Festivals by Destination
Once you have decided on a holiday destination, it's time to start planning exactly what to do whilst you're there. In all four corners of the globe, a fantastic line up of festivals awaits and we've put together a few of our favourites. From foodie festivals in North America, cultural celebrations in Latin America and music concerts in Africa, to hotly contested sporting competitions in Europe, the religious and spiritual celebrations of both the Far East and the Indian subcontinent and the mind boggling carnivals of the Caribbean; festival fever has taken the world by storm.
The 4th of July is a national holiday across America, marking the country's Independence Day. Fireworks displays span the country but the most impressive arguably take place at the White House in Washington when pyrotechnics of all colours rain down on this spectacular landmark. Cue all-American feasts and star spangled banners adorning facades and shopfronts in honour of the nationwide festivities.
The Calgary Stampede is a ten day long celebration of the heritage of the region and the perfect place to revel in Alberta's heritage, culture and community spirit. Over 100 years ago, the stampede was established and it continues to be a real celebration of everything Calgary, from rodeo tournaments to spectacular stunts and chuckwagon events.
The streets of New Orleans become awash with hues of purple, green and gold throughout the Mardi Gras celebrations. Festival fever is brought to live in the parades, picnics and performances taking place across the city which revel in the cultural heritage of New Orleans and traditions of Fat Tuesday. Elaborate costumes are worn by young and old, floats are adorned with larger than life decorations and masquerading is all part of the fun!
Embracing the cultural and musical heritage of Louisiana, the New Orleans Jazz Festival is a colourful explosion of the city's vibrant music scene, nightlife and cuisine. From crafts and food to music and culture, there is something to satisfy every cultural appetite. With humble beginnings in 1970, the parade has become a giant celebration of the birthplace of jazz music, where revellers can immerse in the fervour of gospel hymn and the buzz of a jazz parade.
Parties, parades and haunted houses are all on the agenda to celebrate the ghoulish season. Across America, celebrations take every shape and form and as the streets become lined with pumpkins and abuzz with trick or treaters. Straddling the seasons of winter and autumn, Halloween was once a ritual which took place to ward off roaming ghosts, now it is the perfect occasion to rally community spirit in every corner of the US.
Celebrating the very best of Napa's food and wine, the Taste of Napa showcases the wineries, restaurants and artisans of Napa Valley. Preceding the Festival Napa Valley, the Taste of Napa is quite literally a taster of the very best of Napa's produce, enough to tempt the taste buds in the build up to the region's main festival. Food and wine enthusiasts come together from all over the world to celebrate what is known as one of the best wine growing regions in North America. We can't think of many better ways to while away a sunny afternoon sampling local delicacies.
The Vermont Maple Festival is held annually in St. Albans, taking place to coincide with the first harvest of the year. Drinks tastings, street stall sampling, exhibitions, demonstrations and entertainment are all maple syrup themed so sweet tooths will be more than satisfied! The pancake breakfast has, unsurprisingly, become one of the festival's highlights as well as the hotly anticipated crowning of the town's Maple King and Queen.
Carnival is celebrated across Brazil, but head to Rio if you want to soak up Brazil's carnival spirit at the biggest street party in the world. Rio Carnival is an all singing, all dancing five day extravaganza in which samba is the star of the show. Taking place before the beginning of Lent, it is the ultimate blowout before the countdown to Easter begins. Throughout the carnival, the streets are filled with the sounds and sights of Brazil's vibrant culture, a true testament to its incredible history, fascinating people and contagious party spirit.
Often confused with Mexico's Independence Day, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated each year on 05 May to commemorate the victory of the Mexican army over French forces despite being greatly outnumbered in the Battle of Puebla in 1862 during the Franco-Mexican War. It has become a big celebration of Mexican culture in the United States but in Mexico Cinco de Mayo is mainly celebrated in the state of Puebla where the battle took place. In Puebla city, the battle of Puebla is reenacted on the original site and there is a massive parade along Boulevard Cinco de Mayo with colourful costumes and Mariachi bands. Expect tacos, dancing and fireworks!
The Day of the Dead, or Día de Muertos in Spanish, is a holiday for friends and family who have died. On the face of it, you might think it's a somber occasion but it's actually a very colourful affair with traditional costumes and skeletal makeup. The belief is that the spirits of the dead return for one day to be with their families. Before colonisation by the Spanish, it was celebrated in the summer but now coincides with the Christian Allhallowtide observance of Halloween, All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. Offerings (ofrenda) of food, flowers (particularly Mexican marigolds), colourful sugar skulls and candles are laid out. Flowers to represent the transience of life and the candle light to guide the dead on their way back. Celebrations take place across Mexico, although this is more recent in northern Mexico, but Mexico City, Oaxaca and Pátzcuaro are particularly well known for their festivities. There are markets, music and parties in cemeteries.
Celebrating the vibrant culture of the capital of Colombia, this film festival embraces the urban and the intellectual, reflecting the essence of this exciting city. Arguably the largest cinematic event in the country, the festival has continued to grow and now screens around 100,000 films hailing from all corners of the world during the course of the festival. The festival also fosters the promotion of lesser known films, in order to contribute to the development of the industry and its revival in the Americas.
Born out of the secret world of Buenos Aires, the Festival de Tango is a showcase of the passion of the Argentine people for their famed dance. Running for almost three weeks throughout August, the 'world's biggest tango extravaganza' offers everything from tango shows and recitals to the much anticipated Tango World Championships.
A religious ceremony to honour Inti, the Inca sun god, Inti Raymi means "festival of the sun" in the main Inca language, Quechuan. The festival takes place on 24 June in celebration of the winter solstice and also marks the beginning of the Inca New Year. The solstice is actually on 21 June in the southern hemisphere but the Incas believed that the sun doesn't start to rise in the sky again until the 24th. The festival is celebrated across the Andes but centres in Cuzco, the capital of the Inca Empire. The Spanish conquistadors banned Inti Raymi ceremony in 1535, but since 1944 there has been a historical re-enactment of the traditional Inca ceremony at the ancient citadel of Saksaywaman. Street performances also take place with folk dances, marching bands and colourful costumes abound.
The Medellin Flower Festival is a celebration of many aspects of Colombian culture. The true meaning of the festival is encapsulated by the parade of silleteros, or flower farmers, who carry enormous, ornate flower arrangements on their backs through the streets of the city. Not only does this symbolise a great celebration of the flowers from the area, but it also commemorates the end of slavery in the region. Further, the festival falls on the Virgin Mary Day, incorporating a religious element to the celebrations. Expect floral arrangements like you've never seen before.
The origins of the Grape Harvest Festival date back as far as 1936, and it has now affirmed itself as a firm feature on the Argentine calendar. Considered one of the most popular festivals in the country, the gathering of winemakers and wine lovers alike makes for a truly unforgettable occasion. Whilst ultimately, the festival is focused around the many wine growers of the region, you can expect a catalogue of events incorporating traditional song and dance alongside the hotly anticipated beauty pageant to crown the Queen of Vendimia. Mendoza's annual festival is a fantastic display of revelry, all in the name of Malbec.
Considered the home of polo, Argentina proudly hosts one of the oldest polo competitions in the world. Marking the end of the international polo season, the Open Polo Championships attracts competitors from across the globe to contest for the title. It is impossible not to be captivated by the incredible skill, sportsmanship and passion which captures the nation throughout the tournament.
The lost civilisation of the mysterious Mayans and the pyramids they left behind really capture the imagination. The iconic Pyramid of Kukulkan, or the El Castillo pyramid, dominates Chichen Itza and demonstrates the Mayans' extraordinary understanding of astromony. The main event at the equinox is the appearance of the snake deity Kukulkan, meaning "feathered serpent" in the Yucatec Maya language that was spoken in the Yucatan Peninsula, slithering down the 91 steps of the El Castillo pyramid that is dedicated to him. At around 4pm on the spring equinox, the illusion of a snake is created by the shadow of the terraces on the stairway, at the bottom of which are great carved snake heads.
A tradition harking back to the 1970s, Tapati was founded as a way of promoting and protecting the identity of the Rapa Nui people of Easter Island. The festival features a line up of dancing and singing competitions alongside traditional sporting events such as swimming, canoeing and horse racing. Literally meaning Rapa Nui week, it is the most important cultural festival on Easter Island and draws visitors from far and wide. Throughout the celebrations, the island is divided in two, and peaceful competition and confrontation ensues between the two halves - the perfect platform for islanders to showcase their physical and artistic skills.
Semana Santa (Holy Week) is celebrated in the lead up to Easter across much of the Catholic world and perhaps nowhere is it more spectacular than in the former colonial capital of Antigua Guatemala. Both day and night, the cobbled streets are decorated with flowers and colourful sawdust carpets (alfrombras) that are trampled as processions of floats bearing heavy statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary are carried by Cucurucho (penitent men in purple robes with conical hats, representing penitence and humility). The celebration is a fusion of Catholic and Mayan religion and traditions.
For three days, Belizean chocolate is the star of the show at the Toledo Chocolate Festival. Expect chocolate in all its delicious forms served up with a healthy portion of cultural events too. This is the perfect way to get under the skin of this fascinating region, learning about the chocolate making process, and celebrating the conditions give Belizean chocolate such a unique flavour. With a range of chocolatiers selling their wares, it is the perfect event to satisfy any sweet tooths.
Taking place every year on the last weekend of March or first weekend of April, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival is the largest music event in sub-Saharan Africa. Famed for its line up of both local and international artists, the festival is a celebration of jazz which is unprecedented elsewhere. It's no wonder then that it has been coined Africa's Grandest Gathering, celebrating the rich musical heritage of the country.
Celebrations for Bastille Day stretch far and wide outside of France itself. In South Africa's Franschhoek, you will find a vibrant foodie celebration which embraces the joie de vivre of French National Day. Food, wine and French fever are all hailed in equal measure and merrymakers are draped in tricolour to ring in the celebrations. Against the backdrop of the Huguenot Monument, the food and wine marquee offers produce from some of the well known wineries of the region, including artisan food stalls which serve up authentic South African cuisine such as biltong. The entire village throngs with activity, from street artists to musicians and friendly games of boules; the perfect spot for a taste of la belle vie.
Local and international artists perform at this annual Harare International Festival of the Arts. The five principal disciplines celebrated are theatre, music, dance, fine art and poetry. Overcoming difficult sociopolitical and economic conditions, the festival is now the biggest cultural event in Zimbabwe and has become an integral and important part of Zimbabwe's cultural calendar. Throughout the course of a week, the programme of workshops embrace the very best of the Zimbabwean arts sector, via the means of theatre, dance, music, circus, street performance, fashion, spoken words and visual arts.
The Hermanus Whale Festival coincides with the annual migration of Southern Right whales, when the mammals come so close to shore that you can spot them from the coastline. Considered the best on-land whale watching destination on earth, there is no better place to celebrate the marine life of South Africa. The festival aims to promote awareness for the conservation of whales and whilst sea life is the star of the show, the town bursts with sports events, musical performances and kids entertainment over the course of the three days. This is the ultimate family friendly attraction to squeeze into your South Africa itinerary.
A naming ceremony for baby gorillas born in the past year, Kwita Izina is based on a traditional Rwandan naming ceremony for humans. The ceremony ties in with an array of conservational activities and exhibits, and each gorilla’s name has a special meaning in the Kinyarwandan language.
The International Kite Festival in Cape Town is a fantastic family friendly event in South Africa. Whether it's getting stuck in with a kite making workshop, tucking into some of the delicious food on offer, picking up a souvenir at one of the many crafts stalls or flying your very own kite, there is something for everyone. Over the course of the weekend, the skies fill with kites and many locals come out to celebrate this unique occasion.
With over a 100 activities taking place across 10 days, the annual Knysna Oyster Festival is a date for the diary for foodies, fitness gurus and families alike. Experience some of the very best of South Africa's scenery, tuck into its delicious cuisine and soak up its vibrant culture whilst indulging in all things seafood. With comedy events, fashion shows and theatre on the agenda, there is something for young and old to get involved with and the perfect stop off along the Garden Route.
Each year, Lambert's Bay in South Africa hosts the Crayfish and Culture festival, a celebration of the country's cuisine and culture. Browse an array of carefully selected stalls, stands and shops which boast the very best of the region's cuisine, crafts and handmade clothing to find the perfect souvenir from South Africa. Feast on fresh crayfish whilst enjoying performances from some of South Africa's favourite musicians.
Six hours south east of Marrakech, the Valley of Roses is as lush and fragrant as it sounds. The Morocco Rose Festival is held in El Kelaa M'Gnouna, a town brimming with people and excitement where roses are garlands, decorations and appearing in every form, from soaps and gels to creams and oils. Revelling in the beauty of the flower, the Moroccan Festival of Roses, is set in the heart of the Moroccan rose industry and is the perfect place to find an exquisitely prepared bottle of rose oil in the country's largest distillery.
Since its beginnings in 2003, the Sauti za Busara festival has sought to bring together the diverse artists and audiences of eastern Africa, giving the music of the region an international platform. Hosted inside the ancient walls of Zanzibar's Stone Town, the five day event showcases the incredible music and culture of Africa, with over 400 artists performing across the festival. Expect an exuberant mix of styles and genres, ranging from the traditional to the modern, all celebrating the incredible talent of the island and further afield.
South Africa is world renowned for its wine and the Stellenbosch Wine Festival, held each February, is a real treat for the taste buds. Celebrating the region's top restaurants whilst showcasing the 148 wineries which make up the Stellenbosch Wine Route, this festival is a must-do for foodies and wine lovers alike. There, you will find award winning producers, small boutique wineries and everything in between, all under one roof.
The Baltic Herring Festival is the oldest traditional event in Helsinki, having been held in the city for over 275 years. The fishermen bring ashore their haul from the Baltic Sea, bringing with them the Finnish delicacy salted herring (and the array of marinades which come with it). Alongside picking up a taster, there is a range of locally made handicrafts and artisan wares on offer to browse too. Coined the ultimate Nordic food festival, the festival is quite unique as visitors have the opportunity to buy directly from the moored boats of fisherman. Our top tip is to pick up a loaf of saaristoleipä, a delicious bread native to the archipelago.
The Bergen International Festival offers an extensive line up of the arts in all their guises. From cutting edge production, to premieres covering the spheres of music, opera, theatre and dance, the festival is renowned for its diverse offering and sits at the forefront of the industry. Each year, some 250 events are staged over the course of 15 days in around 20 venues around the city and whilst classical music and theatre are cornerstones of the festival, there is something for all tastes to enjoy.
Founded in 1950, Dubrovnik Summer Festival is a mostly open air festival of music, dance, theatre and film held over 6 weeks in the extraordinary setting of medieval Dubrovnik Old Town and Lokrum Island. The opening ceremony takes place in front of the baroque Church of St Blaise and ends with some spectacular fireworks. As something of an institution in the city, the festival welcomes international and local performers, guaranteeing an unforgettable evening of entertainment.
Throughout the course of the festival, you can expect an extensive line up, hosted at open air locations dotted across the old town. The ultimate outdoor cinema experience.
The Edinburgh Festival would be more accurately described as the Edinburgh Festivals. The Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo are the most famous. The International Festival comprises world class music, theatre, dance and opera performances. The Tattoo is a spectacle that takes place in Edinburgh Castle with musicians, dancers and military pageantry. The highlight is the pipes and drums and if you attend the second performance on Saturday includes fireworks. The Fringe began in 1947 as an act of defiance by performers who were denied from taking part in the Edinburgh International Festival and decided to perform anyway on the fringes - it's now larger than Edinburgh International Festival.
La Festa des Vermar takes place in Binissalem, on the island of Mallorca. Alongside grape crushing and wine tasting competitions, expect heritage parades featuring historical themed floats and the pièce de résistance, an enormous grape battle. Mid-festival, revellers take to the streets to throw grapes at one another, soaking everything in sight with grape juice. A truly unique tradition which isn't found anywhere else in the world.
Offering a line up of critically acclaimed chefs and Reykjavik's finest restaurants, the Food and Fun festival is a well renowned celebration of Icelandic cuisine. By combining the techniques of culinary powerhouses from across the globe with local restaurants and regionally sourced ingredients, Food and Fun festival really embraces the community spirit of the Icelandic capital and its brimming gastronomic talent.
As the oldest oyster festival in the world, the Galway International Oyster Festival has long been recognised as a stalwart of the festival calendar in Ireland. With the World Oyster Opening Championships taking place during the festival, punters can be guaranteed a fantastic line up of traditional entertainment, street parades, seafood trails, all washed down with a glass of Irish stout.
The annual Fête du Jasmin takes place in Grasse and pays homage to the flower for which the town is renowned. Tucked away in the hills of Provence, the annual celebration marks the beginning of the jasmine harvest, featuring fireworks, traditional dancing and costumes and a parade. During the weekend of festivities, jasmine petals float through the air like confetti and festival goers are doused in jasmine water. Stay awhile to witness the crowning of Miss Jasmine and soak up the celebrations at the heartland of the Provencal perfume industry.
Marvel as Scotsmen toss the caber, or get involved with a fiercely competitive tug o' war, witness traditional dance renditions and watch track and field events, at a Highland Games in Scotland. Taking place throughout the summer, from May to September, the festivities can be easily combined into a Scotland itinerary. The Games are a celebration of Scottish traditions, so keep your ears to the ground for the blow of bagpipes and eyes peeled for patchwork of tartan kilts.
Known as the lobster capital of Iceland, Höfn Lobster Festival offers visitors a real taste of this local delicacy. It is a great chance to immerse yourself in the local culture of South East Iceland too, getting to grips with the customs of this little known part of the world. For seafood fans, there is perhaps no better place to sample the delicious cuisine than on the harbour, a promenade which constantly bustles in a nod to the booming fishing industry there.
Hogmanay is the Scottish celebration which marks the last day of the calendar year. With a host of events taking place throughout the Edinburgh, from ceilidh in the castle, to concerts and processions in the streets, there is plenty to entertain both young and old. Witness a spectacular display of fireworks at midnight or a procession or a torch lit parade through the streets. The brave can take part in the loony dook, a refreshing dip in the River Forth on the first of January, the perfect cure for any sore heads! Grab a friend or a loved one, neighbour for a soul stirring rendition of Auld Lang Syne.
Taking place in Reykjavik, the Icelandic National Day is both the birthday of Iceland's independence movement and also marks the date of when the republic of Iceland was established. Celebrations take place throughout the day, beginning with the simultaneous chiming of all of the church bells in Reykjavik and continuing with family friendly entertainment, street theatre and concerts.
Celebrating its twentieth anniversary in 2017, the Nuits du Sud festival celebrates music from the whole gamut of genres, welcoming international artists as well as promoting up and coming local talent. Each year, Vence, located on the Cote d'Azur, comes alive with open air music venues which host myriad of concerts over the course of eleven days.
Carmen is known as the protectorate of the city's fishermen and seafarers, and a festival in her honour is celebrated on the 16th July. The festivities take place in all of the local coastal towns and villages but some of the best celebrations are held in Port de Pollenca. Priests come to bless the fishing boats with pictures of the Virgin Carmen, locals decorate the boats with flowers and lanterns and garlands are thrown into the water to commemorate those who lost their lives at sea.
Perhaps Italy's greatest sporting occasion, the Palio di Siena is an occasion steeped in pageantry and social identity. This fantastic display of Italian heritage allows you to step back in time, as it has preserved the same traditional revelry as half a century ago. Having taken place in the Pizza del Campo in the heart of Siena since 1644, this is a contest at the heart of Siena. Two thirds of the city's population come out to watch the palio take place and watch the contrada race each other for a mere 75 seconds.
All hail pizza! The Pizza Village in Naples comes around once a year in homage to the city's most famous dish, the beloved pizza. Pizza professionals descend from across Italy and further afield to compete, contribute to seminars and of course, to create the greatest pizzas on the planet. The festival shot to fame for creating the world's largest pizza and it continues to go from strength to strength, enticing visitors to its shores for lip smackingly good pizza year in, year out.
La Patrona Festival, held in the north of Mallorca, is a jubilant occasion which is celebrated on the day dedicated to the Mare de Deu dels Angels on August 2nd. The highlight of the fiesta is the reenactment of the battle between Moorish pirates and Christians and a spectacular fireworks display over the town follows. The mock battle is best watched from balconies overlooking the streets as the squash of Pollenca's townsfolk replay this historical event. Throughout the town there are a host of concerts, exhibitions and parties taking place over the course of the festival, all continuing until the early hours.
Hosted biennially, the Reykjavik Art Festival is a celebration of the arts with a focus on the creative industries from all over the globe. The vast network of national and international artists who arrive here is reminiscent of Iceland's diversity and the festival serves to celebrate the artists at the forefront of the industry. The festival is one of the oldest and most respected arts festivals amongst the Nordic countries.
Also named the Midnight Sun Music Festival, Secret Solstice is Iceland's most famous music festival, offering a glittering array of international DJs and artists on the summer festival circuit. The stunning backdrop of the festival makes it stand out from the pack confirming it as a truly unique festival to tick off the bucket list. Spanning a range of genres from folk to indie, to hip hop and urban, not forgetting dance music, this festival has something for everyone to party where the sun simply doesn't set. Whilst also one of the newest festivals on the block, it has quickly established itself with a line up of real headliners. Secret Solstice offers revellers the added bonus of partying inside a glacier for the ultimate festival experience under a never setting sun.
St Patrick's Day, sometimes known as the Feast of Saint Patrick, is on the 17 March, commemorating the arrival of Christianity in Ireland and Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. St Patrick's Day has become a celebration of Irish culture and heritage and generally all things Irish. The day is marked with lively involve parades, marching bands and cèilidhs (a traditional Gaelic partner dance to folk music). Wearing of green attire or shamrocks is extremely popular. Legend has it that Saint Patrick explained the Holy Trinity to the Irish pagans using the three leaved shamrock (clover). St Patrick's Day is celebrated not only across the island of Ireland but also those of Irish descent around the world.
The Tromsø International Film Festival is hosted during the dark polar nights so atmospheric film screenings benefit from the darkness of the Norwegian skies. This is the place where Norwegian and international film meet to celebrate the latest offerings of local and global film production. Films are screened in a variety of locations across the city of Tromsø, giving you plenty of choice to decide on a film that's for you.
The world famous Venice Carnival with its iconic Venetian masks takes place each year in the 10 days leading up to Shrove Tuesday (in fact the word carnival comes from the Latin "carnes" and "levare" so literally means "put away meat"). It dates back to the Middle Ages but fell into decline in the 18th century and was revived in 1979. Don a mask and a period costume to truly become part of this spectacle like no other. Venice Carnival opens with the Flight on the Angel (Volo dell’Angelo) when a young woman descends through the air from the San Marco bell tower into St Mark's Square. There are outdoor events including a water parade (you can even take part in a costume contest) as well as more exclusive festivities like the extravagant masquerade balls, gala, cruises and cocktail parties. Try a fritelle (Venetian donut), a traditional carnival sweet treat.
Throughout the summer, expect a calendar of showstopper performances taking place inside the ancient amphitheatre of Verona Opera House. Alongside the timeless classics of Carmen and Aida, the line up also includes an array of lesser known productions. The iconic setting of the opera confirms it as one of the most prestigious arts festivals in Italy, and the incredible production of each performance ensures a spectacle you will never forget. Sit back, relax and enjoy al fresco theatre at its finest.
The Bali Arts Festival is a month long cultural festival that takes place in the Balinese capital, Denpasar. The festival opens with a parade at the Bajra Sandhi monument and the Taman Werdhi Budaya Arts Centre is the hub of the celebrations. There are performances by adults and children of myriad traditional dance and music, including legong, Ramayana and Mahabharata ballets, mask dances and gamelan recitals, as well as wayang shadow puppetry and film screenings. You will also find art exhibitions, local handicrafts and the culinary bazaars are a great opportunity to sample Balinese dishes.
Throughout spring, Japan's landscapes transform into hues of pink as its trees turn a shade of pink, blooming with the colours of new life. During this time it is de rigeur to head out to local parks and gardens and join locals for a hanami or flower viewing celebration. Blossom themed events take place up and down the country and the shelves of supermarkets are stacked with sakura (cherry blossom) flavoured food and drink.
Beginning on the 5th day of the 4th lunar month of each year, the Cheung Chau Bun festival, is an annual celebration which has become an intangible part of China's cultural heritage. Before the festival, locals create countless papier-mâché effigies of deities, prepare costumes, bake buns and build a bamboo tower to ward off evil spirits. These traditions were introduced initially to fend off the plague yet the rituals are still performed to this day. It is hailed as one of the world's most curious festivals and only a mile away from high rise Hong Kong, highlighting the rich culture which still seeps through China.
Krathong is arguably one of the most picturesque festivals in Thailand. Festival goers gather around lakes, rivers and canals in the name of the goddess of water to release lotus shaped rafts, or krathongs, into the water. Falling on the last night of the twelfth lunar month, the festival is a celebration of the harvest season and plentiful rainfall, and good luck is bestowed upon those whose krathongs drift out of sight. In Chiang Mai, people let off lanterns into the moonlit sky, lighting up the darkness with a warm glow.
The centuries old harvest festival of Pasola is a ritualised jousting war between the villages of western Sumba. Each year, there is a mock battle to appease the Marapu gods and guarantee a good harvest. The night before the battle, locals gather to prepare offerings for their ancestors as festival fever begins to descend on the island. During the war, skilled horsemen hurl wooden poles at one another in a fast and furious event that is not for the faint hearted!
The Singapore Grand Prix is a stalwart of the Formula One circuit, and is a prestigious celebration of the world's greatest motorsport. As the first event on the Grand Prix calendar to be held at night, the electric atmosphere of the hotly contested competition makes for an unforgettable evening. The spectacular backdrop of the route, the iconic Singapore skyline, confirms its place as an unmissable feature of the sporting calendar.
Beginning in 1977, the annual Singapore International Festival of the Arts or SIFA is a national performing arts festival. Experience a smorgasbord of performances with influences from across the globe in the form of theatre, dance and music. Singapore's thriving creative scene is showcased here and taking part in the event is particularly captivating for art lovers and theatre buffs alike.
Touted as the highlight of Singapore's cultural calendar, catering to discerning arts fans and acclaimed for its offering of avant-garde performances.
Across Thailand, Songkran celebrations take place for as long as a week. The Thai New Year is a Buddhist festival and perhaps the most important public holiday in the country. The date marks the end of the dry season and the beginning of the annual rains, with this in mind, it is de rigeur for revellers to throw water at one another. This is arguably the highlight of the festival and the only option for visitors it to embrace it and get wet! Thais visit their local temples to pray and Buddha images across the nation are cleaned to bring luck and prosperity for the year to come.
Pha That Luang, meaning the Great Stupa, in the Laotian capital Vientiane is a shrine to a relic of Buddha believed to be his breastbone. This important stupa has come to be the national symbol of Laos. A 3 day religious festival is held at full moon in November and many Buddhists travel from neighbouring countries for the occasion. There is a "wax castle" procession led by monks from Wat Si Muang in the city centre to That Luang that circulates That Luang three times in honour of Buddha and to boost karma for rebirth into a better life. Laypeople carry incense and candles as offerings. There is a firework display that symbolises an offering of flowers of light to Buddha and folk, popular music and drama performances.
Waisak is the celebration of Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death and is the holiest day in the Buddhist calendar. It is celebrated across the Buddhist world, although on different days and under different names. In Indoneseia, Waisak is observed during the full moon in May and celebrations centre on the UNESCO World Heritage Borobudur temple in Java, built in the 9th century during the Hindu-Buddhist empires and the largest Buddhist structure on earth (Java is now a predominantly Muslim island). It is a colourful affair with processions carrying holy water and candles. Buddhist monks in their saffron robes circle the temple in a ritual called Pradaksina, then puja lanterns are released into the night sky as a symbol of light and enlightenment.
The annual Black Necked Crane Festival takes place each November, in the Phobjikha valley of Bhutan, a protected area for the Black-necked cranes. The occasion marks the arrival of the endangered and majestic bird which is so intrinsic to the daily lives of the local people during the winter months whilst also serving to generate awareness about the conservation of the rare species. Large numbers of locals gather for the occasion, and children wearing crane costumes perform choreographed routines in front of the Gangteng Monastery giving it a truly authentic feel. Encompassed by the majestic Himalayas, this is the perfect opportunity to really immerse yourself in Bhutan's fascinating culture.
Holi, dubbed the festival of colours, is a Hindu spring festival celebrated across India to welcome the arrival of spring and the victory of good over evil. The festival spans a night and a day, starting on the evening of Full Moon day with religious rituals performed around a bonfire. The next day is Rangwali Holi and coloured powders called gulal are thrown in the air and at friends and strangers. The different colours are symbolic, with red representing love and fertility, blue representing Krishna and green representing spring and new beginnings.
One of the most iconic religious festivals in Bhutan, Paro Tsechu has been celebrated since the 17th century and is held for 5 days beginning on the 10th day of the Bhutanese lunar month, which this year is the 04 April.
Set in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Galle, the Fairway Galle Literary Festival has become one of the most anticipated literary events in the Indian subcontinent for authors and literary enthusiasts across the world. Celebrating the work of international and Sri Lankan authors, the festival is a totally immersive experience which offers workshops, debates, discussions and recitals by day, and musical performances and wine tastings by night.
Jaipur Literature Festival has been described as the greatest literary show on Earth and annually attracts an impressive line up of great minds. Everyone from historians and politicians to sports people and entertainers arrive in the Pink City for this spectacular event to hear from some of the best loved and respected names in the industry, including Nobel Laureates and winners of the Man Booker Prize. It is the perfect place to learn from prominent literary figures in the incredible surroundings of the Jaipur countryside.
Named after the great Indian hornbill, a symbolic bird in Naga folklore, the Hornbill Festival is an annual celebration in India's Nagaland. Uniting all the major tribes in the region, the festival is a celebration of traditional arts. Taking place in the first week of December, the festival is vibrant, colourful and intoxicating giving visitors the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the people and places of Nagaland.
Held within the walls of the spectacular Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur, the Rajasthan International Folk Festival is an annual event, timed to coincide with Sharad Purnima, when the brightest full moon of the year shines over the region. Recognised by UNESCO as a platform for creativity and sustainable development, RIFF is a jubilant celebration which involves the whole community. Here, you can witness traditional dance and musical performances, enjoy a spot of meditation or simply soak up the atmosphere at a festival which is at the beating heart of the state.
With its inaugural carnival taking place in 1957, commemorating the island's emancipation from slavery and also as a means of attracting tourists to the island. Ever since, carnival fever has descended on the island annually. A variety of shows take place in the build up to the culmination of the festivities which take place on the final Monday and Tuesday of the week. Two days of public holiday are celebrated in an exuberant musical celebration. Calypsos are played by steel bands, the streets are decorated in a rainbow of Caribbean colours and celebratory spirit whirls around the island.
Festival Kreol is the biggest and most important event in the Seychelles' cultural calendar. Prepare for an assault on the senses; with the colours, sights, sounds and smells of the Creole world coming to life. The festival embraces both the traditions of the Seychelles and the contemporary too, fusing the two seamlessly throughout the course of the festival. The Festival Kreol is an international stage for Creole culture, from watching float parades and musical shows, to visiting galleries and fairs, it is the perfect way to get under the skin of the Seychelles.
Carnival fever takes hold on the island over Barbados throughout the Crop Over Festival, an incredible insight into Barbados' vibrant and colourful culture. This 200 year tradition honours the end of the sugar cane season, and revellers come together to celebrate all that is Bajan. Parties continue well into the night, markets spill across plazas and street fairs are a showcase of creativity, craft and calypso.
Each year, the traditions of the Caribbean are given a renewed energy and burst into life at the Nevis Culturama festival. Fostering an international interest in the cultural heritage of the Caribbean, the festival gives the folklore of the island a worldwide stage on which to flourish and inspire. It is also a unique celebration of one of the most important milestones in history, the emancipation of slaves and throughout the 12 days of festivities, all aspects of Nevis' art and culture are celebrated.
The island of St Lucia comes alive for an annual celebration of jazz each year, attracting local and international artists to its shores. The whole island is engulfed in festival fever and events take place from dawn 'til dusk throughout the festival. The festival's headline concert takes place on Pigeon Island, a small islet linked to the mainland via a small causeway. Framed by volcanic peaks, the setting of this vibrant festival is simply spectacular and the perfect place to soak up the very best of Caribbean culture.