From neon-lit ice sculptures and awe-inspiring sportsmanship to blazing mountains and blossoming blooms, spring marks a time of celebration across the entire region. We take a look at nine of the most remarkable, memorable and downright wonderful events and festivals coming to Asia-Pacific this spring, and give you all the must-know dates for your diary.
Harbin Ice Festival, Harbin, China
5 January-25 February 2018
Renowned worldwide for its incredible scale – not to mention night-time temperatures that regularly dip to -25° Celsius – the 34th annual Harbin Ice and Snow Festival celebrates craftsmanship on a truly mind-boggling scale. Featuring the world’s biggest ice sculptures, constructed by over 10,000 people, the festival draws in a staggering 10-15 million visitors annually. If that’s not enough to entice you to snowy Heilongjiang Province, we suggest adding on a side trip to nearby Yabuli ski resort, for a (groan) pretty cool start to 2018!
Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia
10-28 January 2018
The first of the four annual Grand Slam tennis tournaments, the Australian Open guarantees an electrifying experience for tennis fans of all allegiances. Held at the centrally located Melbourne Park, this major sporting event attracts the crème de la crème of international players, with Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova all gracing Melbourne’s centre court in recent years. Pack sunscreen for the Aussie summer and get ready to soak up the serves with some of the game’s elite.
Ati-Atihan Festival, Kalibo, Philippines
15-21 January 2018
A riot of colour and sound to rival Rio’s Mardi Gras, Ati-Atihan takes place every January, honouring Santa Niño (Baby Jesus) in spectacular fashion. Known as “The Mother of All Festivals”, this annual bash showcases the vibrant costumes, dance and music of the region’s indigenous Aeta people, welcoming visitors from far and wide to celebrate side-by-side with Kalibo’s locals. With a packed schedule of exuberant parades, flamboyant musical performances and evocative religious processions, this festival ranks among the most photogenic and jubilant in Asia.
Wakakusa Yamayaki, Nara, Japan
27 January 2018
Taking place high in the hills above the city of Nara every January, this is one of Asia’s most unusual festivals. The Wakakusa Yamayaki consists of a number of events (including the fiercely-contested annual giant rice cracker-throwing competition), before a bonfire is lit and a dazzling firework display takes place on the mountain. The festival’s climax comes as Mount Wakakusayama itself is set alight, creating a blaze so large that it’s visible from all over Nara City. A truly unforgettable sight, stand back as Nara lights up the night in its own, unique way.
XXIII Olympic Winter Games, Pyeongchang, South Korea
9-25 February 2018
This February, the world will be watching Pyeongchang as it hosts the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. With a total of 102 events taking place, there’s definitely something for everyone here. Fans of outdoor events should base themselves around the Alpensia resort, while ice enthusiasts should head to Gangneung, whose many indoor venues will hold the ice hockey, curling and skating events. Away from the sport, this region is home to Woljeongsa Temple – a striking place of worship for Korea’s traditional Jogye Buddhist Order. For world-class sport with a touch of culture, Pyeongchang is just the place.
1-2 March 2018
This Hindu festival marking the arrival of spring and triumph of good over evil is affectionately known as “The Festival of Colour” – and once you hit the lively street parties happening throughout India, you’ll soon see why! These raucous affairs see people throwing a rainbow of coloured dry powders, known as gulal, over one another; the Banke Bihari Temple in Vrindavan and Dwarkadheesh Temple in Mathura are some of the most famous places to celebrate this iconic festival. Word of advice: don’t come wearing your finest dry-clean only ensemble!
Sky Lantern Festival, Pingxi, Taiwan
2 March 2018
Experiences don’t get much more magical than being part of Pingxi’s famous Sky Lantern Festival – which sees the midnight skies lit up with beautiful floating lanterns, each carrying messages of hope for the new year. Residents of this remote hillside town would originally release the lanterns to let their families know they were safe; whilst the tradition continues to this day, the lanterns are now used as symbols of peace and good fortune, with visitors flocking from around the world to send their wishes skywards, plus enjoy other folk performances and street carnivals that add to the festive atmosphere.
Sakura Season, Japan
Late March-Early April 2018 (dates TBC)
Japan’s sakura season was celebrating millennial pink way before it was a thing! Be sure to bring your camera for picture-perfect moments galore – with a sea of delicate pink cherry blossoms sweeping the country, this is springtime at its most idyllic… so much so that Japan even has a word (hanami) that translates to simply sitting back and admiring the blooms. Sakura season is serious stuff in the Land of the Rising Sun, with scientific forecasts and television updates dedicated to predicting when the blossom will begin (check nearer the time for exact dates). With beautiful parks and ancient castles providing majestic backdrops for the blooms in places like Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagoya and Kakunodate, this is the very best kind of flower power.
13-15 April 2018
Living in Asia has many perks, and we’re chalking up having the opportunity to revel in multiple new year’s celebrations as one of them – especially when they’re as fun as Thailand’s Songkran festivities. This Buddhist holiday has its roots in using water to purify and cleanse; whilst this originally mainly involved washing one’s Buddha statues, it has nowadays grown to include giant water fights all over town! Grab your water guns and get ready to make a splash amidst the friendly mayhem – Bangkok’s Khao San Road and Chiang Mai’s Tha Pae Gate both become party central for this very special celebration.