May is a great time to travel. The weather across Europe is pleasant, with plenty of sunshine and warmth, but not the searing heat that can make it difficult to complete your sightseeing goals. We’re all looking forward to the summer, but for those lucky enough to be travelling before the crowds, there are some brilliant destinations just waiting to be explored.

See the May Crosses in Alicante

Alicante

While the warm weather might be attracting visitors to Alicante in May, this time of year means one thing for the locals – the Festival of the May Crosses. This annual event takes place on May 3rd, but has a build-up of several days that include fire crackers, parades, competitions and games. The centrepiece of the festival, however, comes in the form of colourful crosses created out of flowers and used to adorn people’s homes.

The festival is said to have been founded by St Helen, who highlighted the importance of worshipping the cross throughout the Christian religion. Each household aims to outdo its neighbours in the elaborate design of their cross, with a prize given to the winner. Walk up from the marina, past Alicante’s town hall and into the Old Town in order to see a wide selection of crosses among the narrow lanes.

Tango the night away in Almeria

Almeria

Almeria is another great Spanish destination where the Festival of the May Crosses is celebrated, so look out for the distinctive adornments in this fantastic city too. The country’s sunniest region has so much more to offer in May besides this traditional festival, however. For example, you could enjoy all the passion of South American dance without the long haul flight and make your way to the tenth annual International Festival of Tango. Held from May 6th to 7th and featuring some incredible tango musicians, it’s certain to get you tapping your feet at the Teatro Apolo.

Alternatively, head to the village of Almocita outside of Almeria for a truly special festival on May 7th. This is the evening that locals call La Noche de Los Candiles or the Night of the Lamps. All of the street lights are turned off and the village is illuminated with candles, lamps and fires, commemorating the blackouts of World War Two. It gives the village a wonderful atmosphere and everyone gathers at candlelit stages to watch musical performances.

Tickle your taste buds in Gran Canaria

Spanish salads at Gran Canaria

Foodies and LGBT travellers will be descending on Gran Canaria in May for two of the biggest events in the island’s calendar. Firstly, the Gran Canaria Gastrofest, which is due to take place from May 20th to 22nd is a fantastic opportunity to unlock the flavours of the destination. Head to Santa Catalina Park and the Miller Building in Las Palmas to get involved in the action.

For just €2 (£1.57), visitors can access all of the cookery workshops, tastings, product demonstrations and lectures they like. On top of this they’ll be entitled to a free drink with their entry fee. Children under 12 are not charged admission.

Meanwhile, Maspalomas Gay Pride Festival will be ongoing from May 1st to 15th in one of Europe’s largest gay centres. The highlight will be the parade featuring some 100,000 participants, but there is a packed schedule throughout the event. Expect live shows, pool parties and boat excursions, as well as appearances from Eurovision Song Content participants and a race in high heels.

Vintage motors descend on Funchal

Madeira

May is a particularly pleasant time to explore the levada channels that provide wonderful walking routes across Madeira. Other attractions that bring visitors and locals together on the island throughout the month include a wide variety of festivals. From celebrating Funchal’s patron saint Sao Tiago Menor to the humble onion, there’s something to suit every taste at this time of year.

From May 7th to 8th, Belmond Reid’s Palace Classic Auto Show sees vintage cars lined up all along Estrada Monumental, from Villa Cipriani Restaurant right the way to Largo da Paz. Whether you’re into classic cars, motorbikes or scooters, there’s plenty to see and there will be demonstrations, as well as a prize-giving ceremony.

The traditional Festa da Se brings the centre of Funchal to life at the end of the month (from May 27th to June 6th). There’ll be street parties, featuring food, drinks, live music and folk dancing, in the area surrounding the cathedral. The Joao Tavira, Rua do Bispo, Rua da Queimada de Cima, Rua da Queimada de Baixo and Rua dos Ferreiros are the streets to head for.

Lanzarote’s caves come alive with dance

 Jameos del Agua, Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Sp

Many of the people visiting Lanzarote during May will be spending time beneath the waves. That’s because the Canary Island will be hosting several open water swimming competitions and a scuba diving festival at various days in the month. For those keen to keep themselves on dry land there’s the 25th annual Ironman Lanzarote event on May 21st.

That all sounds a tad energetic, so if that’s not up your street, you might like to take in a dance performance in incredible surroundings. Free Fall is a special event taking place at the Jameos del Agua on May 21st. These natural caves were created out of volcanic rock and have been revered by the likes of Cesar Manrique and Rita Heyworth. There’s no better place to see this incredible dance show, choreographed by Sharon Fridman. Tickets cost €20 (£15.80).

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