From fabulous parade floats to ancient witches' celebrations, this season's list of world wide festivals is filled with inspiring events that will help you to discover the intricacies of some of the planet's most intriguing cultures.
2 - 4 MAR: Battle of the Oranges, Ivrea, Italy
In the three days preceding Shrove Tuesday, the people of Ivrea cheerfully bombard each other with oranges in a competition that symbolises an ancient rebellion against a cruel overlord. Don a costume and join in the madcap chaos, but fair warning; the squads of locals are serious about their crusade!
4 MAR: Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras traditionally marked a day of feasting before the onset of Lent, but Sydney’s annual LGBT pride parade has given the phrase a new meaning. Fantastic floats, troupes of outrageously costumed dancers and an atmosphere of total abandon ensure the streets of Sydney are an electric place to rejoice in equality.
8 - 9 MAR: Pasifika Festival, Auckland, New Zealand
Slip on your jandles and saunter along to Pasifika, a celebration of Pacific Island culture that exudes an atmosphere of delicious tropical chill. Each of the 11 represented islands has its own precinct, where drumbeats and war chants mingle with the smoky aromas of traditional BBQ.
9 MAR: Nyepi (Balinese New Year)
The first day in the Balinese calendar is the Day of Silence, when all activity ceases and citizens and tourists must remain quietly within their abodes. The days surrounding Nyepi are an action-packed contrast, boasting intriguing cultural events that are well worth a day of seclusion.
19 - 22 MAR: Spring Equinox, Chichen Itza, Mexico
The Mayan masterminds behind The Temple of Kukulcan created a phenomenon that has outlasted the very existence of their civilisation. On the day of the spring equinox, the afternoon shadows create the impression of a serpent, which seems to slither down the pyramid as the sun marks its passage across the sky.
MAR: Hanami (Cherry Blossom Viewing), Japan
Hanami is the beloved Japanese custom of viewing the burgeoning cherry flowers, which turn the already scenic backdrop of Japan into a pink-blossomed dreamscape. Picturesque outlooks become overrun with admirers, who flock to contemplate the transient beauty of the delicate blooms.
7 - 16 APR: World Ski & Snowboard Festival, Whistler, Canada
Revel in the heady vibe of mountain culture at a ten-day festival that celebrates the joy of conquering the peaks. Enjoy concerts, movie premiers, competitions and playful spring skiing events that all dance to the same tune… let it snow!
19 - 23 APR: Barossa Vintage Festival, South Australia
The Barossa locals invite you to join their annual festivities, which mark the end of the grape harvest with a stylish bash. Grab a glass of wine and join a scarecrow making workshop, take part in an impromptu book club discussion or tap to the tune of classic blues.
25 APR: ANZAC Day – Gallipoli, Turkey
Thousands of Australians flock to Gallipoli each Anzac Day to observe the Dawn Service. As the sky lightens and the strains of The Last Post echo over the water, it’s easy to envisage the fateful beach landing of 1916.
27 - 29 APR: Gathering of Nations Indian Powwow, Albuquerque, USA
Stirring chants and throbbing drumbeats set the scene for the world’s largest celebration of Native American culture. Hundreds of tribes from Canada and the United States gather annually for a three-day festival of dancing and singing, performed in gorgeous, intricate costumes.
30 APR: Walpurgisnacht (Witches’ Night) Brocken, Germany
For the locals of the Harz mountain range, the last night in April is shrouded in the mystery of legend. The slopes of The Brocken were once the venue for an annual revelry of witches, and the evening is still observed with dancing, bonfires and raucous merriment.
30 APR - 6 MAY: April Fair, Seville, Spain
Slip on your frilliest flamenco frock and join this extravaganza of dancing, dining and drinking, which invites you to wallow in the pleasures of Andalusian culture. Thousands of tented pavilions host festivities that start with noon tapas and continue on with rebujito cocktails until the early hours of the morning.
3 MAY: Cheung Chau Bun Festival, Hong Kong
Bamboo mountains covered with handmade buns are the focal point of this quirky festival. Once a ritual that appealed to the god Pak Tai to repel evil spirits, the event has exploded into a fanfare of lion dances, parades and Taoist ceremonies, topped off by the highly anticipated Bun Scrambling Competition.
5 -7 MAY: Frieze Art Fair, New York, USA
It’s a gallery of galleries, where over 200 international exhibitors gather to flaunt their wares in a sinuous temporary marquee. Emerging galleries share space with established master collections in an ingeniously coordinated layout, and the experience is further enhanced by a choice of irresistible food vendors.
5 - 9 MAY: Bun Bang Fai (Rocket Festival), Laos
The people of Laos once believed that a fertile wet season was assured by entreating the heavens with bamboo rockets. These days the rocket launching is purely symbolic but makes for a lively competition, with titles such as ‘most entertaining team’ only slightly less coveted than the ultimate ‘highest flyer’ award.
13 - 14 MAY: Rose Festival, Kelaat M'Gouna, Morocco
Each May the Valley of Roses comes into full bloom, and hundreds upon thousands of spectators gather to celebrate the harvest of the region’s sweet-smelling livelihood. It’s a festival of singing, feasting and frolicking, where a yearly Rose Queen is crowned in a shower of pink Persian rose petals.
25 - 28 MAY: Ningaloo Whaleshark Festival, Western Australia
This wholesome local event is held in honour of the enigmatic whale shark and its yearly pilgrimage to the waters of Ningaloo Reef. The family fun kicks off with a Seaside Cinema festival, followed by three days of fun runs, market stalls, talent quests and live music.
26 MAY - 23 JUL: Stars of the White Nights, St Petersburg, Russia
The historic Marlinksy Theatre designed this festival to be a ‘musical gift to St Petersburg’. During the season of midnight sun, the city is spoiled with a profusion of opera, ballet and orchestra concerts delivered by master performers. Despite the numerous show times, tickets sell out well in advance.