Experience a world of different festivals and events this summer
To really sense a country's culture and character, you can't beat a festival. From open air concerts and street parades to mad moonlit dancing, we've picked out some of the most famous and inspiring events happening this summer in Venice, Paris, Crete and Thailand. And they all take place near luxury hotels, so you're never too far from the fun.
Float with the stars in Venice
With its network of historic canals, water has always played a central role with any Venetian event. And the summer months are when two great festivals make the most of the city's unique location. The first is on the third Sunday in July – the Festa del Redentore. This traditional celebration marks the end of the devastating plague in 1576. Look out for the moving spectacle of a temporary footbridge created from a flotilla of boats joining Giudecca Island to the mainland. There's also a rowing competition, spectacular gondola regatta and a huge firework display as night falls.
The second is in late August when the red carpets are rolled out for the Venice International Film Festival. Star spotters will be in seventh heaven as the world's biggest names arrive at Venice Lido on gondolas and water taxis in the hope of winning the prestigious Leon d'Oro (Golden Lion). Tickets for film premieres are hard to get, but you can always sit down to outdoor movies and concerts in one of the city's piazzas.
Where to stay: Ca'Sagredo Hotel. A lavish 15th-century palace and cultural masterpiece set on Venice's Grand Canal.
From heady culture to toe-tapping soul, Paris style
Long days and balmy evenings spark joie de vivre all over Paris. Look forward to the slightly incongruous sight of people sunning themselves on man-made sandy beaches and swimming in pools suspended over the Seine. France's bloody past is also marked every 14th July with the famous Fete Nationale, Bastille Day – the day when the French Revolutionaries stormed the Bastille Prison in 1789. Nowadays, families can safely watch fun shows put on by firemen as well as fireworks behind the Eiffel Tower.
During the Paris Summer Arts Festival (12th July – 3rd August) the streets become stages for dance, theatre, circus acts and music performances. If jazz is your thing, from late June to early July pack your picnic basket and listen to legends perform at the Paris Jazz Festival in Floral Park. For die-hard rock fans, there's Rock en Seine – a three-day outdoor music extravaganza that takes over the Domaine National de St. Cloud.
Where to stay: Escape the hustle and bustle of Paris in Le Pavillon de la Reine & Spa, a serene 17th-century retreat.
Crete: where music is the food of love
Hungry for laid-back entertainment and music with a local flavour? Then Crete is the place to be. July opens with an annual festival called Yakinthia that takes over Anogia village for four days of heartfelt poems, songs and films. These bring to life the story of Kanellos Kanellopoulos – a modern-day Icarus and martyr who supposedly flew from Crete to Santorini on a bicycle flying machine.
Skipping ahead to early August, late-night revellers join thousands of others for the legendary Houdetsi Festival, south of Heraklion. Have a mooch around the Crafts Market first, before taking your pick of five stages that put on concerts from 9pm.
You could also visit the seaside town of Matala on the south coast. Still basking in the psychedelic glow of its hippie past, the Summer Solstice weekend lets you join the peace-loving throng. Visitors flock to the lovely crescent beach every year to pose next to rainbow VW camper vans and dance throughout the night.
Where to stay: Relax in your private villa and infinity pool at Elounda Gulf Villas, looking out onto the Aegean Sea.
Royal occasions and riotous parties in Thailand
The Thai calendar is brimming with religious, spiritual and patriotic festivals. A highlight is King Maha Vajiralongkorn's birthday celebrations on 28th July. Celebrations span the country, but are at their biggest in Bangkok, when fireworks fill the air and colourful processions parade down the streets. Sirikit Kitiyakara, the Queen of Thailand, is also a much-loved monarch. So, if you're in Bangkok or Chiang Mai on 12th August, you'll be able to catch her special birthday festivities.
You've probably also heard of Thailand's hedonistic Full Moon Parties. These are held each lunar month to coincide with Buddhist holidays. Once considered a backpacker's rite of passage, these events have morphed into possibly the largest, inclusive, most popular beach party in the world. Not for the fainthearted, prepare to let your hair and inhibitions down with thousands of other revellers on islands such as Koh Samui and the remote Koh Pha-Ngan. Dance from sundown until sunrise, and wave fire sticks in the air. At least you'll have a boutique hotel to retreat back to, while other partygoers make do with sleeping on the beach.