Spring is in the air and now is a great time of year to get out and explore, with more affordable prices, smaller crowds and pleasant weather. It’s also a season of festivals and blooming flowers and gardens, all of which makes for fabulous photo opportunities. Here are some of our favourite suggestions for places to pack a bag and set of to this Spring…
Caceres, Spain: The historic town of Caceres in Extramadura is often lauded as the most unspoilt medieval town in Europe. Little has changed in this historic walled city for five or six hundred years, so it’s not surprising it was given world heritage status in 1986. Surrounded by unspoilt countryside, in blossom at this time of year, it’s an ideal weekend break destination, before the heat of summer arrives. Shake off winter by sitting back and watching the world go by in one of the beautiful plazas before taking a long walk in the warm sunshine.
Paris, France: It’s true, now really is the best time to explore the French capital before the heat and the hoards arrive. Springtime in Paris is famous, so you certainly won’t be alone here, but the city rarely fails to deliver a wonderful experience, as the outdoor cafes set out their tables in the sunshine, the tree-lined avenues blossom and the city’s gardens yield countless varieties of beautiful flowers. Don’t miss the stunning Jardin du Luxembourg, with its beautiful Palais. Then head for Ile de la Cité, stroll by the Seine and head for the colour of the daily flower market at Place Louis-Lépine, before meandering a short way north-east to the Marais district, whose lanes exude a cheerful bustling atmosphere. This picturesque and historic neighbourhood is lined with appealing little shops and dotted with architectural glories. Paris also offers plenty of daytrips to choose from, such as the beautiful gardens at Giverny, captured so beautifully by Monet.
The Sakura trail, Japan: Japan’s celebrated Cherry Blossom season generally begins in late March and here you can combine history, culture, beautiful landscapes and springtime beauty all in one trip. Of course the blossom season varies as you travel south to north, with northern regions in bloom late April to early May. The short blossoming period of the Sakura signifies that winter has come to an end and spring is on its way. There is a huge range of places that are perfect for cherry blossom viewing, from Hokkaido in the north where the plum and cherry blossoms bloom simultaneously, to one of Japan’s greatest castles, Nagoya Castle in Alchi. Maruyama Park in historic Kyoto is renowned for its huge weeping cherry trees, best viewed at night as they are illuminated after dark from early April, always attracting scores of people. Or head to historic, white-washed Osaka Castle, whose park has no less than 4,300 cherry trees that bloom in early April.
Keukenhof Gardens, The Netherlands: Seeing Holland’s famous massive fields of flowers is an unforgettable and astonishing experience, a true kaleidoscope of colour. The Keukenhof Gardens near Lisse (the world’s largest flower gardens) are open from 20th March to 18th May this year, and are undoubtedly one of the best places to see more than seven million tulips in their full, vivid splendor. The gardens are only about 40 minutes from Amsterdam so it is easy to combine a visit with a city break. A fantastic alternative way to view The Netherlands’ flower fields is to take a bicycle tour along the 19-mile Flower Bulb Route. April is the best month if you want to see blooming daffodils, or for the best views of the tulip fields at their peak, visit in May.
New York City, USA: Spring could just be the perfect time to visit the Big Apple, when the blossom is in full bloom in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and the city comes to life with art fairs, outdoor markets and events such as the Tribeca Film Festival (April 18th-29th) and new exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Take a stroll through Central Park, find a spot for brunch after exploring the Carroll Gardens Greenmarket, and sample your pick from the plethora of cultural offerings available at this time of year.
Mallorca, Spain: Spring fetes and processions abound on this Meditterranean isle culminating with a medieval festival in the third week of May. Mallorca is also an ideal destination for walkers, with varied terrain and well-marked trails, and the great hike along the Serra de Tramuntana trail offers an intriguing glimpse into hidden Mallorca, winding its way across the island and taking in historic mountain villages and meadows carpeted in almond blossom. Walking here is best before early June, when the sun gets fierce. The area around Palma de Mallorca may be known as a big draw for package holiday tourists, but it doesn’t take long to get off the beaten track here and discover an enchanting island.
Yosemite National Park, USA: Make your way to one of California’s most beautiful spots to see fields of blooming flowers, fish for rainbow trout or spot herds of bighorn sheep while enjoying warm days and cool evenings. Plus, spring is the best season to visit Yosemite if you love waterfalls, as the park’s creeks and rivers start gushing with water as soon as the warm weather melts the winter snow. Even better, the big crowds generally don’t descend on the park until summer so you’ll be able to find peace and solitude with which to appreciate the awe-inspiring scenery. A perfect destination for spring hiking.
Tuscany, Italy: Blessed with a mild climate, late Spring in Tuscany offers warm temperatures, before the searing heat of July and August, and the sun stays out until late into the evening so you can really make the best of the days. The undulating Tuscan hills are at their most shining green and the cafes are spilling out onto the quaint squares of the medieval hilltop towns. Discover the region by bike and stay at rural Agriturismos to really get under the skin of the area. Alternatively, the region’s Etruscan coast boasts an array of medieval hamlets, fishing villages and beautiful beaches, not to mention some of the world’s best wine!
Victoria Falls, Zambia/Zimbabwe: Africa’s most famous falls present a spectacular sight of awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur on the Zambezi River, forming the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The rainy season ends in early April, and in the following six weeks the river is at peak flow and the falls are raging. The resulting spray can sometimes hinder views from ground level but at this time of year the views from above are truly spectacular. In spring you will also avoid the uncomfortably hot daytime temperatures of the dry season. The area is one of Africa’s adventure activity capitals and a visit is easily combined with a big game safari.
Cartagena, Colombia: The vibrant old town of Cartagena is a cultural treasure, one of the best-preserved ancient enclaves in the Latin America, and this beautiful coastal city also features crystal-clear waters and thriving coral reefs nearby that make it a year-round diving destination in the outlying islands of Baru, Rosario, and San Bernardo. A perfect spot to combine history and culture with beach life and watersports. This is the place to just stroll through the maze of cobbled alleys, where enormous balconies are shrouded in bougainvilla and massive colonial churches cast their shadows across leafy plazas. Take time to relax at one of the city’s many open-air cafés which offer prime people watching spots. It’s popular in Spring for a reason though, so you’ll have plenty of tourist company.
Have you got any suggestions of your own to add for Springtime adventures? We’d love to hear them!