11 Cultural Festivals Around the World You’ve Got to Experience

No matter when and where you decide to travel, chances are there's a festival worth attending! Which of these events are on your bucket list?

People dressed up for the Carnival of Venice

7min read

Published 14 May 2024


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No matter when and where you decide to travel, chances are there's a festival worth attending! Which of these events are on your bucket list?


One of the most rewarding and fulfilling things about travel is that you get to experience the unique culture and traditions of your destination. Whether celebrated in the form of religious festivals, the playing of traditional sports, or a five-day long music fest featuring the biggest artists, participating in cultural festivals around the world can be inspiring, transformative and eye-opening.

Delve into the values and beliefs of cultures around the world and celebrate diversity with our list of cultural festivals to add to your travel bucket list.



Woman covered in colourful pigments during Holi festival in India
Woman covered in colourful pigments during Holi festival in India
Woman covered in colourful pigments during Holi festival in India

Holi, India

If you're looking to immerse yourself in the vibrant and joyous culture of India, you cannot miss its most colourful and extravagant festival of the year: Holi! Commonly known as the Festival of Love and the Festival of Colour, Holi is an ancient Hindu festival that marks the arrival of Spring. Symbolizing new beginnings, it encourages people to start afresh and let go of resentments and negative energy.

Celebrations begin as the sun sets on the first day, with huge bonfires blazing against the night skies to represent the burning of the holy spirit, Holika, and the triumph of good over evil. The following and final day of Holi sees cities come alive with colour as people dance down the streets, joyously smearing pigmented powders on each other — leaving no one safe from the vibrant colours!  

While originating in North India, Holi has become an international festival, with events organized across the US, Australia, the UK and elsewhere. Despite now being celebrated all around the world, traditional Holi festival celebrations in India continue to attract people from across the globe; many travel groups offer tours to the country during the festival time so that travellers have the opportunity to experience the joyous celebration themselves.

Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, Morocco

Celebrate the beautiful cultural diversity of spiritual music from across the globe at the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music. This annual music festival is a 10-day joyous celebration held during mid-summer in the ancient city of Fes, Morocco

The celebration features artists who are from Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and other faiths; artists come together to perform, symbolizing the power of the universal language of music to bridge divides and spreading a message of spiritual unity. The annual festival — which involves numerous open-air concerts, debates and performances combining different spiritual backgrounds — is held in numerous notable destinations around the Medina of Fes.

Peruvian dancers in traditional clothing during the Inti Raymi festival
Peruvian dancers in traditional clothing during the Inti Raymi festival
Peruvian dancers in traditional clothing during the Inti Raymi festival

Inti Raymi, Peru

Each year on June 24, Inti Raymi (otherwise known as the Inca Festival of the Sun or, simply, the Sun Festival) draws locals and tourists alike to the breathtaking city of Cusco, Peru. On the shortest day of the year and the beginning of the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere, the Incas celebrate this day as a plead for the sun to return.

The Inti Raymi festival is one of Peru’s most significant traditional celebrations, allowing a mesmerizing journey into the rich culture and ancient traditions of the Incan people. Take in the spectacular dance performances, where performers wearing historic costumes and jewellery reenact elaborate ancient ceremonies. The grand festival includes dancing, music, processions and even a llama sacrifice — which you will be happy to know is only a simulation these days! 

A group of people at the Boryeong Mud Festival in South Korea
A group of people at the Boryeong Mud Festival in South Korea
A group of people at the Boryeong Mud Festival in South Korea

Boryeong Mud Festival, South Korea

If you’re not afraid to get a little down and dirty, you cannot miss the messiest festival in South Korea — the Boryeong Mud Festival. Commonly known as Mudfest, this cultural festival draws travellers from across the globe to the otherwise quiet Boryeong for two weeks in early July to get involved in a range of mud-related activities.

Mudfest offers mud baths, fountains, facials, pools, massages, wrestling and more in an area known as the “Mud Experience Land”! Not to mention the Boryeong Mud is rich in minerals and used to manufacture cosmetics, making the experience especially beneficial for your skin — no wonder South Korea is renowned for its amazing skincare products! For the fans of K-pop out there, Boryeong Mud Festival is also known to feature stand-alone concerts from iconic idols, with PSY and IU being amongst the list of previous performers.

The Glastonbury Festival in England is one of the world's most distinct cultural festivals
The Glastonbury Festival in England is one of the world's most distinct cultural festivals
The Glastonbury Festival in England is one of the world's most distinct cultural festivals

Glastonbury Festival, United Kingdom

As one of the most significant music and cultural festivals in the world, Glastonbury Festival offers an unforgettable experience for all attendees. Aside from hosting legendary headliners such as David Bowie, Beyoncé and Coldplay, what differentiates Glastonbury from other festivals is its continuous commitment to the community at large.

The festival supports local artisans with on-the-ground markets which sell local homemade goods, such as clothing and food. On top of this, with their support for organizations like Oxfam and Greenpeace, the festival aims to push its sustainability initiatives and raise awareness for charitable causes. But most importantly, the Glastonbury Festival is renowned for its laid-back ambience, which encourages people from all walks of life to come together and feel a little bit freer.

Despite taking place in the United Kingdom, the Glastonbury Festival sets itself apart from other music festivals by creating a space that makes festival-goers feel as if they’ve travelled to a new country. Set up as a huge, tented city with distinct socio-geographic regions to appeal to different kinds of people, it’s s a one-of-a-kind environment where — while still under British law — the rules of society are different, and everyone is there to have their own version of a wild time.

Festival-goers at the Rio Carnival
Festival-goers at the Rio Carnival
Festival-goers at the Rio Carnival

Rio Carnival, Brazil

Step into “The Greatest Show on Earth” at the Carnival in the heart of Rio De Janeiro, Brazil — arguably one of the best cultural festivals in the world. Celebrated annually from the Friday to the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the festival commemorates the beginning of Lent and focuses on three key events.

Firstly, a samba competition is held between the city's best samba schools. The competition is a dazzling event where samba schools win over the judges with extravagant floats featuring impressive art installations, elaborate costumes, music and, of course, their impressive traditional dancing skills.

Extraordinary street parties are also held, where neighbourhood bands play down the streets, as enthusiastic party goers dressed in vibrant costume follow. Lastly, for the more elegant audiences, there's the Carnival Ball, where guests pay hefty prices for a ticket to compete for the prize for the most extravagant costume. With all these brilliant events, you couldn’t possibly want to miss out on the world's largest party! 

Mardi Gras, New Orleans

Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday”, symbolizes the season of Carnival celebration. Rooted in the rich history of New Orleans, the occasion begins on the Twelfth Night (January 6), representing the Christian holy day of the Epiphany, and lasts until Fat Tuesday (February 13). 

During Mardi Gras season, people flock to the French Quarter to participate in dazzling parades with vibrant colours, extravagant costumes, marching bands and a collective celebratory spirit. The best part? Mardi Gras is a free event! Be quick to book because flights and accommodation fill up fast, you don’t want to miss out on New Orleans's most exciting event! 

A group of people celebrating Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
A group of people celebrating Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
A group of people celebrating Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

Día De Los Muertos, Mexico

Despite its name, Día De Los Muertos or Day of the Dead, is a cheerful occasion during which loved ones invite the souls of the dead back for a joyous reunion. Celebrated all over Mexico, the local festival begins in November every year. As a tribute to their loved ones who have passed, families bring ofrendas (offerings) as an invitation for the departed souls in the spirit world to return and join in on the celebrations! Altars are adorned with vibrant yellow marigold flower displays, photos of the deceased, and their favourite food and drinks.

The holiday commences on midnight of November 1, where the spirits of departed children are believed to be reunited with their families for 24 hours, followed by the souls of adults on November 2. At noon on the second day, people come together with their faces painted as calavera (skeletons) to parade down the streets in a great celebration.  

Group of Thai women celebrating Songkran in Thailand
Group of Thai women celebrating Songkran in Thailand
Group of Thai women celebrating Songkran in Thailand

Songkran, Thailand

If you don't mind getting a little wet, the Songkran festival is certainly a celebration to tick off your bucket list! Also known as Thai New Year, Songkran is a cultural phenomenon where water fights and parties dominate the streets.

Held annually for three days beginning on the first full moon in April, Songkran symbolizes the start of the lunisolar Theravada Buddhist calendar. In Thailand, locals choose to celebrate this occasion by throwing buckets of water, shooting each other with water pistols and making sure everyone and everything gets absolutely soaked! You’ll be happy to hear that (luckily!) April is one of the hottest months in Thailand.  

A couple dressed up for the Carnival of Venice
A couple dressed up for the Carnival of Venice
A couple dressed up for the Carnival of Venice

Carnival of Venice, Italy

A tradition dating back to the 11th century, the Carnival of Venice delves deep into the rich Venetian culture and continues to attract tourists and locals every year — making it one of the more popular cultural festivals in the world. The festival lasts six weeks in Venice and features participants adorning themselves in traditional 17th-century costumes — as well as extraordinary masks — and parading down the streets.

Venice Carnival also features live music, gondola and boat parades along the canal, and other open-air entertainment — including a competition for the most beautiful mask! The Carnival of Venice is a timelessly captivating celebration, guaranteed to provide an unforgettable cultural experience.  

A tribe member at the Mount Hagen Cultural Show in Papua New Guinea
A tribe member at the Mount Hagen Cultural Show in Papua New Guinea
A tribe member at the Mount Hagen Cultural Show in Papua New Guinea

Mount Hagen Cultural Show, Papua New Guinea

Experience one of Papua New Guinea’s most vibrant and unifying cultural festivals, celebrating the country’s incredibly diverse tribal cultures. This event was first established in 1964 with the purpose of alleviating persistent tribal tensions and has since evolved into one of Papua New Guinea's most popular events. 

The Mount Hagen Cultural Show successfully encourages tribes to come together and celebrate their diversities, and brings together locals and travellers alike to witness amazing traditional dances, music and costumes — all of which offer a glimpse into the rich history of the region.

Other noteworthy cultural festivals

Looking for even more ways to discover unique cultures around the world? Here are a few additional festivals worth checking out:

•    Naadam festival, Mongolia
•    Timket festival, Ethiopia
•    Hornbill Festival, India
•    Korzok Gustor Festival, India
•    Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, California
•    Jambay Lakhang Drup festival, Bhutan
•    Miss Indian World pageant, New Mexico

 

If you’re ready to join the celebrations at one of these cultural festivals around the world, get in touch! Our travel consultants can help you book flights, accommodations and more.

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