The best places to travel in March

The best places to travel in March

Travel inspiration

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Need some vacation ideas for March 2023? These are the best early-spring travel destinations in Europe, the US, and beyond

Christmas feels like ages ago, there’s still a month before Easter, and whether you get Spring Break or you just have a weekend somewhere to play with, you surely deserve a vacation at this point. March is a good time to travel thanks to the shoulder-season deals on flights and accommodation, and (in the northern hemisphere) the budding signs of spring. Still need some more inspiration? Here are six top destinations for March, whether you want warm weather, history and culture, outdoor activities or parties; in Europe, the US, or further afield.

The best places in Europe to visit in March

Aegadian Islands, Italy

Coast off Levanzo island — Getty ImagesLevanzo is the smallest of the Aegadian Islands — Getty Images

What if we were to tell you that there’s a bit of Italy that hasn’t been yet been discovered by the masses? If you really knew your stuff, you’d guess, maybe, somewhere in the south. Puglia, Calabria, somewhere like that. And sure, those are places that people don’t really get to know, but we’re talking about a tiny archipelago of five islands off the west coast of Sicily: the Aegadian Islands.

The islands consist of Favignana, Levanzo and Marettimo and the rocky islets of Formica and Maraone, and they’re some of Europe’s best-kept secrets. Levanzo is the smallest of the three main islands, where clusters of small, whitewashed cottages teeter on the edge of the cliffs that tumble down towards the tiny port, which is a haven for scuba divers who want to explore the wreck of a Roman ship preserved at the bottom of the lagoon.

Sunbather by the sea on Favignana — Getty ImagesThis March, take some time out at one of Europe’s best-kept secret destinations — Getty Images

Marettimo is for walking. Castles and churches are dotted over the hillsides, and after a bracing hike up to the island’s highest point, it’ll seem that you have the world to yourself as you gaze out over the ancient landscape to the sea. Then it’s to Favignana for a well-earned rest on the beach, or to stroll or cycle between the quaint fishing villages scattered along the coastline. It’s a glimpse of a simpler time, and a fantastic March vacation idea.

Madeira, Portugal

Two people sat atop mountains in Madeira — ShutterstockMadeira is a place of epic hiking trails — Shutterstock

With a wonderful climate pretty much all year round, Madeira is good food, beautiful scenery, relaxing when you need, and energetic when you want. Famous for its seafood, the four islands off the northwest coast of Africa are home to lush valleys from which the grapes come to make the eponymous wine.

It’s not somewhere to go if your idea of fun is lazing on the beach; simply put, there aren’t many. The islands are mountainous, rocky outcrops, thrusting out of the ocean to a peak — on the island of Madeira itself — of 1,862 meters. This means it’s a great place for hiking, exploring the caves, surfing, canyoning, and other vigorous activities, as well as slightly more passive things like whale and dolphin watching.

Monte toboggan ride in Funchal — Getty ImagesPut your fate in the hands (and feet) of the carrieros — Getty Images

In the capital, Funchal, take the cable car up to the Botanical Garden or the Monte Palace and have a nose around. When you’re done, come back down the mountain using one of the island’s strangest but most traditional modes of transport: the Monte toboggan. This is a wheeled sled, made of wicker, and piloted by two drivers (carrieros) who stand on the back and kick, run and steer the toboggan as it hurtles down the road to the bottom of the hill. This mildly insane mode of transport has been a Madeira institution since 1850, so it’d be rude not to have a go!

Otherwise, simply indulge in the wonderful cuisine of the island. Seafood, meats, vegetables and wonderful local fruit are all used to create food based on the peasant tradition of the island. The closer you can get to the traditional methods of cooking, the better it tastes, especially after a long day of being outside. An unforgettable meal just tops Madeira off perfectly.

The best places in the US to visit in March

Austin, Texas

Busking drummers on the street in Austin, Texas — Getty ImagesThis is the time of year when talent springs up all over the city of Austin — Getty Images

If there’s one reason to visit the Texan capital in March, it’s to catch one of the biggest talent showcases in the world.

Austin is the location for the now-pretty-famous South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, and in 2023 it’s running from March 10 to March 19. These days it brands itself more as a conference than a festival as, since its inception in 1987, it’s expanded from music into film, comedy, art, conferences and panel discussions, exhibitions, a video gaming expo, and much more besides.

The first festival attracted 700 musical artists (which was already a huge undertaking), whereas nowadays, around 28,000 register. Adding performers and speakers from the fields listed above, the festival can lay claim to 32,000 registrants.

@sxsw Live your dreams and join us for #SXSW 2023 in #Austin ♬ original sound – SXSW

Events take place across the city of Austin, from the tiniest dive bar to the biggest theater, and the event holds so much kudos that bands and musicians will strive to attend despite the fact that they have to pay for their own travel and accommodation when Austin is at its most expensive. But it’s worth it.

It’s been the springboard for a number of bands to get noticed and signed; you never know who’s watching, and it might just be that one SXSW performance that’s your first step on the road to stardom. Indeed, as an attendee, you never know who you might see. South by Southwest could be your chance to see the next big thing, but playing in front of 40 people in a bar somewhere. You could have the chance to say “I was there”.

Florida Keys, Florida

Snorkeler by Christ of the Abyss statue at Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park — Getty ImagesThe US replica of the Christ of the Abyss statue in the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park — Getty Images

If you’re hankering after a warm and sunny March break, try the tropical Florida Keys. Here in March, daytime temperatures hover around 23°C, there are fewer crowds, and there’s a variety of things to do — vibes to experience — depending on where exactly on the archipelago you choose to go.

First things first: how to get there. You can fly from several cities in the US to Key West Airport, but if you’re feeling more adventurous, fly to Miami, rent a car, and head out on a road trip down the islands. Leaving the mainland, the first spot you’ll come to is Key Largo, the best island for scuba diving, being home to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park — the first underwater park in the country. On land, there are plenty of opportunities to see some amazing wildlife if you visit the likes of Everglades National Park and the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Kayakers in ocean by Florida Keys — Getty ImagesKayak from Islamorada for about 30 minutes and you’ll find a remote, deserted town — Getty Images

Further down, the chilled village of Islamorada is home to sandy beaches where you can swim, sunbathe, or try your hand at paddleboarding. If you’re confident enough, the coolest thing to do in this part of the Florida Keys is rent a kayak to paddle around half an hour to Indian Key Historic State Park. This place is a ghost town floating in complete isolation, not being connected to any other island by any major means of transport. Pick a weekday afternoon in March, and if you’re lucky, you might even get to explore it in complete solitude.

Lastly, if a party is what you want, you need to get right down to Key West, the tip of the Keys. Key West is one of the smaller islands, but it’s also the most populous, so it has a much more lively-town feel to it, with a decent offering of historic sights, restaurants, bars and clubs. And because March is when a lot of US students travel for Spring Break, you won’t be short of like-minded people around you looking to let loose.

The best places in the rest of the world to visit in March

Luxor, Egypt

Tourist at Ancient Egyptian temple in Luxor — Getty ImagesThe mighty ruins of the Luxor and Karnak temple complexes will take your breath away — Getty Images

Luxor lies on the River Nile, and is built on the site of the ancient city of Waset (or Thebes to the Ancient Greeks), seat of the Egyptian pharaohs between the 16th and 11th centuries BCE. It’s sometimes known as the world’s greatest open-air museum, due to the presence of the ruins of the Luxor and Karnak temple complexes within the modern city.

Those temples lie on the eastern bank of the Nile, while over on the west, there are further tombs and temples. All of this makes a beautiful setting of scattered ruins and mighty statues, places of worship, palaces, pavilions, and avenues of columns down which strode some of the most powerful people of the ancient world.

Valley of the Kings in Luxor — Getty ImagesValley of the Kings — Getty Images

The nearby Valley of the Kings is a series of tombs excavated from the rock and the final burying place of the most venerated figures in Egypt for a period of over 500 years.

March is the perfect time to visit Luxor, being cooler and less crowded than at other times of the year. But whenever you come, the whole place will give you pause to think about the thousands of years of human history that have gone before, the rise and fall of civilizations and ways of life that were seemingly infinite, and just how we might be viewed by generations to come.

Nara, Japan

Torch at Otaimatsu ritual — Getty ImagesOtaimatsu is a ritual that dates back over 1,000 years — Getty Images

To the east of Osaka lies the city of Nara, and it’s here that the Omizutori, a series of Buddhist religious events, is held in the first half of March. It’s been held every year for over 1,250 years, meaning it’s one of the oldest continuous Buddhist festivals in Japan.

The most famous of these events is Otaimatsu, which is performed every night from March 1 — 14 at the Nigatsudo hall, a part of the much larger Todaiji temple. Just after sunset, ten giant torches ranging from six to eight meters in length are set ablaze and carried to the balcony of Nigatsudo, and the blazing embers are allowed to shower down on the crowd below. This is supposed to bring about a safe and healthy year ahead.

The ceremony lasts 10 to 20 minutes, and admission to spectate is limited and allocated on a first-come-first-serve basis. This is a regulation that has been implemented in response to the Covid-19 pandemic; the other is that on the 11th and the 12th, no spectators will be permitted at all. Whichever other day you do come, it’s best to arrive relatively early, as people from across Japan come to get a view of one of their oldest traditions.

Omizutori aside, Nara is a remarkably tranquil place to visit — a far cry from the skyscrapers, neon lights, and general busyness of Osaka and Tokyo. It was the Japanese capital from 710 to 794, and it’s a place steeped suitably in history and heritage, known most for its temples, shrines, and ruins. If you’re looking for more of a relaxing city break this spring, Nara might just be the place.

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David Szmidt

David is a lead writer for Kiwi.com, as well as a football-watcher, music-listener and beer-appreciater. @UtterBlether

Hana Leakey

Hana is Europe’s number-one fan. No, not the band — she thinks the band is only “alright”.