Forrest Brown, CNN
(CNN) — As things heat up in the United States and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere in May, so do the travel opportunities.
For US residents, early and mid-May can present the last opportunity to nab discount rates before Memorial Day (May 28 in 2018) launches the peak summer season of travel.
Julie Hall, AAA spokesperson, says that within the US most people will be driving to their holiday destinations.
If you are driving on Memorial Day weekend, Hall says “consider traveling on the holiday itself, when there is often less congestion and fewer crowds.”
She also says AAA expects family trips abroad to be a hot trend in 2018.
“Of families who will take a trip this year, 35% plan to visit an international destination — a 9% increase from just two years ago,” she says.
With that in mind, here are five great places to visit in May:
1. Memphis, Tennessee
“They’ve got catfish on the table. They’ve got gospel in the air. And Reverend Green be glad to see you. When you haven’t got a prayer. But, boy, you’ve got a prayer in Memphis.”
Celebrated in song by Marc Cohn and many others and a major generator of America’s 20th century soundtrack, a trip to Memphis is a trip to the musical and cultural soul of America.
And May is a great time to come to Tennessee’s second-largest city. It will likely be quite warm, especially toward Memorial Day, but you’ll miss the truly hot, humid weather of a Lower Mississippi River summer.
This city goes all out for its Memphis in May celebration, a month-long fete of music, food, athleticism and culture. For 2018, highlights include the Beale Street Music Festival (May 4-6), a salute to the Czech Republic (May 7-13), barbecue contest (May 16-19) and a river run (May 26). To contact festival organizers directly: 56 South Front Street, Memphis 38103. Phone: + (901) 525-4611)
Folks probably know something about some of the most famed attractions in Memphis already: Graceland, home of Elvis Presley. Beale Street, boulevard of the blues. The Peabody Hotel and its daily parade of ducks. So Hall has recommended some other things to do that may not be quite as widely known:
— Sun Studio: Cut your own record at Sun Studio, said to be the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll. This is the small, unimposing studio where a young Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash first recorded their now signature sounds. (706 Union Avenue, Memphis 38103. Phone: +1 901- 521-0664)
— Stax Museum of American Soul Music: Learn the history of soul music at on the site of the original Stax Records, where you can see Isaac Hayes’ blue ’72 Cadillac, Ike Turner’s Fender guitar and a century-old church from the Mississippi Delta. (926 East McLemore Avenue Memphis, 38106. Phone: +1 901-942-7685)
— Memphis Brooks Museum of Art: Peruse paintings from the Italian Renaissance, British portraiture and more. The museum’s 1916 Beaux Arts building in Overton Park is a work of art itself. (1934 Poplar Avenue Memphis, 38104. Phone: +1 901-544-6200)
If you’re there during an early heatwave or just want a sweet break, locals swear by Jerry’s Sno Cones, where you might find long lines. (1657 Wells Station Road Memphis, 38108. Phone: +1 901-767-2659)
Finally, take the time to explore a painful but vitally important part of American history at the National Civil Rights Museum. It’s at the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on a balcony in 1968. (450 Mulberry Street Memphis, 38103. Phone: +1 901- 521-9699)
2. Bali, Indonesia
Bali evokes images of the quintessential Asian tropical paradise for good reason. One of many islands making up Indonesia, it lies well within the equator’s sphere of influence, so its warm temperatures vary only a little. Elevation makes the biggest difference. You’ll find it cooler if you head to its beautiful mountains.
The great thing about Bali in May: It’s the dry season and also the shoulder season between tourist peaks around Easter and July. So you’re less likely to have downpours during your trip, and May can offer up some bargain rates.
When you think “Bali,” you usually think beaches. A few of Bali’s best beaches include:
— Amed Beach: On the island’s eastern shore, divers are drawn to its coral reefs and shipwrecks.
— Karma Beach: You reach this exclusive strip of sand via funicular. Enjoy paddle yoga or a massage right on the beach.
— Sanur Beach: Sanur has plenty of beachfront resorts, but its small fishing village charm still exudes.
If you want some culture and historic architecture with your scenery, head to Tanah Lot temple, one of the island’s most revered. (Beraban, Kediri, Tabanan Regency, Bali 8217. Phone: +62 361 880361)
While Bali’s beaches are truly heavenly, there’s more to this island. Consider heading to Ubud, the cultural epicenter. Along with being known for its art, it’s a great culinary getaway, too.
In the bucolic garden setting of Mozaic, enjoy a fusion of modern European cooking techniques with indigenous flavors. (Jalan Raya Sanggingan, Kedewatan, Ubud, Kedewatan, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571. Phone: +62 361 975768.)
If you’re looking for a gorgeous place to stay with great views, try Amankila. Perched high atop an outlook, golf carts can transport you down to a black-sand beach. (Amankila, Manggis PO Box 33, Manggis, Bali 80871 Indonesia. Phone: +62 361 341333)
3. Lisbon, Portugal
Once the seat of the world’s most impressive global empire in the 1500s, Libson started a slow fade and became a bit forgotten in modern times in its southwestern corner of Europe. That’s been changing in the past decade as visitors are catching on to what is now sometimes called “the coolest city in Europe.”
As for the weather, you’ll catch the capital of Portugal just before the heat of summer and a tourist wave settles in. So bask in the warmth and the lower prices of a Lisbon May.
Special for 2018 visitors: The wildly popular Eurovision song contest will be held in Lisbon on May 8, 10 and 12. Even if you can’t get your hands on last-minute tickets to see the show inside Altice Arena, all kinds of parties and special events are planned.
If you love tennis and arrive early in May, you might want to make time for the Millennium Estoril Open, April 28 through May 6 at Clube de Ténis do Estoril (Av. Condes de Barcelona, 2765-470 Estoril, Portugal. Phone: +351 21 466 2770),
A newcomer to the city’s growing arts and cultural scene is ARCOlisboa, which is already drawing an international crowd. Some people are calling the city “the new Berlin.” In 2018, ARCOlisboa will be held May 17-20 at the Cordoaria Nacional. (R. da Junqueira 342, 1300-598 Lisbon. Phone: +351 21 363 7635).
Don’t miss the city’s incredible pastry shops (called pastelarias) that form the social center of many neighborhoods. One of the city’s best: Centro Ideal de Graça. (Largo da Graça 5,6,7, Lisbon, Portugal 1170-165. Phone: +351 21 886 1673).
And May is a perfect time of year for a ride on Lisbon’s famed Tram 28, which winds its way through the narrow and twisting hills of the intriguing Alfama district.
Peruvian chef Virgilio Martínez Véliz learns how to cook root vegetables without a stove or barbecue in Cusco, Peru.
May is the start of the dry season in Peru, but the biggest crowds won’t be streaming in quite yet. You can expect sunny days and nippy nights in the Andes.
Remember that Peru is a country of stark geographical and weather contrasts: desert, high mountains, Amazon jungle. But sure to pack accordingly for the parts you’ll plan to visit. What serves you well in the Andes won’t in the Amazon.
Lima is the capital and biggest city. May can bring a lot of fog and gloom, but that’s nothing that good Peruvian food can’t fix — from cerbiche (cured raw fish) to picarones (doughnut-like rings made from sweet potatoes or squash).
Excellent restaurants abound in Lima. Central often comes up on lists of highest-ranked places to eat in all of Latin America. (Santa Isabel 376 Miraflores Lima. Phone: +51 1 2428515).
You’ll also want to take some time to explore the colonial architecture of the city. A good place to start is the Basilica Cathedral of Lima in downtown’s Plaza Mayor. The foundation was laid in 1535, and conquistador Francisco Pizarro is buried here. (Jirón Carabaya, Cercado de Lima 15001. Phone: +51 1 4279647).
The clearing skies of May give you a chance to take part in a daring Peruvian adventure: spending the night in clear pods alongside a cliff in the Sacred Valley. Skylodge Adventure Suites can set it all up for you. (Phone: +51 084-201253).
Speaking of the Sacred Valley, this 70-mile strip runs roughly from the amazing city of Cusco to famed Machu Picchu. It’s a place of eerie natural beauty. While Machu Picchu remains the big draw, don’t miss out on the valley’s other attractions, such as Chinchero, a village renowned for its colorful textiles.
Special just in May: Fiesta de la Cruz, a religious ceremony celebrated mostly in the Andean Highlands from May 2 to 4, marked with processions of crosses, music and fireworks. (The festival’s main day is May 3, and it can be called different names depending on where you are specifically.)
Inside Africa explores Lake Malawi which is home many species of fish found nowhere else in the world.
You might not have even heard of Malawi. In case you haven’t, it’s a small, narrow country surrounded by larger southern African neighbors. But the destination is big on beauty — both natural and from its friendly people.
May is at the front end of this hilly nation’s dry and cooler season, so typically you’ll benefit from falling temperatures and all the remaining lushness from the just-ended rainy season.
The big draw here — and with good reason — is Lake Malawi. It’s the third-largest lake in Africa and holds the most species of fish of any lake in the world.
This is a paradise if you like freshwater snorkeling and diving in limpid water. And it’s not just the colorful and unusual fish you can enjoy. Many types of birds, as well as warthogs, baboons, hippos and even elephants, frequent its waters.
One place you may want to stay: Cape Maclear Ecolodge, where you can enjoy hiking, diving, kayaking and boat trips on the lake. While flying here could be expensive, staying here can be a grand bargain. Prices at this lodge start in the US$40 range. (Located on the west side of Cape Maclear, opposite Panda Garden. Phone: +265 999 140 905).
Lake Malawi is just the start of what you can see here. Two more options:
— Mount Mulanje: In southern Malawi, this bare granite mountain towers over green plains below and makes for excellent hiking for beginners and experts.
— Majete Wildlife Reserve: This site is testimony to perseverance and hope. Poaching up into the 1990s decimated wildlife here, but now the reserve is restoring the land and wildlife population. It’s now even possible to see The Big Five here — elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, buffalo — and it’s a chance to contribute to revitalizing this pocket of Africa. (P.O Box 232 Chikwawa. Phone: +265 999 52 17 41).
Hall of AAA says that a tourist visa is required for US citizens.
“To apply for a visa, your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the date of intended departure. Contact the Embassy of the Republic of Malawi for details,” Hall says.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has specific health information for travelers going to Malawi.