The sun setting over the Cape Hainsart lighthouse in Biarritz

From cheese rolling in the British countryside to unspoiled beaches in Costa Rica, we've got your May holiday ideas sorted.

For city slickers…

Short haul: London, England

Forget Paris in the springtime, it’s all about London in May. Gone are the coat-soaking downpours and finger-biting frosts as locals embrace the sweet sunshine with Thames-side strolls and book reading in the royal gardens.

Head first to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, where the looping slide installed around Sir Anish Kapoor’s distinctive Orbit sculpture is due to welcome its first brave sliders.

If you don’t lose your stomach completely, move onto one of London’s many supper clubs. The Disappearing Dining Club produces fabulous, fine-dining food in unique spaces like lighthouses, launderettes, churches and antiques shops.

The ArcelorMittal Orbit slide in London The ArcelorMittal Orbit slide in London
mikeinlondon / Thinkstock

Long haul: Puebla, Mexico

Contentiously hijacked by US college campuses and nicknamed 'Cinco de Drinko', the annual Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Mexico are actually colourful, food-filled festivities that commemorate the 5 May 1862 Mexican militia victory during the Franco-Mexican war.

For the best taste of the action, head to the vibrant colonial streets of Puebla, one of Mexico’s oldest cities, where they will host 20 days' worth of art installations, parades with charros (traditional Mexican horsemen) and mariachi bands.

Forget tacos and tequila, locals nibble on more customary delights like Chiles en Nogada (a fruit and nut-stuffed chilli in walnut sauce, pomegranate seeds and parsley), a dish invented by Puebla nuns that represents the colours of the flag: green, red and white.

The view over the Santuario de los Remedios in Puebla The view over the Santuario de los Remedios in Puebla
AlbertoLoyo / Thinkstock

For adrenaline junkies…

Short haul: Brockworth, England

It sounds like a recipe for disaster: take one circular Double Gloucester cheese, chuck in a handful of nutty locals, and shake well down a hill so steep it’s basically a cliff. But that’s what happens every May in Brockworth, Gloucestershire.

Running since at least the early 1800s, possibly millennia earlier as part of a pagan Midsummer tradition, the annual Cooper’s Hill Cheese Roll will return on 30 May 2016 – probably with more broken legs, arms and ankles.

Not for the faint-hearted (nor really for anyone out of the village), expect to see a blur of locals somersault, tumble, cartwheel and race to the foot of the hill, with the winner taking the cheese.

Competitors at the Cooper's Hill Cheese Roll Competitors at the Cooper's Hill Cheese Roll
Akabei / Thinkstock

Long haul: Potosí, Bolivia

It’s not just Potosí’s height that will give you nosebleeds. The 4,090m-high (13,419ft) city, made famous when the Spanish set up silver mines here, also hosts the annual Tinku festival in May – a tradition that involves days of drinking, dancing and violence.

Historically, the fights are meant to resolve tensions between the Quechua communities and encourage a prosperous harvest: the more blood spilled, the better the harvest.

It’s a colourful, if shocking, spectacle. On the plus side it entails indigenous music and much moonshine; among the negatives is the real possibility of death, so not every average Joe should be scrapping – leave it to the locals.

Colourful Quechua dancers at Tinku festival Colourful Quechua dancers at Tinku festival
Jeremy Richards / Thinkstock

For beach bums…

Short haul: Biarritz, France

As the mercury rises across mainland Europe, nowhere does the spring swell sparkle quite so seductively as Biarritz, France’s most glamorous beach resort and surfing mecca.

Grab a board and join the hordes of olive-skinned locals bobbing in the surf at La Grande Plage, or stretch out on the silky sands of Plage du Miramar.

Away from its golden sands, take in the Basque town’s imposing fin-de-siècle architecture and smattering of museums, before heading to the nearby twin resorts of Saint Jean de Luz and Cibourne for a spot of (affordable) shopping and some lip-smacking seafood restaurants.  

The rough coast of Biarritz The blue skies and sparkling spring swell of Biarritz
gael_f / Thinkstock

Long haul: Costa Rica

Want to ditch the winter jacket? Then say adiós to your parkas and scarves, and say hola to bathing suits and sunglasses with a trip to Costa Rica.

On 4 May, British Airways will be offering direct flights twice a week from London Gatwick to San Jose, the capital of this rainforest-filled destination situated between the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean.

Of course, nothing sums up the pura vida (pure life) like its deserted blonde beaches: all leaning palms, diamond-coloured sands and emerald waters. Seek out uninhabited Isla de Caño, a biological reserve with impeccable coastline, or peaceful Playa Ventanas, accessible only by dirt track.

One of the many beautiful Costa Rican beaches One of the many beautiful Costa Rican beaches
Simon Dannhauer / Thinkstock



Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.