35 Most Interesting Festivals in the World
This is the guide to the best and most interesting festivals in the world, organized by date to help you plan your travels accordingly. From hot air balloons to water fights, this list has it all.
Note: Many of the dates are variable, so be sure to check online to find out the specific dates for your festivals!
Be sure to check out my other article on ‘Top 5 EDM Festivals In The World‘ if you’re a fan of electronic shenanigans. Includes videos and detailed descriptions.
1. Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, China: January 5- February 5
People build incredible things out of ice and snow, decorating them with lights and lasers.
2. Chinese New Year: Between January 21 & February 20
The biggest Chinese holiday, with dragons, fireworks, symbolic clothing, flowers, lanterns, and celebration, everywhere in China, and even in other Asian countries.
3. Sundance Film Festival, Utah, USA: end of January
The largest independent film festival in the US. Watch both feature length films and shorts. You need to buy a ticket.
4. Up Helly Aa Fire Festival, Scotland: January
Torches, tar barreling, parties, flamboyant costumes, and the burning of a replica viking ship make this an exciting festival.
5. Holi Festival, India: Late February/March, on the last full moon day.
Hindus and Sikh, in India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka celebrate the main day of this incredibly fun 16-day religious festival by throwing colored powder and water at each other.
6. The Carnival of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: February or March
A week of extravagant parades, dancing, colors, and alcohol makes this one of the most exciting and well-known festivals in the world.
7. Mardi Gras, New Orleans, USA: late February or Early March
Beads and booze. A crazy celebration before lent, aka the last day before giving up sinful pleasure.
8. Pingxi Lantern Festival, Taiwan: February
People write their wishes on fire lanterns and release them into the sky en masse, creating a beautiful spectacle of floating lights.
9. Carnival of Venice, Italy: between February & March
One of the most beautiful festivals in the world, people wear masks and elaborate costumes to hide differences among classes, and there are contests for the best costumes.
10. The Battle of the Oranges, Ivrea, Italy: February
An enormous food fight where people form organized teams and throw oranges at each other.
11. Calle Ocho, Miami, Florida, USA: March
An exciting Cuban street festival in Little Havana, with food and live music.
12. Las Fallas, Valencia: March 15-19
Fire, fireworks, smoke, and excitement make this festival a cross between Disney World and the apocalypse.
13. St Patricks Day Festival, Dublin, Ireland: March 17
There is a parade, costumes, music, comedy, film, and drinking.
14. Songkran Water Festival, Thailand: April 13-15
The Thai New Year festival falls on some of the hottest days in Thailand, and people celebrate by throwing water on each other, using water guns, buckets, hoses- whatever they can get their hands on.
15. Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day), Netherlands: April 29 or 30
This is a national holiday and a “free market” day, so everyone sells everything on the streets. There are games, concerts, performances, and parties on boats in the canals.
16. Sandfest, Port Aransas, Texas: April
An amazing sand sculpture contest with live entertainment.
17. White Nights Festival/Scarlet Sails, St.Petersburg, Russia: end of June
Scarlet Sails is just one part of the white nights festival, including spectacular fireworks, concerts, and a mock battle among pirates in boats on the Neva River.
18. Food and Wine Classic, Aspen, Colorado: June
Participate in food and wine tasting, and watch cooking demonstrations, speakers, and a cooking competition. You need to buy a ticket.
19. San Fermin Festival, Pamplona, Spain: July
There are many events including folkloric ones, but the most famous is the running of the bull.
20. Pflasterspektakel, Austria: July
A huge street art festival with all kinds of crazy performances.
21. Music City, Nashville, Tenessee, USA: July 4
One of the biggest 4th of July festivals, with fireworks and country music.
22. La Tomatina, Buñol, Spain: Last Wednesday in August
The whole point of this festival is to throw tomatoes at people. Yeah. Its awesome.
23. Obon Fesitval, Japan: August
Families release floating lanterns into the water to represent their ancestors’ spirits being sent off.
24. Gay Pride Parade, Amsterdam, Netherlands: first weekend of August
A huge gay pride festival, include a canal parade down the river on boats.
25. Burning Man, Black Rock Desert, Nevada, USA: Last Monday of August- first Monday of September
A major, amazing festival where a self-relient community of radical art, self expression, and awesomeness is created and removed without a trace one week each year.
26. Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany: Late September-first weekend in October
One word: beer. This festival is now held all around the world. It is an important part of Bavarian culture.
27. Grape Throwing Festival, Mallorca, Spain: last weekend in September
Throw huge amount of grapes at people and participate in other fun events.
28. Fantasy Fest, Key West, Florida: last week of October
A colorful parade and parties in the notoriously liberal town of Key West.
29. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, New Mexico: early October
Over 750 hot air balloons take to the skies, some are illuminated at night, and some are uniquely shaped.
30. Halloween Festival of the Dead, Salem, Massachusetts, USA: end of October
Costume balls, vampire masquerades, psychic fairs and ghost hunting make Salem one of the top Halloween destinations.
31. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, New York, USA: 4th Thursday of November
Giant balloons shaped like characters, as well as floats, bands, and entertainment, are paraded around New York city.
32. Monkey Buffet Festival, Lopburi, Thailand: end of November
The point of this festival is to give fruits and vegetables to monkeys and attract tourism. It works.
33. Junkanoo, Nassau, Bahamas: December 26 & January 1
A street festival with art, music, culture, elaborate costumes, and a parade, to bring in the new year.
34. Full Moon Party, Haad Rin, Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand: the night before or after every full moon
Like something straight from a movie, 20-30,000 people gather each full moon to spend the night partying on a beach and doing wild events like fire rope skipping.
35. Olympic Games: summer or winter every other year
Thousands of athletes from around the world participate in a variety of sports. The opening ceremony is always a spectacle. If you don’t know what the Olympics are… well, lets not go there.
Be sure to share your experience with us in the comments if you have participated in any of the festivals listed.