Every year, at various venues around the planet, countless festivals are held. It’s one thing to visit countries and cities you've never been to, but it’s an entirely different thing altogether to experience them.
Festivals are an amazing way to immerse yourself in a destination and culture in a fun and unique way. From throwing citrus fruit in the Battle of the Oranges, to gently placing floating lanterns into a river in Obon, Japan, to dancing the night away at Mardi Gras – there are some festivals that are absolutely worth flying around the world for.
Here are our top 20 picks for the World’s Most Incredible Festivals to experience in your lifetime.
Holi Festival – India
Having its roots in numerous ancient legends and stories about gods, the Festival of Colours or Festival of Love, as it is also named, is considered to be one of the oldest festivals in India. Apart from cultural, spiritual and religious meanings, the Holi festival is also defined as a spring festival as it falls timely into the period of late February until early March and thus marks the end of winter and arrival of spring.
Rio Carnival – Brazil
Held every year during the week leading up to Lent, Rio Carnival attracts visitors from all corners the globe. It is inconceivable to think of Rio without thinking of its unrivaled Carnival. Without a doubt, this is the favorite holiday celebration in Rio.
Water Festival – Chol Chnam, Cambodia
Chol Chnam water festival in Cambodia’s Thmay also takes place at the same time with Laos, from April 13th to 15th.The most particularly charming Apsara dances, traditional food and Khmer traditional flavormixed with alcohol scented jaggery.
Via Joy Mark Travel
Running of the Bulls – Pamplona, Spain
Each July, a million revelers pack into Pamplona, Spain, for the raucous Festival of San Fermín – the Running of the Bulls, when fearless (or foolish) adventurers — called mozos — thrust themselves into the path of six furious bulls.
Via Rick Steves
Mardi Gras – Louisiana, US
For over 150 years, New Orleanians have celebrated the “greatest free show on earth” complete with parades, marching bands and revelry that only a city like New Orleans can provide. In 2017, Carnival season begins on Kings Day, January 6, and culminates on Mardi Gras day, February 28.
Kumbh Mela – Trimbak, India
This sublime and surreal festival is filled with spiritual lectures, religious performances and the cleansing of sins. The world’s biggest carnival is so large that on its main days it can be seen on space satellites—just imagine what it feels like to be on the ground.
Monkey Buffet Festival – Lopburi, Thailand
In Thailand, as per local customs, there is the belief that King Rama gave a piece of land known as Lopburi to Hanuman who was the Monkey King. Thanks to this history, locals believe that monkeys bring good fortune. They also attract a lot of visitors, thereby contributing to Thailand’s tourism. Thus, every year on the 25th of November, a buffet to feed the famous long-tailed macaque monkeys at the Pra Prang Sam Yot Temple is held in Lopburi, which has come to be known as the Monkey Buffet Festival. Approximately 4000 kilograms of food and drinks is served for the monkeys every year.
Via Travel Planet
Spice Mas – Grenada
This carnival in Grenada, affectionately called Spicemas due to the country’s fame for spice production, culminates on the second Monday and Tuesday of August every year. Carnival week climaxes with a frenzy of steel pan music, Calypso and Soca competitions, parade of the mas bands, and showcase of the Spice beauties.
Obon Festival – Kyoto, Japan
The Obon Festival is an annual Buddhist event for commemorating one's ancestors. It is believed that each year during obon, the ancestors' spirits return to this world in order to visit their relatives. Traditionally, lanterns are hung in front of houses to guide the ancestors' spirits, obon dances (bon odori) are performed, graves are visited and food offerings are made at house altars and temples. At the end of Obon, floating lanterns are put into rivers, lakes and seas in order to guide the spirits back into their world.
Via I Like Events
Festival of the Sun – Peru
The Inti Raymi festival is an authentic re-enactment of a sacred Inca solstice celebration…so authentic, in fact, that you just might find yourself standing in the presence of an Inca Emperor. A cast of hundreds will dress in full regalia to welcome the return of the Father Sun, or “Inti.” The day is filled with Andean music, parades, ceremonies in the ancient Quechua tongue, and a stunning display in the fortress-ruins of Sacsayhuaman, in the hills overlooking the city.
Via Global Nomad Travel
The Harbin Snow & Ice Festival – Harbin, China
The Harbin festival is the largest snow and ice festival in the world, and it features carvings towering over 20 feet in height and full-size buildings made from gigantic blocks of ice.
Via Harbin Ice
Carnevale — Venice, Italy
Thousands of tourists come to Venice to see and take part in its magnificent Carnival; walking round in fancy dress in this city's magical scenery means taking part in a truly exceptional happening. Those mysterious, disturbing Venetian masks, eyeing you from the city's alleyways are part of what we imagine the Venetian world would have been like 300 years ago. They are an irresistible attraction for what is undoubtedly one of the world's most unique experiences: the re-living of 18th century Venice.
Via Italy Guides
Oktoberfest – Munich, Germany
Though there are many smaller offshoots of Oktoberfest around the world, Munich’s original fair is the biggest beer festival in the world. In 2013, more than $96,178,668 worth of beer was served every day during the festival.
Chinese New Year – China
One of the most internationally celebrated events in the year in China is the Chinese New Year. The new year festivities are traditionally 15 days long, leading up to the first full moon of the year, but invariably, the true celebrations are anywhere between two to eight days. Cities string red lanterns across the streets, put up exorbitant red displays and set off firecrackers to light the sky and scare away the bad things.
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – New Mexico, US
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a yearly festival of hot air balloons that takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA during early October. The Balloon Fiesta is a nine-day event, and has over 500 balloons each year. The event is the largest hot air balloon festival in the world.
Via Balloon Fiesta
Photo Credit: Laura Hedien
Day of the Dead – Mexico
The Day of the Dead takes place between 31 October and 2 November and is particularly exciting in the Central and Southern regions of Mexico. It is a chance for people to celebrate the memories of family and friends they have lost over the years by elaborately decorating altars and cemeteries and participating in certain customs.
Via AOL – Travel
La Tomatina – Spain
On this particular day, the streets of the town of Bunyol become the scene for what may qualify as one of the biggest food fights anywhere on Earth: the festival of La Tomatina. La Tomatina (as its name signifies) centers around the humble tomato, 1,25,000 kilos of which are used by the town's populace- and visiting guests- to pound, batter, and completely cover each other with squishy tomatoes.
Via Journey Mart
St. Patrick’s FestivaL – Dublin, Ireland
The principal aim of St. Patrick’s Festival, since its inauguration, is to develop a major annual international festival around the national holiday over which the ‘owners’ of the festival, the Irish people, stand proud. It sets out to reflect the talents and achievements of Irish people on many national and world stages, and it acts as an exciting showcase for the manifold skills of the people of Ireland, of every age and social background.
Battle of the Oranges – Ivrea, Italy
Getting hit in the face with a fruit is a risk you must be willing to take when you sign up to the famous Italian ‘Battaglia delle Arance' – Battle of the Oranges. The three-day food fight in the small northern Italian city of Ivrea, takes place each February.
Via Daily Mail
International Sand Sculpture Festival – Pera, Portugal
FIESA is the largest sand sculpture exhibition ever built, held annually since 2003 in Pêra, Algarve, attracting thousands of visitors every year.
The sand is hand-carved by a group of sculptors, of various nationalities, exploring different sculpting techniques, producing original pieces that stand out by their magnitude, technique and aesthetics.
Have you added any of these amazing festivals to your bucket list yet? For many of these festivals, you’ll have to get there first which most likely involves travel.