People plan trips around any number of activities – food, sports, adventure activities, hiking, biking, or drinking. Many plan a long-term, RTW trip around festivals, which are always a good way to get acquainted with the local culture. Today’s article combines major cultural events with a theme that directly relates to beauty and elegance: flowers. From the Netherlands to India and Japan, flowers are slowly starting to get the attention they deserve in the traveling industry. Nowadays, visitors can easily dive into the sea of colors and fragrances of beautiful gardens around the world. Here are eight of the most spectacular and captivating destinations for flower enthusiasts:
1. Valley of Flowers National Park, India
A strikingly beautiful place enriched with spiritual meaning by the locals, the Valley of Flowers in India is the reward you get after an eight hour hike in the Himalayas. Located in northern India’s state of Uttarakhand, this magical land (some say visited by fairies) is a display of nature in its most colorful form. 500 different varieties of wild flowers are casually spread over an area of 55 square miles (87.5 square kilometers), contrasting the delightful soberness of the mountainous background. The closest you can get here by road is by reaching Govind Ghat, a small town also known as the starting point for the famous trekking route. From here on, travelers embark on a difficult, but memorable mountain trail, towards Ghangaria base camp, situated at an altitude of 10,000 feet (3049 meters), about 2.5 miles (4 km) away from the Valley of Flowers. Various hotels, camping grounds, restaurants, and shops make this a good place to rest and prepare for the last part of the journey. Best time to visit Valley of Flowers is during summer (July-August), when the flowers are in full bloom. Be sure to bring along thick clothes (as the weather is unpredictable) and extra sandwiches for the hike. The park admission fee is 600 rupees ($12) for foreigners and 150 rupees for Indians for a 3 day pass.
2. The Medellín Flower Fair, Antioquia, Colombia
Every year, during the first 10 days of August, the town of Medellin, situated in Antioquia region, Colombia, gets flooded with color. The Medellin Flower Fair is a chance for the inhabitants of the city, as well as its many tourists, to witness over 140 traditional events, from classic car parades to horse fairs and orchestra festivals- all integrated in a flower-decorated environment. The most awaited event of the fair is the Desfile de Silleteros, a parade with an impressive tradition in Colombia. “Silleteros” are the farmers who make exquisite flower arrangements on an object resembling a chair, which is then proudly carried around on the backs of men, women, and children during the fair. As much as seventy types of flowers (depicting the culture of the carrier) are used to develop each arrangement. The “silletas” can reach up to five meters in height and carry up to seventy kilos. In 2012, the Medellin Flower Festival will take place between the 3rd and 12th of August. Participating at this unique fair will give you a chance to get familiar with the culture and the habits of Colombia, at minimum costs, as most of the events are free of charge.
Book a flight to Medellin, find a hostel in Medellin, and read Why You Should Ignore Everything You’ve Heard and Go to Colombia
3. Provence, France
A haven for painters and photographers, the lavender fields in Provence are a special recommendation to your RTW tour. Flanking various roads in France, in regions like Sault (at the base of Mont Ventoux), Apt area, Luberon, and the Valréas Enclave, the purple landscapes are truly sense-invading. Traveling by car in late June or in the beginning of August is the best way to experience the lavender fields in Provence. This will give you the opportunity to go at your own pace, visit all the regions, and stop for photos. A good way to begin your Lavender route is booking a stay in one of the many villages in the scenic region of Luberon. From here on you can rent a car or bike and head towards the beautiful fields. Be sure not to miss out on the famous Senanque Abbey near Gordes, best to be caught on camera in the morning. Aside from lavender tours, Provence is also famous for its laid back countryside atmosphere, where time is perceived differently and where each experience pays tribute to ultimate relaxation.
Find cheap flights to France and look for hostels in France
4. Keukenhof Tulip Gardens, the Netherlands
Each spring, Keukenhof (also known as the world’s largest flower garden) in the small town of Lisse, becomes home to approximately 7 million flower bulbs. Located between Amsterdam and Hague, this one of a kind park spreads over an area of 32 hectares and boasts an abundance of colors and fragrances. Keukenhof is clearly indicated on all highways and major roads. Public transportation is also a good option, as there are buses leaving towards the park from all major cities in the Netherlands. You should know that this elaborate flower exhibition is only open for the public in the beginning of spring. The best time to visit is mid April, when the flowers are in full bloom. However, with more than 800,000 travelers coming to Keukenhof during the nine weeks it is open, things can get pretty crowded. In order to avoid lines, try to get to the park around 8 a.m. and enjoy a memorable morning. The entrance fee for the park is €14,50 for adults and €7 for children, aged 4-11. It is best to buy your ticket online here beforehand, to avoid standing in line at the ticket office. Some of the activities in the park include boat rides, photography workshops, and bike tours of the surrounding tulip fields.
5. Orchid Fields and Farms, Thailand
Thailand is famous for many things, but did you know that this is also the land of orchids? Harvested in the evening from Mae Sai Valley and from Bankok Flower Center, the thousands of flowers can be seen the next morning livening up markets in famous cities like San Francisco, London, or Tokyo. The best thing about the orchids in Thailand is that they are incredibly resistant. This means you are likely to find them in surprising places (hidden in tropical forests, away from the sunlight, on rocky cliffs or at altitudes of 1000 meters). If you happen to visit Thailand in the first week-end of February, you will see an abundance of these sensual orchids beautifully exhibited at the Flower Festival in Chiang Mai, often referred to as the country’s most culturally significant town. But if you miss it, a good alternative is traveling to one of the orchid farms along Mae Sai Valley, located about 13 kilometers north of Chiang Mai. The largest farm in the region is called Sai Nam Phung Orchid and Butterfly Garden, and is home to 473 orchid species. These farms are perfect for closely observing the cultivation process, as well as for picking up flowers to take back home as souvenirs.
6. Cherry Blossom Season, Tokyo
If you ever plan on visiting Tokyo, consider going there in late April or in the beginning of May. This is when color takes over the city and transforms it into a dynamic nature celebration. The official Japanese name for this period is “Hanami”, literally translated as “flower viewing”. This spring custom goes back in time, and even though there are great places all over Japan where people gather and watch the cherry trees in blossom, Tokyo is the most popular destination. The best place to experience the Cherry Blossom Season in Tokyo is from Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, located near Shinjuku Station and home to more than a thousand cherry trees of over a dozen varieties. The best thing about this spot is that it features both early and late blooming trees. This means time pressure is not so much an issue here as it is in other parts of the country, where cherry blossom-related traveling depends entirely on accurate weather information. Other nice places for taking in the beautiful spring landscape in Tokyo are Ueno Park (extra-crowded this time of the year, though), Kitanomaru Park (best experienced from a rented boat), and Sumida Park.
Read our Tokyo Indie Travel Guide, find a flight to Tokyo, and read 10 Reasons the World Would be Better if Japan Ruled the Earth
7. Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden in Thailand
Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden is the perfect place to explore without a tour guide. Just take some time to stroll through the green labyrinths, visit the small zoo, and enjoy the abundance of fragrances in the most beautiful botanical garden in Southeast Asia. Located in Thailand’s Chonburi Province, this impressive tropical display occupies a surface of 500 acres (2 square kilometers) and consists of nine major garden divisions, such as the European Graden, Butterfly Hill, or Orchid Garden. The place is popular with all kind of tourists, but as you already probably guessed, it mostly relates to families with children. In addition to observing tropical natural decors, tourists here have the opportunity of witnessing various events, from martial art displays to open-air art installations and animal shows. Suan Nong Nooch Village offers various accommodation options, from low budget rooms for the backpackers to VIP luxury private villas.
8. Melbourne International Flower Show, Australia
Regarded as the most successful horticultural event in the Southern Hemisphere, Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show is definitely worth you time if your RTW itinerary includes Australia. The event takes place at Carlton Gardens, an outstanding example of Victorian era landscape design, listed as an important world heritage site and occupying a surface of 26 hectares (64 acres). From free floral design workshops, garden sculpture exhibitions and live design competitions to captivating displays of florists and floral designers, Melbourne International Flower Show attracts at least 100,000 visitors each year and is rated among the top five events of its kind in the world. During the five days of the show (usually held in the last days of March and the beginning of April ), the Carlton Gardens and the Royal Exhibition Building become alive with color and various happenings.
Every week, on “Round the World Wednesday” we share tips for planning, budgeting and selecting a route, plus advice on where to go and what to see and do all around the world.