Must-See festivals and cultural events around the world

Time your holiday with a popular festival or event and you are in for a truly unique experience. Some of the festivals I’m sure you will have heard of such as Rio de Janeiro Carnival and Chinese New Year but you may just discover something new to add to your bucket list- Boryeong Mud Festival anyone? You don’t have to go halfway around the world. The UK also has plenty of festivals and cultural events to get stuck into.

Take a look at some of the most unique and fantastic celebrations from all around the world…

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, China. January 5th-February 5th

Harbin Ice Festival

This festival displays some of the most stunning sculptures built out of ice and snow. In the night these sculptures are decorated with lights and lasers bringing them to life. As well as the festival Harbin offers dog sledding, ice hotels, Siberian tiger watching and winter swimming.


Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), Mexico. November 2nd

Dia De Los Muertos

Friends and family celebrate loved ones who have died. The day is a national holiday in Mexico and traditions include parades, building private altars, visiting graves and honouring those who have passed by using sugar skulls, marigolds and the favourite foods and drink of loved ones.


Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany. First week of October


Oktoberfest is the biggest beer festival in the world and runs for 16 days every year from the first week of October.  More than 6 million people attend every year from all over the world to sample beer out of the famous large Bavarian beer glasses. Men and Women also dress up in traditional Bavarian clothing.


The Rio de Janeiro Carnival, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. February/March

Carnival Rio De Janeiro

One of the most well-known carnivals in the world the Rio de Janeiro Carnival has 2 million people per day on its streets. The parade is filled with floats, drums and samba dancers dressed in colourful costumes. Lots of vibrant street parties also happen around this time.


Up Helly Aa Fire Festival, Scotland. Last Tuesday of January.

Up Helly Ya Festival Scotland

This festival takes place in Shetland and includes a day of marches. The last march is a torch lit procession where a galley is burned. This is then followed by performers and dancing. The main guizer is named the Jarl, to be named a Jarl the person must be part of the organisation for 15 years and it is considered an honour to be named one.


Boryeong Mud Festival, South Korea. During the summer.

Boryeong Mud Festival

This festival was started by a Korean cosmetics company as a marketing campaign. As Boryeong Mud is featured heavily in their products they decided to create a festival for everyone to see the benefits. Festival goers can enjoy mud pools, mud slides and mud skiing as well as acupuncture, live music and firework displays.


La Tomatina, Buñol, Spain. Last Wednesday in August.

Tomato Festival Spain

For one day a year, Bunol in Spain becomes a giant tomato fight. Slide down tomato filled slides, grab some tomatoes and join in with the fun. Giant water showers follow the fight to help everyone de-tomato afterwards.


Oxford Literary Festival, England. March

Oxford Literary Festival

This annual literary festival is where visitors can meet and listen to authors as well as experts from a variety of different backgrounds. Topics covered in these talks include literature, politics, history, philosophy, economics, science, travel, environment and religion.


Holi Festival, India. Springtime

Holi Festival

Holi is a spring festival which is also known as the festival of colours. This ancient Hindu festival begins with a Holika bonfire the night before where people traditionally gather round and sing and dance. The next morning coloured water and powder is thrown around as people chase each other. Drums and musical instruments are also played.


Chinese New Year, China. February

Chinese New Year

The biggest Chinese holiday filled with dragons, fireworks, flowers and lanterns. The celebrations traditionally run from the last day in the Chinese calendar right up until the lantern festival making it the longest festival in the Chinese calendar.


Il Palio, Italy. July and August

Il Palio Italy

This adrenaline filled event involves bareback horseracing through the Piazza del Campo. The race features 17 different competitors with a jockey representing each of Siena’s neighbourhoods. The race only lasts around 90 seconds and the rest of the day is spent celebrating.


Diwali, India. October or November


This five day festival also known as the festival of lights is celebrated in India and all over the world. Homes in India are lit with lamps and candles to ward off the darkness of evil.  This is also a good time for people to spring clean their homes and forget about any feuds in the past. Firecrackers are also set off to celebrate this event.


Monkey Buffet Festival, Thailand. November

Monkey Buffet Festival

The Monkey Buffet Festival in Thailand was set up by a local business man to improve tourism in the province of Lopburi. Thousands of visitors come to see the monkeys enjoy the 4000 kilograms of fruits and vegetables set in front of temples for them. Many children dress up as monkeys for the festival and Monkey sculptures are set up around the area.

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