Best international destinations to visit in April 2017

Japan looks the prettiest when the cherry blossoms are out.
Image courtesy: ©Ark Tui/500px

Hike to the Everest Base Camp, rub shoulders with Roman gladiators at the Colosseum before summer temperatures hit, ski-tour some of the Alp’s finest terrain on the Haute Route, discover Wordsworth’s lyrical landscapes as England’s Lake District transforms under a blanket of daffodils or recline with a picnic beneath the cherry blossoms in Japan, there is something for everyone in this round-up of best places to visit in April.

It’s blooming gorgeous in Japan in April

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.

Spring temperatures make Rome ideal for sightseeing

 

Fountain di Trevi, Rome, Italy.
Rome is less busy during spring time in April.
Image courtesy: ©TTstudio/Shutterstock

History buffs might like to visit Rome on its birthday. The Eternal City was founded on 21 April 753 BC, and every year it celebrates with events, illuminations and truck-loads of fireworks.

Festivities aside, April to May is a delightful time to visit. Rome is a city for sightseeing, which is far better done on milder spring days (15-20°C; 59-68°F) than in the depths of winter or heights of summer with the largely shadeless Forum being particularly unforgiving in the latter. It’s also less busy (and a little cheaper), though seasonal attractions are open; for instance, atmospheric after-dark tours of the Colosseum run April to October. To top it all, menus fill with good spring things, such as artichokes and asparagus. Vignarola, a Roman speciality combining peas, fava beans, lettuce and artichokes is the season’s signature dish.

Get hot and wet with cool festivities in Thailand

Motorbikes and riders being soaked with water  during Songkran Festival.
Songkran is celebrated with the world’s biggest water fight.
Image courtesy: ©Matt Munro/Lonely Planet

All of Thailand sizzles in April – from the highlands of Chiang Mai to the islands of the south, the mercury is rising above 30°C. Sweaty stuff, but a great time to hit the beach. Ko Samet is an easy white-sand escape from Bangkok; further afield, try paddling around the James Bond karst rocks of Ao Phang Nga, diving off Ko Tao, water sporting on Phuket or simply lolling on offbeat Ko Kood.

If you’re stuck in the city, head to one of Bangkok’s many rooftop bars for a bit of a breeze. However, come mid-month, cooling down gets easier. Songkran, Thai New Year, is held 13 to 15 April and is celebrated with the world’s biggest water fight. Traditionally, family members gently sprinkled each other for good luck; now water balloons and pump-action pistols are employed. It’s all refreshing good fun. Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai are two of the best places to go for a festive drenching.

Tackle an Alpine classic when conditions are best

Skier making turn in powder snow with mountains in background.
Skiing in Chamonix is a great experience.
Image courtesy: ©Magnus Kallstrom/Shutterstock

The 120-km Haute Route links Chamonix/Mont Blanc and Zermatt/the Matterhorn via some of the Alps’ finest terrain. It ticks off two countries, skirts beneath most of the range’s highest summits, crosses cols, traverses lakes and descends glaciers. Simply, it is the crème de la crème of ski-touring, and only for those with experience.

Long days at high altitude (it tops out at 12,434ft Pigne d’Arolla) make it a challenging prospect. The main Haute Route ski-touring season runs from mid-March to late April. This is when the glaciers are safely covered in powder, the weather is generally milder, and the mountain huts are open, heated and cooking up hearty hot meals. Don’t ski? Come back in summer to do it on foot.

Discover your inner Indiana Jones in Jordan

Petra, the Treasure (Giordania)
Petra is a must-visit place in Jordan.
Image courtesy: ©Adriano Ongaro/500px

Compact Jordan is the complete package. Ancient wonders? Visit the 2000-year-old rock-hewn city of Petra or Kerak’s Crusader castle. City sights? Try Roman Jerash or the souks of Amman. Jaw-dropping landscapes? Camp in the alien-esque deserts of Wadi Rum. Wildlife? Explore Dana Nature Reserve. Beach? Pick between the salty Dead Sea or snorkel-friendly Red Sea.

More surprisingly, Jordan can also be very green – especially at this time. In April, humidity and rainfall are low, temperatures loiter delightfully around the low 20°Cs (68-73°F), the central valleys are lush from winter rains and there are wildflowers everywhere. In particular, Ajloun Forest is abloom with strawberry trees and rock roses and Dana’s oases are bright with oleander and birds. Also, the vastness of Petra can be explored without breaking a sweat. In short, a beautiful time to travel across the country.

See a host of golden daffodils in the Lake District, England

Skiddaw and Keswick from Catbells, Lake District, Cumbria, UK.
Lake District is charming during spring.
Image courtesy: ©Mat Robinson/500px

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.

Discover flowers, festivals and on-foot adventures in Nepal

Group of 3 trekkers in Mount Everest National Park, Nepal
Trekkers in Mount Everest National Park.
Image courtesy: ©Bartosz Hadyniak/Getty Images

Quick! You can just squeeze in a trip to Nepal before the summer monsoon renders it hot, wet and treacherous. Indeed, March to April is a great time to explore the Himalaya: the rhododendron trees are in full and fabulous bloom, painting the land in incredible reds, pinks and purples, turning to white higher up.

Long, warm days also make this an appealing time to hike. In particular, there’s a buzz in the Everest region as hardcore mountaineers start gathering (most summit attempts are made mid-May); tackle the Everest Base Camp trek to rub shoulders with the climbing elite. The Kathmandu Valley is lively too – Bisket Jatra (Nepali New Year) is celebrated in mid-April, most exuberantly in Bhaktapur, where a god-toting chariot is dragged through streets and tug-of-war contests are held.

Head to Melbourne for laughs, mellow weather and fewer people

People kite surfing on St Kilda Beach in Melbourne
Kite surfing on St Kilda Beach in Melbourne
Image courtesy: ©JavenLin/Getty Images

It’s all happening in Melbourne in March. The city explodes with events: Fashion Festival, Food & Wine Festival, Formula 1 Grand Prix. Which is great – if you want to fight your way to the bar and pay a premium for your bed… Alternatively, wait until April and visit Australia’s culture capital when there’s more room to breathe.

The Comedy Festival (the world’s third-largest laugh-fest) runs to the middle of the month anyway; the pleasant autumnal weather continues (highs around 20°C; 68°F), but the city isn’t so overrun. That means you’ll have more space while browsing the creative laneways, walking in the Botanic Gardens (aflame with autumn colour), cycling the buzzy neighbourhoods of Fitzroy, Collingwood and Carlton, and strolling seaside St Kilda. If you do get some autumn rain, shelter in one of Melbourne’s 100-plus art galleries or aboard the free City Circle Tram.

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