Whether you fancy an Aussie music festival, a literary break in England or sake and sakura in Japan, March is an excellent month to travel. Spring breathes new life into the northern hemisphere, while riotous festivals take place everywhere from Ireland to Brazil. Here are our tips on the best places to visit in March.
See the start of the cherry blossom season on Honshu, Japan
Japan blushes at the start of each year when its cherry trees blossom. The subtropical province of Okinawa takes the lead, turning pinkish-white like candyfloss at some point in early January. But it usually takes until the end of March for cities like Tokyo and Kyoto to follow suit. Take your camera with you for some seriously kawaii ("cute") photos, and make the most of the sweet-smelling air; within a few short weeks, the blossoms will have disappeared altogether.
Learn the ropes on quiet slopes in Åre, Sweden
For downhill thrills, there’s nowhere in Europe that can compete with the Alps. But if you’re just getting to grips with skiing or snowboarding and want to avoid the crowds, why not try Sweden? Åre, a top-class resort tucked away near Norway on the edge of an ice-white lake, has had a chance to warm up slightly by March – and there’s a good mix of short runs to get you progressing quickly. Even if you end up too bruised to keep skiing after the first few days, there are off-piste activities like ice fishing and dogsledding to keep you entertained.
Meet the Pacific in Auckland, New Zealand
Each March, in a flurry of hula skirts and floral garlands, islanders from across the Pacific converge on Auckland for Pasifika Festival. At the huge two-day cultural extravaganza, held in Western Springs, you can wander through markets full of intricate carvings, watch live bands, or eat pork that’s been roasted over hot rocks, Samoan style. Islanders wanting a lasting reminder of the event aren’t disappointed, either; traditional Polynesian tattoos are also available.
Beat the rush in Recife, Brazil
Everyone knows about Rio, but Recife, more than 1,000 miles to the northeast, remains a relative unknown – for now, at least. This coastal city, once controlled by Dutch sugar traders, will be one of the places hosting games during the 2014 World Cup, attracting international attention to its sweeping tropical beaches and gleaming glass towers. Our tip is to go before the rush. Early March is the perfect time of year to visit; it’s the tail end of the region’s dry season and the city’s carnival – a sweaty four-day cacophony of dancing, drums and whistles – will just be kicking off.
Bathe yourself in books in Bath, England
Writers have long been drawn to the city of Bath. Jane Austen needed no persuasion to set a couple of her books in the spa city, and Charles Dickens picked it for parts of his first novel, The Pickwick Papers. The Bath Literature Festival, which began in 1995, marks a new chapter in the city’s bookish history. Held annually at the beginning of March, the event has attracted some of modern Britain’s most successful poets and authors, including JK Rowling, Andrew Motion and Terry Pratchett. Join them for a couple of live debates and readings, and then hear stories from days gone by on a literary tour of the city.
Head south (by southwest) to Austin, USA
If you’ve never been to the Texan capital then SXSW – a ten-day celebration of music, film and interactive arts – provides the perfect excuse to give it a try. Buying a pass for the mid-March festival won’t leave you with much money for beer and tacos (even the cheapest music pass costs more than $600). But there are literally hundreds of unofficial events taking part on the festival’s periphery, from impromptu gigs in bars to free parties run by rebellious local record labels. The only difficult part is choosing which ones to go to.
Celebrate St Patrick’s Day in Dublin, Ireland
New York does St Patrick’s Day bigger, but Dublin will always be the festival’s spiritual home. And apart from swilling Guinness and wearing silly leprechaun hats (both considered noble pursuits in these parts), there’s plenty to get involved with. On guided walking tours of the city you can learn more about the life and legacy of the fifth-century bishop called Patrick who, legend has it, banished all of the serpents from Ireland. Dozens of historic landmarks are bathed in green light for the party that’s held in his honour, and as with New York, a musical parade snakes its way through the city.