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Spring holidays to book now: the best destinations for March, April and May

Iguazu Falls.jpg

It’s around this time of year that winter fatigue sets in.

A few months ago, we could drag ourselves through the grey slush and the freezing cold with the promise of Christmas, then it was the fresh start of a whole new year, then it was the renewed novelty of work.

But this damp period just before spring sets in proper? It’s cold, work sucks and frankly, the whole thing has just gone on too long. The only course of action is booking a spring holiday, stat. But where?

Lonely Planet’s book Where to Go When breaks down the best destinations to visit by month, so we’ve put together a guide with suggestions for March, April and May – ordered by temperature and budget, as well as a UK spot for each too.


Read more: These are Europe’s hippest neighbourhoods


This is the insider knowledge you need; whether you’re after a low-cost Orient Express experience, the best spots for springtime skiing or simply how to avoid the tourist hordes, we’ve got your back.

All we ask is that you take us with you. That’s OK, right?


March

Cold: Tyrol, Austria

Ischgl Tyrol Austria

Ischgl, Austria. © iStock

Why now? Some of the best late-season skiing.

Spring doesn’t have to signal the end of skiing – at least in the high resorts of the Austrian Tyrol region. The valleys south and west of Innsbruck – the Stubaital, Ötztal, Tuxertal and Paznauntal, in particular – are blessed with glaciers and high, north-facing slopes that hold the snow well into March and beyond. There’s variety here, too: the pretty, traditional village of Obergurgl has pistes suitable for beginners and intermediates, while nearby Sölden has more challenging runs and two glaciers, guaranteeing skiing into May; high-level Ischgl is known for its great terrain park and lively aprés-ski, while the slopes of the Stubaital include good off-piste options as well as traditional groomed runs. Oh, and the food and drink is high-calibre, too.

Need to know: If you absolutely, positively have to ski all year, Hintertux is the place to head – skiing on the glacier is possible 365 days.


Hot: Myeik Archipelago, Myanmar

Myanmar

Myanmar. ©anandoart/Shutterstock

Why now? Cruise among hundreds of idyllic tropical specks under a warm sun.

Far off the beaten track there’s a dock, and from that dock a boat sails even further from the modern world – to the long-isolated Myeik (or Mergui) Archipelago, off the southeast coast of Myanmar. This sprinkling of 800 or so rocky islands flecking the Andaman Sea only recently began welcoming foreign visitors, and is at its most beautiful in the early months of the year; in March the weather is dry and warm, with underwater visibility perfect for snorkellers and divers to absorb the varied marine life. Some islands, such as Lampi – a designated nature reserve – are blanketed with dense jungle in which tigers and elephants are reputed to roam. Others are studded with golden beaches and the stilted fishing villages of the Moken, the nomadic ‘sea gypsies’, who may have been the country’s earliest inhabitants.

Need to know: Burmese food is a blend of Indian and Thai; the traditional breakfast (and unofficial national dish) is mohinga, a spicy fish noodle soup.


Good value: Mallorca, Spain

Mallorca, Apain

The trail between Moscari and Caimari, Mallorca. ©Andrew Montgomery/Lonely Planet

Why now? Discover glorious coastlines, mountains and traditional villages in peace.

The ‘snow of Mallorca’ still blankets the hillsides in March. Not actual frozen-water snow, you understand; no, it’s the pinky-white blossom of the countless almond trees that give Mallorca its distinctive icing-sugar coating at the start of the year. And as the blossoms disappear in early March, so the warm weather makes a visit a delight – before the arrival of masses of package tourists, but with plenty of sunshine to enjoy the beaches, roam traditional honey-hued towns and villages such as Deià, Fornalutx and Sóller, and hike the heights of the Serra de Tramuntana. Don’t discount Palma, either; though sometimes unfortunately conflated with party resorts such as Magaluf nearby, the capital’s old town is another proposition entirely, with wonderful palaces, museums, squares and the monumental cathedral.

Need to know: Mallorca is a cycling hotspot. Several pro teams train on its well-maintained mountain roads in winter – bring your bike and join them.


Treat yourself: Iguazú Falls, Brazil and Argentina

Iguacu FALLS

Iguaçu Falls. © iStock

Why now? Gawp at the mighty falls in full flow (main picture)

A spectacle with a split personality – is it Iguazú or Iguaçu? – these hundreds of mighty cataracts arcing nearly 2 miles (3km) thunder 269ft (82m) down into a gorge dividing southern Brazil from a slender finger of Argentina. While January and February are hottest and most humid, they also bring most visitors from those two countries. By March, crowds have thinned, the weather is becoming more temperate and less damp, but the falls are still dramatically powerful. This isn’t a point, shoot and leave kind of spot: the falls are surrounded by luxuriant rainforest, a national park with several excellent (and easy) walking trails bustling with wildlife and providing various views of the cataracts, most famously the Garganta del Diablo (the Devil’s Throat), into which half the flow plunges.

Need to know: There are international airports on both the Argentine and Brazilian sides of the falls.


UK: North Wales

snowdonia north wales

Snowdonia, Wales. © iStock

Why now? For outdoor activities among daffodils and spring lambs.

Springtime in Wales: lambs gambol on hillsides sprinkled with clusters of butter-yellow daffodils. For once, reality matches cliché – though sunshine is never guaranteed here, the Welsh countryside is glorious in March, which is a great time to dust off wintry cobwebs and explore some of the UK’s less-visited countryside. The Dee Valley is a year-round destination for active adventures – the River Dee being one of the few that offers great whitewater year-round, with rafting, kayaking, bodyboating, even stand-up paddleboarding provide adrenaline highs. This region, including the Clwydian Range to the north, is packed with attractions and activities – hikes to ruined Castell Dinas Brân and Thomas Telford’s Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, a ride on the steam-drawn Llangollen Railway, and zip lines, cave trampolines and an artificial surf wavegarden in Snowdonia just to the west.

Need to know: There’s no train station at Llangollen – the nearest railway stop is 6 miles (10km) away at Chirk.


April

Cold: Boston, USA

boston

Boston. © iStock

Why now? To spring into sporting action.

Boston is a city of sport fanatics – baseball, ice hockey, American football and basketball are all followed passionately in Beantown. Indeed, the Red Sox are as integral to the city as Paul Revere and Cheers, and to see a ball game at Fenway Park is an essential US experience. Fortunately, the baseball season pitches off in early April, just as the weather becomes less wintry and Boston’s ‘Emerald Necklace’ of parks and green spaces begins to flourish. April (specifically, third Monday) is also when the Boston Marathon – the world’s oldest city marathon – is held. Whether you run it, or cheer from the sidewalk, it’s an inspiring, emotional sight. Refuelling is a pleasure here too: choose anything from New England seafood to creamy cannoli from Italian-influenced North End. Or try creative street eats from one of Boston’s many, eclectic food trucks – food-truck season starts this month.

Need to know: MBTA subway trains link Logan Airport to Downtown Boston in 10 to 15 minutes.


Hot: St Lucia

St Lucia

St Lucia. © iStock

Why now? Sunshine, good times and potentially falling prices.

What’s not to love about little St Lucia? As one of the Caribbean’s most mountainous isles, its beaches come with ruggedly handsome backdrops. It’s an ideal place to relax, but also offers potential for adventures – from zip-lining through rainforest to climbing Gros Piton, one the island’s iconic twin peaks. St Lucia also offers a few unique experiences, including the region’s best Friday-night fish fry, a ‘drive-in’ volcano and the chance to have a chocolate massage. Peak tourist season runs mid-December to mid-April, when the weather is driest and finest – a good choice, though the most expensive. However, as things get a smidgen wetter in late April and into May, prices drop accordingly – a great time for potential savings, and to catch the respected Jazz Festival, which sees international names and local stars perform island-wide.

Need to know: Hewanorra International Airport is in the south; Castries, 37 miles (60km) north, has a regional airport.


Good value: Luzon, Philippines

Batad Rice Terraces Philippines

Rice terraces, Batad. © iStock

Why now? Perfect weather, nice rice.

The rice terraces of Ifuago province, on the Philippines island of Luzon, are farming at its most fantastic. These fertile shelves hewn into the hills were first created over 2,000 years ago, and are now listed by Unesco. The fields are planted in January and February, and are at their glorious greenest April to May; from June they turn spectacular yellows, but it’s harder work exploring once the rains kick in. The amphitheatre of terraces around Batad is particularly impressive, and guided walks offer good views as well as visits to Ifugao villages and markets. This dry-season month is also ideal for exploring the nearby mountain-tucked town of Sagada. From here, hiking trails lead through the hills, and tours reveal the region’s rather singular burial tradition: the practice of hanging coffins high up on the cliffs.

Need to know: The Philippines is inexpensive – mid-range travellers can get by on around $40 (£32) a day.


Treat yourself: Japan

Cherry Blossom Himeji Castle in Hyogo, Japan

Himeji Castle in Hyogo, Japan. © iStock

Why now? It’s blooming gorgeous!

No time of year excites the Japanese quite like spring, because it is sakura (cherry blossom) season. Across the country, people await the first blooms, which usually appear in the southern Okinawan islands by February, before spreading northwards, erupting in cities such as Kyoto, Tokyo and Hiroshima in late March and April; Hokkaido sees blossom into May. Not only is this the prettiest time to be in Japan, it is among the most festive. Hanami (parties under the blossom) are widespread in city parks. Families and friends roll out their tarps and eat beneath the trees; stores even sell hanami bento boxes, which contain seasonal produce, pink-tinged dumplings and veg cut into blossom shapes. Especially scenic sakura spots include Kyoto’s canal-side Philosopher’s Path, Mt Yoshino in Nara and Kumamoto Castle.

Need to know: The Japan Weather Association issues cherry-tree opening estimates for the whole country; plan accordingly.


UK: Lake District

Slaters Bridge in the Lake District

Slate Bridge, Lake District. © iStock

Why now? To see a host of golden daffodils.

Poet William Wordsworth loved the Lake District. He lived in Grasmere, at Dove Cottage (now open to visitors), and found inspiration in the surrounding fells, most notably in April: it was a daffodil-filled walk in April 1802 that provoked his most famous work, ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’. Spring in the Lakes might make anyone feel lyrical. New-born lambs gambolling, Wordsworth’s daffodils nodding, the hills an extraordinary shade of green. Services such as boats across the lakes are becoming more frequent, yet summer tourists haven’t descended, so roads, campsites and honey-pot towns aren’t heaving, and holiday cottages are more affordable. There’s also plenty of great hiking and cycling. Yes, the weather can be unpredictable, but it always is. Prepare for cold and rain, hope for sun, set out to be inspired.

Need to know: Lakeland peaks aren’t high but shouldn’t be underestimated – go prepared, and choose trails suited to your experience.


May

Cold: Newfoundland, Canada

Newfoundland Canada iceberg

Newfoundland, Canada. © iStock

Why now? Watch an onslaught of icebergs.

They call the waters off Newfoundland & Labrador ‘Iceberg Alley’. In spring, great hunks of Arctic ice – mostly cast-offs from the glaciers of western Greenland – float down the Atlantic coast past Canada’s easternmost province. They usually arrive in April and May, peaking mid-May to June. You can stand onshore and watch these white titans drift by or board a boat for a closer look. Good spots include St Anthony, Twillingate, Bonavista and St John’s/Cape Spear. Seabirds also start to show up in May, while by the end of the month the first whales appear.

Need to know: Newfoundland has its own time zone, which is 30 minutes ahead of Atlantic Standard Time.


Hot: Cuba

Varadero peninsula cuba beach

Varadero peninsula, Cuba. © iStock

Why now? For Caribbean heat and hip action.

If you like it hot, in all manner of ways, choose Cuba in May. Technically, it’s the first month of the wet, hot, low season on this coolest of Caribbean isles. But in reality, temperatures don’t get uncomfortable until June, and heavy rains don’t fall until late July. There are ‘off-season’ bargains to be found too. With the mercury around 30°C (86°F), this is a good month for sun-seekers – try the palm-swayed Varadero peninsula for all-inclusive resorts (many good for families), or head to one of Cuba’s 900-odd white-sand cays. Combine beach time with sizzling salsa – there’s nowhere better to watch or learn this hot, hip-shimmying dance. Go to the clubs of Havana or cobbled, colonial Trinidad. You’ll be too busy mastering your steps to be bothered by the chance of rain.

Need to know: Cuba has two units of currency: Cuban peso (CUP, for locals) and convertible peso (CUC, used by tourists).


Good value: Orient Express, Europe

orient express

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. © belmond.com

Why now? To ride the rails (for less) in super springtime.

It’s the classic train route: the eastward journey from Paris to İstanbul, skimming across Europe via some of its grandest cities to reach the edge of Asia. Its very name evokes an era of wood-panneled glamour, when train travel was at its most romantic. Today, the Venice-Simplon Orient Express (which runs London–Venice) aims to recapture this romance – for those who have pots of cash. Alternatively, you could use a rail pass to chart your own version of the famed route, using much cheaper scheduled trains. Plan your trip for May, when you’re likely to find lovely weather all along the way. Leave the springtime boulevards of Paris for pink-tinged medieval Strasbourg. Continue to beery Munich, the music halls of Vienna, art nouveau Budapest, grittier Belgrade and east-meets-west Sofia before reaching the shores of the Bosphorus in İstanbul. You might not get butler service, but the joy of watching the continent unfurl remains.

Need to know: Various types of rail pass are available; younger and older travellers are eligible for discounts.


Treat yourself: Réunion

Cirque de Mafate Reunion Island

Cirque de Mafate, Réunion. © iStock

Why now? To enter a Gallic lost world without the crowds.

Rugged Réunion is the most topographically phenomenal department of France. Thrusting up from the Indian Ocean, this volcanic outcrop is closer to Madagascar than Marseilles; more like Hawaii in its aesthetics; and a cultural mix of French, Creole, African and Asian influences. The result: a unique destination – with fabulous fusion food. May is a great time to visit. Falling between the wet, hot austral summer and cooler winter, the month sees low rain, low humidity and delicious temperatures in the high 20°Cs (low 80°Fs). Plus, holidaymaking crowds are absent and cheaper deals can be found. Beaches are available for relaxing on. Inland lie exploring opportunities aplenty: hikes around the dramatic cirques, where villages sit in the dormant calderas; paragliding, canyoning and mountain-biking adventures; and visits to Piton de la Fournaise, one of the world’s most accessible active volcanoes.

Need to know: There are direct flights to Réunion from Paris and Johannesburg.

UK: Skye, Scotland

Quiraing, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Quiraing, Skye. © iStock

Why now? Long, bug-free days on the invigorating western isle.

If you’re blessed with good weather on Scotland’s second-largest island, you’re blessed indeed. Skye’s lochs sparkle, the mountains blush, moors glow green. If you have bad weather, well, that’s OK too – the Cuillin range in cloud or mist holds atmospheric allure. That said, May – statistically one of the driest months – is a good choice. This is when bluebells carpet the woods, lambs graze and seabirds return to the imposing cliffs. It also offers really long days (sunrise before 4am, sunset after 11pm), which leaves plenty of time for castles, crofting museums and the rock formations of the Trotternish peninsula. Come early in the month if you can – western Scotland is plagued by microscopic but maddening midges from mid-May to September (though they’re worst July to August). Note, midges don’t like wind, so a breezy ridge or coast hike should keep them away.

Need to know: Skye is connected to mainland Scotland by road bridge and ferry.

Where to Go When, RRP £19.99, lonelyplanet.com

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