Photo by ArCaLu/Shutterstock
Photo by East Village Images/Shutterstock
The Tidal Basin is one of the best places to spot blooming cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C.
Want to catch tulips in the Netherlands or take a dip in clear Tahitian waters? Here are the 10 best spots to travel in April.
Article continues below advertisement
April is the perfect time of year to enjoy sunny days and, in many places, avoid high-season hotel rates. Whether you have an artistic soul or want to spend as many hours at the beach as possible, plan your spring break for one of these destinations, all of them ideal for April travel.
The Namib Desert is the oldest desert in the world—and arguably the most stunning. Fifty-five million years have churned its sand into tiny gems that reflect light in unique ways, shifting from bright red to shadowy purple. With those fiery dunes juxtaposed against the blue Atlantic Ocean, it’s easy to see why this is a photographer’s paradise. Namibia is also gaining attention for its unusual safari wildlife, such as desert-adapted elephants, giraffes, oryx, and rhinos, plus lions that hunt seals on the beach. In April, prices are reasonable, days are warm, and nights are cool. Best of all, the skies are often cloudless and animals congregate by watering holes—ideal for photography. Several new lodges bring a luxury experience to the area, including the Olupale Safari Lodge, which is projected to open in early 2020 just outside Etosha National Park. But Namibia’s best-kept secret remains its night sky. The NamibRand Nature Reserve is Africa’s sole International Dark Sky Reserve (there’s also a new International Dark Sky Sanctuary in South Africa), and it’s one of the darkest places in the world at night. The newly rebuilt andBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is the place to marvel at that starry sky, thanks to its remote location (87 miles from the nearest town), open design (floor-to-ceiling windows, above-bed skylights), and state-of-the-art observatory where astronomers lead nightly stargazing sessions with a research-grade telescope. The Kwessi Dunes lodge, slated to open in March 2020, is also taking advantage of the darkness in the NamibRand Nature Reserve: Each of its 12 accommodations will have a separate “stargazer” room open to the sky.
Distances are vast, but after flying into the capital, Windhoek, travelers can opt for internal flights between lodges, parks, and reserves across the country. Some spots, especially in Etosha, can be crowded with tourists; use a planner with extensive local knowledge of itinerary routing, accommodations, and timing. Some spots can be touristy, so beware travel companies that focus on a mass track. Explore Inc. personalizes itineraries and has deep connections throughout Namibia and Africa. They can arrange trips for astronomy fans to start on a moonless night in Sossusvlei and end with a lunar rainbow at Victoria Falls, on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. —Billie Cohen, as seen in the Jan/Feb 2020 issue
The capital of the United States is no longer just a town for politicos and pundits. Beyond the free museums that educate visitors about nature, American Indian culture, space travel, African American history, art, and more, the food scene is booming thanks to a diverse cast of talented chefs taking their craft to the next level. At Bad Saint, chef Tom Cunanan brings Filipino fare to the fore; Venezuela-born Enrique Limardo serves up Latin fusion at Seven Reasons; and Kwame Onwuachi prepares dishes that celebrate his roots in Nigeria, Jamaica, the United States, and beyond at Kith/Kin.
But the real reason to visit in April is the cherry blossoms. In 1912, the mayor of Tokyo City gifted 3,000 sakura trees—known for their photogenic pink flowers—to the U.S. capital to honor the continued friendship between Japan and America. The flowers usually bloom for a couple of weeks, and from March 20 to April 12, 2020, the National Cherry Blossom Festival coincides with the season. Simply enjoy the blossoms with a stroll around the Tidal Basin or the 4.1-mile Hains Point Loop Trail, or take part in the festival’s events, which include a parade on April 4 along Constitution Ave, and a day of music on the waterfront called Petalpalooza, on April 11. Be sure to check with your hotel in case it offers any cherry blossom season packages like the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown does. —Sara Button
There’s more to San Antonio than the Alamo. In April, the wildflower fields outside the city burst with color. San Antonio’s annual 11-day Fiesta (April 16–26) pays homage to the city’s storied revolutionaries with the Battle of Flowers Parade, live music, and regional fare. This flourishing city is also quickly becoming a cosmopolitan arts hub, foodie haven, and thriving green space.
Article continues below advertisement
In October 2019, the hotly anticipated contemporary art center Ruby City joined a roster of world-class local art galleries and museums, including the upgraded Witte Museum. Designed by British architect Sir David Adjaye, the striking crimson Ruby City presents selected works from the Linda Pace Foundation’s private collection of more than 900 paintings, sculptures, and installations by international artists. Another addition to the cityscape: a retrospective exhibit (through May 2020) that features the large-scale works of acclaimed Mexican sculptor Sebastián throughout the city. San Antonio’s close ties to Mexico are perhaps most keenly experienced on the plate, at such restaurants as Carnitas Lonja, Lala’s Gorditas, and the forthcoming El Machito from celebrated homegrown chef Johnny Hernandez. Travelers can also explore the city’s investment in outdoor spaces, notably the Mission Reach, an eight-mile extension of the city’s famous River Walk promenade that connects four UNESCO-listed Spanish colonial missions. The expanded botanical garden, new ecofriendly Confluence Park, and the growing art-and-nature-focused San Pedro Creek Culture Park are also worth a stroll. —Nora Walsh, as seen in the Jan/Feb 2020 issue
In 2019, UNESCO finally recognized the prosecco production area—50,000-plus acres of neatly terraced vineyards, rolling green hills, and scenic medieval towns—as a World Heritage site. Travelers can sip their way through the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, where small, family-run vineyards still use traditional methods to make sparkling wine. Go in April, which intersects with the Primavera del Prosecco Superiore, considered the most important wine event in Veneto, the region that fans out from its capital, Venice. During the festival, travelers can join tastings, enjoy meals with wine pairings, and stroll through vineyards open to the public.
It’s easy to explore beyond the region’s towns, too. You can drive or cycle along the winding Strada del Prosecco, a 55-mile loop lined with 90 wineries, tasting prosecco and other wines along the way. The historic region also has plenty of medieval villages and restaurants that highlight the land’s abundance, including the Michelin-starred Ristorante La Corte. The best way to experience farm life is to stay in one of several agriturismo accommodations in the area, such as Borgoluce, which produces its own wine, buffalo mozzarella, honey, cured meats, and beer. For the insider track, travelers can book a custom tour of Veneto with Imago Artis Travel. —Devorah Lev-Tov, as seen in the Jan/Feb 2020 issue
Springtime can be crowded in Istanbul, but the mild weather and the sight of erguvanlar (Judas trees) blooming deep pink beside the Bosphorus make this an ideal time to visit. In April, visitors can take in millions of colorful tulips and the finest in Turkish cinema at, respectively, the Istanbul Tulip Festival and the Istanbul International Film Festival.
In recent years, Istanbul’s arty residents shifted their focus from the city’s urban core to the residential neighborhoods and villages along the Bosphorus. The result: a heady mix of centuries-old traditions and fresh creative energy. Cheffy types have staked their claim to the European side of the strait, where visitors can pop into buzzy new cocktail bars on the historic backstreets of Arnavutköy village, sample the eclectic farm-to-table creations at Apartiman in leafy Yeniköy, or share meze platters at the sleek waterside Feriye Restaurant in Beşiktaş. As for dessert? Head to the Asian shore for luscious Ottoman puddings at Kanaat Lokantası, in the traditional Üsküdar district. To get a culinary overview along the river, book a “Born on the Bosphorus” walk with Culinary Backstreets, which offers a tasting tour of three waterside districts. —Kristina Malsberger
April is a big month in Amsterdam. The biggest bash on the city’s busy social calendar is King’s Day. Held on April 27—birthday of the current monarch, King Willem-Alexander—it’s known far and wide as one of Europe’s most exuberant street parties. Count on free public concerts, jam-packed pubs, canals full of brightly decorated boats, and a citywide flea market where anyone can sell anything. You’ll see the national color orange everywhere—crazy orange outfits, pets in orange gear, dyed orange hair. The event culminates with an outdoor concert at the Museumplein, where travelers can find some of the world’s top art museums.
But the other reason to go to Amsterdam in April is the flowers. For the whole month, travelers can see the country’s famous blooms for free in 85 public spaces during the annual Tulip Festival. And any trip to Amsterdam is even more magical with a stop in Vondelpark, the city’s most popular green space. (It gets some 10 million visitors a year.) First opened to the public in 1865, the park covers 120 acres and is now a nonstop party where children cartwheel, friends play songs on guitars, and cyclists wheel by.
Westerpark, another rollicking playground—slightly west of the city center—has reedy ponds, willow trees, and lush lawns where locals hang out. The bonus here is that the park extends into Westergasfabriek, a former gasworks revamped into a cultural complex brimming with hip cafés, breweries, theaters, and other creative spaces. —AFAR Editors
French Polynesia’s largest island, Tahiti, is a favorite destination for romance and relaxation, but it has adventurous delights, too—the island is a previous winner in the water sports category of our Travelers’ Choice Awards. April is the end of the wet (and low) season, so it’s also the ideal time to catch a ride on one of Air Tahiti Nui’s or United’s Dreamliners, or to find a sweet deal on the low-cost carrier French Bee, which launched its first direct route to the islands from the U.S. in 2018.
Tahiti and its smaller islands charm water lovers with lively colorful reefs and clear water. Expect to see sharks angling through the balmy 80-degree seas, as well as mantas barrel-rolling, mouths agape to devour plankton. Strap on a mask and hover above wrecks at The Aquarium site near the international airport.
After a long day of swimming, relax with a massage (a long-standing tradition in the area). Most massages use monoi: coconut oil infused with Tahitian gardenia, prized for its ability to deeply moisturize skin and hair. Make sure to schedule a traditional Polynesian massage known as Taurumi, which focuses on the body’s energy lines. It starts from the head (at the nini point, where the soul enters the body), then works down to the feet. —AFAR Editors
Article continues below advertisement
The Southeast Asian city of Kuala Lumpur wasn’t designated a municipality until 1972, but it punches above its weight when it comes to history and heritage. This richness derives from a mix of ethnicities and influences, with colonial architecture alongside Chinese shophouses and grand mosques. Yes, April is part of the rainy season, especially on the west coast, but it’s among the cheapest months to fly there.
One of the most enjoyable ways to get to know Kuala Lumpur is to hit its street markets. From bustling free-for-alls full of fragrant spices to calmer affairs frequented by hipsters, Kuala Lumpur’s markets have variants to suit all stripes. Given the local obsession with food, eating is a vital component at virtually every market in the city. In fact, it is pretty much the chief draw at markets such as Pudu, Jalon Alor, and Chow Kit, where vendors serve an array of Malay, Chinese, and Indian hawker favorites such as curry noodles, chicken rice, and popiah (Chinese fresh spring rolls). “There are lots of little random breakfast markets that don’t have names,” says AFAR senior editor Aislyn Greene, who recently returned from a trip. “Trying a different one every morning is a great way to get to know Malaysian food. The crispy Chinese scallion pancake is the one thing I still think about.”
The Kampung Baru night market is a great spot for such Malay goods as sarongs and songkok, the black felt caps worn by men all over the city. No surprise either that food plays a large role here as well—with grilled fish and meats, nasi lemak (a national dish of rice cooked in coconut milk, usually served for breakfast), and rojak (a spicy fruit and vegetable salad).
tylish, sophisticated, and friendly, Melbourne is Australia’s most cosmopolitan city and one of the most livable cities in the world. As of this writing, the bushfires in Australia are not affecting Melbourne’s air quality, and tourism dollars help the country recuperate. If travelers visit in April, it’s shoulder season: The autumn weather is still warm enough to enjoy the outdoors but the holiday crowds have dispersed. (Plus, you might be able to catch some of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, which runs from March 25 to April 19.)
Melbournians have taken street art to the next level—the thought-provoking art changes daily, if not hourly, and you can often see the artists at work. The art itself is edgy and often political in nature. Hosier Lane is the most famous of the laneways, but be sure to check out Centre Way, Rutledge Lane, AC/DC Lane, and Caledonian Lane as well. There are plenty of walking tours—like those available from Melbourne Street Tours, run by street artists themselves—that will take you to the best hidden spots for a sense of Melbourne’s fascinating urban art history.
For an indoor art experience, get tickets to a show. Going to the theater in Melbourne is evocative of another era, illustrated by its gorgeously preserved art deco and Victorian theaters. The Princess Theatre (where Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is currently running) was built in the 1850s with the kind of sumptuous glam that only a gold rush can fund, and the Regent Theatre is a rococo dreamland. But the icing on the cake is the gloriously over-the-top Forum Theatre, with its Moorish-inspired minarets and Hogwarts-style enchanted ceiling. Melbourne also has fantastic contemporary venues such as the Arts Centre Melbourne, recognizable by its Eiffel Tower–inspired spire, where you can buy tickets for SKYFALL in concert. —AFAR Editors
Located on the western coast of the state of Jalisco, Puerto Vallarta’s waters are an irresistible siren song for anyone who enjoys snorkeling or scuba diving. Go in April, when the weather is dry but not yet too hot. For travelers who want to experience a less crowded PV, visit at the end of the month to avoid Holy Week crowds from April 5 to 11 (or brave those for local religious parades and Easter celebrations).
Puerto Vallarta may draw visitors primarily because of its sun and sand, but the Sierra Madre range in the northwestern part of Jalisco state has just as much appeal. Travelers who enjoy hiking can lace up their boots and hit the trail with an outfitter such as Vallarta Adventures. You can participate in one of its package tours, which includes rappelling and zip-lining, or request a custom tour that involves more boots-on-the-ground time.
Birders will want to book a trip with Nature Vallarta Birding Tours. Guide Gerardo Hernández consistently receives rave reviews for his avian knowledge; his forest hike, which begins at dawn, is an atmospheric experience. Discover exotic-looking birds like the black-throated magpie jay, tiny camouflaged Mexican parrotlets, and nocturnal northern potoos.
For those who prefer their hikes more easygoing, head to the Vallarta Botanical Garden. From its well-maintained viewing trails you can spy orchids, passionflowers, carnivorous plants, and many other endemic species. Bring a bathing suit if you want to swim in the garden’s river, or just roll up your pants and cool your feet after your ramble.
This story originally appeared on January 31, 2019. It was updated on January 23, 2020, to include current information.
>>Next: Where to Go in 2020
more from afar