From a remote, idyllic island to the world's design capital, these Asian destinations have never been better. Start planning your April travel now.
Travelers today are more aware than ever of all the world has to offer. It’s thrilling to be confronted with so much possibility — but daunting, too. Each year, we curate a list of the best places to travel in the months ahead. Here below are some of the best places we suggest for an April trip.
Iya Valley, Japan
Known as the Tibet of Japan, the remote Iya Valley is tucked away in the mountainous interior of Shikoku, the least visited of the country’s four main islands. Tourism to the region took a leap forward when it hosted the World Rafting Championship in 2017 — putting its turquoise Class Four rapids firmly on the adventure-travel map. New ziplines and hiking trails are sprouting up in the canyons, while upgrades have been made to accommodations in the area’s traditional thatched-roof farmhouses, or minkas. Chiiori House is the most luxurious; the property also maintains an excellent portfolio of more affordable options.
In the April, most of Japan is decorated with delicate pink cherry blossoms and a sense of fun and optimism prevails. This is Japan at its most picturesque with parks in bloom and ancient castles framed by pretty flowers. The Japanese will often picnic under trees sharing food and drinks with friends and family. It's an extremely popular time to travel around Japan so book early to ensure availability and better prices.
Thai tourism is as robust as ever: more than 21 million international visitors poured into the capital in 2017, making it the world’s most visited city. To accommodate all those arrivals, the metropolis is welcoming a bevy of posh new hotels in the coming year. The Waldorf Astoria Bangkok will have a spa, rooftop bar, and outdoor infinity pool overlooking the Royal Bangkok Sports Club, while the 155-room Bangkok Edition will open this summer in Maha Nakhon, a towering skyscraper with a swirl of cubical cutouts wrapping around the building. Four Seasons and Capella both have properties in the works on the Chao Phraya Estate, a lush riverfront development that’s part shopping and dining destination, part tropical escape.
The Michelin Guide will make its long-awaited debut here this year, drawing attention to one of the world’s most dynamic culinary scenes. And for art lovers, there’s a flock of brand-new multipurpose creative spaces to explore, including the Thailand Creative & Design Center, which just relocated to a former General Post Office on historic Charoen Krung Road; and ChangChui, an immense complex of bars, shops, and restaurants constructed out of upcycled materials, including an airplane salvaged from the scrap pile.
Luang Prabang, Laos
Landlocked Laos might be quieter than Southeast Asian neighbors like Vietnam and Thailand, but 2018 could transform the country into the region’s next hot spot. Wattay International Airport, in the capital of Vientiane, is set to complete a terminal expansion to accommodate more international links next year, but the biggest changes are foot in the UNESCO World Heritage–inscribed town of Luang Prabang, in central Laos. This serene riverside spot lures travelers to its golden Buddhist temples, French-colonial architecture, hiking trails, nearby elephant sanctuaries — and now, glamorous new digs.
Last year, the design-forward Azerai opened inside a century-old French-colonial building that was formerly an officer’s quarters. The debut concept from Aman Resorts founder Adrian Zecha has airy, light wood interiors that nod to local culture in their use of batik textiles and Laotian artwork. There’s also an 80-foot swimming pool in a tree-shaded central courtyard. The upcoming Rosewood Luang Prabang aims to be a destination in itself. Opening in mid 2018, this highly anticipated resort.
A century ago, Shanghai was China’s star city, a cosmopolitan center of art, technology, and finance. Today, it’s reclaiming that mantle, parlaying the economic boom that began in the 1990s into a world-class array of cultural and culinary attractions. On the West Bund riverfront, Tank Shanghai will transform disused oil tanks into a sprawling arts complex with a gallery, an education center, and parks when it’s completed later this year. Further north, the Norman Foster and Thomas Heatherwick–designed Fosun Foundation, with its façade of shifting bronze cylinders, began hosting performances and art shows last fall. The North Bund is being redeveloped with a park linking it to a new lifestyle development that’s anchored by the city’s first W Hotel.
In the residential Minhang district, Cordis debuted in May, and Amanyangyun will open nearby after relocating Ming and Qing dynasty buildings, as well as 10,000 ancient camphor trees, from Jiangxi province. More luxury stays are still to come in 2018, including the Middle House, the Bulgari, and the Edition.
As Bali goes increasingly upmarket, it now offers visitors access to a buzzing food scene in Ubud, its cultural capital, as well as an island-wide luxury-hotel boom. The Ubud Food Festival, which is in its fourth year, showcases the diverse flavors of the Indonesian archipelago in dozens of events, including cook-offs, demos, talks, food tours, and events in new restaurants. Notable newcomers on the town’s food scene include Spice, a casual Asian-fusion restaurant from Chris Salans, formerly Bouley Bakery’s chef de cuisine and head chef at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon; Room4Dessert from Will Goldfarb, whose now-closed avant-garde New York eatery of the same name won him a James Beard nomination; and Moksa, a vegan café, bakery, and organic farm with its own grocery.
Heading up the wave of new high-end hotels is luxury Japanese chain Hoshino Resorts, which unveiled Hoshinoya Bali, 30 thatched-roof villas in the rain forest outside Ubud. Capella Ubud will launch 22 ultra-luxury tents, each with an outdoor saltwater Jacuzzi pool, in early 2018. And Jumeirah Bali plans to debut 123 villas surrounded by tropical gardens in upscale Jimbaran in mid 2018. A two-year overhaul at Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay means its villas will now have bigger bedrooms and better ocean views, while at Four Seasons Sayan in the Ubud rain forest, guests are being offered a new activity: being rocked to sleep in a silk hammock in a bamboo hut by an former Buddhist nun, the resort’s wellness mentor.
Hanoi, which is way up north, a bit inland from Vietnam's coast, is one of the few cities in Southeast Asia where it's nice in April. Nearly everywhere else is sizzling hot and humid as well, so it's really best avoided. Hanoi is actually quite nice in April, and of course so is Halong Bay, which is a very popular trip nearby.
You can also go up into the nearby mountains to visit Sapa or other villages near the China border. It's all very cheap and the crowds are thin in April so you'll have much of it to yourself. But seriously, avoid Saigon and that area unless you are a fan of heatstroke.
By the time April rolls around it's getting very hot in Goa, even at night, so booking a place with air conditioning is pretty much essential. Since nearly everyone who comes to this Indian state does so to sit on or near the beach then it's still very nice with the sea breezes and all that.
The famous Goa party season is totally over after Easter, and barely going at all after February, so you won't find many DJ parties on the beach, but you will find great deals at nice hotels in towns up and down the coast here. The cheapest places don't have A/C and even with a ceiling fan it might be hard to sleep in April in Goa.