Imagine this for your next trip: You’re dodging buckets of water on the street, twirling around in a field of tulips or tossing colored powder at anyone and everyone. This spring, grab your passport and enjoy one of these once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Pack a water gun and a waterproof camera to prepare for a citywide water fight as you ring in the Thai New Year (in line with the Thai solar calendar). Throughout Thailand in mid-April, everyone from kids to senior citizens celebrate the New Year by throwing buckets of water at each other as a symbol for cleansing and purification. No one walking the streets is safe from being soaked.
The two most popular cities to enjoy Songkran are Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Or head to Ayutthaya Province for a unique experience, where elephants have been known to join in on the fun. Thingyan, the new year’s festival in Myanmar, is also celebrated with water fights around the country.
“Bura na mano, Holi hai!” You’ll hear this on the streets in India as people of all ages indiscriminately throw brightly colored powder and water. They’re saying, “don’t feel offended, it’s Holi!” This playful apology for soaking you or coloring your clothes is a reminder of the unifying powers of Holi. The festival’s energetic antics break down the strict social barriers that exist among ages, castes, statuses and genders.
Known as “The Festival of Colors,” Holi’s roots are in the Hindu religion, commemorating the triumph of good over evil, and the ushering in of a plentiful spring. It’s primarily a northern India holiday, celebrated annually on the day after the first full moon of Phalunga (one of the months in the Hindu calendar), which typically occurs in February or March.
Cherry Blossom Festivals
If throwing water or colored powder isn’t your definition of fun, head to Japan for cleanliness, tranquility and to see the beautiful cherry trees in bloom. Branches filled with delicate pink and white flowers can be seen all over the country at varying times from March through April. Join locals in enjoying this time of spring by picnicking under the trees and enjoying the beauty of nature.
When planning your trip, time it with the local forecast so you can ensure you’re there when the trees are in bloom. Then, check out the best spots to see the cherry blossoms to nail down your itinerary.
Alternatively, if Japan is too far, you can head to Washington, D.C., around the same time of year to see the cherry blossoms that line the Tidal Basin. The city’s cherry trees were a gift from the mayor of Tokyo in 1912, and the annual month-long National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the continued friendship between the two countries.
At the annual March festivities in Valencia, Spain, art and fire go hand in hand. Las Fallas celebrates St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpentry, with a show of ninots (statues made from wood, plaster paper-machè and other materials) that often make satirical statements about political or pop culture. The ninots take almost a year to construct and are burned on the last day of the festival, known as La Crema (the burning).
Before the pinnacle of the event, there are a few days of festivities. Each morning begins with La Desperta (the wake-up call). This noisy street procession involves brass bands and loud firecrackers. The days are filled with parades, pyrotechnical displays and even a religious flower offering to the Virgin Mary. You may not get much sleep during Las Fallas, but this highly memorable experience is worth it.
Surround yourself with blankets of color at the world-renowned tulip fields at Keukenhof. As one of the world’s largest flower gardens, you can walk among more than 7 million tulips of all varieties and colors. Peak bloom depends on the weather, but the gardens are open from late March to mid-May, with a flower parade held in April.
To see the tulips from a different perspective, hop on a whisper boat for a canal tour that snakes through the garden’s fields. During the festivities, you can also see exhibitions, flower displays and tour an operational windmill. You’ll likely spend hours at Keukenhof, so pack a lunch since visitors are allowed to picnic in the park.