We never quite know when a particular flower will choose to bloom, but bloom they inevitably will. From vibrant tulips to delicate orchids, flowering plants cover the planet. It’s easy to be swept away by their fragrance and appearance; these buds hold more power than a muse to our poetic whimsy. Practically speaking, they form the foundational food source for ecosystems around the world. We have flowers to thank for the nourishment that sustains life—as well as the beauty they bring into it. (See more colorful destinations around the world.)
This beauty recently came to life in our social community, when we asked our readers where to find the most beautiful flowers. We were delighted by responses which covered terrain from the gardens of Iceland to the desert of the Sahara. Here’s where to travel to discover a sense of renewal and the abundance of the natural world.
Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina
Why go now: Reader Liz Martin recommends a spring visit to western North Carolina, when rhododendrons blanket the slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Plan your trip: Use the vibrant city of Asheville as base camp and spend your days hiking. You can access numerous gorgeous trails just 30 minutes from downtown via the Blue Ridge Parkway. Time it right and you can take the hour drive to Bakersville and enjoy the North Carolina Rhododendron Festival, on June 21-22, 2019. (Find the best places for cherry blossoms in the U.S.)
Why go now: Holland may be known for flowers, but reader Ruth Macoviak offers the lesser-known tip of visiting the millions of bulbs in Lisse, southwest of Amsterdam, in one of the world's largest flower gardens: “Kuekenhof Gardens [is] one of many beautiful places!”
Go with Nat Geo: Holland’s flowers tend to peak in April and May making the spring season the ultimate time to drive or stroll through this colorful countryside. Immerse yourself in their vibrant landscapes on a National Geographic Expedition featuring colorful tulip blooms, and so much more. (Plan a road trip on a flower route through the Netherlands.)
Why go now: This town in northern Iceland is home to the Arctic Botanical Gardens, where many of the nation’s native plants are on display. “It's only 50 miles from Arctic Circle! Incredible!” says reader Susan Thorne Gagnon.
Plan your trip: Take an evening stroll then have tea among Iceland’s native plants in the Arctic Botanical Gardens—completely free to visitors. Nearby, families find short hiking trails and playgrounds in the Kjarnaskógur forest, ski slopes, and a local obsession with junk food. A tremendous burger stuffed with French fries is known affectionately around the country as the Akureyringur, or person from Akureyri. (Check out 20 photos of Iceland's majestic landscapes.)
Route 1, California
Why go now: Take “Highway 1 in northern California to Humboldt National Redwood Forest,” suggests reader Jaye Downey Evans. “The hillsides were covered with red poppies.”
Plan your trip: Lake Elsinore is one of the most popular tourist spots. Try other locations like the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, or Point Mugu State Park for less crowds and the best photo opportunities. (Discover more of the best activities in California.)
Why go now: Built on a cliff in southwestern Spain, Carmona is one the oldest towns in mainland Europe. On the way, discover “fields of sunflowers for miles!” says reader Maureen Holley Stoneberger.
Plan your trip: The best time to see these sunny blooms, which cover over 30,000 hectares of land, is May and June. No car is needed to get there—hop a bus from Seville in only 40 minutes for an easy day trip. (Learn about Spain's underrated cultural and natural sites.)
Glacier National Park, Montana
Why go now: “I have seen many lovely botanical gardens but none beat the natural beauty of the Glacier National Park meadow,” answers reader Jessica Bailey, who suggests taking the Sun Road in Glacier National Park, Montana.
Plan your trip: Late-June to mid-July is the best time of year to observe vibrant wildflowers in this national park’s alpine meadows. The bloom will begin with the prairie wildflowers closer to roadways earlier in the season and progress higher in elevation as weeks go on. (Here are six Montana hikes not to miss.)
Why go now: Nothing beats the iconic “sakura–the cherry blossoms in Japan,” for reader Sachin Agrawal.
Plan your trip: From late-March to mid-April, or sometimes early-May, the country's iconic sakura captures visitors and locals alike. “In Tokyo, urban dwellers emerge from their homes and offices to take pause underneath the fleeting bloom, their daylong celebrations often stretching into the night,” writes National Geographic editor Gulnaz Khan in this reflection of the festivities complete with whimsical photos of the pink buds.
Why go now: Find approximately 3,000 cherry trees ringing the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C.–a gift from Tokyo to the United States in 1912–but that's not all, reminds reader Jennifer Tarin. “When the cherry trees are in full bloom, magnolias, forsythia, wisteria and tulips are all out.”
Plan your trip: The best time to go is “peak bloom,” which sometimes can last just a few days, or 10, depending on the winds and rain that year. The Cherry Blossom Festival is a must-see (timing shifts from year to year) and the U.S. National Arboretum holds more than two dozen varieties. Throughout late March and into May remains the perfect time to observe a variety of flowering trees in the nation’s capital before the summer humidity sets in. (Read our travel guide to Washington, D.C.)
Sahara Desert, Morocco
Why go now: Head to the Sahara Desert in Morocco and hope for a rainstorm, suggests Eileen Jackson. “To see flowers suddenly emerge from the sand is an awesome experience.”
Go with Nat Geo: From towering mountains to seemingly endless desert expanses, witness the sunrise over the glistening sands of Morocco. On a National Geographic Expedition, go beyond the natural splendor and witness ancient ruins like those of Volubilis, explore the historic city of Fez, and meander the medinas of Marrakech.
Why go now: Hike through the Annapurna mountain range of central Nepal “on the Annapurna Circuit in April—[when] Rhododendrons blooms!” says reader Colleen Pen Halley-Saunders.
Plan your trip: Called the Nepal Rhododendron Trek, or the Ghorepani Poon Hill trek, this journey is generally undertaken during spring when the rhododendron forest bloom along the mountainside. Pre-monsoon (March or April) season gives you the rhododendrons in full bloom, but post-monsoon (November) time gives you drier weather. Go with guide services that use local Sherpa guides, cooks, and porters—it’s part of the experience. (Don't miss our travel guide to Nepal.)