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15 Best Festivals Around the World Worth Traveling For This Year

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Festivals are a great way to experience the culture a country. But more than that, they offer you an opportunity to experience unique traditions and meet people from around the world.

It’s one thing to visit a community to explore the touristy venues. It’s a whole other experience to visit a community when it is having one of its festivals!

Festivals can be woven organically into the yearly fabric of a place, or things that are developed into the community, like Coachella. Festivals often occur in public places, so meeting new people and making friends is a rite of passage.

If you are looking for an exciting and fun-filled way to travel this year, visit some of the world’s best festivals. From iconic national holiday celebrations to the world’s largest music festival, you may be surprised by what catches your eye.

TL;DR

Festival Month Location
Carnival February Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Holi March India
Cannes Film Festival May Cannes, France
La Tomatina August Buñol, Spain
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta October Albuquerque, NM, USA

Best Festivals in the World

1. Carnival – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (February)

Carnaval do Rio de Janeiro Parade
Pablo Torres / Flickr

Carnival is celebrated throughout Brazil and is one of the most famous festivals worldwide. This event attracts up to 500,000 festival goers annually; it is the benchmark by which many other best festivals are judged! As one of the most popular festivals in the world, it is a bucket list item for many travelers.

Festivities begin just ahead of Lent, 40 days before Easter, culminating in Fat Tuesday. The entire city comes to life for this week-long celebration. The only way to describe the entire festival is “euphoria.”

Colorful street parades and marches can be found every day, and you can party every night away with your own preferred festive garb. You’ll even find many people celebrating freely in drag.

When looking for a place to stay for Carnival, the Copacabana Palace is a divine hotel in Rio de Janeiro. This hotel offers spacious rooms with stunning views of the city and the ocean, a spa, several restaurants, and a fitness center.

For a more affordable option, consider staying at the Ipanema Inn Hotel. This hotel is in the heart of Ipanema Beach and offers beautiful ocean views. The Ipanema Inn Hotel features an outdoor pool, a bar, and a restaurant.

See Related: Ancient Ruins of Palenque

2. Battle of the Oranges or Carnival of Ivrea – Ivrea, Italy (February)

Aerial view of battle of the Oranges
Lupo / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5

No one knows how the Battle of the Oranges began. All people know is that orange is traditionally the color of Protestantism, and it is believed that, at some point, someone threw some oranges at the Italian royalty.

A popular account of the festival’s origins tells the story of a girl named Violetta who decapitated a royal who tried to force himself upon her. A young girl is chosen to play this role every year.

Unlike the tomato festivals of Europe, the Battle of the Oranges is more violent than you’d likely think, so being a part of the nine combat teams may not be for you. The safest way to experience the festival is to hide behind the safety nets installed along the battle routes. You can stand in the battleground, but beware of large, rogue oranges.

As the days leading up to the festival approach, the townspeople of Ivrea spend their time baking traditional dishes like panettone and torrone. Plenty of food stalls sell sweet and savory treats if you get hungry for delicious street food.

If you need a base camp for one of the most fascinating (or mind-boggling) cultural festivals, stay in one of the hotels near the cathedral.

We suggest the charming 3T Boutique Hotel, which offers room service and is within walking distance of all the action. For a more affordable option, consider staying at Residence Due Laghi. This hotel is located on the outskirts of Ivrea and offers beautiful views of Lake Sirio.

3. Mardi Gras – New Orleans, LA (February)

Mardi Gras Celebration
Brad Coy / Flickr

Who doesn’t know about Mardi Gras? Fun costumes, tons of beads, and plenty of festivities mark the occasion where parades and social norms are thrown like beads out the window. Similar to the Carnival celebrations of Brazil, Mardi Gras is a time to let loose and have fun.

Mardi Gras is not just one event in New Orleans, but a season of events starting the Saturday before Ash Wednesday and ending on Fat Tuesday. It is one of the biggest cultural festivals in the world.

Parades are probably the most well-known aspect of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras and occur throughout the season. The Krewe of Bacchus parade is the most famous, which features elaborate floats, dance performances, and celebrity riders.

Balls are another popular event during Mardi Gras and often have themes related to the season. Some popular balls include the Mardi Gras Ball at the Monteleone Hotel and the Orpheuscapade Ball.

Consider staying at the Royal Sonesta New Orleans for a more affordable option. This hotel is also located in the French Quarter and offers amenities including an on-site restaurant and bar.

Another great option is staying in one of the neighborhoods outside the French Quarter. The Garden District is a popular option, as it is home to many luxurious mansions.

4. Holi – India (March)

Crowd in HOLI Festival
Bruna Guerra / Flickr

Holi is an ancient Hindu festival in India celebrating the triumph of good over evil. It is a Festival of Colors, Love, and Spring and a celebration of the gods Radha and Krishna.

Throwing colors are usually derived from plants like turmeric, but chalk is sometimes used today. Religious and social barriers are discarded as everyone becomes equal through the colors of love.

After throwing the colors, people will get cleaned up and exchange sweets as they spend time with loved ones. One of the critical components of love is forgiveness, which is emphasized in this famous festival.

Generate harmony by offering someone a hug and wishing them a “Happy Holi.” The Holi Festival is celebrated worldwide, but everyone should experience the Hindu foundations of this festival at least once in India.

Mathura is one of the most popular destinations for enjoying Holi. Located just a few hours outside Delhi, this city has many temples and religious sites.

That makes it the perfect place to spend the festival — especially if you stay at The Lalita Grand. For a more rural setting to experience Holi, head to Vrindavan, known for its stunning temples and natural beauty.

5. Coachella Valley Music Festival – Indio, CA (April)

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival Set
Rie H / Flickr

Combining art and music, Coachella is more than just a music festival. It attracts some big-name artists while providing an incredible opportunity for some outdoor fun.

Bands like Outkast and Arcade Fire have headlined in past years. It’s frequently compared to Burning Man in Black Rock City, though the two are vastly different.

As one of the largest music festivals on Earth, tons of artists perform each year at Coachella to let you rock out! Music fans will also camp on-site so they don’t miss any of the excitement.

Don’t forget to explore the boutique to enjoy the works of many local artists. Used LPs are also available from the vinyl emporium so that you can relive some of history’s greatest bands.

If attending the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California, be sure to book your accommodation well in advance. The Ace Hotel and Spa is a great option.

Remember that Coachella is in the desert, so not camping there means commuting there each day. That commute can be upwards of 45 minutes each way.

Palm Desert has plenty of other budget and luxury lodging choices. Just don’t put off planning your trip to Coachella, as tickets sell quickly.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Palm Springs, California

6. Songkran Water Festival – Thailand (April)

Crowd during Songkran Water Festival
Takeaway / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Who doesn’t like spraying someone else with some cold water? It’s even more fun to get soaked on a hot day, and let’s face it – Thailand has some scorching days.

The Songkran Water Festival celebration is in conjunction with the observation of the New Year on the solar calendar. People will randomly spray others with water guns, and if you get covered in talc or chalk and water, don’t worry. You’ve just been blessed!

Traditionally, throwing water was meant to be a religious experience, and many followed the traditional components of this cultural festival with prayer and tithing. Everyone assists everyone else in washing away all the bad that has happened to them in the previous year.

The Songkran Festival is an excellent opportunity to explore some of the religious aspects of Thailand. If you’re interested in learning more about the traditional ceremonies and prayers observed during the festival, visit some of the temples.

If you stay in Bangkok for the Songkran Festival, you should stay at the Amari Watergate and the Pullman Bangkok Grande Sukhumvit. These hotels offer excellent locations and luxurious amenities for your festival adventure.

See Related: A Travel Guide to the Inspiring Yi Peng Lantern Festival

7. Running of the Bulls at Festival of San Fermín – Pamplona, Spain (July)

Crowd during San Fermin Festival
Mike Brice / Flickr

With your adrenaline pumping, you hear the pounding stamps of the mighty bulls behind you. People, slightly panicked yet also slightly enthralled, scramble down the streets to see how far they can get without having a bull end their festival experience early.

Hundreds of participants are injured each year, though only 16 have died since record-keeping began in 1910. The Festival of San Fermín, one of the world’s most infamous cultural festivals, was born from a genuine need: the bulls had to come from outside the city into the bullring.

The run usually takes about 4 minutes, but sometimes it can take as long as ten if a stubborn bull is in the mix — fellow Tauruses can appreciate that. Those under the age of 18 are forbidden from running with the bulls. It requires calm nerves and fast reflexes, and you’ve got to be in at least somewhat good shape.

If not, you’re recommended to be an observer, but that’s all right. Just don’t miss the tomato fight afterward.

If you want to stay near the heart of the excitement around the town square, book a room at the Gran Hotel La Perla. This hotel is a lesson in quiet luxury, offering lush accommodations without breaking the bank.

8. Cannes Film Festival – Cannes, France (May)

Cannes Film Red Carpet
Envision Studio, CC BY-SA 2.0

The Cannes Film Festival is one of the world’s most prestigious and best festivals. Held yearly in Cannes, France, the film festival showcases some of the best of cinema.

The festival also awards prestigious prizes, including the Palme d’Or (Golden Palm) for the best film. Attending these festivities can be a bucket list item for film buffs — myself included.

This annual event is rightly popular among celebs. A number of high-profile guests attend each year, and it’s not uncommon to see stars like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie walking the red carpet.

If you’re a fan of movies, then the Cannes Film Festival is definitely worth checking out. The festival runs for two weeks in May each year, so plan your trip accordingly!

If you’re looking for a luxurious experience at Cannes, check out the Carlton Hotel. This iconic hotel is located on the Promenade de la Croisette, the main street in Cannes.

The Carlton has been hosting guests since 1921. It’s easy to see why it’s such a spectacular choice for one of the world’s best cultural festivals.

If you’re looking for something a bit more affordable, consider Le Midi 8. This hotel is located in the city center of Cannes and offers guests a number of amenities, including free Wi-Fi and breakfast.

9. La Tomatina – Buñol, Spain (August)

Often called the largest tomato fight in the world, La Tomatina is believed to have started around 1945. Critters in the area ate all the watermelon the locals had gathered.

People threw tomatoes at them to get away; then someone thought it would be funny to throw a tomato at their neighbor. Now, everyone throws tomatoes at everyone else!

The festival begins by having people try to climb up a greased pole that has ham on top. When the shots ring out, the tomatoes start to fly. A classic scene is to see a group of people in the back of a truck throwing out tomatoes like a human machine gun.

Crowd sizes are now limited to 20,000 people, and these tickets sell fast – if you plan on attending, reserve your trip well in advance. You could say that the last one there is a rotten…tomato?

10. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – Albuquerque, NM (October)

Albuquerque Balloon Festival
Eric Ward / Flickr

Hot air balloons are the focal point of a whimsical festival in Albuquerque. To celebrate these colorful hot air balloons, Albuquerque, the capital of New Mexico, has the benchmark fiesta that encourages people from around the world to experience the majestic flight of the balloons from the ground or the air.

Even if you want to keep your feet firmly on the ground, seeing hundreds of hot air balloons in the sky simultaneously is an amazing experience. You could say the fiesta ballooned from its days as the First World Hot Air Balloon Championship when only 13 balloons took to the sky.

Live music plays each night of the fiesta, chainsaw carving occurs on-site, and a rodeo is held for further entertainment. If you’ve ever wanted to experience the culture of the Western U.S., this is the place.

If you want to get a better sense of Albuquerque, you should stay at the Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town. Not only is the hotel in a highly walkable part of Albuquerque, but it also has room service, an on-site restaurant, an outdoor pool, and massage services.

11. Burning Man – Black Rock Desert, NV (August – September)

Burning Man Festival Goer
ajr_images / Adobe Stock

The Burning Man festival is a week-long event in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. The festival is described as an “experiment in community and art,” attracting people from all over.

Burning Man features a number of different activities, including art installations, live music, and fire performances. As one of the most famous festivals around the world, you may have a preconceived notion of what Burning Man is.

But whatever that idea is, this festival is focused on self-expression and living in the moment. So attendees create a purposefully short-lived community that lives and subsequently extinguishes during the festival.

If you aren’t game to camp at Burning Man (no judgment; it’s not for everyone), you can stay elsewhere. The nearest accommodation is going to be Bruno’s Country Motel. It’s in the town of Gerlach, NV, a petite town well-known to Burners.

See Related: Best Day Trips From Las Vegas, Nevada

12. Glastonbury Festival – Somerset, England (June)

Crowd at Glastonbury Festival
klange01 / Adobe Stock

Plenty of music festivals around the world claim to be the biggest. Even so, the Glastonbury Festival is among them.

Often considered the largest performing arts festival on Earth, it’s widely considered a rite of passage for musicians to play there. What makes it stand out among other incredible festivals is its ingenuity. From mimicry and poetry to theater and even sculpture, it seems that anything and everything calls Glastonbury home.

When attending Glastonbury, most attendees opt to stay on the camping greens. That’s largely because the camping passes are included in your festival entry ticket. Some will sleep in tents, others in camping vehicles or even the festival’s tepee structures.

See Related: Best Places to Visit in the United Kingdom

13. Sapporo Snow Festival – Sapporo, Japan (February)

Sculptures at Snow Festival
klange01 / Adobe Stock

When it comes to winter festivals, few hold as much gravitas as the Sapporo Snow Festival. This annual event in Sapporo celebrates all things winter for a week each February.

At the festival, there are three distinct sites, each with their own snow and ice sculptures. This celebration of wintertime splendor has taken place since 1980. Each year, nearly two million people attend the free festival.

While you’re adoring the frozen art, you can enjoy local culture and the fabulous seafood the area is known for. Plus, one of the festival’s culinary specialties, hot pot, will warm you up!

Given the central location of the festival, we highly suggest getting a hotel nearby. Once you’re thoroughly frozen to the you’re a quick three-minute walk back to your room at the Fino Hotel Sapporo Odori, it will be a relief.

See Related: Reasons to Visit Japan This Year

14. Dia de los Muertos – Mexico (November)

Parade for Dia de los Muertos
eve orea / Adobe Stock

This festival takes place all over Mexico. Día de los Muertos is an incredible celebration among other religious festivals as it represents an amalgamation of religious traditions. It combines Christian roots and indigenous cultural beliefs into something amazing.

Often called Día de Muertos, the joyous celebration is known around the world. Visitors immediately recognize the cultural performances, lively parades, and dynamic marigolds.

Although the tradition of celebrating the dead may seem morbid to outsiders, these celebrations couldn’t be further from that. While it is attended to partly as a religious holiday, Día de Muertos is primarily celebration of life.

15. National Cherry Blossom Festival – Washington, D.C. (March – April)

Lincoln Memorial and cherry blossoms
f11photo / Adobe Stock

Tourists visiting Washington, D.C., for the first time may not think of cherry blossoms in conjunction with the nation’s capital. Yet for visitors each spring, the city wakes out of its wintertime slumber into a rich sea of pinks.

These celebrations commemorate the gift of cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo on March 27, 1912. Although the festival itself lasts about a month, your best bet for seeing the blossoms at their finest is the last week of March or the first week of April.

From personal experience, I can say that seeing monuments like the Lincoln Memorial for the first time surrounded by cherry blossoms is a moment you’ll never forget. Tourists, you absolutely need to see D.C. in this haze of pink.

Visitors wanting to stay close to the gorgeousness should consider staying at the YOTEL Washington D.C. It’s within walking distance of D.C.’s biggest attractions, including the Capitol and the Japanese American Memorial. You can also enjoy the rooftop pool, on-site restaurant, and pet-friendly accommodations.

Other Notable Festivals Worth a Mention

While our list of the world’s top cultural festivals wworld’se you lasting memories, other festivals might fit the season or your other unexplored hobbies.

  • The Montreux Jazz Festival is an annual jazz festival in Montreux, Switzerland. The festival was founded in 1967 by Claude Nobs. The festival is held at the Montreux Convention Centre and features a wide range of jazz styles, from traditional to contemporary.
  • The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is a month-long arts festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, every year. The festival is the largest arts festival in the world and features a number of different activities, including theater performances, comedy shows, and art exhibitions.
  • The Venice Carnival is a popular festival in Venice, Italy, every year. The festival lasts two weeks and features a number of different activities, including parades, concerts, and masked balls.
  • If you’re looking for a world-class film festival to attend, be sure to check out the Toronto International Film Festival. This is an important film festival and one of the largest in the world. It features a number of different films, including independent films, international films, and Canadian films.

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  1. Katie Featherstone says:

    Nice collection. I’ve been drooling over Coachella’s line up for years!

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