From whales in South Africa to chocolate in the US. By Sophie Lam



23-26 September, Hermanus Whale Festival, Walker Bay

Between June and December, Hermanus, one of the most southerly points in Africa, sees a large number of Southern Right Whales, who come to mate and calve in the bay. The area is considered to be one of the world's best spots for whale-watching, and a festival to celebrate this natural wonder was established in 1991. Since then it has snowballed from an opportunity to watch these fantastic creatures basking offshore to include events ranging from watersports to classical music. There will also be daily talks about whales and sharks in the Whale House lecture room, whale-watching walks, scuba diving and even paragliding. Ticket prices vary according to event, pre-booking is recommended. There will also be a programme of free events above the Old Harbour. Further information: 00 27 28 313 0920;


22 September, Autumn Equinox, Chichen Itza, Yucatan

In the heart of the Yucatan peninsula lies one of the most impressive of Mexico's Mayan ruins, Chichen Itza and its central 25m pyramid El Castillo, the Mayan calendar set in stone. The 18 terraces correspond to the 18 months (each 20 days) of the Mayan year, with 365 stairs representing each day of the year. Twice a year, at the autumn and spring equinoxes, Mayans gather at the archaeological site to commemorate their ancestors, a centuries-old tradition. On the day of the equinox, the pyramid casts dramatic triangular shadows in the shape of a serpent down the northern face, at around 3pm, which the Mayans believed was the arrival of the god Kukulkan.

Further information from Mexico Ministry of Tourism: 020-7488 9392;


9-19 September, Vancouver Fringe Festival

This year's programme is heavy on comedy, but poetry, mime, music, multimedia and drama are also represented, and there are performances for children. The season kicks off with a costumed performers' parade, starting at Performance Works at 7pm on 9 September, and continues with hundreds of shows at around 20 venues, ranging from theatres to garages. Productions include a one-man Lord of the Rings, The Greatest Rock'n'Roll Story Ever Told, and New York Hospital: The Musical. Inspired by the Edinburgh Fringe, the festival is now in its 20th year and will feature around 100 theatrical groups from across Canada. Ticket prices vary, and booking is recommended. Details: 001 604 257 0350;


11-12 September, Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival, San Francisco

Chocolate fans of the world unite in Ghirardelli Square, home to one of the country's most established chocolatiers. The Square has become a Californian landmark since the Ghirardelli family set up their chocolate, mustard and box factories here in the mid-19th century. During the festival, every imaginable chocolate product - from good old-fashioned bars to truffles, cakes and tiramisu - will fill the square for visitors to sample. Those with a healthy (or unhealthy, depending on your inclination) appetite can enter the sundae-eating contest to win their weight in Ghirardelli chocolate. Local restaurants and shops will also be holding chocolate-themed events. The festival is free and runs from 12noon-5.30pm on both days. Details: 001 415 775 5500;


16-27 September, Festival of Wallonia, Brussels

Launched in 1923 to commemorate Belgium's victory in the War of Independence with the Kingdom of the Netherlands nearly a century earlier, the Wallonia Festival rapidly spread across the country and today involves celebrations throughout the summer in the capital, Namur, Saint-Hubert, Stavelot, Hainaut, Brabant-Wallon and Liège. This year's theme is musical, so expect to hear everything from piano recitals to music from Argentina, as well as performances from the Liège Philharmonic Orchestra and the Russian pianist Boyan Vodenitcharov. Ticket prices vary according to concert, and booking is recommended. For further information: 00 32 8173 3781;


18-19 September, White Night, Rome

Following the success of last year's event, Rome will again stay up all night for this year's Notte Bianca. In 2003, one and a half million people enjoyed the capital's cultural institutions and shops from a different perspective. Museums, churches, synagogues, libraries, shops, theatres and art galleries will stay open throughout the night, from 8pm until dawn, and with any luck the blackout that marred last year's event will be avoided. Hundreds of events will also be staged in venues ranging from the Colosseum to the Spanish Steps, where the Cirque du Soleil will perform, so a few double espressos might be in order to keep you going until daybreak. La Notte Bianca is a free event. Further information: 00 39 06 060606;