Gareth Clark | 01 February 2023
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...
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...
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 cheaper 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.
Keep scrolling to see the full list, or click below based on your preferred trip type....
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.
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.
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.
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.
March and April are the best times to spot the only melanistic leopard – better known as the black panther – in Nagarhole National Park.
The dry forests of Kabini make its black panther a tricky prospect to find. It’s also a rarity for the area, as these cats tend to prefer the darker, more tropical forests of Kerala, which are easier to hunt in.
Tours certainly don’t guarantee black panther sightings, but as the dry season sets in, the vegetation dies back and water sources become scarcer, the chances of spying the park’s most famous resident are higher.
Sightings are the rarest of the rare, though, and no one knows when this cat will move on (it was first sighted in 2015). But when your fallback is the park’s vast population of wild elephants - gathering to slake their substantial thirst by Kabini Lake - or spying Bengal tigers and wild dogs, there’s no reason not to aim high.
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.
Yes, India is the most popular destination for the Hindu festival of Holi. But for something a little different – namely being pelted with coloured powders (gulal) and water amid some of the most breathtaking scenery on the planet – head to Nepal during March instead of Jaipur or Mumbai.
Holi is commonly known as Fagu here, and is celebrated from the full moon day of the month Falgun (mid-February to mid-March). In principle it’s the same festival as in India, and just as fun. Though in the Kathmandu Valley, it begins with the raising of a pole (or chir) in the capital’s Durbar Square, which is then burnt on the final day of the festival.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’t have 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.
March is the perfect time to plot a road trip around New Zealand’s South Island. As the shoulder month between summer and autumn, it’s still dry and temperatures remain warm but not blisteringly so, making stops for multi-day hikes perfect.
The crowds are also lower in March than during peak season (December to February), so last-minute bookings on the busier trekking routes can often be found if you’re deciding your route as you go.
Even a month would be cutting it fine, especially if you want to tackle some of the longer challenges, such as walking the Milford Track (five days) down in Fiordland or pedalling the Otago Central Rail Trail (three days) across an old railway line that etches a route from just outside Dunedin into some of the beautiful landscapes in the region.
The big sights just rattle off the map, from exploring the winelands of Marlborough, to kayaking among the seals of Milford Sound, to hiking on Mount Cook or clambering up Fox Glacier. If you've got the time, it’s an unforgettable trip.
Spring arrives in northern Vietnam in March, making it the best time to explore its hill country. Temperatures are mild and humidity is at its lowest, while the drier days mean plenty of opportunities to discover the indigenous villages around Sapa and Mai Chau on foot.
Near to the China border, the Sapa region is as mountainous as it is diverse. Popular trails to the villages of Giang Ta and Lo Chai weave lush paddies and craggy rockfaces and are well-marked. Its best to take a guide, though, as being able to communicate with the local H’mong and Dao, who fled China some 200 years ago to settle in these parts, is part of the experience.
South-west of Hanoi, the Mai Chau Valley is another fine option for village hikes. Lac is 700 years old and home to the White Tai people, who farm hereabouts, and a stay in the bamboo stilt houses of Pom Coong is a good chance to indulge in its potent local wine. Most travellers just do overnight trips, but hiking the whole valley can take up to a week.
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.
Grab a bit of springtime sunshine by island-hopping in The Canaries this March. While the rest of Europe still shakes off the last shivers of winter, temperatures here hover around 20ºC and 23ºC.
Gran Canaria has as much culture in its cobblestone capital Las Palmas as it does long stretches of pristine sand. Hiking among its caminos, valleys and sub-tropical forests is also spectacular. Lanzarote, on the other hand, is home to the dramatic-looking Timanfaya National Park, a scorched moonscape of geysers and volcanic rises.
But it’s the lesser-sung isles that really catch the eye. Remote La Palma is a Starlight Reserve for good reason. Meanwhile, La Gomera has quietly built a strong reputation for its walking, with 600km-worth of trails veining laurel forests, mountain villages and huge ravines, all squeezed into an impossibly tiny, rugged island.
March and April see the final strains of winter cast their spell on Egypt’s Nile, as cool temperatures and the odd breeze wafts you along its waters. High season (January to February) is over and it’s the perfect time for a cruise.
In truth, the Nile is nowhere near as busy as it used to be. While tourists have returned to Egypt, numbers are still way down on what they once were. And in 2023, we are hopeful the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo will continue as planned, making it the perfect starting point for any cruise of its tombs, temples and hieroglyphs.
From Cairo, the ‘long cruise’ to Aswan takes a couple of weeks, which is why most set off from Luxor (taking four to seven days). You'll see where the pharaohs endeavoured to outspend their ancestors, and enjoy a side trip to the Valley of the Kings that will take your breath away. Whether you go by colonial-style steamer, traditional houseboat or old-fashioned felucca sailboat, it’s the trip of a lifetime.
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