Carnival in Croatia, Slovenia & Macedonia February
EXIT Festival July
Guča Trumpet Festival August
Sarajevo Film Festival August
As everyone recovers from New Year celebrations, the Orthodox community prepare for Christmas. If you can’t beat the cold, it's 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 Tara National Park, 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 take place.
A procession of hairy masks, bell-ringing and the occasional wry slap form the dramatic rites of spring in Ptuj for Kurentovanje, Slovenia's most distinctive Mardi Gras festival.
Strumica Carnival, Macedonia
Drawing several thousand visitors from Macedonia and elsewhere, the Carnival involves three days of drinking, music, parades and costumed merry-making.
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 sees thrilling competitions on the slopes.
Festival 84, Bosnia & Hercegovina
An offshoot of Serbia's Exit Festival, showcasing electronic music in the Jahorina ski resort near Sarajevo – one of the main venues of the 1984 Winter Olympic Games (www.festival84.com).
In Catholic areas, Holy Week brings with it elaborate ceremonies and processions. On the coast, tourist infrastructure starts to wake from its winter slumber around Easter. Expect milder temperatures and increasing sunshine.
Music Biennale Zagreb, Croatia
Held over 10 days every odd-numbered year, Zagreb’s Music Biennale is Croatia’s headline music festival which attracts world-class performers from the field of modern-day classical music.
Beautiful sunny weather makes this a wonderful time to visit the region. Life on the coast is starting to heat up and the festival calendar shifts into gear.
Mikser Festival, Serbia
Belgrade's hyper-hipster Mikser Festival brings the hip Savamala district into the spotlight, with a programme devoted to the latest in music, design and quirky creativity.
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.
Sea Star Festival, Croatia
One of a growing number of offshoot events sprung from Novi Sad's EXIT Festival, Sea Star (www.seastarfestival.com) brings four days of electronic music to the Istrian town of Umag right at the beginning of the tourist season.
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 school-holiday hordes descend and prices peak.
Kala Festival, Albania
Held on the beach in Dhërmi, this week-long festival features mainly DJs and a few high-profile dance acts. Get in early for a ticket; they go on sale the October prior.
Stake your claim early to get in on the action during July. Temperatures and crowds peak particularly in coastal resorts as school breaks up for the long summer vacation.
Theatre City, Montenegro
Budva comes over all thespian for seven weeks, with performances held in such dramatic spots as the Citadela and in front of the Old Town's walls.
EXIT Festival, Serbia
Thousands of revellers enter the state of EXIT each July within the walls of the Petrovaradin Fortress in Novi Sad. International headlining acts draw music lovers from all over the continent.
Ohrid Summer Festival, Macedonia
The month-long Ohrid Summer Festival 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 amphitheatre.
Ultra Europe, Croatia
Held over three days in Split's Poljud Stadium, this electronic-music fest then heads to the islands for the rest of Destination Ultra Croatia Music Week.
Dubrovnik Summer Festival, Croatia
From 10 July to 25 August, Croatia's most prestigious summer festival presents a roster 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 a Perast-to-Tivat yacht regatta.
Drina Regatta, Serbia
A raucous and ramshackle contingent of daredevils takes to the Drina at Tara National Park 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 the region’s coastal resorts packed out with holidaymakers and roads jammed with traffic. Inland cities are quieter.
This superb annual documentary festival has gained a loyal following from documentary lovers from around the world. Outdoor cinemas are set up around Prizren, including one stage over the river and another inside the castle.
Sarajevo Film Festival, Bosnia & Hercegovina
Since it grew out of the ruins of the 1990s civil war, the Sarajevo Film Festival has become one of the largest film festivals in Europe. Commercial and art-house flicks are showcased, mostly with English subtitles.
Guča 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 trumpet-fuelled revelry.
Nišville International Jazz Festival, Serbia
The sprawling Niš Fortress hosts this jazz festival each August with acts from around the world taking to the stage.
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.
Sea Dance Festival, Montenegro
This fantastic, frenetic three-day electronic and alternative music festival on the sunny sands of Buljarica Beach (near Petrovac) attracts tens of thousands of merrymakers.
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 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 is a week-long showcase of experimental and traditional European theatre held in various venues around the city in late September.
Red Bull Cliff Diving, Bosnia & Hercegovina
Crowds throng the rocky banks of the Neretva River to watch daredevil divers leap off Mostar’s old bridge and plunge into the green waters 21m below.
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
Held in Belgrade, this prestigious exhibition of contemporary visual arts features dozens of local and international artists; it actually starts in mid-September.
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 settle for indoor attractions.
Jazz Fest Sarajevo, Bosnia & Hercegovina
This well-known and well-organised jazz festival packs out venues around Sarajevo in early November, showcasing the best of local and international jazz talent.
Tirana International Film Festival, Albania
Tirana's annual film festival 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.
Martinje, Slovenia & Croatia
St Martin’s Day is celebrated in all the wine-producing regions across Slovenia and Croatia on 11 November. There are wine celebrations and lots of feasting and sampling of new wines.
The build-up to Christmas is a jolly time in Catholic areas, often marked by gift-giving, family get-togethers and midnight mass on 24 December. In the mountains, the ski season kicks off mid-month.
Christmas Concerts, Slovenia
Held in early to mid-December 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.