The annual Busójárás carnival transforms the southern town of Mohács into a whirlwind celebration designed to scare away winter with woolly outfits, scary masks and a final, enormous bonfire. We went down there to take a look for ourselves.

This weekend, we travelled three hours south of Budapest to experience the popular Busójárás festival and check out the festivities for ourselves. Excursions to Mohács are made possible by Undiscovered Hungary, an English-speaking tour company organising trips across the country. Their tours hit on all the Hungarian sites worth seeing, including wine festivals, Christmas markets, castles, landmarks and more. The next excursion is in March, travelling to Eger for the Spring Festival and wine tour.

Busójárás began this year on Thursday, with mask-making, children's theatre and folk dancing in the main square. As the weekend approaches, the celebrations amp up, culminating in an hour-long Carnival parade on Sunday. Busós – the men in costumes – are the main attraction, playing pranks on members of the crowd. Young children are picked up, women and girls are pulled into big, sheepy hugs, and feathers are thrown indiscriminately into people's hair. Other times, charcoal is rubbed on people's foreheads, or flour is hidden on the palm of the hand while giving a high-five. It's all in good fun, of course. 

Some busós ride in carts pulled by people, animals or tractors. Women and girls walk alongside in traditional outfits, with Carnival masks on, and handing sweets to children. Men and women dress as witches, cackling and prancing as they run up and down the parade lines.

The iconic masks are also for sale, and carving demonstrations take place in the mornings. The event is full of all sorts of gastronomic goodies – chimney cake, lángos fried dough, pálinka brandy, candy floss – and handmade souvenirs stalls line the streets. Each year, a commemorative mug is sold for 1,000 forints, and can be filled with mulled wine for 250 forints per decilitre. (And we should add that their idea of one decilitre is a giant ladle!)

After a day full of folk dancing, music, food and pranks, a bonfire is set up in the centre of the town square. The crowd presses close, and busó men prowl between onlookers and the woodpile. 

Once the sun has sufficiently set, it's time for fire, and torches appear out of nowhere. The woodpile is doused in a healthy amount of lighter fluid to facilitate combustion.

As the inferno grows, the crowd shuffles backwards from the intensity of the flames. But the busó men, in their thick woollen outfits, are impervious to the heat, and they prance and swagger in the inner circle. Many visitors pose for photos with the busós at this time, and when the masks come off, it's smiling faces all around. Bottles of pálinka emerge from waistbands, and even the police officer on duty exclaims as he recognises a mate in costume. 

Keep up to date on next year's schedule via the websiteUndiscovered Hungary will offer its day tour to Mohács again next year as well. More information on their tours can be found online