Best Spring Trips 2012 Part 1


National Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington, D.C.



Blooming pink and white blossoms have heralded spring’s arrival in the nation’s capital since 1912 when the people of Tokyo gifted Washington, D.C., with 3,000 ornamental cherry trees. The living gift spawned the nation’s signature springtime celebration, extended to five weeks (March 20 to April 27) for the 2012 centennial edition. Daily events pay tribute to the relationship between the United States and Japan. While some—like the high-energy National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade on Saturday, April 14—are date-specific, many extend through summer.

The National Geographic Museum’s “Samurai: The Warrior Transformed” exhibition, March 7 to September 3, showcases the photography of Eliza Scidmore, who played an integral role in bringing the cherry blossoms to Washington, as well as a look at the transformation of the samurai in Japanese culture. The free Library of Congress exhibition, “Sakura: Cherry Blossoms as Living Symbols of Friendship,” illuminates the story of the landmark trees through watercolor drawings, Japanese color woodblock prints and books, and photographs.

During the festival, take the U.S. National Arboretum’s self-guided “Beyond the Tidal Basin” tour to learn about ongoing efforts to preserve the District’s blooming cultural ambassadors.


Coast Path, Wales


With the completion of its 870-mile Coast Path in May, Wales—situated west of England on the island of Great Britain—is home to the longest continuous coastal path around a country. The route, comprising several long- and short-distance trails, meanders along rocky Irish Sea cliff tops, sandy beaches, former railway lines, and ancient footpaths. Fourteen-mile Glamorgan Heritage Coast Path traces the area’s rich Norman history (cross the stepping stones to Ogmore Castle). Pictured here is Nash Point.

Well-known Pembrokeshire Coast Path, the country’s first national trail, typically takes about two weeks to complete. Use the efficient coastal bus service for a more manageable one- or two-day ramble from St. Davids (Britain’s tiniest city) along towering headlands blanketed with spring blooms.

Highlights along the 60-mile North Wales Path from Prestatyn to Bangor include Coedydd Aber National Nature Reserve and Medieval Conwy Castle—one of a hundred still standing in the country. Book a room facing the castle atBodysgallen Hall & Spa, a 17th-century manor house with lily ponds and 16 stone cottages spread across 200 woodland acres.


Vienna, Austria


Austria’s romantic, richly ornamented city of the Habsburgs, Mozart, and Lipizzan stallions is turning up the lavish, Old World charm for Klimt 2012, a year-long anniversary salute honoring “Gustav Klimt and the Birth of Modernism in Vienna.” The artistic genius and Art Nouveau pioneer would have celebrated his 150th birthday in 2012.

Special Klimt exhibitions are scheduled at city museums throughout the spring. (Pictured here is the Albertina museum.) Lighter, pre-summer tourist volume makes it easier to purchase tickets for multiple events, navigate the historic First District’s narrow cobblestone streets, and linger over Viennese kaffee und kuchen (coffee and cake) at landmark Café Central. Baroque Belvedere palace (actually two palaces), housing the most extensive collection of Austrian art from the Middle Ages to the present, boasts the world’s largest collection of Klimt paintings, including “The Kiss” and “Judith I.”

From May 25 to October 14, 350 Art Nouveau textiles from the collection of Klimt’s partner and muse, Emilie Flöge, will be displayed publicly for the first time at the Austrian Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art.




The fledgling “Burma Spring” has opened an unprecedented travel window into mystical and mysterious Myanmar. As the Southeast Asian state tentatively emerges from 50 years of isolation, pro-democracy advocates urge visitors to seek out authentic geotourism experiences supporting local communities. The country’s poor infrastructure makes solo travel through Myanmar’s unexplored valleys and ancient villages challenging at best. To visit the must-see ruins of ancient Buddhist temples in Bagan (pictured here), bike to the Amarapura Monastery, and cruise down the Irrawady River (immortalized by Rudyard Kipling as “the Road to Mandalay”), sign on with an established outfitter like Woodland Travels.

Founded in 1995 by Myanmar native Win Aung, Woodland specializes in guided treks to some of the country’s most remote and exotic locales, including the Mergui Archipelago islands, where you can kayak the mile-long granite formations of Great Swinton Island. And, although Myanmar’s military government moved the country’s capital to remote Nay Pyi Taw in 2005, dailySingapore Airlines flights from New York and Los Angeles connect to Yangon (Rangoon), the former capital and largest city.


Istanbul, Turkey


Legendary hub of the Byzantine, Roman, and Ottoman Empires, Istanbul has managed to retain its character through centuries of successive change. But unprecedented urban construction and proposed development around and over the Bosphorus Strait could forever alter the fabric and feel of the city.

Pay homage to the past while visiting April’s citywide International Tulip Festivalor June’s 40th anniversary Istanbul Music Festival (May 31-June 29) featuring 750 artists and 23 music performances. Wake to the call to prayer in Sultanahmet, the city’s ancient core, where navigating the maze of alleyways can feel as mystifying as the must-see places: Hagia SofiaTurkish and Islamic Arts Museum (housing 800-year-old Selçuk rugs), the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar (last stop on the Silk Road), and the hauntingly lit Basilica Cistern (the largest of the ancient reservoirs hidden beneath the city), pictured here. To gain perspective on the potential impacts of Bosphorus development, soak in the passing panorama from the deck of one of the continent-dividing strait’subiquitous ferries.


Part Two follows March 13, 2012