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HomeArts & CultureWhere to go when: your luxury travel calendar for April and May 2017

Where to go when: your luxury travel calendar for April and May 2017

Spring offers ideal sightseeing weather, with destinations ranging from Japan and Rome to Cuba and Australia. David Whitley rounds up where to go this Spring.

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April 2017

Japan

The spring months are when Japan turns pink, with the famous cherry blossom trees bursting into life across the country. April is the peak of cherry blossom season and hits that sweet spot where temperatures are comfortable for exploration – so it’s the perfect time for doing a highlights reel of the country. The top spots for taking in the sakura, (to give the cherry blossom its proper name), include Miyajima Island, just outside Hiroshima, and the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park near Tokyo. The former is known for the “floating” red torii gate seemingly drifting on the sea, while the latter has superlative views of Japanese icon Mount Fuji. Scott Dunn Travel puts together an eight-night cherry blossom package, staying either in five-star city hotels or traditional ryokan inns, which takes in both Miyajima Island and Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Also included are guided visits to the world’s largest fish market in Tokyo, a master swordsmith and the scenic bamboo grove in the rural Arashiyama district. Prices start at £9,200 (Dh41,676).

Emirates flies to Tokyo from Dubai for Dh3,980, including taxes

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April 2017

Rome

The Italian capital veers between chaotic (in the Holy Week run-up to Easter on the 16th) and calm in April, so pick whichever vibe you’re after. But it’s ideal sightseeing weather – it’s a lot easier to take in detailed explanations of how ancient Rome worked while walking through the Roman Forum for hours if you’re not melting. But with Rome, perhaps more than any other city, you need a good, knowledgeable guide to bring the city to life, such as architectural historian Agnes Crawford of Understanding Rome. Basic tours of the Palatine Hill, Forum and Colosseum cost €250 (Dh965) plus entrance tickets, but things get more interesting on the tours that delve into niches, such as the one devoted to Roman roads and aqueducts. April sees the reopening of the Dorchester Collection’s Hotel Eden, a marble-drenched retreat in the heart of the Old City. Rooftop restaurant La Terrazza will offer A-grade views, while rooms are decked out in gold and silver tones.

Rooms at Hotel Eden cost from €620 (Dh2,393) per night, while Etihad flies direct from Abu Dhabi from Dh2,580

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April 2017

Thailand

April is outside the prime cool and dry season for Thailand – but it’s at the point where it’s largely just hot rather than hot and wet. The wet part comes courtesy of Songkran, the Thai New Year festival between April 13 and 15 that turns the country into a giant water fight. Kids, needless to say, are likely to love it. It started off as a gentle custom of family members sprinkling a bit of water over each other. Now it involves people running through the streets bursting water balloons and firing water pistols. Major cities with plenty of tourists, such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai, are the best bets to throw yourself into it. Post-festival, head down to the islands in the south where you can cool off. Journeys Within runs a 10-night Songkran tour of Thailand, staying in family rooms at high-quality boutique hotels, for US$9,500 (Dh34,865). This starts with the Songkran festivities in Bangkok, then heads up to Chiang Mai to experience life at an elephant camp and trek to bamboo-forest villages, before boat trips and beachy R&R in Phuket.

Etihad and Emirates fly to Bangkok from Abu Dhabi and Dubai respectively, with fares starting from Dh1,760

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May 2017

Western Australia

Between April and July, the largest fish in the world migrate along Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef. The whale sharks arrive at slightly different times every year, but by May you’re pretty much guaranteed to see them, and the dry season is beginning in earnest. Swimming alongside them is one of those bucket-list ticks that doesn’t disappoint. The waters are a brilliant blue, the whale sharks staggeringly graceful and awestrikingly large. And once the day swimming with the big boys is over, there’s snorkelling on the reef to enjoy. In many places it’s only around 100 metres off the beach. The top-drawer Sal Salis tented resort on the Ningaloo Coast offers four-night whale-shark packages for 3,550 Australian dollars (Dh9,372) per person. This includes all meals, one day out with the whale sharks, plus guided snorkelling and gorge-walking adventures.

Emirates has one-stop flights from Dubai to nearby Learmonth Airport, with the Perth to Learmonth leg on a Qantas code-share. Returns cost from Dh4,930

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May 2017

Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

Two very different steeds are this quintessentially Spanish city’s focus in May. First comes the MotoGP on May 7, when the world’s top motorcyclists visit to hare around the Circuito de Jerez. Prime grandstand tickets for the big race cost €144 (Dh556). Things get less noisy and more elegantly traditional during the week-long Feria del Caballo between May 13 and 20, however. The horse fair is all equestrians in aristocratic dress, pageantry-packed multi-horse parades, flamenco dancing and musical performances. The Spanish stereotype quotient is off the scale, and the Andalusian artistry on show unashamedly plays on a rose-tinted version of the country’s culture. Two-bedroom villas at the five-star Barcelo Montecastillo Golf Resort, with its Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, are available for from €255 (Dh985) a night during Feria del Caballo.

Etihad and Emirates fly direct to Madrid from Abu Dhabi and Dubai respectively, from Dh2,860, while trains from Madrid to Jerez take less than four hours and cost from €26 (Dh101)

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May 2017

Cuba

May is a happy medium month for most of the Caribbean, just past the peak December to April tourist season, and before the rains really start to fall. But if picking one island, 2017 is probably the last time to see Cuba before the newly unleashed American tourist hordes break through the floodgates. Havana has the energy and big cultural attractions, such as performances by the Buena Vista Social Club, and Trinidad has the evocative colonial architecture. But Cuba beyond the big cities is phenomenally underrated – Viñales has green rolling hills, caves and cigar-rolling farmers, the Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve is prime birdwatching territory and the white-sand beaches of Cayo Santa María are world class.

Journey Latin America offers a 15-day Signature Cuba itinerary, including Havana, Viñales, the Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve, Trinidad and Cayo Santa Mariá, staying largely in colonial-era hotels, from £2,914 (Dh13,200) per person. Travelling via Düsseldorf on an Etihad/ Air Berlin code-share costs Dh5,530 return

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