Kicking off the beach season in Europe or trekking through rhododendrons in the Himalayas? It’s all here
The northern half of the world is just waking up from its winter hibernation and many places are in full spring mode. As always, here’s a selection of six places that can suit just about anyone’s needs and wishes.
Trekking through rhododendrons, the Himalayas
With its majestic mountains, green forests, rivers and waterfalls, the Himalaya region of Nepal, Bhutan, South China, or India boasts a diverse ecosystem. The region’s native rhododendron blooms from March through to early May and its colors saturate the landscape mainly with shades of red, pink, and white.
Rhododendron also happens to be the national flower of Nepal. It grows at altitudes over 1,200 meters above sea level and can reach a height of up to 20 meters depending on the variant.
The landscape in this region might change its appearance any minute throughout the day, especially if the weather shifts and snow starts falling. It also varies dramatically based on the trek you choose to follow.
The Milke Danda trek in the eastern part of Nepal sits in the rising hills of the Himalayas and is accompanied by the views of high mountains such as Makalu (8463m) and Kanchenjunga (8586m). Or you can head up the Poon Hill trail across rivers, lush valleys, and quaint villages within the larger Annapurna region. One of the most popular routes on this trek will take you from the starting point of Nayapul to Ghandruk at the foot of Annapurna.
Catching early sun at beaches around Europe
After months of cold weather, Europe is ready for a new season of roasting in the sun. So if you can’t wait even a minute longer and need your sandy fix, here is a couple of ideas to get some early sun.
Turkey’s Antalya will welcome you with a balmy temperature of around 25 degrees (perhaps with an odd hour of cloudy weather here and there). Lara Beach is the closest to the airport, only some 15–20 minutes away. Its proximity to both the airport and the city center is what makes it a popular spot for beach lovers.
A little further west across the Aegean Sea lies the Navagio Beach on the coast of the Greek island of Zakynthos, also known as Shipwreck Beach. The 100-meter-long strip of land got its name from a freightliner which ran aground here back 40 years ago. The abandoned ship still lies there today.
Traveling off the coast of West Africa, you’ll find the well-known Canary Islands. It’s no news it’s a popular summer holiday destination but it could come as a surprise that a visit in April might be a better fit. The chances of rain start dropping considerably from April on and the crowds haven’t arrived yet even though the temperatures are hitting sunbathing levels.
Visit museums for free, United States
How about acquainting yourself with a patient who swallowed 453 nails?
The beginning of April marks a fun one-day event for all the cultural buffs across the United States. On 4 April, the Smithsonian magazine organizes a museum day with free admission to any of the participating museums. The selection is broad and the entire list can be viewed on the organizer’s website.
One of the participating museums is also The Glore Psychiatric Museum in St. Joseph, Montana, which has been recognized as one of the most unusual museums in the country. It takes its visitors through 150 years of the asylum’s history and promises a glimpse into the minds of those who suffered from a mental illness (such as a patient who swallowed all those nails). Visiting on a museum day will save you $7 off general admission for adults.
If gore doesn’t do it for you, head to the Asian Art Museum in Seattle. This 1933 Art Deco hall reopens in all its expanded glory on 8 February and promises a thematic exploration of both historical and contemporary art from the world’s largest continent. Some exhibitions charge up to $30 adult admission.
As of April, spring has completely taken over most parts of the US. The parks will be busy and everywhere you look will be dotted with flowers. New England is no exception and, additionally, Boston is also home to a number of renowned museums, such as the Harvard Museum of Natural History (general adult admission $15).
Exploring the world’s extremes, Ethiopia
Ethiopia is one of the few countries in the world hardly touched by Western influences. It’s the only country in Africa never to have been fully colonized and it’s also the only one to have developed its own alphabet. In addition, Ethiopians follow their own clock (a new day starts at six in the morning rather than midnight) and date (their calendar is almost eight years behind the Gregorian one).
The country is dotted with sites that each add to rich Ethiopian history. Here you’ll find more Unesco Heritage sites than in any other country in Africa. Religion is a huge part of life in Ethiopia and it can be seen and heard all over the country. In fact, Ethiopia was one of the world’s first to adopt Christianity.
North of the capital, you’ll find the eleven rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, also sometimes referred to as the eighth wonder of the world. Bete Giyorgis or, as it’s called in English, the Church of Saint George is perhaps the most famous one dating back to the turn of the 13th century.
Not only culturally diverse, Ethiopia has some of the world’s most unique geographical sites. One of these is the Danakil Depression which resulted from the parting of three tectonic plates. Particularly the hot sulfur springs of Dallol are a point of interest for most visitors to the area.
The beauty of Dallol lies in its other-worldly appearance with salt-pillars, geysers, flower-like crusts and crystals. As active springs go inactive and new ones emerge, the whole place changes color. That’s why you’ll see a whole palette of colors ranging from white to green, lime, yellow, gold, orange, red, purple, or ochre.
Medieval Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
In the spring, the whole of Central Europe starts sprouting with new life and bathing in (still a bit weak) sun. Germany — whose geography mostly corresponds with one elsewhere in Central Europe — is no exception. Sure, Germany is famous for ultra-modern cities scattered all across the country (you can probably name at least five big names), you’ll also stumble upon small towns and places that seem to be looking the same as centuries ago.
One of them is Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Snuggled between Nuremberg and Stuttgart, the small town of about 11,000 people is probably just about as medieval as they come. The walled Altstadt with all its twists and turns will take you on a stroll through narrow alleys and cobble-stoned stairways.
Rumor has it that this fairy-tale town inspired Walt Disney’s 1940 animated film Pinocchio. Besides, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows parts one and two were filmed here, too.
If you get tired of roaming through the old and crave something a bit more modern, why not visit the city of Bonn. It was named by Lonely Planet as one of the best destinations to visit in 2020 and April might be one of the best months to visit as the city’s cherry blossom trees are in full bloom. Heerstrasse is known as Bonn’s Cherry Blossom Avenue and for just a short period each spring pink sprouting flowers camber the boughs of the street’s cherry trees for visitors to admire.
The best of two seasons, Barbados
April in Barbados still falls within the dry season and temperatures hover around a pleasant 30 degrees Celsius during the day. The tourist season is nearing its end which should result in hotel prices drop, with both the wet and hurricane seasons still months away.
Most visitors to this Carribean island come for the beaches but, despite its tiny size, Barbados will surprise many with its rich history and distinct nature. For one, the nation was under British rule since the 1620s and for almost 350 years it was developing a distinct blend of West African and British cultures.
It’s easy to come across fragments of the country’s colonial past, such as the 17th-century St. Nicholas Abbey plantation house. The British heritage is also reflected in the culture and you’ll see people sipping their afternoon tea or enjoying a spot of the national sport cricket. One of the best cricket players of all time — Sir Garfield Sobers — is a Barbados native
Despite its European heritage, the nation’s Carribean roots often mean the popular beverage of choice is rum. The tradition of rum on the island goes back several centuries. In fact, Barbados’ Mount Gay Distilleries Ltd. is the oldest rum distillery in the world, established back in 1703. Its Mount Gay rum is the oldest rum brand in the world, with its primary export market being the US.