We think that flowers are blooming lovely. And if you’re inclined to agree, then a well-timed trip can allow you to reap the bountiful rewards of nature and see landscapes transformed by patchworks of pigment. Some countries have come to be defined by their floral fanfares; in 2019, some 63 million people travelled to Japan during cherry blossom season, while the Netherlands’ tulip fields have become a staple of springtime. Even if you don’t plan your whole trip around these carnivals of colour, it’s worth taking note of what might be in bloom and when, so you can see destinations at their best-dressed. Here are some of the best places to see flowers around the world…
- Japan: Classic Cherry Blossom & Wistful Wisteria
- California: Prolific Poppies
- France: In Love with Lavender
- The Netherlands: Teeming with Tulips
- New Zealand: Loopy for Lupins
- The Azores: Hydrangea Hype
Cherry blossom has become synonymous with Japan, and travellers have long flocked to the island nation in March and April with the sole purpose of seeing the baby pink blooms. The Japanese word hanami is specifically dedicated to the act of viewing cherry blossom and if you’re interested in participating in the ritual, Yoshino in Kansai is Japan's most famous cherry blossom destination. From early spring, the blossoms of over 30,000 sakura trees carpet the Kii Mountains surrounding the town. But it’s not only cherry blossom that dresses Japan to impress during spring, and the world’s most revered wisteria tunnels are also found here. These violet-tinged canopies begin to bloom between mid-April and early-May, with some of the most spectacular found at Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi. The park is home to 350 wisteria trees, including the 150-year-old ofuji (Great Wisteria Tree) whose canopy features a staggering 80,000 individual purple blossoms. And if purple isn’t your colour, you’ll find a riot of other colours here too, including pink, blue, yellow and white.
California really lives up to its nickname of ‘The Golden State’ when it comes to the fields of these sunshine yellow and orange wildflowers. In fact, poppies are so ubiquitous along the West Coast that they are the official state flower and early Spanish settlers named the region ‘The Land of Fire’ in their honour. When it comes to wildflowers, Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is one of the best places to see flowers around the world. Peak poppy season typically runs from March to mid-April, although California poppies can be fickle and too much (or too little) rain results in a reduced yield. The latest bloom status and a live stream of the floral display can be found on the reserve’s website.
Come summer, the fields of Provence turn purple as uninterrupted rows of sweet-smelling lavender flourish across the landscape. Lavender is a way of life here, with the aromatic crop incorporated into oils, honey and sorbets, as well as beauty and wellness products. Some of the most iconic violet views can be found on the Plateau de Valensole, the Luberon Valley, around the village of Sault and in the Drome Provencale region. Plan your trip between June and August to see the lavender fields in their Sunday best. And if you’re longing for lavender closer to home, lilac-filled fields can be found in Surrey, Hampshire, Kent and the Cotswolds.
Another legendary location to see flowers around the world, the Netherlands. Renowned for its abundant tulip displays, the European nation is blessed with a long spring season and cool evenings, which allow for optimum tulip growth. In fact, the country has become a global leader in the farming of tulips for commercial sale. If you’d like to see them at their source, the central and north-west areas of the Netherlands are teeming with tulips. Noordoostpolder in the Flevoland region boasts the most, while Lisse plays host to the most famous; the Keukenhof Gardens and its seven-million multi-coloured tulips that bloom each spring.
Gently swaying spires of lupins line the banks of New Zealand’s azure lakes and rivers, creating picture-perfect scenes and sought-after travel spots. Vast fields of the flowers pop up around Lake Tekapo, Wanaka, Twizel and Lake Taupo, with the pale pink, mauve and magenta petals providing a pretty contrast to the vibrant blue waters of the nearby lakes. If this sounds (and looks) like your ideal photo opportunity, head for New Zealand’s South Island between November and February and prepare to be wowed by the pastel-hued panoramas.
The Azores is known for its abundance of flora and fauna, with the natural landscapes and wealth of vegetation drawing visitors to the remote Portuguese archipelago every year. But if there’s one species of flora that flourishes here in particularly, it’s the humble hydrangea. These pom-poms of pale blue, pink and white petals have become something of a symbol of the Azores and made the islands one of the best places to see flowers around the world. The unique ecology of the islands supports the plants, which were introduced from America and Asia thousands of years ago. Today, the island of Faial has been nicknamed ‘the blue island’, in recognition of the rows of blue hydrangeas which line the coastal paths. All nine of the major islands play host to them, however, and the summer months are when they emerge in all their glory.
Written by Luisa Watts