April is a great time to escape, with plenty on offer for every kind of traveller. We have rounded up some great ideas to put on your radar.
Istanbul is a magical place where East quite literally meets West. Bustling and beautiful, this vibrant metropolis has the perfect blend of tradition and modernity.
In Istanbul extraordinary cultural experiences and wonderful landmarks lie around every corner. From the glittering gold mosaics of the Hagia Sophia, to the elegant blue tiles of the Blue Mosque, and from the splendour of Topkapi Palace to the mystery of Basilica Cistern, this city contains a dazzling wealth of historical and architectural treasures.
Exploring the iconic sights up close is breath-taking but viewing the city from the water adds a new dimension. Cruising along the Bosphorus Strait is a fantastic way to see the skyline, as well as the various waterfront districts.
Once back on dry land stroll along the waterfront promenades moving from one neighborhood to the next, each with its own distinct character. Be sure to check out the cafés and restaurants lining the shores, serving everything from high- end Turkish fare with a modern twist, to sweet and savoury ‘on the go’ local delights.
No visit to Istanbul is complete without enjoying a dose of traditional retail therapy by soaking up the atmosphere of the colourful (and chaotic) bazaars. Roam the Spice Bazaar, where exotic aromas fill the air, and explore the Grand Bazaar, a vast labyrinth selling everything from exquisite jewellery to carpets. Even if you don’t plan to buy anything, just wandering through these bazaars is an experience worth having. The city has plenty more to offer shoppers outside of the bazaars, from trendy boutiques (Serdar-ı Ekrem Caddesi) to international brands (İstiklal Caddesi) to luxury stores (Abdi İpekçi Caddesi).
If you’re looking to get away from the city for a day or two, then take a ferry to one of Istanbul’s Prince Islands. Büyükada, Heybeliada, Burgazada and Kinaliada are the largest of the islands, each having its own special charm. These islands can only be explored by foot or by bike which makes for a particularly peaceful gateway. Whether you want to relax on the beach, discover Ottoman era mansions, or have a spot of lunch whilst watching the waves crash on rocky shores, the Princes' Islands are well worth a visit.
Your TripMapper itinerary will help you plan for, and budget for, this fabulous 'East meets West' city break!
Great time to visit (weather): Between April and May and September and October.
Cuba is more than classic cars, shabby facades, clacking dominoes and cigars. It is a country with a vibrant culture, a complex history and bewitching natural beauty.
If you want picture perfect Cuba, skip ahead to the idyllic Cuban beaches (Playa Maguana, Playa La Reina or Playa Los Cocos) and offshore islands. If you want to be amongst everyday Cuban life, see architectural splendours and hear Cuban beats, Havana should be first on your list. The crumbling backstreets and cobbled plazas of Havana, are truly seductive. Be sure to visit the Museum of the Revolution where you can learn about Cuban history and the Cuban Fine Arts Museum (Bellas Artes) which houses a beautiful collection of Cuban art.
Beyond the capital, you’ll find the rolling hills of Viñales valley, a land of lush forests, rugged mountains and dramatic rocky outcrops. Take a biking excursion, or ride on horseback through the rural villages where you will pass banana trees, traditional farms and tobacco plantations.
Now for some rest and relaxation. Lying off the southern coast of the mainland is Isla de la Juventud, a large, tear shaped island rich in natural beauty. For divers the shipwrecks, caves and coral walls of Punta Francés will be calling. Hop on a catamaran to the outlying cays around Cayo Largo to see the iguana colonies and to chill on the wild, unspoilt beaches. If unique experiences capture your attention, explore the abandoned cell blocks of Museo Presidio Modelo, a former prison with a grim but fascinating history. The forbidding atmosphere has certainly been preserved.
Now back to the mainland to visit the UNESCO world heritage sites of Trinidad and Cienfuegos. Trinidad was founded by the Spanish colonists and is a fine example of a colonial city where you can spend hours wandering the streets and beautiful plazas. Unlike Trinidad, French, rather than Spanish, colonisers were the pioneers in Cienfuegos, Cuba's 'Pearl of the South.’ Arranged around a spectacular bay, Cienfuegos is a laidback, quirky city with a real Caribbean spirit.
Finally visit the Bay of Pigs which is perhaps best known as the site of a US backed invasion. Nowadays the Bay of Pigs is a destination which draws visitors for its beautifully clear, turquoise water and variety of wildlife.
Cuba is a destination for travellers with an adventurous soul. Expect the unexpected.
Your TripMapper itinerary will help you plan for, and budget for, a trip to this enthralling island.
Great time to visit (weather): November to May, to avoid the heat and hurricanes.
Editor's note: During COVID-19 there are restrictions on travel. Check the latest guidance before booking and departing and always follow local health guidance.