The 10 Best Places to Travel Internationally This Spring, Say Experts
Beat the tourist crowds at these expert-approved destinations.
Springtime really is the perfect time to get away. Not only does this transitional season bring the ideal mild weather for sightseeing in many destinations, but there are also many festivals and fairs to immerse yourself in local culture. Fewer crowds and blooming flowers are just icing on the cake.
So, it should come as no surprise that a recent TripAdvisor survey found over half of Americans are planning on taking a vacation this spring, with over one-third planning on taking two or more trips. What's more, interest in international travel seems to be on the rise, with nearly one-quarter of Americans planning to head overseas this spring. In fact, seven out of 10 of the fastest-growing destinations are located outside of the U.S.
The only question is, where to jet off to? A European city steeped in rich history? An exotic island with unparalleled white sand beaches? Of course, you can't go wrong either way. From hotspots to hidden gems, here are some international destinations worth scoping out before summer hits.
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The capital of Germany comes alive between the months of March and May, says Mila Kicker, Product Manager at Avanti Destinations in Oregon. That's why this is one of her top favorite places to visit during the spring. Outside seating options open up at the best cafés and restaurants, offering incredible opportunities for people-watching and soaking up the colorful scenery while enjoying some local fare. Not only that, but Kicker notes that walking tours, which are the best way to get a feel for the different vibes in various parts of the city, are especially pleasant this time of year, with temperatures hovering around the 50s and 60s.
Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy by the Canal, take a boat tour through Tiergarten park while passing under dozens of historic bridges, or just kick back and enjoy a pint at one of the many beer gardens. Then come Sunday, hit one of the bustling secondhand markets for an eccentric souvenir.
"Whether the tour takes you into Berlin's history, the vibrant and diverse food scene, or hip street art culture, Berlin in the sunny springtime will surely create some lasting memories," adds Kicker.
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Mexico has long been a popular destination for spring break—but while undergrads are heading to Cancun and Cabo, you can beat the crowds by heading to the nearby Yucatán capital of Mérida, which has rich Mayan heritage.
"As an ex-pat, I am often looking for less touristy destinations that will allow me to make a new location feel like home," says Jash Cooper, the travel content creator behind Joyriding With Jash. "Mérida has quickly climbed to one of my top destinations."
According to Cooper, the weather—as well as the lifestyle—feels like summertime year-round in Mérida. Don't miss the many aerial and adventure parks, where you can go ziplining, cycling, or hiking all afternoon, followed by a refreshing dip or some cliff jumping in the cenotes. Need to recover with a relaxing day in the sun? Conveniently, the beaches are just a 30-minute drive away.
Best of all, Cooper says Mérida is super-friendly to foreigners. "Everyone is willing to help with directions, understanding prices, and even offering advice for things to do in the city," she explains.
Did we mention that Mérida has consistently been ranked as the safest city in Latin America, and the second safest city in North America?
Apart from boasting the cleanest air in the world, Tasmania also happens to have a fascinating history, unique wildlife, and water sports galore. Between the cascading waterfalls and lush greenery, you'll never run out of beautiful sites to see, either. According to Sherry Heard, founder of The Pug & Parrot Luxury Travel in Texas, springtime is the best time to visit Australia's largest island because of the dry, sunny days and crisp nights.
Heard highly recommends staying at the Mona Pavilions (a group of über-luxe, modern lodges set right on the banks of the Derwent River), the quirky Henry Jones Art Hotel (set in a former jam factory), or the romantic Prospect House (with an award-winning on-site winery). She also advises booking the Maria Island guided walk to see wombats and Tasmanian (or "tassie") devils up close and in the wild, and spending a day exploring the iconic Cradle Mountain, where you might spot exotic critters like echidnas, quolls, and black currawongs while navigating the wildflower-studded trails. When dinnertime rolls around, head into charming Hobart, Tasmania's capital, to check out one of the countless farm-to-table restaurants.
Before heading home, Heard suggests taking a day trip to Bruny Island, where you can feast on oysters and other seafood before washing it all down with local wines from family-operated vineyards.
March through mid-June is considered the hot season in Thailand, but if you can handle the heat, you'll dodge the crowds that come during peak season—and capitalize on far more affordable rates for flights and hotels, says Jordan Sully, the founder of ThaiGuider. Also, starting on May 1, 2022, there is no need for fully-vaccinated visitors to quarantine upon arrival.
Phuket, Thailand's largest island, features some of the country's most popular beaches—like Kata Noi beach, which is known for its soft white sand and crystal-clear waters and is conveniently peppered with local food vendors.
"The inter-island cruises tend to be less expensive during the shoulder season, so you can enjoy island hopping as well," says Sully. "You can also try fishing or snorkeling at the islands, too."
Take a stroll through the capital, Phuket City, and you'll find numerous colorful shophouses and busy markets. Then, when evening falls, check out the notoriously rowdy nightlife in Patong, a resort town teeming with bars and nightclubs.
It's no secret that the Amalfi Coast—a 50-kilometer stretch in southern Italy—is one of the most visually stunning destinations on Earth. Overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Gulf of Salerno, this coastal area offers plenty of picturesque scenery and photo ops. And spring is the best time to visit this popular tourist destination, according to Justin Francis, founder and CEO of Responsible Travel in the U.K.
Not only is there plenty of outdoor seating at charming sidewalk cafés and wisteria in full bloom, but you can beat the crowds that tend to flock here from June through August.
"The Amalfi road, with its spectacular views, is worth the drive, but you'll see a lot more if you ditch the car and walk or cycle the mountain trails," says Francis.
For some of the most pristine views of the coast, take a hike along the Pathway of the Gods from the tiny mountain village of Bomerano all the way down to the cliffside city of Positano. Speaking of Positano, this is where you'll find some of the region's most famous beaches, like Marina Grande, where you can rent lounge chairs for the day and enjoy a wine-soaked lunch by the sea.
If you plan your trip for the latter end of the season in mid-June, you might be able to check out Amalfi's famous Festival of Sant'Antonio, complete with a marching band and epic fireworks display.
March through June is picture-perfect in Egypt's sprawling capital. The city seems to come alive again as the jacaranda trees bloom with purple flowers and temperatures rise to the 70s and 80s. Just be aware of the occasional passing thunderstorms and sandstorms that can hit during April.
Brendan Drewniany, director of communications at the luxury travel company Black Tomato in NYC, highly recommends wandering downtown with a local guide and architectural historian, taking a private tour of Kornak temple to avoid the tourist throngs, and last but certainly not least, cruising the Nile for a few nights in an antique dahabiya.
"This is a mesmerizing way to get a sense of place, history, and culture, and one of the more glamorous ways to do so," he explains.
History buffs will definitely want to spend some time in Old Cairo, which houses a treasure trove of millennium-old sites like the Mosque of Amr ibn al-As, and the Hanging Church. Also worth a stop is Darb 1718, an outdoor contemporary art and culture center that hosts live concerts, photography exhibitions, pottery and hieroglyphics workshops, and fashion shows.
Situated right on Lake Geneva, this stunning city has it all: sweeping views of the French alps, unique museums, energetic nightlife, impressive restaurants, and unparalleled wine-tasting experiences.
"Folks will love the mild weather, sunny blue skies, and beautiful spring flowers," says Deb Swacker, an advisor for Fora Travel in New York. "You can walk, bike, or boat around the lake, take a trip to a vineyard, or visit Charlie Chaplin's house while exploring charming Lausanne."
Lausanne happens to be the world headquarters of the Olympics, so Swacker says a trip here wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Olympic Museum.
The jaw-dropping Cathedral of Notre-Dame is another must-see, along with the St.-François church and Sauvabelin Tower, which features an observation deck offering a 360-degree view of the city. Art enthusiasts should pay a visit to the Collection de l'Art Brut, Musee des Beaux Arts, the Musée de l'Élysée, and the Fondation de l'Hermitage Collection, which features work by Monet, Cézanne, Degas, and Van Gogh.
After an action-packed day of sightseeing, refuel by indulging in some of the region's famous cured meats, cheeses, and chocolate.
The Azores, Portugal
Known for their unbeatable dolphin and whale watching opportunities and world-class diving locations, as well as year-round water sports, these islands are an ideal destination for adventure seekers. And springtime is an ideal season to visit—the rainy season has just ended, and temperatures stay within a comfortable range from the low 60s to low 70s.
"Spring also just happens to coincide with the great migration for whales," says Francis. "You can witness them—including the majestic blue whale—in huge numbers as they journey through the archipelago."
Kayaking, mountain biking, windsurfing, and stand-up paddleboarding are just a few of the other activities you can participate in here. Looking for a more laidback getaway? The beaches are unlike any you've likely seen, with volcanic sand, dramatic cliff backdrops, and crystal clear waters.
The Galápagos Islands
While this volcanic archipelago may have lots to offer all year round in the way of wildlife viewing, the hotter spring season comes with some special advantages. The water drops to the perfect temp for snorkeling and scuba diving so you can observe the diverse sea life. Many birds and animals start nesting, the waved albatross returns to the islands, and baby land iguanas and green sea turtles also begin emerging along the shores.
"As travel resurges, tourists will return to this area, but for now, it feels as remote as it did 20 years ago," says Monika Sundem, CEO of Adventure Life in Montana. "The Galapagos was one of the first regions to return to operations since the start of the pandemic, and procedures are dialed in. Book a small-ship cruise for island landings to see boobies and finches, snorkeling excursions with sea lions, Galapagos sharks, and more."
After a full day of hiking, guided tours, or excursions by boat, unwind with some local Ecuadorian cuisine. The national dish, encebollado, is a flavorful fish stew made with fresh tuna and served with boiled cassava and pickled red onion.
The Highlands, Scotland
This mountainous region in northwest Scotland isn't just home to the legendary Loch Ness—it's also the country's largest whisky-producing area. And May just happens to be Whisky Month, meaning you'll find plenty of tasting events where you can learn a little behind-the-scenes info from distilleries and pour yourself a dram or two. May also marks the start of the legendary Highland Games, with a variety of piping, drumming, dancing, and other athletic competitions.
According to Francis, spring is a wonderful time to visit the Highlands because the days are getting longer and warmer, the lush landscapes are at their most colorful, and the small ship wildlife cruises start up again in search of whales, dolphins, and seals.
"Take a rail tour if you can," says Francis. "It's a great way to experience the landscapes, and you can delight in the Hogwarts Express experience on the West Highland Line without the school holiday crowds."