As spring hits, the northern hemisphere blossoms into life. 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.
Elsewhere in the world, underwater worlds are waiting to be explored and brilliant birdlife throngs the ever-enchanting Galápagos.
Palau is the place for underwater adventures in paradise
The Micronesian nation of Palau looks pretty amazing above water: it’s a sprinkle of 200-odd lush-green limestone outcrops, sheltered lagoons, white sands and blindingly turquoise seas. But it’s under water where things become truly spectacular. This is the sub-aqua Serengeti, with 1500 fish species, soft corals and sea fans, sheer drop-offs and WWII wrecks.
Palau is balmy year-round, and there’s no really bad time to dive here. However, dry-season April, when seas are calmer and clearer, is a good choice. Also, whale sharks and manta rays are more likely January to April, while green and hawksbill turtles are most often seen April to July. The icing on the cake? Jellyfish Lake, a lagoon pulsating with a million translucent, stingless jellies – it’s like snorkelling through the chorus line of an immense submarine ballet.
- Trip plan: Keen divers should consider a liveaboard trip, to maximise dive options and ease access to the best sites (including Blue Corner and German Channel).
- Need to know: Roman Tmetuchl International Airport is on Babeldaob island; it’s a 1½-hour flight from Guam (which has US connections), four hours from Tokyo.
- Other months: May-Oct – wet, typhoons more likely; Nov-Apr – drier, best diving.
See a host of golden daffodils in the Lake District, England
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.
- Trip plan: Base yourself at Windermere or Ambleside for Lake Windermere, Coniston Water and Grasmere. Keswick is the gateway to the northern Lakes and the valleys of Borrowdale and Buttermere. Scafell Pike, England’s highest peak, is in the west.
- Need to know: Lakeland peaks aren’t high but shouldn’t be underestimated – go prepared, and choose trails suited to your experience.
- Other months: Apr-May & Sep-Oct – quieter; Jun-Aug – warmest, busiest; Nov & Mar – coldest, snow possible.
Head to the Galápagos Islands for calm, clear seas and brilliant birds
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 snorkelling 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.
- Trip plan: Fly from mainland Ecuador to Baltra. Explore the archipelago by expedition cruise (usually four or eight days). Boats follow set itineraries – pick one that visits Española (for albatrosses) and North Seymour (blue-footed boobies).
- Need to know: If prone to seasickness, book a lower-deck cabin on a medium/ large ship or opt for a land-based trip.
- Other months: Jul-Nov – cool, dry, rougher seas; Dec-Jun – wetter, calmer, better for snorkelling.
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.
- Trip plan: A classic itinerary links Tokyo, Matsumoto, Takayama, Kanazawa, Kyoto and Hakone (for blossom by Mt Fuji).
- Need to know: The Japan Weather Association issues cherry-tree opening estimates for the whole country; plan accordingly.
- Other months: Feb-May – blossom spreads; Sep-Nov – fall colours; Dec-Jan – cold; Jun-Aug – hottest.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out our book Where To Go When for 360 ultimate escapes from family-friendly adventures to animal encounters and relaxing retreats.