Where to travel in March: five of the best destinations
Head into spring with these festival-focused destinations, from Israel to Ireland. There’s no better month to sample the riotous colours of India, take to the Nile by cruise or join in the wine harvest in the vineyards of the southern hemisphere.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the month of March heralds the arrival of spring — with longer days and a beckoning back to the great outdoors. Cherry blossoms burst into blushing colour from Japan to Vancouver and Washington, DC, which has its famous al fresco Japanese sakura festivals and park picnics falling toward the end of the month. Black and grizzly bears rise from their winter beds in places like Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park, while rare Royal Bengal tigers traipse through India’s wildlife parks in search of water during the dry season, making them easier to spot.
It isn’t just wildlife that’s coming out to play. A slew of cultural and religious festivals feature this month throughout the world. Purim parties spill across Israel, and India’s revellers are painted technicolour during the annual Holi festival. St David’s Day brings traditional dress, daffodils and parades to Wales, while Ireland’s rowdier equivalent of St Patrick’s Day sees folk music, decorated floats and swathes of green pride.
March marks the shoulder season throughout much of the world, allowing affordable trips without the crowds. Surfers can catch guaranteed swells in spots like Morocco, Portugal and Hawaii, while the southern Mediterranean is a hiker’s heaven. The long rains are pummelling Eastern Africa, but strike north instead to Egypt, where the weather is fine for serene Nile cruises to ancient temples.
Rainbowed revellers take to streets in India and throw gulal pigments into the air to celebrate springtime and the triumph of good over evil during Holi, an annual Hindu festival of colour. There are large public gatherings in cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Jaipur, with street food, DJs, singing and dancing. A more serene congregation is set in the Himalayan foothills this month. The week-long International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh features talks from spiritual leaders, daily yoga classes and cultural performances. After spiritual ascension, climb the vertiginous peaks as flora begins to bloom and crowds remain thin.
March is also considered one of the top times of year for a tiger-spotting safari. Pad over to the wilderness of Ranthambore National Park in central India, where elusive Royal Bengal tigers lope across grassy meadows and ancient tombs. Temperatures are pleasantly mild and the end of the dry season means vegetation is sparse, forcing these big cats out into the open in search of a drink from shrinking watering holes.
Sustainable tip: There are just 4,500 wild tigers in the world and over half of them call India home. Poaching is still a serious threat to their survival, so support conservation efforts for these endangered cats by booking with responsible companies. Travel Operators for Tigers is a great online resource with a list of travel companies, certified eco-friendly accommodation, as well as Indian tiger reserves, parks and sanctuaries.
2. Victoria, Australia
Just an hour outside Melbourne, over 80 vineyards in the Yarra Valley are entering its harvest season, where vast rows of fruit will be fermented into deep Cabernet Sauvignons and sippable Chardonnays. Taste the terroir as you watch clusters collected from the fields. Along the route are boutique family-owned boltholes like Tokar Estate and behemoth outposts like Domaine Chandon.
Meanwhile, the capital has bags of cultural clout this month as huge events set up shop: the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Melbourne International Comedy Festival and the Melbourne Fashion Festival. The free Moomba Long Weekend, a community event, also returns each March with parades, fireworks and live music. Pair the cosmopolitan with the coastal on the Great Ocean Road. This wild and windswept route hugging the southern shores is quieter this month with a comfortably warm centigrade — ideal conditions for driving past coastal cliffs, stopping by plunging waterfalls and spotting koalas clinging to gum groves.
Sustainable tip: The City of Melbourne local government authority has created an interactive map of Aboriginal Melbourne that highlights places of historical and cultural significance. Learn about Aboriginal peoples’ connection to the city and their experiences since colonisation. Tourism Australia also has a list of Aboriginal cultural experiences in Melbourne, which range from guided Royal Botanic Gardens walks to artwork displayed at Melbourne Museum’s Birrarung Gallery.
3. Tel Aviv, Israel
Carnival-esque Purim parties take place across Israel each March. Some of the biggest celebrations are in Tel Aviv, in which week-long parades, dancing and elaborate costumes celebrate resilient Jewish survival. Pop into bakeries, where shelves groan under triangular hamantaschen cookies with fillings like halva, apricot jam and poppy seeds. For night owls, there’s the after-dark techno Lunar Purim Festival at Hayarkon Park or masquerade balls at nightclubs and bars across the city.
Anthophiles can also find a number of flower festivals blooming across the country this month, as Israel’s fields burst with anemones, narcissuses, purple lupines and red poppies. Just south of Tel Aviv is the Iris Reserve in Netanya, where the rare, dark, violet-hued coastal iris — unique to this part of the world — unfolds this month against knock-out Mediterranean views.
Sustainable tip: Stretch your legs at Ariel Sharon Park. Formerly Israel’s largest landfill, this Tel Aviv attraction is one of the world’s largest environmental rehabilitation projects. It features a snaking network of hiking trails and bicycle paths, a small zoo, recreational pond and picnic areas. At its heart is Hiriya, a towering mound-of-waste-turned-viewpoint across Tel Aviv’s skyline.
Get behind the wheel on the wind-lashed Wild Atlantic Way. This epic road trip along Ireland’s west coast steers past craggy coastlines and mist-ringed mountains. This month, the Atlantic puffin returns to the route’s crags to nest on the Cliffs of Moher, Horn Head, Great Saltee Island and the Skelligs. Meanwhile, swells are a sure thing near Donegal and Sligo for surfers. Those that prefer drier conditions can take to coastal trails for hillsides flecked with newborn lambs and forests carpeted with bluebells.
It’s not only the landscape greening up this month. St Patrick’s Day paints the country emerald every 17 March. Festivities span five days in Dublin with float-filled parades, contemporary art exhibitions, theatre performances, literature events and fiddle- and flute-filled live music. Iconic buildings are bathed in green at nightfall and revellers blend in, too, for the traditional ‘wearing of the green’. There’s also good craic in medieval Kilkenny, whose five-day TradFest features concerts, a music trail, a themed parade, street food, art workshops and a firework display.
Sustainable tip: Sustainable Travel Ireland has a certification system that encompasses tour operators, attractions, activity centres, accommodation providers and food producers. There’s a list on their website, where you can search by region and company type. Vagabond Tours, its sister company, has a collection of responsible and sustainable small group tours across Ireland.
Set sail to the ancient world, where sandy temples, tombs and towering pyramids can all be reached along the meandering Nile. Take in everything from the rock-cut temples at Aswan to the Valley of the Kings burial grounds. Winter retreats this month, leaving warm weather and gentle breezes along the world’s longest river, while shoulder season prices and quieter crowds are ideal for exploring beyond the banks at the Pyramids of Giza, buzzy Cairo or the lapping Red Sea coast.
The beaches flanking this salty inlet near Sharm el-Sheikh bask under bags of sunshine with comfy topside weather for snorkelling, scuba diving and swimming. Dive deep from a liveaboard — the Red Sea is one of the planet’s most diverse underwater worlds with vast varieties of colourful coral, fish and invertebrates, many of which are endemic. The waters are also home to graceful manta rays, numerous species of shark and shipwrecks. Splash into the protected Ras Mohammed Marine Park to explore the SS Thistlegorm steamship, which has a truck in its hold and intact cargo on board.
Sustainable tip: Eco Egypt has developed a ‘Green List’ of sustainable and responsible hotels, ecolodges, products, diving centres and liveaboards. They promote a number of ecotourism pursuits like diving, birdwatching and cultural activities, which support the livelihoods of local Nubian and Bedouin tribespeople.
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