The best time of year to visit Japan, without a shadow of doubt, is in the thick of cherry blossom season. The light shade of pink that explodes everywhere you look, usually in late March and April, gives locals and travellers alike a spring in their step, be it in city parks, traditional gardens or tree-lined streets. Our completist 12-day Rail Trip, starting in Osaka, calls at Hiroshima, Kyoto, the Japanese Alps and Lake Ashi en route to Tokyo. Every city and stretch of countryside looks that much better when framed by cherry blossom, especially as views flash past your Bullet Train window, but our pick of the bunch has to be the charming old streets of Kyoto, which look truly stunning this time of year.
Getting lost in the dazzling dome-topped Old Town of Istanbul and the fascinating history of Antalya is easy, and yet, they hardly scratch the surface of Turkish wonders. From soaring high above Cappadocia in a hot-air balloon to exploring secret subterranean caves in eastern Anatolia, there are endless ways to go deeper. Take in Turkey from above (and below) on this ultimate 12-day tour. You’ll see it all – from a welcome spring swim in the coastal waters in Antalya to hiking through the Red and Rose valleys. The best part? Shoulder season means you can avoid the crowds in Istanbul and avoid overheating in Cappadocia, but it should still be balmy enough to enjoy the waters of the Turkish Riviera.
The dawning of spring in Britain will make you thankful you didn’t fly south for winter, with the whole country seemingly bursting into a sea of blossoms. The most rugged and vast stretches of scenic countryside are found in Scotland, and this seven-day Rail Trip is the perfect way to experience that natural beauty. You’ll start in London and shoot up north on the Caledonian Sleeper train, before sipping whisky at Ben Nevis Distillery and hopping on the iconic Jacobite steam train, as seen in Harry Potter. You’ll explore the Isle of Skye, Cairngorms National Park, Inverness and, last but not least, the gothic streets of Edinburgh – the cherry blossoms here are as good as it gets outside of the Far East.
As the camel’s feet kick sand across the Sahara, and you sway gently on its back, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to explore this marvellous sun-warmed landscape. Spring is an excellent time to make the most of Morocco, and though the Sahara will be dry no matter the season, the heat elsewhere in the country hasn’t yet soared to uncomfortable summer temperatures. This nearly two-week tour ensures you stay cool and collected while hiking the Rif Mountains, shopping in the medina in Marrakech and scrambling through the Dades Gorge in the High Atlas.
If Tbilisi isn’t on your list of best European cities to visit in spring, this nine-day tour will immediately make that correction. How better to warm up from a long winter than in the city’s geothermal baths? Continue the pampering with a kisa massage and a delicious dinner – the cherries on top of this grand tour through rural Georgia, which also features epic hikes and fairytale churches in the mountains, plus the oldest wine scene on the planet.