As the world starts to open up again and our appetite for travel reemerges, the first question is: Where should I go? If you’d like to maintain social distances for the foreseeable future, you can still travel comfortably. Set your sights on the following locales, which are typically less crowded during the spring or fall. (Cover Photo by Daniela Cuevas on Unsplash)


Spring (March-May): Spring is famous for its iconic sakura (cherry blossoms), which typically bloom as early as January down south in Okinawa to as late as early May up north in Hokkaido. Join in hanami, which means cherry-blossom viewing - a huge part of Japanese culture and a time for picnics in the park under the cherry trees. Other spring highlights include fresh strawberry picking, attending the many spring festivals, taking the cable car route at Tateyama Kurobe, which opens in mid-April, and swimming at Okinawan beaches. 

Fall (September-November): With comfortable temperatures and clear weather (particularly the later into fall you get), autumn is a glorious time in Japan. The foliage is eye-catching and the crowds have dissipated. It’s a lovely time to soak in an outdoor onsen while gazing out at the kaleidoscopic hues of the hillsides. Other fall highlights include hiking Mt. Takao, attending a harvest moon or Takayama festival, hiking at Minoo Falls and exploring Nikko and Hakone. 


Spring (April-May): Springtime temperatures in Turkey are ideal for exploration. Take a hot-air balloon ride over Cappadocia and visit the Goreme Open Air Museum. Venture to Izmir on the Aegean Sea, with its beautiful beaches. And go back in time in Safranbolu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that was located on the Silk Road and is famous for its ancient mansions and Bulak Mencilis Cave. 

Fall (Mid-September-Mid-November): Fall, like spring, boasts beautiful weather, the start of fall foliage and even late-season swimming until mid-October. Visit Fethiye after the tourist crush has left town and take a road trip along the Aegean coast from Gocek to Kas. Hike the famous Lycian Trail. Visit the ancient stone houses of Mardin and enjoy the amazing local cuisine. And take advantage of harvest time at Bozcaada’s vineyards. 


Photo by Susan Tuckey, Penguins2PolarBears, December 2013

Spring (Mid-March-May): Springtime in Morocco is the best time to explore the Sahara on camelback or via four-wheel-drive, wander through Marrakesh and the Jemaa el Fna in search of souks and street food, and cycling and wildlife tracking in the Atlas Mountains. 

Fall (September-October): October is harvest month in Morocco and you’ll find many rituals and festivals taking place around this time, particularly in the High and Middle Atlas mountains, Zagora, Errachidia and Erfoud. If you’re a hiker, this is the best time to tackle Mount Toubkal, the Todra Gorge, Dades Gorge or Ouarzazate. Surfer? The temperatures are pleasant and conditions friendly to beginners in the south. 


Photo by Susan Tuckey, Penguins2PolarBears - Geiranger Fjord, July 31, 2017

Spring (May-June): Perhaps one of the best reasons to visit Norway in spring? To join the locals for the first “utepils” (outdoor beer) of the year! Secure a table in the sun in Oslo on the modern Tjuvholmen pier. The fjords are vibrant this time of year - head to the Hardanger region for the beautiful blooming fruit trees. The waterfalls, too, are at their mightiest and most glorious. (While you’re in Hardanger, don’t miss Voringsfossen.) For birdwatchers, this is prime season. There are farmers’ markets for days. And if you’re a scuba diver, this is the best time of year to do it. 

Fall (September-October): Mountain hiking is especially pleasant in the fall, with vivid autumn foliage and pleasant temperatures. This is a great time, too, to visit the best art museums and galleries in the country, without the crowds. The northern lights show up at this time, as do the humpback whales and orcas up north. And, fall is the start of sauna season - take a cold dip, then warm up in a traditional Norwegian sauna for a moment of zen.

Other favorites for spring and fall travel? Try Malta, Israel, Jordan and Australia! 

Photo by Susan Tuckey, Penguins2Polarbears - Malta, November 16, 2017

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