A Hindu festival originating in India and Nepal, Holi is a thrilling celebration of spring, love and colour, where revellers fling coloured powder and water while dancing in the streets. This unmissable, kaleidoscopic annual extravaganza takes place on the last full moon of the Hindu lunar month Phalguna (mostly in March). This timing symbolises the transition from winter to spring, new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil.
Here are the five best places to celebrate Holi outside of India.
Large-scale Holi celebrations may be found all over Australia but the city of Melbourne hosts the biggest event. In 2022, the ‘Festival of Colours’ will take place at The Paddock - Fed Square on the banks of the Yarra River; it’s a centrally located outdoor space where people can plunge the paddock into a haze of pastel powder (with social distancing measures put in place). And given that March sees some of the most pleasant, sun-filled, balmy days of the year for Melbourne, this is the perfect outdoor party to see out the summer season. Sleep it off at the fashionable and central Adelphi Hotel, just 11 minutes’ walk from The Paddock.
Spanish Fork, USA
The Spanish Fork, USA
Just outside the city of Spanish Fork in Utah, the local Hare Krishna temple’s ‘Festival of Colors’ has drawn close to 70,000 attendees in recent years (spread out over two days – in 2022, those will be the 26th and 27th March). The event was started in 1989 by a group of Hare Krishnas who’d recently settled here and soon began to attract the student population of the nearby Brigham Young University, who these days come out in droves seeking fun and spirituality. The emphasis is on welcoming all faiths and its joyous atmosphere has now spread to other North American cities including Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Stay at the Western Inn in Spanish Fork for easy access to the festival.
You can experience the chaotic spectrum of colour that is Holi in various locations across Germany, including Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich, but Berlin is the main affair. Though Holi is technically a spring celebration, the Berlin weather in March isn’t quite forgiving enough to spend the day outside throwing paint and water, so the city’s biggest colour festival event takes place in summer – in 2022, it will be held on the 20th August. Expect huge, joyous crowds, hourly countdowns to the traditional Hindu coloured powder-flinging festivities, acrobats, dance and a spectacular music line-up featuring Indian acts. Wash all the paint off and recover from the mayhem at the attractive Hotel Johann in trendy Kreuzberg.
Port Louis, Mauritius
Port Louis, Mauritius
Half the population of Mauritius follow Hinduism, so the festival of Holi is a long-standing tradition on the island, with most locals joining in the revelry regardless of religion. The celebrations kick off with a bonfire on the beach that symbolises the triumph of good over evil known as ‘Holika Dahan’, accompanied by folk songs and dancing. Next, people fill the streets of the towns – namely the capital, Port Louis – hurling handfuls of brightly-coloured, plant-based powders (‘gulal’) at each other, drenching each other with water bombs and water pistols made of bamboo stalks (‘pichkaris’), and greeting each other with tilak (a ritual of marking the forehead) before exchanging sweets. One of the most incredible sights of all is when the odd handful of paint is thrown into the crystalline sea, turning it pillarbox red or canary yellow as if by magic. Stay in the middle of the action in a luxurious setting at Labourdonnais Waterfront Hotel.
Although social distancing rules may mean that large-scale Holi events are postponed yet again for London in 2022, the English capital has long been a hub for celebrating this colourful festival and no doubt will continue to be in future. As with Berlin, the biggest, kaleidoscopic outdoor parties tend to be hosted in summer rather than spring on account of the weather but range from early July until late August. Alternatively, for those who want to break up the wintry March weather with a riot of colour, there are often indoor events held at venues like the popular Dishoom restaurant in Shoreditch. Stay at Wembley Park Hotel in north London, close to where previous big events have been held.