The 19 best places to visit in March

We reveal the best destinations to visit in March, for springtime blooms, festivals and cultural experiences, wildlife wonders and longer-term adventures around the globe…

Gareth Clark
01 February 2023

No matter where you travel, March is a time of change. In the Northern Hemisphere the first signs of spring arrive; in the south, it means the end of sweltering summer heats and the arrival of cooler days.

For travellers, however, March will always be shoulder season, a month that means fewer crowds, better weather or affordable deals. It’s a time of adventure and hurling yourself off on new adventures.

So, whether you’re searching for wildflower explosions, mass migrations or the wildest cultural festivals on the planet, we’ve put together some of the top destinations to visit this March.

Here are the best places to visit in March…

1. Michoacán, Mexico

Michoacán’s monarch butterflies ascend in their millions for mating season (Shutterstock)

Early March is the last chance to see monarch butterflies gathering en masse in Mexico. By then, the branches of Michoacán’s oyamel fir trees droop with the weight of some 200 million sets of orange wings, readying for the journey north to the Californian coast.

It’s the world’s longest insect migration, spanning a 7,000km round trip. The first arrivals flutter into Mexico by November only to hibernate in cocoons over winter. They then emerge in February and March, a period marked by elaborate courtship dances that fill the air.

The best place to witness this is among the forested mountains of Michoacán, within the vast UNESCO-listed Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. The main sanctuaries here are Rosario, Sierra Chincua and Senguio, with short, steep hikes usually required for sightings. Bear in mind, though, that silence is required – butterflies are easily disturbed.

2. North Island, New Zealand

Te Urewera in New Zealand (Shutterstock)

As the shoulder month between summer and autumn, March in New Zealand is dry and warm but not blisteringly hot. It makes the perfect time for escaping to the islands’ incredible wildernesses. But with its Great Walks often heavily oversubscribed, it’s worth opting for a different style of ‘tramping’ – accompanied by a Māori guide.

Up in the North Island’s Bay of Plenty, the Te Urewera rainforest was de-listed as a national park and granted personhood back in 2014. It was the first ecosystem in the world to be granted the rights of a human, and is now managed by a Maori council. With many Tūhoe Nation communities still residing within the area, multi-day treks (Oct–Apr) with an Indigenous guide let you explore not only sacred waters and beautiful rainforest, but spare time to visit the communities still living here.

Over a few days, these treks reveal a land as storied as it is wild, as you share traditional campfire tales, look for birds and visit the communities still living in the rainforest. Afterwards, combine with a visit to Auckland to catch the annual Arts Festival, which lights up the city across March.

3. Ontario, Canada

Muskoka has its own Maple Trail (Shutterstock)

March is the sweetest month in Canada for one simple reason: maple syrup. Between February and April, the country’s farmers extract this sugary sap from maples (and birch trees in late April) by drilling a hole in the trunk and attaching a spout and a bucket. It’s that easy. Some farms have as many as 60,000 taps, but it’s what is done with it afterwards that catches the eye.

Lanark County, on the fringes of Ottawa, dubs itself Ontario’s syrup capital for good reason. Seasonal ‘sugar bushes’ (groves) and camps open to visitors across the region. There’s even a maple heritage museum (and pancake house), run between March and April, that holds the Guinness world record for the largest number of maple syrup artefacts – it’s worth a visit for that alone.

Festivals continue across the province and well into late spring, with some areas – including Muskoka, north of Toronto – producing their own self-guided Maple Trail to take you to the more rural culinary hot spots. It’s a great way to escape the big cities and spend your money in the local communities.

4. Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctica

Crabeater seal on ice floes in Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctica (Shutterstock)

March sees the final few departures in the West Antarctic summer cruise season. After this, the pack ice begins to harden as winter sets it, creating impenetrable waters up to 1,000km around the continent.

March is also the best time to go whale watching here. Some six species of baleen whales, from blue to southern right, swim the Antarctic waters, but humpbacks in particular are dominant. Around this time, they also gather in pods in preparation for their migration north, making spotting them far easier.

Specialist wildlife-themed trips are your best bet for sightings, but plenty of peninsula cruises pass through hot spots, such as the Lemaire Channel, a feature on most ‘classic’ itineraries. Look especially for routes that include detours to Wilhelmina Bay, which has a high concentration of krill and sees huge numbers of humpbacks gather to feast there.

5. Central Valley, Chile

March marks the beginning of harvest season in Chile (Shutterstock)

March and April are a special time in Chile’s Central Valley. This is wine country after all, and the beginning of autumn in the southern hemisphere fires the starter’s pistol for grape harvest season.

Over the border in Argentina, Mendoza hosts one of the biggest wine festivals (vendimia) in Latin America, but Chile’s tend to be far smaller, more intimate affairs, as a deluge of towns and farming communities see their streets turned into vast dining areas, bands take to the stage, and feet stained malbec-red.

The Colchagua Valley city of Santa Cruz is home to one of Chile’s largest vendimia. Vineyards surround it as far as the eye can see, and some 150 producers ride into town to show off their dazzlings carménères and cabernet sauvignons each March, making this a great starting point.

It’s a similar story in Curicó, though its four-day festival also brings some of the country’s more famous musicians to town, along with producers from the surrounding wine route. Indeed, most of the major wine valleys (Maipo, Maul, Casablanca, Aconcagua) have their own driving routes that thread the vineyards, so once you’re done with the festivities, hit the road for a serene escape.

6. Swedish Lapland

Lynx on patrol in Swedish Lapland (Shutterstock)

The lynx is not an easy feline to spot, especially in the snowbound terrain of north-west Sweden. But if you’re ever going to see one in the wild, March is the ideal time. This is breeding season, a time when these usually circumspect cats can be heard calling out to potential mates.

Tours to spot them are increasingly common, too, though it can be tough going. Visitors will likely find themselves snowmobiling out to a remote cabin in Jokkmokk, then Nordic skiing into the wilderness to lie in wait. But the chance to see one of Europe’s least-sighted felines is fair reward.

Even if you don’t get lucky, this is an exciting time to year to visit Sweden’s wild Arctic north. Vast populations of reindeer and moose can be seen plodding the snows, while at night this month affords the last chance to clearly see the cosmic contortions of the Northern Lights.

7. Annecy, France

Traditional carnival mask at Annecy Carnival, France (Shutterstock)

Embrace the alternative at France’s answer to the Venice Carnival in March (3 to 5 March 2023). Where its Italian counterpart is literally crumbling under the weight of visitors, this canal city offers glamour aplenty but without the guilt of adding to overtourism.

Annecy itself is a quaint slice of medievalism. Veined in arterial canals and fringed by mountains, it lies a stone’s throw from France’s Swiss border. But in early March, it erupts into Alpine masquerade.

It’s actually a modern festival, started in 1995, but what began as a handful of masked party-goers now sees hundreds of participants silently parading the streets of Annecy’s canal-lined Old Town.

Wander the cobbles beneath windowboxes spilling with geraniums, as the scent of tartiflette (cheese, potato and bacon) wafts from windows. Be sure to also drop by its tiny medieval castle-turned-museum, then finish drifting villages and Alpine peaks on Lake Annecy.

8. Argentinean Patagonia

Perito Moreno Glacier, Los Glaciares National Park in Patagonia, Argentina (Shutterstock)

The months of March and April see the orca of Peninsula Valdés do something rather spectacular. As pups emerge in the local sea lion colony, the orca here have taken to performing smash-and-grab raids during high tide on the beaches, opportunistically snatching those playing in the shallows.

It’s an unforgettable sight, and it doesn’t even require a boat to see. The Punta Norte beach, within the Peninsula Valdés Fauna Reserve, is the best spot to see this. Places are tricky to get, however, and tours are the most reliable way to bag good views of the main striking areas.

For prime seats, see if you can bag a room at the Estancia La Ernestina. The hotel-restaurant overlooks the beach (and its very own penguin colony of some 140,000). Unsurprisingly, rooms fill up fast, so you’ll need to book early.

9. Pelješac Peninsula, Croatia

Ston in Croatia is renowed for its oysters (Shutterstock)

Mid-March is oyster season in Croatia’s Pelješac peninsula, a slip of medieval villages and vineyards north of Dubrovnik. By then, the bay’s oysters are at their plumpest, signalling the moment that two neighbouring villages, Ston and Mali Ston, erupt in a food festival that typically coincides with the Feast of St Joseph (19 March) and draws in a few of its neighbours.

Boat-fresh oysters are prepared in every way imaginable, with the peninsula’s wineries also out in force, offering ample opportunity to sample local postup and dingač wines (among the finest in Croatia).

March is a great time to visit the peninsula, as the weather is kind and the summer masses have yet to descend. The cooler weather also makes it ideal for walking what remains of the medieval walls that wrap the two villages, circling the hillsides in between for nearly 5km. These vast defences were first constructed in 1333 AD, and 20 of the intervening towers are still standing.

Across the wider peninsula, there are ancients saltworks and family-run wineries (many offer tours and tastings) to explore. Ferries also open up the Dalmatian islands beyond, where the Byzantine and Roman ruins of Korcula and Hvar await. If you have time, head for the tiny, forest-covered national park island of Mjlet (ferries start in mid-March), just off the peninsula, which sees far fewer visitors than it deserves.

10. India

Colours are thrown into the air for India’s Holi Festival (Shutterstock)

Holi festival blazes a colourful trail across India on the last full-moon day of the Hindu luni-solar calendar, which is typically in March. The night before (Holika Dahan) sees bonfires lit across the country, often accompanied by dancing; this is followed the next day by chaos, as the streets erupt in a fog of gulal (coloured dye) and kids packing water pistols. There’s nothing quite like it.

You’ll find festivities in most towns, though they differ hugely. In the far north-east (Assam), Holi continues for five days in the town of Barpeta, where it is known as Doul. Here locals decorate their houses with flowers and begin their celebrations with the burning of clay huts, followed by days of fireworks and food.

In the West Bengal university town of Shantiniketan, Holi is known as Basanta Utsav and takes on an altogether more refined approach. Women dress in yellow saris and adorn their hair with flowers, while the poems and songs of Rabindranath Tagore are recited. It has an almost carnivalesque feel to it, with plenty of live music accompanying the hurling of dyes.

Lastly, the Uttar Pradesh twin cities of Mathura and Vrindavan are considered the birthplace of Lord Krishna, whose divine love Holi festival celebrates. Events gear up a week in advance here (starting in nearby Barsana), with events shifting between temples in the cities. In Vrindavan, there is even a day set aside for widows (traditionally banned from celebrating), who converge on Gopinath temple to shower each other in colours.

11. Bhutan

Paro tshechu is one of the largest celebrations of the year (Shutterstock)

You would expect a country with a ‘Gross National Happiness’ index to throw a good a festival. Certainly, Bhutan’s tshechus (held on the tenth day of the lunar calendar month) are incredible sights, with visitors’ attentions typically focused on the masked Cham dancers, whose intricate costumes and performances are part meditation, part drama, retelling the story of Guru Rinpoche, who brought Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th century.

One of the biggest tshechus takes place in Paro in March, when the town’s dzong (fortified monastery) becomes the setting for a four-day celebration of music, dance and spiritual contemplation, which culminates in the unravelling at dawn on the final day of a thangka – a sacred silk painting said to cleanse one’s sins with just the sight of it. As things wind down, finish with a hike to the magnificent Paro Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest monastery), which clings to the side of a cliff at 3,000m.

March also brings the Dromache to Punakha, home to arguably the most beautiful of Bhutan’s fortified monasteries. This five-day celebration is devoted to deep meditation, followed by the town’s tshechu. During this time, monks will hold a reenactment of the Tibetan invasion of Bhutan in the early 17th century, when the army attempted to steal the monastery’s most precious relic but were fooled by a monk pretending to throw it in the river.

12. Valencia, Spain

The traditional burning of stone dollspaper during Falles Festival, Valencia (Shutterstock)

March sees Valencia literally light up thanks to the Falles Festival, running from 15 to 19 March. The Spanish feast of San José culminates in five days of fireworks, firecrackers and… well, fire. Groups of workers spend months creating giant papier mâché ninots (satirical statues of well-known figures), with the sole purpose of setting them alight.

Firework displays begin about two weeks before the first night of the festival, when the statues are erected and the party begins in earnest. Parades celebrating the patron saint mark the days in between. You can’t miss them: the brass bands start at 8am, then at 2pm the Plaza Ayuntamiento erupts in a cacophony of daytime firework displays.

The final two nights see the statues (some up to 20m high) burned while fireworks erupt overhead. Each neighbourhood even has its own celebrations, so no matter where you go in the city, you’ll encounter glorious, all-consuming chaos.

13. Ireland

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Dublin, Ireland (Shutterstock)

March celebrates the return of one of the world’s top holidays: St Patrick’s Day (17 March). And there’s no better place to embrace the ‘craic’ and all things green than in Ireland itself.

In Dublin, the day means more than just beer-fuelled mayhem and leprechaun hats – though you’ll see plenty. Bars will be humming and the parade route between Parnell Square and St Patrick’s Cathedral will be mob-deep, but there’s more on offer than just one day of revelry. A five-day cultural festival takes over in the run up to the big day, ensuring plenty of music, art, poetry and comedy shows. First, grab a traditional dish of corned beef and cabbage at nearby Gallaghers Boxty House, to line your stomach. Then, head to Temple Bar District, where live music is everywhere, and enjoy the packed, eponymous bar, where Dublin’s literary greats once drank.

But outside of the capital, the celebrations are just as lively. Co. Cork always expects grand parades in Ireland’s second-largest city, while the small town of Dripsey is known for the shortest St Patricks Day parade at just over 90 metres. Head to Waterford to party in the city which first declared St Patrick’s Day as a national holiday in 1903, or perhaps head to Dingle for the earliest parade in Ireland, starting just after the crack of dawn at 6am.

14. Lisse, The Netherlands

Tulips and windmills in Keukenhof Gardens, Lisse, The Netherlands (Shutterstock)

Tulip season in the Netherlands typically runs from the end of March until mid-May. It’s then that field after field of the bollenstreek (bulb region) fills with the most incredible colours. For most visitors, the Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse are an easy way in. This landscaped botanical garden is home to some seven million bulbs, and if you don’t mind the crowds, it’s a blissful day out.

For the more adventurous, take to two wheels. The Lowlands make for easy pedalling, and cycling trips from Leiden are a simple way to quickly find yourself among fields and windmills. Maps with pre-planned routes are easy to find at tourist information and bike rental shops are plentiful.

15. Southern California, USA

The super bloom in the Mojave Desert, California (Shutterstock)

Early March is the time to catch a natural phenomenon that has been occurring more frequently in California in recent years: the super bloom. This rare floral event only occurs when seeds that have lain dormant for years in the desert soil suddenly erupt all at once.

It requires very specific conditions, but what was a once-in-a-decade event is happening more frequently, with super blooms sighted in both 2017 and 2019. Regardless of the year, there are always wildflower walks to be found here, particularly in Southern California. Here, the poppies of Antelope Valley turn the grasslands of the Mojave Desert into a sea of orange in late March, with strictly marked trails throughout the reserve.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is likewise ‘super bloom’ territory, but on any given year its canyons and mines see dramatic splashes of primrose, milkweed and poppies in mid-March. Visit Borrego Palm Canyon in particular, where trails to its palms and wild gardens are guarded by watchful bighorn sheep.

16. Japan

Cherry blossoms without the crowds? Try Himeji Castle, Hyōgo, Japan (Shutterstock)

Nothing gets Japan’s islands of Kyushu and Honshu quite as excited the arrival of cherry blossom season in March. The sakura begin flowering in the former by the middle of the month, with the cities of Honshu (Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka) usually following suit before the start of April. By which point, parks are already full with hanami (blossom-watching parties) gathered beneath the pale-pink blooms.

There are thousands of scenic spots to soak up the blossoms. Some are more crowded than others, but it’s best to combine with other sights. Tokyo’s Ueno Park is home to thousands of trees but also has plenty of museums and shrines to wander. Likewise, Kyoto’s Maruyama Park boasts aged teahouses, ornate temples and dazzling canal paths lined with blossoms and is a wonderful microcosm of this historic city.

17. Namibia

An aerial view of the green Okavango Delta (Shutterstock)

March signals the last flourish of ‘green season’ in Africa’s southern region (November to March). It’s a period that divides travellers, as the rains and sudden burst of lush foliage make both travel and spotting wildlife tougher. But, with the notable exception of South Africa, it’s far less busy and a more affordable period to travel.

The perfect time to visit Namibia. Etosha National Park in particular sees less rain during this period than, say, the far busier safari parks of South Africa. The afternoon storms diminish as the month goes on, while the legacy of calving season sees its antelope herds increase dramatically, to the delight of predators.

The park also offers excellent birdwatching, as the salt pans fill with water and the wildflowers bloom. March and April are your last chance to catch the spring/summer birding season (September to April), when the intra-African and Eurasian migratory settle in to breed.

18. Jordan

Walking the Jordan Trail, Jordan (Shutterstock)

If you’re looking for a challenge, the conditions for walking the Jordan Trail are perfect in March. This is one of the great long-distance trails to emerge in recent years, and a fine way to explore a remarkable land.

Such is the trail’s length (650km), the southern section tends to be better in late winter (February to March) while the north is better come springtime (March to April), as the winter cool starts to give way to the desert heat.

Of course, you don’thave to walk it all. If you’d prefer to chop up the trail into something more manageable, make sure to include the dark skies of Dana Biosphere Reserve, home to the Nubian ibex and abundant flora, as well as the ancient rock-cut Nabataean capital of Petra.

To the south, the Mars-like red sands of Wadi Rum and the final stretch over the Aqaba mountains to the coast are just as satisfying, whether you’ve tackled the whole trial, or simply walked a few days.

19. Colombia

Hike to the lost city of Teyuna, Colombia (Shutterstock)

It’s not often you discover a lost city. March sees the tail-end of dry season (December to March) in northern Colombia, and if you’re going to make the five-day trek to the ruins of Teyuna (Ciudad Perdida), it’s the perfect time. After that, the mud and river crossings can become tricky.

Treks are always accompanied by a guide, but compared to, say, the more famous Inca trails of Peru, this route sees a fraction of their footfall. En route, you’ll pass through Kogi villages and forests draped in liana, before finally arriving at the foot of the 1,200 steps leading up to the ruins of Teyuna, a jungle city of great mystery.

Teyuna was built in 700AD, but other than that, no one knows much about it. The city fell around the time of Spanish Conquest and only ‘re-emerged’ in the wider consciousness in the 1970s. Since then, it’s kept a low profile because of troubles in the region. But it’s safe these days and worth the sweat, with most travellers making their base in the city of Santa Marta.

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