Whether you’ve exhausted your options for local festivals or are simply wanting to cross an item off your bucket list, we hope that the following suggestions will help you organise an unforgettable vacation. Every nation seems to have one big annual celebration that eclipses all others. While most of us would love to visit each of the world’s approximately 200 countries, it’s simply not practical. So to help, we have narrowed down some of the most popular possibilities down to 12 festivals around the world to add to your bucket list…
Festival: Gion Matsuri
Where: Kyoto, Japan
Gion Matsuri is more than a thousand years old, and it is widely celebrated as Japan’s summer festival. Its original purpose was to appease the gods responsible for the mayhem that fire, floods, and earthquakes brought, but modern celebrations tend to be more lighthearted and draw large numbers of tourists. The Yamahoko Float Procession, where floats that resemble works of art in their intricacy and detail are paraded through the streets, is a highlight of the Kyoto festival. The three nights leading up to the procession, called the “Yoiyama,” are a sight to behold, with ethereal-looking lanterns and an all-around exciting environment, complete with free-flowing sake and food vendors.
Festival: Saint Patrick’s Day Festival
Where: Dublin, Ireland
Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated everywhere there is an Irish population (or even just an Irish pub), but Dublin is the best spot to really get into the spirit of things. This festival takes place over the course of five days and five nights in March, and its schedule is more jam-packed than a leprechaun’s treasure chest. This celebration of Irish pride, achievements, and abilities will be centred around the national holiday and will feature an abundance of Guinness and Irish happiness.
Festival: Montreux Jazz Festival
Where: Montreux, Switzerland
There are many music festivals in Europe, but the one on the shores of Lake Geneva for the past 50 years has been unlike any other. It is the second largest jazz festival in the world, after only Montreal. But it’s not only jazz either. The Montreux Jazz Festival features a wide variety of musical styles, from pop to rock and blues, and the greatest part is that many of the shows are offered at no cost to the audience.
Where: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Few things scream “party” quite like “Carnival,” with its feathered costumes, ornate parade floats, and nonstop spectacle of drumming, dance, and decadence. Rio de Janeiro’s reputation as the place to experience Carnival has meant that it consistently draws millions of visitors each year, despite the fact that the festival is enjoyed all around Brazil and other Catholic nations.
Festival: Burning Man
Where: Black Rock City, USA
Burning Man, which has been called a “City of Art,” is one of the most magnificent events in the world. For one week, in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, 60,000 ‘participants’ are challenged to express themselves and rely on one another in ways that reflect the annual theme, which can range from performances and art installations to outlandish costumes and gifts from complete strangers.
Festival: Holi Festival
This festival honouring love, springtime merriment, and the triumph of good over evil is a kaleidoscope of colour and Hindu culture. The Holi Festival is most common in India and Nepal, however it can be found everywhere there are many Hindus. After a night of singing and dancing around a bonfire, the next day is a riot of colour, with participants dousing each other with coloured water, flinging coloured powder, and releasing water balloons loaded with dye.
Where: Munich, Germany
This annual Bavarian festival takes over Munich for 15 days and features millions of litres of beer. Originally celebrated in 1810 to commemorate a royal wedding, Theresienwiese (which literally translates to “Theresa’s fields”) is where the festival has always taken place. You may get your fill of typical Bavarian fare, from sausages and roasted meats to cheese noodles and pretzels, as well as enjoy amusement park rides and market booths.
Festival: Mardi Gras
Where: New Orleans, USA
Mardi Gras, which literally translates to “Fat Tuesday” in French, is a two-week celebration that culminates the day before Ash Wednesday, the traditional start of Lent. So, before the sobriety sets in, New Orleans becomes a mecca for raucous parades, costume parties, and dazzling beads.
Festival: Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
This seemingly gloomy celebration is actually a day on which the dead are honoured with parades, costumes, paper decorations, and edible skulls. Many people pay their respects to the dead on October 31 and November 2 by visiting cemeteries, where music and dances are held in commemoration of the departed.
Festival: La Tomatina
Where: Buñol, Spain
On the last Wednesday of August, over 100,000 kilogrammes of tomatoes are thrown, squashed, and splattered in the town square, satisfying the appetites of tomato lovers everywhere. The village of Buol is splattered with blood-red paint at the end of a weeklong festival honouring the town’s patron saint. Whoever has to clean that up will have our sympathy.
Festival: International Bathtub Regatta
Where: Dinant, Belgium
The International Bathtub Regatta, held on the picturesque Meuse River in Dinant, is one of the most well-attended and out-of-the-ordinary events in all of Belgium. No motors or other propulsion devices are permitted in the one-kilometer race, so all boats must be constructed from a bathtub. Local delicacy flamiche will be sampled, and there will also be an antique vehicle show at the festival.
Festival: Gasparilla Pirate Festival
Where: Florida, USA
The Gasparilla Pirate Festival has been held annually in January since 1904 to commemorate the looting of Tampa by the Spanish pirate Jose Gaspar and his company of buccaneers. To begin off the festivities, a massive Spanish galleon sails into Tampa Bay, followed by hundreds of smaller ships. Thousands of blank bullets are fired into the air and gold coins and beads are thrown into the audience as the pirates come ashore for a five-mile parade route featuring floats and marching bands.
With all of these destinations and festivities to choose from, you can most likely tick off a few items on your bucket list with some carefully planned trips.
Luciana joined our team as a mum blogger in 2020. A dedicated mum to a lively daughter and a dog, Luna, Luciana brings authenticity and passion to every post. Her expertise in parenting and lifestyle topics offers practical, relatable advice for real-life situations.