhile. Switzerland is home to most of the best Alps views and experiences in Europe, and the towns in the valleys just below those peaks have mild summers that can be a bit wet as well. Better still, the higher you go the colder it gets and there are several nearby peaks (Jungfrau and Schilthorn) that have snow on them all year round.

Skip stodgy and expensive Zurich and head to Interlaken for small-town hospitality and the most things to do. Also consider spending a couple nights in the tiny farming village of Gimmelwald (Rick Steves fans know about this one) for views and experiences you'll never forget. If you've got more than three days in Switzerland you should also spend time in Lucerne, which runs a close second in popularity with most travelers. Here is where to go in Switzerland on a short visit.

South Africa

  • August avg high: 64F/18C
  • August avg low: 46F/8C
  • August avg precip: 3.0″/7.5cm

data for Cape Town, South Africa

Again, this will be winter in the southern hemisphere, but South Africa isn't all that far south so it's pretty mild in August. Cape Town is the most popular stop and its winters are quite pleasant for someone escaping the heat. South Africa has also earned a reputation lately as a great-value destination, with prices that seem lower than they probably should.

Many people also like to include at least a short safari if they are flying all the way down to southern Africa, and it appears that there are safaris running in different regions even in August.

Australia or New Zealand

  • August avg high: 64F/18C
  • August avg low: 48F/9C
  • August avg precip: 3.2″/8.0cm

data for Sydney, Australia

The explanation about South Africa just above mostly goes for Australia as well, without the game safaris of course. Melbourne can be chilly in its winter, but Sydney is always pretty mild and you can head on up to Brisbane if you want some sun and heat again. Australia is also quite a bit more expensive than South Africa, for what it's worth.

New Zealand is similar to Iceland in that it's all about the scenery and the big cities are kind of a let-down, so August isn't an ideal time to visit. Still, the weather is quite mild and crowds are pleasantly small. Many people rent a campervan in Auckland to drive around both islands, and campervan rental rates are very low this time of year as well, so it can be quite a cheap holiday if you can get a reasonable flight. Queenstown (pictured) is perhaps the highlight of the South Island, and it's got activities going all year round.

Additional photo credits: Alaska by Jeffrey Roche on Flickr, Vancouver by Michael Nugent on Flickr, Cannon Beach by Peter Szczesny on Flickr, San Francisco by torbakhopper on Flickr, Copenhagen by Bex Walton on Flickr




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