Everyone enjoys celebrating, so here are 21 of the best Asia festivals to add to your bucket list!
There is no better way to really experience and try to understand a culture than to participate in a local festival. The memories of the music, food, ceremonies and traditions will stay with you forever.
There are so many unique experiences in Asia and amazing Asian festivals throughout the year to experience. So here is our bucket list pick of the 21 most popular festivals of Asia that offer something for everyone.
N.B. We will updating this list regularly, so if you have experienced any festivals, events or celebrations in Asia you think should make the list, please let us know.
21 of the Best Asia Festivals
Here are the best festivals is Asia and celebrations to add to your bucket list travel calendar.
Festivals in Cambodia
The festivals in Cambodia are not only a time for celebration and merriment but also an opportunity to immerse oneself in the rich traditions and customs of this enchanting country.
1. Bon Om Touk / Siem Reap Water Festival – Siem Reap, Cambodia
Where: Siem Reap and Phnom Penh
When: Annually in October or November: 26 – 28 November, 2023 |14 – 16 November, 2024 | 4 – 6 November, 2025
Duration: 3 days
The Siem Reap Water Festival is an annual event in Cambodia that takes place in the city of Siem Reap. It is a celebration of the end of the monsoon season and the beginning of the harvest season.
At its core, Bon Om Touk is a traditional Cambodian festival that commemorates the remarkable phenomenon of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers reversing their flow. This extraordinary event takes place during the months of October or November, immediately following the rainy season in Cambodia.
Specifically, it occurs on the full moon of Kadeuk, which falls on the 12th day of the Khmers lunar calendar, a significant time in the Buddhist calendar.
The festival is held on the banks of the Siem Reap River and attracts thousands of locals and tourists alike. The highlight of the festival is the boat races, where teams from different villages compete against each other. The boats are beautifully decorated and the races are filled with excitement and cheer.
In addition to the boat races, there are also cultural performances, traditional music and dance shows, fireworks, and food stalls selling delicious local cuisine.
If you find yourself in Siem Reap during the festival, make sure to join in the festivities and immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere.
Festivals in India
India is known for its vibrant and diverse culture, and one aspect that truly showcases this is its myriad festivals. From Holi, the festival of colours, to Diwali, the festival of lights, there is no shortage of celebrations throughout the year.
These festivals are marked with joyful gatherings, elaborate rituals, traditional dances, and mouth-watering delicacies. Festivals in India not only foster a sense of unity and joy but also provide a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the country.
2. Kutch Desert Festival / Rann Utsav – Rajasthan, India
Recommended by Raksha at ‘Solo Passport’
Where: Kutch, Rajasthan, India
When: Annually in November through to February: 1 November, 2023 to 25 February, 2024
Duration: 3 to 4 months
Celebrated in the Thar Desert of Gujarat, the Kutch Festival or the Rann Utsav is an annual celebration of local dance, music, food, and art. The festival is celebrated for 3 to 4 months every year during the winter season starting from November / December till February.
It is to promote and cherish the beauty of the White Rann and the tribal art and culture of Kutch. Almost all the cultural activities involve the local villagers. The White Rann is a desert made up of salt flats and has the reputation of being one of the largest salt deserts in the world.
There are plenty of things that can be done at Rann Utsav. Visitors can visit the neighbouring villages, take part in cultural activities, shop for locally made products, and relish the local cuisine and food.
It also provides an opportunity to see the unique wildlife in the region, including the flamingos and the wild asses. And for adventure seekers, there are organised paramotor rides for an extra charge.
There are four set packages to attend the festival: 1 night/2 days, 2 nights/3 days, 3 nights/4 days or 4 nights/5 days. These packages have detailed itineraries with the stay in luxurious glamping facilities inside the Tent City.
The bookings must be made online on Rann Utsav’s official website, and it is best to book well in advance as the festival is quite popular and gets sold out very quickly. To make the most of the festival, it is advisable to stay at the Tent City for at least 2 nights.
Top Tip: The best time to visit the festival is during the full moon as the White Rann is spectacular and magical under the full moon.
3. Holi Festival – All Over India
Recommended by Lavina at ‘Continent Hop’
Where: All Over India
When: Annually in March: 8 March, 2023 | 25 March, 2024
Duration: 2 days
Holi is the most exciting, entertaining, and most popular festival in India. It is celebrated all over the country, largely in the northern regions of India. It is celebrated for two days or more, every year in March.
According to the Hindu culture, Holi has great significance as it celebrates the destruction of demoness Holika and serves as a reminder that selfless devotion never goes unanswered. Along with this tale, Holi also celebrates the harvest season with the beginning of spring. This is a time of joy and bidding farewell to winter.
The celebration begins with Holika Dahan, a sacred tradition in which people light bonfires to imitate the burning of demoness Holika which symbolises the burning of all the evil that exists within us. Holika Dahan takes place on the night of the first day of the festival.
The second day is all about colours, delicious food and fun. This is the day when the air in India is coloured in various beautiful colours. People throw colours at each other and dance while enjoying traditional music.
The colours are usually natural dyes that include gulaal, kumkum, turmeric, etc but people also use other artificial or naturally made dyes today.
Holi is celebrated uniquely in every Indian state. In the state of Uttar Pradesh, this festival may last up to 16 days. Lathmar Holi is celebrated in Mathura where women come together with Lathis (sticks) to lightly hit the men, imitating the Hindu tale of the Gopis (women of Vrindavan) hitting the Gops (the men) when they tried to invade their land to play Holi with them.
People from all over the world come to Mathura every year to catch a glimpse of Lathmar Holi.
In the state of Maharashtra, the second day is known as Rang Panchami and people celebrate using colours and water balloons. Some northern regions celebrate Holi by using flower petals instead of colours and it is a sight one must witness. The Banke Bihari temple in Vrindavan is where you can go if you wish to witness this unique celebration.
Goa celebrated Shigmo Holi, a wonderful festival which is celebrated for 14 days. It is a fun-filled experience and a traditional festival of Goa. The festival is celebrated all along the beaches of the state.
The city of Mumbai celebrates Holi in one of the most quirky ways. From camping events in the wilderness to luxurious staycations in beach resorts, Holi in Mumbai has an event to suit every type of party goer.
It is a great time to visit India in March for you can not only experience Holi, but also explore the country as the temperatures are moderate and comfortable.
Holi also includes a lot of tasty, traditional food. People prepare gujiya, a unique sweet dish. filled with dry fruits and nuts along with other traditional foods such as jalebi, laddoos etc. These sweets are enjoyed together among family and friends.
Top Tip: To celebrate a Holi in India, make sure to head out early so that you can avoid crowds and reach your destination on time. Most people wear white or old clothes so you can wear white to blend in with the locals.
Apply oil to your body parts and hair to protect them from the colours and chemicals and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. Have fun and stay safe!
Festivals in Indonesia
Indonesia, a vibrant and culturally rich country, is renowned for its extravagant festivals. These celebrations showcase the diverse traditions and customs that make Indonesia truly unique.
4. Kecak Dance in Uluwatu – Bali, Indonesia
Recommended by Soline at ‘On the Road Diary’
Where: Uluwatu Temple in Bali, Indonesia
When: Daily at 6:00pm
Duration: 1 hour
One of the most fascinating and enjoyable cultural experiences you can have in Bali in Indonesia is attending a Kecak dance performance at Uluwatu Temple.
The north of Bali has loads of stunning nature spots, but Uluwatu in the south of the island has lots to offer as well.
The Kecak traditional art is a drama dance show that brings to life the legendary Ramayana story. The main characters are Rama, a prince, Sita, his wife and Laksmana, his brother.
This awe-inspiring dance drama is performed by a group of talented male dancers, beautifully combining the art of movement and the enchanting power of chants, without any instrumental music.
They sing the word “cak” in unison, wear incredibly beautiful costumes, dance and run into the fire… Everything about this performance is absolutely mesmerizing.
The performance includes a variety of dances, human-made sounds and theatrical movements that tell the story in vivid detail. As if it wasn’t enough, the Kecak dance is performed in an amphitheatre in the Uluwatu Temple, on a cliff facing the Ocean, at sunset.
Top Tip: We recommend arriving one hour and a half before the show so you can visit the Temple and find a good seating spot.
5. Nyepi – Bali, Indonesia
Recommended by Gladis at ‘Happiness on the Way’
Where: Bali, Indonesia
When: Annually in March: 22 March, 2023 | 11 March, 2024
Duration: 6-day long festival, the “silent day” falls on Day 3
In the heart of vibrant Bali lies a serene festival—Nyepi, the Balinese Day of Silence. Nyepi marks Bali’s New Year. It falls on the day after the new moon in the ninth month of the Balinese calendar. It is a day of silence and meditation for the Balinese Hindu community.
On the day of Nyepi, all activities are stopped, and the island essentially shuts down. People remain indoors, lights are dimmed, and you won’t hear any noise from vehicles or people. The goal is for everyone to engage in self-reflection and spiritual renewal. It is considered a sacred day to honour the Balinese gods and reflect on one’s actions over the past year.
The night before Nyepi is marked by ogoh-ogoh statues paraded during Ngrupuk in villages around the island including the popular tourist area of Sanur. These colourful papier mache monsters represent the evil spirits that cause chaos. After the parade, the ogoh-ogoh are burned in huge bonfires to symbolize the exorcism of evil from the island. Then the next morning begins the 24 hours of complete silence and solitude.
Top Tip: While the day of silence may seem daunting, it provides a unique opportunity for inward contemplation. It is important to respect Nyepi and follow the rules. Avoid leaving your hotel, using electronics, lights, or making loud noises.
Take time to meditate, do yoga, or read a book to relax your mind and body. Overall, Nyepi offers a memorable chance to experience Bali’s rich culture and recharge your spirit.
Festivals in Japan
Throughout the year, each region in Japan has its own distinctive festivals, often featuring traditional music, dance, and sumptuous food. Attending these festivals is not only an opportunity to revel in the festive spirit but also a chance to immerse oneself in the rich tapestry of Japanese culture.
6. Kanamara Matsuri Festival – Kawasaki, Japan
Recommended by Michael at ‘Time Travel Turtle’
Where: Kawasaki, Japan
When: Annually in April: 7 April, 2024
Duration: 1 day
While the official name may be Kanamara Matsuri, most people just call it ‘The Penis Festival’ because that’s what this is a celebration of. Centred around a Shinto shrine, it began in some form in the 1600s when prostitutes would come here to pray for protection from sexually transmitted diseases.
Over the years, the festival morphed into prayers for fertility, long marriages, and healthy births – and these days even just a successful business or prosperous life!
Held each year at the Kanayama Shrine in the Japanese city of Kawasaki, just 20 kilometres south of central Tokyo. The main event is the parade through the streets where three large penis sculptures on altars are carried along the route by worshippers, led by local priests. But around these formalities is a carnival atmosphere.
One of the best ways to experience Kanamara Matsuri is to explore the stalls around the shrine selling penis-themed trinkets like masks, carved vegetables, and lollipops. There are also quite a few phalluses that you can pose with for photos and other games that are set up along the footpaths of the parade route.
The funds raised are donated to causes like HIV research, which is part of the way the event honours its origins. And although this is a religious event at its heart, it’s all a bit of fun – even for the worshippers who dress up in fancy costumes – and visitors are more than welcome to join for the festivities.
Festivals in Korea
Whether you are a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking a memorable experience, the festivals in Korea offer an enchanting glimpse into the country’s culture and traditions.
7. Lotus Lantern Festival – Seoul, South Korea
Recommended by Melanie at ‘Postcards and Places’
Where: Seoul, South Korea
When: Annually in May: 26 – 28 May, 2023 | Around 15 May, 2024
Duration: approximately 3 days
Seoul’s Lotus Lantern Festival, also known as Yeondeunghoe, is an annual celebration of Buddha’s birthday. After being celebrated in Korea for over 1,200 years, Yeondeunghoe was officially added to the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2020.
Buddha’s birthday is an official holiday in South Korea, as Buddhism is one of the major religions of the East Asian country. The date of the Buddha’s birthday, and therefore the lantern festival, changes every year based on a combination of lunar and solar calendars, but typically falls in May.
In Seoul, there are many cultural events over the festival, but the highlight is the lantern parade. The evening lantern parade starts at Dongdaemun, one of the city’s old gates when it was a walled city. It then makes its way along Jongno Street, parallel to Cheonggyecheon, and finishes at Jogyesa Temple.
Expect to see colourful lanterns of different shapes and sizes, including dragons, lotus flowers, and spheres. Most participants, whether youth or uniformed monks, carry lanterns along the route, but some push large wheeled floats of large-size lanterns that are really impressive and beautiful to see.
Top Tip: Lanterns symbolize enlightenment of the mind. Making a paper lantern is like a prayer for happiness, for yourself as well as others. There are opportunities for visitors to make their own lanterns prior to the parade, and traditional lanterns are displayed for the couple weeks after the festival, especially along Cheonggyecheon, a restored natural stream that flows through downtown. Take time to wander and explore the area and admire the intricate lanterns.
8. Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival – Jinhae, South Korea
Recommended by Chloe at ‘Chloe’s Travelogue’
Where: Jinhae, South Korea
When: Annually in March / April: 25 March – 3 April, 2023 | 2024 dates have not been announced yet
Duration: 10 days during the peak cherry blossom season
South Korea is one of the best countries in the world to enjoy seasonal flowers and changing colourful foliage, thanks to its distinctive four seasons. When it comes to cherry blossoms, it is no exception.
There are many cherry blossom sites worth traveling to. But if you want to see Korea’s most gorgeous cherry blossoms, head to Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival.
Jinhae is a district in Chanwon City in the southeastern part of the Korean peninsula. It is a laidback town, where the Korean Navy is based at.
Since 1952, the Korean Navy has partnered with the city to host Gunhangje (Jinhae Naval Base Festival) during the cherry blossom season. The festival includes diverse Navy showcases, cultural performances, street food, and night markets.
There are more than 360,000 cherry blossom trees all around Jinhae. When they bloom together, it turns into the most romantic town in the world with breathtakingly beautiful pink blossoms!
However, cherry blossoms are fickle flowers. They bloom overnight and only last for 7 to 10 days. With one day of spring showers, all of them will be gone. Due to global warming, predicting the blossom season is trickier than ever. So tune in to the cherry blossom map issued by the Korea Meteorological Administration each year.
Top Tip: Also, be aware of allergies and air pollution in spring. If you have seasonal allergies, take medicine before going outdoors.
Festivals in Laos
Laos, a beautiful Southeast Asian country, is known for its vibrant and diverse festivals. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, the festivals in Laos are sure to leave you with unforgettable memories.
9. The Festival of the Boats of Life – Luang Prabang, Laos
Recommended by Sarah at ‘A Social Nomad’
Where: Luang Prabang, Laos
When: Annually, usually in the first two weeks of October, culminating on the night of the full moon in the month: 29 October, 2023 | 17 October, 2024. N.B. The date change, because it is when Laos celebrates the end of Buddhist Lent AND it occurs on the night of the Full Moon in October.
Duration: 14 days
Boun Lai Heua Fai has several names in English. It is known as the Festival of Lights and the Festival of the Fireboats. It’s more correctly known as The Festival of the Boats of Light. Boun Lai Heua Fai celebrates the end of Buddhist Lent and the beginning of the dry season.
Boun Lai Heua Fai is celebrated throughout Laos, but it is at its most visual in Luang Prabang and Vientiane. Families, social groups, and villages all come together and make bamboo and paper lanterns and decorate their houses, gardens, and temples (that’s why the Luang Prabang Fireboat Festival is such one to visit, as there are so many temples in a small area).
Each village builds a “fireboat” and each temple builds two “fireboats”. These fireboats are built of bamboo and brightly coloured paper and they are all different. They are lit from within (usually with candles) at night.
The festival culminates on the night of the full moon in October, when (after a panel of judges has decided which fireboat is the best), there’s a parade along the main streets in Luang Prabang.
Starting from the Royal Palace Museum and ending at Wat Xieng Thong, where the fireboats are taken down to the Mekong River, loaded onto boats and sailed down the river. Eventually, each of the fireboats is consumed by fire, usually by the candles that light them from within.
Top Tip: Visit the temples of Luang Prabang during the final week of the festival at night to see the fireboats. Leave it until later in the week so that you see the final fireboats. Grab a seat on the route of the parade to watch the fireboats go by. There’s music, great social interaction, and good fun. Go to the river and watch them float down.
Festivals in Malaysia
With such a diverse array of festivals, Malaysia offers a truly immersive cultural experience for locals and visitors alike.
10. Thaipusam Festival –Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Recommended by Teja at ‘Teja on the Horizon’
Where: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (also in Penang and Ipoh)
When: Annually on the full moon day in the month of Thai in the Tamil calendar: 25 January, 2024
Duration: 2 days
Thaipusam is a Tamil religious festival celebrated in Kuala Lumpur at Batu Caves, where there is a Hindu temple dedicated to the deity Lord Muruga. Thaipusam honours the Hindu deity of war, Lord Muruga, for slaying three evil demons, representing the triumph of good over evil.
In Kuala Lumpur, on the first day of Thaipusam a procession accompanies a chariot carrying the idol of Lord Muruga to the Batu Caves Temple, where it is temporarily installed.
On the second day, devotees who have taken vows to Lord Muruga walk barefoot to the temple bearing offerings to the idol, following a month-long fast. Drummer troupes accompany them, playing an upbeat rhythm.
While the offerings might take the form of pots of milk and fruit, some devotees bear ornate frames called kavadi to fulfil their vows, often decorated with strings of flowers and peacock feathers.
However, the most visually arresting kavadi involve spikes and hooks that pierce the skin. These have come to be the most associated with the Thaipusam festival due to its memorably gruesome appearance, yet the bearers are not in pain, reflecting the fortitude of the faithful.
In Batu Caves, there is typically also a Thaipusam festival market in the run-up to the celebration. Stalls would sell Indian jewellery, snacks and sweets, as well as items for religious offerings.
Top Tip: The Thaipusam festival in Batu Caves pulls in a lot of people, Hindu faithful and tourists alike, as in a million people over the festive period. If you seriously want to see the procession, try and be in the vicinity ahead of time so that you can walk or bike over. All roads and public transportation going to Batu Caves will be congested, especially on the Public Holiday.
11. Chinese New Year – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Recommended by Tina at ‘Veganderlust’
Where: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
When: Annually: 2 January, 2023 | 10 February, 2024
Duration: 15 day celebration
The whole city of Kuala Lumpur gets in a festive mood around the Chinese New Year, the most important celebration for the Chinese community. The Chinese New Year celebrates the coming of the new year according to the Chinese Lunar calendar and is an important celebration of tradition and culture.
In Kuala Lumpur, the traditional lion and dragon dance kicks off the New Year festivities, where dancers dress up in vibrant costumes and perform traditional dances. The dances are supposed to bring a good new year full of prosperity and luck.
The whole Chinese New Year celebrations last for fifteen days, but the first three days are the most important ones, and the first two days are public holidays in Malaysia, meaning most businesses are closed during that time.
You can see decorations all over Kuala Lumpur, from the streets to the shopping malls. Besides festive decorations, there are also lion dancers inside shops to ensure a prosperous new year. And fireworks… lots of fireworks! The main firework display is on Chinese New Year’s Eve, but individuals might set off fireworks during the whole festivities.
Top Tip: The best places to visit during this time are Chinatown in downtown Kuala Lumpur and the Chinese Thean Hou Temple. The Thean Hou Temple is one of the most beautiful Chinese temples in Southeast Asia. It’s always worth a visit when you’re in Kuala Lumpur, but especially during the Chinese New Year. With its festive decoration, the temple is the perfect photo opportunity in Kuala Lumpur.
Festivals in Nepal
Nepal, a land of enchanting beauty nestled in the Himalayas, is home to a plethora of festivals that showcase the vibrant cultural tapestry of the country.
12. Tihar Festival – Nepal
Recommended by Ellis at ‘Backpack Adventures’
When: Annually: 12 – 15 November, 2023 | 31 October to 3 November, 2024
Duration: 5 days
Tihar is the second biggest festival in Nepal and it is celebrated every year in October and November when the rice harvest in Nepal comes to an end. It is most famous as the festival of lights. Although it has some similarities to Diwali in India, it is celebrated very differently in Nepal.
Tihar in Nepal is a Hindu festival that not only celebrates the goddess of wealth Laxmi and the death god Yama, but also the strong bond between animals and humans, as well as between sisters and brothers.
The first day focuses on crows. People leave out food for the birds, believing they are messengers to the death god Yama. Keeping the crows happy will hopefully keep death away from their families.
The second day is about dogs. Dogs receive food, flower garlands and a vermillion tika on their forehead to thank them for guarding the underworld. The third day people pray to cows, being the most holy animal for Hindu people.
The third day is also the day that people pray to the goddess of wealth, Laxmi. To welcome the goddess into people’s homes, they are richly decorated with lights, oil lamps, rangoli patterns and flowers.
The final day of Tihar is dedicated to strengthening the bond between brothers and sisters. Sisters apply tika (a mixture of colours, rice, and yogurt) on their brothers’ foreheads and offer garlands of flowers and sweets. In return, brothers give gifts and blessings to their sisters.
During tihar, the entire country, and in particular Kathmandu, is adorned with colourful decorations, rangoli patterns and countless oil lamps that create a magical ambience.
Top Tip: To make the most out of your experience you can enjoy the festivities by walking through the streets in Kathmandu, especially around Ason Bazaar and Boudhanath.
Festivals in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is renowned for its vibrant and diverse festivals, drawing in visitors from all over the world. They are a fantastic way to immerse yourself into the ancient culture of the country.
If you are planning on visiting Sri Lanka, we recommend following our Sri Lankan itinerary to ensure you see all the wonders this amazing country has on offer. Also, don’t miss trying some of the traditional dishes Sri Lanka is world renowned for.
13. Kandy Esala Perehera – Kandy, Sri Lanka
Recommended by Guillem at ‘Feast of Travel’
Where: Kandy, Sri Lanka
When: Annually in July and / or August: 21 – 31 August, 2023 |11 – 21 August, 2024
Duration: 10 days
The Kandy Esala Perahera, also known as Festival of the Tooth, is a festival celebrated in the city of Kandy, Sri Lanka, in July and August. The festival is centered around processions to pay homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha, which can be found in the Sri Dalada Maligawa temple in Kandy.
The festival, dating back to the 3rd Century, was originated to ask the gods for rainfall, but incorporated the homage to the tooth relic when it was brought from India on the 4th Century.
Today, the festival lasts for 10 days, starting with the Kappa, when a sanctified young Jackfruit tree is cut and planted on four temples dedicated to Hindu gods. The next 5 nights, processions take place in the premises of the temples, and is followed by 5 more nights of processions on the streets.
These processions consist of traditional local dances, fire dances and performances in whip-dance garments to the sound of Kandyan drums, as well as processions of adorned elephants. One of the elephants carries the Sacred Tooth Relic, which is the center of the festival. The festival ends with a water cutting ceremony at the Mahaweli River.
Visiting Kandy during the Esala Perahera is not only a fantastic way to immerse into the ancient culture of the country, but an awe-inspiring moment when something truly unique happens. As dusk descends, the streets become alive with a radiant display of lights and colors. The air is infused with the rhythmic beats of the drums and the melodies of traditional music, creating a primal trance state shared with the hundreds of thousands of people celebrating together.
Participating in the Esala Perahera was one of the reasons to visit Sri Lanka for me and made me understand the country in a very special way!
Top Tip: Make sure you secure your spot to enjoy the processions early, since it can get crowded. You can also reserve a seat through your travel agency or accommodation for a perfect viewing spot.
Festivals in Taiwan
Taiwan is renowned for its vibrant and diverse festivals, drawing in visitors from all corners of the globe. From the exuberant Lantern Festival to the mesmerizing Dragon Boat Festival, there is never a shortage of cultural celebrations to partake in.
14. Dragon Boat Festival – Taiwan and China
Recommended by Simon at ‘Backpack Moments’
Where: All across Taiwan and China
When: Annually on the fifth day of the fifth money of the Chinese calendar: 22 June, 2023 | 10 June, 2024
Duration: 3 days
The Dragon Boat Festival is also known as Duanwu Festival (Double Fifth) because it falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, usually in June.
In Taiwan, the festival is widely observed with various activities and customs such as Dragon Boat Racing, eating zongzi, wearing perfumed sachets, and many traditional performances and cultural events.
The Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the death of the famous Chinese poet and statesman Qu Yuan, who lived during the Warring States period (400-200 BCE). Qu Yuan was a loyal minister who committed suicide by drowning himself in a river as a form of protest against the corruption and injustices of his time.
Legend has it that local villagers, upon hearing the news of his death, rushed to the river on boats to retrieve his body, beating drums and throwing rice dumplings (zongzi) into the water to prevent fish from eating his body.
The main event is the Dragon Boat races happening all across Taiwan. The dragon boats are traditional Chinese longboats where 1 person controls the tempo by beating a drum and 8 to 20 people row in unison. In Taipei, the race has become an international competition with many foreign rowing parties competing too.
Another tradition is the preparation and eating of zongzi – a type of sticky rice dumpling filled with chestnuts, pork belly, eggs, nuts, and mushrooms and shaped as a pyramid. The drink of choice during the festival is realgar wine, a slightly dangerous arsenic wine. Don’t drink more than one!
The number 5 plays an important role as food is made to include 5 ingredients and clothing – 5 colours.
Top Tips: To make the most of your experience, set yourself in one city for the Festival to avoid the millions travelling within Taiwan. Research the best place to watch the races and go hungry to enjoy some zongzi!
15. Pingxi Mass Lantern Release Festival – New Taipei City, Taiwan
Recommended by Nick at ‘nickkembel.com’
Where: Pingxi, New Taipei City, Taiwan
When: Fifteenth Day of Lunar New Year: 24 February, 2024
Duration: Evening of the two Saturdays closest to the festival
As the name suggests, the festival involves lots of lanterns, but there is more to it. The Mass Lantern Release in Pingxi district of New Taipei City is a particularly unique event associated with the festival.
The origins of the festival go back 2000 years in Ancient China. It started as a tradition in Buddhist temples. Emperor Ming ordered all households to do the same.
Because the festival comes just two weeks after Lunar New Year, Lantern Festival is an extension of that holiday.
In Taiwan, the Lantern Festival is celebrated across the country. Every city has its own display of beautiful and creative lanterns. Some are very large and intricate, resembling robots, gods, rural scenes, temples, and so on.
A different city in Taiwan also hosts a national event every year. There’s usually one especially enormous lantern, 20+ meters tall, of that year’s Chinese zodiac animal.
The Pingxi Mass Lantern Release Festival always takes place in two very small villages. There, hundreds of “sky lanterns” are released at a time, in intervals of 15 minutes. The small flame inside causes them to float up to the sky.
The scene of hundreds of lit up lanterns rising all at once is truly mesmerizing.
Top Tips: The Pingxi Mass Lantern Release is extremely popular and crowded. Tens of thousands of people cram onto buses and trains to the villages. It’s best to go early to get a good spot and be patient.
To set off your own sky lantern during the festival, you have to go there and register early in the day. However, tourists now set off sky lanterns in the area throughout the year. They usually paint their wishes on the side before setting them off.
Festivals in Thailand
Thai festivals are not only visually stunning but also deeply rooted in Thai traditions and beliefs. Attending these festivals is an incredible way to immerse oneself in the rich culture and vibrant spirit of Thailand.
16. Songkran Festival – Thailand
Recommended by Megan at ‘Traveller’s Elixir’
Where: All over Thailand
When: Annually: 13 April – 15 April, 2023 | 13 April – 15 April, 2024
Duration: 3 days
The Songkran Festival is celebrated all across Thailand, but Songkran in Bangkok is where the biggest celebrations happen, and attracts locals and tourists from all over the world.
Officially, the festival marks the Thai New Year but it also celebrates the transition from the dry season to the wet season and is a time for purification and renewal.
Traditionally, it involves paying respects to elders and Buddha images by pouring scented water over their hands and onto sacred statues. This ritual symbolizes cleansing away the past year’s misfortunes and starting again with blessings for the year ahead.
However in modern times, Songkran has evolved into a massive water fight, particularly in Bangkok. The streets are filled with people armed with water guns and buckets of water, playfully drenching anyone who crosses their path.
Top Tip: To make the most of the Songkran experience in Bangkok, I’d recommend dressing appropriately for the occasion by wearing clothes that you don’t mind getting wet. It’s also a good idea to carry a waterproof bag to protect your valuables.
The most important thing is to embrace the fun and actively participate in the water fights as it’s the best way to immerse yourself in the festival’s spirit.
Additionally, be respectful of those who might not want to get wet, such as monks, elderly people or those who are on their way to work.
You’ll find Songkran celebrations across the city but Silom and Khao San Road are usually the best. Bear in mind that many of Bangkok’s most famous attractions like the Grand Palace and Wat Arun may be closed on Songkran.
17. Loy Krathong Lantern Festival – Chiang Mai, Thailand
Where: Chiang Mai, Thailand
When: Annually in November: 27th – 28th November, 2023 | 15 – 16 November, 2024
Duration: 3 days
The Chiang Mai Lantern Festival, or Yee Peng Festival, is held annually in the beautiful city of Chiang Mai in the North of Thailand. This festival is unique to northern Thailand, and is Thailand’s second most important festival after Songkran. It really is one of the festivals in Thailand in November to experience!
Paying respect to the Goddess of Water, this festival is when locals believe the rivers are filled to their fullest and the moon is at its brightest. This is believed to be the perfect time to ‘make merit’ and set your floating krathong (floating basket) off on the Ping River.
Yee Peng is also a festival to worship a Relic of the Lord Buddha, Ket Kaew Chulumaneed, by releasing lanterns into the sky. The act of releasing or letting go of the lantern and krathong symbolizes letting go of all bad luck, mistakes, ills and misfortunes in the previous year.
It is said that if your lantern disappears into the darkness before the candle burns out, you will have extremely good luck that year. However, if it crashes while the candle is still lit, you will have bad luck for the entire year.
If you are planning a trip to Chiang Mai to celebrate the Chiang Mai Lantern Festival, read our post on the Chiang Mai Lantern Festival and a 4 day itinerary for Chiang Mai to help you plan your trip and make the most of your time in this beautiful city.
18. Chiang Mai Flower Festival – Chiang Mai, Thailand
Recommended by Annelies at ‘Travelers & Dreamers’
Where: Chiang Mai, Thailand
When: Annually: 2 – 4 February, 2024
Duration: 3 days
Chiang Mai Flower Festival is a festive and colourful celebration that takes place annually in the north of Thailand in the city of Chiang Mai. It is a lovely three-day event that turns the whole city into a wonderland showcasing the natural beauty of the region. It consists of a wide array of activities, such as a parade with floral floats, beauty pageants, food stalls, and live music entertainment.
The festival celebrates the end of the cool season and is mainly held to honour the beauty and abundance of the flowers in the region and to promote the local horticultural and flower industries.
Moreover, it’s also a demonstration of the traditions of the ancient Lanna Kingdom which are expressed through the beautifully decorated floats and traditional costumes and dances. That said, western influences are also abound at the festival with American-style marching drum bands and cheerleader dancing.
The main draw of this festival is the parade with floral floats which is held on Saturday during the day.
It starts in the morning at Narawat Bridge and slowly makes its way through the city via Thapae Road, Kotchasarn Road, Changlor Road, and then on to Arak Road. It ends at the Nong Buak Haad Public Park where the celebrations continue. On Friday, you can visit an agricultural fare.
Top Tip: A lot of the streets in and around Chiang Mai will be closed to traffic when the festival takes place. Traffic congestions are possible and it might not be the best time to enter or leave the city.
As for enjoying the parade, one of the best places to witness the beauty is near the Chiang Mai Gate on Chianglor Road. The best thing about this festival? It’s completely free!
19. Lopburi Monkey Buffet Festival – Lopburi, Thailand
Recommended by Daiela at ‘No Hurry To Go Home’
Where: Lopburi, Thailand
When: Annually on the Last Sunday of November: 26 November, 2023 | 24 November, 2024
Duration: 1 day
The Lopburi Monkey Buffet Festival is an annual event held in the city of Lopburi, Thailand. It was first created in order to “thank” the macaques that live in a temple in the middle of the city, as they have become an attraction and brought in lots of tourism!
The festival is celebrated by offering a grand feast to the monkeys, consisting of over thousands upon thousands of pieces of fresh fruits, vegetables, and other treats.
The feast is laid out on long tables in the middle of the temple and the festival also includes a variety of other activities, such as traditional Thai music and dance performances, as well as a parade featuring costumed monkeys.
Top Tip: Keep your belongings safe as these macaques are incredibly used to people and will not be afraid to snatch them away! They’re usually distracted during the festival eating everything on the buffet, but it can still happen.
Lopburi is located about two and a half hours from Bangkok, which is one of the best places to visit in Thailand for first-timers.
Festivals in Vietnam
Steeped in history and tradition, Vietnam’s festivals offer a unique insight into its rich culture. From paying tribute to national heroes and ancestors, to religious and New Year celebrations, festivals in Vietnam cater to everyone and are an experience not to be missed.
20. Tet Festival – All Over Vietnam
Recommended by Emily at ‘Wander-Lush’
Where: All Over Vietnam
When: Annually: 10 February, 2024
Duration: 7 days
Tet (Tết Nguyên Đán) is undoubtedly the biggest event on Vietnam’s calendar and the nation’s most important cultural festivity. The 7-day event celebrates the Lunar New Year and marks the end of winter and the arrival of spring.
Tet has three major dates: Tat Nien, a family day marked two days before Tet, Giao Thua, New Year’s Eve which is normally spent with friends, and Tan Nien or New Year’s Day.
Tet traditions include cleaning one’s home and freshening up the office. An important part of the holiday is paying respect to the ancestors by tending the graves of those who have departed.
Throughout the Tet period you will find temples and shrines festooned with lanterns, votive candles and lavish offerings. Special cultural programs including folk singing and dancing take place in major cities. In Hanoi, the Temple of Literature hosts a special Tet program where you can watch calligraphers and other artists demonstrate their crafts.
Tet is also associated with several special foods including Banh Chung, a unique dish of glutinous rice and meat.
Top Tip: Many Vietnamese people visit family and relatives over the holidays, so if you’re travelling in Vietnam over the Tet period, know to expect delays on the roads. Also, many restaurants will close during this period so plan accordingly.
Festivals in UAE
Whether you are interested in religious traditions, shopping extravaganzas, or world-class music performances, the festivals in the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East are sure to leave you mesmerized and wanting more.
21. Al Dhafra Camel Festival – Abu Dhabi, UAE
Recommended by Alison at ‘Glimpses of UAE’
Where: Al Dhafra, Abu Dhabi Western Region, United Arab Emirates
When: Annually: 28 October, 2023 to 31 January, 2024
Duration: 3 months
Al Dhafra Camel Festival is part of the longer Dhafra Festival celebrating Emirati heritage and skills, aiming to keep them alive among the younger generations. Al Dhafra Festival runs from October to the end of January, and the Camel Festival takes place in the last two weeks of January.
A popular event is the Camel Beauty Pageant. The entrants are no ordinary camels but pedigrees and some worth millions of dollars. Judges look at factors such as the condition of the fur, slenderness of the neck, breadth of the cheeks, a desirable gait and even the droopiness of the lips! You can walk around and choose your winners.
Nearby, on Million Street, winning camels are proudly paraded, adorned with saffron; others are auctioned, and shops sell embroidered and crystal accessories to beautify the pageant entrants. Don’t worry that these camel divas are mistreated. They live like princesses, fed the best of food and even the best of honey.
After watching the events, visit the heritage village to shop for local wares like coffee, condiments, frankincense and snacks and observe local ladies embroidering with astonishing skill. Next, watch the performances of Emirati dances along to the beat of traditional drums.
Other activities during Al Dhafra Festival include horse races and falconry contests, so if you miss the camel events during your visit, there will still be something fascinating to watch.
Top Tip: Don’t be shy during your visit. Emirati people are very welcoming. Just ask if you don’t know where to go or what’s happening. Visit the ‘Majlis’ at the heritage village for some Arabic coffee and dates and ask how to find the hospitality tents where you’ll be welcomed and served delicious food free of charge.
FAQs: Asia Festivals
What is the most famous festival in Asia?
The most famous festival in Asia is the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival. It is celebrated by millions of people around the world with vibrant parades, dragon dances, fireworks, and family gatherings.
What is the most colourful festival in Asia?
The most colourful festival in Asia is Holi, celebrated in India and Nepal. It is known for its vibrant colours and playful atmosphere.
Which is the most famous festival in the world?
The most famous festival in the world is the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
What is the most popular festival in Thailand?
The most popular festival in Thailand is Songkran, also known as the Thai New Year. It is celebrated with water fights and religious ceremonies to cleanse and purify for the upcoming year.
Which is Asia’s largest fest?
The most famous festival in Asia is the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival. It is celebrated by millions of people across the continent and marks the beginning of the lunar calendar year. The festival is known for its vibrant decorations, traditional lion and dragon dances, fireworks, and the exchange of red envelopes containing money.
Which is the largest floating festival in Asia?
The largest floating festival in Asia is the Loi Krathong festival in Thailand.
Why festivals are popular?
Festivals are popular because they bring people together, celebrate culture and traditions, provide entertainment, and offer a break from daily routine.
Which is the biggest and longest festival in the world?
The biggest and longest festival in the world is the Kumbh Mela in India. It is held every 12 years and attracts millions of pilgrims from all over the world.
Are these festivals suitable for families with children?
Yes! Many of these festivals have family-friendly activities and attractions that kids will enjoy.
Can I attend multiple festivals during one trip?
Depending on your travel plans and timing, it is possible to attend multiple festivals within a single trip.
Are there any safety precautions I should take when attending these festivals?
It is always advisable to stay aware of your surroundings, follow local guidelines or instructions provided by authorities during large gatherings, and take necessary precautions to ensure your safety.
Can I participate in the festivals as a foreigner?
Absolutely! These festivals are open to everyone, and foreigners are often welcomed with open arms. Embrace the opportunity to learn about different cultures and join in the celebrations.
Are there any specific dress codes or etiquette I should be aware of?
Some festivals may have specific dress codes or cultural etiquettes that visitors are expected to follow. It’s always a good idea to research and respect the local customs before attending.
In Summary – Amazing Asia Festivals You Shouldn’t Miss
You can find many festivals in Asia which are held every year, from music festivals to cultural festivals. You will be spoilt for choice if you choose to celebrate at one of the many festivities as there are lots of both smaller and larger festivals out there for you to pick from and enjoy. Find the festival you love in the country you love, and dive on in to the celebrations.
What is your favourite Asian festival why? Have you been to any of our list of the best Asian celebrations listed above? Have we missed any famous events in Asia you think we should add?
TRIP PLANNERS FOR FESTIVALS AROUND THE WORLD: RELATED BLOG POSTS
Want more info to help you plan your next trip? Check out all the articles we’ve written about the ‘Best Festivals Around the World’.
FESTIVALS AROUND THE WORLD IN…
- 35 Of The Best And Biggest Festivals In The World 2023 | 2024
- 10 Of The Best January Festivals Around The World In 2023 | 2024
- 20 Of The Best February Festivals Around The World In 2023 | 2024
- 15 Amazing March Festivals Around The World In 2023 | 2024
- 15 Of The Top April Festivals Around The World 2023 | 2024
- 12 Of The Best Festivals In May Around The World 2023 | 2024
- 10 Of The Best June Festivals Around The World In 2023 | 2024
- The Ultimate Guide To Festivals In July Around The World In 2023 | 2024
- 12 Of The Best August Festivals Around The World In 2023 | 2024
- 12 Popular September Festivals And Events Around The World In 2023 | 2024
- 11 Of The Best October Festivals Around The World In 2023 | 2024
- 11 Of The Best November Festivals Around The World In 2023 | 2024
- 13 Of The Best Festivals In December Around The World In 2023 | 2024
- Ultimate Southeast Asia Bucket List 2023: 101+ Epic Experiences
Essential Travel Planning Resources
Below are our favourite companies to use for planning our travels. They consistently turn up the best deals, offer great customer service and amazing value, and overall, are better than their competitors. These are always our starting point when we need to book a flight, hotel, tour, car rental etc.
Book a Tour:
We mostly travel independently, however, some places are better to visit with a guided tour. We prefer GetYourGuide for its easy-to-use interface and solid reputation, but we also use Viator.
DISCLAIMER: This article contains affiliate links and Exit45 Travels are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. That means if you click a link and make a purchase, we make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Please see our disclosure policy for more information.