8 mins

5 royal events we'd rather be invited to

Our top 5 royal events we think would be much more fun than Kate and Will's nuptials

Queen's Day, The Netherlands

From US President Obama and former prime minister Tony Blair through to pop star Lily Allen, a lot of people are miffed they didn't get invited to the Royal wedding. We know how they feel. We're practically neighbours with the groom's Grandmother (here in Windsor) and we didn't get one either.

Rather than moan about it on Twitter, we decided to put together a list of royal events we'd rather attend. You never know - maybe there's a royal courtier in a royal kingdom somewhere who is a faithful Wanderlust reader...

King of Tonga's Birthday BBQ1. The King of Tonga's Birthday BBQ

Tongans love their food and they love their King. So what better way to celebrate the King's birthday in July than with a huge traditional feast?

After starting the day with the obligatory military parade, the King soon hightails it down to the local beach where his loyal subjects have been digging traditional underground ovens or uma and cooking an assortment of local delicacies, all wrapped in banana or taro leaves to seal in the flavours. Others stoke the fires for the estimated 100 suckling pigs that need to be spit-roasted.

Finally, a huge feast is laid out on a long tray made from plaited coconut fronds, known as a pola, and everyone tucks in. Each pola holds up to 30 dishes, still wrapped in banana or taro leaves, including ota ika, fish marinated in lemon and coconut cream, and lu pulu, corned beef, also in coconut milk.

We'll happily bring the palm wine.

When: The King's birthday is celebrated on August 1 and is preceded by the Heilala Festival, a two-week celebration of Tongan arts, dance and culture

More info: Tonga travel guide

Royal Archery Competition Bhutan2. Royal Archery Tournament with the Dragon King of Bhutan

At 28, Bhutan's Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk is the youngest reigning monarch in the world. And if a recent state visit to Thailand is anything to go by, he's a bit of a heart throb too. Smitten Thai girls have started up their very own Dragon King fanclub. A royal event thrown by Jigme, as the Thai girls call him, has got to be more fun that ones thrown by other older royals propping up thrones around the world.

Take the Royal Archery tournament held as part of Jigme's birthday celebrations. Contestants wear traditional clothing and each shot is accompanied by singing, dancing, jeering and the occasional primitive howl. Rival teams consult astrologers to consider the omens and Tsips, special archery shamen, are employed to redirect the wind to deflect the opposing teams arrows – or at the very least defile their equipment with dirt dug up from the local cemetery.

You just know the archery at the 2012 Olympics won't be that much fun.

When: 21st February

More info: Bhutan travel guide

Queen's Day, The Netherlands3. Paint the town orange with the Queen of Holland

The Dutch like to dress in orange. It's a nod to their royal family, known locally as the House of Orange, apparently. They even have a name for it: oranjegekte or orange craze.

Things get really oranjegekte on Queen's Day, when the Dutch Celebrate Queen Beatrice's birthday. There are orange banners, orange-colored foods and drinks, and everyone dusts off their orange clothing and accessories. Even the water in fountains is dyed orange.

Queen's Day also offers the chance to clear out the attic and make a bit of cash. A special holiday dispensation on taxes on sales turns the country into one big car-boot sale or vrijmarkt ('freemarket'). Everyone sets up stalls or blankets in parks, on sidewalks and even on the roads themselves. Items get cheaper as the day progresses and by the end of the festivities, much of the unsold merchandise is left on the streets to be picked over until it is removed by local municipalities shortly after.

Oh, and makes sure you get there fashionably early. In recent years the Dutch have taken to celebrating the Queen's birthday the night before too. They call it Koninginnenacht, Queen's Night.

Any excuse to don an orange wig!

When: 30th April

More info: Netherlands travel guide

Umhlanag Reed Dance, Swaziland4. Umhlanga Reed dance in Swaziland

Each year all the eligible maidens in Swaziland whack on a grass skirt, make their way to a field just outside the capital Mbabane and dance.

It's all part of the annual Umhlanga (Reed) Dance. 20,000 young maidens (sometimes up to 100,000) bring tall reeds to present to the Queen Mother and use them to do a bit of DIY on the windbreaks around the Queen Mother's residence.

The Reed Dance usually lasts for a week with the king attending on the last day as a sign of respect to his mother. However, King Mswati III has taken to using the event as an opportunity to pick a new bride, sitting in front of a bank of monitors watching live feeds from roaming TV cameras until he spots the 'one'.

Well, the 'one' for this year at least.

When: Late August/early September

More info: Swaziland travel guide

Monarch butterflies, Mexico5. Winter with insect royalty in Mexico

You think the crowds are going to be bad outside Westminster Abbey for Kate and Will's wedding?The oyamel fir trees of Michoacan in Mexico have to cope with over one billion visitors each winter.

The visitors are monarch butterflies who return each year from as far away as Canada to spend winter in more suitable climes. There are so many of them that tree branches bend under their weight, they fill the sky when they take flight, and make a sound like light rain with the beating of their wings.

The area has been declared a Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve and was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2008. The protected area covers over 200 square miles. A week long cultural festival, the Festival Cultural de la Mariposa Monarca, is held each year at the end of February or beginning of March.

When: The Monarch butterfly reserves of Michoacan are open daily from
mid-November through March, from 9am to 6pm. The Monarch population is
at a peak during January and February.

More info: Mexico travel guide

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