Best Top 30 Festivals And Events Around The World
Festival planning usually takes some advance legwork, as cities and towns can get booked up over a year in advance. Last-minute accommodation, if indeed there is any, usually gets snatched up several days before the event. But the extra effort it takes to attend a festival is almost always worthwhile. There are thousands to choose from. In some, you can participate, in some the spectators become part of the spectacle whether they want to or not, but the exuberance is nearly always palpable. There are Best Top 30 Festivals And Events Around The World.
Great Migration Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. When a million wildebeest do anything together, it’s pretty exciting to watch. Add 18,000 eland, about 200,000 zebras and up to half a million Thompson’s gazelles. Now throw in a few crocodile-infested rivers that must be crossed and hundreds of hungry lions, and it gets really interesting. People pour in from around the globe to see this moving smorgasbord migrate, with hot-air balloons providing great lookouts for highly inflated prices. May to early June.
Burning Man Project Black Rock Desert, Nevada, USA. This pop-pagan, postapocalyptic gathering of 48,000-plus “burners” (gun-wielding prophets, nude chainsaw jugglers and so on) has only one stated mission: to burn a giant wooden thing that, even in poor lighting, only barely looks like a man. Aug/Sept.
Carnaval Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, Brazil. Carnaval is huge in all of South America, but these two are the biggest shows of all. You get a choice: you can watch the world’s most colourful parade in Rio (two days, starting around 7 pm and lasting until 5 am), after which you’ll never look at Liberace or Zsa Zsa Gabor the same way again. Or you can samba away three kilos a night dancing down the streets behind giant trucks loaded with speakers in Salvador. Feb/March (the week prior to Ash Wednesday).
Day of the Dead Oaxaca, Mexico. There may not be life after death, but there’s at least a party. The line between the breathing and the buried gets chucked aside for a day so the deceased can come out and play, complete with skeleton costumes and graveside bashes. Oct–Nov.
Greenwich Village Halloween Parade New York, USA. If you think New Yorkers are frightening in the daylight, check this out. The freak show gets even freakier during Halloween with over 50,000 kooks and spooks and two million spectators. Oct 31.
Junkanoo Nassau, Bahamas. Even Santa takes a back seat at this Christmas-time Caribbean-beat blowout. Bring a whistle, cowbell or anything else that makes noise. Dec 26 & Jan 1.
Mardi Gras New Orleans, USA. Good times have been rolling here since 1699. Even the mayhem of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 couldn’t stop this mother of all American street fests, a bacchanalian party with parades that begin on January 6 (Epiphany) and build to a feverish pitch that culminates on Shrove Tuesday. Feb–March (the week prior to Ash Wednesday).
Monarch Butterfly Migration Angangueo, Mexico. With 100–250 million monarchs attending, it’s likely the most spectacular convention of insects in the world. There’s a butterfly carpet everywhere you look, and orange and black clouds in the middle of the day. The deep shade of the oyamel fir trees in the forests outside Mexico City lure these beasties from as far as 2000 miles away. Dec to mid-March.
New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival New Orleans, USA. Ten days of mindbending jazz, funk, gospel, blues, zydeco, folk and bluegrass – 4000 musicians-worth of it – plus great food. April–May.
New Year’s Eve Party Times Square, New York, USA. Wanna see a 500-pound ball slide down a pole? Sing Auld Lang Syne out of tune with half a million people? You may risk getting crushed to the size of this book but that’s a small price to pay. More interesting than watching it on TV with 300 million others, anyway. Key West, Florida, offers an alternative crowd. Dec 31, arrive early.
Full Moon Party Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand. Possibly the best-known travellers’ party on the planet – so infamous, in fact, its popularity has waned in recent years. With twelve raves per year, it’s hard to miss. Howl at the moon, bark or just dance yourself into a trance. Thousands of lamps (and the odd fire-eater) illuminate the beach until sunrise. Monthly.
Holi Festival Northern and eastern India. Welcome to the festival of flying colours. Powder dyes are dumped off balconies or playfully thrown at you from ground level (ears, nose, mouth… no orifice is safe from the technicolour assault). Feb–March during the full moon.
International Dragon Boat Championships Hong Kong. Paddle power propels the participants (fuelled with traditional pyramid-shaped zongzi dumplings) as they pull through the waters just off Hong Kong in 11.6m boats. The boats have been battling for over 2000 years to commemorate the suicide drowning of the poet-politician, Qu Yuan. The festival is tied to the lunar calendar, so check for dates. June.
Naadam Festival Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Sometimes called the Mongolian Olympics, Naadam focuses on three main events: wrestling, archery and horse racing. Throw in some folk dancing and fermented mare’s milk, and you’ve got yourself a festival. July.
Pushkar Camel Fair Pushkar, India. If you ever need to get your hands on 30,000 camels, this is the place to go. In addition to the camel swap, there are races, camel polo matches and other events, but people-watching plays a big role as the town’s population increases by 2000 percent during the week. Nov.
Beer Can Regatta Darwin, Australia. Would-be yachtsmen can chug their way to the rank of captain in no time at this event: a coupling of aggressive drinking and aggressive sailing for the sake of charity. What more could you want from a pseudo-sporting event? Third Sunday of July.
Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Sydney, Australia. Gays, bis, straights and synthetic fibres are all warmly welcome as the gay and lesbian pride hits the streets, maximum exposure being the order of the day. Feb–March.
Ascot Races Berkshire, England. You can bet on the horses, but keep your eyes on the pompon parade. Morning suits for men and formal dresses for women, not to mention hats of all sorts, from those with the shade coverage of a patio parasol to dainty little numbers not much bigger than a cinnamon roll. The third week of June, Tues–Sat.
Carnevale Venice, Italy. A decadent renaissance festival, pyjama party and three-day rager against the backdrop of the world’s most picturesque sinking city. The costumes are as elaborate as they are expensive. And guess what? They’re for sale. Feb–March (the week prior to Ash Wednesday).
Cooper’s Hill Cheese Roll Brockworth, England. People have been chasing a cheese down a sixty-degree slope here for over 200 years. Most tumble in a blur of legs, hands and dislocated shoulders all the way to the bottom. Don’t worry, there are plenty of ambulances standing by. Last Mon in May.
Glastonbury Music Festival Glastonbury, England. The biggest jam-fest in the UK. Performers on the three main stages have included Oasis, Paul McCartney, James Brown and a full cast of platinum-selling album holders. On the fringe of the concert, you’ll find market stalls (over 600 of them) offering everything from goat meat to henna tattoos. Not enough? Check out the freak show or help make a giant rhino out of the mud. Late June.
Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Tournament Edirne, Turkey. Smear yourself with oil and wrestle for a camel and stack of cash? Believe it or not, it’s been a winning formula for 600 years and it’s still going. Over 1000 contestants sign up every year. July 5–11.
Oktoberfest Munich, Germany. Just grab a seat and a frothy “mas” and start slidin’ back the brew. The atmosphere (fourteen tents with a combined capacity of almost 100,000 happy drinkers) makes the beer taste even better. But don’t be fooled by the name; most of the event takes place in September. Sept-Oct.
The Palio Siena, Italy. With bribes, religion and dirty tricks, this horse race is straight out of the Middle Ages. To be precise, 1147. Riders representing Siena’s different neighbourhoods battle and race around the town square for three laps. Medical personnel are on alert for both riders and horses. The party starts for days before each of the two big races. July 2 and Aug 16.
Paris Air Show France. You don’t need to be on the market for your own private F-15 to attend. The public, 300,000 of them, turn out to see new models unveiled and flown every other year on the spot Charles Lindbergh first landed. It’s the biggest air show going. June (odd-numbered years only).
Running of the Bulls Pamplona, Spain. People have been testing out their insurance policies at this event for years. Eight days of drinking, revelling in the streets and, oh yes, attempting to avoid stampeding bulls on a narrow, winding, cobblestoned street armed with nothing more than a pair of tennis shoes and a hangover. (Two days before, animal activists stage a “Running of the Nudes” in protest.) July.
St Patrick’s Day Dublin, Ireland. If you’re not in green, you’d better have a good excuse. And a hangover that makes you feel green doesn’t count. There’s everything from Skyfest, an enormous fireworks display, to a treasure hunt that has families scurrying around the city. The full week of craic culminates with half a million lining the streets for Ireland’s biggest parade. March 12–17.
La Tomatina Buñol, Spain. Ingredients: one small town that produces cement, one town plaza, 30,000 lunatics (mostly drunk) and 40,000 kilos of tomatoes. Mix aggressively for one hour or until the town is sufficiently red, then rinse at a local watering hole. Aug.
Whirling Dervish Festival Konya, Turkey. The famed Whirling Dervishes spin their way closer to God only once a year, but the celebrations last a week. The dizzying ceremonial dance is accompanied with drums, flutes and camera shutters. Dec.
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— Sunil Nain