Spring is truly here in the northern hemisphere, while things are slowing down a bit in the south. Looking for somewhere amazing to go in May? Our picks for the top May festivals are quite magical, with a bit of whimsy thrown in for balance. Without further ado, here’s some of the best May festivals around the world!

The Rose Festival

Where: El-Kelaâ M’Gouna, Morocco
When: mid-May (harvest-dependent)

Morocco’s striking colours might not get much better than in the heart of its rose-growing region: El-Kelaâ M’Gouna. Each year, as the harvest is finished, the town parties — electing a Rose Queen for the year, enjoying outdoor markets and dances, and celebrating the roses and the rosewater that makes the area prosper.

Jerez horse fair

Where: Jerez de la Frontera
When: 2018: May 5-12

“In Jerez,” I was once told, “there are the horses, the wine, and flamenco.” While the feria celebrates horses, there’s plenty of sherry to drink and flamenco to watch or listen to as well. This is one of the biggest parties in Andalusia, with over one million visitors estimated to arrive — mad skills to watch, and good times to be had.

Wine tasting Jerez Spain
Make sure to try the sherry while you’re there!

Cheung Chau Bun Festival, Hong Kong

Where: Hong Kong
When: 2018: May 19-23

May is the month for Cheung Chau, a small island sitting just off of Hong Kong. After a three-day period of fasting, where the diet is strictly vegetarian, young men compete to snatch bread buns from steel pillars. In older times, these rocket-shaped towers were bamboo, but these days are made from steel and those who compete are in mountain-climbing safety harnesses… they are 20 meters tall, after all.

Waisak, Buddah’s birth

Where: Borobudur, Indonesia
When: 2018: May 29, 2019: May 19

Every Buddhist country will be celebrating the Buddha’s birth, but we choose to centre in on Borobudur. Thousands of pilgrims make their way to the world’s largest Buddhist temple for a three-way celebration: the Buddha’s birth, his enlightenment and his attainment of nirvana. If you’re nearby, don’t miss this: we’re expecting the procession of saffron-robed monks to reach three kilometres or longer, and that would be a sight to see!

Celebrate the Buddha's birth in Borobudur
Celebrate the Buddha’s birth in Borobudur.

Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling Competition

Where: Brockworth, England
When: 2018: May 28

There’s a lot going on in England in May, but the craziest has to be the wonderful wackiness of the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling Competition. Each year, in a series of races, hundreds chase a 7kg double-gloucester cheese down Cooper’s Hill, with the prize being… the cheese itself. A steep hill, a muddy spring day, a broken leg or two? Sounds great.

Brighton Festival

Where: Brighton , England
When: 2018: May 5-27

One of Europe’s top art festivals, the Brighton Festival is a three-week celebration of theatre, music, dance, art, film, literature, and pretty much anything else arty you can think of. Events take place in venues throughout the city.

Brighton pier
Brighton festival keeps the city buzzing for three weeks in May

May Day in Salzburg

Where: Salzburg, Austria
When: May 1 every year

May 1 is celebrated as a day of the worker in many parts of the world, but in Salzburg it’s all about the maypole. People dress up in traditional lederhosen and dirndls, brass bands play, and there’s a lot of beer going around. Head to the Salzburger Freilichtmuseum open-air museum (or any small village, really) to take part in the festivities.

Beer garden in Salzburg
Yes, climbing the maypole is part of the day!

This list of the top May festivals is in no particular order, and is also completely subjective — they’re the festivals we’ve most enjoyed, or would most like to take part in, of all the festivals that take place in May. Let us know if there are festivals you think we should add to this list!

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