10 Best Places to Visit in April

Head for a solar eclipse experience, Easter celebration, or underrated safari destination this April.

Gangten village and Gangtey Goemba Buddhist monastery in Phobjikha Valley, Central Bhutan

The Phobjikha, or Gangtey, Valley is one of AFAR’s outdoor destinations for April.

Photo by UlyssePixel/Shutterstock

Easter falls early in this month in 2023—the perfect reminder to take a week or weekend away. You can mark the occasion by experiencing other cultures’ takes on the Christian festival, or simply use any Easter-pegged PTO to bolster the time you can spend roaming. Whether you want to explore Africa’s latest sub-Saharan safari spot or take a bracing hike through the Great Smoky Mountains, these are the 10 best places to travel this April.

1. Gangtey Valley, Bhutan

April is great for: a riot of color in near-empty valleys

Bhutan has recently earned headlines for the reopening of its 250 mile-long Trans-Bhutan trail, a 16th-century route once used by the runners who pinballed between its various fortresses to deliver messages. A Canadian entrepreneur and philanthropist, Sam Blyth, championed its restoration to lure tourists back to the country once the threat from COVID receded. (100 percent of profits from the reopened trail go back to the pathway’s maintenance and are reinvested in local communities.)

One reason to hike that trail this month: The blooming season begins for Bhutan’s national flower, the rhododendron. Vast forests of this tree carpet the valleys here, with almost 50 different species indigenous to the country. The red bloom, or Lali Gurans, is the favored flower, but expect waves of crimson, violet, and baby pink blooms to carpet the landscape from this month. Much like the cherry blossom fests held elsewhere, there’s even a festival this month in their honor, helmed at the Lamperi Botanical Park just outside the capital of Thimpu.

Where to stay: Gangtey Lodge

The 12-suite lodge sits high over the Phobjikha (or Gangtey) Valley, with extraordinary views out across the landscape—made even more so this month by the forest of blooms.

How to get to Bhutan

Bhutan has local connections to Singapore, New Delhi, and Kolkata, among other major Asian hubs; connect to one of them on a Middle Eastern carrier, like Emirates, so the long-haul journey is broken midway.

Elephants in Lower Zambezi National Park

As heavy rains come to an end in Lower Zambezi, you can more easily find wildlife gathering around water sources.

Photo by Radek Borovka/Shutterstock

2. Lower Zambezi, Zambia

April is great for: exploring a new safari destination undisturbed

The safari industry is a well-oiled machine across much of sub-Saharan Africa, whether the Kruger in South Africa or Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Seasoned visitors should consider branching out from those well-trodden (and, let’s face it, often over-trafficked) game-spying hubs and head to Zambia instead. The opening of a range of new hotels in and around the Lower Zambezi National Park has unlocked it for many more travelers, including Lolebezi Lodge from African Bush Camps and the Zambezi Grande.

Come here to explore a park with fewer vehicles chasing every hard-to-spot large cat—indeed, it’s easy to spend a drive out in the bush and never see or hear another Jeep. April is shoulder season here, as the heavy rains of green season taper off: Expect the bush to be alive with babies, born to make the most of the abundance. With the rains over, game is lured to the river itself. Take a cruise along its lower reaches and watch elephants drinking at its edges and almost 400 bird species, including the rare Pel’s fishing owl.

All that plus welcome news: If you hold an American passport, visa fees have now been waived.

Where to stay: Zambezi Grande

This boutique lodge, which opened a year ago, has only 10 rooms, each of them perched on the edge of the wilderness. Its location inside its own game management area means guests can go beyond taking river cruises and opt also for walking safaris and night drives—neither possible within the national park next door.

How to get to Zambia

Skip JNB in Johannesburg, which often acts as a clearinghouse for long-haul flights here, and instead try Emirates or Qatar via their hubs in Dubai or Qatar, respectively. Both fly from there to Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, throughout the week.

Beach and lagoon at atoll named Tetiaroa, Tahiti, French Polynesia

Teti’aroa has been a getaway destination for famous figures, including Tahitian royalty.

Photo by MAURURU/Shutterstock

3. Teti’aroa, French Polynesia

April is great for: celebrating Earth Month at an ecominded luxe hideout

Where better to go during Earth Month than a sustainably minded luxury resort like the Brando? The private island property was an instant headline-grabber when it launched nine years ago, and not only because of its starry associations with the late Oscar-winning actor (or past guests like Beyoncé and President Barack Obama). Rather, it was a pioneer in emphasizing sustainable practices in every aspect of the operation—long before many other five-star places rushed to pledge allegiance to such goals.

It uses seawater as the basis of its ecominded air conditioning and coconut oil biofuel plus solar panels for energy; wastewater is upcycled for use on the likes of its own, on-island organic farm. It has even undertaken a pesticide-free mosquito eradication program, focusing on introducing specially bred males who render females they encounter sterile. The Tetiaroa Society, headquartered here, is a nonprofit that works with coastal communities around the globe on climate change resilience and ecosystem restoration—staffers steer hotel guests through world-class tours of the atoll and its surrounding reefs. No wonder it’s LEED Platinum certified, the highest such accolade.

Additionally, April offers a final chance to view sea turtles nesting here before they slip back into the ocean next month.

Where to stay: The Brando

The one-time home of the movie star has been reborn as an all-inclusive 36-villa resort—just remember to bring your own copy of The Godfather to read by your (private) pool.

How to get to Teti’aroa

Hop the direct, nonstop flight on Air Tahiti Nui, its national airline, from Seattle or Los Angeles and it’s under nine hours until you hit the beaches of the main island. To reach Teti’aroa, take a 15-minute puddle jumper journey from there.

Temple of Hercules at Amman Citadel in Amman, Jordan during nighttime

From March 22 through April 21, cities like Amman will be celebrating Ramadan.

Photo by Georgios Tsichlis/Shutterstock

4. Jordan

April is great for: the Middle East, but not as you know it

Ramadan in 2023 runs from March 22 through April 21, a time when observant Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset; the Arab world can seemingly go somewhat on pause in response over the same period. It’s a mistake, though, to assume that life is entirely suspended for that month. Instead, energy and excitement are channeled into the nighttime—when those fasting break it with iftar—and head out to enjoy live music at a café or a pop-up tent where there’s coffee, food, and card playing. Jordan is an ideal place for night owls to plan a trip this month: The streets will be throbbing once the sun goes down, and dinner will be available until the early hours.

If you do manage to stir before the next sundown, the balmy weather’s a boon: A daily range in Amman between the upper 50s and 70s makes it pleasant to stroll around—far more so, of course, than in midsummer. Check out the spectacular Roman ruins, like the Temple of Hercules as well as the restored, 2nd-century C.E. amphitheater in the heart of downtown, then go shopping at one of the markets here—pick among Souk Mango, Gold Souk, and Souk El-Khodra.

Where to stay: Four Seasons Amman

Splurge on a surprisingly well-priced five-star stay at the 192-room Four Seasons (that’s equally indulgent and affordable). Ask for a room on one of the upper 15 stories for the best views.

How to get to Jordan

Royal Jordanian Airlines flies to Amman from ORD, DTW, and JFK; United has service to AMM from Washington, D.C.

Sunset horizon over the Great Smoky Mountains from Morton overlook on the Newfound Gap Road in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Celebrate National Park Week by visiting the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.

Photo by ehrlif/Shutterstock

5. Gatlinburg, Tennessee

April is great for: the chance to visit the country’s most popular national park, for free

It’s National Park Week from April 22 through 28, the annual celebration of the United States’ outdoorsy treasures. Yellowstone isn’t the favorite, though. For decades, the most-visited park has been the 522,000-acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles North Carolina and Tennessee.

It’s easy to understand why: The spectacular views, anchored by the Appalachians, are unbeatable, and there are more than 800 miles of trails to hike, plus fishing and horse riding. Its notable flora and fauna are celebrated in the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, which runs from April 26 to 29. Hundreds of visitors from across the country come for professionally guided hikes that spotlight the fungi, ferns—and, yep, wildflowers—dotting the park.

Where to stay: Under Canvas Great Smoky Mountains

Go glamping at this plush, safari-style campsite set on more than 180 acres of wooded countryside right by the park’s entrance. Each tent at Under Canvas Great Smoky Mountains features king-size beds, its own en suite bathroom, and even a wood-burning stove inside.

How to get to Gatlinburg

Tennessee’s McGhee Tyson airport (TYS) is a 40-minute drive from the park. It’s served by Allegiant as well as the three major legacy carriers.

View of Port de Soller, Mallorca island, in Spain.

Travel to Mallorca is getting a lot easier, thanks to new direct routes.

Photo by vulcano/Shutterstock

6. Mallorca, Spain

April is great for: a long weekend on one of the Mediterranean’s idyllic islands

Starting this month, hop on a new direct United Airlines flight from New York to easily access this Balearic Island. It’s best known among Europeans as a fly-and-flop vacation hub, but there’s a vibrant local culture still to explore beyond those beachfront package holiday hotels. To mark Easter this month, for example, more than 30 cofrarias, or church brotherhoods, will participate in the Processo de la Sang on Maundy Thursday. Each participant will wear a hood, tunic, and a belt in their cofraria’s colors (often a costume that’s been handed down for generations). Stand on a balcony in one of the towns—Palma, the capital, has the largest such event—or line the street to soak up the atmospheric, contemplative spectacle. (There are rehearsals ahead of time, too, so keep an eye open.)

Once Lent’s concluded, feasting here includes sweet treats like robiols and crespells and meaty pies known as panades. Enjoy a snifter or two of Herbes de Mallorca, a punchy hooch spiked with everything from verbena to mint and rosemary; often, there’s a sprig of dried herb in the bottle. It’s harvest month for most of the herbs used, so expect a different kind of spectacle. If you’re staying at an Airbnb, ask your hosts if they have a homemade bottle—it’s a longtime tradition—or otherwise, pick up a bottle from the biggest commercial brand Túnel. It has produced a limited-edition range to mark its 125th anniversary this year.

Where to stay: Castell Son Claret

Hide out in Castell Son Claret, a 43-room hotel that used to be a 19th-century castle. It’s just added a new, high-end restaurant helmed by Jordi Canto, a Michelin-baiting local-born chef.

How to get to Mallorca

The new seasonal nonstop on United Airlines unlocks the island for a quick jaunt from the East Coast—it flies from EWR three times weekly, starting this month through the end of October.

Hallgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik, Iceland

If you’re ready for an early end to winter, head to Iceland in April.

Photo by Creative Family/Shutterstock

7. Reykjavík, Iceland

April is great for: celebrating Icelandic summer

April 18 is sumardgurinn fyrsti, or the First Day of Summer. Yes, it’s a little early, but this annual festival is a throwback to older times when Icelandic folks used the Old Norse calendar, which divided the year into just two seasons. This national holiday is the kickoff for summer, so you can expect parades, parties, and festivals throughout the country, especially in Reykjavík, the capital.

Don’t limit your trip to that city, though: Iceland’s moonscape-like countryside is otherworldly soon after you reach the suburbs, a destination in and of itself. There’s also noteworthy bird life dotted around the country: The nine-mile-long Látrabjarg bird cliffs on the west coast and sheer rock faces best seen from the water are a world-famous puffin habitat.

This month, look too for the loa, or golden plover, which arrives here in spring and is usually first sighted in April—once it’s spotted arriving to nest here, marked by its distinctive, monosyllabic “tuu” call—it’s another marker that winter is over, per local folklore. Expect local media coverage to treat the sighting with as much fanfare as America’s own Punxsutawney Phil.

The logistics of roaming a country as sparsely populated and rugged as this can be challenging; consider working with a specialist like Black Tomato to maximize your time in Iceland.

Where to stay: The Edition Reykjavik

Book now: The Edition Reykjavik

The dearth of deluxe accommodation in Iceland’s buzzy capital was remedied by the arrival of the Marriott-owned boutique chainlet’s 253-outpost right by the Old Harbor port—it’s a handy perch to explore the eminently walkable city on foot.

How to get to Reykjavík

Icelandair has made an effort to create a vast network of direct, nonstop flights from the USA to Reykjavík, mostly to encourage folks to use it as a stopover en route to Europe (a bonus pit stop offered free of charge). Take your pick, then, from more than a dozen North American airports depending on the season, including ORD, JFK, and SEA.

People playing instruments in the French Quarter, New Orleans

What better place to experience jazz than where it began?

Photo by f11photo/Shutterstock

8. New Orleans, Louisiana

April is great for: seeing into the soul of the Crescent City

Two words: Jazz Fest. Sure, New Orleans is a city with a soundtrack year-round, but its love of music comes to the fore this month via the 53rd year of what’s officially known as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. It’s hosted here because NOLA is where jazz was born, its mashup musicianship a reflection of the unique cultural influences that suffused its history, from Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean.

There are a dozen stages with more than 500 performance slots over a week of festivities from April 28; it usually draws around a half million people to the Crescent City. There are shipped-in headliners, of course: last year, everyone from Stevie Nicks to Ziggy Marley and the Red Hot Chili Peppers performed. But what helps give this bash its distinctive appeal is the emphasis on local performers, whose musicality is world-class—indeed, anyone can apply to be selected to perform. Look for brass musicians from local marching bands or keyboard players who usually riff at the back of the bar but can claim the spotlight for a moment or two now.

Where to stay: Hyatt Centric French Quarter New Orleans

A relatively affordable option right in the heart of the French Quarter carved out of a historic department store—hence the soaring 12-foot ceilings of most rooms—this 254-room property has an outdoor pool for a little R&R in between gigs.

How to get to New Orleans

It cost more than a billion bucks to create the sparkling new MSY airport, which opened 18 months ago, and it has made transiting here a pleasure at last. It’s served by countless airlines, including Southwest, Spirit, Delta, and JetBlue.

View of Illuminated Saint Peter`s Basilica and Street Via della Conciliazione, Rome, Italy

From specialty treats to Colosseum processions, Rome makes for a memorable Easter.

Photo by Pani Garmyder/Shutterstock

9. Rome, Italy

April is great for: experiencing Easter at its spiritual home

The Eternal City is the site of the Holy See, and for believers and nonbelievers alike, experiencing Easter Week here is a spiritual event and a spectacle.

Palm Sunday kicks off the week on April 2, and festivities also include Maundy Thursday, the day when the church honors and supports the poor. The major event of Good Friday is the Via Crucis (Station of the Cross) where a crucifix made from burning torches is raised in the night sky and led through the streets until it reaches the Colosseum; it follows from an evening mass at St. Peter’s—but you won’t need tickets to join the 20,000 or so in the procession. On Easter Day, the mass takes place in the square itself around 10 a.m. and is followed by the Pope’s blessing to the congregation, Urbi et Orbi, at noon.

Make sure to try some colomba di Pasqua or dove cake: It’s a delicious, only-in-Italy Easter treat that’s essentially a bird-shaped panettone. Take a slice from a bakery and enjoy it sitting under the trees of the Borghese gardens as spring awakens in the city.

Where to stay: Sofitel Rome Villa Borghese

This 19th-century building was once a guest house owned by a Roman noble family, and it retains its upscale retro charm even under the auspices of global operator Sofitel: The 360-degree views from its rooftop lounge, including St. Peter’s Basilica and the Borghese gardens, are a major plus.

How to get to Rome

There are direct nonstop flights on the three legacy carriers, United, Delta, and American, from many U.S. cities. Try the newly relaunched Italian flag carrier ITA for variety (and—whisper it—much better food). It connects Rome with New York and Miami nonstop.

Sea turtle swimming away in the Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia

This April, see a solar eclipse from the waters of the Ningaloo Coast.

Photo by Lewis Burnett/Shutterstock

10. Western Australia, Australia

April is great for: a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a solar eclipse

The solar eclipse this month is a hybrid, limiting viewing of the true total eclipse to a small part of the world—Western Australia and Timor-Leste specifically. This means the best way to see it is from the ocean, a chance to stare at the longest hybrid solar eclipse we’ll see until 2172. It’s dubbed the Ningaloo Eclipse because it will pass over Australia’s northwest cape, where that coast is situated. It’s a worthwhile destination whether the sun is shining or not, as Ningaloo is also home to a namesake fringing reef. Wade into the waters snorkel in hand, and it’s a just few feet until you can plunge in and start exploring.

If you’re on a yacht (lucky you), make sure to explore beyond this patch of land when the eclipse has passed—sail up and right under King’s Cascade Falls on the Prince Regent River, fish for mud crabs and barramundi in the teeming waters, and hike around Western Australia’s precious ancient Indigenous sites to see centuries-old rock art.

Where to stay: Paradise

This 114-foot Horizon motor yacht, with space for 10 guests across five staterooms, is designed especially for Australian waters, emphasizing the outdoors and equipped with surfboards, underwater sea scooters, and a raft of other toys.

How to get to Western Australia

It’s a hike from the United States, for sure: The best option is probably a Qantas flight to one of the international gateways of Melbourne or Sydney. Connect then across the country to Perth, WA’s biggest city in its southwestern corner, before taking a final flight up to Broome on the northern coast.

British-born, New York–based Mark Ellwood has lived out of a suitcase for most of his life. He is editor-at-large for luxury bible Robb Report and columnist for Bloomberg Luxury. Recent stories have led him to hang out with China’s trendsetters in Chengdu and learn fireside raps from cowboy poets in Wyoming.
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