March, named after Mars (the god of warfare), was the start of the year in ancient calendars.
It makes sense: March 21st marks the day of the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, and the Autumnal Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere.
As winter fades to spring, the psychological impact is powerful: this is a month of new beginnings, change and celebration.
It should come as no surprise, then, that many cultures around the world observe some form of new year celebrations in March. From Holi in India and Nepal to Nyepi in Bali, March offers rich cultural experiences for the solo traveller.
March baby? Astrologer Sally Kirkman reveals the best places to travel based on your star sign.
Without further ado, these are the best places to visit in March.
Average temperature: 27º / 80º
Cultural attraction: Nyepi and New Year festivities
Bali is a hugely popular destination at any time of year, and it’s not hard to see why: with its volcanic landscapes and dreamy shorelines, Bali’s natural beauty is both awe-inspiring and serene. It’s home to a deeply spiritual culture, as you’ll encounter in its ancient Hindu temples and water shrines.
However, what makes March a unique month in Bali are its Nyepi and New Year festivities. Nyepi is a Hindu festival which sees its followers observe a day of fasting, meditation and silence. At its core, this is an opportunity for contemplation and self-reflection, just before the start of the new year.
The following day, known as Ngembak Geni, is the official start of the Hindu New Year. Balinese locals gather with their friends and families to ask for forgiveness, and celebrate new beginnings.
Nyepi and Ngembak Geni will run from 25th – 26th March 2020.
Take a look at our Bali trip here.
Average temperature: 30º / 86º
Cultural attraction: Holi Festival
Jaipur, the Pink City, is the capital of Rajasthan and one of India’s finest architectural jewels. Travellers flock to this historical city all year round to experience a taste of India in its chaotic, colourful splendour. Expect sprawling hilltop forts dating back to the 16th century, palaces carved out of rose sandstone and Hindu temples constructed from white marble; moments of beauty caught between the roar of traffic and the rattle of rickshaws.
If it’s cultural vibrancy and energy that you’re after, you can really do no better than visiting Jaipur in early March, when the city comes to life with Holi celebrations. The Festival of Colour is an ancient Indian and Nepalese observance which heralds the arrival of spring and, like Nyepi, offers a chance for forgiveness and love.
What follows is a wave of joy and technicolour in the streets, as revellers chase each other with handfuls of bright powder. It’s a beautiful festival, and Jaipur is one of the best places where you can experience it. Holi in Jaipur will take place over 9th – 10th March 2020.
You can find the details of our Rajasthan trip here.
Average temperature: 26º / 79º
Cultural attraction: Holi Festival
Another country that will be gearing up to celebrate Holi in March is Nepal. The best place to soak in this riot of colour? Kathmandu. The gateway city to the Himalayas offers a rich tapestry of temples, ancient squares and vibrant markets; all unfolding beneath the formidable snow-capped mountains.
The city is home to three Durbar Squares (which translates to Royal Palace Square in English), which all boast UNESCO World Heritage status. Lined with temples, monasteries and shrines, you’ll see traces of local myths and legends peeking out of the statues and architecture here. As such, Kathmandu is a fantastic city for cultural sightseeing, alive with historical and sacred beauty. Head to Indra Chowk market to catch a glimpse of local Kathmandu life, as you meander through stalls of brightly coloured fabrics, jewellery and fresh produce.
Travel to Kathmandu over the 9th and 10th of March to see this ancient city awash with Holi celebrations.
Take a look at our Nepal trip here.
Average temperature: 14º / 57º
Cultural attraction: Cherry blossom season
If you’re considering a holiday in Japan, Kyoto is a fantastic place to start. One of Kyoto’s defining features is the way it preserves Japanese heritage and customs with respect; it’s one of the reasons why the city is considered the cultural capital of Japan.
Walk through the historical neighbourhood of Gion, Kyoto’s geisha district, for an evocative flavour of Old Japan. You’ll encounter geishas dressed in colourful robes, shuffling down lantern-lit streets; and alleys lined with traditional eateries, teahouses and temples from a former time.
It’s worth noting that Japan has recently passed a law banning photography of geishas in Gion, with on-the-spot fines for tourists who ignore the new law. With that in mind, this is a place to put your camera away and immerse yourself in its rich cultural atmosphere.
But the biggest draw of visiting Kyoto in March is the opportunity to witness cherry blossom season in bloom – an act named hanami. Hanami is about savouring the transience of the blossoms, reflecting on the inevitability of change. It’s intertwined with Japanese notions of wabi-sabi and mono no aware; a bittersweet awareness of the transience of all things.
Interested in Japan? View our trip here.
Average temperature: 15º / 59º
Cultural attraction: West Lake in spring
Another city where you can experience the beauty of spring is Hangzhou. The city is particularly famous for the West Lake, which brings together all the elements of classical Chinese beauty. Curved pagodas, stone bridges and forested banks all combine to create an enchanting effect come snow or shine.
The cherry blossoms of March bring a quiet, contemplative joy to the lake – it’s a lovely place to experience the first stirrings of spring.
Further afield, the ancient temples of Hangzhou will intrigue history-lovers among you. Head to Lingyin Temple and Feilai Feng Grottoes to explore the long history of Buddhism in China – you’ll see ancient carvings etched into stone caves, located in a clearing in the forest.
In the city, be sure to wander down Qinghefang Ancient Street for a taste of historical Hangzhou. The street is lined with restaurants, boutiques and shops selling traditional medicines, many of them dating back centuries.
Cape Town, South Africa
Average temperature: 21º / 70º
Cultural attraction: Cape Town Carnival
The port city of Cape Town, located on South Africa’s southwest coast, is renowned for its sweeping coastal landscapes. Table Mountain is one of the country’s most famous landmarks, with its iconic flat-topped plateau. It continually draws in adventure-lovers with thrilling abseils and hikes, with invigorating views of the Cape Peninsula unfolding below.
For a unique wildlife experience, head to Boulders Beach to swim alongside Africa’s only penguin colony. Or, if surfing is more your thing, head for Muizenberg or Long Beach to catch some magnificent waves.
The special draw of visiting this city in March is the chance to experience the vibrant Cape Town Carnival celebrations, which will take place on the 21st March 2020.
Take a look at our South African adventure here.
Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
Average temperature: 25º / 77º
Cultural attraction: Spring Equinox at Chichen Itza
Few destinations exude mystical intrigue and tropical beauty like the Yucatan Peninsula. Known for its Mayan ruins, Caribbean waters and white-sand beaches, it’s hard not to be drawn in by this most magical of destinations.
The town of Tulum is famous for its cenotes: the world’s largest system of subterranean sinkholes. The word ‘cenote’ means ‘sacred well’ – they were believed to be a portal through which the Mayans could commune with the gods. Nowadays, they offer an otherworldly diving experience; Cenote Dos Ojos, Gran Cenote and Cenote Ponderosa are particularly worthy of a visit.
You’ll feel a sense of Yucatan’s mysteries just as strongly above ground. The most famous structure here is the Temple of Kukulkan (El Castillo) – a testament to the Mayans’ intricate understanding of astronomy and the skies.
Travel to Chichen Itza on the Spring and Autumn equinoxes (the 20th March and the 22nd September 2020) and you’ll witness an incredible vision: the shadow of a serpent snaking down the pyramid, until it merges with the serpent head at the structure’s base.
Read more about our Yucatan adventure here.
Average temperature: 14º / 57º
Cultural attraction: Las Fallas, Valencia
Spain is one of Europe’s most varied and surprising countries. As Lonely Planet puts it, ‘Spain is both a stereotype come to life and a country more diverse than you ever imagined’.
Flamenco and bull-fighting are part of the everyday scene in some parts of Spain, yet will seem foreign in other parts of the country. In short, your experience of Spanish culture will vary depending on where you are in the country.
Take Granada, for instance. Home to the sumptuous Alhambra Palace, this is one of the best places to explore Spain’s Moorish and Gypsy history. Similarly, Seville offers a rich blend of Almohad and Gothic architecture – an ideal city-break for curious solo travellers. (Our trip to Spain visits both of these beautiful cities.)
The biggest event of March, though, is Las Fallas in Valencia. Running from the 1st -19th March, this unique festival brings together art and political satire for a show like no other. It’s a cracking celebration of irony and wit.
Take a look at our trip to Spain here.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Average temperature: 7º / 45º
Cultural attraction: Tulips in the Keukenhof Gardens
Amsterdam is a city of contrasts; one which preserves its traditions reverently, yet is unafraid to champion progressive social attitudes.
Unlike other major world capitals, Amsterdam is built for cyclists, with the majority of locals commuting by bike. As you’d expect, cycling is possibly the best way to explore this city, particularly as March brings milder weather. Bikes are readily available for rent, and you can do no better than enjoying a scenic cycle through the lovely Vondelpark.
If you’re after a hip urban atmosphere, head to Jordaan – a district as famous for its working-class roots and radical politics, as it is for its stylish cafes and quirky boutiques.
On the subject of art, Amsterdam boasts a roll call of museums to rival London. From the Van Gogh Museum to the Golden Age masterpieces in the Rijksmuseum, the Anne Frank House to the Stedelijk, there’s plenty here to intrigue lovers of art and history.
The best thing about visiting Amsterdam in March? Witnessing the Keukenhof Gardens blooming with a sea of tulips.
Find the details of our Amsterdam escape here.
Average temperature: 11º / 52º
Cultural attraction: Pagan festivities for the Spring Equinox
Located at the crossroads between Italy and North Africa, Sicily’s landscape been shaped by invading forces as varied as the Phoenicians, the Carthagians and the Greeks. This blend of influences has resulted in a rich sense of history and mythology, made even more dramatic by the formidable Mount Etna.
Lovers of architecture will be delighted by the cities here: Palermo, the capital of Sicily, is known for its Byzantine mosaics and Arab-influenced architecture, and Noto is renowned for its elegant baroque buildings. And one of the best places to explore the island’s ancient heritage is Syracuse on the Ionian Coast, where mystical caves and ruins peek out between Catholic landmarks.
Springtime in Sicily is associated with ancient folkloric rites. On the day of the spring equinox, a local tradition sees women plant pots with grains and flowers in a celebration of new life.
Discover the full details of our Sicily trip here.