From wonderfully chaotic clubbing in the heart of the Alps to a Japanese Penis Festival and a burning capital city. April needn’t be boring at all.
For beach bums…
Long haul: Miami, USA
Of course you can sizzle on Miami’s feted golden sands anytime of the year, but if you have a penchant for poetry, laughter and dancing, as well as sunbathing, then April is the month for you.
The city will host a smorgasbord of cultural events throughout the month, kicking off with O, Miami Poetry Festival (1-30 Apr), which has a simple mission: to make sure everyone in Miami encounters poetry.
As well as recitals and writing workshops, visitors will be able to catch some comedy at South Beach Comedy Festival (8-11 Apr), feast their eyes on performance art at Miami Dance Festival (4 Apr – 24 May) and marvel at the flamboyance of Gay Pride (10-12 Apr).
Long haul: Sicily, Italy
Sizzling Sicily is one of the first destinations in Europe to be blessed with the presence of summer, which brings this Italian island up to bathing temperature in April.
This is arguably the best time of the year to visit; the wild flowers are in bloom, the beaches are largely deserted and hotel rates are competitive.
But it’s not all about the beaches, glorious though they are. In Palermo, Siracusa and Catania, Sicily has exquisite historic cities, as well as ancient Roman ruins, crumbling Greek temples and Europe’s largest active volcano, Mount Etna. And the food? Let’s just say you’ll be carrying some holiday weight when you get home.
For adrenaline junkies…
Short haul: Edinburgh, Scotland
Celebrate the coming of summer by lathering yourself in blue body paint, heading to a remote Edinburgh hillside after dark and standing dangerously close to an open flame.
The Beltane Fire Festival, held annually on 30 April, is a modern interpretation of an Iron Age Celtic ritual, which straddles the intersection between an immersive dance show, peculiar theatre production and ill-planned pyrotechnic display.
The spectacle begins at the base of Calton Hill, where audiences stalk the May Queen and the Green Man as they journey to the summit, encountering a whole host of perplexing characters en route. Upon successfully reaching the top, the bonfire is lit, audience and performers mix, and a convivial atmosphere ignites – this is, after all, a festival of courtship and fertility.
Long haul: Luang Prabang, Laos
It’s 16 April and you’ve woken to find Luang Prabang wrapped in war. You dart from your hostel, weapon loaded and nerves steadied, when suddenly, splash; you’re sopping wet. A young Lao girl hangs out of the overhead window cackling hysterically.
This is Boun Pi Mai, Laos’ New Year water festival. More humble than neighbouring Thailand’s Songkran, where drinking has started to take precedence over ancient traditions, the celebration ensures a jovial, yet heart-pounding, opening to the Laos New Year.
It isn’t all about super soaking though; other notable festivities include garlanding statues with flowers, traditional dance displays and the symbolic releasing of animals.
For city slickers…
Short haul: Mayrhofen, Austria
Snow hounds rave about carving fresh tracks across the wilds of Afghanistan and boarding past the bloody sport of buzkashi in Kyrgyzstan, but as intrepid as they are – they’re missing the point.
Get back to the Alps and back to the après-ski with six full-on (and we mean matchsticks-propping-open-eyelids kind of full-on) days and nights of powder cutting and partying at Snowbombing 2016 (4-9 April).
Cannoning out concerts in forest clearings and sticking DJs in igloos, there are few events that can match the mighty madness of Mayrhofen. The Prodigy, Fatboy Slim, Jamie Jones and Jungle all perform, although grabbing an 8.30am continental breakfast ahead of the ski lifts doesn’t seem likely.
Long haul: Kawasaki, Japan
Saunter beneath the shadows of the grubby towers of Kawasaki throughout the year and you will look like a dick. Arrive in April and you’ll be surrounded by them – but that’s the point because on Sunday 3 April it’s home to the Festival of the Steel Phallus.
Keeping a (s)long story short, Kawasaki celebrates this up-standing event because of a Edo-era (1603-1868) legend about a woman who turned away the advances of a sharp-toothed demon, marrying someone else. As payback, he wormed into her vagina and bit off the dongs of her two husbands. As a solution, a local blacksmith shaped a steel phallus that, upon insertion, broke the demon’s teeth making him flee. Mad, right?
Celebrate the story at the Kanayama Shrine with a penis parade, sake that tastes like semen, knob carving lessons and plenty of beaver bashing merchandise, including the perennially popular penis lollipops.
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