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Spring is in the air, and with it comes one of the most beautiful natural phenomena of the year: the blooming of cherry blossoms. So captivating is the fleeting appearance of blossoms that people will travel in their millions each year to see the flowers in person, making this a fantastic opportunity for you to secure bookings to some of the world’s most popular cherry blossom hot spots.
There’s nowhere on the planet more synonymous with cherry blossoms than Japan – in fact, ‘hanami’ (‘flower viewing’) is such a significant pastime that festivals are held to mark the occasion. ‘Hana Matsuri’ (literally ‘flower festival’) is set to take place on April 8th this year, and with the country’s borders wide open for the first time since the pandemic, it’s easy to envision the sheer number of tourists and locals that will flock to key sakura sites. But where (and when) else could your clients catch a glimpse of cherry blossoms in person?
In this article, we’ll be covering the top locations in the world to see cherry blossoms. But first, let’s dive into the best places to see sakura in Japan.
As Japan’s ancient capital, Kyoto transports its guests into the past: with its abundance of temples, shrines and palaces (many of which are listed at UNESCO World Heritage sites), the city’s rich cultural history is palpable, and is even kept alive by the presence of geisha and maiko, who can often be found tottering around the old streets of Gion. However, if cherry blossom viewing is your clients’ priority, they’re in luck: Kyoto is home to more than 1000 cherry blossom trees, which bloom each year between late March and early April. One of the most famous places to see sakura in Kyoto is the Philosopher’s Path, where a picturesque pathway sits shrouded by pink flowers; elsewhere, the Heian Shrine is gorgeous and ancient spot from where to admire the blossoms in quiet contemplation.
Over in Himeji (located in the Hyogo prefecture), Koko-en Garden is a traditional Japanese garden that features a large pond surrounded by cherry blossom trees, whilst the UNESCO-listed Himeji Castle and its surrounding moat are lined with sakura. Himeji Central Park is another popular spot, offering a wide-open space for picnicking – suggest that your clients take a selection of cherry blossom-flavoured treats, found widely in convenience stores and at food stalls during hanami.
Finally, for the ultimate photo opportunity, send your clients to Fuji Five Lakes. Despite sitting at the foot of Japan’s greatest symbol, the magnificent and imposing Mt Fuji, the towns that make up the Five Lakes are beautiful and peaceful locations from which to enjoy cherry blossom season (forecast from early to mid-April this year). Lake Kawaguchiko, in particular, is a divine place for cherry blossom viewing: the Fuji Kawaguchiko Cherry Blossom Festival takes place along the promenade, dotted with around 300 cherry blossom trees and where local foods, drinks and crafts are sold. What’s more, the Five Lakes’ proximity to Tokyo makes it an excellent choice for clients who are looking to merge modernity with natural beauty on a dual-centre holiday, and can be reached by coach from the capital.
Overall, Japan is the destination to see cherry blossoms, with sakura blooming across the length of the country over the course of three months (see the forecast here). But if a visit to the Land of the Rising Sun is out of the question for your clients, fear not: there are plenty of places to see cherry blossom across Asia, in the Americas, and even in Europe.
For clients hoping to chase cherry blossoms in another burgeoning tourism hotspot, send them to South Korea, where beot-kkot season gets underway come late March-mid April. The country’s capital and surrounding areas get a glorious pink makeover in the form of festivals: from the Yeouido Spring Flower Festival in Seoul to Busan’s Jinhae Gunhangje Cherry Blossom Festival (the country’s largest), locals and tourists alike will engage in flower-viewing activities, parades, and trips to street food stalls, where flower-themed fare can be consumed. For clients seeking a more serene escape (and to whom cherry blossom viewing is a wanted part of their itinerary, not a need), a visit to Jeju Island could be on the cards. A variant of petal unique to Jeju blooms just three days out of the year, so visitors to the island should consider additional items as part of their itinerary – suggest a visit to Cheonjeyeon Waterfalls or Yeomiji Botanital Garden, or that they hire a car to enjoy the many sites and eateries found on Jeju.
Cherry blossom season falls a little earlier over in Taiwan, with the first flowers coming into bloom in February. Taipei, the capital, has plenty of options for tourists to enjoy, including at Yangmingshan National Park. Here, your clients can enjoy a range of hiking trails whilst taking in the sight of pretty blossoms at every turn. Elsewhere, Wuling Farm in Taichung is a particularly scenic spot, with more than 700 hectares of tea plantations, flower fields, and an astonishing 30,000 cherry trees found here. Botanists (or blossom enthusiasts in general) will be thrilled to learn that Wuling Farm is the exclusive home to a unique hybrid of Taiwanese and Japanese blossom known as the Pink Lady – be sure to tell your clients to take their camera with them!
Are your clients visiting the ‘Land of Smiles’ between December and February? In Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, Chang Mai, wild cherry blossoms (named ‘Tiger Queen’ by locals) can be found in abundance. Meanwhile, over in Doi Inthanon National Park, clients can take a stroll towards the Khun Wang Royal Agricultural Research Centre – the path along the way is blanketed in beautiful pink blossoms.
Did you know that Brazil has the largest Japanese diaspora outside of Japan? The first group of Japanese immigrants arrived in Brazil in 1908, with many bringing a piece of home with them in the form of sakura seedlings. While cherry blossom trees did sprout up across the country, the city of Curitiba has become known as the Brazilian hotspot for sakura viewing – which is somewhat ironic, given that the flowers bloom in the winter time (around July). For clients seeking a small bit of history on their visit to Brazil, suggest that they stop off at Curitiba’s Centennial Park, home to the Japanese Immigration Memorial.
September sees New Zealand take on a delicate new look: in Auckland, several sites become flushed as cherry blossoms burst into bloom. From Cornwall Park to Pohutukawa Drive, there are several spots for your clients to engage in a spot of cherry blossom viewing, while Auckland Botanic Gardens is a great location not only for blossoms, but for a wide range of plant life. Your clients can explore 64 hectares of beautiful gardens in search of native forest life, African plants and of course the blossoms – and what’s more, entry is free.
Your clients can experience the beauty of cherry blossoms in the bustling city of New York. From Central Park to the appropriately-named Sakura Park, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and Flushing Meadows, the city offers a range of scenic parks to escape the urban energy. Sakura Park has thousands of cherry trees, gifted by Japan in 1912 – if your clients are in the city around April, they’ll marvel at the beauty.
Encourage your clients to book a trip to Washington D.C around March/April to witness the stunning cherry blossoms in bloom near the Tidal Basin: in March 1912, the city was gifted Japanese cherry trees by Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo, and now hosts an annual festival to commemorate this diplomatic gesture. The Tidal Basin is home to nearly 4,000 cherry trees and a must-visit spot for sakura sightings.
Invite your clients to take in the stunning cherry blossom views in Vancouver (typically in bloom around April). Did you know that in the 1930s, the city was gifted its first 500 sakura trees from Yokohama and Kobe as a thank you to the Japanese Canadians who served in World War I? The trees can be found at VanDusen Botanical Garden, Queen Elizabeth Park, Stanley Park, and Burrard Skytrain Station. With over 40,000 cherry trees in the city, they’ll be sure to find the perfect pink-filled backdrop for those Insta-worthy snaps.
Finally, inspire your clients to book a dreamy trip to Paris for a cherry blossom viewing experience. Paris, the city of love, also shines with beautiful sakura displays. Suggest they check out Parc du Champ-de-Mars and Jardins du Trocadéro with breathtaking views of the iconic Eiffel Tower before wandering to the Latin Quarter's Jardin des Plantes, where they can see the biggest cherry tree in the city. Paris tends to come into bloom around March and through April, which is just as well – the weather is lovely this time of year.