April is the month where there's all to play for. The Med is back in action for sun and coastal fun, putting short-haul escapes to the beaches once again within easy reach, while the last of the Alpine snow keeps winter sports lovers entertained for just a bit longer. In most resorts across the Alps, the ski season closes this month, with some high-octane, high-altitude festivals to see it out — among them Zermatt Unplugged in Switzerland and Top of the Mountain in Ischgl, Austria, which bring music to the mountains.
Further afield, Thai new year celebrations see its cities making a splash, Coachella kicks off the summer's music festivals out in the California desert and travel is enriched by Easter celebrations worldwide. Semana Santa (2-8 April 2023) brings colourful festivities to Spain, with processions filling the streets of towns and cities, notably across Andalucia, where parades of ornate religious floats make their way between cathedrals and a carnival-like atmosphere pervades. Seville, Zamora, Salamanca and Valladolid are known for their ancient and all-encompassing Holy Week traditions, but there are some spectacular celebrations in coastal cities including Málaga, Murcia and Cartagena, offering the chance to combine culture with a beach break.
In more northerly latitudes, April sees peak spring displays of tulips and ornamental Japanese flowering cherry trees. You’ll find some of the best of the latter this month in the Cotswolds, as well as more than 5,000 cherry trees planted across Hamburg, sister city to Osaka, where Japanese communities organise fireworks and cherry blossom festivities to ring in the season — with similar celebrations in northern cities such as Copenhagen and Stockholm.
If you can't make it to this sunny southern Spanish city to experience its famed Samana Santa celebrations, then the Feria de Abril is a fine alternative (23-29 April 2023). What started as a cattle fair in 1847 has become a highlight of Seville's annual events calendar, which takes place two weeks after Easter when the scent of orange blossom and night-blooming jasmine once again fills the air, roused by spring's warmth. The illuminations, fireworks, flamenco dancing and round-the-clock feasting see Seville at its most festive — although keep in mind that bullfighting, while controversial, remains a traditional focal point of the fiesta. Feria fun is found city-wide, but the main action is at the recinto ferial (fairground) in the riverfront Los Remedios neighbourhood, where more than 1,000 casetas (small tents) welcome local families, guilds and groups to snack, drink and dance, with a select few open to the public. There's a funfair, horse and carriage rides and an impressive number of attendees dressed in traditional costume, from frilly Sevillana dresses to traje corto high-waisted suits.
Sustainable travel tip: Get around by bike. Seville was the second city in Spain, after Barcelona, to introduce a bike-share scheme way back in 2009, and today it has more than 100 miles of bike lanes.
Mid-April marks the traditional new year in much of Southeast Asia, and in Thailand the festival of Songkran (13-15) sees cities and towns nationwide erupt into a three-day water fight. Alongside solemn rituals at Buddhist temples — where monks use water for spiritual purification, cleansing any grievances from the past year and blessing the one to come — you'll find stalls selling canon-sized water pistols, buckets and cups that become a repository for both watery ammo — a sticky mixture of clay and water — and cocktails. This is the hottest time of year, so a good soaking is always welcome and generally met with good humour. The northern capital of Chiang Mai makes the biggest splash, while the Khao San Road is Bangkok's Songkran centre, with streets of the backpacker district cordoned off for revelries.
Sustainable travel tip: If you'd prefer to be beside the seaside, head to the island of Ko Samui, another hub for Songkran celebrations. Some of the places to stay here have been built and run to minimise environmental impact, such as the cliffside villas at Tongsai Bay, complete with organic restaurant, or the thatched-roof luxury huts at Six Senses. Alternatively, take a self-drive tour by tuk-tuk, staying in local guesthouses on an 11-day group trip through northern Thailand with Responsible Travel.
Tignes & Val d’Isère, French Alps
Late season in the Espace Killy ski area is a safe bet for winter sports lovers as the slopes stay open until early May. Snow coverage isn't as guaranteed as it once was anywhere in the Alps, but the higher you go, the better chance there is for the slopes to remain covered into spring. Dominated by the major resorts of Val d’Isère (6,070ft) and Tignes (6,560ft), the region benefits from the former's largely north-facing slopes and the latter's high-altitude skiing on the Grande Motte glacier (11,338ft) for up to nine months of the year. Add to this a combined 190 miles of slopes with runs to suits all levels of skier and boarder (plus tobogganing, snow shoeing, husky sledding and even ice diving), as well as a good range of lifts allowing you to ride right back into town should your legs, or the snow, give up, and you've something to appeal to pretty much everyone.
Sustainable travel tip: Take the train. From December to mid-April, the Eurostar Ski Train operated by TravelSki Express runs direct from London St Pancras to Bourg St Maurice in around nine hours, where there are road connections to Tignes and Val d’Isère in under an hour. All travel can be brought as part of package, including accommodation and ski lift passes. Otherwise, there is a change in Paris for the TGV high-speed train.
April is a bumper month for colourful Dutch celebrations. On the 27th, its Koningsdag when orange-clad revellers take to the streets nationwide to celebrate the king’s birthday during a one-day national holiday, enjoyed in Amsterdam with a maze of flea markets, canal-side parties and myriad music festivals. But if you want to expand your colour spectrum beyond orange (the national hue worn in homage to ‘the House of Oranje’ Dutch monarchy) tulip season will more than satisfy. Blooms are at their peak this month in and around the city, augmented by the month-long Tulip Festival bringing special plantings, parades and events to parks and gardens.
Sustainable travel tip: The Dutch government says it will cut and cap the number of flights landing at Schiphol Airport from November 2023 in a bid to address pollution. In the meantime, Eurostar has upped the number of daily services between London and Amsterdam, so it's even easier to take the train — it takes just four hours direct.
Batsford Arboretum is home to the UK’s National Collection of Japanese flowering cherry trees — with more than 120 across the gardens, which is based just outside the pretty, honey-hued Cotswold market town of Moreton-in-Marsh. Blossom season is dictated each year, in part, by the weather, but the trees are usually at their best around mid-April. Just an hour's drive south, at Westonbirt, the National Arboretum also offers colourful displays of cherry trees, along with magnolias, camellias and rhododendrons early in spring, after which carpets of native bluebells roll out across woodland glades. Further afield, the Cotswold's numerous nature reserves are prime places for spring flower walks, including Littleworth Wood on the fringes of Snowshill Manor and Garden, and the Foxholes and Frith Wood nature reserves, which are all awash with bluebells anywhere from late March well into May.
Sustainable travel tip: Explore on foot along the 102-mile Cotswold Way National Trail, which follows the western edge of the Cotswold Hills through rolling pastures, beech woodland and classic stone villages. Or get around by public transport with the Cotswolds Discoverer one-day pass, which offers unlimited bus and rail travel across the region.