Where should you travel in April? The Ultimate Year-Round Travel Guide
If you could travel in one month of the year forever more, which month would you pick? My first thoughts jumped to April, when I was asked to take part in The Ultimate Year-Round Travel Guide for the British Airways ‘High Life’ blog. In this collaborative series, twelve top bloggers will each talk about travel for a specific month of the year.
To me, and to many of us in the northern hemisphere, April represents the coming of Spring. In the UK, daylight hours are getting noticeably longer and the air still has a refreshing edge. Plants and animals are bursting with new life. Being a habitual traveller for the last few years, I looked back to see where I’ve spent my Aprils, and realised that a never-ending springtime wouldn’t be so bad at all.
Depending how many parts adventure to comfort you like in your travel cocktail, here are some April travel recommendations, based on my travel experiences. Your options are;
- Japan and Korea – for adventure and unfamiliar flavours
- Israel and Jordan – for culture and curiosity
- South India – for heat-resistant travellers and crowd avoidance
- Spain and Italy – for exertion (or relaxation) in Europe
Japan and Korea – for adventure and unfamiliar flavours.
Both of these countries can take you deep into uncharted taste territories, and are great for finding outdoor activities without too much travel time. April brings cherry blossom season to Japan and Korea. Bright spring colours make historic walks through Kyoto or Fukuoka especially scenic, and you can find hundreds of cherry trees decorating central parks. In Korea, follow one of the many hiking trails that tend to start in the city limits (of Seoul, Suwon and others), until you get tremendous panoramas of the land below.
For a really adventurous break, head to the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, for off-piste skiing in world-class powder. Fresh snow in the popular resort of Niseko will be hit or miss in early April, the last days of the season, but you’ll be likely to see blue bird sky and stunning views of the local volcano, Mount Yotei. The popularity of Japanese food across the globe is a good introduction to their cuisine, but expect pleasing surprises and whole styles of eatery that you may not have heard of too (Okonomiyaki or Izakaya anyone?). Happily, Korean food is also becoming widely popular (I sampled it this summer in London, Paris, Berlin and Dublin) but the authentic bitter and tangy flavours in Korea will take your taste-buds to the next level.
More pics and video from skiing in Japan: Snowboarding in Niseko’s Deep Powder Snow, Japan
Israel and Jordan – for culture and curiosity.
The Middle East has a difficult past, and a difficult present for that matter. But there’s nothing to stop intrigued travellers from visiting the region, barring serious frowns from your passport issuer. There are a wealth of cultures to be found in the Middle East, and some very well-known footsteps to trace. Aside from religious overtones, these countries are well geared for tourism. Israel has the popular beach city of Tel Aviv, and the lure of floating on the Dead Sea. Jordan has the crowning jewels of the necropolis at Petra, a natural adventure playground at The Valley of the Moon (Wadi Rum), and a thriving capital in Amman. The climates of the two countries are very similar, April being a perfect time to visit, and it’s not worth flying between them. You can drive to most places in Israel and Jordan within a few hours, the southerly destinations of the Dead Sea and Petra taking longer to get to. After exploring Jerusalem, tourists are also free to visit Bethlehem, just a short bus ride from East Jerusalem, and other cities in the West Bank.
South India – for heat-resistant travellers and crowd avoidance.
If you’re really intent on avoiding crowds, then India is probably not the country for you. But if your aim is to avoid other tourists, head south on this rich subcontinent to discover some of India’s lesser known gems. You’ll need to brave temperatures of 30 – 40°C (86 – 104°F) but it’s definitely worth it to see UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the Ellora and Ajanta caves during the quiet season.
It’s almost certainly too hot for sunbathing in beach towns like Goa and Verkala but staying cool in the cities is easier, even on a budget which doesn’t stretch to A/C rooms. Depending which part of India you visit, you might still see some of the colourful Holi festivities in April. Exploring your locale by foot, auto-rickshaw or local train is an essential part of visiting India, and you can often find yourself the only tourist at a local landmark.
Popular sights in cities throughout India are busy even without foreigners, but handily that means you’re never more than a few feet from cheap refreshments and a rest stop. Drink fresh coconut milk from the husk after conquering Golconda Fort, a few kilometres outside Hyderabad. In Mumbai, watch the men of the Mahalakshmi Ghats hand-washing clothes on an industrial scale, before heading to the Colaba night market for delicious Pani Puri. South of Chennai, visit the ancient monolithic sculptures at Mahabalipuram, then head to the beach for roast corn on the cob in the evening, rubbed with lime juice and hot spices.
Another way to escape the heat is following in the footsteps of homesick, heat-weary soldiers of the British Raj. They were often sent from North India to South Indian hill stations, bearing a passing resemblance to highlands of the British Isles, to recoup for a few weeks in the cooler climate. For those more worried about culture shock than the Indian summer, you can have a much gentler introduction to India on a guided tour. My experience on luxury train The Deccan Odyssey wasn’t my first visit or how I usually travel, but I appreciated not worrying about arrangements, and having reliable comfort at the end of each day. Catered and staffed by the Taj Hotels group, you won’t regret crossing the grand Deccan Plateau on their 5-day 4-night itinerary, from Goa to Mumbai via many of the cultural highlights of Maharashtra (including Ellora and Ajanta).
Spain and Italy – for exertion (or relaxation) in Europe.
If you prefer to travel in Europe, there are plenty of options on the continent. April is the perfect time to visit those places near the Mediterranean that heat up quickly in summer.
The Italian island of Sicily is the perfect size for exploring by car or public transport. A heaven for foodies, staying at a remote ‘agri-tourismo’ (an organic farmstead-cum-B&B) is a very authentic Italian way to relax, amidst nature and likely amidst the owner’s vineyard. More excitement can be found in Palermo or Catania, the latter home to active Mount Etna. For daredevils and geology enthusiasts, less than a days travel from either city will get you to the volcanic island of Stromboli, via ferry from Milazzo. You’ll need to spend at least one night in the charming town, but after an exhilarating 3-hour ascent to the top of Mount Stromboli, you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views over the rumbling crater and the rest of the island.
Alternatively, a couple of hours inland from Malaga, the small Spanish town of El Chorro is legendary in rock climbing circles. The most popular time of the year to visit is winter, but late Autumn and early Spring have pleasant weather too. The climbing area of Las Encantadas has hundreds of sport and traditional routes for climbers of all abilities, with people also visiting the area to hike and horse-ride among other things. Another attraction is the Camino del Ray (the King’s Walkway), also known as the Via Ferrata. Just the crumbling remains of century old walkways into the El Chorro Gorge, the whole of the Lower Gorge can be traversed safely with a safety harness and clips, but measures on the Upper Gorge are less complete.
Another post from El Chorro with video I made for the guest house: The Olive Branch El Chorro Promo Video
You can enjoy all these April travel recommendations (except for India) as much during Autumn as in Spring. So there are two opportunities to visit them in 2014, but expect different foods, foliage and rainfall later in the year (and make sure to time your trip extremely well to miss big downpours in the Middle East).
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Hope you enjoyed my take on travel in April!
All photographs copyright © Peter Parkorr 2013 and should not be used or reproduced without my express permission.