March, April, and May form the shoulder season for many destinations, with milder weather and lower prices. So why save that long awaited vacation for the busy summer months? Put a little spring in your step with a well-deserved holiday in the Netherlands, Japan, Peru, or South Africa.
Springtime in Europe is a classic, and you have plenty of destinations to choose from, but if seeing the fields of Holland awash in tulips doesn’t already top your bucket list, we think it should. The Netherlands’ capital Amsterdam makes an excellent starting point, in no small part due to the size of Schipol Airport. As a major international hub, you’ll have more flight options and therefore the chance to snag lower airfare. Once you’re done soaking up the seventeenth century history and art among Amsterdam’s canals, rent a bike and pedal out to Edam for a sample of the town’s eponymous cheese. If you’re on a longer trip, take the train south to the Hague or Rotterdam, or even further to Brussels, Belgium, or Paris, France, all of which trumpet their own springtime charms.
Bright and beautiful tulips aren’t the only blooms making an appearance this season. March, April, and May usher in the beloved tradition of hanami – or blossom viewing – in Japan. If you have your heart set on a capital city, Tokyo has plenty of surprisingly serene corners to catch a glimpse of a budding cherry tree. Hundreds of trees line the Meguro River, but if you prefer quality to quantity, check out the showstopper at Rikugi-en: a massive weeping cherry blossom tree. If you’d like to explore more of the country, other major cities like Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima have prime viewing spots as well. Invest in a Japan Rail Pass to grant yourself the most flexible itinerary possible.
Don’t forget about the southern hemisphere. While northerners are welcoming new life and warmer temperatures, our neighbors in South America are eagerly anticipating cooler nights as they enter autumn. To that end, April and May are the best months to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Catch a flight to Lima and enjoy a few days in the Peruvian capital before toughing out the long bus ride to Cusco. Give yourself some time to acclimate to the altitude before hitting the trail and exploring one of the world’s greatest ancient monuments. Keep in mind that in the interest of historic preservation, tight regulations are kept on the number of hikers allowed on the trail at once, so you’ll need to book an organized tour well in advance to ensure your permits are in order. Looking for an alternative to the popular tourist trek? Check out the cities of Puno and Arequipa instead.
The southern hemisphere’s autumn is just as enjoyable in Cape Town. The cosmopolitan capital of South Africa is quite temperate in March, April, and May, and you’ll have the best in food, wine, and cultural heritage to entertain you. Climb the iconic Table Mountain, explore Nelson Mandela’s former prison on Robben Island, or get your heart pumping with a cage dive in Shark Alley. If you’re in the mood for a day trip, the country’s internationally renowned Cape Winelands are well within arm’s reach. Stellenbosch and Paarl are particularly popular spots to taste the region’s Chenin Blancs, Merlots, and Syrahs.