Traveling isn’t all complete without trying to have a quick bite of the local culture of the destination you chose. Sometimes, even the culture itself drives us to leave and go to a new place, isn’t it? So if you’re looking for something worth seeing and experiencing for a short moment yet will leave a happy mark in your jetsetter heart, here’s a list of the different popular festivals around the world that you should check out.
Dubai Shopping Festival – Dubai (January 2 – February 2)
Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) started on 16 February 1995 as a retail event intended to revitalise retail trade in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It has since been promoted as a tourist attraction. This yearly month long event is usually scheduled during the first quarter of the year, attracting about 3 million people to Dubai.
During Dubai Shopping Festival, shops offer discounts on their merchandise, daily car raffles are drawn, and there is a fireworks display.
Harbin Ice and Snow Festival – China (January 5 – February 5)
Do they wanna build a snowman? Not really. The people of Harbin, Heilongjiang, China want to show huge ice and snow sculptures and fortresses which are beautifully lit at night, attracting tourists from all over the world.
The BPM Festival Playa del – Carmen, Mexico (January 09 – 18)
The BPM Festival features more than 50 official events, split into day and night shows hosted by record labels and promoters. However, BPM party-goers are also drawn by many unofficial events and parties—some called “pop ups”— that take place outside of the official roster.
Banff Snow Days – Banff, Canada (January 09 – February 08)
Pack up and head out into the outdoor beauty of Banff National Park for its third annual Snow Days, a celebration of all things winter—but most notably, sports, food and entertainment. Everyone gets to dip their toe in, depending on how much winter they want to experience, but since most events take place in downtown Banff, it’s easy to get a good dose
Ati-Atihan –Kalibo, Philippines (January 10 – 19)
Ati-Atihan is a nine-day exhibition of costume and dance. Soot-black painted faces, feather headdresses, and animal bones create an arresting visual impression.
La Tamborrada – San Sebastian, Spain (January 18 – 19)
For almost 300 years, San Sebastián has been celebrating the feast day of its namesake saint, Saint Sebastian, with a strange, exciting and cacophonous parade of drumming that lasts an epic 24 hours—from midnight to midnight. This is San Sebastián’s most popular festival,
Chinese New Year (Between January 21 & February 20)
Lion dance, dragon dance, red envelopes with money, sticky “nian gao” (year cake), lanterns and fabulous fireworks; put them all together in a day or a whole week and you have the huge Chinese New Year celebration. Not only in China, Chinese New year is celebrated in other Asian countries with large Chinese communities. Korea also celebrates the same day as Lunar New Year (Seollal) or simply known as Korean New Year.
Sundance Film Festival – Utah, USA (end of January)
Watch the amazing films — from feature length to shorts — in this large independent film festival, the Sundance.
Magh Mela Festival – India
Hindu devotees take a dip in the waters of Ganges and the other sacred rivers of India to wash away their sins. Huge crowds gather during this peaceful gathering which could reach up to 80 million attendees.
Up Helly Aa Fire Festival- Scotland (last Tuesday of January)
The fire festival is held in Lerwick, Shetland to mark the end of the yule season. See series of marches and visitation, torch-lit procession and the burning of the galley
Desert Festival – Jaisalmer, India (February 1)
The Desert Festival is a three-day celebration that features the culture of Rajasthan with colorful costumes, dancing to ballads about heroism, romance, and tragedy of the folk heroes.
Sapporo Snow Festival – Sapporo, Japan (February 05 – 11)
The staging of nearly 400 spectacular ice and snow sculptures is what draws visitors to the 12-block stretch of Odori Park, home to much of the action and the majority of sculpture activity. During the day, stroll and watch the artists at work, carving up everything from life-size renderings of animals and historical monuments, temples and buildings.
Rio Carnival – Brazil (February 13)
Considered as the biggest carnival in the world, Rio Carnival almost gathers two million visitors per day. The festival won’t be complete without the music, dance and street parades.
The Battle of the Oranges – Ivrea, Italy (February 14)
The largest food fight in Italy, the Battle of the Oranges is simply about people throwing oranges at each other.
Carnival of Venice – Italy (February 15)
This celebration makes the people all equal without a care about their social classes and other differences by wearing masks and costumes. The Venetian masks which can be made from leather, porcelain and glass, transformed into different distinct styles, are the main feature of this event.
Trinidad and Tobago Carnival – Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago (February 16)
The modern incarnation of the Trinidad Carnival is a bawdy, rum-flavored feast for the senses: dancing, eating, drinking, sweating—generally speaking, the biggest party (also known locally as a fête) that you can imagine. Carnival is definitely not a spectator sport. You could stay on the sidelines if you tried, but what’s the point? Participate in the masor masquerade by purchasing an outfit or designing one of your own. Remember, this is the Caribbean
Mardi Gras – New Orleans, USA (February 17)
Mardi Gras is a series of the Carnival celebrations right on or after the Epiphany up to the day before Ash Wednesday. Just like Rio Carnival, Mardi Gras is celebrated in preparation for the upcoming Lenten season. The event isn’t only unique in USA for countries like Belgium, Italy and Germany have their own “Mardi Gras”.
Viareggio Carnevale – Viareggio, Italy (February 22)
Viareggio the lively, fun-loving venue of one of Europe’smost famous and largest Mardi Gras-style festivals. In Italy, it’s second to Venice as the most popular Carnival in the country. Millions of Italians tune in to watch Carnevale’s Fat Tuesday parade, which is broadcast live on national TV each year.
National Grape Harvest Festival – Mendoza, Argentina (February 28 – March 04)
The National Grape Harvest Festival (Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia) officially started in 1936 when engineer Frank Romero Day, the then Minister of Industry and Public Works in Mendoza, signed a decree that the grape harvest would become a social event as part of the national agenda.
Pingxi Lantern Festival – Taiwan (March 5)
The night sky during this festival is amazingly lit by fire lanterns where people have written their wishes on before releasing them all together into the sky.
Holi Festival – India
This is literally a colorful festival as the Hindus and Sikh celebrating it throw colored powder and water at each other. Holi is celebrated in Sri Lanka, Nepal and slowly becomes popular in other countries as well.
Frozen Dead Guy Days – Nederland, Colorado, USA (March 7)
The Frozen Dead Guy Days is a celebration for winter and the frozen corpse of Bredo Morstel, a Norwegian whose grandson brought his dead body in the US by preserving it using dry ice. It gets weirder when the townspeople actually make it a point to celebrate the weekend by making sure they look ice dead, participate in a frozen T-shirt contest, and jump in ice cold water in full costume.
Las Fallas de Valencia – Spain (March 14
If you want to see burning streets, smell gunpowder, watch fireworks and anything else in flames? The odd Las Fallas de Valencia will serve you nothing but fire that represents the locals’ creativity, happiness and sometimes, rage.
Saint Patrick’s Day Festival – Dublin, Ireland (March 14)
The festival where in you’ll see those popular green attire and shamrocks, St. Patrick’s Day isn’t only celebrated in Ireland but also in other countries through Irish communities, embassies or organizations.
Calle Ocho Festival – Miami, Florida, USA (March 15)
Celebrated in a Cuban street of Little Havana in Miami, the Calle Ocho Festival closes off 24 blocks to make way for live entertainment, music, dance, food and drinks.
Rouketopolemos Vrontados – Greece (March 18 – April 30)
Over 60,000 rockets fired in one night by rival churches: modern or medieval? This surreal festival isn’t for those who want to celebrate Easter in a more conventional, quiet manner. The fact that church services are being held while all these rockets are being fired just 400 meters from each other is pretty bizarre.
Ultra Music Festival – Miami, Florida, USA (March 27)
Ultra music fest is an annual electronic music festival and there’s nothing else you can do but go wild all day.
BaliSpirit Festival – Ubud, Bali, Indonesia (March 31 – April 05)
There was a time when people went to music or cultural festivals, burned themselves out, and then needed weeks to recover from the madness. Like the growing Wanderlust festival, BaliSpirit is a relatively new phenomenon, a festival where you are built-up rather than burnt-out. With health and wellness presenters from around the world (and participants from more than 50 countries), be prepared for a beautiful experience that will engage all six of your senses as the lovely, lush Ubud has done for visitors for hundreds of years.
April Fools’ Day – April 1
April Fools’ Day is celebrated every year on the first day of April. Popular since the 19th century, the day is not a national holiday in any country, but it is well known in Europe, Australia, Brazil and the United States, and it is celebrated as a day when people play practical jokes and hoaxes on each other.
Splashy Fen Music Festival – Underberg, South Africa (April 02)
Splashy, as the festival is affectionately known to its fans, takes place over the Easter weekend when a packed four-day program features non-stop live music on two main marquee stages and various smaller arenas. Over the years, this much-loved festival has adapted to trends while managing to retain its unique character and appeal, allowing it to become the longest-running music festival in the country.
Byron Bay Bluesfest – Australia (April 02)
Byron Bay Bluesfest has blossomed into an old-school favorite of music festival aficionados around the world. We say “old-school” because this isn’t a flashy festival like the EDM hit Tomorrowland and a good number of the musicians on stage are older legend
Coachella Indio – California, United States (April 11 – 13)
The polo fields of non¬descript Indio in the Southern California desert transform each spring into one of the world’s most sought¬ after musical playgrounds when The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Annual Festival comes to town. The main draw has always been Coachella’s pull as a music festival , with a diverse lineup ranging from the hip¬and¬up¬and¬coming to the absolute monsters of rock.
Semana Santa Antigua – Guatemala (April 11)
Semana Santa celebrations are predominantly Catholic and celebrated in Latin countries that almost exclusively identify with this religion. In Guatemala, there are many fusions between local beliefs, the Mayans and Catholicism, and the farther you travel into the mountains, the more you’ll see the mix.
Songkran – Thailand (April 13)
The spiritual aspects of the Songkran Water Festival live on through observant Buddhists who douse statues of the Buddha in scented water. Many fast, pray and give thanks to elders and monks, focusing on welcoming positive energy and spirituality for the beginning of the new year.
Moogfest Asheville – North Carolina, United States (April 23)
Moogfest started in 2004 and is named for Robert Moog , the inventor of the modern analog synthesizer, who spent the last 30 years of his life in his adopted hometown of Asheville, North Carolina . It began when Moog Music employee David Olivier contacted Charles Carlini, a New York-based promoter, to create an event honoring the company’s 50th anniversary.
Stagecoach Indio – California, United States (April 24)
Stagecoach’s expansive approach to country music ensures a wide variety of attendees and results in a decidedly laid-back, some might say a family-friendly vibe. Simply put, Stagecoach doesn’t seem to forget its roots. It’s no surprise that the organizers have a kitchen-sink approach to country music, given the diversity and breadth of a typical Coachella’s lineup—and the success of that festival.
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival – New Orleans, Louisiana, United States (April 25)
George Wein receives most of the credit for founding the New Orleans Jazz Festival in 1970, along with the creation of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation , the nonprofit organization managing the festival. This soulful festival has a relaxed vibe, perfect if you want to experience New Orleans culture without the madness of Mardi Gras .
King’s Day (Koningsdag) Amsterdam – Netherlands (April 27)
Koningsdag or King’s Day is a national holiday in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Celebrated on 27 April (26 April if the 27th falls on a Sunday), the date marks the birth of King Willem-Alexander. It is also an opportunity for “orange madness” or oranjegekte, for the national colour, when the normally strait-laced Dutch let down their hair,often dyed orange for the occasion.
Australian Surf Festival – Australia (May 02)
The Australian Open of Surfing is an annual surf, skate and music event held on Manly Beach, Sydney, Australia. It is ASP-sanctioned surf contests for men and women surf athletes from around the world.This event is the longest running competition in Australia, getting its start way back in the cowabunga-days of the mid-1960s.
Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival – Thrissur, India (May 03)
Thrissur Pooram is a popular temple festival of the South Indian state of Kerala. It is held at the Vadakkunnathan Temple in Thrissur town every year on the ‘Pooram’ pronounced [puːɾam]) day of the Malayalam Calendar month of ‘Medam’. ‘Pooram’ day is the day when the moon rises with the Pooram star. People celebrate pooram without any religious difference.
Kentucky Derby Louisville- Kentucky, United States (May 03)
The Kentucky Derby is a Grade I stakes race for 3-year-old Thoroughbred horses, held annually on the first Saturday in May. The race is 1 1/4 miles at Churchill Downs , and is called “The Run for the Roses” for the blanket of roses draped over the winner. This first leg of the United States Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing is followed by the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.
Cinco de Mayo Puebla – Mexico (May 05)
Cinco de Mayo is often mislabeled as Mexico’s Independence Day (mostly by U.S. distributors of Tequila and margarita mix). The date instead marks the May 5, 1862, defeat of the French army at Puebla. Marching from Veracruz to Mexico City, the well-outfitted French army encountered a much smaller Mexican militia, and was soundly defeated
Venice Biennale – Italy (May 09)
The Venice Biennale, one of international art’s biggest events, is where art lovers and the “who’s who” of the art world flock to see new trends and ground-breaking works by the greatest artists of our time and others whose names are barely known outside their home countries.
Combat des Reines Martigny – Switzerland (May 11)
This is a girl fight, and while there’s no hair-pulling, horns will most certainly lock. For several consecutive Sundays every spring and a few exhibitions in the fall, the Swiss district of Valais and the neighboring alpine districts host a face-off between local cows known as Combat des Reines , or Battle of the Queens.
Waisak – Indonesia (May 14)
Waisak goes by many names (Vesak, Wesak and other iterations, including the charmingly straightforward Buddha Day) around the Buddhist world, which is perhaps fitting, as this most important celebration of the Buddhist calendar has many layers. Does it commemorate the Buddha’s birthday? Enlightenment? Death? The answer is all of the above, and as such, Waisak celebrations are a multi-faceted thing.
Galungan Ubud, Bali– Indonesia (May 21)
Galungan is the most important feast for Balinese Hindus, a celebration to honor the creator of the universe (Ida Sang Hyang Widi) and the spirits of the ancestors. The festival symbolizes the victory of good (Dharma) over evil (Adharma), and encourages the Balinese to show their gratitude to the creator and sainted ancestors.
Jacob’s Ladder Ginosar – Israel (May 22)
Jacob’s Ladder Folk Festival is a unique musical and social event for lovers of all aspects of folk music from Bluegrass to World music, from Irish jigs to Country Rock, from Blues to Renaissance. This annual international festival usually takes place in May.
Gnaoua World Music Festival – Essaouira, Morocco (June 2 – 15)
The festival provides a melting pot between foreign artists and the mystical Gnaoua musicians. In recent years the festival has been fused together with other popular genres including jazz, blues, reggae, and hip-hop. Don’t be surprised to see an impromptu jam session mixing musical genres.
Taormina Film Festival – Taormina, Italy (June 14 – 21)
The popular Sicilian resort town of Taormina becomes ground zero for the international film industry in mid-June each year when the Taormina Film Fest holds court in the ancient Greek theater atop Mount Tauro, offering gorgeous views of the Ionian Sea and long-simmering Mount Etna volcano.
Firefly Music Festival Dover – Delaware, United States (June 18 – 21)
Firefly made a big splash onto the scene in 2012 with ambitions to be the biggest music festival on the East Coast—providing people with a festing destination on par with Coachella, Firefly aims to entertain music fans of all types and genres, although it definitely skews toward young and trendy; you’re not necessarily likely to see multi-generational crowds here
Electric Daisy Carnival – Las Vegas, Nevada, United States (June 19 – 21)
Since 1997, the Electric Daisy Carnival has electrified millions of music fans with an energetic 3-day dance party, raving from dusk until dawn. The party is now an international affair, having touched down in various locations including Los Angeles, Puerto Rico, Atlantic City and Las Vegas. Drawing more 200,000 attendees at its peak, it’s the biggest electronic dance music festival outside Europe, earning it the nickname the “American Ibiza.”
Food & Wine Classic in Aspen – Aspen, Colorado, United States (June 19 – 21)
The Food & Wine Classic in Aspen is a highlight for Food & Wine magazine, with three days of cooking demonstrations, wine seminars, panel discussions, tasting events and a Grand Tasting Pavilion—all at an 8,000-foot elevation in Aspen, Colorado.
Festa de São João Porto – Portugal (June 23 – 24)
While not as ribald as Rio’s Carnival, the Festival of John the Baptist is Portugal’s very own love-themed holiday that eventually evolved into an excuse for lavish feasts and dancing in the streets. It’s one of the most underrated street parties in Europe and, while it’s not well known outside of Portugal, that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying in the revelry.
Boi Bumba Parintins – Brazil (June 26 – 29)
Regionally, there are multiple festivals celebrating boi meu bumba that are akin to small street parades with players in costumes intermingled with a drum line. But in Parintins, it’s a whole different game. Here it’s a competition with two sides–the Caprichoso team versus the Garantido team.
Rath Yatra Puri – India (June 29)
Rath Yatra is one of India’s largest and most important festivals, drawing more than a million pilgrims and devotees to the streets of Puri. The significance of this “festival of the chariots” derives from the fact that it’s one of the only times that three wooden deities leave the temple of Jagannath, allowing non-Hindus and visitors to see them.
Haro Wine Festival – Haro, Spain (June 29)
A sea of white cotton meets tidal waves of red wine, leaving purple t-shirts and their wearers soaked head-to-toe in fermented grape juice–the sign of a successfully culminated Haro Wine Festival. Every year on June 29th.
When On Earth Magazine is for people who love travel. We provide informative travel guides, tips, ideas and advice regarding places to see, things to do, what to taste, and much more for world travelers seeking their next dream vacation destination.