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Scene stealer: September festivals

These September festivals will have you booking up for some last-minute travel plans…

  • Whale watching in South Africa.Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • Harbour House Hotel, South Africa.Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany.Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • Pinakothek der Moderne.Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • Bienal De Flamenco, Seville (left) and Hotel Casa 1800, Spain (right).Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • Waikiki Beach, Hawaii.Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • The Modern Honolulu.Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • The Floral Parade in Hawaii.Image Credit: Supplied picture

The Hermanus Whale Festival, South Africa

When September 28-October 1
The lowdown Known as the best landbased whale watching destination in the world, this gorgeous town boasts beautiful beaches, cute restaurants and gorgeous B&Bs, and is a hot destination all-year-round, but there’s no better time to visit than this month for their festival that celebrates the return of the migrating Southern Right whales. For four days, the town comes alive with African music, delicious food, markets, and, of course, the opportunity to watch the majestic Southern Right whale leaping out from the water just metres away.

Also try While watching whales is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, diving into the great blue in a cage while great white sharks thrash around you is exhilarating on a whole new level. Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and Prince Harry have all tried it, and the quaint port town of Kleinbaai, where the experience starts, is only a 50-minute drive from Hermanus. Post-plunge, visit the fish bar at the harbour, which serves the best fish and chips we’ve ever had – ask for “slup” chips (i.e. sloppy) and douse them in vinegar. Excursions from Dh650-per-person,

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Harbour House Hotel
This seaside manor, built in the 1920s, has stylish rooms, an ocean-facing pool and a wine bar. Plus it’s in the centre of town, so it’s perfectly placed for enjoying the festival’s revelry. Rooms from Dh1,000-per-night. harbourhousehermanus.

Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany

When September 22-October 7
The lowdown This 16-day event is the world’s largest festival, with more than five million people visiting each year, and it’s also one of the longest running events, having been held since 1810 (it began as a celebration of King Ludwig I’s marriage to Princess Therese of Bavaria). A celebration of local hops, the row of tents that make up the fest serve around seven million litres of the stuff throughout the month, and also dish up delicious traditional foods such as pretzels, potato dumplings, fish on a stick and more. To keep the event family-friendly, glass bottles have been banned this year, and tents only play quiet, traditional music until 6pm, but after that decibels rise and it’s an all-out party.

Also try In the centre of Munich, you’ll find the 10-year-old Pinakothek der Moderne, which houses the largest collection of modern art in Germany, but is also an architectural marvel in itself. There are four museums in one, including a wonderful design and furniture museum, as well as art collections featuring works by Matisse, Picasso, Warhol, Hockney, Serra, Johns and de Kooning, as well as German artists from the Die Brücke collective; plus special collections that change throughout the year. Entry from Dh32,

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Hotel Cortiina
A result of a partnership between two of Munich’s most talented creatives, gastronome Rudi Kull and architect Albert Weinzierl, this 75-room hotel in the centre of the cultural old town is feng shui-compliant and uses natural “honest” materials – stylish and good for your conscience! Rooms are from Dh1,200-a-night.

Bienal De Flamenco, Seville, Spain

When September 3-30
The lowdown If you have a picture in your mind of a Spain that involves people clapping out staccato beats whilst shouting ‘Ole!’ and women with flowers in their hair and ruffles in their skirts, then Seville, a bustling southern city with more winding lanes than you’ll have time to stroll along, is as close as you’ll get. And every two years the city becomes even more like the image in your mind’s eye, thanks to the Bienal de Flamenco – now in it’s 17th year – meaning a month of Flamenco, guitars and singing; and there are 70 performances held in the revamped convent of Santa Clara, as well as in the town squares and tavernas. “Seville has to breathe Flamenco,” say the organisers, and we’re sure it will.

Also try While in the city, spare time between all that tapas bar hopping to visit the beautiful Alcazar, which was the palace home to Abd ar-Rahman III in the 10th century, and is a prime example of Arabic architecture in the south of Spain. The orange-scented gardens are our favourite part – take shade under a tree near a fountain and you’ll really feel like royalty. Entry Dh40,

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Hotel Casa 1800
This restored 1864 palace-house is located just a few steps from the cathedral and Seville’s beautiful historical centre; the light-flooded romantic rooms boast views out over the gardens of the Alcazar and the haphazard roofs of the Barrio Santa Cruz. Open the traditional wooden shutters and sit out on your balcony to watch this wonderful city at work. Rooms from Dh700-a-night

Aloha Festival, Hawaii

When September 6-September 27
The lowdown Conceived in 1946, this month-long festival celebrates Hawaii’s heritage and the friendly ‘Aloha Spirit’ the islands are famous for. The Big Island hosts hula dances next to rainforests, while the smaller and more developed Oahu and Maui hold ‘hoolauleas’ or block parties that attract up to 250,000 revellers (the biggest one will take over Waikiki Beach on September 15 and will boast crafts, food and cocktails). All events are free, and another highlight is the Floral Parade, which sees marching bands and a cascade of Hawaiian flowers fill the streets of Oahu.

Also try If you find yourself on the collection of islands that is Hawaii, make sure to head to the Big Island (the largest, less-inhabited island, which is actually called Hawaii, but goes by its nickname to avoid confusion) and take a doorsoff helicopter tour over the Kilauea volcano, which has been active since 1983. Fly over the volcano and you’ll see red-hot molten lava pouring into the cool Pacific Ocean, and be able to feel the heat from it. A humbling experience. From Dh620-per-person,

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The Modern Honolulu
This boutique bolthole combines barefoot style with minimalist luxury and boasts 353 guest rooms, a view of the Honolulu skyline, a sunrise-view pool, and a fine-dining restaurant run by Iron Chef’s Morimoto. Plus, it’s only a short walk from Waikiki Beach – which is where the party’s at on September 15. Rooms are from Dh660-a-night.