The best way to begin the New Year is on a celebratory note, so here are 14 of the best January festivals around the world!
Are you looking for some travel inspiration or celebrations in January? Well, you are in luck as there are lots of festivals in January to enjoy. There is something for everyone from cultural, spiritual, and religious festivals, through to food and wine, holiday celebrations and music festivals.
N.B. We will updating this list of festivals and holidays in January around the world 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?
- January is named after the Roman god Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions. .
- January is the month to celebrate National Spaghetti Day (4th), Bubble Bath Day (8th), International Hot and Spicy Food Day (16th), and National Hugging Day (21st).
“Festivals promote diversity, they bring neighbours into dialogue, they increase creativity, they offer opportunities for civic pride, they improve our general psychological well-being. In short, they make cities better places to live.”– David Binder –
TABLE OF CONTENTS
14 of the Best January Festivals Around the World
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January Festivals Around the World
Here are the best January festivals and celebrations to add to your bucket list travel calendar.
Amsterdam Light Festival – Amsterdam, Netherlands
Where: Amsterdam, Netherlands
When: Annually in December and January: 2 December, 2022 – 23 January, 2023
Duration: Approx. 2 months
We have added Amsterdam Light Festival to our post on the ‘Best Festivals in December” as it begins in December. However, this festival can also be enjoyed from December to January each year.
Read more about the Amsterdam Light Festival in Amsterdam, Netherlands in our post on the Best December Festivals Around the World
Check availability on accommodation options in Amsterdam
Dwijing Festival of Chirang – Chirang, Assam, India
Where: Chirang, Assam, India
When: Annually from the 27 December to 7 January: 27 December, 2022 to 7 January, 2023
Duration: 12 days
We have added Dwijing Festival of Chirang to our post on the ‘Best Festivals in December” as it begins in December. However, this festival can also be enjoyed from late December to early January each year.
Read more about the Dwijing Festival of Chirang in Assam, India in our post on the Best December Festivals Around the World
Check availability on accommodation options in Assam
Festival of Sydney – Sydney, Australia
Recommended by Linda at ‘Muy Linda Travels’
Where: Sydney, Australia
When: Annually in January: 6 – 30 January, 2022
Duration: approx. 24 days
The Festival of Sydney is a huge cultural event in Australia that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to the harbour side city each year. Sydney’s performance venues, parks and public spaces come to life with indoor and outdoor events. Pop-up venues appear around the city to host more than 130 free and paid events featuring music, art, and cutting edge theatre. The annual Sydney Festival is held from 6 – 30 January and showcases Australia’s best performers alongside international artists.
The Spiegeltent is a much-loved pop-up venue for music and cabaret performances, and the outdoor Cinema at Lady Macquarie’s Chair is another favourite evening out. Stroll through the Botanical Gardens to Lady Macquarie’s Chair and enjoy the spectacular harbour side scenery before you watch your movie, with one of the best sunset views in Sydney as a backdrop. You can’t beat the setting in one of the most photogenic spots in Sydney.
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 Harbin Ice Festival is considered to be one of the best festivals around the world!
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.
A small village about 6 to 7 hours’ drive from Harbin is known as China’s Snow Town. It is extremely popular with photographers due to its beautiful snowscape. You will also find some interesting winter activities such as dog / horse sledding, snow tubing, and skiing.
Ice Magic Festival – Lake Louise, Canada
Recommended by Ben at ‘Ticket 4 Two Please’
Where: Lake Louise, Canada
When: End of January: 19 – 30 January, 2022
Duration: 2 weeks
Ice Magic is an annual festival in Lake Louise that brings together some of the world’s best ice carvers, for a series of challenging and gruelling icy escapades. The snowy hamlet of Lake Louise, in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, transforms into a winter wonderland for 2 weeks at the end of January each year.
Hosted within the grounds of the majestic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel, Ice Magic is a festival truly befitting of its name. The competition sees competitors from around the globe embark on a number of snowy tasks throughout the week, before culminating in a gripping 34-hour challenge that requires teams of two ice-carvers to create a piece of art out of an imposing 300lb (136 kilogram) block of ice.
While the official festival itself runs from mid-late January every year (2022 dates are Jan 19 – Jan 30), the ice sculptures themselves remain visible to the public well into late March and early April, when they finally succumb to the warmer temperatures.
The ice-carving is of course the main attraction, but visitors to the festival will also get to experience Lake Louise in the depths of the winter, which itself is a pretty magical affair.
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. It is considered to be one of the best January festivals in India!
The festival attracts thousands of kite lovers, flyers and expert kite-makers from over 40 countries to Ahmedabad in Gujarat where millions of brightly coloured kites can be seen all over the sky from the moment the sun rises until it sets.
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 and aerial acrobatics, the streets are buzzing from dawn to dusk, with people visiting the local art and craft stalls where you will see many kite making and painting competitions. Music fills the air as does the aromas of traditional delicacies.
For the people of India, this is also a time for thanksgiving and they visit temples and offer alms to the poor. It is a time for giving, a time for friends, family, and strangers to come together in celebration.
Lightopia Festival – London, England
Where: London, England
When: Annually from mid-November to early-January: Dates for 2022 TBC
Duration: approx. 7 weeks
We have added Lightopia Festival to our post on the ‘Best Festivals in November” as it begins in the middle of November. However, this festival can also be enjoyed from November through to early January each year.
Read more about the Lightopia Festival in London, England in our post on the Best November Festivals Around the World
Ouidah Voodoo Festival – Ouidah, Benin, West Africa
Where: Ouidah, Benin, West Africa
When: Annually on the 10 January: 10 January, 2022
Duration: 1 day
Considered to be the most unique religious festival in the world is the Ouidah Voodoo Festival held in Benin in West Africa. Celebrated across the entire country, the coastal city of Ouidah is said to be the capital of the voodoo religion, so this is where the largest celebrations occur.
The government of Benin declared the 10th of January ‘National Voodoo Day’ back in 1996. Voodoo is practiced by more than 60% of Benin’s population of over 10 million. For millions of Beninese, voodoo is an integral part of everyday life, however, it does also have its dark side. 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.
Rann Utsav– Kutch, Gujarat, India
Recommended by Nilu at ‘The Traveling CA’
Where: Kutch, Gujarat, India
When: Annually during winter: 1 November – 20 February, 2022
Duration: approx. 100 days
Giving you the ‘feels’ of the Bolivian salt pans, it is best visited on a full moon day to experience the magic of moonlight reflecting off the salt. The endless white expanse is worth all the travel. The best time to visit these salt pans is in the morning or evening, and you can take the best photos at sunrise or sunset.
You can enjoy a beautiful sunset and take a camel cart ride across the salt pans. The more adventurous will also enjoy exploring the Rann of Kutch in an ATV or by paramotoring.
The locals dress in colourful clothes and a photo with a colourful turban is a must. During the festival, an entire township is created with luxury tents, cultural shows, markets etc. If you are looking for a more traditional experience, you can also stay in Bhungas – traditional mud houses.
Food is vegetarian, but tasty. Have jalebi-fafda as breakfast with the locals, or enjoy the Gujarati thali. Embroidered clothes are the specialty and this is a popular souvenir to take back home.
Sundance Film Festival – Utah, USA
Where: Park City, Salt Lake City and the Sundance Mountain Resort, Utah, USA
When: Annually in January: 20 – 30 January, 2022
Duration: 10 days
The Sundance Film Festival is the largest independent film festival in America and is held annually in January and organized by the Sundance Institute. This well respected and prestigious film festival takes place in Park City, Salt Lake City and the Sundance Mountain Resort in Utah. It is said to be one of the best festivals in the US for film lovers!
The goal of the festival is to showcase new films from American and international filmmakers, as well as highlighting the importance of independent films. The festival is well known for jump-starting the careers of some of the biggest American independent filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino, Steve Soderbergh and the Coen brothers.
Over the course of the 10 day festival, approximately 200 films are shown and prizes are awarded in several categories of competition. Competitive categories include American and international dramatic and documentary films, both feature films and short films, and a group of out-of-competition sections, including NEXT, New Frontier, Spotlight, Midnight, Sundance Kids, From the Collection, Premieres, and Documentary Premieres.
Thaipusam Festival – Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Recommended by Caroline at ‘CK 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 festival is held in a sacred Hindu shrine called the Batu Caves, just outside of the capital city Kuala Lumpur. The event usually lasts about 3-4 days and celebrates the victory of good over evil, whilst showing appreciation to the God, Lord Murugan, a son of Shiva.
Thousands of people travel to this festival and walk barefoot for several kilometres before climbing up the 272 steep steps to the cave temple to say their prayers. Many participants also engage in various acts of devotion as they believe their sins can be cleansed through acts such as piercing their skin with skewers and pulling heavy chariots fastened to metal hooks in the skin of their backs!
Devotees also dress in bright orange and yellow colours and some carry a kavadi which is a bamboo-made structure decorated with peacock feathers. The ritual of dancing while carrying the Kavadi with devotion is called Kavadi Attam.
There is usually a fun carnival feel at the festival with many musicians and drummers performing. Many devotees take on a vegetarian diet for one month before Thaipusam and there are several street food stalls selling delicious vegetarian Indian food.
The Abel Festival – La Paz, Abra, Philippines
Recommended by Dave at ‘Silver Backpacker’
Where: La Paz, Abra, Philippines
When: Annually on the 24th of January: 24 – 26 January, 2022
Duration: 3 days
La Paz takes pride in its Loom Weaving Industry and the fiesta showcases the colourful and intricate loom woven fabrics from the Loom Weaving Village of Bulbulala. The various colourful Abel costume designs of the participating barangays are highlighted during the street dance and ground show performances as the Lapazeños dance around the towns’ streets in the Abel colours of their tribe.
Bulbulala is home to the loom weaving community where an ancient skill is kept alive by master weavers who have learned the craft from their mothers and grandmothers and pass it on to their children. The unique traditional fabrics may be made using an age-old craft, but their designs remain relevant and increasingly in demand in today’s fashion industry. If you want to learn the art of loom weaving and see how Abel cloth is made then a visit to Leila’s Loom Weaving workshop is a must.
As well as highlighting the local loom weaving industry, the Abel Festival brings the local people together with evenings of dance and entertainment, a best float competition and even a Motocross event which has proved very popular in recent years.
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
Considered to be in the top 5 of the best January wold events, Up Helly Aa should be added to your bucket list! Every year between January and March, 11 communities across the Shetland Islands come together for a series of spectacular fire festivals known as Up Helly Aa. Celebrating the end of the Christmas season, the majority of the Up Helly Aa festivals are held throughout the month of January. The largest is held in Lerwick on the last Tuesday in January where a year’s worth of preparations are put on display.
The festivities vary from town to town in the Shetlands, but each Up Helly Aa is marked with a torch-lit procession through the streets, the symbolic burning of a 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.
Winter Festival of Lights – Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
Where: Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
When: Annually from November to February (Winter): Dates for November and December in 2022 TBC
Duration: 101 Nights
The Winter Festival of Lights is, as the name says, a winter festival that takes place annually in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. The festival celebrates the Christmas season and features a number of illuminated displays and attractions.
The festival features over 3 million lights on display and is one of the most popular events in the city. It consists of various light displays and events that are open to the public from November through to February. Best of all, admission is free, although it is suggested you leave a donation.
Some of the highlights of this family friendly festival include live entertainment, free hot chocolate, a Christmas parade, light shows at the Falls, fireworks, and a tree lighting ceremony. You can experience the displays up close by walking the Niagara Parkway and within Queen Victoria Park, Defferin Islands, an illuminated 8 kilometre route.
Check availability on accommodation options in Ontario
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In Summary – The Best January Festivals Around the World
You can find a huge list of festivals around the world which are held throughout every month of the year. Going to a festival in January is a great to begin your year, and there are lots of both larger and smaller festivals out there for you to pick from and enjoy.
What is your favourite January festival in the world and why? Have you been to any of our list of the best January celebrations and festivals of the world listed above? Have we missed any fun days in January you think we should add? Post your tips, comments and questions below.
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