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Choose a month to travel and discover the best places to visit at that time of year...
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Choosing where to holiday in June can be tricky. Not only is Europe warming up but destinations further afield also have plenty to offer. In June, some of Europe’s best festivities take place in the north, celebrating the midnight sun. The imperial city of St Petersburg in Russia doesn’t sleep as celebrations marking these so-called White Nights carry on through the small hours. On the opposite side of the equator it’s the winter solstice, celebrated in Peru with the fascinating ancient Inti Raymi festival. Wildlife enthusiasts should head to Rwanda, as June is the best time of year for spotting mountain gorillas. And if you’re looking for a June destination with a difference then why not try the lesser-visited countries of the southern Caucasus, where the weather is ideal for exploration before local summer holiday crowds descend.
June is an ideal month to visit all three states of the southern Caucasus: Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Travelling in June will mean you avoid local summer holidays when accommodation is crowded, as well as the bitter chill of winter when the majority of tourists are of the skiing variety. The culturally rich cities of Tiblisi, Baku and Yerevan are still cool enough to explore comfortably before the humidity of summer sets in, and May’s sporadic rain showers have dissipated leaving the mountains lush – ideal for a spot of alpine exploration.
One of the best times to track mountain gorillas in Rwanda is June, as the weather is cooler, drier and the tourist crowds have not yet arrived for peak season. It’s also when Kwita Izina is held – the gorilla naming ceremony – which is usually attended by the prime minister of Rwanda, important members of the Rwandan community and the park rangers. Kwita Izina is a way of monitoring the birth rates year by year and is also held to bring attention to the importance of gorilla conservation. Tourists are more than welcome to attend the ceremony as well.
June is the dry season, where days tend to be sunny and warm, making it a great time to visit Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca and the Sacred Valley. One of the main attractions in June is the theatrical Inti Raymi festival in Cusco. For nine days there are banquets, street celebrations and traditional Peruvian music is played. The main procession begins at the Sun Temple and proceeds through the streets to the Incan ruins of Sacsayhuaman. With the king and queen present in lavish, colourful costumes, an ancient Incan ceremony is re-enacted to honour the Sun God, complete with a pretend sacrifice.
During the summer, St Petersburg experiences days of long sunshine while some days the sun does not set at all. These Belye Nochi – White Nights – are celebrated with the Scarlet Sails water show and fireworks on the Neva river. During these celebrations, St Petersburg’s museums, including the Hermitage, offer free entry late into the night as well as putting on special workshops and author tours. The Mariinsky Theatre also features daily performances of ballet, classical music and opera. However, the best part of these White Nights may be simply wandering the warm, luminous streets at 2am with an ice cream in hand.