Franschhoek, South Africa
To enjoy cool but sunny days in South Africa’s foodie capital, come to Franschhoek from March to May. Trails wind around kaleidoscopic wildflower meadows and gentle sunlight bathes the Franschhoek Valley in an auburn glow. The town has a colonial heritage and a strong winemaking tradition; it was the first place the French made wine in South Africa over 300 years ago.
No matter how many photographs you’ve seen of Machu Picchu, nothing comes close to the real thing. After several days of trekking, the sight of this Inca citadel and expertly-constructed agricultural terraces soaring out of the mist in the middle of the Andes is spine-tingling. And April marks the end of the rainy season, before peak season kicks off, so tourist numbers will be lower.
Saint Petersburg, Russia
With the long Baltic winter loosening its grip and the summer tourist rush yet to arrive, spring is a good time to visit Saint Petersburg. Festival season is just beginning, the weather gets warmer, and you get to watch great shards of ice melting as they flow down the city’s rivers and canals. Take a backstage tour of the Mariinsky Theatre, revel in Russian Orthodox Easter celebrations, and enjoy the city’s fine dining, from game and caviar to truffle-infused dishes.
Assisi is an impossibly perfect hill town set amid the undulating olive grove and cypress-topped landscape of Umbria. It’s one of Italy’s foremost cultural and historical assets, valuable for its 13th-century frescoes, the magnificent Basilica de San Francisco, and as the birthplace of the patron saint of Italy, St Francis. During the spring shoulder season, queues are shorter, prices are lower and the blossoming Umbrian countryside is emptier. Plus, come spring, much of the region’s rich cuisine is at its best; Umbria’s famous salami, prosciutto, and pancetta has been cured and is at its prime, and vegetables such as wild asparagus are back on the menu.
Yakushima may be one of the rainiest places on Earth but what you lack in predictable weather, you make up for in natural beauty. It’s a subtropical, mountainous island cloaked in ancient, evergreen forest, with hot springs and exotic fauna. Spring arrives on the island with an eruption of shades of green and the scent of moss and flowers pervades the lush woods. And ‘yamazakura’ (hill cherry) covers the mountain in a pink haze.