The world does many strange and fascinating things. Of course, traveling is often about venturing into sites that you have always dreamed of visiting, such as Machu Picchu. You can, of course, take long walks in the most remote corners of South America to discover an exceptional fauna. Certainly, the moments you will remember most can be culinary experiences in rural areas of Peru. It must be said that sometimes these cultural experiences take a very different form than previously imagined. Indeed, you can experience culture through festivals. Here are some twenty events that stand out for their originality.
1. International Kite Festival
When: 6 January – 14 January 2019
Where: Gujarat, India
The Gujarat International Kite Festival marks the end of winter and the approach of the harvest season. This event is an opportunity to see the sky fill with kites of amazing shapes and colors. It’s hard not to fall back into childhood with such a festival!
Why you should go there: “Kites (commonly called patang/guddi locally) for the uninitiated are thin sheets of paper stretched, glued and attached to elastic bamboo (or similar lightweight wood) frames and attached to a long ball of string called manjha wrapped around a wooden object called latai/firki. There are friendly competitions in every neighborhood where each challenger fights to be the king of the sky and defeat others by cutting his kites by an act of aerial skill. Each battle is followed by cries of “Kai Po Chhe” meaning “Kai Po Chhe” (I cut it off) from the winner.”
When: 21 January 2019
Where: Penang or Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia or Singapore
Thaipusam is a Hindu festival where religious devotees fulfill their vows by practicing asceticism. The festival is above all a walking pilgrimage known for body piercing…
Why you should go: The Thaipusam is an amazing show, to say the least. Admire this exotic pilgrimage while immersing yourself in Hindu culture. You won’t regret it.
3. Up Helly Aa
When: 29 January 2019
Where: Lerwick, Scotland
Up Helly Aa is Scotland’s fire festival that takes place after Christmas. Torchbearer squads dress up in Viking costumes, drag a kitchen replica through the streets and burn it once they reach their final stop point. Attending this festive event is a great way to counter the cold while discovering the history of the Vikings in a very original way.
4. Yanshui Fireworks Festival
When: 18 February – 20 February 2019
Where: Yanshui, Taiwan
The Yanshui fireworks festival was reportedly born after a cholera outbreak. The inhabitants of the region then invited the god of war to protect them with a demonstration of fire. Nowadays, thousands of people take to the streets to light their own fireworks. Getting hit with a bottle rocket, they say, brings good luck.
Why you should go there: “15 days after the beginning of the Lunar New Year, Yunshui, Taiwan, is full of people who are hoping for a happy New Year. Their plan? Be caught as many bottle rockets as possible during the annual Yanshui Fireworks Festival. Armed with homemade safety equipment and motorcycle helmets, thousands of people voluntarily stand side by side in front of artificial beehives filled with firecrackers, as trucks cross the city firing explosives into the crowd.” – Katie of Wandertooth at the Feng Pao Bottle Rocket Festival
5. Sitges Carnival Bed Race
When: 26 February – 5 March
Where: Sitges, Spain
The Sitges Carnival Bed Race is the perfect combination of a respectable running and carnival debauchery. Teams of four will tie their fifth member to a bed, dress in a suit and head to the finish line using only their physical strength.
Why you should go there: “One of the craziest festivals you can attend during the carnival is the bed race they organize every year in Sitges, a small coastal town near Barcelona. Teams push beds on wheels while dressed in a carnival style to see who is the fastest. It’s probably the funniest race we’ve ever seen.” – Gabor of Surfing the Planet
6. Battle Of The Oranges
When: March 2-5, 2019
Where: Ivrea, Italy
Although the true origin of the Battle Of The Oranges is not known, it is believed that the city-wide food battle began as a rebellion against an Ivrean tyrant. For this festival, you can hide behind the nets or arm yourself with oranges to participate in the battle.
Why you should go there: “The Battle of the Oranges is undoubtedly one of the craziest festivals in Italy. For three days, teams on foot and in horse-drawn carts transport oranges in the streets of the city of Ivrea, not far from Turin. It is recommended that passers-by and tourists wear a special red hat, otherwise they could be mistaken for “fighters” and thrown oranges at them – but at the end of the day, oranges were flying everywhere and we were hit a few times. This is the highlight of the year for the locals and the atmosphere is simply incredible! One of the best holidays we’ve ever had!” Margherita from The Crowded Planet
7. South By Southwest
When: March 8 – March 17, 2019
Where: Austin, Texas, United States
Every March, some of the world’s greatest minds travel to Austin for South by Southwest (SXSW). With music, movies and interactive elements, SXSW is more of a cultural highlight than just a music festival.
Why you should go there: “For the first time in three years, Craig and I will not be attending the musical part of South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, so here’s why you should choose us! SXSW is a free festival (music and technology). Yes, I said free. Free alcohol, free burritos, and free concerts. Every year, thousands of media buy badges to attend workshops and networking sessions and then subscribe to popular and new groups in the evening. What do groups do during the day? They entertain people like Craig and me and that’s how you can see live music for free every March in Austin, Texas. SXSW takes a little organization to determine who plays where and when you have to queue to get the free passes, but it’s worth it. Music lovers have the chance to see established bands doing new tricks (like Will Butler in Arcade Fire) or discovering new music (like Daniel Wilson who is currently playing on British radio).” – Gemma + Craig of Two Scots Abroad
When: 11 March – 14 March 2019
Where: Basel, Switzerland
Switzerland’s largest carnival, Fasnacht, is a festival of masks. Masks most often represent politicians, characters, and animals, and it is considered inappropriate to reveal one’s identity while parading.
Why you should go there: “Basel, Switzerland, celebrates one of the biggest carnivals in the country every year, the Basler Fasnacht. It begins with a parade at 4 a.m. on a Monday morning, known as Morgenstreich. Members of different cliques (or groups) present giant lanterns representing social problems and play instruments such as piccolos and drums in a synchronized way. The three days of Fasnacht is an experience in itself, but be prepared to be attacked with confetti in the street if you are caught without a Fasnacht badge.” Journal of Minorca of Europe
When: 20 March – 21 March
Where: All over India
Holi is the Hindu festival that celebrates the influence of good over evil, forgiveness and the arrival of spring. Perhaps even more famous, Holi is a colorful carnival. Participants take to the streets with dry powder and water balloons for a colorful fight.
Why you should go there: “Holi is a Hindu festival that was once celebrated only in India and Nepal but is now popular all over the world. It is also known as the festival of colors, and rightly so because it is psychedelic. Faces, clothes, streets – literally, everything is painted in bright colors. Many people let their inner child out while celebrating Holi and participate in water pistol fights. In many parts of India, a special marijuana drink called “Bhang” is legally sold during this festival.”
When: 13 – 15 April 2019
Where: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Songkran is the Thai New Year festival symbolizing transformation and purification. At this unique global festival, you can bring a bucket, hose, water gun or whatever you can find to participate in the national water battle.
Why you should go there: “If you’ve ever dreamed of watering a stranger, Songkran is the perfect festival for you. For 3 days, it is non-stop water pistol shooting and water balloon shooting. It’s a hilarious and perfectly bizarre way to discover Thai culture.” – Taylor + Daniel from Travel Outlandish
11. Bay To Breakers
When: May 19, 2019
Where: San Francisco, United States
Bay to Breakers is a 12 km run that takes place in San Francisco, one of the best places in the world for a bizarre festival. This festival was intended at the time to raise morale after the devastating earthquakes that shook San Francisco in 1906, but nowadays it is more like a chance to have breakfast with beer and absurd food.
Why you should go: Bay to Breakers may be a 12 km run, but no one runs. Instead, expect to see nudity, groups of adults in gorilla costumes, and an entire city that is getting weird. This is an event to experience at least once in your life, especially if you like what is strange!
When: All of June
Where: You will find some of the best pride festivals in San Francisco, London, Berlin and elsewhere.
The Pride Festival is first and foremost a call for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, but the festivities around the world are anything but serious. In practice, Pride Festivals are days full of sparkling parades, dragster shows, and Elton John songs.
Why should you go there: “San Francisco pride is like a Gaga song in June. Boys will be boys and girls will be boys, and they will love each other in any combination and hey… who cares anyway? and stand by the side of the gay community for the common goal of equality.” – Taylor from Travel Outlandish
When: July 11-15, 2019
Where: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Celebrating the tradition of the 13th century and paying tribute to Mongolia’s liberation from Chinese rule in 1921, the Naadam Festival is what we might call the ultimate manifestation of Mongol masculinity (although girls can also play!). With participants in horse races, archery, and wrestling, these are nomadic games of epic proportions.
Why you should go: “The Naadam Festival of Mongolia is a celebration of nomadic sports and culture that takes place all over the country in July. Showcasing the best of horse racing, archery and wrestling is truly an intense spectacle. While the festival in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, is the largest of the festival, it is actually much more enjoyable to go to the small villages around Mongolia.” – Jarryd + Alesha from NOMADasaurus
14. Boryeong Mud Festival
When: 18 July – 28 July 2019
Where: Daecheon Beach, South Korea
The website describes the Boryeong Mud Festival as “an exciting mud experience with people from all over the world”. That’s about it, right? Take part in the huge mud battle with slides, concerts, mud painting stations, and the “mud prison”.
Why you should go: Getting your hands dirty with strangers seems to be a bond that challenges the barriers of language and culture. South Korean culture is eccentric, and this unique global festival sounds like a ton of fun. To try!
15. Burning Man
When: 25 August – 2 September 2019
Where: Black Rock City, NV, USA
What started as a beach burn in San Francisco for the summer solstice has evolved into a global movement. Modern-day Burners will join a community of more than 70,000 artists, performers, creators, free and passionate lovers who will invade the desert in one of the most fascinating and unique festivals in the world.
Why you should go: There is something magical about spending days in the middle of the desert, among people who experience the limits of social norms. The long-time Burning Man suggests that the festival is increasingly being marketed each year. Experience this festival before the technology camps take over.
16. The Tomatina
When: 28 August 2019
Where: Buñol, Spain
Maybe La Tomatina started as a revolt against city councilors. Or maybe the people of Buñol were just ready for a good tomato fight! Whatever happens to La Tomatina, those who attend this bizarre festival will join in a dirty one-hour fight of epic proportions!
Why you should go there (at least once): “My friend and I were in Valencia a few years ago, at the time of La Tomatina. I convinced her to join me in saying that we could not miss the world’s biggest food war. The festival was great for the first ten minutes…until I got plowed with tomato in my eye. I finally came out of the huge bazaar covered with tomatoes and a black eye. I’ll do anything once, but I won’t be part of this anymore!” Natasha
When: 21 September – 6 October 2019
Where: Munich, Germany
The Munich Folk Festival, which lasts 18 days, is entirely devoted to beer, but there is nothing wrong with rides, brass music, and traditional cuisine.
Why you should go there: “I grew up about 3 hours north of Munich and yet last year was the first time I went to Oktoberfest. Shame on me, I know. We had a reserved table in the Paulaner tent and I strongly recommend that you get a reservation. You won’t have to worry about finding a place, you can get in and out, and the best thing in the world: access to VIP toilets. Very useful, especially after consuming large quantities of beer, let me tell you.” Maria de MariaAbroad
18. Vegetarian Festival
When: 28 September – 7 October 2019
Where: Phuket, Thailand
Although the Phuket Vegetarian Festival does not contain meat, it is certainly full of gore. By cutting meat from their diet during the ninth lunar month, participants hope for health and peace of mind. In other acts of intermediation with the gods, the devotees will walk on hot coals, pierce themselves, or perform other somewhat horrible acts of bodily modification with the conviction that they will be protected from scars.
Why you should go: Few other world festivals are as fascinating to watch as this one. The singing of mah – or those who are possessed by a god – is an incredible feat. And if you still have an appetite, the food is delicious.
19. Día De Muertos
When: 31 October – 2 November 2019
Where: Oaxaca, Mexico
Popularized by flower crowns and skeleton make-up, Día de los Muertos is, in fact, a way of recognizing the deceased. The celebration takes place largely in cemeteries where extravagant altars are built for the offering of toys, food, alcohol, and flowers, but head for the city, and you will see everyone celebrate!
Why you should go there: “One of the most unique and wonderful celebrations in Mexico is the celebration of the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). It’s almost like Halloween, although there are lots of parades that take place at night and fireworks. There is also a deeply rooted cultural significance to the memory of parents and loved ones who have passed away. This event also continues (unofficially) for a week! Fun and fascinating – definitely a must!” – Ian of Where Sidewalks End
When: December 5, 2019
Where: All over Austria
Some cultures discourage bad behavior with an elf on a shelf; Austria prefers a more direct approach. Krampus is the hairy demon goat that terrorizes children who behave badly. On the Krampusnacht, the very frightening Krampus takes to the streets, visiting houses and companies that distribute coal to uneducated people.
Why you should go there: “Intriguing and terrifying at the same time – Krampusnacht, that’s what nightmares are made of! In the small alpine towns of the Austrian Alps, the men and teenagers of the village dress up as Krampus – a half-demon, half goat and half-demon that is intended to make the children nice at Christmas. The Krampus marches through the streets dragging chains, carrying torches of fire and whipping innocent passers-by with twigs!” – Vicki from Make Time to See the World
When: December 31, 2019
Where: Edinburgh, Scotland
New Year’s Eve can be a serious celebration anywhere in the world, but in Scotland, it’s very special. Probably derived from the Nordic winter solstice, customs include the first step (being the first to enter a house or neighborhood), swinging fireballs, eating a steak pie, and singing with Auld Lang Syne.
Why you should go there: “Imagine a downtown where people party, go from one scene to another when five bands usually play at the same time and watch fireworks as midnight approaches, you’ll start to understand how much fun this festival is. Add to that popular dances, an ice rink, Christmas markets, a Ferris wheel, a torchlight procession on the 30th, a music festival on the 31st, the crazy Loony Dook race that ends up swimming in the cooler waters of the Forth Bridge on the outskirts of town and an artistic explosion at 9 strange sites called Scotland. I doubt there’s any other place on earth that’s as great as Edinburgh!” – Inma of A World to Travel