Lonely Planet Writer

Hot in travel: weekend festivals around the world

A number of fascinating festivals will be held around the world this week, including the street-party celebration of the Philippines’ Ati-Atihan, the countless look-a-likes at Australia’s Elvis festival, voodoo celebrations in Benin, and an astounding show of light and ice in China.

Ati-atihan.
Ati-atihan. Image by runkokokrun / CC BY 2.0

Ati-Atihan will be celebrated in the Philippines from 8 to 17 January. Ati-Atihan is the Philippines’ version of Mardi Gras, a street party that starts first thing in the morning and continues on late into the night. Participants in the main parade paint their faces with black soot and wear bright costumes, honouring the history of when Malay immigrants showed their regard for local Ati people by painting their faces and singing and dancing. The holiday also honours Santo Niño (an image of the infant Jesus), a tradition later added by the colonising Spanish.

Parkes, Elvis festival, 2014.
Parkes, Elvis festival, 2014. Image by Ropbert Montgomery / CC BY 2.0

All hail the King at the 2016 Parkes Elvis festival. The giant festival kicked off on 6 January and 22,000 Elvis fans are expected to visit the eastern Australian town until 10 January. This year’s theme is ‘Fun in Acapulco’. For five days, there will be free entertainment, Elvis tributes, look-a-like contest and more. The festival kicks-off with a busking competition that sees the streets of the small town lined with Elvis impersonators belting out the King’s hits. The festival will close on Sunday night with a concert featuring the yet-to-be-named winner of the Parkes 2016 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest.

A voodoo dancer poses at Ganvie village on Lake Nokoue, near Cotonou, Benin.
A voodoo dancer poses at Ganvie village on Lake Nokoue, near Cotonou, Benin. Image by David Stanley / CC BY 2.0

In West Africa’s Benin, 10 January marks National Voodoo Day, which corresponds with the celebrations of the Voodoo Festival, or Vodun Festival, at Ouidah. The festival, the country’s most colourful, showcases the religion, which is practiced by about 60% of the population. The celebrations are marked by much singing, chanting, dancing, beating of drums and drinking of gin. It draws in thousands of devotees and as well as tourists from around the world. There is also a film festival in Ouidah at the same time as the Voodoo Festival.

Harbin Ice Festival © Anita Isalska / Lonely Planet
Harbin Ice Festival © Anita Isalska / Lonely Planet

See the lights in China at the annual Harbin Ice and Snow Festival in Heilongjiang province. The event is one of the highlights on China’s annual calendar, and features giant ice sculptures in various locations all over the city. Many depict world landmarks, such as the Forbidden City to European cathedrals. Much of the appeal comes at night, when the sculptures are lit up in various colours that glint off the ice and snow. To accompany the festival, there is ice skating, skiing, winter exhibitions and film screenings and local folk performances. The festival will continue until the end of February.