There’s something about festivals, be it a giant, joyous party or a respectful honouring of tradition; a seemingly bizarre adherence to ritual or a celebration of a quirky obsession – it’s a uniquely human thing to be involved in.
We like to get together to dance, sing, eat, laugh, drink, dress up, light fires, take our clothes off, throw tomatoes at each other, roll around in mud – just about anything really, but we seem to like doing it in really large groups with bags of enthusiasm. This selection from 50 Festivals to Blow Your Mind should give party-loving travellers plenty of ideas for their next trip.
Holi, India and Nepal
Can’t you narrow down the location for us a bit more?
Holi, or the Festival of Colour, as it has come to be known, is primarily a Hindu festival and it’s celebrated with wild parties and crazy colour fights all over India and Nepal in areas with large Hindu populations. You’ll know you’ve found one when you spot the revellers who look like they’ve walked through a rainbow waterfall.
A colour fight?
Holi is a celebration of the victory of one’s inner good over evil but has basically become a frolicking free-for-all involving coloured powder and water. In a joyous and raucous street fight, participants throw powder and water at each other using the bright, exuberant colours to signify the start of spring, the power of love, and the generosity of humanity.
Sounds like some seriously messy fun.
Just try to resist the truly jubilant spirit of the festival – everyone, and we mean everyone, comes together to play, laugh, forgive and give thanks. What’s not to like?
The AgitAgueda Art Festival transforms its host city © Patrick Ferreira
AgitAgueda Art Festival, Agueda, Portugal
Wow, the umbrellas in the sky.
One of the most recognisable symbols of this vibrant Portuguese festival is the installation of hundreds of colourful umbrellas suspended above one of the city’s streets. Other parts of the urban landscape, like park benches, stairs, and power poles, are also painted in colourful examples of street art, creating an enchanted atmosphere.
What’s it all in aid of?
The festival aims to promote new musical and artistic projects with the ‘Talentos AgitAgueda’, a competition for emerging artists. As well as new hopefuls there are many established national and international acts that grace the stage.
Do we have time to check it all out?
The festivities extend over three weeks so there’s plenty of time to pack it all in. Many of the musical acts perform in the main tent, which is free. And there’s nothing stopping you from walking around the streets to see all the amazing outdoor installations, murals and sculptures.
Lanterns floating into the sky at the annual festival in Pingxi, Taiwan © Kedjennifer / Getty Images
Pingxi Lantern Festival, Pingxi, Taiwan
This looks pretty.
It’s a stunningly luminous sight. Close to 200,000 lanterns are released into the night sky at the start of the new Lunar Year.
Beautiful, but why? And why here?
According to ancient legend, the lanterns were originally lit to let Pingxi villagers, who had fled their homes under the threat of outlaw raids, know that it was safe to return. Over the hundreds and hundreds of years, the lanterns have come to represent a release of bad habits and an aspiration to achieve positive ideals.
So we all trek an hour out of Taipei to get involved?
Just you and 80,000 of your closest friends. It’s an extremely popular way to see out the old Chinese year, so expect to jostle for space to release your good luck lantern.
Is it worth braving the crowds?
The radiant light of the lanterns against the dark night is a spectacle not to be understated. Add to this beautiful sight the goodwill and optimistic vibe of the participants, and you have a night you’ll never forget.
Not all the crustaceans are this big at the Maine Lobster Festival © Lucas McNelly / Maine Lobster Festival
Maine Lobster Festival, Rockland, New England, USA
This looks like a tasty way to spend a day.
What started as a community initiative to boost interest in local seafood has become a world-regarded festival celebrating the superior quality of the region’s marine produce. Tasty indeed.
Do we all sit around gorging ourselves on lobster?
And butter – don’t forget the butter. Each year, close to 10,000 kilos of these delicious crustaceans are cooked up with over 750 kilos of melted butter. We are not even kidding. Luckily, if you feel the need to burn off some of this extravagant eating, the festival organisers have cooked up some seafood-themed activities so you can justify round two.
Not just eating competitions?
Break up the gorging by joining the joggers in the 10km road race; or have a go at the Lobster Crate Race, where competitors hop from crate to crate across the open water; or just cheer on the festival’s reigning Sea Goddess at the Maine Street Parade. There are also cooking demonstrations and competitions, so you can take a little lobster inspiration from the locals back home with you.
Don't come dressed down to Venice's famous Carnevale © Buena Vista Images / Getty Images
Carnevale, Venice, Italy
Old-world, masked elegance.
Aside from dapper gondoliers cruising the city’s canals, there are few images as iconic to Italy’s water-circled city as the masked partygoers at the world-famous Venice Carnevale. Officially recognised as a festival from the Renaissance period, Carnevale was a licence to indulge in heedless pleasure, with masks to protect participant’s identities. However, when all this licentiousness became too much, the King of Austria outlawed the festival and it was only in the 20th century that Venetians brought the party back.
So decadence is back on the table?
With bells on. More than three million visitors crowd Venice’s cobbled streets during Carnevale for the chance to be a part of the festivities.
Must we come masked?
Not all participants are masked, but donning a disguise certainly amps up the fun. If you’re stuck for inspiration, check out the costume parade on stage in St Mark’s Square – the winners each day go head to head for the title of festival finest on the last day of celebrations.
Get your hands – and everything else – dirty at the Boryeong Mud Festival © Boryeong Mud Festival
Boryeong Mud Festival, Boryeong, South Korea
Time to get down and dirty?
You got that right. Many Koreans believe that the mud in Boryeong contains healing properties so, as any self-respecting health fanatic knows, this means it’s time to get all your friends together and get completely covered in the stuff from head to toe.
This sounds like fun.
Millions of mud wrestlers can’t be wrong, right? The mineral-rich mud attracts excitable local and international visitors all keen on getting completely slathered in the stuff. It’s a family-friendly affair with activities that range from mud races and slides, to the more sedate mud facials and body painting. There is even entertainment in the form of musical acts (hip hop and pop predominate) and spectacular evening fireworks. Don’t leave before the Korean b-boy show on the Friday night.
And if we decide it’s time to clean up our act?
The festival puts on free showers so you can get the mud out of your eyes and ears (and the rest), but there’s also the ocean nearby which is a welcome way to rinse off after a few hours in the sludge.
Last updated in August 2017.