We all love a party and there are plenty of incredible festivals around the world. From serene spiritual experiences to huge concerts by world-famous acts, we’ve compiled our ultimate bucket list of events to get to.
Day of The Dead
Many festivals combine ancient beliefs with modern practices and the Day of the Dead traditions in Mexico are a great example of this. Ancient Mexican cultures buried their dead within their houses, believing they remained part of the community. When Spanish settlers colonised the country, this part of the Aztec culture was mixed with the Catholic tradition of All Saint’s Day.
While a lot of the rituals associated with Day of the Dead take place in family homes, there are more and more public parades and celebrations starting up across Mexico. Head to the capital, Mexico City, to see the largest parade in the country. Dancers, floats and musicians dress in colourful costumes to celebrate the idea that dead loved ones can return to Earth for one day. The parade often links up with other events such as Formula One races.
Another part of the country popular with visitors is Aguascalientes. Here the week-long festivities culminate in a parade of skulls through town. In the build-up, you can see skull themed artworks and specially created public sculptures. Treat yourself to a slice of sweet “pan de muerto” bread or an iconic sugar skull.
Day of the Dead is celebrated between 31st October and 2nd November every year.
Montreaux Jazz Festival
Since 1967 the Montreaux Jazz Festival has been bringing cutting-edge music to the shores of Lake Geneva in the Swiss Alps. While the focus is still on jazz and blues, artists from all genres now perform at the festival. There’s also a great mix of ticketed and free events, with plenty of outdoor concerts to make the most of the sublime scenery.
The festival is legendary in music circles and was the inspiration behind the song “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple. Unfortunately, the smoke floating over Lake Geneva was from the original venue, the Montreaux Casino, which caught fire during a performance by Frank Zappa. The festival is now mainly based at the Music and Convention Centre instead, although the rebuilt Casino does still host occasional events.
The biggest names tend to appear at ticketed events, but there are plenty of free and low-cost events too. Party in the park during the day, before heading to the clubs for a night of electro-dance fusion. For a more unusual music experience, try the retro 1960s themed pool party. You can even enjoy the music on your way from the airport on a specially themed Jazz Train.
The Montreaux Jazz Festival takes place every July.
Next up is the festival that isn’t a festival – Burning Man. With no lineup, merchandise or running water, a trip to Burning Man is a serious undertaking. The event takes place in Black Rock City, Nevada, USA at the end of the summer. The city is purpose-built for Burning Man each year and is removed completely afterwards. This lack of permanent infrastructure means every visitor has to bring every item they’ll need with them, including food, water, fuel and shelter. Burning Man is also one of the few places on Earth where there is no real commercial activity. There are no cafes, bars or shops and campers are encouraged to share or swap items instead.
Many groups chose to build themed camps, which form mini stages and art areas, which in turn become the entertainment for everyone else. With the motto “No Spectators” festival attendees are expected to join in and create their own performances and works. You’re equally likely to find a dodgeball tournament, a home-made rave stage or acoustic chill out area as a poetry recital, a bodypainting session or an improvised cinema. As well as the fixed camps, there are mutant vehicles, moving art installations that travel around the circular city. All other forms of motorised transport are banned so many visitors bring a bicycle instead.
The finale of Burning Man is the burn. The city centres around a huge wooden effigy which is ritually burnt to signify the end of the festival. Many of the other artworks, sculptures and structures that have been built over the course of the festival are also burnt. The campsites are then cleared away with a goal of leaving no trace at all. With a focus on creativity, participation and radical self-expression, Burning Man is an experience unlike any other festival.
Burning Man 2018 takes place from August 26th.
The annual carnival takes place at the start of lent. The festivities combine Portuguese traditions with African dance rhythms and Latin party spirit to create the ultimate Fat Tuesday. Watch samba schools compete in the Sambadromo stadium, attend an upmarket Mardi Gras ball or party with the locals on the streets; then spend the day recovering on the beach before doing it all over again. If you are serious about celebrating, Rio is not to be missed.
If you can’t make it to town during the carnival period then you can still get a taste at the samba schools rehersals and summer events. In the run up to carnival, many of the schools hold dress rehersals inside the sambadrome which are free to attend.
Carnival 2019 takes place from 2nd March. Can’t make it to Rio? Find out about other Mardi Gras festivals here.
Harbin Ice And Snow International
The biggest Ice and Snow festival in the world takes place each year in northern China, in the city of Harbin. Freezing temperatures of down to -25 degrees centigrade make ideal conditions for ice carvers and snow builders from around the globe to gather and create spectacular sculptures and impressive buildings. The festival began as a lantern carving competition in 1963 and has been an annual event since 1985.
There are three main areas to the festival. Zhaolin Park is where the original lantern competition is still held. This is a fairly small venue and can be seen easily in an evening, with most competitors coming from the local area. Another venue is the Sun Island centre, containing sculptures made from snow but these aren’t run of the mill snowmen. Expect everything from small intricate designs of Chinese calligraphy to enormous monuments hundreds of metres long and several storeys high. The 14 square miles of parkland is open during daylight hours and requires several visits to see all the exhibits.
The final venue is the most impressive. The Grand World of Ice and Snow is home to entire buildings made of ice cut from the nearby river. These are lit with multicoloured lights each night and many are lifesize replicas of famous buildings from other parts of the world. Visitors not content with just observing the buildings can often go inside them, and many have additional features such ice slides, skating rinks or sound and light shows to add to the fun.
The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival takes place every January.
Edinburgh actually hosts several festivals throughout the year, with the most famous happening in August. The Fringe festival runs throughout the month, alongside the Book festival, the Art festival, the Military Tattoo and the original festival – the International festival. As a result, there is plenty to keep everyone entertained with literally thousands of performance across the city.
The International festival features top performers, writers and composers from across the arts bringing world-class theatre, dance, opera and music to the city. The Fringe is less highbrow, but equally superlative. Check out top comedians from around the world, with everything from complex political satire to Japanese slapstick on show. At the book festival there are talks and workshops with authors from around the world and an incredible pop-up bookshop with exclusive releases.
The best thing about Edinburgh in August is the sheer energy in the city. Performances run almost 24 hours a day with prices to suit every budget, there are plenty of free and low cost shows. It’s also a great opportunity to check out the next big thing; just turn up at any venue and ask for the next available ticket – you never know what you might find!
Loy Kratong is a Thai festival which encourages visitors to let go of the past, celebrate the rice harvest and hope for love next year.
Usually held in November on the twelth full moon of the year, participants launch candle-lit kratong on to rivers and lakes around the country under the full moon. Kratong are bowls traditionally made from woven and folded banana leaves, but modern kratong can be made from many different materials and in a variety of shapes. The kratong is decorated with flowers and offerings for the water goddesses and finished with a lit candle. If the candle stays alight until the kratong has floated away, this signifies everlasting love for the couple that launched it.
This time of year is particularly special in the north of Thailand in Chiang Mai. Another festival, Yi Peng, is celebrated at the same time. This involves releasing lightweight paper lanterns in to the night sky as well as the kratongs on to the waterways. The rivers and sky lit up by candlelight and the full moon makes for a truly beautiful moment that has to be seen to be believed.
In 2018, Loy Kratong takes place on November 23rd.
Feeling inspired to get out there and join in with some of the best festivals on Earth?
What’s your ultimate festival? Get in touch and let us know.
Want more inspiring festivals? Try Supercharge Your Insta Feed At The World’s Most Colourful Festivals which is part of our colour season.