There are some of the very best festivals around the world. Some of them are truly ‘do before you die’ experiences and certainly events that will live long in your memory if you attend. There’s plenty we had to leave out in our search for the best festivals in the world but eventually it was narrowed down to ten events spread across the year. Dates are for 2011 but the festivals happen at roughly the same time each year.
NOTE – This article was published in 2011. Dates may not be accurate now!
10 Famous Festivals around the World
Chinese New Year
All over China
Dragons, dancers and all sorts else, this is China’s top celebration and is great all over the country including Hong Kong. Beijing tends to have the biggest celebrations which go on for fifteen days after the dawn of a new lunar year, culminating in the Yuan Xiao Festival (Lantern Festival) on the Final day.
Check out the cost of travel in China for more on visiting.
Rio de Janeiro, Salvador & other cities, Brazil
March 4th to 8th
The Biggest Party on Earth? Quite possibly. More than 2 million people hit the streets every day with stunning displays, raunchy dancing and samba beats the main theme. For backpackers in South America, Carnaval is almost a rites of passage and many even plan their trips around it. Be sure to sort accommodation out in advance if you’re planning on coming.
April 12th to 14th
Hit the world’s most famous backpacker street, the Kao San Road in mid April for some happy splashing. The only certainty is you will get wet! The dates are now fixed but the festival is designed to coincide with the astrological New Year in many South Asian calendars. Festivities take place all over the country and foreigners are a popular target for many young Thais!
June 22nd to 26th
Glasto is the biggest music festival in the world featuring hundreds and hundreds of artists from a range of different genres. Headliners this year include Muse and Gorillaz. It is so much more than a music festival however with many varied and often weird areas to keep you entertained such as Shangri-La, a nighttime wonderland that changes its theme every year.
Novi Sad, Serbia
July 7th to 10th
Stunning setting in an ancient fortress as rock meets electro with devastating consequences! EXIT festival started in the summer of 2000, with a largely political undertone as form of protest against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Nowadays it’s all about Europe’s top electronic music and the atmosphere is sensational.
Horse Racing Festival
Nagchu & Litang, Tibet
August 10th to 16th
Locals display some stunning skills on horseback while traditional songs and dance provide the backdrop. The two villages in Chinese ran Tibet attract horsemen from all over the province and across Southern China. They come to trade goods, celebrate and race each other.
Black Rock Desert, Nevada USA
August 29th to September 5th
Burning Man is a pretty bizarre affair and gets its name from the traditional burning of a wooden man on the Saturday of the festival. It attracts around 50,000 people each year and is something of an experimental community based on several key principles such as radical inclusion and self-expression.
September 17th to October 3rd
Lots of great beer to be drank and fun drunken times to be had during the Oktoberfest in South Germany. It is easily the world’s biggest and best beer festival. The Oktoberfest is about a carnival atmosphere, a huge variety of beer tents, lots of seriously drunk people and many lederhosen-wearing natives. All in all, it’s pretty good fun!
Bon Om Tuk
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
9th to 11th November
Cambodia’s biggest festival celebrates the change in current of the Tonle Sap River. It features spectacular long boat races and is a lively and colourful affair. Sadly it is also occasionally tragic with almost 400 people getting crushed to death during a stampede in 2010.
Whirling Dervishes Festival
12th to 17th December
Over a million gather to witness the stunning dance spectacle which is many centuries old. In terms of sheer numbers it is by a distance one of the biggest in the world and rivals some of the major religious festivals. Many visitors find it an intensely spiritual experience.
This article was published in July 2011.