May is a great month for travel, with festivals celebrating everything from the original bungee jumpers to pretty elephants participating in temple fairs. Because some of the best places to visit in May are in small or remote locations, travelers should be prepared to make their arrangements, especially for accommodations, well beforehand. An added bonus to traveling during this spring month is temperatures that aren’t too cold or too hot, but just right. In some cases, there may be fewer crowds, making travel more relaxing.
Travelers who think the Hay Festival on Hay-on-Wye, Powys, Wales, is for farmers are in for a surprise. This May festival celebrates literature and the arts in the small Welsh town. Since Hay-on-Wye, Powys is known as the National Book Town in Wales because this town of 1,900 people has two dozen bookstores, a literary festival is quite appropriate. The festival stated in 1988 and today draws 80,000 people annually to discuss to discuss the arts with well-known writers, philosophers and other artists. It is a time for meaningful discussions about all facets of the literary world.
Travelers looking for a bloomin’ good time may want to head for Holland in the spring. The Netherlands is famous for acres and acres of bulb flowers that set the country ablaze in vibrant colors. This feast for the eyes starts in late March or early April with delicate crocus blooms, though Mother Nature determines the exact bloom dates. The crocuses are followed by daffodils, small tulips and hyacinths. From approximately the end of April into May, the fields are an extravaganza of colors as the big tulips come into bloom. While bulbs bloom all over Holland, the best fields are near the North Sea dunes.
People don’t normally think of elephants as beautiful animals, but that is what the 30 elephants that participate in the Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival are. The elephants wear ornate gold headdresses, decorated with bells and peacock feathers, that stretch down their trunks as the march in the parade route. Their handlers ride on top, holding onto tall umbrellas, while passing another umbrella from handler to handler. The colorful weeklong festival, that dates back more than 200 years, boasts fireworks that go off at 3 a.m., folk dancing and various activities at temples around the Vadakkunnathan Temple in Thrissur town in Kerala. It is one of the most popular festivals in India.
The Kentucky Derby has been called the greatest two minutes in sports. The horse race pits 20 three-year-old thoroughbreds against each other in a run for the roses; the winning horse in this first leg of the Triple Crown is covered with a blanket of roses. The 1-1/4-mile derby is one of the oldest horse races in the United States, premiering in 1875, Thousands of fans fill Churchill Downs, in south Louisville, Kentucky, on the first Saturday in May. The women wear fancy hats and bonnets; mint juleps, made with Kentucky bourbon, are the drink of the day.
Spring, especially May, is a good time to visit the Spanish province of Andalusia. Temperatures range in the comfortable 20s °C/60s °F, which may sound cool but are still warm enough for a dip in the Mediterranean or sunbathing on the beach. Rainfall is limited. Andalusia has two of the most-visited cities in Spain: Seville and Cordoba. Travelers who visit those two cities during May will find fewer crowds to contend with, resulting in a more relaxed visit. An added bonus is that prices are likely to be lower than the rest of the year.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to enjoy the Bun Bang Fai festival that takes place throughout Laos on the full moon in May. The Laotians hold three days of festivities that include music, dancing, parades and lots of fun. On the third day, they launch bamboo rockets in an attempt to bring on the rainy season, since the moisture is now needed for the rice fields. The person whose rocket flies the highest earns the title of Roger Ramjet; owners of rockets that don’t fly get dumped in the mud. Vientiane is a good place to take in this fun festival.
Naghol or land diving on Pentecost Island, Vanuatu, is an ancient male ritual that takes place every Saturday in April and May. Said to be the inspiration for bungee jumping, there is one big difference: bungee cords are elastic, the vines aren’t. Tribal members climb to the top of a handmade 30-meter (100-foot) vine tower, where they make a confession and air grievances before jumping with wines tied to their ankles. The vines must be just the right length. Too long and the jumper is hurt; too short and his head doesn’t touch the ground, which is considered good luck.
Every May, the elite of the world’s movie-making industry descends upon this French Riviera city for the Cannes International Film Festival. Films of all genres are screened for an invitation-only crowd, with the top 20 films competing for the coveted Palme d’Or. The Cannes film festival, founded in 1946, is the most prestigious film festival in the world. While screenings are not open to the public, fans can look for their favorite stars as they enter and leave film venues, dine out in restaurants, shop or visit the beach.
One of the best places to visit in May is Machu Picchu, the ancient Inca town high in the Peruvian Andes. The rainy season will have ended in April and the summer crowds from the northern hemisphere won’t have started arriving yet. While the weather at Machu Picchu can be temperamental in any season, May visitors stand the best chance of having decent weather. Still, because these fabulous ruins are located 2,500 meters (8,000 feet) above sea level, visitors should be prepared for some fog and cooler temperatures at any time.
Buddhist priests wearing traditional orange robes come from all over Indonesia to celebrate Waisak at Borobudur, an ancient temple that is built in layers, square on the bottom and circular on the top. Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world while the Waisak festival is the holiest day in the Buddhist calendar. The day celebrates the birth and life of Buddha Siddharta Gautama and is held annually on the fourth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. The procession starts at Mendut temple and winds its way to Borobudur. Thousands of chanting monks and floats of Buddhist deities make up the parade.