There are loads of festivals in October for you to add to your bucket list. The summer may be over but the fun has just begun!
With fiery leaves, pumpkin spice and refreshing, crisp weather; autumn is one of the best times for festivals. And what festivals we’re fortunate enough to enjoy!
Some may originate from religious myths while others are wacky festivals you’d never have thought existed. Take yourself outdoors before the weather turns even colder to enjoy these best festivals in October.
Best Festivals in October
Here are the best October festivals for you to choose between!
1. Oktoberfest, Germany
The actual Oktoberfest in Munich is celebrated a month earlier, thanks to the cold weather. You can read all about the original Oktoberfest in my post on the best September festivals, or in my post about that year I went to Munich Oktoberfest.
This mega event is 16 days of beer and nothing but beer, taking place in the heart of Munich. Since 1810, travelers made the journey to Germany to celebrate the stomach-warming liquor. Apart from drinks, the festival treats you to a cacophony of regional and folk dances, rich food and an extremely friendly atmosphere.
But, I’ve listed it as a best festival in October as around the world it’s celebrated then, in beer halls and beer tents globally. To sum Oktoberfest up in one word: beer.
If you can’t make it to Munich then look out for local celebrations. In the UK we even have a travelling Oktoberfest festival so keep an eye on the listings in your nearest city.
2. Diwali, India (and worldwide)
How do you welcome a god home after battle and exile? Diwali, known as the ‘festival of the lights’, represents light’s triumph over darkness. The magical sight of cities glowing with fireworks and paper lanterns is even more stunning up close; candles are lit everywhere and lanterns are set into the sky.
You can definitely look forward to more extravagant displays too! From gift exchanges, flower necklaces on every human and animal, loud firework shows and more, the festival crosses India’s borders to every country where Hinduism is present.
Diwali is one of the most celebrated and biggest festivals in the world.
3. Dusshera, India (and worldwide)
End of October
We’re back in India.
One of the most important Hindu festivals in October is Dusshera, with its roots deep in Hindu mythology. The festivities around India pay tribute to the Hindu God Rama, and his victory over the Demon King Ravana. Apart from the usual food and fun, there are also several traditions! These include burning a tall dummy of the demon king, lighting baked clay lamps and releasing crackers everywhere.
If you can’t travel to India for this festival during this time, other countries that celebrate this festival in October include Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
4. Hachiman Matsuri, Japan
9th October to 10th October
Autumn is always celebrated season in Japan, not in the least because of the gorgeous maples across the country. In the beautiful Gifu Prefecture lies Takayama City, home to talented craftsmen with generational businesses.
Hachiman Matsuri, aka the Autumn Takayama Matsuri, is a chance for you to see these crafts in person. To pay tribute to the guardian deity of Sakurayama Hachimangu shrine, 11 splendid floats are paraded around the city. If the golden phoenixes, carvings, embroidery and precise construction don’t impress you, then the accompanying festival offerings and night festivals definitely will.
5. Concurs de Castells, Spain
1st October to 2nd October
Have you ever seen human towers so tall that they overtake buildings?
Well, Catalonia’s annual competition and festival Concurs de Castells will have your jaws dropping every October.
Tracing back to the 18th century, back to when traditional Valencian dances decided to challenge conventional human form; this art of human towers have reached new heights. 32 tower teams pit against each other to create columns as high as 9 stories – with the crowning rider (always a child) at the very top!
Never seen human construction and connection quite like this before.
While you’re there, take in as much Catalan culture as possible. Parades, street performances, music and food stalls all contribute to the festive mood.
6. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, USA
Approx: 2nd October to 10th October
No, we’re not talking about balloons that pop with a single poke – the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is all about wowing the public with hot air balloons. This is one of the biggest hot air balloon festivals in the world.
For 9 days, the skies of New Mexico host a colourful mass of over 500 bobbing balloons. It’s amazing to see, especially when they’re all different shapes and sizes. Even if you don’t dare step into one yourself, the event offers mind blowing visuals. This is one October festival I’m super keen to get to!
7. Rubber Duck Race, Germany
Bet you’ve never seen so many rubber ducks outside the bathroom! At the Tübingen Duck Race there are 7000 yellow ducks floating down River Necker every year.
But how does this race work?
Anyone with a rubber duck simply needs to fish it out of their bathtub, stick their name and number on it, and cheer as they race down the designated stretch! With a monetary prize on the line, you know everyone takes it seriously.
Definitely one of the more unique festivals in October on the list!
8. Círio de Nazaré, Brazil
Second week of October
Another annual Brazilian festival as celebrated as the Rio Carnival, but lesser known out of the country is Círio de Nazaré. This October festival is religious in its origins; local communities and pilgrims from across the country gather in tribute of ‘Our Lady of Nazareth’. A huge procession – literally hundreds of boats crossing the Amazon River – carries the small statue from Belem to Icoaraci and back.
Celebrations actually begin as early as August, but cumulate in mid-October. It’s an awe-inspiring occasion, featuring Amazonian culture and cuisine. If you’re a boat lover, you’ll be stunned by the scale of the on-water procession!
9. New York City’s Village Halloween Parade, USA
I don’t think Halloween really needs explaining! The last day of October welcomes one of the best festivals – for humans and the supernatural.
The Halloween Parade in New York City’s Greenwich Village is a fine example of how this festival is celebrated worldwide. Bring out your masks, face paints, outrageous costumes and gnarly roars. There’s no hiding from the scary faces on this night; people can be whoever they want to be. Of course, there’s no missing the puppeteering either.
Join your monstrous brethren in taking over the streets under moonlight!
10. MassKara Festival, Philippines
4th Sunday of October
Bacolod, known as the City of Smiles, hosts one of the most significant festivals in Philippines: MassKara Festival. While the name translates into ‘many faces’, expressed through the countless smiling masks and elaborate costumes, the backstory is not so happy.
Born out of a crisis, the festival was created in hopes of lifting people’s spirits during the 1980s. Facing an economic crisis and a tragic ferry accident where many prominent families lost their members, the local community rallied together to pull through the challenges. The colourful beaded masks, vibrant hats and outlandish costumes all tell a story of resilience.
I’ve never actually made it to this one but it looks pretty epic!
11. Paris Nuit Blanche, France
1st Saturday of October
This October festival may be young still, but it’s already well-loved worldwide. Running from 7pm to 7am on the first Saturday of October, this all-night arts festival offers one of the best ways to explore Paris – artistically and culturally.
Elegant landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Institut de Monde Arabe becomes a stage for bizarre and humorous performances. Museums, art galleries and other cultural venues open to the public free of charge. For a night, you’re free to indulge in art and expression in any way you’d like.
12. Naga Fireball Festival, Thailand
Mid to Late October
Invoking yet another mythical creature, the Naga Fireball Festival centres around the phenomenon where hundreds and thousands of glowing ‘fireballs’ rise from Mekong River. These red glowing balls vary in size, hitting 100 metres up before disappearing.
Many believe that they’re breathed out by the Naga, a serpent that haunts the river. Seeing really is believing – it’s an incredible happening that hasn’t been explained yet. Get to the river early to see it up close.
13. Barcolana Regatta, Italy
2nd Sunday of October
Crowding the Gulf of Trieste is Italy’s historic Barcolana regatta, an international sailing race held every second Sunday of October. It’s an infinitely impressive sight, with over 2000 boats and 16,000 sailors!
Of course, as many major gatherings do, it turns into a full-blown festival. Other water sports, night concerts, vintage vessel parades and even a temporary village set-up calls to visitors. If you like to skim freely over the waves, you’ve got to be there.
14. Inle Lake Pagoda Festival, Myanmar
The date varies from year to year, falling on the 7th month of the Burmese lunar calendar – but the traditional festival itself? It never ceases to inspire.
The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival takes place around the stilted villages of Inle Lake, one of Myanmar’s largest Buddhist celebrations. While visitors are drawn in by the loud notes of traditional music and rhythmic dances, it’s the on-water procession that keeps their attention. Four Buddha statues are rotated through each village for blessings, ferried by a golden barge shaped like a mythical bird.
If that’s not impressive, I don’t know what is!
Festivals in October
The weather may be cooling down but your passion for festivals in October is free to burn on. There are many reasons why autumn is such a beloved season; these October festivals sure contribute as some!