There are so many great reasons to travel to Europe in spring and early summer, whether you’re keen to escape the long British winter, eager to see the sights before the summer crowds arrive, or simply looking to snap up a bargain
There is a lot to be said for visiting Europe’s top city break destinations out of season, as anyone who’s been to Venice in the height of summer will attest. Summer in the Med brings cruise ships, backpackers, stag parties and families on school holidays, and the beautiful old towns of Dubrovnik, Prague and Lisbon are often packed to bursting with tourists. In spring, however, you can enjoy the continent’s most popular cities without the crowds.
Tauck offer a fantastic ‘Heart of Italy’ small group tour visiting the cities of Venice, Florence and Rome during the spring months, with exclusive experiences such as an after-hours tour of the Vatican and lunch with a countess at a Venetian palazzo. Solo travel specialists Just You have some great options too, including an in-depth exploration of Lisbon, Cascais and Sintra. The Portuguese capital is back in fashion right now, and this tour allows you to enjoy the city during the quieter spring months.
Spring and early summer is the perfect time for those who like it warm but not too hot, with pleasant temperatures that are ideal for sightseeing. This is a great time to visit islands like Cyprus, Sicily or Crete, where temperatures range from the high teens to the low twenties Celsius during April, and it’s also a great time for a city break in southern Spain or Portugal.
Adventure experts Explore! offer an appealing 7-day self-guided walking tour of south west Crete, including coastal trails, gorgeous villages such as Omalos and Loutro, and the impressive Samaria Gorge. Another exciting option is Prestige Holidays’ ‘Cyprus Highlights’ escorted tour with former MP and journalist Martin Bell OBE. Departing in April, this one-off tour includes visits to Kyrenia Castle, the Troodos mountains and the fascinating divided city of Nicosia.
Spring is tulip season in Belgium and the Netherlands, when the countryside lights up with a rainbow of vibrant colours. This is the time to enjoy those classic Low Countries landscapes of windmills, dykes and tulip fields, with the blooms generally at their most dazzling around the end of April. Opt for a tour that includes the famous Keukenhof Gardens, such as Leger Holidays’ 4-night ‘Dutch Bulbfields and Delights of Amsterdam’ tour. This UK coach departure is the perfect option for a springtime short break.
Late April and early May is also a great time to visit the Portuguese island of Madeira, when the Flower Festival fills the streets of Funchal with fragrant blooms and lively parades. Titan Travel offer a special 7-night tour to coincide with the festival, which includes trips to botanical gardens, pretty villages and the Madeira Wine Company.
Iceland has become hugely popular in recent years, and this small, sparsely populated island can feel a little crowded during high season. Spring and early summer is a great time to visit, when the winter snow has melted, daylight has returned and the crowds are yet to arrive en masse. Early April is the beginning of the puffin season, when 60% of the world’s Atlantic puffins come to the cliffs of Iceland to breed. And these loveable little birds aren’t the only wildlife attraction at this time of year, with whale watching trips from Husavík starting in May.
Well-established operator Collette offers a number of Iceland tours highlighting different aspects of the island. ‘Iceland: Land of Fire and Ice’ ticks off the classic sites of the Golden Circle and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, along with a trip to the volcanic beach at Reynisfjara, where the cliffs are alive with seabirds. Alternatively their ‘Icelandic Adventure’ tour focuses more on the north, including Akureyri, Lake Mývatn and whale watching in Husavík.
With the exception of the Easter weekend, the spring months tend to fall into the travel industry’s ‘shoulder season’. Although prices are higher than in winter, they can still be significantly cheaper than the summer peak season. There are always bargains to be had for those with a little flexibility, especially if you’re able to travel outside of school holidays. You can also squeeze maximum value out of your annual leave allowance if you’re canny with the bank holidays in May!
And if you still haven’t booked your spring holiday for 2018 then now’s the time, with some great last minute offers available from some of our favourite escorted tour operators. Take a look around the TourHound website and you’re sure to find something to tempt you - simply Search, Compare, Select.