Written for Orange Line to be used by Expedia
Ever been in a water gun fight with an 80-year-old? Or been completely tie-died from head to toe by strangers? Whether it’s witnessing awe-inspiring, lantern-filled skies, roaming the streets alongside skeletons and zombies, living at death-defying heights or watching thousands of flowers bloom at once to welcome in spring, one of the best ways to really understand a culture and their traditions is to dive right in. When planning your next adventure, be sure to pencil these unique festivals into your trip itinerary.
Yi Peng Lantern Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand
This magical festival of lights sees the sky illuminate with a sea of lanterns. There is an air of serenity as monks perform chants on stage. Each person fills their balloon with wishes, feelings of love and good hope for their loved ones and sends them off into the night sky like giant jellyfish. Another festival of lights called Loi Krathong where floating lanterns are released on the nearby river occurs simultaneously, making it a truly remarkable sight.
Where to stay
Located in the heart of Chiang Mai, the Star Hotel is walking distance from the main Yi Peng meeting points, as well as many of the city’s classic tourist attractions. This, alongside its cosy rooms, low prices and access to internet make it the ideal place to call ‘home’ after making your way through the crowds at the end of the festival.
The Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai
Keep the fairy tale feeling of Yi Peng alive with a stay at the Dhara Dhevi. It’s a mini-kingdom in its own right, with expansive grounds, intricate fixings and breathtaking views. Alongside luxurious rooms and two swimming pools, the property also boasts a spa and wellness centre and seven restaurants and bars – you won’t want to leave!
Songkran Water Festival, Bangkok, Thailand
Arm yourself with a super soaker, throw on a poncho and put your valuables in plastic bags because you are about to get soaked! New Year’s Day in Thailand is celebrated with a country-wide water fight from 13-15 April. What started as a local custom of throwing water at each other to ‘wash away the struggles of the year’ has escalated into the biggest water fight you will ever be a part of. Parades are held across the country, cars are decorated with traditional ornaments, pageants occur to elect a “Miss Songkran” and locals from toddlers to nans line the streets with buckets, water guns and hoses. Everyone is fair game – especially tourists.
Where to stay
Riva Surya Bangkok
This peaceful, urban getaway is pleasantly located on the river, but just walking distance from main tourist destinations Khao San and the Grand Palace. Escape the April heat with the beautifully landscaped pool or relax with a massage before heading to the streets for Songkran.
Nouvo City Hotel
You can’t beat Nouvo City Hotel for touring the sites of Bangkok – centrally located, but just far enough from Khao San to escape the noise of tourists. Begin your day with free breakfast and return to the rooftop pool to watch the chaos unfold below. Rooms are outfitted with T.V.s and wi-fi – perfect to update Facebook with your crazy experience.
Cherry Blossom Festival, Tokyo, Japan
Near the end of March, all of Japan flocks to picnic parties in parks and squares across the country to welcome spring with the blooming of the first sakura (cherry) tree. Pack your picnic blankets (and a jacket) and join the locals under the white, cloud-like blooms to take part in hanami (flower viewing). Party into the evening where the trees are often lit up for a truly amazing sight.
Where to stay
The Andaz is a gem of a boutique hotel with a trendy vibe, unwavering Japanese hospitality and breathtaking views – especially as the surrounding hills erupt with white cherry blossoms. The pool and spa will help you relax and its central location allows easy access to front row seats for hanami.
Holi Colour Festival, New Delhi, India
Holi is like the colour run – on steroids. Each March India erupts into colour for Holi – the most raucous of Hindu celebrations. In welcoming spring, children and adults hit the streets, armed with colourful gulal (powder), dyed water in buckets, water guns and balloons to throw over each other. Tourists will be targeted so don’t wear anything you value – unless you are a fan of tie dye. Your day will end with a bonfire and colourful dance party!
Where to stay
The Metropolitan Hotel & Spa New Delhi
This centrally located, 5-star urban hotel has been receiving awards since its inception. Scrub off the colour from Holi and sink into the cloud-like bed in one of its 185 modern rooms. Its on-site art gallery, Ayurvedic spa and master chefs from around the world will ease you out of the noisy streets of New Delhi and into a state of relaxation.
Eros Hotel New Delhi Nehru Place
The Eros Hotel oozes luxury and grace to help you wind down after a day of hustle and bustle in New Delhi. The friendly staff and the range of restaurants within the hotel (American to Indian to Chinese) will make you feel right at home. The outdoor pool is a great place to escape the mugginess and heat of the city.
Dia De Los Muertos, Oaxaca, Mexico
This spirited festival will make you feel like you are wandering the streets on the set of The Walking Dead, but instead of trying to eat you, the zombies want to dance and have a fiesta (party)! Not to be confused with Halloween, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) comes from the Mexican belief that on 1 November, spirits of the deceased are allowed to reunite with their families for the next three days. Elaborately costumed calacas (skeletons) and zombies gather in streets and cemeteries, mariachi bands blast their trumpets and ofrendas (altars) offering trinkets, marigolds and sugar skulls are built to welcome the spirits back!
Where to stay
Hotel Parador de Alcala
Your traditional Mexican ‘Dia de los Muertos’ costumes will feel at home in this centrally-located 18th century mansion-turned-boutique hotel. Each of the 21 rooms has the perfect mix of spacious, old Mexican styling and modern comforts like free WiFi and cable – the view from the pool alone is worth the stay.
International Highline Meeting Festival, Monte Piana, Italy
This September gathering has all the makings of a chill, hippy festival – hammocks, slacklines, yoga, guitarists casually strumming. The ‘chill factor’ drops when you realise that camp is slung hundreds of metres high in the Italian Alps by slacklines. Make your way to Monte Piana to enjoy 360 degree views of the Dolomites and ‘hang out’ with thrill-seekers from around the globe – talk about a room with a view.
Cristallo Hotel Spa & Golf
A far cry from a slack-lined hammock, there is an air of grandeur in everything about this 5-star hotel – from its setting amidst the stunning landscape of the Dolomites to its full-service spa to the lush Italian décor in each of its 74 rooms. The indoor pool and health club will help you get your feet back on the ground.