23 best places to visit in October

When it comes to top travel experiences, bring on October. Golden leaves, reduced fares, empty trails and some of the world’s most spectacularly colourful festivals beckon.

Whether you’re looking to add on an extra layer or jet off in search of the last dregs of summer, we’re sure you’ll find something inspiring in our selection.

If you want to see the full list, keep scrolling. If you know your travel style, click to your chosen section using one of these handy links:

Here are 23 of the best places to visit in October…

The best October destinations for arts and culture

1. Albuquerque, New Mexico

Hot air balloons launching at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (Shutterstock)

For nine days in October, part of the Rio Grande Valley is transformed into dreamscape, thanks to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – the largest hot air balloon festival in the world.

From dawn until dusk, balloons of all shapes and colours fill the sky as festival-goers’ necks crane in amazement. The most popular event is the Special Shape Rodeo, during which animals, rockets and spacemen (not real ones) take to the sky.

2. Fiji

Fijian women performing a traditional Make dance (Shutterstock)

Fiji’s National Day is 10 October. In the week leading up to it, Fiji celebrates its cessation from the British empire, and the nation’s vast ethnic diversity. The run-up is packed with religious and cultural events, and culminates in a large military parade with canon blasts.

On the day itself, Fijians reenact the signing of the Deed of Cessation in period costume from 1874, and hear speeches from the president and others. For a glimpse of the different religions and cultures that make up Fiji’s vibrant tapestry, plan your visit around this week.

This is a good time to visit Fiji for more than the festival. The islands enjoy a nice climate this time of year.

3. Berlin, Germany

Berlin Cathedral illuminated during the festival (Shutterstock)

If you’re looking for an excuse to visit Berlin (aren’t we all?), then why not go for the Berlin Festival of Lights?

Enjoy a city break in Germany’s chic capital, while its iconic monuments in its historic streets are illuminated throughout the evening and night. The cosmopolitan city becomes a stage, using light to tell touching and emotive stories.

The festival is one of the largest light art festivals in the world, showcasing some of Germany’s brightest artists, alongside other global stars.

4. Austin, Texas

Austin City Limits Festival in Zilker Metropolitan Park (Shutterstock)

Head to Zilker Park in Austin, Texas for one of the world’s legendary music festivals: Austin City Limits.

Every year, over 400,000 people descend on the park to attend this iconic festival, offering a wide variety of musical genres: from blues and rock n’ roll to folk and hip-hop.

For many revellers, the food line-up is as eagerly anticipated as the tunes. Austin is a city known for good food, and festival-goers can expect a bounty of Texan classics. Grab a bratwurst from Austin institution Scholz Garten, or some organic Texas meats from Ranch Hand.

5. Dublin, Ireland

Ha Penny Bridge, Dublin (Shutterstock)

The Emerald Isle has long been home to novelists, poets and songwriters. Joyce, Yeats, Wilde and Beckett all called Ireland home, as well as songwriters Van Morrison, Phil Lynott and Bono. Both the Republic’s capital and largest city, Dublin has been a cultural hub for centuries.

The city is alive with activity in October. Kicking things off is Ireland Music Week, a music festival and conference dedicated to new Irish music.

After that, you can catch the end of the Dublin Theatre Festival, which runs from late September into October. If that wasn’t enough, there’s the Bram Stoker Festival, celebrating the spooky and supernatural at the end of the month.

October’s the month to get this city to yourself. As James Joyce writes: “Real adventures… do not happen to people who remain at home: they must be sought abroad.”

6. Alberta, Canada

Jasper Dark Sky Festival (Parks Canada & Ryan Bray/Alberta Tourism)

As the months begin to get darker in the Southern Hemisphere, the night skies get brighter. Jasper National Park in the Canadian province of Alberta takes advantage of this with its spectacular Dark Sky Festival.

The world’s second largest Dark Sky Reserve is extremely accessible thanks to a town located within it. However, little artificial light can be found within the park, making it perfect for stargazing and even spotting the aurora borealis.

Events during the festival involve drone light shows, musical performances from orchestras, science demonstrations and a selection of space experts and speakers to answer your burning questions.

The exciting event also has a strong focus on the indigenous communities who once lived here, with fireside chats with Warrior Women, a sunset ceremony and guided plant walks.

7. The Florida Keys, Florida

All dressed up for Fantasy Fest (Carol Tedesco, Florida Keys News)

The US island city of Key West bursts to life with revellers during its annual Fantasy Fest. Held every October, the festival takes on a different theme every year.

The 10-day celebration invites people to connect with their creative side by dressing up in dazzling costumes and joining in with the many events in this jam-packed festival schedule, including masquerade parties, costume competitions, live music and theatre productions.

The climax of the festival takes places on its final weekend, when thousands gather to watch Fantasy Fest’s lavish grand parade on Whitehead Street and Duval Street. Expect spectacular giant floats, exotic marching bands and plenty of colour.

The best October destinations for good weather and natural beauty

8. Armenia

The ancient Haghartsin monastery is located near the town of Dilijan (Shutterstock)

Armenia’s ‘Golden Autumn’ (as it’s known) stretches from late September until the end of November. It’s a time of incredible colours, with the Tavush region, in particular, erupting in wild splashes of reds and yellows. Be sure to head to Dilijan National Park, where tiny Lake Parz is encircled by a ruff of trees and trails that slink orange-tinged forests to a hilltop medieval monastery. The walk affords the perfect opportunity to soak it all in.

October is also harvest season. This means not only a bounty of fresh food to sample, but a busy time in the vineyards of one of the world

9. Hitachinaka, Japan

Kochia flowers in Hitachi Seaside Park, Hitachinaka (Shutterstock)

If you’re willing to embrace autumn, rather than fight it, then travel to Japan’s Kanto region to see some spectacularly colourful leaves.

Hitachi Seaside Park, a public park in the Ibaraki Prefecture, is famous for two seasons and two flowers. In the springtime, the nemophila flower, also known as ‘baby blue eyes’, is in bloom and paints the hillside a Maya blue. The flowers’ petals obscure all grass so that, on a clear day, the hills might be a reflection of the sky.

In the autumn, the magical kochia flower is the star of the show. This spherical plant sprouts in pom poms all over the hills and turns a vivid shade of crimson.

This natural wonder is all natural, but very intentional: the park’s planners carved a winding path along the hillside and planted an abundance of Kochia flowers on either side.

10. Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech, Morocco (Shutterstock)

If you’re after a bit of hustle and bustle, Marrakech is the place to go. If you don’t want to combat ridiculous heat on top of it, then you’re on to a winner with October.

You’ll benefit from a visit during the shoulder season. Not only are the already-busy streets less blocked with tourists, the oppressive summer heat gives way to a more reasonable climate,

The city also makes a great jumping off point for exploring Morocco’s more natural landscapes. A couple hours’ drive will take you into the Atlas Mountains, where you can enjoy autumnal hikes surrounding the town of Imlil, nestled within Tubkal Valley. Alternatively, Agafay Desert is also easy to reach and offers a variety of unique glamping experiences.

11. Finland

Experience ruska in Finland (Shutterstock)

Up in Finland, they use the word ‘ruska’ to describe the period when the trees start to turn and autumnal colours paint the forests. It’s the Finnish take on the Japanese hanami, as locals escape into the outdoors for that brief period between the long days of summer and the endless night of winter, before the snows come and temperatures plummet.

As a general rule, ruska spreads north to south, with the forests of the Arctic turning in mid-September, while those further south change weeks later, at the start of October. The red maples and golden birch make for bracing companions on a ruskaretki (autumnal walk), with Lapland’s fells around the Saami village of Kilpisjärvi proving particularly popular. To the south, try exploring the Tiilijärvi Lakes Trail in Hollola, which loops around three lakes, some marshes and a hazelnut grove.

12. Ethiopia

The rock-cut churches of Lalibela (Shutterstock)

The rains of Ethiopia’s monsoon season can continue into September, but by the following month they should all have filtered away, leaving the highlands and northern circuit a mass of pristine green baize broken only by broad flourishes of yellow meskel flowers. It’s a great time to go exploring.

Up in the north, the rock-cut churches of Lalibela need little introduction. These medieval pilgrim sites are incredible creations (an attempt to recreate Jerusalem in Ethiopia), but just as interesting are the lush and lesser-seen islands of Lake Tana, where boat trips reveal richly painted, centuries-old monasteries that are still used for worship.

When it comes to walking, treks among the Simien Mountains, home to grazing gelada baboons, are spectacular. Or head south to the central Bale Mountains, where verdant slopes wrapped by low-hanging mists hide rare sightings of the Ethiopian wolf.

The best long-term travel experiences in October

13. Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Pilgrims walking beneath eucalyptus trees on the Camino de Santiago (Shutterstock)

The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage to the shrine of apostle Saint James, located in the grand Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain. Pilgrims have been travelling across the region for over 1,000 years, earning certain routes UNESCO World Heritage status.

Today, the pilgrimage is embarked upon by all kinds of travellers. If not for religious reasons, for self-discovery, personal betterment, or simply the joy of walking.

You may choose your own starting point, but to receive a certificate of completion you will need to walk the last 100km of the journey, so distance is a factor. Where you begin the trek will also be influenced by your route choice. There are a number of established routes to pick from, ranging from 100km to 1,000km. The town of Pamplona is a popular starting point.

October is a good month for this adventure. Established routes will see fewer travellers, and the weather is milder this time of year, resulting in pleasant hiking conditions. It’s not quite as wise to cross the Pyrenees, though, as temperatures on the mountain range can drop below freezing in autumn.

14. Rajasthan, India

Rajasthan by rail (Shutterstock)

Explore India’s largest state and ‘the land of kings’, Rajasthan, by rail. Ride the route from New Delhi to Jaisalmer, stopping off in Jaipur and Jodhpur.

As a passenger riding through this subtropical desert, you’ll traverse seemingly never-ending desert vistas, watch herds of camel pass your window, and see rural communities rarely visited by outsiders. Along the way, marvel at Jaipur’s incredible decorative walls. Enter the Pink City (old town) and explore the royal palace.

You’ll be relying on your train, so make sure you’re riding comfortably – if you can afford it. The Indian Railway sell eight classes of ticket, from unreserved third class to luxurious, air-conditioned private cabins.

Second class AC is a good compromise. While not too expensive by western rail standards, this class allows the ability to book curtained sleeping bunks, complete with sheets and pillows. This is by no means a luxurious option, but it is a semi-authentic one.

Like other arid or semi-arid destinations on this list, Rajasthan benefits from the coolness of the autumn months.

15. Chilean Patagonia

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile (Shutterstock)

With some of the most dramatic national parks in the world, southern Chile is home to snow-capped blue mountains, lunar-like surfaces, yellow grasslands, cyan glaciers, majestic rivers, cascading waterfalls and more.

October marks the middle of Chile’s spring, on the cusp of Patagonia’s tourist season. Torres del Paine is one of the nation’s busiest parks, but with good reason.

The park is a beautiful display of Chilean Patagonia’s landscape, built around the Cordillera Paine mountain range. Brave the spring’s colder climate to enjoy this park without the crowds, before moving on to the lesser known parks.

16. Guangxi and Yunnan Provinces, China

A fisherman in Guangxi (Shutterstock)

You could spend a lifetime exploring each and every corner of China. So, if you’re planning an October visit, take advantage of the dry season in the Guangxi and Yunnan provinces.

South-west China experiences lower temperatures and much less rainfall from October onwards, making it a perfect time to visit these mountainous, rural regions.

Guangxi is known for its expansive caves, winding rivers and surreal karst formations. The Reed Flute Cave near Guilin, an ancient limestone cave famed for its vast quantity of stalactites and stalagmites, is well worth a visit. Yunnan is home to valleys like the Tiger Leaping Gorge, utterly magical to hike and explore.

17. Queensland, Australia

Brisbane, Australia (Shutterstock)

For a longer, more adventurous trip, fly to Brisbane in Queensland, Australia and work your way up the coast to Cairns in the north of the country.

Chase the sun along Queensland’s tropical west coast and enjoy the vibrant cities, diverse wildlife and picturesque beaches. This is not the hot, dusty Australia many of us think of: Queensland encompasses tropical, subtropical and equatorial climate zones.

October is a comfortable month in this part of the country with balmy days and cool nights. The sea is warm and perfect for water sports. As well as diving in the Great Barrier Reef, try kayaking and paddle-boarding – it should be easy to rent equipment up and down the coast.

While shorts and tees are acceptable, pack a light jacket and a pair of trousers. After a long, slow day on a sun-kissed beach, a loose pair of jeans will allow you to explore Queensland’s cities comfortably in the evening breeze.

The best October destinations for wildlife watching

18. Madagascar

Lemur Catta in Madagascar (Shutterstock)

December to March constitutes the rainy season in Madagascar, so your best bet is to visit during the local spring months. October hits the sweet spot, just as the island is warming up.

Expect a peachy average high of 26°C and a sea temperature of 25°C. The coastal waters are bright turquoise and dead calm, perfect for snorkelling.

A large tropical island with a relatively low population density, Madagascar is home to a diverse set of wildlife. To most of the world however, the island is recognised as the home of one creature in particular: the ring-tailed lemur.

Ring-tailed lemurs give birth in September and carry their young for the first few weeks. The pups (yes, pups) cling to the hair on their mother’s backs as they scamper around the forest. If that isn’t worth seeing, we don’t know what is.

19. Sweden

A female moose in the Swedish countryside (Shutterstock)

Trek to central Sweden to spot moose! Mooses? Mice? – The Swedes call them älg.

As a nation Sweden has the highest moose population per kilometer squared, however spotting them in the wild can be exceedingly difficult. So, it’s a trip suited best to the experienced animal tracker.

There are roughly 300,000 to 400,000 moose in Sweden, depending on the time of year. They’re extensively hunted in winter, keeping the spring population around the 400,000 mark.

The end of September and beginning of October is mating season. The bulls bellow loudly to attract a mate and if successful, will breed with several cows. This is the best time to see Sweden’s national animal as the bulls’ ostentatious behaviour make them easier to locate.

If you want to hedge your bets, there’s a moose safari company offering tours, with at least one successful sighting documented every year since 2003.

20. Madhya Pradesh, India

Spot tigers at Satpura National Park (Alamy Stock Photo)

With the monsoon rains consigned to yet another year, wildlife parks all across India reopen in October, having been closed for much of the summer season (Jul–Sep). A handful typically throw open their gates in the first week, but you usually have to wait until the middle of the month for the rest to follow.

There are pros and cons to this time of year. While the fresh greenery can make wildlife sightings harder (since the tall grasses and bushes haven’t yet burnt off), the lush scenery makes for better pictures when you do spot something. With that in mind, make the most of the new growth in Madhya Pradesh’s Satpura National Park on a walking safari – the only one in India.

Even if the bigger animals (tiger, leopard, sloth bear, etc) likely prove elusive, you will still have nature to draw upon as you stroll the dense sal and teak jungles, wander riverside meadows and learn the names of flowers and trees as you explore on foot with a naturalist guide.

21. Cambodia

A Sun Bear (Shutterstock)

Encompassing the Gulf of Thailand coastline, the Mekong Delta and the Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia is home to an abundance of wildlife.

The nation is currently seeing various large-scale conservation efforts take place, after years of civil war, illegal deforestation and poaching took a significant toll on indigenous animal populations.

Tragically, the Indochinese Tiger, once native to Cambodia, is believed to be extinct, against a wider trend of tiger population decline on the Asian continent.

While a lot of its animals are endangered or on conservation lists, Cambodia is still home to many fascinating species, including the sun bear, leopard cat, river dolphin and elephant.

Make sure your trip to see them supports sustainable tourism. Koh Kong Wildlife Release Centre (in the province of the same name), for example, is in excellent choice.

The centre offers one to three day experiences, allowing you to see Cambodia’s creatures up close and personal. The centre receives rehabilitated animals that have been rescued from traffickers and poachers and release them into the wild.

22. Churchill, Manitoba

A Churchill polar bear (Shutterstock)

Touted as the polar bear capital of the world, Churchill is an extremely remote town situated on the Hudson Bay coast in northern mainland Canada.

There are no roads in or out of the 900-strong community, only a train that departs Winnipeg thrice weekly and takes about 48 hours in total. Luckily for polar bear enthusiasts, you can fly to a nearby airport by plane or helicopter fairly regularly.

The town sees a high amount of polar bear activity thanks to its position beside the bay on the Hudson Plains. The world’s largest land predators migrate through the region when the Hudson’s ice melts in the summer. The bears return to the coast in the autumn and wait for the bay to freeze over again.

Because of the migration, Churchill’s inhabitants frequently find themselves living alongside the mammals. Stories of polar bears roaming the streets and tapping on windows are common, and allegedly, the town enforces a law against locking car doors – in case a passerby needs to escape from a rogue bear.

October is the best time to see polar bears here, as they’ve returned to the coast but are not yet able to pass through onto the ice.

While polar bears are usually solitary animals, they often group together during the wait, presenting the opportunity to see multiple bears at once. Tours operate using large, raised tundra vehicles – although you may not need to leave town to spot one.

23. Zambia

Hippos in Busanga Plains (Alamy Stock Photo)

During the wet season, heavy downpours turn the Busanga Plains, in the north of Kafue National Park, into a giant wetland that is only accessible as the floodwaters begin to recede in June.

For five months only, it offers up wild safari encounters. It’s possible to spot red lechwe bounding among the dambos (shallow wetlands), spy over 500 species of bird, catch incredible lion sightings and catch rare glimpses of cheetah in this part of Africa. It’s not dubbed the mini Serengeti for nothing.

October is the last month that the rains hold off and the camps stay open, with wildlife easier to spot among the drier bush. There aren’t an abundance of stays, but look out in particular for the nest-like pods of Chisa Busanga Camp, which are unlike anything else. You can also take hot air balloon tours over the plains just as the dawn mists are evaporating.

West Sweden by rail: 4 incredible pit stops on a train journey through West Sweden

If you wanted to sum up West Sweden in just one word – apart from ‘natural’ – it would be ‘sustainable’. The region is leading the way when it comes to greener travel, from its Stepping up Sustainability initiative, which aims to reduce impact on the environment and encourage off-season visits, amongst other things, and its main city, Gothenburg, ranked most sustainable destination in the world for the sixth time. Minimise your carbon footprint and explore it by train with these four incredible stops.

1. Start in Gothenburg

Start in Gothenburg (Per Pixel Petersson)

West Sweden’s biggest city – and second only to Stockholm – is full of fascinating sights and experiences. All can be visited in an eco-friendly way: 97% of its public transport runs on renewable energy, 95% of its hotels are eco-certified, and there is a low-emission zone in the centre. Cycling and walking are encouraged, and there are parks aplenty. This year, on the 4 June, Gothenburg turns 400 years old. Time your visit for the celebratory festival which runs from June 2-5, which will involve music, food and fun. Parts of the city itself will become an open exhibition, with the Prototyping Gothenburg initiative focusing on urban regeneration. Amusement park Liseberg turns 100, as do the Gothenburg Museum of Art, the Gotesburg Kunsthall, and the Gothenburg Botanical Gardens, which is adding a new garden to celebrate. Don’t miss the newly-renovated Maritime Museum and Aquarium, a unique collection of ships, boats and barges reflecting Gothenburg’s port history, with six new exhibitions. Another exciting opening is Wisdome, a spherical wooden building on top of the Universeum science centre which will showcase dramatic visualisations of concepts like space travel. Summer also sees the opening of three public pools on the river Göta älv in the Jublieumsparken.

2. Strömstad and Kosterhavet National park

Kayak in Bohuslän (Henrik Trygg/Westsweden.com)

Seeing more of the region beyond Gothenburg is easy: let someone else do the hard work, and go by train. Head from the city on a relaxing, three-hour journey up the coast to Strömstad, a coastal town in the Bohuslän province which is also the gateway to Kosterhavet National Park. From Strömstad, you can take a boat tour around the Bohuslän archipelago (stroll around the nature reserves on Rossö and Saltö islands), go cycling on South Koster, visit the Stone Age settlement of Blomsholm or just explore the pretty town itself, with its harbour and fishing cottages. However, Kosterhavet is a big draw; Sweden’s first, and only, national marine park, one of the country’s only two known coral reefs exist here, and it’s home to around 12,000 animal and plant species, half of which live under water. Covering 400 sq km, you can dive or snorkel to see its underwater life. Porpoises are occasional visitors and you might spot common seals basking on some of the park’s small islands. Orientate yourself at main entrance, naturum Kosterhavet, where you’ll find info, maps, an interactive exhibition, and information on how to book a guided paddling tour.

3. Lidköping and Kinnekulle

Läckö Castle (Fedja Salihbasic/westsweden.com)

A 90-minute train journey from Gothenburg takes you to Lidköping, a charming little town located by Vänern, Sweden’s largest lake. It’s full of historic and interesting buildings, many made from wood, including the striking Gamla Radhuset, or old town hall, with its distinctive clocktower. Also worth seeing are nearby Läckö Castle (voted Sweden’s most beautiful) and the collection of 300 year old porcelain at Rörstrand Museum, located within Rorstrand’s old factory, which gave Lidköping its nickname of ‘Porcelain City’. Then continue round the lake via Kinnekullebanan, voted Sweden’s most scenic train journey, and walk some stages on the Biosphere trail in parts of Sweden’s first UNESCO listed Geopark. Don’t miss Kinnekulle, in the Platåbergens Geopark. Composed of multiple layers of different rock, this 306m-high plateau mountain creates the habitat for a variety of flora and fauna, including orchids and wild garlic. Another, perhaps surprising, attraction is Stora Stenbrottet, or ‘grand quarry’. Known as the mini Grand Canyon, and 40m deep, it’s composed of many layers of limestone, the lowest dating back 400 million years. The area is also full of hiking and biking trails, while you’ll also spot medieval churches, manor houses and country estates along the way.

4. Alingsås and the Gotaleden trail

Fika (Tina Stafren/Westsweden.com)

A mere 40 minute train ride from Gothenburg is the captivating town of Alingsås, also known as the fika capital of Sweden. Many of its old wooden buildings have been preserved, with ornate houses lining the town’s narrow cobbled streets, and a patisserie or bakery on almost every corner. The Lillån river runs through it, and in the pedestrian-friendly centre you’ll find many charming courtyards and unique shops to visit. Fika is the Swedish tradition of taking a break for coffee and, often, a cake or bun, usually with friends. Alingsås’ cafe culture grew out of its textile industry, with increasingly large groups of workers gathering regularly for coffee. Today, there are around thirty cafes, the oldest dating back to the late 19th century. Work off all those cinnamon buns with a stint or two walking on the Gotaleden trail, which runs between Gothenburg and Alingsås. Covering a total of 71km, there are train stations close to each of its nine stages. Depending on which ones you choose, you’ll pass through fields, pine forests, lake shorelines and historic former industrial sites.

Feeling inspired?

It’s easy to take the sustainable route in West Sweden with a great network of trains and buses. Book your dream visit to West Sweden by talking to a tour operator, or head to the official West Sweden website for more information.

The 19 best places to visit in March

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.

Stay in a floating cabin wrapped in 350 birdboxes

A room suspended high within pine trees and covered in 350 birdboxes is the latest addition to Sweden’s spectacular Treehotel.

Located in the small village of Harads in Swedish Lapland – a 70-minutes drive from Luleå airport in the north – the Treehotel is made up of just eight mesmerising rooms.

The hotel recently featured on the first episode of Channel 4’s World’s Most Secret Hotels, a programme showcasing the most hidden and remote accomodation across the globe.

Each treetop cabin is individually designed with striking and innovative features. From a mirrored cube that becomes camouflaged in the forest, to a UFO, there is a suite to suit everyone. 

But the latest installation is truly a sight behold and offers a fantastic way to feel fully immersed in nature.

Be immersed in nature in Biosphere (Bjarke Ingles Group)
The room is surrounded by 350 bird houses (Bjarke Ingles Group)

Named Biosphere, the room was designed by Danish architect BIG (Bjarke Ingles Group) and has been carefully constructed to enhance the surrounding environment and local habitat. It also aligns with the hotels focus on sustainable tourism.

Enveloped in 350 birdboxes, the spherical room is suspended in the pines and aims to increase wildlife activity within the forest, as Sweden has seen a decline in their bird population in recent years.

“I got to spend a few days and nights in some of the Treehotel’s rooms right before the pandemic, and left with a sense of rejuvenation from a complete immersion in nature,” said BIG Founder & Creative Director, Bjarke Ingels.

“I couldn’t help wondering if there was a way to take the immersion one step further – and almost instantly the idea of inviting not only the human visitors but also the resident bird and bat population to cohabit a spherical swarm of nests came to life.”

Other rooms at the hotel have been designed by Scandinavia’s most renowned architects, including Snöhetta and Rintala Eggerstsson.

Biosphere opened in May 2022. To find out more and book your room, head to treehotel.se

The room hopes to increase the local bird population (Bjarke Ingles Group)