Everyone enjoys a good celebration, so here are 35 of the biggest festivals in the world to add to your bucket list!
For us, travelling the world is only as fun as the new experiences and the exciting adventures we have as we explore new places, meet new people, discover foreign cultures and create memories for life. When we travel, we love immersing ourselves in the local culture and customs of a city, and we have found no better way to do this than to join a local festival or celebration.
The best and biggest festivals around the world cover a range of different themes, so there is a festival out there to suit every type of traveller. These include cultural, spiritual, religious, food and wine, holiday celebrations and music festivals.
There are so many amazing festival around the world to experience, so here is our bucket list pick of the 35 best and biggest festivals in the world that offer something for everyone.
N.B. We will updating this list regularly, so if you have any festivals or events you think should make the list, please let us know in the comments section.
Did You Know?
- Festivals originate from the 10th Century BC and beyond – around 3,000 years ago! In ancient Greece, music festivals were nearly as popular as they are today and would include competitions in music, poetry, drama and athletics. They formed an important part of worshipping the gods, and usually included a procession and a sacrifice.
- The 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair is often considered the first modern music festival. More than 100,000 tickets were sold, but nearly half a million people descended upon the 600-acre farmland in New York. Jimi Hendrix was one of the headline acts, and was paid US$18,000 (the most out of all performers).
- One of the most unique festivals is the Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival held annually in Florida. It was created more than 30 years ago for divers wanting to ‘sea’ something a little different… Intriguing-looking instruments like the ‘trombonefish,’ ‘sea-phan flute’ and ‘fluke-a-lele’ have also been created especially for the event, with all music streamed live from underwater speakers.
“Live every day as if it is a festival. Turn your life into a celebration.”– Shri Radhe Maa –
TABLE OF CONTENTS
35 of the Biggest Festivals in the World
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The Biggest Festivals in the World
January Festivals Around the World
Thaipussam Festival – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Recommended by Victoria at ‘Guide Your Travels’
Where: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia + India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka
When: Annually on the first full moon during the Tamil month of Thai in late January or February: 18 January, 2022
Duration: 1 day
The Thaipusam Festival is a popular holiday celebrated by Hindus around the world in the early months of the year. A unique version of this event takes place at the Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur and transforms the city completely. Usually, the caves are a popular destination for tourists, but during the days of the Thaipusam Festival, the place becomes a pilgrimage site for many Hindus.
It is estimated that over 1 million people visit the caves during this time, so if you’re planning to go, expect the crowds to be overwhelming. As part of the Thaipusam tradition, devotees will pierce themselves with long skewers and hooks and carry offerings up the steep stairs to the Batu Caves. They claim to experience no pain or bleeding from the piercings which is attributed to the spiritual significance of the festivals and the many deities that will be present.
As a tourist, the festival is a fascinating time to visit Kuala Lumpur and the Batu Caves. Make sure you are respectful and recognise that this is a religious event. Visitors are welcome but should make sure to dress modestly and not enter any of the actual temples.
Winter Light-Up Festival – Shirakawago, Japan
Recommended by Chloe at ‘Chloe’s Travelogue’
Where: Shirakawago, Japan
When: Annually on selected Sunday and Monday evenings in January or February: 16, 23, 30 January + 6, 13, 20 February, 2022
Duration: 1 evening on selected dates in January and February
Have you dreamed of visiting a winter fairy-tale town once in your lifetime? If yes, the Winter Light-up Festival in Shirakawago, Japan should be on your bucket list.
Shirakawago in the Hokuriku region is a small farm village nestled deep in the Japanese Alps. Due to the heavy snow in this mountainous region, Japanese farmers have designed their roofs to resemble Buddha’s praying hands to protect the house from snow damage. This functional structure had brought worldwide fame when it was named a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site in 1995.
During the snow season, the historic village is illuminated in the evening. When the light is turned on in snow-covered houses, this Japanese farm village magically transforms into a winter wonderland. It’s nothing you would imagine to find in Japan. And being in the remote areas tucked in the mountain makes the experience all the more exotic and mystical as a fairy-tale should be.
Harbin Ice Festival – China
Where: Harbin, Heilongjiang province, China
When: Annually in December through to February: 23 December 2021 – 28 February 2022
Duration: Approx. 68 days
The Harbin Ice Festival is officially called the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival and is held annually in Harbin, Heilongjiang province. The festival is held from just before Christmas day through to late February, but the opening ceremony takes place in January. The opening ceremony, combined with the popularity of the festival, winter vacation in China and Chinese Spring Festival make mid-January to mid-February an extremely popular time to visit, so book your tickets, transport and accommodation well in advance.
Over the course of the festival, more than 400 activities and events are held. There are based on ice and snow tourism, ice and snow culture, ice and snow fashion culture, ice and snow trade, and ice and snow sports.
The most important theme park of the festival is the Harbin Ice and Snow World where you will enter a winter wonderland with large ice buildings and statues constructed with lights inside that make them glow. Other highlights include the International Snow Sculpture Art Show, the Siberian Tiger Park, Harbin Polarland Aquarium, and of course, skiing at the surrounding ski resorts.
Up Helly Aa – Shetland Islands, Scotland
Where: Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland
When: Annually between January and March, but the largest in Lerwick is held annually on the last Tuesday in January: 25 January, 2022
Duration: 1 day
Between January and March every year, 11 communities across the Shetland Islands come together for a series of spectacular and unique fiery celebrations, Up Helly Aa. Celebrating the end of the Christmas season, the majority of the Up Helly Aa festivals are held in January with the largest held in Lerwick on the last Tuesday in January.
The festivities vary from location to location in the Shetlands, but each Up Helly Aa is marked with a torch-lit procession through the streets, the symbolic burning of a galley (Viking longship), and then on to a night of feasting, dancing and fun. The evening procession of burning torches is a spectacular sight with up to 1,000 “guizers” (leaders of the procession) who dress up as a figure from Norse legend.
The Up Helly Aa fire festivals commemorate Shetland’s Viking past and are also a celebratory demonstration of the islanders’ spirit, skill and sense of community. The festivals bring people from all generations and backgrounds, from across the 15 islands, to celebrate.
International Kite Festival – Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India
Where: Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India
When: Annually on the 14 January: 14 – 16 January, 2022
Duration: 3 days
Since 1989, every year on the 14th of January the International Kite Festival is held to coincide with the festival of Makar Sankranti or Uttarayan. The festivals celebrates the day when winter begins to turn into summer and the approach of harvest season for the farmers.
The festival attracts thousands of kite lovers, flyers and kite-makers from over 40 countries to Ahmedabad in Gujarat where, from dawn till dusk, millions of brightly coloured kites fill the sky.
Kites of breathtaking design are planned and made months before using bamboo and good quality kite-paper. The strings are coated with a special glass powder and rice paste which is skilfully used to cut their opponents string with ease.
In addition to kite flying, the streets are buzzing from dawn to dusk, with people visiting the craft and local art stalls. Music fills the air as does the aromas of traditional delicacies.
Ouidah Voodoo Festival – Ouidah, Benin, West Africa
Where: Ouidah, Benin, West Africa
When: Annually on the 10 January: 10 January, 2022
Duration: 1 day
The Ouidah Voodoo Festival in Benin in West Africa, is considered to be the most unique religious festival in the world. It is celebrated across the entire country, but especially in the coastal city of Ouidah.
In 1996, the government of Benin declared the 10th of January ‘National Voodoo Day’. Voodoo is practiced by more than 60% of Benin’s over 10 million residents. For millions of Beninese, voodoo is an integral part of everyday life. On National Voodoo Day, followers of the various voodoo cults gather at the ‘Door of No Return’, an arch on the beach in Ouidah, the spiritual capital of the Voodoo religion, and once a major slave trading post.
The celebration and festivities begin when the supreme voodoo priest sacrifices an animal to honour the spirits. Devotees sing, chant, and offer dances to the spirits with their bodies decorated with palm oil and powders, all to the sound of beating of drums. Some devotees enter trance-like states.
In addition to celebrating voodoo, the festival commemorates the millions of people who lost their homelands and their freedom during the African slave trade.
February Festivals Around the World
Carnival – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Recommended by Cecilia at ‘Lovicarious’
Where: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When: Annually the week before Lent (February / March): 25 February – 5 March, 2022
Duration: 9 days
Carnival is perhaps one of the best-known cultural festivals in the world. With its roots in Catholicism, this festival takes place every year before Lent. Although Carnival is celebrated in almost 70 countries around the world, there is no question that the largest and most spectacular event takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Several hundred samba schools train for months leading up to the big event, a 4-day parade through the magnificent Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí. Each samba school performs in front of over 80,000 spectators inside the arena where they are also judged by their singing, dancing, costumes, and parade floats. Dancers are adorned in colourful feathers, sequins, and glitter. Parade floats are massive and often towering high above spectators below. An abundance of light, music, and rhythm flood the arena and pour into the streets.
Experiencing Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is truly a once in a lifetime experience. The vibrant energy of the crowds, the spectacle of elaborate costumes, and the heart pounding rhythm of samba music is what makes this festival both mesmerizing and magical.
Winterlude Festival – Ottawa, Canada
Recommended by Nina at ‘Nina Out and About’
Where: Ottawa, Canada
When: Within the first 3 weeks of February: 4 – 21 February, 2022
Duration: Approximately 2 weeks
The Winterlude Festival is a celebration of Canada’s rich cultural history and natural beauty. It features snow sculptures, ice skating, horse-drawn sleigh rides, outdoor concerts, and more.
With winter in Canada being frightfully chilling, it’s one of the few times people from across the country flock to be outside until our noses are pink with the cold! I remember going almost every winter as a kid to marvel at the larger than life ice sculptures, eat maple syrup lollipops (that are really just frozen maple syrup), and warm up with hot chocolate.
There are activities across Ottawa and the neighbouring city of Gatineau. You’ll find art exhibits and culinary events happening around every corner.
Winterlude is one of the few Canadian festivals that is entirely free and available to people of all ages. Unlike most one-day festivals in Canada that just cause traffic, it’s easy for everyone to participate and enjoy the celebration.
Mardi Gras Festival – New Orleans, USA
Where: New Orleans, USA
When: Annually on a Tuesday in February or March: Officially on 17 February – 1 March, 2022
Duration: Approx. 14 days
Mardi Gras is not only about booze, boobs and beads!!!
Mardi Gras, held annually in New Orleans, is not only celebrated on Fat Tuesday, the Tuesday before lent. It is a massive citywide festival that goes on for weeks. Mardi Gras is an entire season of celebrations, camaraderie, and community.
On the first day of the season, people celebrate by eating King Cake which is traditionally made with sweet brioche dough, cinnamon filling and a glazed icing on top. In the weeks that follow, at least one or two larger parades take place every weekend, and occur more frequently as Mardi Gras approaches and the partying builds to a crescendo.
One of the highlights of Mardi Gras is seeing some of the parades. Hundreds of Krewes (a themed parade group) travel up the streets of New Orleans with their beautifully decorated floats, marching bands and incredible light shows. People line the streets as the floats throw beads and other items such as stuffed toys into the crowds.
Bourbon Street is the most well-known are to celebrate Mardi Gras and the parties go 24 hours a day, every day. Bourbon Street and the parades are fun, but there is a lot more to Mardi Gras.
Chinese New Year’s Festival – Worldwide
When: Annually in January and/or February: 31 January – 15 February, 2022
Duration: 16 days
Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is the most celebrated event on the lunar calendar. The exact dates are decided by the lunar calendar and normally fall between mid-January and as late as the end of February.
Traditionally the Chinese New Year festival lasts for 16 days with these notable dates:
- New Year’s Eve on January 31st, 2022
- New Year’s Day on February 1st, 2022
- The Lantern Festival on February 15th, 2022
The official public holiday marks the turning of a new leaf for most as they spend time with their family and loved ones. 2022 marks the year of the Tiger in the Chinese zodiac.
Families have their own rituals and traditional activities scheduled throughout the week including visiting a temple to make an offering to the Buddha or the gods, for blessings for a prosperous new year. However, Chinese New Year is publicly celebrated all around the world and a walk through any city’s Chinatown is an amazing experience.
You will see festivities such as street parades, lion dances, elaborate dragons, and stilt-walking. What makes Chinese New year celebrations special is how the Chinese people come together, with the spirit of their cultural identity on display.
March Festivals Around the World
St. Patrick’s Day – Dublin, Ireland
Recommended by Pamela at ‘The Directionally Challenged Traveler’
Where: Dublin, Ireland – St. Patrick’s festivities can be found in cities all around the world
When: Annually on 17 March: 17 March, 2022
Duration: typically 1 day, but 7 days in Dublin, Ireland
While the rest of the world celebrates St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th, in Dublin, the celebration lasts a full week. Over half a million people travel to Ireland’s capital to partake in the festivities.
Legend has it that if you’re wearing green, the leprechauns can’t see you – so be sure to pack enough green for the week. The locals may pinch you if you’re not wearing it!
While St. Patrick’s Day is considered a drinking holiday around the world, in Ireland it means more. The history of Ireland is celebrated all week along with the patron saint. You’ll find restaurants featuring locally-grown ingredients, musicians playing traditional Irish songs, and many Irish step-dancing troupes performing.
It’s built on tradition, culture, and the arts. The mythical is on full display throughout the parade. Some displays were about Ireland’s history and St. Patrick while others were mythical storytelling.
The St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Dublin is a captivating display of Irish pride and should be on any bucket list!
Holi Festival – India
Recommended by Mariellen at ‘Breathe Dream Go’
Where: India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, Malaysia, United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, Mauritius, Fiji
When: Annually on the full moon day of the Hindu month of Phalguna (February/ March): 18 March, 2022
Duration: 2 day festival – Holi is only on 1 day
Held in the early spring, Holi is one of the most exuberant, beloved, and colourful festivals of India. In fact, it is called the Festival of Colour because people take to the streets and throw coloured powder and water at each other in celebration. While Holi is recognized all over India, it is most exuberantly celebrated in North India. Cities such as Jaipur, Rishikesh, Jaisalmer, and Jodhpur are great places to play Holi. And Mathura / Vrindavan is basically ground zero for Holi!
There are several myths associated with the origins of Holi. Some say it originated because the god Krishna applied colour to his beloved Radha’s cheek. The Mathura / Vrindavan region is where Krishna was born and grew up, which is why the celebrations there are so intense. Others say it’s a celebration of spring, of unity and brother/sisterhood and — like many festivals in India — of the triumph of good over evil.
Spring Equinox Festival – Chichén Itzá, Mexico
Where: Chichén Itzá, Yucatan, Mexico
When: Annually around 21 March: 20 March, 2022
Duration: 1 day
The ancient Mayan’s in Mexico are well known for keeping detailed records of astronomical phenomena, paying special attention to solstices and equinoxes. The pyramid of Kukulcán, which dominates the centre of the archaeological site of Chichén Itzá, was dedicated to the serpent deity, was built to align with the light and shadows of the equinox.
During the spring and autumn equinox, people from around the world visit the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá and gather at the great pyramid of Kukulcán.
Starting in the late afternoon, the light and shadow creates the illusion of a snake slithering down the pyramid’s staircase until it reaches the snake-head sculpture at the bottom. The Mayans believed that this indicated Kukulcán’s return to earth and they asked for an abundant upcoming harvest season.
April Festivals Around the World
Songkran Water Festival – Thailand
Where: All over Thailand
When: Annually on the 13 – 15 April: 13 – 15 April, 2022
Duration: 3 days
Traditionally, water was lightly sprinkled on themselves and others (now it comes in the form of soaking people in water). To the Thai, water symbolises plenty of rainfall in the coming year, and the cleansing of themselves of bad things, and also a symbol of fertility.
This massive water festival (largest water fight in the world) happens over three days and anything can be used to splash people such as water guns, hoses and buckets filled with icy cold water. Everywhere you look people will be soaking wet, dancing, drinking and having lots of fun!
Some of the best places to celebrate Songkran are in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket.
New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival – New Orleans, USA
Where: New Orleans, USA
When: Annually in late April: 29 April – 8 May, 2022
Duration: 10 days
The annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, often known as Jazz Fest, is an annual celebration of the music and culture of New Orleans and Louisiana. Starting in 1970, this festival is one of the oldest festival, and has grown into one of the largest celebrations of music in the US.
Today, Jazz Fest attracts famous international performers from all over the world, as well local grown talent. It celebrates the indigenous music of New Orleans and Louisiana, showcasing some of the best blues, R&B, gospel, jazz, folk, Cajun, bluegrass, etc. musicians. Some of the past performers include The Rolling Stones, Foo Fighters, Stevie Nicks, Dave Matthews Band, Santana, Van Morrison and more.
In addition to the art and music, the festival also features a variety of traditional food, artisans, and clothing. Parades are held at the festival too.
May Festivals Around the World
Cannes International Film Festival – Cannes, France
Where: Cannes, France
When: Annually in May: 10 – 21 May, 2022
Duration: 12 days
The Cannes International Film Festival is held annually in the French Riviera city of Cannes. For 12 days, the city hosts previews of the latest films and documentaries from all over the world, as well as numerous social functions and red carpet glamour events attended by the A-list Hollywood elite.
The opening ceremony is well-known for its red carpet event where you may spot one of your favourite stars. Other celebrity parties include:
- Chopard Dinner And Party – Chopard is equally renowned for its exceptional jewellery creations and its unparalleled watches as it is for its extraordinary soirées. Tickets: From £5,000 per person
Jean Pigozzi’s Pool Party Lunch – Expect many of Hollywood’s top celebrities at what is said to be the best event in the world, and definitely the best event at Cannes. Tickets: POA
- Eva Longoria Party – The Desperate Housewives’ star hosts a charity event for children, where she invites her celebrity friends for dinner and drinks. An incredible star studded dinner where everyone gets an exclusive picture with Eva Longoria. Tickets: From £2,999 per person or VIP (sitting on a table with a celebrity): £5,999 per person
- Vanity Fair Party – Whether it’s the Oscar’s or The Cannes Film Festival, Vanity Fair never disappoints with a night to remember that is studded with the biggest stars. Tickets: From £12,000 per person
The Chopard Trophee Annual Dinner and Party – Presentation of the annual award recognising up-and-coming film actors. This prize is awarded to two young actors as Male and Female Revelation of the Year. Tickets: From £9,999 per person
American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR) Cinema Against AIDS Party – The black-tie event is celebrated for its glittering guest list, its unpredictable live auction, and its unrivalled success in generating funds for AmFAR’s lifesaving AIDS research programs. Tickets: From £13,000 to £500,000 per person
If want to rub shoulders with the Hollywood elite (and can afford the prices of tickets to some of the events), Cannes Film Festival is the place to do it!
June Festivals Around the World
Summerfest – Milwaukee, USA
Recommended by Melody at ‘The Winding Road Tripper’
Where: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
When: Annually for 3 consecutive weekends in late June/early July: 23 – 25 June, 30 June – 2 July, 7 – 9 July, 2022
Duration: 9 days
Summerfest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is the largest music festival in the United States.
Since 1968, Summerfest has been a staple in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Each year, over 800,000 people flock to the lakefront of Lake Michigan for nine days of music and fun.
Summerfest traditionally takes place in late June/early July and showcases local, regional, national, and world music artists. There are 11 stages staggered throughout the festival grounds where chart-topping acts, one-hit wonders, and music innovators share their music.
What sets Summerfest apart from other music festivals is its approachability. During Summerfest, just about anyone can find an act representing their favourite type of music. And because the festival is held over nine days, the crowds aren’t overwhelming, and you can easily snag a front-row seat for your favourite band. The festival is also affordable, with tickets in 2021 costing US$21 per day.
The music at Summerfest ranges from classic rock to country, hip hop to reggae, and everything in between. Some of the headliners that have performed at Summerfest include Billy Joel, The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, Usher, Bob Dylan, Marilyn Manson, Blondie, and Pearl Jam.
In addition to music acts, there are also arts and crafts displays, children’s shows, ethnic food vendors from around the world, games of skill or chance (with prizes), businesses selling Summerfest merchandise, and more.
Glastonbury Festival – Somerset, United Kingdom
Recommended by Rachel at ‘Children of Wanderlust’
Where: Pilton, Somerset in United Kingdom
When: Annually at the end of June: 22 – 26 June, 2022
Duration: 5 days
Glastonbury is the largest music festival that takes place in the United Kingdom, with around 200,000 attendees coming together to create a vast, tented city. The festival has been running most years since 1970, nowadays taking place over 5 days at the end of June following the summer Solstice, on the grounds of the Eavis family dairy farm in Pilton, Somerset.
Inspired by hippy culture of the 1960s (the land is said to sit on ancient mystical ley lines), the vibe has always been one of inclusivity and counterculture. Record breaking numbers of fence jumping gate crashers throughout the 1990s led to the construction of a ‘mega-fence’ in 2002 to keep them out.
This, combined with the festival’s enduring popularity (all tickets typically sell out online within 30 minutes!), have inevitably changed the typical demographic and overall feel of the event since, to more of a fancy dress party for the middle classes. That said, it remains pleasingly free of any corporate sponsorship or advertising and all festival staff are volunteers, allowing enormous amounts of money to be raised for charities each year.
As well as the iconic Pyramid main stage, that over the years has hosted some of the finest international music acts from around the world, there is an incredible array of other stages and big top tents that boast an unrivalled and eclectic mix of all musical genres, as well as a full programme of comedy, circus and performing arts. Add to that the so-called ‘green fields’, where alternative therapies and the hippy origins live on, as well as the commendable effort that goes into decorating all corners of the site, and you will see that the event truly is a 24 hour spectacular that goes way beyond what is offered at many of the ‘stage in a field’ commercial festivals. Even the English weather and famous Glastonbury mud is never enough to dampen the spirits of each year’s lucky ticket holders. It really is a sight to behold and a sensory experience like no other.
July Festivals Around the World
Running of the Bulls – Pamplona, Spain
Recommended by Jenny at ‘Traveling Party of 4’
Where: Pamplona, Spain
When: Annually from 6 – 14 July: 6 – 14 July, 2022
Duration: 9 days
The Running of the Bulls is part of the Festival de San Fermín, which occurs every year from July 6 through July 14 in Pamplona, Spain, to honour Saint Fermín, the Patron Saint of Pamplona. Multiple events occur throughout the week — the famous Bull Run, parades, bullfights, fireworks, and lots of red wine.
The Bull Run occurs every morning at 8 AM, when six bulls and six steers are released to run throughout the city’s cobblestone streets to the bull ring. And yes, it’s true, hundreds of brave festival-goers, donned in their uniform of white pants, a white shirt, red neckerchief (known as a pañuelo), and a red ribbon belt, will run the entire five-minute course alongside them.
However, now and then, someone gets a horn. For this reason, before each run, the participants pray to San Fermín for safety before bravely heading out for the scariest and most dangerous five minutes of their lives. The smarter of the festival-goers view the run from the safety of their balconies overlooking the streets.
The Running of the Bulls isn’t the only excitement at the Festival de San Fermín. Every day there is a parade of the giants and big heads around the city centre, a bullfight, fireworks, and concerts. And the nightly local dining experience with lots of wine flowing is a crowd favourite.
The Festival de San Fermín is Mardi Gras kicked up about ten notches. It is nine days of constant festivities and lots of adult beverage consumption. So be prepared to be covered in wine, mustard, cheese, and champagne from head to toe by the end of the day.
If there were an official drink of the event, it would be Kalimotxo, which is ½ and ½ cheap red wine and Coca-Cola — surprisingly tasty. But, also lots of Sangria will continuously flow.
I attended two consecutive years in my twenties, and I can thankfully say I did not have a cell phone. Therefore I have no photographic evidence of the party, only fond memories of crossing this item off my bucket list and a story of bravado to share with my kids.
August Festivals Around the World
Burning Man – Nevada, USA
Recommended by Alissa at ‘Exploring Wild’
Where: Black Rock Dessert, Nevada, USA
When: Annually in August / September: 29 August – 5 September, 2022 (TBC)
Duration: 8 days
Every August during the week before Labour Day, tens of thousands of people gather in the Black Rock dessert of Nevada in the United States for a one-of-a-kind event known as Burning Man. This week-long event is many different things to many different people. Where else can you participate in large-scale art, take a dance class, attend a yoga workshop, hear a talk on anything from physics to relationship skills, show off your funkiest clothing, run an ultramarathon, and dance the night away, all in a single 24 hours (and then again the next day)?
Burning Man is part art festival, part music festival, but more than anything Burning Man is an experiment in intentional temporary community. Participants bring everything they need (except the porta-potties) to survive a week in the inhospitable Nevada desert known as the Playa. They build their own shelter, create their own art, and gift their talents and creativity to a community in which money never changes hands.
At the end of it all, after the massive wooden “Man” structure is ceremonially burned to the ground, everyone packs up, cleans up, and leaves the desert as pristine as if nothing had happened. Many “Burners” return home to their lives in the “default world” feeling a little more relaxed, creative, and connected, and counting the days until they can return to the Playa the following summer.
Spicemas – Grenada
Recommended by Melinda at ‘Mel On The Go’
Where: St. George, Grenada
When: Early August (Coincides with Emancipation Day): 4 – 9 August, 2022
Duration: 6 days
Grenada’s nickname “The Spice Isle” lends flavor to Carnival, which is bigger than Christmas in this Caribbean nation! It incorporates local music, food, costumes, and people for the island’s biggest party. If you want to dance in parades or party to the beat of steel drums, Spicemas is for you! Rise before dawn for J’ouvert, get painted at Jab Jab, and dance all night at the Band parade.
Whatever you do, you’ll be smiling along with the thousands of locals, returning Grenadians, students, sailors, and more celebrating in the streets and parks of downtown St. George’s. Spicemas lasts 10 days, with a packed schedule, including a steel band competition and childrens’ parade. And don’t miss Pretty Mas, with the most elaborate, beautiful costumes on ladies – and some men – of all ages and sizes. Grenada’s biggest party, Spicemas is one of the world’s best festivals.
La Tomatina – Buñol, Valencia, Spain
Where: Buñol, Valencia, Spain
When: Annually in August: 31 August, 2022
Duration: 1 day
La Tomatina in Spain is where travellers and party lovers gather to throw tomatoes at each other in the world’s biggest tomato fight. Held in Buñol, a small village outside Valencia, it has run been running annually in August since 1944.
In the week leading up to the festival, 120 tonnes of tomatoes are dumped in Buñol. On the day of La Tomatina, once the canons signal the start of the battle, participants have an hour to throw as many tomatoes as humanly possible. Once the fight is done, everyone heads to the Buñol River to clean up.
Due to the popularity of this event, festival organisers have capped the number of allowed participants in the La Tomatina tomato fight to 20,000. As a result, tickets must be pre-purchased in advance and accommodation should be booked early.
September Festivals Around the World
Oktoberfest– Munich, Germany
Recommended by Bec at ‘Wyld Family Travel’
Where: Munich, Germany
When: Annually from the third weekend in September to the first Sunday in October: 17 September – 3 October, 2022
Duration: 17 days
Oktoberfest was originally a festival to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese, with all of Munich invited to celebrate. Held in the fields called Theresienwiese, which were once well outside of the city of Munich, it is now part of the city outskirts and all roads lead there during Oktoberfest.
Most people who have not attended Oktoberfest believe it is only a beer-drinking festival with many unruly people only attending to drink themselves into oblivion, however, this is far from what goes on. While there is always a minority that misbehaves, Oktoberfest is also an extremely family-friendly event.
You will see many families from the parents to the young children in their finest traditional Bavarian dress heading to celebrate. Lederhosen and Drindl, in all the colours, are worn with such pride from the oldest to the youngest. Families use the time to take their kids to the huge fair that surrounds the beer tents. Rides for the thrill-seekers in the family and the little ones are there for all to enjoy.
For many, sitting in a beer tent all day is also in the cards. The top Munich breweries like Augustiner Brau, Paulaner and Lowenbrau all have large tents where you can sit, drink, eat and be merry as an Ompa band plays in the background. During the day you can visit for a short time with kids but later on, it is definitely an adults-only affair.
Oktoberfest is definitely a once in lifetime must-see. Traditionally running from the third weekend in September to the first Sunday in October, it’s the busiest time to visit Munich but also an unforgettable one too.
Berlin Festival of Lights– Berlin, Germany
Recommended by Ali at ‘Berlin Travel Tips’
Where: Berlin, Germany
When: Annually in September / October: 2022 dates TBC
Duration: 10 days
Autumn Equinox Festival – Chichén Itzá, Mexico
Where: Chichén Itzá, Yucatan, Mexico
When: Annually around the 21 September: 21 September, 2022 (TBC)
Duration: 1 day
Read more about the specific significance and details of this festival above in March Festivals – Spring Equinox Festival.
Almabtrieb – Germany
Recommended by LeAnna at ‘Wander In Germany’
Where: Alpine towns in Germany and Austria
When: Annually in September: 2022 dates TBC
Duration: 1 or 2 days
The far off sound of the clanging of cowbells begins to be heard and the crowd begins to get excited. Yes. Cowbells.
To celebrate, the local towns hold a festival (some big, some small). Each herd of cows is decorated with ornate headdresses as they are paraded down the mountain and through the village. At the bigger festivals, you can expect a full on party!
There are oompah bands, beer halls, classic German foods, plenty of beer, and often even the season’s “new wine” (Sturm) from the autumn harvest. There are men clad in full on Lederhosen that do elaborate dances where no drums are needed, as their percussion sounds come from the slapping of their thighs and the cracking of their whips! Local vendors sell goods like leather belts with hand sewn stitching from goose feathers or baskets woven right in front of your eyes.
You can find an Almbatrieb in most Alpine towns, but some of the bigger ones in Germany are in the Allgau region and there are plenty right over the border into the Tirol in Austria. Some of the bigger ones are in Mittenwald and the Zillertal Almabtriebs.
The festivals occur typically in September, but some are so local that the dates are completely determined by the weather, health of the animals, etc. Each fest is typically only a day (sometimes 2) long, but there are often others occurring on the same weekends nearby that it is fun to combine a few into one adventure.
October Festivals Around the World
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – Albuquerque, New Mexico
Recommended by Catherine at ‘Postcard Narrative’
Where: Albuquerque, New Mexico
When: Annually in October: 1 – 9 October, 2022
Duration: 9 days
Every October over nine days, hundreds of thousands of people visit Albuquerque, New Mexico to be mesmerized by the hot air balloons that decorate the sky. You’ll likely never take more photos of any other event in your life than here, while surrounded by 360 degrees of vibrant beauty. Many of the balloons are unique shapes and very few are identical.
This bucket list event is called Balloon Fiesta and one cannot explain nor imagine the hair raising moment of daybreak’s mass ascension. Over 500 hundred balloons are launched throughout the morning, paced for safety reasons, and they scatter the sky in the most beautiful fashion. It’s as if you’re watching a lava lamp, you simply cannot look away.
There are a few things to know to make your experience most enjoyable. First, weather conditions must be ideal for the event to take place so make sure you have a backup day available in case the ascension is cancelled on your original visit date due to wind. N.B. There are no refunds.
Cold mornings in the desert are common, be prepared with waterproof shoes for the field’s dew and warm clothes. Bring walkie talkies to stay in touch with others in your group as cell signals can be unreliable during the event. Want to try out a new camera or perhaps take your first foray into an SLA? Stop by the Nikon tent which loans cameras and lenses for free.
Diwali – India, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka
Recommended by Abhishek at ‘Misfit Wanderers’
Where: India, Malaysia, Singapore, and Sri Lanka
When: Month of Kartik (October or November): 24 October, 2022
Duration: 1 day
You might know Diwali as the ‘Festival of Lights’ – a religious festival celebrated widely across India and in many countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Sri Lanka. Although it’s a Hindu festival, people from many communities of India celebrate it too.
The festival represents the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. According to the Hindu calendar, the festival falls in Kartik month (October – November) every year. Note that the exact day of celebration changes every year and it’s a one-day festival.
Many legends are related to Diwali, but the most prominent tale is from the Sanskrit epic Ramayana. According to it, Lord Rama returned to his kingdom after defeating the demon king Ravana who had kidnapped his consort, Mata Sita.
The day he returned was the day of Kartik Amavasya (no moon day). That day, the people lit the entire kingdom, houses, and streets from Diyas – small lamps made out of clay. Hence Diwali came to be known as the “Festival of Lights.”
That day, good won over evil, light won over darkness!
Even today, people follow this tradition and illuminate their offices and homes with electric lights and Diyas to celebrate this festival. It is to remind us that good always wins over evil – sooner or later. People also worship Hindu gods Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi on Diwali’s evening, idols of wealth and prosperity.
If you want to experience this festival in India, plan a trip around the date of the festival.
Montmartre Grape Harvest Festival – Montemartre, Paris, France
Where: Montemartre, Paris, France
When: Annually in September or October: 5 – 9 October, 2022
Duration: 5 days
Montmartre is an area of Paris which is characterised by its cobbled lanes, quaint cafés, and an overall ‘village ambiance’ which is a rare find in such a major European capital city. Other highlights of the 18th arrondissement of Paris (which is referred to by locals as ‘Montmartre’) include the Sacré-Coeur Basilica, several small museums, and even a minute vineyard.
Despite being small in size, the vineyard hosts an annual Grape Harvest Festival (known as the Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre in French). The vineyard was created by the City of Paris in 1933 as a way of stopping real estate developers from purchasing the land, though grapes have been grown in this part of Paris since the 9th-Century.
The event takes place in September or October each year (depending on the weather that summer, and thus when the grapes are harvested). Across five days, there is a selection of market stalls close to the Basilica, whereby visitors can purchase everything from wine flavoured sorbet to champagne to regional specialities from various parts of France.
November Festivals Around the World
Day of the Dead – Mexico
Recommended by Shelley at ‘Travel Mexico Solo’
Where: Oaxaca, Mexico
When: Annually on the 1 – 2 November: 1 – 2 November, 2022
Duration: 2 days
The holiday officially takes place on November 1-2, though many visitors arrive early to see how the town prepares for this elaborate holiday. As Day of the Dead envelopes this entire city, preparations will begin the week prior.
The Día de Muertos holiday as we know it today actually has prehispanic roots. The Aztecs celebrated a multi-day holiday to commemorate the dead, though it was in the summer. This holiday was later intertwined with the Catholic Allhallowtide holiday, to form present-day Día de Muertos.
Today, Dia de Muertos in Oaxaca is one of the most important festivals in the entire country. Day of the Dead is a time to remember our deceased loved ones, but also celebrate with them, as it’s said their spirit returns Earthside for the holiday.
While this is a holiday about death, it is also a festive celebration. During Day of the Dead, you can expect elaborate comparsas (parades), beautifully-decorated ofrendas (altars), lively street parties, and more.
Chiang Mai Lantern Festival – Chiang Mai, Thailand
Where: Chiang Mai, Thailand
When: Annually in mid-November: 8 – 10 November, 2022
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 (read more about this festival under the heading above Festivals in April).
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.
Melbourne Cup Day – Melbourne, Australia
Where: Melbourne, Australia
When: Annually on the first Tuesday in November: 1 November, 2022
Duration: 1 day
The Melbourne Cup is Australia’s biggest horse race and is billed as the ‘race that stops a nation’. Held at Flemington Racecourse, the day consists of 10 races in total. The Melbourne Cup is Race 7 held at 3pm, where 24 horses compete over 3,200 metres (2 miles).
Horse trainers from around the world set their sights on winning the Melbourne Cup, a race widely considered to be the best-staying handicap in the world. The reward for the winner? It offers the richest prize in Australian sport and an 18ct solid gold Hardy Brothers trophy valued at $175,000+ and a stake of the $8 million prize money, and most importantly, cement their names in history.
100,000 plus people head to Flemington Racecourse to experience the day. The focus of the day is about what they will wear, eat, bet on and drink. Fashion is extremely important on this day and women dress is their best outfits complete with hats or fascinators, and men with suits and ties.
The most famous area to enjoy the day is the bird-cage. The bird-cage consists of 50 sectioned off areas where groups spend the day with a BBQ, tent or grassed area with friends, eating, drinking and socializing.
On this one day of the year, most Australians stop and listen to the race or watch it on TV, even people who don’t usually gamble, have a bet on the race or a ticket in a sweep.
December Festivals Around the World
New Year’s Eve – Worldwide
When: Annually on 31 December: 31 December 2022
Duration: 1 day
Generally, most countries celebrate New Year’s Eve at evening parties where there is lots of dancing, drinking, music, eating, and fireworks bring in the New Year. These celebrations generally go on past midnight into the early hours of New Year’s Day, the 1st January.
Interestingly, different countries in the world have very creative and culturally unique ways of welcoming the New Year. Here are some examples I bet you didn’t know!
- Chile: New Year’s Eve masses are held not at church, but in cemeteries so deceased loved ones are included in the New Year’s Eve celebrations.
- Ecuador: Ecuadorians parade around the city with scarecrows made to look like popular politicians and cultural icons, and at midnight the scarecrows are burnt in a bonfire to cleanse the new year of everything evil.
- Brazil: Brazilians throw white flowers into the ocean to make offerings to Yemoja, a water deity, to get her blessings for the year to come.
- Russia: Two divers – Father Frost and the Ice Maiden – plant underwater trees in the world’s largest lake, Lake Baikal.
- Denmark: It’s a Danish tradition to throw plates at your friends’ and neighbours’ front doors on New Year’s Eve.
- Italy: Italians wear red underwear on Ney Year’s Eve as the colour red symbolises fertility.
- Greece: The Greeks hang onions to promote growth throughout the New Year.
- Turkey: It is considered good luck to sprinkle salt on your doorstep as the clock strikes midnight.
- Ireland: Single ladies sleep with a mistletoe under their pillow on New Year’s Eve to help them find their future husband.
Check availability on accommodation options here
Sydney New Year’s Eve – Worldwide
Where: Sydney Harbour
When: Annually on 31 December: 31 December 2022
Duration: 1 day
Sydney New Year’s Eve festival is held in Sydney Harbour each year and consists of many events throughout the course of the day. Bands play at various locations around the harbour, but the main events are the two firework displays: the 9pm Family Fireworks and the Midnight Fireworks.
The Midnight Fireworks display is centred on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and has a different theme each year set to music. This fireworks display is televised internationally to more than one billion people worldwide and symbolises the start of global New Year festivities.
Hogmanay – Edinburgh, Scotland
Where: Edinburgh Scotland,
When: Annually on 31 December: 31 December 2022
Duration: 1 day
Hogmanay is the Scottish name for the last day of the old year and is synonymous with the celebration of the New Year. Its origins date back to the celebration of the winter solstice among the Vikings with wild parties in late December.
On this day, the Scottish observe many traditions, but the most famous of these is first footing which stems back to Viking times. The first footer is the first person to cross over your threshold after midnight and is seen to bring good luck in the coming year.
There are many celebrations in the city on New Year’s Eve including a torchlight procession creating a river of fire down the historic Royal Mile. Party-goers gather at Princes Street for the world famous Edinburgh Hogmanay street party, and at midnight there is a spectacular firework display on and above Edinburgh Castle. The fireworks are followed by a national sing-along to Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Syne.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Festivals in the World
The Best Cultural Festivals in the World
Some of the best cultural festivals in the world are the following:
- Burning Man – Nevada, USA
- Carnival – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- La Tomatina – Valencia, Spain
- Mardi Gras – New Orleans, USA
- St. Patrick’s Day – Dublin, Ireland
The Best Music Festivals in the World
Some of the best music festivals in the world are the following:
- Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival – Tennessee, USA
- New Orleans Jazz Festival – New Orleans, USA
- Coachella – California, USA
- Summerfest – Wisconsin, USA
- Mawazine – Rabat, Morocco
The Best Religious Festivals in the World
Some of the best religious festivals in the world are the following:
- Holi Festival – India, Nepal, Pakistan
- Ouidah International Voodoo Festival – Ouidah, Benin
- Holy Week in Jerusalem – Israel
- Semana Santa – Spain
- Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) – Mexico
The Best Holiday Festivals in the World
Some of the best holiday festivals in the world are the following:
- Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) – Mexico
- King’s Day – Netherlands
- Songkran – Thailand
- St. Patrick’s Day – Dublin, Ireland
The Most Unusual Festivals in the World
Some of the most unusual festivals in the world are the following:
- Wife Carrying World Championship – Sonkajärvi, Finland
- The Baby Jumping Festival – Castrillo de Murcia, Spain
- International Hair Freezing Contest – Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
- Boryeong Mud Festival – Boryeong, South Korea
- Underwater Music Festival – Looe Key Reef, Florida, USA
The Best Beer Festivals in the World
Some of the best beer festivals in the world are the following:
- Oktoberfest – Munich, Germany
- Czech Beer Festival – Prague, Czech Republic
- Great British Beer Festival – London, England
- Great American Beer Festival – Colorado, USA
- Belgian Beer Weekend – Brussels, Belgium
The Best Winter Festivals in the World
Some of the best winter festivals in the world are the following:
- Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival – Harbin, China
- Reykjavik Winter Lights Festival – Reykjavik, Iceland
- Sapporo Ice Festival – Sapporo, Japan
- Venice’s Carnevale – Venice, Italy
- Winter Festival of Lights – Niagra Falls, Canada
Essential Travel Planning Resources
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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.
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Check out our Travel Resources page for the companies we use and recommend to plan and book our travels. Through lots of trial and error over the years, these are the best!
In Summary – 35 of the Biggest Festivals in the World
There are so many festivals around the world which are held throughout the course of the year. We try to plan our travels around when the biggest festivals in the world are happening to add to our overall travel experience. We have been to many festivals over the years as a result, but the above list also includes many festivals we want to go to in the future.
What is your favourite festival in the world and why? Have you been to any of our list of the biggest festivals in the world listed above? Have we missed any you think we should add? Post your tips, comments and questions below.
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