Whether you’re still trying to figure out your summer travel plans, have already turned to fall, or already are thinking about next spring (many bucket-list trips need to be booked a year in advance, after all), we’ve gathered here a handful of memorable options for your next trip. These are the trips you should be booking in April if you want to experience nature’s greatest marvels and cultural extravaganzas at their best possible moments.
(Don’t miss the rest of our series on what trips to book in each month of the year. If you prefer to know which destinations are ideal for traveling to in any given month, see our Where to Go When series, and don’t miss our comprehensive guide to the benefits of booking early.)
Mexico’s La Guelaguetza Festival
One of Mexico’s biggest and most colorful festivals, La Guelaguetza takes place in Oaxaca on two different dates in July (this year, it’ll be on July 17 and 24). The celebration, also known as Los Lunes del Cerro or Mondays on the Hill, includes traditional dances, music, parades, art, costumes, and folk tales from the indigenous people who make up nearly half of Oaxaca’s population.
Why book in April? Tickets for the festival go on sale in May; if you get the dates of your trip and your hotels nailed down now, you’ll be ready to snap up event tickets as soon as they’re available.
For: mid-May to mid-September
Norway’s fjords are iconic for good reason: These deep valleys, cut by glaciers along the country’s western coast, combine gorgeous landscapes with picturesque little fishing villages. You can cruise into the fjords, and go hiking and biking along their edges. The flowers and waterfalls are most impressive in the spring, while mid-June to mid-August usually sees the best weather (and nearly endless days). From mid-August to mid-September, the leaves start turning, and prices can be lower too.
Why book in April? There are only a few top-quality hotels in the fjord region, making it hard to find an available room for peak season if you wait until after Easter to book. The savviest guides get booked first as well.
Fall in Ireland
For: September and October
Autumn hits the sweet spot in Ireland, when the summer crowds have left favorite sites such as the Cliffs of Moher and the Ring of Kerry—but the fine weather remains. And there are fun events taking place too, such as the Galway Oyster Festival and the Cork Jazz Festival.
Why book in April? Ireland is extremely popular among travelers right now, so you have to book early—even for travel during the shoulder season—if you want dibs on the most well-connected guides and prime rooms at the most atmospheric hotels (a lake-view room at Aghadoe Heights Hotel, say).
Hiking in China
Sichuan Province’s Yading Nature Reserve is full of turquoise lakes and holy mountain peaks that are the beautiful backdrops for invigorating hiking and camping. It has been home to Tibetan monasteries for more than 800 years, but the area wasn’t familiar to the outside world until the first Westerner to visit published his photographs in National Geographic in 1931 (which some think were the inspiration for the “Shangri-La” depicted in James Hilton’s explorer classic Lost Horizon). Today you’ll find isolated mountain temples, lamaseries, and Tibetan towns. In October, the red, yellow, and green trees form a particularly dazzling autumnal vista.
Why book in April? Although Yading Nature Reserve is still off the beaten path, it’s becoming more popular with domestic travelers. Book now to ensure you’ll have the best hotels and highest-caliber guides to help you take in your own slice of serenity.
A Polar Bear Safari
For: October and November
Every fall, the shores of Hudson Bay in Churchill, Canada, transform into a polar bear kingdom as the mighty mammals make their annual migration to the sea ice. There is no other place on earth where humans can see so many polar bears so easily. Experience the thrill of wildlife watching from the safety of a customized polar rover.
Why book in April? The window for polar-bear viewing in Churchill is narrow and demand is high; book now to claim a spot before they sell out.
India’s Pushkar Camel Fair
For: October and November
One of the most magical festivals in a country with a calendar full of them, the Pushkar Camel Fair is a spectacle of livestock trading and religious observance, with tens of thousands of camels and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims in attendance. The event ends on the full moon (November 4 in 2017), and villagers start arriving en masse about ten days prior. The best time to visit is during the first few days, when the focus is on animal trading and you can stroll the bazaars.
Why book in April? The bottleneck for Pushkar is the limited number of good-quality hotels and tented encampments in the area. If you wait until May, you’ll likely be stuck in poor-quality accommodations that are quite far from the action.
A Canal Barge Cruise through Tulipmania
For: April and May 2018
Spring is tulip time in the Netherlands, of course, and one of the best ways to see the colorful display is via a barge slowly cruising the country’s canals. You’ll stop at Keukenhof Gardens, where seven million bulbs are in bloom, as well as in the canal-ringed city of Delft (once home to the painter Johannes Vermeer), and you’ll pass many of Holland’s iconic windmills set amid the photogenic spring landscape.
Why book in April? Only two of the barges plying the canals of Holland live up to our Trusted Travel Expert’s high standards, and the season is short—so you need to book early to reserve your cabin.