We reveal the best destinations to visit in April, from wildlife adventures and natural spectacles, to cultural highlights and long-term journeys. Springtime, parties and unique experiences await...
April is a bountiful time for travellers. The season brings with it a deluge of unique travel adventures, from springtime blooms to bird migrations that blot out the sky. It’s also a time of incredible parties.
Spring sees religious traditions and ancient fertility rites combine to create some of the most colourful celebrations on the planet – yes, we’re even talking penis festivals!
So, no matter whether you want to head off on a trek into the wilderness, carve a phallus out of a radish or spy some of the planet’s wildest natural wonders, we’ve compiled the top destinations to visit this April.
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April sees puffins return en masse to the windswept Farne Islands, a birder’s paradise off the coast of north Northumberland in northern England. Some 43,000 pairs make this their summer home, as its crags and cliffs are overrun with seabirds.
Only a handful of local companies run trips, with boats from Seahouses able to land on Inner Farne from April onwards. Between May and July (after which the puffins start to leave) they also arrive on Staple Island, with hour-long visits letting you join the rangers to scour the rocks for puffins, Arctic terns, guillemots, kittiwakes and shags on foot.
It’s just one reason among many to embrace the gorgeous Northumberland coast. For a longer stay, combine puffin-spotting with walking St Cuthbert’s Way, the 100km pilgrim route that runs from the Scottish Borders to the priory at Lindisfarne, or simply road-trip the fishing villages, medieval ruins and empty beaches of one of the UK’s most beautiful coastal stretches.
In April, the nomadic Sami reindeer herders of northern Norway begin their annual migration towards the coast in search of fresh pastures and salt licks. For travellers, it’s the wildest of slow adventures.
There are just a few thousand full-time Sami herders still working. For those few who get to join them on tours and ride alongside the semi-wild herd in snowmobile-pulled sleds, it’s a fascinating way to get a glimpse of a life that still exists on the fringes of the modern world.
Days revolve around the herd, which moves at its own pace and to no human schedule. In-between herding duties, you can try your hand at traditional skiing or ice-fishing. At night, you join your Sami host for dinner (think arctic berries and reindeer meat) and sleep in lavvu (tents) under the increasingly bright Arctic sky. It’s slow travel at its most immersive.
Europe’s westernmost brown bear population typically emerges from hibernation in the month of April, bleary-eyed and ravenous. They are at their most active when roaming the ancient beeches of southern Slovenia for food.
Over 500 are said to stalk the densely forested regions of Notranjska, Loski Potok and Kocevska in particular, where, if you’re lucky, you can also spy wolves and lynx. It’s here that you’ll find plenty of bear tours run by local guides, which are typically the safest way of bagging a sighting.
The alternative is to sign up for a day at Slovenian Bears, which has 20 ‘hides’ set up by local photographer Miha Mlakar in the forests of Notranjska. These can be booked from April onwards (until October) and are scattered across eight locations, to increase your chances. Then all that’s left is to wait…
April is the best time to spot the one-horned rhino of Assam’s Kaziranga National Park. By then the greenery of the monsoon period (July to September) has burnt off, making it easier to spot wildlife.
In addition, the park closes every 30 April, so it’s also your last chance to visit before it reopens again in November. It’s a sight worth seeing.
Only 3,500 one-horned rhino survive in their native grasslands of north-east India and Nepal. Even that small figure represents a remarkable turnaround since the early 20th century, when it shrank to just 200. That the park is home to over a third of those remaining makes it a veritable ark.
If you’re wary of the ethics of elephant safaris, 4WDs are a good option here and cover a larger area, increasing the chances of seeing tigers, elephants, rhino and more. They also include the Burapahar Zone, where on-foot treks in the forest let you stretch your legs.
Larger tours typically combine visits to the famous ‘living root bridges’ of neighbouring Meghalaya state, which have been cultivated over centuries and are well worth the detour, and named one of Wanderlust's 10 wonders of the world.
Every spring (mid-March to mid-April) and autumn (August to October), Denmark’s southern Jutland witnesses a 400,000-strong starling murmuration so dense that it eclipses the sunset. They call this phenomenon the ‘black sun’.
In spring, the birds return to Scandinavia from the feeding grounds of Western Europe (France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, etc), stopping in the wetlands of the Wadden Sea to fill up on grubs and insects. Their incredible numbers and dazzling acrobatics are to put off predators, such as peregrine falcons, who find it trickier to pick off one bird amid a swarm of thousands.
The best places to see this aerial ballet are the marshlands of Tonder and Ribe. You never know how long the display will last – it depends on how many predators there are – but it’s usually a short window, so an expert guide is advised. You can pick one up at the Wadden Sea Centre (Vadehavscentret), who run sunset tours to ‘black sun’ hot spots.
April celebrates the return of the Moriones Festival to the Philippines, where the towns of Marinduque Island fill with masked locals dressed as Roman soldiers, their plastic armour six-packs glistening in the hot sun.
The festival celebrates the life of Longinus, the Roman soldier who is said to have pierced Christ’s side with a spear during the crucifixion, and who was instantly converted when a splash of blood cured his vision.
Celebrations are, naturally, tied to Easter’s Holy Week. It’s then that Roman legionaries (local farmers and fishermen) march the streets hunting for Longinus, who is repeatedly captured and recaptured before eventually being ‘beheaded’ in a local take on the Passion play on Easter Sunday.
There are few parties at this time – that isn’t the point of this festival, which is more a display of faith. Yet the theatre of it all is compelling and the soldiers’ masks are intricate works of art. Most towns on the island will have their own version, but head to island capital Boac for the biggest stage.
There may be a lot of springtime fertility festivals in April, but little beats seeing a two-metre-high pink phallus being carried aloft through the suburbs of Kawasaki.
Yes, the first Sunday in April sees the return of Kanamara Matsuri, a Japanese festival that combines everything you could want from life: penis lollies and prayers for fertility and prosperity. These days it’s known far and wide as ‘that penis festival’ but the Shinto shrine at its heart is no joke.
For centuries, sex workers would visit it to pray for protection from sexual diseases, as did couples trying for a baby. Even today it’s still attended regularly, although the festival and its parade is now as much a celebration of sexual freedom and the LGBTQ+ community as it is a religious ceremony.
The parade takes place by the Kanayama Shrine around noon, though it’s best to arrive early if you want a good spot. You can always kill time by bagging yourself a phallic-shaped hat or perhaps carving a penis out of a daikon radish. At last, a festival where it pays to be a dick!
If you think it’s unfair that there’s only one Halloween per year, then a trip to Germany on the last night of April will lift your broomstick.
Walpurgisnacht is celebrated across northern Europe and Scandinavia, heralding the arrival of spring and the feast day of Saint Walpurga on 1 May, but its pagan roots run deep, especially in the Harz Mountains of Saxony-Anhalt.
Here, its towns still mark the night witches and warlocks were said to gather on Brocken Mountain, and bonfires were lit by fearful peasants to ward them off.
These days, locals are more on the witches’ side, dressing as devils and crones to dance around the fires at the Hexentanzplatz (‘witches’ dance floor’) in Thale, which attracts some 35,000 visitors each year.
Other celebrations can be found in the nearby towns of Goslar and Wernigerode, where the storming of the town hall is one of the more unusual traditions. Live music and plenty of craft and food stalls ensure the festivities continue for a few days, but events rarely top the mischief of that first night.
Thai New Year, better known as Songkran, is essentially a three-day water fight that erupts across the country from 13 April. Luckily, it’s the hottest period of the year, which makes it all rather refreshing, and no one – except monks, who are off-limits to water pistols – escapes a drenching.
The water is more than hijinx; it’s a symbolic way for Buddhists to wash off the misfortunes of the previous year. This is a religious holiday after all, and each day sees locals head to the temples to make offerings while the streets erupt around them.
Bangkok is party central at this time. The tourist area of Khao San Road in particular is cordoned off, as it becomes a sniper’s alley of super soakers with EDM blasting from stages. Locals tend to gather around the Silom area.
If you’re craving a more traditional celebration, head to Phra Pradaeng district, on the outskirts of the capital, which holds its festival on the Sunday after Songkran (17 to 19 April). Its Thai Ramen Flag Ceremony witnesses a serene procession of flags and floral floats made by villages around the area. You'll still end up getting soaked, though.
April typically sees the return of Semana Santa (Holy Week) to Antigua, Guatemala, and turns the cobbles of this old colonial capital into exquisite art.
It’s easily one of the most vivid takes on Easter in Latin America. Vast carpet murals of multi-coloured sawdust and flowers, known as alfombras, are created by local families as a sign of devotion and laid out on the cobbles, some taking up to 20 hours to create.
It certainly pays to arrive before the parade on Good Friday, when floats depicting the 14 stations of the cross are hoisted aloft by purple-hooded bearers (cucuruchos) and joined by crowds in their thousands. They trample the beautiful carpets as they march through the streets, obliterating hours of painstaking work.
The parades continue over the weekend, as the air thickens with incense and families make and remake their ‘carpets’ time and again. Arriving early to wander the pastel-coloured alleys lets you explore these fantastic displays in all their glory, admiring the streets as living, ephemeral art.
As temperatures in Siberia beginning to slowly climb above supernaturally freezing, April marks the last chance this year to fully experience one of nature’s great frozen wonders: the clear ice of Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest lake.
The lake starts to freeze in November but, given its depth, it only fully freezes by January, by which point it’s so thick that you could drive a car across the ice. It’s also incredibly transparent; objects can be seen frozen in place some 40m below the surface.
Even by the start of April, it’s usually still thick enough to go trekking, ice skating or even dog sledding on the lake, depending on how cold it has been. Gazing down when you do so requires nerve - but you'll of course be accompanied by an expert guide, who'll show you how it's done.
Later in the month the lake will start to melt, but even then you can still see how clear it is. It makes for a magnificent stop, especially if you’re thinking of taking on the Trans-Siberian railway in one of its quieter seasons.
March and April are rose-harvesting season in Oman, when the ‘green mountain’ of Jebel Akhdar, south of Muscat, blushes a vivid pink.
For over a thousand years, its labyrinth of wadis and limestone terraces have been home to bountiful gardens of damask roses, which are boiled in mud ovens to make the country’s famous rosewater.
Guided tours of the mountain villages and farms yields a secret world amid its 2,000m-high crags, with guided walks through its impressive canyons an added bonus.
Visits to the souks of the nearby town of Nizwa, where the dried rose petals are sold (often used to brew a medicinal tea), reveal a bustling cottage industry, while local cooking classes teach you to add a dash of rose flavour to your meal.
Early April is the last chance in the year to catch the incredible mirror effect created by Bolivia’s Uyuni Salt Flats. The rainy season here typically runs from January to late spring, when the hardened salt crust means the overflow water just pools on the surface, creating an incredible reflective sheen.
While there are no guarantees the weather will oblige, this shoulder season sees you escape the bulk of the crowds. It also means that most tours tends to shut down, as only the edges of the salt flats can be visited at this time.
Alternatively, if you go at the end of the month, you’ll likely witness the sun baking the flats into their familiar parched polygons as the Jeeps of visitors return. When the waters recede, you can drive across the flats to high altitude lakes, geysers, volcanoes, hot springs and ‘islands’ scattered in cacti.
A stay in the world’s first salt hotel, Luna Salada Hotel & Spa, lets you stick around for stargazing its clear skies at night, or you can just as easily do day trips from nearby Uyuni or Tupiza.
While April sees the last twinkling of Aurora Borealis in the northern hemisphere until October, on the other side of the world it’s a whole other matter. Here, ’Southern Lights’ season (best seen: April and September) is just getting started.
Short of joining an Antarctic cruise, the best way to see this cosmic phenomenon is on tiny Stewart Island, off the southernmost tip of New Zealand’s Southlands. Recognised as a Dark Sky Sanctuary in 2019, some 85% of the island is protected as part of Rakiura National Park, and the lack of light pollution makes it perfect for viewings.
Even the main town of Oban has good stargazing spots, but it pays to head out on trails such as the three-day Rakiura Track for pitch dark and a good chance of briefly glimpsing a kiwi bird as dusk settles.
Be sure to check aurora forecasts before setting out. These predict the strength of geomagnetic activity in the area, with anything around KP4 or over meaning you’re likely in for a good show.
From late April, it doesn’t get truly dark in Arctic Greenland for four months. It’s the time of midnight sun, when nights are never blacker than a hazy twilight and the long days let you cram as much in as possible.
By the end of the month, temperatures have warmed a little, which sees giant icebergs calve into the sea of Disko Bay. Cruises launch from Ilulissat, on the west coast, into its partly frozen waters, letting you see these behemoths up close.
Alternatively, make for the lesser seen east, where Tasiilaq, with a population of just a couple of thousand, is the biggest town on the entire east coast. This is the jumping-off point for dog-sledding journeys into some of the wildest lands on the planet. Unforgettable.
Malawi is rather underestimated when it comes to multi-day hiking in Africa, and April, which signals the start of dry season, is a great time to strap on your boots.
Head to Nyika National Park in the north to tackle the Livingstonia Trail, a two-night hike running east from Chelinda to the old Livingstonia Mission. Explore wild montane uplands along game paths where zebra and eland still roam free, overnighting in trail camps with sweeping views over the plains.
Alternatively, a steeper challenge is Mulanje Massif, in the deep south. Its highest summit tops 3,000m, making it the tallest in Central Africa, as you hike up from tea plantations to its rocky limits. A half-dozen trailheads mean you can vary your route between one and six days, with mountain hut stays along the way.
Barge trips along Scotland’s Caledonian Canal begin again at the start of April and usually run until October.
It’s a welcome opportunity to sail glass-like lochs, towering munros and heather-fuelled horizons at your own pace as you inch your way east to west (or vice versa) between Inverness and Fort William.
The route follows the Great Glen Fault, skipping through some of the best-known waters of the Highlands, from the vast Loch Ness to the eight locks of Neptune’s Staircase that lie in the shadow of Ben Nevis.
Stops along the way let you stretch your legs amid scenic wilds, medieval castles and whisky distilleries as you cover a 97km route across three or four days of slow adventure.
Morocco’s rocky centre is the stuff of legend, and April’s cool spring weather makes it a great time to tackle its Atlas mountains.
There’s plenty of choice, with the range being divided into three sections (High, Middle and Anti-Atlas), but the wildflowers of the High section in particular are breathtaking at this time.
Here, most travellers head for the achievable slopes of Toubkal (4,167m), in the western High Atlas, where cars from Marrakech to the village of Imlil (one hour) drop you off at the trailhead. The route to the refuge is easy to find, and it’s vital to overnight there in order to adjust to the high altitude.
You’ll need a guide (and crampons) for the Toubkal ascent itself, which usually sets off before dawn the following morning. But there’s alternative (and easier) challenges if you don’t want to tackle the big one. Multi-day treks around Imlil plot a route through old Berber villages, along paths worn down by generations of goatherders. Another world entirely.
Given visa fees for UK visitors are no longer a consideration in Turkey from March 2020, what better time to take advantage of an icon: the Lycian Way.
April is the perfect time to walk sections, or all, of its 540km, as the cooler weather (early to mid-20s) makes it far easier going in the steamy south-west.
The route itself closely tracks the Mediterranean coast of the Teke Peninsula from Oludeniz to Geyikbayiri, following old Roman roads and nomadic footpaths through an area that used to be known as Lycia, taking four weeks in total.
Those who don’t have a month’s shoe leather to spare are best advised to tackle sections and use the local minibuses (dolmus) to skip the more arduous parts. Along the way, you’ll find coastal pines, ‘ghost towns’, pre-Classical ruins and endless sea views. The perfect spring challenge.
Forget the crowds at Machu Picchu. Peru’s greatest lost world isn’t even a product of the Inca. High in the Andes of northern Peru lies the city of Kuelap, built by the Chacapoyas some 500 years before the first stone was even laid on Machu Picchu, and April is a great month to explore its ruins.
This is the shoulder month, which sees even fewer visitors than normal. And while you can take the cable car up from Nuevo Tingo, the more satisfying way to reach it is via its walking trails, of which most hikers take the route following the Utcubamba River out of Tingo. It’s only a half-day’s walk but few bother, so it feels like you’ve got the hills to yourself.
Once at the top, Kuelap’s giant walls hint at just how mighty this ancient citadel was. Not all of it has been uncovered as yet, and the mountain mists only add to the sense of discovery as you wander round houses, narrow corridors, cemeteries and sacrificial areas almost undisturbed.
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