6 Destinations Perfect for Spring Travel

6 Destinations Perfect for Spring Travel

Spring has arrived, and with it comes rising temperatures encouraging all of us to get outdoors. Spring also brings two great conditions for travel in many parts of the world: good weather and fewer tourists. If you avoid those clichéd Spring Break destinations, you can find diverse and exciting options for a more fulfilling experience. Postcard Press has done some of the legwork for you and put together a list of six destinations perfect for spring travel.

 

The Cherry Blossoms in Nara, Japan
The Cherry Blossoms in Nara, Japan

Japan

Japan is a prime destination for spring travel. The most popular draw is the gorgeous cherry blossoms that bloom throughout the country, from late March to early May, but the mix of traditional and modern festivals, seasonal culinary specials, and natural beauty provide an array of options for an immersive experience.  

Some of the more celebrated (but certainly not the only) spots to take in the cherry blossoms include:

  • Shinjuku Gyoen, Tokyo: The largest park in Tokyo is one of the best places to see peak blooms around mid to late March, but the park is home to an abundance of nature you can enjoy all spring, with Japanese, French, and English gardens providing a relaxing respite from the bustling city surrounding you. (I’ve been! For a couple of hours, you can even forget the city exists.)
  • Mount Yoshino, Nara: This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the home to more than 30,000 cherry trees that typically bloom from early to mid-April. Surround yourself with their beauty by visiting the shrines and temples or taking a hike around the mountain.
  • Osaka: The city of Osaka offers a multitude of places to view the cherry blossoms, including the Osaka Mint which is only open to the public one week every year in April for prime viewing of the diverse collection of trees.

Don’t forget to check out some of the festivals (known as matsuri) when planning your trip:

  • Sanja Matsuri: Held in May, this festival takes place in the Asakusa district of Tokyo, near the center of the city. My friend and I stumbled upon this festival one night when we decided to visit the historic temple and shrine. It was exciting to see the traditional dress and celebrations surrounding us. The temple and shrine are a bit of an oasis from the energetic city. In just a couple of blocks, you’ll travel from a busy, modern street into the small winding paths of the old city with traditional buildings, food, and crafts leading to the historic sight.
  • Tokyo Spring Festivals: From traditional to anime to azaleas to fertility, Tokyo boasts many festivals sure to make your spring travel delightful.
  • Japan-wide: There are dozens of festivals throughout the country all spring long, all perfect for immersing yourself in the unique culture.

I had my own experience traveling to Tokyo and Kyoto in late May a few years ago, and not only was the heat manageable but there were not nearly as many tourists as I expected. It made for a pleasant journey where I didn’t have to fight with crowds to get to the must-see sights, including the Meiji Jingu Shrine and the Tsukiji Fish Market in Toyko, Tokyo DisneySea, and the Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Arashiyama (Bamboo Forest) in Kyoto (but don’t worry, there will still be plenty of people to experience the Shibuya Crossing).

 

The tulips in front of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
The tulips in front of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

The Netherlands

If you think about the Netherlands in the spring, then you are likely to conjure the vibrant and colorful iconic tulips on display from mid-April to mid-May. But with stunning architecture, historical significance, and the famous waterways, there are more than a few reasons to visit this European country in spring. The Netherlands also ranks as the 6th happiest country in the world; so, if you’re in need of a stress-relieving vacation, look no further.

The tulips are truly a cultural wonder, a pride of the locals, and a main export for the country. Though a symbol of the Netherlands, the tulip is not actually native to the country and the history of its journey from Asia to Europe by Turkish traders more than 400 years ago is an interesting story. It’s no wonder that there are many spring celebrations honoring the flower that you won’t want to miss:

  • Bloemencorso Bollenstreek: Mid-April brings the annual flower festival and its main event, a 12-hour-long flower parade through several Dutch towns featuring colorful and elaborate floats decorated with tulips and other flora.
  • Keukenhof Gardens: Open only for tulip season, the Keukenhof Gardens is the largest flower garden in the world with more than 7 million flowers blooming for a truly beautiful sight. The Gardens were originally designed in the mid-1800 and have grown into a must-see attraction. In addition to the flowers, the Keukenhof hosts many events during the spring months, so there is always something to do.
  • Flower Strip: Take a road trip along the Dutch tulip fields and explore the Dutch countryside and towns along the way. Enjoy this journey in your own way, via public transportation, car, bike, or even on foot!

There are more than just flowers to enjoy in the Netherlands during spring:

  • Koningsdag (King’s Day): Celebrated at the end of April, this event honors the King’s birth (though not his actual birthday). Festivities include music, parties, and street markets. Many museums will be closed on this day but with everyone out and about celebrating, you don’t want to be stuck inside anyway. Venture out into the cities or journey into a smaller town so that you can make friends with the locals and embrace the day with fewer crowds. Be sure to wear something orange!
  • The Hague: The capital city of the Netherlands is more than the center of government for the country. There are more than 30 festivals during the spring season to help you fully take in the culture. If you’re in The Hague, check out some of these other must-see sights!

 

Petra, Jordan
Petra, Jordan

Jordan

Spring is one of the best times of year to travel to the Jordan, the small, nearly landlocked country in the Middle East. In fact, April and May are the prime travel month for this destination. Temperatures are pleasant, avoiding the sizzling heat of the summer months and the bitter cold and high winds that can come with the winter months. If you want to be surrounded by centuries-old history and vibrant, rich culture, then Jordan is a destination you should add to your spring travel list.

You may be a little wary of traveling to the Middle East, and with the conflicts and instability in the region a constant headline, it’s an understandable concern. But Jordan has largely avoided all of that and is actually one of the safest places in the region. In addition to safety, the people of the country are friendly and pride themselves on hospitality. Tourism is an important part of the country’s economy, and it’s clear that they want you there. Of course, you should always be vigilant when traveling anywhere, especially in a volatile region, and you’ll want to avoid Jordan’s shared borders with Syria and Iraq, but generally, you can enjoy this gem with relatively little fear.

Wildflowers and other flora are abundant during spring and add to the beauty of this country while you’re exploring the history and culture surrounding you. There are so many incredible places to visit in this small country. Here are just a few:

  • Petra: This is one of those must-see sights that you really don’t want to miss. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the new Seven Wonders of the World (not to be confused with the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), this archaeological wonder and prehistoric city is something for which you’ll want to set aside at least a couple of days to fully experience and hike through.
  • Wadi Rum: Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Wadi Rum is a protected desert also called the Valley of the Moon. Spend a night in the desert (there are many camps in the area offering you a variety of options and tents to fit your budget) and experience the peaceful desert under the open sky that millions have called home since prehistoric times
  • Amman: I’ve read that some guidebooks and travel advice leave out the country’s capital city of Amman. From my research, that is a mistake. The city is filled with history and culture at every turn and is also a modern city that boasts incredible shopping and culinary scenes. It’s a chance to experience the city as it was then and as it is today. It’s not just about the history of a country but about where it’s going, and it’s important to fully embrace that.

 

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Ecuador

If you’re hoping to spend some time outdoors and experience the vibrant nature that comes with spring, head down to Ecuador. As its name indicates, Ecuador is situated on the equator, but weather and crowds will be manageable (though you should be prepared for some rain), and the natural wonders of the second-smallest South American country will be on full display.

The best place to truly experience this is on the Galapagos Islands. Once thought of as a remote location, populated by researchers, it’s now become a reachable destination for adventure-seekers and nature-lovers. The abundance of flora and fauna is year-round—you’ll always find something exciting—but April and May bring some noteworthy experiences, including hatching sea turtles, baby sea lions, penguins, blooming flowers and more set against a lush backdrop. Take a break from the busy and fast-paced digital world and let go of your stresses in this little corner of paradise.

  • What to do: You can truly immerse yourself in the nature surrounding you through a variety of activities, including snorkeling, kayaking, surfing, hiking, and visiting the beach. There’s something for every type of nature-lover.
  • Environmental concerns: When visiting the Galapagos, it’s important to recognize the environmental impact of your visit and to respect your surroundings. Ecuador has regulated tourism to the islands to protect the area, but you should still do some research on how you can make as little an impact as possible so that the islands can continue to thrive for years to come.

Of course, there’s more to Ecuador than the Galapagos Islands, and it will not disappoint. The country may be small, but it is diverse in experiences you don’t want to miss.

  • Quito: The capital city of Ecuador is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for possessing “one of the most extensive and best-preserved historic centres of Spanish America.” One of the highest capital cities in the world and built upon an ancient Incan city, Quito has a lot to offer and worth a visit on your way to the Galapagos. Of course, as with most cities, crime is something to consider when traveling, and you may want to be even more vigilant in Quito. Here are some helpful tips for visiting Ecuador.
  • Cuenca: Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city of Cuenca, in the south of Ecuador, has stunning architecture, nature, and a mix of Spanish and indigenous cultures.
  • Devil’s Nose Train Ride: If you’re feeling particularly adventurous and a little lucky, this nearly three-hour, tenuous journey through the Andes yields gorgeous scenery as you descend the Devil’s Nose to a small town at the bottom where locals are waiting to greet you.

 

Marina Bay at night, includes the Gardens by the Bay and the Marina Sands
Marina Bay at night with the Gardens by the Bay and the Marina Sands in view. Singapore.

Singapore

The tiny, Southeast Asian island of Singapore can be enjoyed year-round as there’s no escaping the high temperatures and humidity. And so it’s best to look at other factors when planning a trip to Singapore—holidays, festivals, tourist seasons, etc. If you’re looking for a break in tourists, low-season falls between August and October, but there’s a trade-off: the Southwest Monsoon season (and slightly higher temperatures).

Spring in Singapore may be your best bet in escaping high-tourist season and some of the rainier months, but it’s an especially good time of year to visit if you love food—that’s because every April, Singapore is home to the World Gourmet Summit, a spectacular food festival every foodie should add to their itinerary. But if you can’t make it to the festival, don’t worry! The country itself is one of the most exciting culinary capitals in the world, with highly-diverse and fusion cuisines that reflect the country’s rich, cultural history. Singapore has long been a melting pot, and you’ll be able to experience all that Singapore has to offer in its restaurants as well as its world-renowned (and cheap) street food.

While known for its food, Singapore has so much more to offer. While the city-state may only be the size of Manhattan, there’s more than enough excitement for everyone.

  • Gardens by the Bay: Singapore may be a modern and bustling city, with skyscrapers and an efficient public transportation system, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy nature. In fact, Singapore is one of the greenest cities in the world. One of its more iconic attractions also comes personally recommended by a friend who lived in the country for an extended period, the Gardens by the Bay. Located next to the Marina Bay, this epic green space covers more than 249 acres and has several attractions such as the Cloud Forest which includes hundreds of varieties of flora and the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, the Flower Dome, and the Supertree Grove which features the Skyway—a 72-foot-tall walkway through the supertrees. Don’t miss the lightshow in the Supertree Grove every night around seven. It’s sure to be a memorable experience.
  • Get a drink at the Marina Bay Sands hotel: Another personal recommendation, head to the top of this instantly-recognizable hotel and relax with a drink while you enjoy the breathtaking views of the city.
  • Wildlife Reserves Singapore: This cluster of parks is all about conservation and offers incredible opportunities to encounter a variety of wildlife. Among them:
    • The Singapore Zoo is one of the best in the world, housing more than 2,000 animals in naturalistic exhibits.
    • The River Safari is an experience that takes you through different ecosystems and is home to more than 6,000 fauna.
    • And the Night Safari which is “the world’s first safari park for nocturnal animals” and protects more than 130 species

 

Fallas installation in Valencia, Spain
Fallas installation in Valencia, Spain

Spain

The Mediterranean country of Spain, with its rich and diverse cultural heritage, has a varied geography—from mountains to beaches—which makes it a perfect destination for spring. The weather is great throughout the country with cooler but comfortable temperatures in the north and central regions and warmer but still comfortable temperatures in the Andalusia region to the south and along the Costa del Sol.

Spain comes alive during the spring with an array of festivals providing excitement and insight into the country’s cultural traditions and diversity. You do not want to miss Las Fallas in Valencia—one of the more unique festivals celebrating Valencian silk and the city’s history as part of the Silk Roads. The festival includes fireworks, parades, puppets, lightshows, and food fairs as well as elaborate and giant installations throughout the city known as fallas. After the official judging and on the final night, the fallas are burned to welcome the spring. In 2016, Las Fallas was named by UNESCO on its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity as “one of the most important traditional celebrations of silk.” Las Fallas takes place each year from March 15 to March 19. So, while it’s not technically spring, it’s an exciting way to usher in the season.

From food and history to architecture and art, Spain is brimming with enriching and unique experiences. From the Moorish influences present throughout Spain to the Basque country in the north and the Celtic roots ingrained in the Galicia region of the northwest, vibrant cultures surround you. Unless you can take an extended trip, you probably won’t be able to do it all. Determine your priorities and develop your itinerary from there. Here are just a few of the main attractions.

  • Madrid: With so much to do in the country’s capital city, you’ll never be bored. World-famous museums include the Museo Reina Sofia (20th Century art) and the Prado Museum (12th to early 20th Century European art). Take a tour of the Royal Palace or wander through the botanical gardens of the Atocha Train Station. Visit the week before Easter for the Holy Week festivities (Semana Santa) or in May to enjoy the Fiesta de San Isidro.
  • Barcelona: If you’re looking for history, architecture, and food, look no further than the capital of the Catalan region. Barcelona is one of the most popular destinations in Europe and for good reason: there’s something here for everyone.
  • The Alhambra: Located in Granada, this architectural gem was built during the 12th Century and is a stunning example of the Moorish culture and influence in the region. This is a must-see.

My first trip abroad was to Spain with my high school Spanish class during Spring Break. April was a beautiful time to visit. Our tour took us from Madrid south through several cities, including Sevilla, Córdoba, Granada, and Torremolinos along the Costa del Sol (with a day trip to the British territory of Gibraltar). I could say so much about these destinations and personally recommend Madrid and the Alhambra noted above. But the experience that stuck with me the most was visiting the old city of Toledo.

Just a short drive from Madrid, this UNESCO World Heritage Site transports you back in time with old buildings, narrow streets, and an infusion of cultures. Once you step into the walled city, you feel as though you could be stepping into the 16th Century painting that made it famous, View of Toledo by the Spanish Renaissance artist, El Greco. If you have some time, you can also visit the Museo del Greco, which houses the works of this celebrated artist and many of his contemporaries.

 

Have you visited any of these amazing destinations? What other spring destinations would you recommend? Let us know below!

 

Pinterest image with photos of houses in Amsterdam

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