April signals a seasonal shift across the globe, making it the ideal time of year for exploring ancient wonders, embarking on epic adventures and chowing down on fresh local produce.
Grab your passport and pack your suitcase for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that could see you traveling back in time in Jordan, snorkeling with marine iguanas in the Galápagos or stuffing your chops in Turkey. Here's our guide to the very best places to go in April.
Where are the best places to travel to in April for wildlife and nature?
Japan: absorb the stunning sakura season
No time of year excites the Japanese quite like spring, because it’s 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.
The 5 best places to see Japan’s cherry blossoms
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.
Galápagos Islands: snorkle through an incredible underwater world
There’s never a bad time to visit the Galápagos Islands. Straddling the equator, the archipelago never gets cold, and the wildlife – the main reason to visit – is always doing something wonderful. That said, March to April is particularly good. Rain is quite likely but the seas are at their calmest and clearest, and water temperatures high – all the better for snorkeling with turtles, marine iguanas, curious sea lions and the planet’s northernmost-dwelling penguin.
Some of the islands’ most enchanting birds are in their best form too: waved albatross are returning to begin their balletic courtship; frigate birds are mating, the males inflating their crimson throat pouches; blue-footed booby pairs are doing their comic dance. Giant tortoise eggs are hatching too – it’s a wildlife-watching feast.
Where are the best places to travel to in April for adventure?
Nepal: epic treks await in the warm weather
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.
The Appalachian Trail, USA: start off on the trek of a lifetime
You’re going to need about six months and a lot of grit and stamina to complete the 2190-mile (3525 km) Appalachian Trail. But, wow – just imagine if you do? Tackling one of the world’s longest marked footpaths unravels 14-states-worth of impressive scenery, and spending that long carrying your kit, camping wild, and dealing with blisters and bears is also life-changing stuff.
Most northbound thru-hikers start at Georgia’s Springer Mountain between March and mid-April, to ensure they’re finished before winter descends on the end of the AT, at Mt Katahdin, Maine. However, better is to start late April/early May, to avoid both the chances of late snow in the south and the log-jam of other thru-hikers all setting off at the same time.
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: see rhinos amid beautiful scenery
For an excellent South African all-rounder, look no further than KwaZulu-Natal. The province has golden Indian Ocean frontage, the country’s highest peaks and brilliant big-game parks (including some of Africa’s best rhino-spotting). Its earth is soaked with history too, most notably the bloody skirmishes of the 1879 AngloZulu War, best appreciated on guided trips to the battlefield sites of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift.
Soak it all up in the austral autumn, when the weather is still warm (24°C; 75°F) and the skies dry. Conditions are generally stable in the spear-like Drakensberg Mountains too, opening a world of wonderful walking of all levels, via geological amphitheatres, pools and waterfalls, imposing spires and San rock art.
Where are the best places to travel to in April for culture?
Jordan: see the lush side of this incredible country
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.
Rome, Italy: admire the Eternal City in spring
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. 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.
Where are the best places to travel to in April for food and drink?
Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand: cycle your way to wine country
Hawke’s Bay is the larder of New Zealand: apples, figs, peaches, squashes and, most notably, grapes. Hugging the east coast of the North Island, this is the country’s oldest wine-growing region, and in April the grapes are being plucked: 4700 hectares of vineyards harvesting 45,000 tonnes of fruit. The serried vines begin to glow russet and gold under the autumn sun too.
Still reasonably warm and dry, this is a great time to explore by bicycle. Hawke’s Bay has New Zealand’s biggest network of gentle cycle paths, many of which link wine estates, cafes and cellar doors. Try the flat, off-road 22-mile (36 km) Wineries Ride, which navigates the grape-growing heartland of Bridge Pa, Gimblett Gravels and Ngatarawa Triangle. Napier, with its art deco architecture and Saturday Urban Food Market, makes a good base.
Istanbul, Turkey: soak up the ambiance of the Spice Bazaar
You might debate which is the greatest treasure of the former Constantinople: the incredible 6th-century basilica-mosque-museum Aya Sofya? Sprawling, opulent Topkap? Palace? The domes, minarets and ornate azure tilework of the Blue Mosque? Wander among them to decide for yourself, by all means – and in April, as things are warming up at the end of the low season, you can enjoy discounts, smaller crowds and more forgiving weather.
But save some time for the greatest legacy the Ottomans left the world: food, of course. Why do you think the Spice Bazaar is so huge and bustling? From simple kebabs to meze feasts and the luscious aubergine (eggplant) masterpiece, imam bay?ld?, there are few cuisines that are as indulgent as Turkish. Over the past couple of decades a roster of excellent food-themed walking tours and cookery schools has sprung up in Istanbul, providing the opportunity to combine a spring city break with a culinary reboot.