The 20 best holidays for spring 2021

·13 min read
tulips in new york - Getty
tulips in new york - Getty

What was the expression the doctor used to resort to when, as a small child, you were led into the surgery for your measles immunisation? “Don’t worry, this won’t hurt a bit.” It wasn’t strictly true, even as the consolatory lollipop distracted your from the plaster being applied to your skin – and it won’t be wholly accurate now. But here we are, nearing the end of a dreadful year, and a sharp jab in the upper arm is a definite reason to be cheerful.

Recent weeks have brought increasingly good news about the hunt for a Covid vaccine – from Germany, from the USA, from Oxford. And this time, there will be no need for lollipops. The enormous consolation for the needle-prick will be an escape from the virus that has dogged our lives for a year, a return to normality, and the prospect of travel as we remember it from the vague mists of 2019 – free of PCR tests and quarantine restrictions. 

When? Pretty soon. In the UK, vaccinations for some groups are to start early next week – with immunisation of the wider populace continuing in the new year. And this brings with it the alluring image of travel picking up again fully just as winter packs its bags – of an April and May when borders and beaches are open, and all those holidays that were dreamed of amid the gloom off 2020 are suddenly possible again.

The suggestions in this feature focus on those two months – whether it be for Easter breaks on Spanish shores, a setting off on the longer-haul journeys that have been so impractical of late, or a return to destinations, from America to Africa, that have been closed off since March.

Don’t worry, this won’t hurt a bit? Now you mention it, doctor, it won’t hurt at all.

Beaches

1. Thailand

Our laboratory-brokered breaking of Covid’s chains will not come soon enough for easy travel over the new year. But if you wait for April, you should be able to salute the arrival of a fresh calendar for a second time – and, better still, on a tropical beach. Songkran, the version of New Year celebrated across much of South-East Asia, is particularly lively in Thailand, where it extends to three days – April 13-15 in 2021.

Thailand will be a good spot for a beach holiday - Getty
Thailand will be a good spot for a beach holiday - Getty

A nine-night break over these dates at the four-star Amari Phuket, flying from Heathrow via Bangkok on April 10, costs from £1,402 per person, via Virgin Holidays (0344 472 9646; virginholidays.co.uk). 

2. Barbados

April and May tend to be excellent months to dash to the Caribbean. In normal times, the post-Christmas rush has slowed, while the hurricane season of June-November is but a twinkle in an Atlantic breeze’s eye. And, assuming you avoid Easter (April 4 in 2021), prices should be lower than in January and February. Barbados has already shown itself willing to restart tourism, having beckoned Covid-free British visitors back in October – and will continue to welcome us next year.

A 14-night all-inclusive escape to the couples-only Sandals Royal resort on the south coast, flying from Heathrow on April 17, costs from £4,219 per person, via British Airways Holidays (0344 493 0787; ba.com/holidays). 

3. The Seychelles

April is also conducive to holidays in the Indian Ocean’s prettiest archipelago. The fifth month is not quite peak season in the Seychelles, but with the trade winds of November-March dissipating, and rain becoming less of an issue as a consequence, you can expect 30C warmth to go with the (somewhat) lower prices.

This is certainly hot enough for a 10-night trip to the four-star Hilton Seychelles Northolme on Mahé – yours from £2,334 a head, flying from Heathrow on April 24, via Sovereign (01293 832458; sovereign.com).  

4. The Maldives

Anything the Seychelles can do, its oceanic “neighbour” can reprise – with slightly more sculpted beaches, and a mildly heavier focus on water villas. April brings temperatures of 32C, and the happy knowledge that monsoon season does not skulk in until May – or peak until June. A week’s half-board stay at the five-star Maafushivaru resort, flying from Manchester on April 17, starts at £2,507 a head, via Kuoni (0800 140 4764; kuoni.co.uk). 

Blue waters in The Maldives - getty
Blue waters in The Maldives - getty

Families

5. Tenerife

An immunised spring should come just in time for the UK-wide Easter school holiday that is inked into the diary for April 3-18. For many parents, this fabulous fortnight will feel like the first chance to go away with their children – without walking a pandemic- and quarantine-tightrope – for the first time in more than a year. The Canaries are as reliable an option as ever in this corner of the calendar, day-dreaming in temperatures of around 20C.

A seven-night half-board break for a family of four at the five-star Sheraton La Caleta Resort & Spa on Tenerife’s south-west coast – departing from Heathrow on April 10 – costs from £4,003 in all, with Destinology (01204 874 536; destinology.co.uk). 

6. Mallorca

Spain’s “other” archipelago will also be in demand at Easter – the Balearic Islands were the most searched-for destination on Vrbo (020 8827 1971; vrbo.com) during the first three weeks of lockdown. Fortunately, the short-term rentals website still has a wealth of Mallorca properties available during the school holiday. Pitched near the heart of the landmass, 10 miles inland from Alcudia Bay, the four-bedroom Finca Sa Canova d’Ariany (property 2843981) and its big pool can be booked for £1,494 in the week of April 10-17.

Cruises

7. The Danube

A vaccine will pick the padlock on the close-quartered travel experience that is cruising – liberating operators from the tyranny of a situation where one sneeze can send a whole ship back to dock. Plenty of them have lengthy voyages pencilled into the diary for the spring. These include Emerald Waterways (0808 231 0313; emeraldwaterways.co.uk), and its range of journeys along the Danube.

Sail down the Danube  - Getty
Sail down the Danube - Getty

Among them is an 11-day jaunt from Prague to Budapest, starting in the former on May 6, that, in forging into Austria and Hungary, will revel in crossing borders that Covid closed at various times in 2020.  Prices for this sailing start at £2,820 per person, including airport transfers and excursion (flights extra).

8. Holland and Belgium

A proper parting of the Covid-clouds in April will also come in time for tulip season in the Netherlands – not least at the Keukenhof (keukenhof.nl), the huge botanical garden in Lisse, which has already announced its spring opening dates as March 20-May 9. This will fit with Viking River Cruises’ (0800 319 6600; vikingrivercruises.co.uk) running of a selection of spring sailings in search of Dutch bulbs and brightness.

Its 10-day “Tulips & Windmills” trip across Holland and Belgium (which pauses at the Keukenhof), will leave Amsterdam six times in April (and three in March). From £2,145 per person, flights extra.

9. The Nile

Covid has only exacerbated Egypt’s travel woes over a last decade in which the image of North Africa’s great ancient nation as a safe destination has – largely unfairly – been damaged. This means that, even if a vaccinated April brings new scope to cross the Mediterranean, footfall is likely to be sparse at the incomparable sites which frame the continent’s longest river – adding up to an ideal month to glimpse the Valley of the Kings and the Pyramids.

Trafalgar (0800 533 5619; trafalgar.com) has four editions of its “Egyptian Voyager” – a nine-day Nile tour which goes as far south as Aswan, as far north as Alexandria – scheduled for April (and five for May). From £2,375 a head; flights extra.

Africa

10. Botswana

It is not just Egypt that has been hard to reach in 2020. With the exceptions of Namibia and Rwanda, which were added to the “travel corridor” list last month, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has maintained blanket advice against travel to the whole African continent since late March. A healthier 2021 should, therefore, prompt a reunion with the likes of Botswana. And April would be an appropriate moment to get reacquainted with the home of the Okavango Delta. It sees floods begin to pour in to this wetland marvel, making for excellent game-viewing.

Reunite with Botswana in 2021 - getty
Reunite with Botswana in 2021 - getty

Expert Africa (020 3405 6666; expertafrica.com) offers a seven-night “Kudu Safari” which settles at two of the area’s luxury lodges. Prices for April start at £5,750 per person - with international flights.

11. Mozambique

April and May are also opportune months to head to the long and lovely country at Africa’s south-eastern corner. Mozambique’s heaviest rains fall between December and March, but the skies brighten in the weeks that follow. A perfect period to take a slow boat along what is a glorious stretch of Indian Ocean coastline? Undoubtedly.

Original Travel (020 7978 7333; originaltravel.co.uk) sells a 14-day “Mozambique by Dhow” odyssey, which ebbs through the sandbar outcrops of the Quirimbas Archipelago, and stops to appreciate the sunrise on idyllic Ibo Island. From £7,070 per person, with flights. 

12. Morocco

Closer to home, but no less enchanting, Morocco is ripe for rediscovery in a post-vaccine world. And spring – which holds back the heat of the North African summer, while letting winter-weary Europeans feel sun on their skin – is the season in which to do it.

Exodus Travels (020 8131 5081; exodus.co.uk) has this weather-window in mind in the planning of its “Atlas Panorama” tour. It has three editions of this eight-day group hiking odyssey through the country’s internal mountain range planned for April (and a further departure slated for May). Prices start at £949 per person including flights and riad accommodation.

Legzira Beach, Morocco - Getty
Legzira Beach, Morocco - Getty

The USA

13. New York

The new year is likely to be a reset – in terms of politics, as well as public health – for the USA, and New York is sure to be in the mood to embrace changing times. The Big Apple has had a well-documented struggle with Covid, but will step ebulliently into the spring of 2021. As it always does. April is a fine time to visit the city, with the harsh American winter on the retreat, but the heat of July and August yet to begin stalking the streets.

A seven-night break at the Parker (a five-star hotel, three blocks south of Central Park, where you can immerse yourself in the spirit of the metropolis), flying from Heathrow on April 24, costs from £965 per person through Travelbag (020 39187598; travelbag.co.uk). 

14. Florida

The Sunshine State rarely betrays the promise inherent in its nickname, and will be nicely lodged in the mid-Twenties Celsius by the time April swings into position. Bon Voyage (0800 316 3012; bon-voyage.co.uk) sells a 10-day “Art Deco & Awesome Beaches” road  trip that begins in Miami, crosses the Everglades, and slips up the Gulf coast, concluding in the hugely underrated city of Tampa. From £1,895 per person, with flights and hire car.

Culture and history

15. Pompeii

The pandemic may prove to have been of small benefit to one of Italy’s most significant archaeological jewels. The closure of Pompeii has allowed for repairs to the site – as well as work on unexcavated areas that has unearthed “fresh” victims of the 79AD disaster (reborn as the plaster-cast effigies for which the city has become famous).

Cultural-break specialist Martin Randall Travel (020 8742 3355; martinrandall.com) will be in Campania in time to meet these “newcomers” – via a six-day “Pompeii & Herculaneum” escorted tour that is planned for April 12-17. From £2,290 per person (including flights to Naples).

16. The Peloponnese

If your idea of a historical trip is not just admiring an important site, but sifting the dirt to widen the understanding of it, the rare opportunity scheduled by New Scientist Tours (020 7251 0045; newscientist.com/tours) for May 14-20 will certainly appeal. This week-long endeavour on Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula will see participants delve into the story of ancient Mycenae – literally, in the case of the three “behind the ropes” days that will see them help archaeologists with current research.

Dig into history in the Peloponnese - getty
Dig into history in the Peloponnese - getty

The tour starts at £1,995 a head, excluding flights – but including hotel accommodation in gorgeous seaside town Nafplio.

Sport

17. The US Masters

The sporting calendar has been one of the most obvious (if ultimately least significant) victims of the pandemic. One clear example was the recent sight of the US Masters – arguably the most hallowed of golf’s four “Majors” – being played not on the sun-dappled fairways of Georgia in April, but amid November greyness. It will, though, be back in its standard groove next year – the 2021 event has been confirmed for April 8-11. And travel packages are already available.

The five-night “Championship Experience” sold by Your Golf Travel (0800 193 6612; yourgolftravel.com) costs from £11,950 per person – with return flights, accommodation in Augusta, and tickets for all four days of the tournament.

18. Giro D’Italia

Covid has also led professional cycling a not-so-merry dance this year. Italy’s three-week grand tour was pushed back to October – a month when, under rainy skies, the Dolomites were starting to think more of skis than bikes. Thankfully for competitors and spectators alike, the 2021 race has reverted to its spring slot (May 8-30). This should make for drier pedalling for those brave souls who want to follow the event in the saddle, rather than on the TV.

Grand Tours Project (0041 78 694 3727; grandtoursproject.com) is now taking bookings for their tours which allow amateurs to ride the exact roads used by the Giro – on the same day. Packages vary in duration – but start at €2,250 per person (flights extra).

19. Monaco

Even the gilded realm of Formula One has not been immune to Covid. Lewis Hamilton et al have found themselves largely confined to Europe this year – with some of the most glamorous races notable by their absence. Among them has been the most fashionable of all, the Monaco Grand Prix – which was cancelled in March. Its return in 2021, on the weekend of May 22-23, will be a cause for chic applause.

Monaco Grand Prix should return next year - Getty
Monaco Grand Prix should return next year - Getty

A three-night trip, including accommodation, flights, and grandstand tickets for the Saturday and Sunday, costs from £1329 per person through Gullivers Sports Travel (01684 878 683; gulliverstravel.co.uk). 

Skiing

20. Val Thorens

April can be an inconsistent month for a break on Alpine slopes – with no guarantee that a warming planet will have left thick layers of snow to play upon. But Val Thorens is as close as you can come to a sure thing for a post-Easter ski break. The French resort, part of the Trois Vallées constellation, is Europe’s highest, perched at an elevation of 2,300m (7,546ft) – with its piste zone extending to a top elevation of 3,230m (10,597ft).

A seven-night half-board stay at the four-star Hotel Le Sherpa, flying from Leeds-Bradford on April 10, costs from £1,049 per person through Inghams (01483 667748; inghams.co.uk).