Croatian Carnivals February
EXIT Festival July
Guča Trumpet Festival August
Sarajevo Film Festival August
As folk recover from Christmas and New Year celebrations, the winter cold sets in. If you can’t beat it, better to embrace it by hitting the snow-covered mountains for white days and cosy nights.
Küstendorf Film & Music Festival, Serbia
Created and curated by director Emir Kusturica, this international indie-fest in the town of Drvengrad, near Zlatibor mountain, eschews traditional red-carpet glitz for oddball inclusions vying for the ‘Golden Egg’ prize.
Vevčani Carnival, Macedonia
This traditional pagan carnival is thought to have existed for 1400 years, and is still celebrated in Vevčani with elaborate costumes, music and general revelry.
The cold continues and towns can still be quiet, unless Carnival is being celebrated. Carnival can happen anywhere between late January and early March, depending on when Easter falls.
Carnival is a big deal in parts of Croatia, with the Rijeka Carnival the most salubrious of them all. Over two weeks, pageants, street dances, concerts, masked balls, exhibitions and parades happen.
Strumica Carnival, Macedonia
Drawing several thousand visitors from Macedonia and elsewhere, the carnival involves five days of drinking, debauchery and costumed merry-making.
A procession of hairy masks, bell-ringing and the occasional wry slap form the dramatic rites of spring in Ptuj for Kurentovanje (www.kurentovanje.net), Slovenia's most distinctive Mardi Gras festival.
Mimosa Festival, Montenegro
Herceg Novi gets a jump on spring with this February festival, which has been held since the Flower Power era of the late 1960s. Expect concerts, sports events, majorettes and lots of yellow blooms.
Spring brings flowers and warmer weather to the Balkans, but still some unpredictable rainfall. Further north in Slovenia, the ski season kicks off with thrilling competitions on the ski slopes.
Spring has arrived bringing mild temperatures and sunshine. Things can be busy when Easter happens; anticipate crowds and price hikes, and some memorable celebrations.
Music Biennale, Croatia
Held over 10 days every odd-numbered year, Zagreb’s Music Biennale (www.mbz.hr/eng) is Croatia’s headline musical festival that attracts world-class performers from a range of musical persuasions.
Beautiful sunny weather makes this a wonderful time to visit the region. Life on the coast is starting up as hotels begin to open for the season and the festival calendar moves into top gear.
Druga Godba, Slovenia
Ljubljana’s flamboyant festival of alternative and world music features everything from new jazz to contemporary folk music. There are also film screenings, workshops, debates and seminars to attend.
Summer has arrived and with it comes hot, sunny weather and a full festival schedule. This is a great time for sunning yourself on the beach before the holiday hordes descend and prices soar.
Hartera Festival, Croatia
Experience some of the best young rock banks and top indie acts from around Europe at this three-day underground festival in an abandoned paper factory in Rijeka.
Mikser Festival, Serbia
Belgrade's hyper-hipster Mikser Festival (http://festival.mikser.rs) brings the supercool Savamala district into the spotlight, with a program devoted to the latest in music, design and quirky creativity.
Theatre City, Montenegro
Budva comes over all thespian for six weeks from mid-June, with performances held in such dramatic spots as the Citadela and in front of the Old Town's walls.
Stake your claim early to get in on the action during July. Temperatures and crowds peak particularly in coastal resorts at the end of the month as school breaks up for the long summer vacation.
EXIT Festival, Serbia
Thousands of revellers enter the state of EXIT each July within the walls of the Petrovaradin Fortress in Novi Sad (www.exitfest.org). International headlining acts draw music lovers from all over the continent.
Ohrid Summer Festival, Macedonia
The month-long Ohrid Summer Festival (www.ohridsummer.com.mk) comprises a wealth of performances ranging from classical, opera and rock acts to theatre and literature. The best events are held in the open-air Roman theatre.
Mostar Bridge Diving Competition, Bosnia & Hercegovina
Crowds throng the rocky banks of the Neretva River to watch daredevil divers leap off Mostar’s iconic old bridge, Stari Most, and plunge into the green waters 21m below.
Ultra Europe, Croatia
Held over three days in Split's Poljud Stadium (www.ultraeurope.com), this electronic music fest includes a huge beach party.
Dubrovnik Summer Festival, Croatia
From 10 July to 25 August, Croatia's most prestigious summer festival (www.dubrovnik-festival.hr) presents a program of theatre, opera, concerts and dance on open-air stages throughout the city.
Galičnik Wedding Festival, Macedonia
The small village of Galičnik is a placid rural outpost except for 12 and 13 July, when thousands of visitors attend this traditional wedding festival to see one or two lucky couples wed here and to enjoy eating, drinking, traditional folk dancing and music.
Motovun Film Festival, Croatia
This film festival, Croatia’s most fun and glamorous, presents a roster of independent and avant-garde films in late July. Nonstop outdoor and indoor screenings, concerts and parties take over the medieval streets of this Istrian hilltop town.
On 22 July Perast men row decorated boats laden with stones to Gospa od Škrpjela in a centuries-old tradition, adding to the artificial island created by their ancestors. The event is now accompanied by the Perast to Tivat yacht regatta.
Sea Dance Festival, Montenegro
This fantastic, frenetic three-day electronic and alternative music festival on the sunny sands of Jaz Beach (near Budva) attracts tens of thousands of merrymakers.
Bajina Bašta Regatta, Serbia
A raucous and ramshackle contingent of daredevils takes to the Drina in anything that floats (and often things that don’t) each July to commemorate the centuries-old tradition of rafting the river.
This is the hot height of summer, with many of the region’s resorts packed out with holidaymakers and coast-bound roads jammed with traffic. Cities inland are quieter.
Sarajevo Film Festival, Bosnia & Hercegovina
Since it grew out of the ruins of the ’90s civil war, the Sarajevo Film Festival (www.sff.ba) has become one of the largest film festivals in Europe. Commercial and art-house flicks are showcased, mostly with English subtitles.
Terraneo Festival, Croatia
This big five-day dance party, located in an old army barracks in Šibenik, draws in Croatian hipsters for its amazing line-up of international and local performers.
Guča Trumpet Festival, Serbia
In one of the most exciting and bizarre events in all of the Balkans, hundreds of thousands of revellers descend on the tiny town of Guča to damage their eardrums, livers and sanity over four cacophonous days of revelry (www.guca.rs).
Nišville International Jazz Festival, Serbia
The sprawling Niš Fortress hosts this jazz festival (www.nisville.com) each August with acts from around the world on the programme.
This superb annual documentary festival has gained a loyal following from documentary lovers from around the world. Outdoor cinemas are set up around the town, including one stage over the river and another inside the castle.
Boka Night, Montenegro
Kotor goes crazy on its night of nights - celebrated since the 19th century (and possibly before) - with a parade of lavishly decorated boats, Old Town parties and seemingly never-ending fireworks.
September is a lovely month to be beside the seaside. The summer crowds have gone back to work and taken peak prices with them, but it’s still hot enough for swimming and hiking.
Cow's Ball, Slovenia
This Slovenian mid-September weekend of folk dancing, music, eating and drinking in Bohinj marks the return of the cows from their high pastures to the valleys in typically ebullient Balkan style.
Kavadarci Wine Carnival, Macedonia
The wine harvest in Macedonia's Tikveš wine region is celebrated with a costumed parade, public wine tasting and merrymaking in early September each year.
The renowned Belgrade International Theatre Festival (www.festival.bitef.rs) is a week-long showcase of experimental and traditional European theatre in late September.
October is still warm in the south of the region but already getting cold in the north. Prices remain low and crowds lessen with each passing day, making it a good time to visit.
October Salon, Serbia
Prestigious annual exhibition (www.oktobarskisalon.org) of contemporary visual arts featuring dozens of local and international artists.
November is a quiet time with not a whole lot going on. On the plus side, accommodation is cheap and readily available. Head south for a chance of sunshine or enjoy indoor attractions.
Tirana International Film Festival, Albania
Tirana's annual film festival (www.tiranafilmfest.com) is the only one of its kind in Albania. It brings together everything from feature films to short films, animated films and documentaries from Albania and abroad.
Sarajevo International Jazz Festival, Bosnia & Hercegovina
This well-known and well-organised jazz festival (www.jazzfest.ba) packs out venues around Sarajevo in early November, as it showcases the best of local and international jazz talent.
The Feast of St Martin is an annual wine festival held in Zagreb to celebrate the end of the grape harvest as Croatian wineries begin the crushing process. Expect lots of wine, good food and high spirits.
The build up to Christmas is a jolly time, often marked by gift-giving, family get-togethers and midnight mass on the 24th of December. In the mountains, the ski season kicks off mid-month.
Christmas Concerts, Slovenia
Held throughout Slovenia, but the most famous are in Postojna Cave, where you can also attend the Live Christmas Crib, a re- enactment of the Nativity. Held early to mid-December.