In life, being in the right place at the right time is often due to serendipity, but in travel, it almost always is a result of good planning. To avoid crowds and inflated prices, venture out between high and low seasons when the weather is fine, destinations are still welcoming travelers, and you can explore a locale at your own pace. We call this magical time and space continuum the Sweet Spot and make it a point to round up the best of them for you each season. We’ve covered the 40 best places to travel for spring value and grouped them by region – follow the links to the right to discover this season’s Sweet Spots, then search our travel deals to start planning your trip.
United States & Canada
Spring Forecast: Spring enlivens a winter-weary continent, sending late season flurries and skiers into the northern Rockies and Appalachians for their final runs. Down South, the absence of sweltering humidity makes for pleasant strolling, as northern states get their April showers. The climate is marked by an unusual – and welcomed – dry in the Pacific Northwest, while national parks invite travelers to witness nature awaken, minus the crowds.
Native arts. Mammoth glaciers. Arctic wildlife. Frontier quirk. Alaska, the 49th state, sprawls over some 571,951 square miles of terrain that includes misty fjords, colossal glaciers, temperate rain forests, sprawling tundra, and a sprinkling of charming towns and cities. For lovers of the great outdoors, it’s a destination without rival.
The Spring Value: For those willing to sacrifice some sunshine and swap out the sandals for boots, early to mid-May is a fantastic – but brief – time to avoid crowds and save a bundle on lodging. Be warned of possible weather-dependent attraction closures though, including several national parks.
Spring 2013 Events: Alaska Folk Festival (Apr. 8-14); Juneau Jazz & Classics Festival (May 3-18); Chickenstock Music Festival (June 14-15); Sitka Summer Music Festival (June 1–July 6); Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon (June 22)
The young, jagged, elk- and grizzly-filled Alberta Rockies are a wild tangle of glaciers, granite, and evergreen so ravishing that UNESCO granted them World Heritage Site status. Add champagne powder and challenging slopes and Banff is a skiers’ heaven in winter (and well into spring); come late spring and summer, adrenaline junkies mountain bike, climb, and hike the same steep inclines.
The Spring Value: From mid-March to April, perfect powdery slopes will delight ski and snowboarding buffs, who can enjoy the runs amidst sparse crowds and in temps commonly in the high 40s to low 50s. Hotels seal the deal by offering terrific discounts, as well.
Spring 2013 Events: Spring Music Sessions (Apr. 6–7, 13–14, 20–21, 27–28); Sunshine Village Concert Series (Weekends beginning Apr. 27); Banff Summer Arts Festival (June–Aug.); World Media Festival (June 9–12)
Perched atop the Colorado Rockies, this pretty, petite alpine village – situated just 20 minutes by shuttle from Vail Village – is known for its exclusive chalets and the wonderfully cruisable pistes of Beaver Creek Mountain. Expect some of skidom’s finest, with thousands of acres of wide powdery steeps, village-to-village-skiing, and prime après-ski appeal.
The Spring Value: The Rockies hold their snow through early April, so hit the moguls as crowds thin, lodging deals heat up, and 4,000 vertical feet beckon. Later in spring, if it’s not skiing your after, you can beat the summer or winter rush and snag severely reduced hotel rates.
Spring 2013 Events: Suzuki Music Camp (June 15-29)
With a resurgence in fine dining, top-notch shopping options, and a nightlife scene ranging from raucous to refined, Boston’s present is just as appealing as its storied past. Head here to immerse yourself in colonial American history, enjoy traditional pub fare, and discover intellectual enclaves like Cambridge.
The Spring Value: Bone-chilling cold can last into March in Beantown, but it’s full-blown spring by mid-April. Scant visitors (relative to summer’s droves) and low hotel prices persist. Should the weather turn nasty while you’re perusing stores in the hip South End, head to the Museum of Fine Arts’ Americas wing.
Spring 2013 Events: Boston Wine Festival (through March 29); “New Blue and White” at the Museum of Fine Arts (Through July 14); Penny Arcade Expo (Apr. 22-24); Boston Marathon (Apr. 15); Patriot’s Day Celebrations (Apr. 15)
Touting cosmopolitan comforts without the big-city attitude, Chicago’s world-class museums and performing arts venues, legendary jazz and blues clubs, over 7,000 restaurants, gravity-defying architecture, and 29 splendid miles of lakefront, make it everybody’s kind of town.
The Spring Value: People assume the nickname “Windy City” refers to the unceasing, frigid gale that blows in Chicago every winter, but the term was coined a century ago to poke fun at the town’s blowhard politicians. Still, for those planning a visit here, all that matters is when the chilly winds finally die down. April and May are delightful, with the influx of summer tourists yet to hit. Thousands of tulips sway on the Magnificent Mile, flanked by the Midwest’s best high-end shops and restaurants, and hotels offer rates 25 to 40 percent lower than the summer’s jacked-up highs.
6. FORT LAUDERDALE
No longer a rowdy spring break mecca, Fort Lauderdale charms sophisticated beach bums with luxury resorts, culinary delights, and a burgeoning cultural scene to complement the year-round outdoor activities – sun, sand, surf, and shopping.
The Spring Value: Spring is one of the best times to visit (outside of school breaks and the Easter holiday), thanks to few crowds, reduced rates, and warm seas – all without the extreme humidity of summer.
Spring 2013 Events: “Pop Art in America” at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale (through Apr. 8;); ”One Night of Queen” at the Broward Center of the Performing Arts (Mar. 24); Tony Hawk RAD Science (May 25-Sept. 2)
Situated in the northwest corner of Montana, Glacier National Park is a paradise for hikers and photographers alike, with its diverse species of flora and fauna, stunning glacial landscapes, and more than 700 miles of trails. Don’t miss driving the 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road, which traverses some of the park’s most breathtaking scenery. Be sure to schedule your trip soon, though, before global warming strikes again: Of the 120 eponymous glaciers that existed in the park more than a century ago, only 27 remain.
The Spring Value: Rates remain low until June as warmth returns to this parkland, home to grizzly bears, bighorn sheep, and golden eagles. Hike the Lewis and Livingston ranges and explore hundreds of lakes before the summer tourist season revs up.
Spring 2013 Events: Guided Snowshoe Walks (weekends through March 17)
With a population hovering around 2,000, Marfa, Texas’ slight size is by no means proportionate to its appeal. Situated between the Davis Mountains and Big Bend National Park (at almost a mile above sea level), this remote ranching community attracts visitors with its pleasant mountain air, mysterious light phenomenon (known as the “Marfa Mystery Lights”), and area activities such as hiking, camping, and wildlife watching. Recent years have seen a spike in tourism, with crowds drawn by a cool artists’ vibe that includes galleries galore and a 340-acre contemporary art space founded by Donald Judd, as well as by the promise of simple, small-town serenity.
The Spring Value: Blue skies and 70 degrees in Texas? We’ll take it! Comfortable strolling weather in this year-round artist hot spot leads to outdoor exhibitions galore.
Spring 2013 Events: “New Growth” at Ballroom Marfa (Through July)
9. MYRTLE BEACH
This wildly developed strip of South Carolina shoreline is an oceanside carnival, boasting the three B’s of an all-American vacation: boardwalk, beer, and beach. More than 10 million people, from bikers to spring breakers to retirees, flock to Myrtle Beach every year to shop, swim, golf, and party.
The Spring Value: Outside of the spring break partiers and bikers during wild Bike Week, Myrtle Beach is practically devoid of crowds in April and May, though the weather can be quite warm (expect 60-degree temps) and hotel rates can be dramatically reduced.
10. PACIFIC NORTHWEST
Spanning rocky coastlines, thick rainforest, glacial peaks, rich farmlands, arid deserts, charming towns, and cosmopolitan cities, the Pacific Northwest offers an array of experiences for visitors. Even the region’s major urban centers manage to mix sophisticated cultural scenes with nature-filled havens. Portland’s art, music, food, and brewpub scenes have exploded, while Seattle, a prime spot for coffee culture, cutting-edge architecture, and a nature-meets-steel setting, feels like a low-key version of San Francisco.
The Spring Value: Spring brings cherry blossoms, wildflowers, and rain in March, although you can take advantage of sunshine without the summer hordes in April and May. Hotels generally offer low-season rates, making it more appealing to folks on a budget.
11. PALM SPRINGS
Like many of its perennial visitors (i.e. gays, grays, naturists, and le tout Hollywood), fun-loving Palm Springs seems to get a makeover every year. Long a favorite of weekenders from the Los Angeles basin, the posh cocktail capital of the Coachella Valley offers up a versatile and modern slice of vacation life, replete with affordable inns, mist-cooled patio restaurants, world-class golf courses, inventive spas, and rugged desert canyon hiking trails.
The Spring Value: Spring wildflower season is often considered the best time to visit. The desert comes alive with color and nighttime temperatures don’t plunge to shivering extremities as they do during the winter months – though the mountains are often still (beautifully) capped in snow. Prices drop a little, and last-minute and weekend deals swell.
12. PHOENIX & SCOTTSDALE
Phoenix and its neighbor Scottsdale are two of America’s most popular spa, golf, and shopping destinations, attracting more than 13 million visitors annually. Both cities are undergoing a bit of a renaissance: downtown Phoenix is experiencing a revitalization that aims to make the urban center a place where people live, work, and relax. New construction is everywhere, and a (limited) light rail system debuted in December 2008. Old Town Scottsdale is quickly shedding its Old West theme in exchange for a hip concentration of nightclubs, restaurants, boutiques, hotels, and loft living.
The Spring Value: Early spring is our favorite time to visit, with fewer crowds than during its winter high season, blooming desert plants, 70-degree weather, and excellent value on everything from resort rates to greens fees.
The “New York City of Canada” may feel tame on the surface – perhaps because, unlike most major metropolises, it’s actually clean – but beneath the polite, shiny veneer, an artistic energy percolates. Toronto owes much of its richness in art, dining, and shopping to its international residents (around 50 percent of Torontonians are immigrants). Still unsure of its place on the world stage, the city nonetheless holds its own as a cultural capital.
The Spring Value: The season shows the city at its best – crowds are manageable, prices are modest, and temperatures in the high 60s make it perfect for strolling.
14. WASHINGTON, D.C.
See government in action in our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., home to stellar museums, historical monuments, serious architecture, diverse nightlife options, and a happening arts scene. This elegant epicenter of American history, politics, culture, and iconic buildings and monuments is an absolute must-see.
The Spring Value: This is generally a good time for sightseeing – leisure travelers are few and temperatures average in the mid-50s. Still, business and political travel shifts into high gear, pushing up hotel rates somewhat. March’s Cherry Blossom Festival also brings crowds.
Caribbean & Mexico
Spring Forecast: Having splurged on pricey beach vacations in the dead of winter, many travelers miss the Caribbean’s golden months of spring. Reserve a chaise lounge for the end of April, when rates plummet. Various carnival celebrations from St. Thomas to Jamaica enliven island culture around Easter. Coastal Mexico welcomes warming temperatures and dry conditions, with Gulf of Mexico and Pacific resorts packing extraordinary value in May and June.
15. THE BAHAMAS
Easily accessible at only 50 miles from Florida, the Bahamas still feel wonderfully remote. Each of the 700 islands has its own personality, though popular activities like fishing, diving, and sunbathing are enjoyed nationwide. It makes for an affordable cruise-ship destination, and is also ideal for all-inclusive vacationers. The most developed and tourist-friendly of the Bahamas, Nassau and Paradise Island tout an agreeable blend of clean beaches and British-influenced island culture.
The Spring Value: Right at the beginning of hurricane season in late May and early June is the best time to take advantage of reduced rates before the chance of storms increases and businesses close. Fewer visitors mean attractions will be less crowded as well.
Spring 2013 Events: Island Roots Heritage Festival (May 3-5); Pineapple Festival (June 5-9); All Andros Crab Fest (June 7-8)
Pear-shaped Barbados, long popular with fishermen and royalty, offers glittering beaches, equally sparkling resorts, and striking seascapes lined with boulders and cave-strewn cliffs. From afternoon tea and cricket to landscaped gardens and preserved Victorian architecture, the island’s English heritage remains pronounced.
The Spring Value: Take advantage of these months when hotel and airfare rates are slashed 20 to 50 percent, yet the resorts, restaurants, and attractions are still bustling. Plus, visitors arrive comfortably outside of the worst part of hurricane season, leaving plenty of sun-filled days to enjoy.
17. CAYMAN ISLANDS
South of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica lie the Cayman Islands, small semi-arid landfalls popular for scuba diving, fishing, and beach-going. Prosperous, peaceful Grand Cayman offers all the comforts of home (albeit with tropical lilt), luring families, honeymooners, and business groups to its sugary beaches.
The Spring Value: Outside of hurricane season, but still within budget zone (save 20 to 50 percent), you’ll find nearly everything open and profit from beach-worthy temperatures in the low 90s. It’s a diver’s paradise through May, with underwater visibility crystal clear.
18. DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
The Dominican Republic has become a popular package destination that vies with Cancun in affordability and atmosphere. The second-largest country in the Caribbean (after Cuba), as well as one of the most affordable, the D.R. has something for everyone, from Vegas-style casinos, nightclubs, and all-inclusive resorts, to horseback riding, golf, surfing, diving, and some 1,000 miles of white-sand beaches.
The Spring Value: Prices are slashed as much as 50 percent off from their winter highs and hurricane season has yet to surface. Still, the island remains vibrant, with resorts, restaurants, and attractions buzzing.
Spring 2013 Events: Kandela at Altos de Chavon Amphitheater in La Romana (select dates through Apr. 22); Santo Domingo International Book Fair (April 23–May 5)
Located at Baja’s Bahía de Todos Santos, Ensenada – Mexico’s second most visited port-of-call – is about 75 miles from the border. In spite of its proximity to the U.S., the city is known for its authentic Mexican charm and character, a far cry from the chaotic nearby towns of Tijuana and Rosarito. Mariachi music drifts in and out of cantinas amid the chatter of sport fishermen and day trippers from San Diego. The surfing is great, the seafood is fresh, the shopping eclectic and, best of all, it’s so close!
The Spring Value: While few hotels drop their rates by the season, many do during the week (Ensenada is primarily visited by weekenders from California), especially during this off-peak time of year. Stay for three or more days during the week and expect to get big discounts, free nights, and other extras.
20. PLAYA DEL CARMEN
Situated on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, just 42 miles south of Cancun, Playa del Carmen is a long way from the hard-partying ways of its northern neighbor. That’s not to say that there’s no fun to be had here: powdery white-sand beaches, great diving and snorkeling among protected reefs, eco-adventures in nearby jungles and parks, and nearby Mayan ruins are what this place is all about.
The Spring Value: Capitalize on a lingering winter dry spell before turbulent weather comes in July. With the exception of Easter week and the spring solstice when Mexicans flock to the beach, April and May are lightly traveled, making deals easier to come by.
Spring 2013 Events: Cinco de Mayo (May 5); Riviera Maya Wine and Food Festival (March 14-17)
21. ST. BARTS
St. Barthélemy, affectionately known as St. Barts (or Barths – both are correct) with its exquisite coves, gingerbread-trimmed Creole cazes, and stone-wall-trimmed emerald hillsides, is situated in the northernmost arc of the Caribbean’s Leeward Islands. The rich and famous flock here for the tropical climate and the laid-back atmosphere. Despite the island’s high prices, gourmet eateries, and duty-free haute-couture boutiques, sarongs and denim cut-offs (and often little else on the beaches and yachts) are common.
The Spring Value: Surprising as it may seem, hotel prices dip about 40 percent during spring, in spite of several noteworthy events taking place. The best time to stretch your dollars is in May, before the winter masses fly home for the season. Plus, May is when the annual spring sales usually strike at boutiques and shops all over the island. Expect temperatures in the high 70s.
Spring Forecast: From Belfast to Budapest, spring rains bring value-minded travel. Transatlantic fares have yet to spiral upward in cost, and hotel availability is a non-issue in Rome, Paris, and Berlin, all of which will be overrun with out-of-towners come June. Chilly temps begin to recede, thawing out the farthest corners of Scandinavia, while spotty drizzles across the continent bring flowerbeds to life (and locals out into re-opened markets). It’s a bit nippy along the Mediterranean, but rafters find ample diversion in Alpine rivers fed by melting snow.
Dive into the cutting-edge-cool offerings of Catalonia’s sunny capital. Barcelona is a stylish blend of medieval and modern art and architecture, creative cuisine, chic shopping, hopping nightlife (the fun doesn’t stop until the sun comes up), and a culture that’s progressive yet laid-back.
The Spring Value: A visit in late spring gets you the best run for your money by ensuring plenty of outdoor fun without the soaring temperatures or tourist hordes. Flights and hotels can be booked at discounts of around 20 to 40 percent off their summer highs
From gilded, cosmopolitan culture capitals to vast expanses of rolling green countryside, there’s something for everyone in England. Stroll amid the honey-colored Georgian buildings of Bath, glimpse the Shakespearean soul of Stratford-upon-Avon, and wrap it all up with an epic traipse through London’s royally awesome theater, art, and cultural scenes.
The Spring Value: Hotels offer good shoulder-season rates and most destinations are far less crowded than in the summer. Although the weather can still be rather cold in April in May, you may be able to catch some stray sunbeams. Avoid the English school break and Easter holidays to dodge the masses and find good deals.
Spring 2013 Events: BNY Mellon Boat Race (Mar. 31); Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebrations in Stratford-upon-Avon (Apr. 20–21); St. George’s Day celebrations (Apr. 23)
This westernmost capital of mainland Europe has been on the rise for some years now, buoyed by Portugal’s booming wine regions in the north and value-packed beach areas in the south. Lisbon has morphed into a crucial destination for anyone who appreciates serious nightlife, gastronomic pleasures, cutting-edge art, and old-world traditions.
The Spring Value: The weather is pleasant and fresh, spring blossoms lace the city in pink and white, and prices remain reasonable until the deluge of summer tourists. April brings an international indie film festival with a focus on discovering hot new directors, while May ushers in bullfighting season at the almost 10,000-seater Campo Pequeno. Hop a train 30 minutes west to Cascais to watch the King Juan Carlos Sailing Cup (held every March) and dip your toes into the Atlantic.
Spring 2013 Events: Peixe em Lisboa (Lisbon Fish & Flavors; Apr. 4–14); IndieLisboa international independent film festival (Apr. 18–28); Arte Lisboa (May 29- June 2)
25. THE NETHERLANDS
The urban landscape of the Netherlands’ world-class cities quickly gives way to rich green countryside. Notoriously liberal Amsterdam is a haven of tree-lined canals, storybook architecture, and artistic genius, while nearby Lisse, the historical heart of the Dutch tulip industry and just 15 miles outside of the capital, beckons visitors to its tulip gardens each spring. The country’s top sights can easily be reached by train and virtually all locals speak fluent English.
The Spring Value: The world’s largest flower garden, the Keukenhof, in Lisse, flaunts its famous tulips from late March through mid-May – and airfare and hotel fees throughout Holland are comfortably below their summer highs. Just pack carefully – while pleasant temperatures average in the low 50s, weather can bounce between winter’s chill and summer’s heat. Still, it always seems to be sunny on Queen’s Day at the end of April.
26. NORTHERN IRELAND
Having finally cast off the shadows of “the Troubles,” this region of 1.7 million people is once again a lively, welcoming destination. Northern Ireland offers historic and cultural attractions across several regions, from bustling Belfast to the spectacular scenery of the Fermanagh Lakelands, the Mournes, and Causeway Coast.
The Spring Value: Often blessed with surprisingly pleasant weather, shoulder season allows you to see Northern Ireland without summer’s hordes. Spring’s dry months are the perfect time to get the region all to yourself.
A popular cruising destination, Norway is most famous for its dramatic fjords. Deep forests, roaring waterfalls, glacier-capped mountains, rivers teeming with salmon, and a beautiful coastline add to the Scandinavian country’s reputation as an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, with endless opportunities for hiking, skiing, wildlife-watching, and sailing. Vibrant cities, lively festivals, delicious cuisine, and friendly locals ensure that once you’ve visited, you’ll come back for more.
The Spring Value: Late spring is a great time to be in Norway, with mild weather, blossoming trees, and wildflowers everywhere. The tourist season hasn’t kicked in yet, so you’ll have the place virtually to yourself – and given the country’s strong currency, the shoulder-season discounts on hotel stays virtually seal the deal.
The name means “smoky bay,” a reference to the mist emitted by the region’s abundance of geothermal hotspots, but Reykjavik is steamy in more ways than one. The cultural, economic, and political capital of Iceland, the city is just as modern as its Scandinavian big sisters, offering lively cultural opportunities and a thriving nightlife. Beset by economic woes of late, expect slashed prices and a stellar exchange rate – tourism is much needed and appreciated by locals.
The Spring Value: The landscape is emerging from winter’s snow and darkness, and by May snow is a thing of the past as blue skies and long hours of sunlight become the norm. April brings the terrific annual Reykjavik Blues Festival, too. You’ll see less tourists and lower prices, but just remember: Shoulder months mean fewer flights and reduced ground transportation options.
Colossal Russia has emerged from behind the Iron Curtain as a less monolithic, more nuanced destination fueled by a nouveau capitalist class (at least in Moscow and St. Petersburg). The Soviet and czarist eras may be history, but countless monuments and museums testify to their former glory. Don your hand muffs, pull down your babushka, brush up on your Tchaikovsky and Dostoevsky, and write home from Russia…with love.
The Spring Value: However you look at it, life here is defined by winter – in spring your senses begin to return to you. Days are still a bit brisk – expect weather in the 40s, but if luck’s on your side, temps can get as high as the mid-50s. Hotel rates are slightly cheaper than in high season.
Spring 2013 Events: “Boris Orlav ‘Phantom Pain” at the Tretyakov Gallery (through June 23); XIII International Ballet Festival at the Mariinsky Theater (Feb. 28–Mar. 10); Golden Mask Festival (Through Apr. 16)
A natural bridgehead between Europe and the Middle East and Central Asia, Turkey is a vast country surrounded by sea on three sides. Mediterranean beach resorts, ski runs, ancient ruins, soaring mountains with long-distance trekking routes, and the vibrant, ever-changing metropolis of Istanbul, ensure there’s something here to satisfy every taste.
The Spring Value: Beat the summer crowds and enjoy the beginning of the festival season (the Istanbul International Music Festival falls in June every year). Temperatures in the 60s and 70s make an abundance of hotel deals especially appealing, and lounging on the beaches of Bodrum or strolling around Istanbul’s astounding Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque are particularly pleasant.
Central & South America
Spring Forecast: March is dry and festive in the land of the Maya, with interior mountains offering cooler environs after a rumble in the jungle. By April, the rainy season hits Coastal Costa Rica and Panama, and outdoor pursuits are better spent in the autumn of their South American neighbors.
Formerly a British colony, this Central American country flaunts a Caribbean/Latin American vibe. Visitors come for wildlife-filled rainforests, Mayan ruins, and top-notch diving and fishing in the world’s second longest barrier reef.
The Spring Value: May is a great time to experience Belize: the tropical foliage is lush, weather in the upper 70s/lower 80s is enjoyable, and many uncrowded resorts still offer attractive rates.
32. EASTER ISLAND
It’s hard to believe that tiny Easter Island, 2,200 miles off the coast of Chile, is even part of the same country (at 63 square miles it’s only one fourth the size of New York City). The lonely volcanic Polynesian island, called Rapa Nui by natives and Isla de Pascua by Chileans, has been captivating imaginations with its haunting moai stone sculptures – and theories about the mysterious civilization that created them – since it was first discovered by the Dutch in 1722. Well worth the 5-hour plane ride from Santiago, the island’s fascinating history and archaeological sites are its main appeal.
The Spring Value: March and April are the best time to visit – solidly in between the high-season rush and the eerie, off-season emptiness, the archaeological sites are still relatively crowd-free and the rates are reasonable. Best of all, the weather, typically in the 70s, is ideal for both hiking and beach-going.
Spring 2013 Events: Easter Island Marathon (May 30-June 2)
One of South America’s top destinations, Peru is best known for its countless Inca ruins, including the magnificent “lost city” of Machu Picchu in the rugged Andean highlands. Many epic adventures abound: cruise the bio-diverse Amazon, fly over the pre-Inca Nazca lines (giant drawings in the desert), or jump into Lima’s buzzing cultural scene.
The Spring Value: In Lima, the humidity dwindles and travelers may even enjoy a sweater at night. It’s also a good time to take advantage of crowd-free Peruvian beaches, which are still warm enough for sunbathing. Visitors to Machu Picchu will find April and May to be magical months, before the weather gets too rainy, the crowds get too thick, or the rates get too high.
Spring 2013 Events: Festival of the Crosses (May 1–31)
Asia & Middle East
Spring Forecast: Many corners of the sprawling Asian landmass are hit hard by summer’s notorious rain season, and the preceding heat wave lies like a wet blanket over cities from Delhi to Bangkok. Siberia, Mongolia, and much of northern China stay frigid through May, while more southern latitudes offer vacation bargains. For the Gulf countries, months between November and May are considered the high season; early June can be moderately tolerable, but it ultimately comes down to luck.
Respected for its unspoiled scenery, Bali is a province of the Republic of Indonesia. Honeymooners and surfers (and sometimes honeymooning surfers) flock to the island for its beaches, while active travelers are drawn to its hikeable volcanoes, rice paddies, and lakes. The predominantly Hindu island has strong spiritual roots, evidenced by its many temples and shrines.
The Spring Value: April and May, on the tail end of the rainy season, typically see nice weather, fewer crowds, and attractive discounts throughout Bali.
Mountainous and landlocked, Laos is the quiet backwater of Southeast Asia, a preferred destination for backpackers and adventurers. For decades, this sparsely populated country between Thailand and Vietnam was closed off by a communist government. Today, the capital Vientiane (pronounced Vien-chan) bustles with renewed energy, and the splendors of the UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang attract thousands of visitors.
The Spring Value: With the exception of the Laos New Year in mid-April, you’ll encounter few other visitors during the hot months of April and May, and find hotel prices highly discounted after New Year. Just be forewarned that the sun can be ferocious with temperatures reaching more than 100 degrees, and days can be dry and dusty. Plan to retreat to the comfort of your air-conditioned room for a mid-afternoon siesta to beat the heat – and to enjoy your bargain digs.
Spring 2013 Events: Lao New Year (Apr. 13); Boun Bang Fai (Rocket Festival; May 1–31)
A tiny 263-square-mile island republic, Singapore lies just above the equator between Malaysia and Indonesia. A polyglot population (languages spoken include Mandarin, English, and Malay) of 4.6 million make up this financial powerhouse, seaport, and oil refinery center in Southeast Asia. Tourists pour in for the fabulous low-cost shopping, futuristic skyline, and fantastic food stalls.
The Spring Value: April and May, though still rainy, are not nearly as wet as November through January and see fewer crowds than between June and October. The annual Singapore International Film Festival screens hundreds of films from dozens of countries (held in April or May), and the end of May ushers in the Great Singapore Sale, a shopping extravaganza with retail reductions of up to 70 percent.
Spring 2013 Events: “Credit Suisse: Innovation in Art Series The Collectors Show: Weight of History” at the Singapore Art Museum (through May 5); The Great Singapore Sale (May-July, Date TBD)
Australia & Pacific
Spring Forecast: Autumn Down Under is a delightful compromise between the blistering rays of summer and the continent’s dismal winter come June. Sydney is generally cloud-free and popular with travelers at this time, as is a transcontinental jaunt on the Indian-Pacific railroad to Perth through a less-hot stretch of raw Outback. New Zealand is generally pleasant, but don’t plan on swimming during these months – temperatures are moderate (average highs in the low 60s) and you’re likely to strike showers, especially on the North Island.
Australia’s answer to Miami, the Gold Coast is a flashy strip of holiday apartments, luxury hotels, shopping malls, theme parks, and nightclubs fringed by 25 miles of golden beaches. Away from the glitz and glam of the seaside, this legendary Queensland destination reveals its softer side with quiet hinterland hideaways, stunning national parks, and magical rainforest walks.
The Spring Value: With fewer tourists, pleasant temperatures (daytime temperatures average in the mid-70s), and good deals on accommodations (except over the Easter weekend), the spring shoulder season is a great time to plan a holiday to the Gold Coast.
38. GREAT BARRIER REEF
One of the seven wonders of the natural world, the Great Barrier Reef, located off the northeastern coast of Australia, is a 1,200-mile-long undersea wonderland of beautiful coral reefs and colorful marine life – underwater adventures here are second to none. Palm-fringed tropical islands dot the surface of these turquoise waters.
The Spring Value: With fewer tourists, except over the Easter weekend, and less rain, the shoulder season in April and May is a great time to plan your Reef vacation. Don’t expect too much respite from the heat in the north as daytime temperatures average in the mid 80s; the south is much more pleasant with averages in the high 70s.
Spring Forecast: During Africa’s fall, a little rain in Tanzania can be a godsend when it keeps the Serengeti full of wildlife and hordes of safari-enthusiasts out of the landscape. Climbers take to Kilimanjaro through March for the best visibility, as Timbuktu to the Nile is buried in oppressive heat.
39. CAPE TOWN
In the shadow of Table Mountain, but no longer under the haze of its dark history, Cape Town has emerged as the most sophisticated city on the African continent – not to mention one of the world’s most beguiling. Head here for the sun, the beach, and a city whose vibrancy and resilience is demonstrated through art, music, and dance.
The Spring Value: As Cape Town’s long summer winds down, crowds thin out and temps settle in the comfortable high 60s. This weather is perfect for whizzing up Table Mountain in a gondola for breathtaking views of the coastal city, strolling the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden (a UNESCO World Heritage site), or exploring vibrant Green Point’s shops and bars. Stellenbosch, home to many wineries, is a 45-minute drive from the city, but the lines for tastings grow during March’s harvest.
Whether you land in cosmopolitan Casablanca or sail into the edgy port city of Tangier after the short ferry ride from Spain, few countries greet you with Morocco’s exotic punch. From the heady cocktail of spices in the souks (markets) to the winding alleys of the ancient medina quarters and the seeming limitlessness of the Sahara sand dunes, every corner of this North African country incites awe.
The Spring Value: The ideal time to visit Morocco is spring, when wildflowers cover the mountainsides and the weather is pleasantly mild (expect temps in the 70s in Marrakech or Fez). You can still barter on room rates this time of year, as crowds haven’t picked up yet and proprietors are keen to get the season going.