March Tips For Travelling

Take inspiration, sure, but please don’t bludgeon anyone with an axe. It’s 150 years since Crime and Punishment was published, and as international sanctions render Russia cheaper than recent years, now is the time to see the grandiose grandmother of Russia at its most Dostoyevskian.

As foreboding winter temperatures rise, St Petersburg’s bold avenues and impressive imperial palaces still glitter with snow. Start at the Dostoevsky Memorial Museum, where the writer’s apartment has been recreated, before visiting the book’s key locations: Sennaya Square, Raskolnikov’s house and the scene of the crime.

Of course, there are uplifting sites as well. Don’t miss the Hermitage Museum – whose labyrinthine catacombs are home to an army of cats, I’ll have you know – or the ballet at Mariinsky Theatre (book ahead).

Long haul: Chichén Itzá, Mexico

Staged on a sun-baked limestone plateau surrounded by rustic jungle at the tip of Mexico’s tail, a visit to the ancient Mayan city of Chichén Itzá feels like stumbling into a forgotten world – if it weren’t for crowds jostling to take the best selfie.

Of course you can’t begrudge the masses visiting the largest (and arguably most impressive) Mayan stronghold, especially during the spring equinox when a marvelling atavistic optical illusion unfolds.

In the mid-afternoon on 20 March, when the position of the sun is just right, a giant serpent will seemingly slither down the stairway of the El Castilo pyramid, connecting to a giant snakehead at the structure’s base. The gathering crowds bring a collectiveness to the event, adding a social element to the spiritual spectacle.

For beach bums…

It’s a big year for Hastings, as 2016 marks not just the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings but also the long-awaited grand reopening of its much-loved Victorian pier.

Hastings Pier’s history has been colourful to say the least: it first opened in 1872, boomed in the 1930s and hosted bands including the Rolling Stones in the 1960s and 70s. But its state took a turn for the worse in the noughties: after a number of damaging storms, it closed in 2008, and was almost completely destroyed by fire in 2010.

Six years on, and it’s finally about to get a new lease of life: reopening this March after a massive transformation, thanks in part to a £11.4m Heritage Lottery grant. The new-look pier will host gigs again, as well as farmers’ markets, art installations and an outdoor cinema. We can’t wait.

Know it’s in Africa but can’t quite place it on a map? Not to worry. Neither can most people, and that can only mean one thing: it’s yours for the exploring. Yes, tourist-shy Mozambique has bags of underexplored gems, from miles and miles of deserted golden-sand beaches to national parks brimming with wildlife to eclectic food and partying scenes in its bustling coastal cities.

Last year, it became one of the few African nations to decriminalise homosexuality, so not only is it one of the continent’s most unsung destinations but it’s also one of its most open-minded for LGBT travellers.

But let’s get back to Mozambique’s main attraction: its pristine Indian Ocean coastline – all 2,414km (1,500 miles) of it – which offers palm-fringed beaches, warm tropical waters, abundant marine life, excellent diving and a number of idyllic islands from which you can enjoy all of the above in sweet isolation.

For adrenaline junkies…

Galaxidi, Greece

The clock strikes noon on Clean Monday (a public holiday inGreece) and the ancient port town of Galaxidi, located on the sleepy southern shore of central Greece, stirs from its year-long slumber.

The rumble reverberates through the streets. A man cowers on the ground, his body smeared red, while two compatriots chortle heartily. War has come to Greece once again; the weapon of choice, coloured flour.

In an attempt to leave behind sinful attitudes and non-fasting foods, Galaxidi hosts a giant food fight at the beginning of Lent each year. During the battle 1.5 tonnes of coloured flour is distributed to locals and tourists alike who gleefully proceed in transforming the port into a giant Jackson Pollock painting. Forget Flower Power; embrace the thrill of Flour Power.

Long haul: Palau, Micronesia

On the long list of marinelife that most travellers fantasise about joining for an afternoon dip, the humble jellyfish likely sits one place above the candiru (with its delightful tendency to invade and parasitise the human urethra).

But one ecological marvel in Palau threatens to change all that. When the aptly named Jellyfish Lake became cut off from the sea over 12,000 years ago, its isolated marine population evolved and exploded. Now millions of stingless jellyfish occupy the lake, granting intrepid snorkelers a once in a lifetime diving experience.

Though reaching Micronesia is no simple feat, the archipelago nation remains one of the least explored regions in the world, with shorelines beautiful enough to turn your legs to… jelly.