GO ON HOLIDAY IN MARCH
GO ON HOLIDAY IN MARCH
It's hard not to be hopeful in March. The winter snows are thawing, the days growing ever-longer and Europe is slowly emerging into the sunshine for the first time in months. Everything stays cheaper until the flurry of Easter, making an early dose of sun on a quiet beach all the more appealing. Those planning far-flung adventures should also allow a few days for relaxation - this isn't the time to over-exert yourself. Safaris can be broken up with wine tastings, city breaks are all about slowing down and surf holidays should factor in several hours of lying on the sand. Here are 10 destinations guaranteed to put a spring in your step in March.
There's no better time to scale the length and breadth of this compelling country. Vietnam's usually sticky humidity vanishes in March and dazzling sunshine heralds the driest month of the year. It's the ideal time to laze on the southern beaches but also optimum weather for trekking the craggy northern mountains. It's also still shoulder season, meaning you can see much more for less. Admire Ho Chi Minh's French colonial architecture from a buzzing sky bar, explore Hanoi's ancient pagodas, sail on the tranquil Mekong and take a rickety bike ride over the bridges of Hoi An in the gorgeous central region. Just up the coast is the Khoai Chau district, where the Chu Dong Tu festival takes place in March with processions of richly embroidered golden dragons and burning incense. It's a feast for the senses that won't be forgotten in a hurry.
Barcelona's big sister sheds her winter skin in March. When the clocks go forward, as if by magic a wave of warmth sweeps the city and loosens up its reserved exterior. Madrid's expansive parks burst into bloom and locals tumble out onto the streets to sip caipirinhas and dance till dawn. Temperatures stay around 20ºC, meaning you can explore its world-class galleries, belle-époque mansions and designer boutiques without breaking a sweat. There's great traditional tapas to be had, but leave time to try the city's newer breed of stylish gastrobars. Just don't plan anything more than a siesta afterwards.
Kick off the month with a beach party on the shores of Puerto Rico. Only two hours from Miami, this Caribbean isle has long been the USA's weekend playground. Expect a distinctly Latin flavour with a side of southern home comforts - Puerto Rico has the biggest shopping mall in the Caribbean and the largest virgin tropical rainforest. March is the best month to sample both sides of island life. The beaches lose their crowds and a light breeze rustles the palm trees, lifting the humidity and letting you sleep on the sand in Vieques. Those craving a faster pace can always go salsa dancing in Mayagüez, whale-watching in Rincón or wander the cobbled streets of old San Juan, Piña Colada in hand.
Spain's tiny golden islands off the coast of North Africa are heavenly in early spring. The days are getting longer and sunnier and there's no sign of the peak-season crowds. We're excited by Lanzarote's beautiful beaches, cool surf scene and amazing places to stay. We're captivated by Tenerife's unexpected lunar landscapes and intrigued by the unsung Canaries: a whistle-stop tour could take you through Santa Cruz de la Palma's whitewashed Renaissance palaces, La Gomera's plunging ravines and Fuencaliente's sleepy volcanic craters bathed in early morning mist.
Night-snorkelling, island-hopping and the turquoise Indian Ocean lapping onto ice-white shores… when it comes to the Maldives the travel clichés flow as freely as the cocktails. While the island nation is idyllic year-round, March is a great time to spot manta rays and sharks or simply relish the temperate 30ºC days in a private beach hut. It's dreamy for the kids too, as many spectacular hotels are designed with family holidays in mind. One of the best is Soneva Fushi's The Den, with its tunnels, treasure maps and a pirate ship built for would-be Peter Pans and Wendys.
SOUTH AFRICA: SAFARI
For a high-octane safari adventure look to the tip of this mighty continent. South Africa has 19 national parks and the tail-end of wet season means fewer tour groups and lower costs if you can tolerate the odd afternoon shower. If you're hungry to see the big five, head to Kruger National Park in the north-east, while elephant-lovers go east and those yearning for an Out of Africa-style romance travel south to the lush Garden Route to track game on horseback. Or if you don't want to stray too far from the city, Little Karoo is the closest safari to Cape Town. When you're done, dust off at one of Cape Town's smartest hotels: the southern capital is at its best in March, mostly free of visitors and basking in the sun.
MEXICO: WEST COAST
Mexico's Pacific coast transplants Californian cool to a warmer climate with bigger waves - no wonder Hollywood heavyweights jet down to graze by the pool in Cabo. March is a fantastic time to visit, with prime conditions for whale-watching in Baja California, virtually no rain and rising temperatures. Check in to Cabo's One&Only Palmilla to star-spot over ceviche but leave a few days to enjoy the simpler pleasures of the mainland. Chilled-out Sayulita draws travellers with its neon-bright shopfronts and wild beaches. Further south in Oaxaca, you'll find Puerto Escondido, a beach town where you can surf all day, party all night and browse contemporary art installations the morning after.
This emerald archipelago is the perfect spot for unwinding after a long winter. A thatch-roofed villa in a private island resort is the ideal base from which to discover the winding rice terraces, quaint villages and coral reefs of the Philippines. In March the heat is more bearable on the beaches and in the bustling capital Manila. But those itching to get their feet wet should head to the Palawan islands - the real inspiration for Alex Garland's 'The Beach'. Take a dip in a natural lagoon, or doze under the tilting coconut trees.
Set on a mountainside below Mont Blanc, Chamonix has bags of storybook appeal: churches sparkle under a frosting of snow, the windows of picturesque chalets glow with firelight, and shimmering pine trees look as if they've been plucked straight off a Christmas card. By March the serious skiers have left to find cooler climes and the weather is warm enough for lunching al fresco. You can still catch the last of the winter snow and accommodation is easier to find, whether you're after a romantic cabin for two or a lodge big enough for a post-piste party.
Castaways in the 17th century were the first to see the startling beauty of this undiscovered island. Bermuda hasn't changed much since then with its pristine rose-pink sands and fiercely loyal locals who have a disdain for flashy resorts. Visit in March before the late spring price spike for warm waters and seven hours of daily sunshine. Watching a rosy sunset from the docks of the capital Hamilton, you'll feel as if you've accidentally stumbled on paradise.