There are many different festivals held around the world throughout the year to suit every taste. Traditionally, festivals are a special day or period for a religious event or anniversary. They can also be an organised event such as a music festival, food festival, film festival or even a beer festival. Some are large involving thousands of people, others are small local gatherings.
People travel the globe to attend these elaborate events, and often make it the sole purpose for their trip. We have!
There are many festivals on my bucket list which I have yet to attend, so to help me compile this epic list of festivals around the world, I asked some awesome travel bloggers.
What a magnificent, diverse and eclectic list this is!
Festivals in Europe
By Angie Briggs – Feet Do Travel
Oktoberfest is the world’s largest annual beer festival. Held mid-September in Munich, the Bavarian part of Germany, this mammoth event last 16 days. It was on our bucket list, and we went with a group of eight friends.
The official ceremony starts when the Mayor of Munich taps the first keg of Oktoberfest beer declaring the festival “open”. Approximately 7.3 million litres of specially brewed German beer will be consumed by roughly 5.9 million people from around the world.
What if you don’t like beer? Thankfully there are alternatives! Radler (beer with lemonade) is a diluted option, but there is also a wine/champagne tent for those with a finer palette. Unbelievably, it’s also a place for families with fairground and white-knuckle drop rides, bumper cars, carousels, and candy-floss stands a-plenty!
From 10am, litres of beer are served from iconic steins, but don’t try and take one as a souvenir, it’s considered theft and security are hot on checking bags.
This event is huge. With around 16 tents to choose from, each one has their own theme, and a capacity to hold between 1,000 – 10,000 people. The “tents” are huge halls made from wood and steel erected purely for Oktoberfest.
Every tent was alive with drunken, happy revellers standing on wooden benches, swaying and hugging, chatting and singing along to live bands. I won’t lie, it was bloomin’ awesome.
For the sheer size of this event, and good-hearted joviality that comes with it, I truly believe that Oktoberfest should be added your festival bucket list.
By Sharon Odegaard - Exploring Our World
Did you know that Venetian-style rowing is a unique sport that’s been practiced in the lagoons of Venice for thousands of years? A festive Historical Regatta is held every September to celebrate this sport. First up is a water pageant, when 16th-century style boats regale the crowds lining the canals. Gondoliers in costume ferry the Doge and his wife and other Venetian officials through the water. The bright colors, swift gondolas, and enthusiastic people cheering from the sidelines make for an unforgettable experience.
Races follow the pageant. One is the gondolini regatta. Boats of every shape and size compete to reach the finish line, an elaborate floating stage. Awards are cash prizes and a coveted winner’s pennant.
The training of oarsmen has always been a necessity in Venice. The first record of the Venetian regatta dates to the 13th century. Drawings and maps of the event appeared in 1500. Painters ever since have captured the spirit of the city with their art depicting the regatta.
We happened to arrive in Venice on the day of the Historical Regatta. We loved standing on the dock among the rowdy locals cheering on their favorite boats.
This event is so lively and colorful that next time I would purposely plan to be there!
By Halef and Michael – The Round The World Guys
As in many majority-Catholic countries, Portugal has many religious traditions and celebrations. Every town and city even has its own patron saints. For the capital of Lisbon, there is a major religious festival to honor St. Anthony, the most important person in the city.
While the modern St. Anthony Festival is no longer deeply religious, many traditions that are hundreds of years old take place on June 12 of each year. The most famous of all is the consumption of sardines, one of Portugal’s best commodities. It is said that St. Anthony preached the Gospel to the sardines who listened to him do so.
Nowadays, the Lisbon Sardines Festival is one of the most popular celebrations in Portugal. Walking through the narrow streets of Lisbon’s neighborhoods, you can smell the thick smoke from grilled sardines in the air, while sipping on sangria or local beer.
If you’re attending while single, don’t forget to rub the Manjerico - a potted plant of basil in the form of a ball that symbolizes newly-sprouted love. You might just find love during your visit!
By Gabor Kovacs – Surfing The Planet
Spain is famous for its fascinating traditional festivals, but from this wide selection the Las Fallas Festival held in Valencia every March stands out, as recognized by UNESCO declaring it intangible cultural heritage.
The origin of this festival dates back to medieval times, when local artisans burnt wooden waste material to celebrate the arrival of spring. The date was later fixed to March 19 by the church to the day of Saint Joseph. Even today on this day, wooden sculptures are burnt. This tradition evolved to what we can see know on the streets of not only the city of Valencia, but other municipalities of the autonomous community of Valencia. Nowadays, local artists make fantastic wooden artworks, and these art objects called fallas are placed in major points of the city. Fallas often represent not only main cultural elements of the history and traditions of Valencia, but they also serve as art forms of presenting criticism, satire and even political messages.
It’s worth spending a few days in town to have time to check out the many fallas monuments that are exhibited in the city before they are burnt on the day of the cremà.
By Dhara - It's Not About the Miles
If you are planning a visit to the Andalusian city of Córdoba, consider visiting in the first half of May. This is the time when the city hosts the annual Fiesta de los Patios, Its one of Córdoba's biggest festivals, drawing tons of visitors from all over.
Every home or building in Córdoba features a walled courtyard, where lots of greenery and a water feature create a cool oasis on hot days. During the Fiesta de los Patios, many of these private patios are opened to the public, and the city conducts a contest for the prettiest patios. Patio owners cherish these awards, and do everything they can to dress up their patios before the festival. Bright geraniums in colored flower pots are a signature feature of many Córdoba patios, and create a pretty picture against the whitewashed walls. Citrus blossoms contribute their heady scent.
The Fiesta de los Patios is truly a wonderful time to visit Córdoba and wander it’s pretty decked-out streets!
By Angie Briggs –Feet Do Travel
La Tomatina, the “tomato throwing festival”, is the world’s biggest food fight held annually the last Wednesday of August, in the Valencian town of Bunol.
Why? For entertainment purposes only.
One year, La Tomotina happened to be on my birthday, so naturally, what better way to celebrate than to wear a white t-shirt, and be splattered with tomatoes. As many as 50,000 people would attend prior to 2013, when the event was ticketed for safety reasons. Numbers are now limited to 20,000.
How this festival began in 1945 is unclear, was it a food fight between friends? Young people of the town had so much fun throwing tomatoes at each other, they returned the following year to re-created the fight. History was made.
At 11am on the morning of the fight, trucks haul 145,000kg of tomatoes into the centre of town, Plaza del Pueblo. The chaos only lasts about an hour, and you will feel tomatoes pelted at you left, right and centre. There is no hiding. There is no escape. If you are in the centre for that hour, you are in the fight.
After the hour, fire trucks ride through hosing the streets which look cleaner than before. The acidity of the tomatoes acts as a disinfectant, who knew?
It’s a seriously messy, slippery affair with plenty of laughter. What a way of remembering my birthday, and a bucket list tick off. Been there, done that and yes, I bought the t-shirt.
The funny thing is, I don’t even like tomatoes!
By Elisa Subirats – World in Paris
La fête des vendanges (grape harvest festival) of Montmartre is one of the most popular events in Paris. The neighborhood of Montmartre has a little vineyard located not far from famous Sacre Coeur and every year in October Montmartre’s neighbors, and Parisians in general, like to celebrate the arrival of Montmartre’s new wine, named Clos de Montmartre.
Montmartre may not be one of the best French wine regions but its wine makes another good excuse to celebrate in Paris. During the Grape Harvest Festival, Montmartre’s cobbled streets are full of stalls selling wine (of course), traditional food and other goodies. Also, it is possible to eat and drink on site so you can buy more of what you just tried if you really enjoyed it. Montmartre’s Grape Harvest Festival can be very crowded during the weekend so we recommend visiting it during the week.
by Lisa van den Berg - Flip Flop Globetrotters
There are two special days in The Netherlands related to WWII. On May 4 the Dutch commemorate those who died during World War II and other wars (Dodenherdenking). Out of respect, the whole country observes two minutes of silence at 8pm. May 5, the day of the capitulation of the German forces that occupied The Netherlands in 1945, is Bevrijdingsdag. This day we celebrate our freedom.
In 14 cities across Netherlands’, over 200 artists perform during the Liberation Festivals. Close to a million people visit the festivals. It’s a festive day with lots of music and activities, but there’s also space for reflection. During the festivals at 4.55pm (5 minutes to 5) there is a 5-minute ‘freedom reflection moment’ at the main stage of each festival. We remember the sacrifices made for our freedom, and we realize not everyone has the privilege to be free. There’s a lot of symbolism, such as the freedom fire that’s lit the night of May 4th in Wageningen, where the capitulation agreement was signed. Runners spread the fire to all parts of the Netherlands. If you are in The Netherlands on May 5th, visiting a Bevrijdingsfestival should definitely on your to do list.
There are Liberation Festivals in Amsterdam, The Hague, Den Bosch, Assen, Almere, Leeuwarden, Wageningen, Haarlem, Roermond, Zwolle, Utrecht, Vlissingen and Rotterdam.
By Carole – Paul and Carole Love To Travel
The first Glastonbury Festival was hosted by Michael Eavis in 1970 at his farm, near the village of Pilton in Somerset. Attended by 1,500 people, the first headline act was T-Rex, and the £1 entrance fee included free milk from the farm. It has grown so much over the year, and now covers 900 acres, with a 8 ½ mile long perimeter, attended by 175,000 people. The drop down toilets at Glastonbury are pretty famous too, although out of 5,487 toilets, we are only happy to use about 87!
Getting tickets is not easy, and is a sell-out literally minutes after they go on sale in October, despite you not know who is performing. We have never been disappointed, and highlights on the famous Pyramid stage have been Beyonce, Rolling Stones and Coldplay to name a few.
There are also circus acts, comedians, and many more surprises along the way. Arcadia, the famous fire breathing spider provides a spectacular night-time show. Partying goes on all night across the site until sunrise at the stone circle.
We have now been three times and can honestly say we have never experienced anything else like this on all of our travels. The weather is always unpredictable, but we have fun if it’s wet or dry. If you ever get the opportunity to go, make sure you do. Glastonbury is a unique experience and fingers crossed we get tickets for 2019!
By James Cave – This Travel Guide
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world. It usually runs for just over three weeks in August and, during that time, hosts more than 3,000 shows across more than 300 venues across the city centre.
The majority come for the comedy, which is a major focus of the festival, but there’s also theatre, circus, cabaret, music, opera, and more, depending on the festival that year. Shows run throughout the day, and it’s possible to spend an entire day watching different shows.
Some of these shows are paid-for events, particularly those that belong to big name comedians or large stage performances, and these tickets cost roughly £10-£20 on average. Other shows are completely free and rely on donations.
A higher price doesn’t necessarily mean better, and some of the best shows are free or inexpensive. The best way to know what’s good is to read the reviews in the local papers and on blogs. Many people like to just wing it as well.
Visiting the festival can be expensive, as accommodation rates often double or treble their normal rates. Because of this most people usually just come for a few days, and try to cram as many shows in that time as possible.
Festivals in Asia and Australia
By Andra – Our World to Wander
If you haven’t been to India’s incredible region, Ladakh, then you should definitely put it on your bucket list. It’s a gem of a place, the land of high passes, where the altitude starts from 3,000 – 3,500m and where you can experience the beauty of the local culture, strongly influenced by Tibetan traditions.
While you are there, make sure to attend the Ladakh Festival. This is a traditional festival that lasts for several days and mostly in September (the dates are changed from year to year).
It’s a beautiful mix of traditional singing and dancing, where people from various regions of Ladakh come and share their classic tunes and, of course, moves, people wearing their colorful garments. There is also a polo game at the Polo ground in Leh. If you haven’t been to a polo match, now is the chance to do so.
The highlight of the festival is the Chams performance, also known as the Mask Dances. These are intricate dances performed by monks from the Buddhist monasteries in the area, and they wear detailed costumes and fascinating masks. Their dances symbolize the spiritual battles with demons and the evil forces.
By Stephanie Griggs - 1AdventureTraveler
Celebrate the beginning of spring with the Hindu “Holi Festival”. Surround yourself with the Colors of Love in India. The vibrant colors bring positivity, also a time to forget all resentments and bad feelings toward each other. Start your day after the full moon in March watching the lighting of the bonfire, this symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. The next day is Holi, feel the excitement in the air as you move in and out of groups through clouds of vibrant colors. Handfuls of colors are tossed in the air as songs are sung, and practical jokes are sometimes played. No offense is taken as today is Holi. The more you are covered in colors, you are one like nature.
To find the best place to experience the Holi Festival, you can choose from a traditional temple ritual, all the way to a modern party with DJ’s, lots of colors and in some places bhang (edible cannabis). A favorite among locals and expat’s is the “Holi Moo Festival”, with performers spread over four stages, an environment that is safe with non-toxic colors. The Holi Festival is on my bucket list for a future adventure. Plan ahead for the Holi Festival 2019, hope to see you there!
By Maire Bonheim - Temples and Treehouses
Chiang Mai’s annual Flower Festival is held in February each year. There’s a long parade of colourful flower floats, which winds its way through Chiang Mai and around the road bordering the old town. There’s music, dancing, and Thai and hill tribe groups in stunning traditional dress, with flowers in their hair, dancing and drumming. Many are accompanied by marching bands.
Because the parade goes on for hours, I actually found a coffee shop and sat outside watching the gorgeous floats passing by whilst sipping an iced drink. If you want to do the same, I recommend Bear Hug Cafe, which serves cute Thai toast desserts and has a prime position for parade-watching. Get there by 10am to catch the parade.
The parade ends in Suan Buak Haad where you can see the floats on display, and lots of incredible flower displays and competitions. This is also where the Flower Festival Queen is crowned. If you don’t make it to watch the actual parade, it’s still worth heading to the park over the weekend to see the flower displays.
By Angie Briggs – Feet Do Travel
Songkran is the festival to regress you back to a time when life was fun and carefree. Held over three days during April, Songkran is the annual water throwing festival celebrating Thai New Year. The throwing of water represents purification, and washes away your sins and bad luck.
Festivities begin 13 April around 2pm with a grand procession on the main road towards Thapae Gate. People in matching outfits parade through the streets next to decorated floats.
But the water soaking starts long before then! Getting people wet is far too much fun.
A multitude of weapons are used; hand held water pistols, super soakers, backpack guns. Water is thrown at passers-by (whether you want it or not!), old ladies with big mischievous smiles hold hosepipes, water bombs. Squeals of joy can be heard when a target has been met, squeals of horror as iced water is dashed down your back.
Everyone gets in on the act, young, old, I heard a grown man shout to his friend “I’m out of water … I have to go back for a refill … cover me!”
No one was safe, no one was spared, your best defence was to have your own water pistol. The lesson here was soak, or be soaked.
The smiles and laughter were infectious. We found a corner selling beer and playing music. Beer at a water fight, what could possibly go wrong??
For a festival that will have you laughing all day long, make Chiang Mai part of your next travel destination.
By Allison Smith – Flights to Fancy
Vivid Sydney is an almost month long annual festival of light, music and ideas that captivates the stunning harbour city like no other. For 23 glorious days each May/June Sydney’s urban spaces are splashed with brightly coloured neon, dotted with illuminated sculptures and bathed in ever-changing large-scale projections. Each precinct of the CBD gets in on the action, but the harbour itself, and particularly the Opera House, is the jewel in the brightly-lit crown. A harbour cruise on a bedazzled boat is one of the best ways to get acquainted with Vivid Sydney and many offer food and drinks packages that won’t break the bank. Make sure you check out Groupon for some great deals. 2018 was the 10th anniversary of Vivid Sydney and as a born and bred Sydney local I attend every year. An estimated 2.3 million people attend annually so be prepared to battle the crowds. To make the most of your experience allow plenty of time to wander and dress for the winter chill.
Who’s ready for a little more light in their life?
Festivals in the Americas
By Patrick Horsfield – Adventographer
“Burning Man”, the name conjures up images of hedonistic partying in the desert for most. The truth of burning man however, is that it’s a festival of like-minded, close-knit bohemians and misfits from all over the world. The Inspired madness of the art installations, creativity of the performers and togetherness of the builders, operators and attendees set burning man apart from the rest!
Every year a complete city pops up overnight in the middle of Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. This, one of the world’s largest, weirdest & wildest parties, was born from humble beginnings. During the summer of 1986 Larry Harvey built a 3M tall wooden man from scraps in his shop. During the summer solstice, he dragged it to a local San Francisco beach and set it alight as a motley crew of 20 curious onlookers gathered around. Each year the man grew (hitting 32M in 2014) and so grew the number of people attending (hitting almost 70,000 people in 2017) this judgment-free expressive festival.
The best way I’ve heard this festival described is “One part Mad Max, one part Survivor and one part Comic-Con” but words cant truly portray the feelings you come away with. Burning Man is an experience everyone should have at least once in their lives!”
By Cerise Roth-Vinson - Enchanted Vagabond
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the largest balloon festival in the world. This spectacular annual festival takes place over two weeks every October. The location of this event has a 5,000 ft elevation, and is popular with balloonists and visitors worldwide. Over 500 balloons are launched from the 78-acre balloon field.
I grew up in this area, trekking every year to the festival to stand in awe of the balloons. I now enjoy taking my own kids to watch this bucket list experience.
If you are planning to visit, plan in advance as hotels fill up quickly! Advance tickets can be purchased with park-and-ride services to avoid long lines at the gate. The cost of tickets for adults is approximately $15 USD with discounts for children and seniors. Mass ascensions begin by 7 am, and park-and-ride services start as early as 4:30 am bringing buses full of tourists for the early morning festivities.
All kinds of unique attractions occur during the festival including the Night Glow, Special Shapes balloons, hot air balloon rides, gondola experiences, and balloon chase crews. Before you leave, don't forget to enjoy a hot chocolate and funnel cake to warm you up, and collect a pin from the event -- a great festival tradition. Don’t forget your camera for incredible photography and scenic shots against the Sandia Mountains.
By Talek Nantes – Travels with Talek
The mother of all festivals takes place in the beautiful coastal city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Every year before Lent the city gears up for one huge blast of colour, music and fun. This enormous street party started in Brazil around the late 1600s. Before then, it was a celebration started to honour the gods of the oceans, although no one is absolutely sure where it originated. Today, when you say Carnaval in Rio, it is synonymous with a daring, throw-caution-to-the-wind attitude of extreme revelry. Millions of people around the world are attracted to this celebration and the accompanying parades. This is an event that is watched worldwide by anyone who loves a party.
Carnaval in Rio is truly a wild and exhilarating time...if you can get a ticket. Tickets are not impossible to get but they are expensive and sometimes far away from the viewing stands. But even then it is worthwhile just to see one of the world's most unforgettable celebrations up close.
Have you been to any of these festivals, if so, which ones? Are any of these on your bucket list? Tell us in the comment section below!
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