October 2, 2022
Fun & Entertainment

The best festivals in the world: for your world travel bucket list.

  • August 6, 2022
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The best festivals in the world: for your world travel bucket list.

Everywhere you go in the world, people enjoy celebrating. Festivals also provide something for everyone to celebrate.

Whatever you’re interested in—arts and culture, cuisine and wine, holidays, or religion—a there’s gathering somewhere for you. Here are some of the biggest and best festivals we think everyone should attend:

  • Best Cultural Festivals
  • Best Holiday Festivals
  • Best Music Festivals
  • Best Religious Festivals

BEST CULTURAL FESTIVALS IN THE WORLD

◈BURNING MAN (BLACK ROCK DESERT, NEVADA)

The first Burning Man event took place in 1986 when Larry Harvey and his friend Jerry James built an 8-foot-tall temporary wooden figure and dragged it to Baker Beach in San Francisco on the Summer Solstice. They set it ablaze, a group of about 20 onlookers watched it burn, and one of the strangest, wildest parties in history was born.

From those modest beginnings, both the Man (which reached 105 feet in 2014) and the number of spectators grew (nearly 80,00 in 2020, attendance dropped dramatically in 2021 during the pandemic).

The festival, which was once a small gathering of friends and family, has evolved into an artistic, dystopian ode to the wonders of self-expression that draws bohemians and misfits from all over the world to its close-knit community.

◈CARNIVAL (RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL)

Brazil’s Carnival is frequently referred to as “the greatest show on Earth” and is arguably the largest festival in the entire world (not to mention its wildest party).

Every year, the event draws close to 5 million spectators, about half of whom travel specifically to see the show.

Carnival was traditionally a religious holiday. The Brazil festival occurs in February or March, five days before the Catholic Lenten season, which begins forty days before Easter. Additionally, it marks the conclusion of Brazil’s protracted, oppressively hot summer.

◈HARBIN INTERNATIONAL ICE & SNOW SCULPTURE FESTIVAL (HARBIN, CHINA)

The International Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival makes the most of the bitterly cold winter weather you’ll find in Harbin, China, in contrast to Carnival, which marks the end of Brazil’s oppressive summer.

Harbin, which is in Northeast China, experiences extremely chilly Siberian winter winds. How cold is it, you ask? Winter days typically only reach 1.8 of on average, and lows of -31 of are dreadfully common.

So why on earth, in the name of god, would any sane person want to travel for this month-long Chinese festival (which begins on January 5), exactly? Because the festival completely takes over the city and features the largest ice sculptures in the entire world. Two main exhibition spaces are as follows: Along the Songua River is a recreational area called Sun Island.

◈LA TOMATINA (VALENCIA, SPAIN)

La Tomatina is one of our list’s oldest festivals, having debuted back in 1945. It appears to be the largest food fight in history and is also unquestionably the messiest.

According to legend, everything began when some neighbourhood boys marched in a procession with musicians, “Giants” on stilts, and “Big Head” figures.
A vendor’s vegetable stand was destroyed by the mayhem until the police arrived to put an end to it after the rowdy boys knocked one of the performers off his stilts.

◈MARDI GRAS (NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA)

Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday, is celebrated in New Orleans and is a spectacle of American culture similar to Carnival. However, there is some disagreement as to whether Mobile, Alabama or NOLA hosted the first Mardi Gras in the 1700s.

Few would contest that the New Orleans festival is the best, regardless of who started it first. Despite taking place the day before Ash Wednesday every year, the celebration lasts for months.

The celebration starts in November with social gatherings, private balls on Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, parades, and additional private balls in January and early February.

BEST HOLIDAY FESTIVALS IN THE WORLD

◈DIA DE LOS MUERTOS (MEXICO)

This is undoubtedly the most significant and widely observed holiday in Mexico, despite the fact that Cinco de Mayo may be better known in the US.

In 2008, UNESCO added it to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, demonstrating how significant it is.

The celebrations begin on October 31 and last through November 2. They are more commonly known as the Day of the Dead in English-speaking nations.

◈KING’S DAY (NETHERLANDS)

The Netherlands could teach the rest of the world a thing or two about how to appropriately commemorate a national dignitary’s birthday.

Up until 2013, April 30 was observed as Queen’s Day, a national holiday honouring Queen Beatrix. Even if Her Royal Highness was actually born in the latter part of January, who cares?

The proud Dutch were able to dress in their eye-catching orange attire and enjoy a few drinks without having to worry about the weather because the celebrations took place in pleasant April.

◈KRAMPUSNACHT (CENTRAL EUROPE)

If you’ve read any of our numerous Christmas-related stories, you know how enthusiastic we are about the occasion and its many customs. We can therefore say with some authority that Krampusnacht is unquestionably the weirdest, spookiest Christmas custom in the entire world.

You are aware of the phrase, “You better watch out,” from the movie “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”? Krampus, a horrifying demon that stalks Central Europe during the holidays, is something that children should be much more afraid of.

◈SONGKRAN (THAILAND)

The term “Songkran” refers to the traditional New Year observed on April 13 in parts of India, China, and most of Southeast Asia. It is derived from the Sanskrit word for “astrological passage” (meaning a change or transformation).

The celebration, which runs through April 15, is usually fairly low-key. Visiting nearby Buddhist temples in the mornings to provide food for the monks is a common practise.

◈ST. PATRICK’S FESTIVAL (DUBLIN, IRELAND)

There are undoubtedly louder and larger Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations than the one that takes place in Dublin, Ireland each March.

But suggesting that anyone else celebrate the holiday feels a little sacrilegious given that it was originally a religious holiday commemorating the passing of Ireland’s patron saint.

Around 385 AD, Saint Patrick was born in Roman Britain to a religious family. He was kidnapped at the age of 16 and taken to Gaelic Ireland, where he worked as a shepherd for six years before escaping and returning home.

BEST MUSIC FESTIVALS IN THE WORLD

◈BONNAROO MUSIC & ARTS FESTIVAL (MANCHESTER, TENNESSEE)

It might not be quite as well-known or as large as Coachella or Lollapalooza. Just take a look at their tagline to see what it is that we love about Bonnaroo (aside from the fact that it is a 2.5-hour day trip from Atlanta).

Many thousands of content campers. Tennessee nature on hundreds of acres. 150 magnificent shows. 10+ musical stages. The four best days ever.

◈FES FESTIVAL OF WORLD SACRED MUSIC (FES, MOROCCO)

This international music festival, which was first held in Fes in 1994 under the patronage of King Mohammed VI, honours the vibrant artistic, academic, and spiritual traditions of the historic Moroccan city.

The event, which is held in June, has increased significantly over the past 24 years and now draws more than 100,000 people each year.

◈MONTREUX JAZZ FESTIVAL (MONTREUX, SWITZERLAND)

Founded back in 1967 (with considerable help from Atlantic Records honchos Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegün), Montreux is one of the oldest music festivals in the world. It’s also the second largest jazz festival, after the Montreal International Jazz Festival.

That Canadian concert may attract more visitors– around 2 million annually. But Montreux benefits from its picturesque location on the stunning shores of Lake Geneva. The area is particularly beautiful in late June/early July, when the festival is held.

BEST RELIGIOUS FESTIVALS IN THE WORLD

◈International Voodoo Festival in Ouidah (OUIDAH, BENIN)

Puritanical cultures have long demonised the Voodoo (also known as Vodun) religion.

However, in many villages in western Africa, such as Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, and Togo, this age-old custom is essential to morality, politics, and social order. Therefore, efforts to eradicate it have largely failed.

◈HOLI FESTIVAL (INDIA, NEPAL, AND PAKISTAN)

This ancient Hindu festival, also known as “the festival of colours” or “the festival of love,” celebrates the end of winter and the victory of good over evil.

It takes place between late February and mid-March and lasts for one night (known as Holika Dahan or Chhoti Holi) and the following day (Holi).

There are various legends associated with the Indian Festival. One suggests it pays tribute to the Hindu god Vishnu and his follower, Prahlada, and their defeat of Prahlada’s power-hungry father, the demon King Hiranyakashipu.

◈SEMANA SANTA (SPAIN)

Holy Week– the week between Palm Sunday and Easter– is celebrated throughout much of the Christian world. It commemorates the last week in the life of Christ, including the entry of Jesus and his disciples into Jerusalem, the crucifixion, and resurrection.

But Semana Santa, as the holiday is known in Spain and much of Latin America, offers a much more elaborate approach to the celebration.

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Kelly Johnson

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