Can you believe it’s May already?! On this day last year I was heading off to South America to begin my three month journey through the continent. I can’t believe it was already so long ago and I can’t wait for the next big trip!
That’s not to say I’m not going anywhere this May! Next week I’m off on a weekend trip to Scotland! For the second time this year I’ll be heading to the beautiful highlands and for the first time ever I’ll get to visit Glasgow!
In this month’s “Where to Travel in…” there’s an abundance of trekking to be done and festivals too attend. If you’re in the mood for some serious wanderlusting here are the best places to be in May.
Tiger Leaping Gorge, China
Head to Yunnan in southwestern China this May and hike amid hillsides blooming with plants and wildfires. Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest gorges in the world. Measuring 16km in length and at 3900m deep, it’s a sight to behold. There are two trails through the gorge and trails can be completed in two days, although three to four days is best so as to take in the stunning landscape. You’ll spot rice fields, villages, oxen and goats. Staying in rustic guesthouses with families you’ll be treated to hot tea and home cooked food.
Larapinta Trail, Australia
Trekking in Australia is best in May when the weather is about as comfy as it gets in the desert at around 23 degrees. One of the world’s best desert treks, the Larapinta Trail stretches for 223km acorss the Australian outback from alice Springs to Mt Sonder. The trail switches between quarzite ridges, spinifex plains and the plunging gorges of the West MacDonnells. Taking between 12 to 16 days to complete, the trail can be broken down easily into shorter sections so you can pick and choose.
Kruger’s Wild Trails, South Africa
In May Kruger averages around 25 degrees with almost no rainfall. With vast savannahs and abundant wildlife, Kruger National Park is one of the world’s best safari spots. It’s believed to have the greatest variety of animals of any park in Africa with 147 recorded animal species and 507 bird species. The best way to see nature is by taking one of the wilderness walking trails offered in the park. The walks cover about 20km a day and span two/three nights.
Walk the Camino, Spain
For more than 1000 years pilgrims have taken the Camino de Santiago. Today this 780km long walk is taken by both those wanting to make the pilgrimage and adventurous kinds. From Roncesvalles on the French border, to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia the walk will take about one month to complete. Start in May to avoid the peak summer season but make the most of the long daylight hours.
Hike to Machu Picchu, Peru
The numerous trails to Machu Picchu are perfect in May. The crowds that you see in June have yet to arrive and the landscape is beautifully green. Whichever trail you take to Machu Picchu you’ll be wowed by the scenery and, on the last day, when you see the Lost City of the Incas you’ll find it truly breathtaking.
Not one for the faint hearted, this Hindu festival is full of body piercings and marks the day when lord Shiva’s son, Murugan, was given a lance to kill three demons. Many subject themselves to masochistic acts as fulfilment for answered prayers. Carrying offerings of milk in pots that are connected to their skin by hooks, great cages of spikes that pierce the skin of the carrier are decorated with feathers and flowers. A trance like state stops the participants from feeling pain and the wounds are later treated with lemon juice and holy ash to prevent scarring.
Rose Festival, Morocco
In the Sahara Desert there’s a place called Vallée des Roses and in May the area becomes covered with perfect pink Persian roses. The small town of El-Kelaa M’Gouna is awash with roses nestled in the hedgerows and are used to produce rosewater. The roses are harvested in May as part of the rose festival, an event which attracts about 20,000 people. Over the course of 3 days there’s song, dance, feasting and souk-like markets topped off with a chariot procession through a shower of rose petals.
The Biennale, Italy
The Biennale in Venice features either art or architecture depending on the year. Odd years are Art, even years are architecture. Celebrating contemporary art both festivals focus on showcasing the out-there, the avant-garde and the artists breaking new boundaries. From May to November, the festival includes a range of exhibitions , centred on the giardinia (an areas of parkland). Expect tens of national pavilions representing the arts of that country. It’s not all about art though, an eclectic programme of dance, music, architecture and theatre accompanies the exhibitions every year!
Cannes Film Festival, France
For 12 days in May, the small town on Southern France’s CÔte d’Azur is the centre of the cinematic world. Producers, distributers, directors stars and their hangers-on flock to Cannes to buy, sell or promote over 2000 films. The festival is split into two parts “in competition” and “out of competition”, with the former aiming to win the prestigious Palme d’Or. Most films are classed as “out of competition”. Official screenings hapen in the Palais des Festivals, but these are very exclusive. Free tickets are often available to films after their first screenings. Or, just do some celeb spotting by the red-carpet entrance to the Palais.
Hay Festival, Wales
If books are more your thing than movies then you don’t need to travel far in May for a book lovers’ festival. For 10 days towards the end of May, the tiny town of Hay-on-Wye becomes the centre of intellectual thought and theories. Around 85,000 people visit the market town on the Welsh-English border to hear talks from poets, writers, scientists, philosophers and musicians. In the evening a party vibe takes over the festival with bands and comedians. I visited Hay Festival a few years ago and attended a very interesting talk by a man attempted to revolutionise Shakespeare for kids. Asking the audience to shout out whether lines were from Shakespeare or rap, he certainly convinced me of Shakespeare’s “coolness”.
Are you travelling anywhere in May?