The best world festivals can be the top way of experiencing somewhere new. At a festival you get to sample the local cultural traditions in one place, you can mingle with the locals, and see their twist on festival fun.
Festivals don’t all have to be welly-wearing, rain dodging affairs – and you can actually learn a lot from going to different festivals around the world.
To help you compile your own list of world festivals you need to attend, here are just some of the top festivals in the world for your festival bucket list.
January world festivals
1. Thaipusam Festival
Fancy popping over to Malaysia to celebrate that little thing called good versus evil?
Every year Hindus, more specifically the Tamil community, gather at their local temples to express their thanks and pay penance for anything bad they may have done.
Although you can see the celebrations anywhere in the country, the Batu Caves in Selangor is one of the most popular places. People journey here on a pilgrimage, cleanse themselves and fast as part of their homage to Lord Murugan, the Hindu god of war.
– When is Thaipusam festival? Thaipusam usually falls in January or February.
– Where is Thaipusam festival? Malaysia
2. Timkat Festival
If Ethiopia wasn’t on your travel list before, slide it right in there. Next up on the international festivals list is Timkat – taking place on the 19th of January every year. It’s also Ethiopia’s biggest festival.
Otherwise known as the Feast of Epiphany, Timkat celebrates the baptism of Jesus with a few special ceremonies followed by neighbourhood parties. Locals reenact the baptism, people make the pilgrimage from other countries and the streets are decorated in the colours of the Ethiopian flag.
While there’s loads of places in Ethiopia to see some of the traditions, the capital Addis Ababa is by far the best.
Timkat is one of many deeply religious festivals around the world.
– When is Timkat festival? 19th January
– Where is Timkat festival? All over Ethiopia
READ MORE: Best Festivals in Ethiopia
3. Hogmanay Festival
A wee dram of whisky, some ceilidh numbers and a few degrees from freezing makes for the best way to see in the new year. Hogmanay is one of the best New Year festivals in the world. Held in Edinburgh, the midnight main event takes place in Princes Street Gardens, right in front of the famous Edinburgh Castle.
Although today much of New Year’s Eve in Scotland is about the swally and the street parties, the night actually has a pretty significant role in Scotland’s history. Back when it wasn’t getting on with church, Scots didn’t get to celebrate Christmas and so they stockpiled all their party spirit ready to be unleashed on NYE in full force.
Obviously times have moved on but the strength of the celebrations remains strong and Scots still see in the bells with a good old knees up whether it be in a Highland bar, Glasgow house party or at the famous Edinburgh street party.
The centre of the city is closed off to cars, so pedestrians can wander free and bring their own alcohol in plastic containers to party on the streets.
Real life vikings come over from the Shetland Islands to lead the city’s procession with fire torches, before the hourly firework displays light up the skies.
READ MORE: My Hogmanay Experience in Edinburgh
– When is Hogmanay festival? New Year’s Eve
– Where is Hogmanay festival? Edinburgh, Scotland
February world festivals calendar
4. Venice Carnival
If you love mystery, magic and masquerade, pop this one on your own list of world festivals to attend. Each February, Venetians put two weeks aside to party. Back in the 12th century when this first became of thing, lent was a party-free zone. It also meant you couldn’t eat any rich food so to make up for what they’d be missing, Venetians would cram all their wild ways into the two weeks before lent and the tradition has since carried on.
Back then, wearing a mask was very much the norm and so the locals’ love of them is revived every year with masked balls, mask contests and masquerade pub crawls. Loads of the events are invite-only and are super fancy, but there are a fair few concerts and street parties you can join for free.
The Venice Carnival is definitely on my festival bucket list for next year!
– When is Venice Carnival? Saturday 8th to Tuesday 25th February 2020
– Where is Venice Carnival? Err, Venice.
5. Sky Lantern Festival
For all the amazing festivals China has, the Sky Lantern one is the mothership. Celebrating Chinese New Year, usually around February or March, no doubt you’ll have seen plenty of pictures of the Sky Lantern Festival.
Thousands of lanterns are let go at night creating the most magical experience. The festival is over 2000 years old and is traditionally a time to be spent with family before socialising with other loved ones.
You can catch the festivities, including a parade of a traditional Chinese dragon, all over the country, but some of the best places include Nanjing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
– When is China’s Sky Lantern Festival? February 8th 2020
– Where is China’s Sky Lantern Festival? All over China.
READ MORE: The Best Present Ideas for Festivals
6. Rio de Janeiro Carnival
Known as one of the biggest and best festivals in the world, Rio de Janeiro Carnival is an iconic Brazilian parade that has the celebs flocking and backpackers saving just to be a little part of this colourful extravaganza.
Held around February to March depending on the start of lent, the Rio Carnival floats and costumes take months to put together and are some of the most amazing you’ll ever see. You can line the city streets to watch the parade go by or else buy spectator tickets for The Sambodromo where the themed floats go by to the sounds of samba, steel drums and screams of onlookers.
Tickets cost upwards of $60 and while it’s not a bank breaker, the cost to get to Brazil might mean a little saving.
– When is Rio Carnival? Fri, 21 – Wed, 26 Feb 2020
– Where is Rio Carnival? Rio, in Brazil.
March world festivals
7. Holi Festival
We’ve all heard of Holi right?
To experience the dust throwing, colour crazy fest in all its glory, you have to head to its home country of India come March time. An ancient Hindu festival, it goes way beyond good insta-photos and signifies the start of spring and the coming together of friends and family to rid of bad blood.
As one of the world’s most iconic and best festivals, Holi is celebrated nationwide meaning you can pick your preferred Indian location and start joining in the bonfire displays and street parties wherever you are.
– When is Holi Festival? 9th to 10th March 2020
– Where is Holi Festival? All over India, but also celebrated around the world
8. St Paddy’s Day
An easy one to tick off given its close proximity to us in the UK, is St Paddy’s Day in Ireland.
Fly over to Dublin and then either stay in the city or go on from there to any Irish town where you’ll find friendly locals, a decent pub and a load of Guinness to help you celebrate the patron saint of Ireland.
No matter where you end up on March 17th, you can guarantee there’ll be decent music, a lot of partying and loads of green clothing to honour the day their favourite saint died.
St Patrick’s Day may be one of the most popular festivals in Ireland, but it’s also one of the biggest world festivals and is celebrated wherever you can find an Irish pub.
– When is St Patrick’s Day? 17th March every year
– Where is St Patrick’s Day? Mainly Ireland, but there are also huge celebrations in Chicago, New York, Sydney and London.
9. Mardi Gras
It’s all about NOLA, especially around Easter time; when Mardi Gras takes place on the day before Ash Wednesday. Despite taking place in New Orleans, its roots actually originated from Europe and the celebrations held by Pagan people that were then adopted by Rome and brought to New Orleans by explorers.
Over the centuries Mardi Gras has garnered more steam with over 100 different parades taking place in and around New Orleans. In fact, Louisiana is the only state that makes this day a national holiday.
Mardi Gras is a huge thing for New Orleans, and people turn up in their thousands to celebrate it.
– When is Mardi Gras? Tuesday 25th February 2020
– Where is Mardi Gras? All over New Orleans
Fancy doing a festival quiz?
50 questions, 50 answers – do it with friends, or by yourself!
10. Las Fallas Festival
Las Fallas is also known as the Fire Festival – not the Netflix / Bahamas one – Las Fallas’ routes and origins go back way before that.
Every March in Valencia huge effigies are positioned in the streets for people to come and admire. Skilled craftsmen will have spent the last year creating them, and then on the last night of the festival they all go up in smoke. Yep, they’re all lit and burnt to welcome in the new year. And then production starts again.
Las Fallas is a huge celebration in the city, and an incredible spectacle to see. Of course there are fireworks all day every day too – any excuse in Spain!
I went in 2018 – Simple Guide to Las Fallas Festival
– Where is Las Fallas Festival? Valencia, Spain
– When is Las Fallas Festival? Friday 15th to Tuesday 19th March
11. SXSW Festival
SXSW is the festival where creatives go to discover and be discovered. Held every March in Austin it’s an opportunity for the next big things in music, tech and film to come together and showcase their work.
Buy a (very expensive) ticket and you’ll have access to a whole host of free parties, influential people and gigs and shows across the city. I loved my time at SXSW although the amount I spent on it does kinda blow my mind if I think about it too hard.
Good job I got to meet Richie Hawtin, Gary Vee and a whole load of other ‘influential’ people. Also, definitely drank that back in cocktails on Sixth Street at the free parties.
The festival takes place all over the city of Austin, in all kinds of venues from homes to hotels to cinemas and the great outdoors.
The atmosphere changes depending on the band or artist you’re going to see, but whoever it is, you can feel the thrill of potential in the air. Everyone’s either trying to find the next big thing, or actually be it.
Great for us bystanders who just want free parties, and some new music inspiration for our Spotify!
– When is SXSW? 16th to 22nd March 2020
– Where is SXSW? Austin, Texas, USA
I went to SXSW in 2016 – What to Expect from SXSW
April world festivals calendar
12. Songkran Water Festival
Thailand celebrates its new year, known as Songkran, on the 13th to 15th of April.
Locals turn towns into waterparks throwing, squirting and soaking one another with water – so expect to get a little wet. Then there’s processions of Buddha images, temple visits and spring cleans to make sure everyone is all set for the coming year.
Bangkok is a great place to celebrate with the Bangkok Songkran Splendours Festival, but Chiang Mai and Phuket also put on a good show / fight. I’ve never actually made it to Songkran, but this is definitely one of the coolest festivals in the world.
– When is Songkran? 13th to 15th April
– Where is Songkran? It’s held in all the big cities in Thailand – have fun!
13. Kings Day
On 27th April, the Dutch come out in force, and in orange, to celebrate their monarch.
Dating back to the 1880s, people across the country, including the royals themselves, get their party pants on for this national holiday. But it’s Amsterdam where the real party happens.
Boats flood the river packed full of people, revellers line the banks and crowds dangle out of windows watching the music, DJs and dancers below before taking it out to parties on the outskirts of the city. It’s also the only day anyone can set up shop in the street for a bit of free trading so grab a bargain and pick yourself up a little momento to celebrate one of the best festivals in the world.
– Where is Kings Day? In all the big cities of the Netherlands, but the biggest party is in Amsterdam.
– When is Kings Day? On the 27th April every year, but lasts a few days.
14. Coachella Festival
Coachella is probably the most Instagrammed festival in the world. I went a few years ago, before Instagram took over, but now it’s the festival to be seen and photographed at.
The Coachella wheel is iconic, the line ups are always totally extra, and the billed stars are known for bringing their mates on stage too. Held in the Nevada desert the conditions can be tough, but I had a wonderful 5 nights of camping and it remains one of the most fun and friendliest festivals I’ve ever been to.
Even the security guards were high fiving ‘Happy Coachella’ as you passed them.
Being in the sun, in the Colorado Desert, with some of the biggest artists in the world to entertain you just feels incredible. And then when said biggest artists bring their famous friends on – a la Beyonce, bringing Jay Z and Destiny’s Child in 2018 – the crowd go wild.
Camping at Coachella was one of my most favourite festival camping experiences ever – we made a lot of friends. Coachella is one of the most popular music festivals in the world.
I went in 2014: The Brits Guide to Coachella Festival
– When is Coachella Festival? It’s held over the two weekends between 10th and 19th April.
– Where is Coachella Festival? Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, in the Coachella Valley
15. New Orleans Jazz Festival, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
The New Orleans Jazz Festival has been exciting audiences for over 50 years now. It’d be hard to name a soul or jazz great that hasn’t blessed the stage.
The line up is always stellar, but also, the after parties. It finishes at 7pm so the crowd filters into the bars of New Orleans. Having listened to gospel, blues and jazz all day, it’s time to follow that brass marching band into the city.
There’s no party like a NOLA party, and the Jazz Festival is the most significant of the lot. It was a life dream of mine to visit, and then unfortunately that year the party got rained off on day two. I just have a memory of Stevie Wonder on stage with a megaphone asking people not to go home, when it was too dangerous to stay.
It was a sad day on so many levels.
I went in 2016: 11 Survival Tips for the New Orleans Jazz Festival
– When is Coachella Festival? It’s held over the two weekends between 10th and 19th April.
– Where is Coachella Festival? Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, in the Coachella Valley
May world festivals
16. Pahiyas Festival
Quickly make Patron Saint of Farmers, San Isidro de Labrador, your new favourite saint as it’ll get you to the Philippines. Each 15th of May, people across the country honour this agricultural legend with a celebration of all the best local food they have whether its via vendors, stalls or restaurants. But they don’t just stop at eating it, they go all out decorating their house in colourful food.
The creations for Pahiyas Festival are insane and definitely worth getting the camera out for. Also, the costumes and outfits are among the most colourful of any festival ever.
– When is Pahiyas Festival? 15th May every year
– Where is Pahiyas Festival? In Lucban, in the Philippines
READ MORE: The Best Festivals in the Philippines
17. Cheung Chau Bun Festival
From the 5th to the 9th day of the 4th lunar month, aka May, Hong Kong goes all out for its annual celebration of the end of the plague.
Back in the 1600s when the disease was rife, locals put up an alter outside the Pak Tai Temple to give them a place to pray for the evil spirits to leave the island and rid them of the plague. Locals believe that praying away the plague really worked and so they celebrate every year with a week of music, dance, drums and parades.
– When is Cheung Chau Bun Festival? 27th April to 1st May 2020
– Where is Cheung Chau Bun Festival? In Cheung Chau in Hong Kong
18. VIVID Sydney
VIVID Sydney is basically an awesome light show projected onto some of the most iconic spots in the city. Take a boat ride in the harbour and you can see projections onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House too.
Around the city you can enjoy light installations and projections. Make sure to go and explore the ones in the zoo. This is a night time festival, but the fun flows into the day. My absolute favourite installation was the lit up dancers, set to music. You need to see it!
– When is VIVID Festival? 22nd May to 13th June 2020
– Where is VIVID Festival? All over Sydney
June world festivals calendar
19. Karneval der Kulturen
As if Berlin needed much more of an excuse to plant itself firmly on the bucket list, it’s got Karneval der Kulturen for extra brownie points.
This multicultural festival is all about embracing people of every age, ethnicity, religion and gender. Over four days, 1.5 million people come to see the dance displays and diverse musical acts across several stages. The wide array of genres are said to represent the city’s global community.
The story goes that KdK originally kicked off 1996 and was designed to dispel any racism and create more of a community vibe. Equality never gets old when it comes to world festivals.
– When is Karneval der Kulturen? 7-9th June 2019
– Where is Karneval der Kulturen? Berlin, Germany
20. Rock in Rio
Parque Olímpico, Cidade do Rock, Brazil
Rock in Rio started in the 80s to lift spirits in the socio-economic turmoil, and has been going strong ever since. As South America’s largest music festival, with over 700,00 attendees you know the energy is going to be insane.
Imagine those singalongs!
Seven days of rock, electronic and alternative music takes place in the ‘City of Rock’ looking out to the Jacarepaguá Lake. The electric atmosphere is spiked by art exhibitions, modern facilities, an amusement park and a circus too.
– When is Rock in Rio? 20-21st June 2020
– Where is Rock in Rio? Parque Olímpico, Cidade do Rock, Brazil
21. Glastonbury Festival
Does Glastonbury need an introduction? Probably not to us Brits with all the BBC coverage that seems to escalate every year.
Well, just in case – it’s the biggest festival in the UK with over 200,000 in attendance. Glastonbury becomes a village for the duration of the festival and attracts the biggest names for the main stage. Food vendors flock, there’s a whole cider and real ale vibe going on, and there’s literally, not exaggerating, an entertainment tent to suit every taste – whatever you’re into.
Over 135k tickets sell out in less than an hour for Glasto, before the acts are even announced. Why? Because the atmosphere is unbeatable.
There are guaranteed huge headliners of course, but the main draws are the different areas – each with a unique vibe. The festival’s hippy roots shine through in the Green Fields, the Wood has a nightly firepit, there’s a cinema, a latino section, pyrotechnics and a whole area dedicated to activism and inspirational talks.
Glastonbury attracts a chilled crowd, who know how to party (for 5 days straight!).
READ MORE: Tips for Your First Time at Glastonbury
– When is Glastonbury Festival? 24th to 29th June 2020
– Where is Glastonbury Festival? in Glastonbury, Somerset
Glastonbury is the biggest music festival in the UK, but Summerfest is the biggest music festival in the world, by attendance. Over 800,000 people go to Summerfest in Wisconsin every year – that’s insane!
The western world’s top musicians perform across 11 stages over 11 days. One of the most incredible things about Summerfest, that other festivals can learn from, is the fact it’s only $23 per day to get in. Absolute bargain for the quality of acts they have on the stages!
Summerfest has been going for almost 50 years now and was started by the government as a celebration for locals, and a way to bring more money into Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It worked!
– When is Summerfest Festival? 1st to 6th July 2020
– Where is Summerfest Festival? in Wisconsin, USA
July world festivals
23. EXIT Festival
Novi Sad, Serbia
EXIT Festival is famous for being that one in the fortress in Serbia. It really is awesome. One of the things I liked most about EXIT was the fast it was held on all different levels, so you could always see the main stage.
It’s very difficult to beat the feeling of dancing in a Petrovaradin Fortress, with 35,000 others in the Serbian sun. One of the best things about EXIT is that in the morning everyone goes to chill at the beach before the festival kicks off late afternoon.
And then goes on until the last person has stopped dancing.
There are over 40 stages, with some little ones hidden in among the fortress. The setting really makes you feel like the only thing that truly exists is the here and now – a bonding experience!
Also, within the fortress there were lots of different rooms so you could go and explore, not knowing what stage or musician you would end up at. My EXIT Festival experience was definitely one of my most favourite of my life.
I went in 2010: EXIT Festival Tips: You’ll Need Them!
– Where is EXIT Festival? Novi Sad, Serbia
– When is EXIT Festival? 4th to 7th July 2019
24. Montreux Jazz Festival
The Montreux Jazz Festival is held on the Lake Geneva shoreline in Switzerland and is known as the second biggest jazz festival in the world.
Founded in 1967, all the jazz greats have played here.
I’ve actually just found out today that the lyrics of Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water are based on the town of Montreux, when the building they were meant to record in went up in smoke during Frank Zappa’s set on the last night of the festival. Fascinating.
Anyway, it’s a huge festival, over two weeks and anyone who loves a bit of jazz in their lives, should go.
– When is the Montreux Jazz Festival? 28th June to 13th July 2019
– Where is the Montreux Jazz Festival? on Lake Geneva in Switzerland
25. White Nights
St Petersburg, Russia
The White Nights Festival in St Petersburg lasts for two months with a calendar of events designed to make it onto your festival bucket list. This is one of the world’s most unique festivals as it celebrates the long light nights of the north of Russia, in St Petersburg.
During the White Nights, the sun never sets. This gives you all the more time to enjoy Russia’s most famous festival. Celebrating many forms of art you can expect ballet, opera, classical music and the arts performances around the city. Both local and international talent are on show in the impressive museums and theatres of the city.
Visitors can also enjoy the Scarlet Sails show. With a huge fireworks display, an open-air concert and a spectacular multi-level water, light and pyrotechnic show it’s one of the highlights of the festival.
– When is the White Nights Festival? 23rd May to 29th July 2019
– Where is the White Nights Festival? St Petersburg, Russia
26. Dawson City Music Festival
Dawson City, Canada
Dawson City in the Yukon, Canada, doubles in size when the festival comes to town. Once the heart of the world-famous Klondike Gold Rush, it’s now a quiet town of around 1200.
I visited Dawson City last year, you can see the festival in my video here
If you like the video, please subscribe to my YouTube channel here
Known as ‘Canada’s tiny, perfect festival’, you’ll find the whole community supports the Dawson City Music Festival in some way. Being up in the northern Canadian wilderness there are some friendly characters to get to know over a beer.
Expect up-and-coming Yukon and First Nations artists gigging on the grass by the river, and at venues in town. The remote location and intimate shows combine to create a unique spirit.
– When is the Dawson City Music Festival? 17th to 19th July 2020
– Where is the Dawson City Music Festival? Dawson City, Yukon, Canada
27. Down the Rabbit Hole
The multi award-winning festival, Down the Rabbit Hole, only started in 2014 but it’s already gaining a magical reputation.
It’s located in the Green Hills Park, in the rolling land between the Maas and Waal Rivers. There’s an enchanting forest, a beautiful beach and a bohemian festival atmosphere you only get from small festivals pre-peak.
Their tagline says it all: ‘where you are who you are when no one can see you’. Big names and emerging talent from rock, pop, hip hop, electronic and jazz bless the line up, with campfires, dress up and hidden discos all in.
– When is the Dawson City Music Festival? 3rd to 5th July 2020
– Where is the Dawson City Music Festival? Ewijk, Netherlands
August world festivals calendar
28. Reggae Sumfest
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Think reggae music, you think Caribbean, and even more niche: Jamaica.
Reggae Sumfest is one of the biggest celebrations of reggae and dancehall in the world. Chart toppers and legacy acts come to Montego Bay to join the crowd in the night’s unparalleled surroundings.
The party starts at 9pm and finishes no less than 12 hours later, leaving you time to rest on the beach all day.
You absolutely cannot help but dance to move with the crowd. It’s been coined the ‘greatest reggae show on earth’.
– When is Reggae Sumfest Festival? 1st August 2020
– Where is Reggae Sumfest Festival? Montego Bay, Jamaica
29. Ghosts Festival
Ghosts Festival is a Buddhist and Taoist tradition that has locals across China and other Asian countries revealing their most superstitious sides.
In an attempt to keep their ancestors happy and stop any ghosts from getting up to mischief, locals leave food on the roadsides, release lanterns into the lakes, burn incense and listen to Chinese opera. The most popular thing to do though is to put on a slap up meal leaving a few empty chairs for the dead to dine too.
Depending on the lunar calendar, it usually takes place in August or September.
– When is the Ghosts Festival? 15th August 2019
– Where is the Ghosts Festival? All over China
30. La Tomatina
Another one with a reputation, La Tomatina is considered by many as one of the best festivals in the world. I think it’s just an opportunity to revert back to being a kid and get away with throwing crazy amounts of food at your friends so what’s not to love… unless you don’t like tomatoes?
Taking place on the last Wednesday of each August in the small Valencian town of Bunol, this one has been running since 1945 when one guy kicked off, threw some veg and soon had everyone pummelling tomatoes at one another.
Tickets cost €35 (and a new set of clothes) and then you’ve got the cost of getting there but it’s well worth seeing this traditional fest in action.
I went in 2016: Your Guide to Tomatina
– When is Tomatina Festival? Wednesday 28th August 2019
– Where is Tomatina Festival? Bunol, Spain
31. Burning Man
Is it a festival list if the daddy of all fests doesn’t make the ranking?
Burning Man takes place at the end of August each year in the desert sands of Nevada where, rather than transforming an existing city into a cultural playground, they create a brand new one.
For one week, Black Rock City becomes home to the creation of a new community free from consumerism and brimming with love, art and self-expression that makes it one of the coolest festivals around.
With tickets costing upwards of $1,573, it’s a little on the pricey side though, which is why I wrote this post…
– When is Burning Man Festival? Sunday 25th August to Monday 2nd August
– Where is Burning Man Festival? Black Rock Desert of Nevada
32. Notting Hill Carnival
Notting Hill, England
If your funds aren’t yet up to splashing out on a Brazilian adventure, console your carnival soul with London’s own Caribbean themed fest.
Running since 1996, residents and tourists flock to this fancy London neighbourhood for two days of August bank holiday mayhem. Think twerking (so much twerking) an epic costume parade, reggae beats and big crowds.
Notting Hill Carnival is all about embracing creativity, community spirit and cultural diversity.
– When is Notting Hill Carnival? August Bank Holiday Weekend
– Where is Notting Hill Carnival? Notting Hill, London
33. Victorious Festival
When the sun’s out in England, you’re by a beach and it’s Bank Holiday weekend – you can guarantee the festival crowd will be on top form.
Victorious Festival takes place on Southsea Common, on the south coast of Portsmouth, with a family-friendly crowd in mind. The fact that Henry VIII’s Southsea Castle, the D-Day Museum and a skate park are all in the grounds, adds to the unique atmosphere.
It’s a medium-sized festival, full of music, markets, tasty food, craft ales and local gins, circus and seaside fun. I’ve been to Victorious Festival three times now, and plan to go again this year too.
– When is Victorious Festival? August Bank Holiday Weekend
– Where is Victorious Festival? Southsea Common, Portsmouth, England
34. Fuji Rock Festival
Yuzawa-cho, Niigata Pref, Japan
At the Fuji Rock Festival you can travel the mountains by cable car – how many other festivals can boast that kinda transport?!
Held in a ski resort 90 minutes from Tokyo, attendees have the coolness of the mountains to escape from Japan’s July heat. It’s the most popular festival in Japan, with over 200 national and international bands playing.
There are hot springs, nature walks, woodlands, clear rivers and emerald lakes. The crowd is fun but known for being ‘well behaved’. The organisers want the ‘cleanest festival in the world’.
– When is Fuji Rock Festival? 21st-23rd August
– Where is Fuji Rock Festival? Yuzawa-cho, Niigata Pref, Japan
September world festivals
As far as different festivals around the world go, Oktoberfest is probably the one most known for its copious amounts of alcohol.
It all kicked off in 1810 in Bavaria as a means of celebrating a royal wedding and everyone had such a good time they decided to kick up their heels on a yearly basis. They also added on a few extra days to make it a casual 16 to 18 day folk festival.
Everyone dresses up in traditional attire, takes part in yes, more parades, enjoys fairground rides and eats their body weight in sausages and pretzels before washing it all down with what’s thought to be 7 million litres of beer.
It’s an absolutely brilliant weekend, trust me!
I went in 2016: Oktoberfest Tips You NEED for Stamina
– When is Oktoberfest? 21st September to 6th October 2019
– Where is Oktoberfest? Munich, Germany, is the main one but we tend to celebrate it everywhere!
36. Mooncake Festival
Calling all lunar lovers… this one’s for you.
The Mooncake Festival is an evening dedicated to our wonderful moon and is one of the biggest events in the Chinese calendar. Once you’ve worked out when the 15th day of the 8th month is and you confirm that the moon is at its largest (September some time) join a local Chinese community to stare at the moon. But this experience wouldn’t be complete without eating copious amounts of cake.
Don’t be packing your Victoria Sponge though. Local mooncakes, aka lotus seed paste and duck egg yolk, is the only cake that’ll do.
– When is Mooncake Festival? Friday 13th September 2019
– Where is Mooncake Festival? All over China
37. Lake of Stars Festival
Lake Malawi, Malawi
It’d been a dream of mine to go to Lake of Stars Festival in Malawi, for a long time. And last year, I made it there. Lake of Stars really is another world, right on the edge of Lake Malawi.
They get the biggest names in African music to come along and perform in the intimate setting. Over 60 acts perform on 4 stages on the beach on the edge of Lake Malawi. It’s all kinds of magical.
I lost my voice at Lake of Stars Festival because everyone just wants to talk, and sing, and dance. This is a small festival – one for the free spirits who know a good beat.
The acts will stay to enjoy the festival and mingle with the audience. A great opportunity to have a chat with your favourite.
As well as one of the coolest festivals in the world, it’s also one of the friendliest. Seriously, you can’t sit down without making friends. Every year is a different setting, making each experience totally individual. Means you have to go more than once!
I went in 2018: First Timer’s Guide to the Lake of Stars Festival
– When is Lake of Stars Festival? 27th to 29th September 2019
– Where is Lake of Stars Festival? Kachere Kastle, Nkhata Bay
October world festivals calendar
38. Feria del Mole
This October cultural fest comes with a side of feminism. Taking place in Mexico, Feria del Mole is all about good grub made by great women and you can take part by sampling the food.
Although it’s since taken off in other places, the Mexican neighbourhood of San Pedro Atocpan and the Universidad Popular’s Women’s Empowerment Program, is where it originated and the idea is to empower women by giving kudos to their great mole-making skills.
And just in case you didn’t know – Mole is a stew or sauce that comes in loads of different varieties and you can try them in all at the annual fair.
– When is the Feria del Mole? All of October 2019
– Where is the Feria del Mole? San Pedro Atocpan, Milpa Alta, Mexico City
39. Day of the Dead
All those hours practicing the perfect sugar skull make-up are about to pay off.
An oldie but goldie, Day of the Dead is a two-day Mexican holiday that dates back thousands of years to the Aztec, Toltec and Nahua times. Mexicans believe that their ancestors rise from the dead and join the living for two days in December. This makes it sound a little morbid, it’s anything but.
The idea is to dress up, host parties, dance, sing, make offerings to the dead and generally celebrate life. I went a few years ago and had an absolutely incredible time. The atmosphere is electric, and it really makes you feel differently about death as a celebration of life, rather than the end of it.
– When is the Feria del Mole? All of October 2019
– Where is the Feria del Mole? San Pedro Atocpan, Milpa Alta, Mexico City
I went to Day of the Dead Festival in 2014: What is Day of the Dead Festival?
Diwali is known as the Festival of Lights and is another celebration of good overcoming evil. The date fluctuates depending on the year, although it usually falls around October or November, and it’s celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists across loads of countries.
That means you can take your pick of where you’d like to see Diwali up close: India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Fiji, Myanmar or Trinidad and Tobago.
Wherever you are, you’ll see loads of lights, candles, and fireworks and each day of the five day fest is dedicated to doing something different whether it’s shopping, decorating, or spending time with family.
– When is Diwali? Sunday 27th October
– Where is Diwali? Everywhere!
November world festivals
41. Chiang Mai Lantern Festival
The Chiang Mai Lantern Festival is all about letting go, figuratively and literally. Yi Peng, as it’s otherwise known, sees hundreds of lanterns released into the night Thai sky while candles in small boats made from banana stalks and filled with incense and flowers float off across the water.
Taking place right across the north of Thailand on the 25th November, it’s about honouring the Buddha and releasing any negativity you might have. While there’s loads of places you can catch the beautiful ritual, Chiang Mai is one of the best places to see the phenomena.
– When is the Chiang Mai Lantern Festival? 25th November every year
– Where is the Chiang Mai Lantern Festival? Chiang Mai, but there are festivals all over Asia
42. Monkey Buffet Festival
Talk about different types of festivals, this one ticks the culture, cute animal and exotic location boxes. Located in the province of Lopburi in Thailand, it’s where locals lay loads, I’m talking 4,000kg worth, of fruit around the local temples making insane fruity towers for their furry friends, the monkeys.
Originally designed back in 1989 as a tourist attraction, thousands swing by each November to see the locals’ love and appreciation for the macaques, which they say bring the area and its people good luck. The opening ceremony features people dressed up as monkeys, I mean, what a photo op.
– When is the Monkey Buffet Festival? November
– Where is the Monkey Buffet Festival? Lopburi, Thailand
43. Winter Festival of Lights
If you can plan a trip to Canada between the 16th of November and the end of January, make Niagara Falls a must. Not just for the epic experience of seeing the four million cubic feet of water drop 50 metres but to catch the impressive Winter Festival of Lights.
With strobe lights, dramatic tunes, tours and shows that span over 8km, Niagara to the Dufferin Islands is turned into a winter wonderland.
Admission is free, although there is a suggested donation, and it’ll give you all the Christmas feels which is priceless.
– When is the Winter Festival of Lights? All through winter
– Where is the Winter Festival of Lights? Niagara Falls, Canada
44. Strawberry Fields
New South Wales, Australia
Festivals where the glitter and fancy dress prevail usually have the best atmosphere. Australia’s main contender is Strawberry Fields.
With a focus on creative expression, this is the electronic music festival for anyone who likes their festivals wonderfully wacky. It’s easy to bond over a face full of glitter.
The crowd is a loving bunch with high fives and hugs for anyone who wants to join. It’s grown from techno and psytrance to be more inclusive, but the friendly core still go to set the tone.
A beautiful setting in natural surroundings.
– When is Strawberry Fields? 19-22 November 2020
– Where is the Strawberry Fields Festival?Tocumwal, New South Wales, Australia
December world festivals calendar
45. Mother City Queer Project
What a name. This Cape Town festival has been calling all ‘fun loving creatures’ since 1994 and marks a pretty important moment in South Africa’s history. All about being your fabulous self, it started as the signalling of the end of apartheid and the entering of a new era of equality.
Over the years, the Mother City Queer Project has garnered more speed, sparkle and spectacular themes making it the most flamboyant fancy dress event of the year, so pack the glitter and sequins.
– When is the Mother City Queer Project? TBC
– Where is the Mother City Queer Project? Cape Town, South Africa
46. Chichibu Yomatsuri
A city northwest of Tokyo, Chichibu transforms itself two nights of the year, on the 2nd and 3rd of December, into a twilight wonderland. Especially, to celebrate the local shrine and its 300 plus year history.
Chichibu Yomatsuri, to give the festival its full name, consists of lanterns, flute music, and the carrying of some ten tonne floats, aka mikoshi. Local men who consider it a rite of passage, carry the floats up the hill to the plaza at the City Hall just in time for the festival’s two-hour firework display. They really must love that shrine!
– When is the Chichibu Yomatsuri? 2nd-3rd December
– Where is the Chichibu Yomatsuri? Chichibu, Japan
47. St Kitts-Nevis Carnival
Street name Sugar Mas, this carnival marks the end of the year and the start of a new one. The St Kitts-Nevis Carnival is the country’s biggest event lasting a full two weeks from Christmas right through to the new year.
The Caribbean colours and calypso tunes with numerous parades, parties and performances taking place across the island make it the perfect place to escape the usual Christmas festivities. There’s also the crowning of the carnival queen, the calypso contest and the Grand Parade to watch out for.
After all that, it’s just about time to collapse on the beach. And WHAT a beach it is.
– When is the St Kitts-Nevis Carnival? Two weeks over Christmas and New Year, main event on the 2nd January
– Where is the St Kitts-Nevis Carnival? St Kitts!
48. Lyon Festival of Lights
Over 40 light installations brighten up the city of Lyon in December for the famous Fete des Lumieres. Taking place over four nights, there’s a variety of different artists lighting up buildings, streets, squares and parks all over the city.
Lyon is a pioneer in the development of light technology and entertainment. And although light technology is definitely more common place in cities around the world at any festival, Lyon is where it all began.
Also, great excuse to go to Lyon and eat!
– When is Lyon Festival? 5th to 8th December 2019
– Where is Lyon Festival? Lyon, France
49. Cosmic Convergence Festival
Celebrating the depth of Mayan traditions – from their culture and nature, to their lifestyle and music – the Cosmic Convergence Festival attracts a unique kind of person.
It’s held in one of the most outstandingly beautiful parts of the world, Lake Atitlan, over new year. It’s a small (3000 people) transformational festival with a dedication to social impact at its core, but also a respect to Mayan music.
The crowd dances to the 3 stages of world music with the energy of Lake Atitlan in the air, and a volcano as a background.
– When is Cosmic Convergence Festival? 5th to 8th December 2019
– Where is Cosmic Convergence Festival? Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
And that’s it for world festivals, for now. There are seriously hundreds of festivals around the world in any given month. I hope this has opened your eyes to some of the top world festivals, and inspired you to go!
I’ll be adding to this over the course of my life, so let me know if you think I’ve missed any important ones in the comments below…