Spring Festivals in Asia

Big Festivals in Asia During March, April, and May

The many spring festivals in Asia are diverse and fascinating, but they’ll certainly affect your plans one way or another if you’re in the region. Smart travelers know to either arrive early and enjoy the fun or steer clear until things calm down.

Songkran in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and Golden Week in Japan cause large surges on the travel infrastructure in both places. Many other smaller spring festivals in Asia include planting ceremonies and a variety of celebrations observing Buddha’s Birthday.

  • 01 of 08
    Holi Festival of Colors India
    ••• Holi, the Festival of Colors, is a great spring Festival in Asia. India Photography / Getty Images

    India’s Festival of Colors is the messiest festival in India and one of the wildest spring festivals in Asia.

    Holi is rowdy, messy, and completely unforgettable if you’re brave enough to arm yourself with powdered dye and join the fray. Holi is the celebration of good’s victory over evil. Handfuls of colored dye are thrown in good-natured fun as throngs dance in the streets.

    Dates for Holi are based on the Hindu calendar, but the festival is most often observed in March.

    • Where: India, Malaysia, Nepal, and anyplace with a sizable Hindu population
    • When: February or March; see the dates for Holi
  • 02 of 08
    Nyepi Bali
    ••• A demon effigy on the Balinese Day of Silence. Photo by Matthew Spong

    Known as Nyepi, the annual Balinese Day of Silence literally shuts Indonesia’s busiest island down -- airport included! For one day, the drone of motorbikes is silenced, and Bali’s nightlife machine grinds to a halt.

    The Day of Silence is strictly enforced; travelers aren’t exempt. Tourists are expected to stay on their hotel grounds during Nyepi, dim the lights, and speak in hushed voices. You may need a break after the noise, fireworks, and rambunctious party the night before Nyepi anyway. The day is considered New Year according to the Balinese saka lunar calendar.

    • Where: Bali, Indonesia
    • When: In March or April; dates are based on a lunar calendar and change each year
  • 03 of 08
    Songkran in Thailand
    ••• Songkran in Thailand is wild!. Kampee Patisena / Getty Images

    Songkran, the Thai New Year celebration, has evolved into the world’s largest water fight! What began with a tradition of sprinkling water on each other as a blessing has turned into dumping buckets of ice water and blasting strangers with big water cannons. Love it or hate it, there’s only one way to survive Songkran: embrace the fun or stay far, far away!

    Backpackers traveling along Southeast Asia’s Banana Pancake Trail absolutely love the party. Thailand experiences the hottest temperatures in April (often over 100 degrees Fahrenheit), so being sprayed with ice water isn’t as bad as it sounds.

    • Where: All over Thailand, but Chiang Mai is the epicenter. Smaller celebrations can be enjoyed in Luang Prabang (Laos) and Myanmar
    • When: Official dates are April 13 to April 15, but unofficial celebrations often start earlier
  • 04 of 08

    Reunification Day in Vietnam

    Vietnam Travel
    ••• Celebrations in Saigon. Greg Rodgers

    The fall of Saigon to North Vietnamese troops on April 30, 1975, is celebrated with small festivals throughout Vietnam. Stages are erected in streets and public parks for musical performances.

    • Where: Saigon is the epicenter, but small festivals are held throughout Vietnam
    • When: April 30
    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08
    Kyoto Japan Temple
    ••• A temple in Kyoto, Japan. Tony Conboy III

    Definitely one of the busiest times to travel in Japan, Golden Week is a set of consecutive public holidays in April and May. Scores of Japanese take time off of work and travel, causing big delays in transportation and increases in room rates.

    Although Golden Week implies that the holidays stretch for around seven days, the impact is actually closer to 10 days or more.

    • Where: All over Japan
    • When: Golden Week begins with Showa Day on April 29 and wraps up with Children’s Day on May 5
  • 06 of 08
    Cherry Blossoms
    ••• Cherry blossoms are the usual subject of hanami, or flower viewing, in Japan. Greg Rodgers

    Hanami, the appreciation of flowering cherry trees, is a big deal in Japan. The beautiful blossoms appear sometime between March and May, depending on the place and climate, prompting hordes of Japanese to flock to parks for picnics, drinking sessions, and family time.

    The cherry blossoms don't last long and are revered as a symbol of fleeting beauty.

    The Cherry Blossom Festival coincides with Golden Week in some places, adding to the crowds.

    • Where: All over Japan; the Japan Meteorological Agency actually tracks moving blooms
    • When: Depending on temperatures and latitude, but between mid March and early May
  • 07 of 08

    Buddha’s Birthday

    Say hello in Thailand
    ••• Would you know how to say hello in Thai respectfully to this monk?. Martin Puddy / Getty Images

    Known as Vesak Day, the observed birthday of Gautama Buddha is celebrated in different ways on different dates throughout Asia, but usually in May. The day is observed with religious rites and sincere attempts to be more gentle, eat vegetarian food, and keep Buddhist teachings in mind.

    Travelers are rarely affected by observations of Buddha’s Birthday other than being inconvenienced by the halting of alcohol sales in places such as Thailand.

    • Where: Throughout Asia
    • When: Dates change from year to year and country to country, but almost always in May
  • 08 of 08
    iban longhouse blowpipe
    ••• A blowpipe demonstration at an Iban longhouse in Borneo. Greg Rodgers

    Mainly observed in Sarawak, Gawai Dayak is a celebration of the indigenous people (the Dayak) who call Borneo home. Dayak is a collective term used to refer to more than 205 ethnic groups, many of which once practiced headhunting.

    Although Gawai Dayak is technically June 1, celebrations begin the night before.

    • Where: Sarawak, Borneo; tourists can enjoy events in Kuching
    • When: June 1, however, parades and celebrations begin up to a week before