28 Cultural Festivals Around the World You Don’t Want to Miss

28 Cultural Festivals Around the World You Don’t Want to Miss

28 Cultural Festivals Around the World You Don’t Want to Miss

Blog69_CulturalFestivals_GirlsSummerFestival-300x200 28 Cultural Festivals Around the World You Don’t Want to MissInteracting with local people in a foreign place is one of the most transformational experiences one can have while traveling. What better way to truly get insight into a new culture than to spend time with those who live it day in and day out, accompanying them in their daily activities? One fun way to get to know locals and to participate in their traditions alongside them is to attend cultural festivals. There is a wealth of cultural festivals that take place all over the world, all of which have the incredible power to bring together locals and visitors alike. Cultural festivals are unique experiences that can never truly be replicated outside their place of origin. Attending a local cultural festival is sure to make your next travel experience an unforgettable one. As you plan your next trip, consider making one of the following annual cultural festivals a part of it.


Blog69_CulturalFestivals_Dhol-300x200 28 Cultural Festivals Around the World You Don’t Want to MissLohri (Punjab, India): Lohri is a celebration of the end of the winter season and a way of welcoming the sun. It is a festival of harvest where the farmers thank the Supreme Being for the crops they will get to enjoy. Two to three days before the festival, children go from door to door singing traditional songs, including verses praising the legendary Dulla Bhatti, who is said to have plundered rich communities and distribute what he collected to the poor and needy. As the children go door to door, they ask for Lorhi treats. This is akin to trick-or-treating in the United States. In addition to treats, some houses will also offer money as part of the festivities. On Lohri, a bonfire is held in open space, and the people assemble and offer the treats they collected to the fire as a way of thanking the Supreme Being. They then get to enjoy what remains. As the people gather around the bonfire, they sing and dance to traditional folk songs and enjoy traditional foods.

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Harbin Ice and Snow Festival

Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival (Harbin, China): During the world’s largest ice festival, you will find the biggest intricately designed sculptures and even buildings made entirely of ice. The beauty of the ice can make the bitter cold just a little more bearable. At night, you can enjoy Ice and Snow World, where colorful lights illuminate full-sized buildings made of ice blocks taken from the river. Other activities include alpine skiing, ice lantern exhibitions, and even swimming the river’s frigid waters—definitely not for the faint of heart.

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Up Helly Aa Fire Festival

Up Helly Aa Fire Festival (Lerwick, Scotland): This festival involves a series of marches and visitations, culminating in a torch-lit procession. At the end of the procession, the torches are thrown into a replica Viking longship or galley, representing the burning of the galley. This is followed by hours of performances and dancing in halls all throughout the city.


Battle of the Oranges (Ivrea, Italy): Get ready for Italy’s largest food fight! Dating back to the 19th century occupation of France in Italy, the festival involves the throwing of oranges between organized groups. Brace yourselves!

Blog69_CulturalFestivals_Samba-300x200 28 Cultural Festivals Around the World You Don’t Want to MissCarnival (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil): Though all cities in Brazil have their own version of the Carnival celebration, the one in Rio is perhaps the most famous. Preceding the period of fasting ad abstinence during Lent, Carnival celebrations involve parades of samba dancers, large parties, and loud and colorful street processions featuring vibrant and creative floats and costumes. At the end of the festival, spectators gather at Sambadrome watch the top 12 samba schools compete for a grand prize. During Carnival, you’ll find about 2 million people on the streets each day.

Blog69_CulturalFestivals_Chinatown-300x169 28 Cultural Festivals Around the World You Don’t Want to MissChinese New Year (China): Also known as the Spring Festival, Chinese New Year is one of the most important holidays in China. You will find the cities decorated with red, particularly red lanterns, representing prosperity. Highlights of the celebration include a reunion dinner with the family, midnight fireworks and firecrackers, exchanges of red envelopes containing money, and street performances of lion dances and dragon dances.

Verona Love Festival (Verona, Italy): No city does Valentine’s Day quite like Verona! The streets are decorated with hearts, lights, and other red-tinted trinkets. Throughout the day, you can enjoy exhibitions, activities, concerts, foods, and aphrodisiacs all over this romantic city.


Blog69_CulturalFestivals_MardiGras-300x200 28 Cultural Festivals Around the World You Don’t Want to MissMardi Gras (New Orleans, LA): Mardi Gras, which precedes Lent, is similar to Rio’s Carnival festival. NOLA’s streets are covered in color during Mardi Gras, during which time you’ll see beaded necklaces being thrown and dancers decked out in their glamorous garb jamming to the music. Some hallmarks of Mardi Gras include shimmering face masks, king’s cake, and of course, alcohol.

Blog69_CulturalFestivals_Holi-300x200 28 Cultural Festivals Around the World You Don’t Want to MissHoli (India): Holi is the Festival of Colors, which celebrates the arrival of spring. It is thought to have originated as a celebration of the victory of good over evil. In addition to music, dancing, food, and drinks, the most prominent part of the festival is gathering in the streets and throwing colored powders and paints at one another. So definitely plan on wearing something white that you don’t mind getting covered in color! Some Holi celebrations also include water guns and water balloons.

Falles (Valencia, Spain): This festival originates from the burning of leftover wood from carpentry shops in Valencia. Falles, or large wooden sculptures, are designed with satirical or cultural themes in mind and are burned on the last day of the party. The festival also features a beautiful flower offering and a breathtaking fireworks spectacle on the River Turia.


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King’s Day crowd in Netherlands, Amersterdam

King’s Day (Netherlands): Konigsdag, or King’s Day, commemorates the birth of King Willem-Alexander. One of the best-known features of the festival is the nationwide free market, where the Dutch sell their secondhand items. There is also an official government celebration followed by a variety of sporting competitions and other fun, family-friendly activities. And of course, no King’s Day is complete without at least some alcohol. On King’s Day, you’ll find the Dutch decked out in orange—the national color. Many might even go as far as dying their hair orange for the festivities!

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Songkran Festival

Songkran (Thailand): Songkran is probably the world’s largest water fight, and is one of the most important public holidays in Thailand. It is a celebration of the Thai New Year and the end of the dry season. The Thai will grab water guns, hoses, buckets of water—whatever they can get their hands on—and start splashing. Even the elephants will get in on the fun! Beware—the Thai love to target the tourists with ice-cold water, so dress for the occasion. Songkran might be one of the coolest activities to be part of when in Thailand (pun totally intended)!

Vaisakhi (Punjab, India): Vaisakhi is the holiest day of the year for the Sikhs and commemorates the first-ever Sikh baptism ceremony. It is also the day that the farmers celebrate the arrival of spring and express gratitude for the crops. Sikhs will attend their local Gurdwaras (places of worship) for special services. Many cities also have fairs with food, drink, music, and traditional folk dancing.


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May Day (United Kingdom): May Day is a celebration of the beginning of summer. Customs include decorating one’s house with flowers, traditional Morris dancing, the crowning of a May Queen (representing Flora, the Roman goddess of fruits and flowers), and dancing around a Maypole.

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Vesak (Sri Lanka): Vesak is the celebration of Buddha’s birthday. Though it is celebrated in many Asian countries, the week-long celebration in Sri Lanka is considered one of the best. One of the features of the festival is massive structures covered with colorful lights and paintings, each designed to illustrate an important story from the Buddha’s life. People also hang colorful lanterns in front of their homes to represent the light of the Buddha. Food stalls are set up around the cities where free food and drinks are provided, and groups of people can be found singing devotional songs.


Blog69_CulturalFestivals_Wine-300x200 28 Cultural Festivals Around the World You Don’t Want to MissBordeaux Wine Festival (Bordeaux, France): This four-day festival is a gastronome’s delight! Taking place on the banks of Garonne in the largest square in Europe, over 300,000 people gather to enjoy good food, good wine, and culture—a true celebration of the senses.


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Boryeong Mud Festival

Boryeong Mud Festival (Boryeong, South Korea): This festival was born as a real-life advertisement for a cosmetics company whose products featured mud from the Boryeong mud flats as their main ingredient. They didn’t want to spend money on commercials, so instead they gave potential customers a chance to feel the benefits of the mud firsthand. From then on, the tradition just stuck (yes, pun intended). Activities include mud slides, mud pools, a mud prison, and mud skiing. Non-muddy activities include live music, acupuncture, and a fireworks display.

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Running of the Bulls at San Fermin Festival

San Fermin Festival (Pamplona, Spain): The most famous feature of the San Fermin Festival is the Running of the Bulls. The practice involves running in front of a small group of bulls (usually a dozen) who have been let loose on a course of a sectioned-off subset of the town’s streets. As a warning, between 200 and 300 people get injured each year, though most injuries are not serious. Think you’re up for the challenge?


Blog69_CulturalFestivals_DesertFestival-300x232 28 Cultural Festivals Around the World You Don’t Want to MissBurning Man (Black Rock Desert, Nevada): Burning Man is a celebration of art, music, freedom, human expression, creativity, and self-reliance. About 48,000 people gather annually to create art and express their individuality. Activities include non-stop dancing, partying, and unique art installations. The festival culminates in the burning of a large wooden effigy. The madness of this party is one that has to be experienced firsthand to be truly understood.

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La Tomatina

La Tomatina (Buñol, Spain): We’ve got another giant food fight! This festival was born in 1944 when two young men started throwing tomatoes as a form of political protest. Ever since, the tradition has carried on purely for fun and enjoyment. Of course, rules have been put in place to make sure the festivities don’t get too out of hand. The tomato fight generally lasts about an hour. Afterwards, a firetruck comes and hoses down the city, which by this point is covered in tomato debris. However, the partying continues even after the tomato fight is over.


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Oktoberfest (Munich, Germany): Over 5 million people flock to Munich every year to attend this 16-18-day festival. Basically, Oktoberfest is 2-3 weeks of nonstop beer drinking. It is an important part of Bavarian culture that has been celebrated since the Middle Ages. This is a festival that beer lovers do not want to miss!


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Nuit Blanche

Nuit Blanche (Paris, France): This cultural initiative was born in 2002 was a way to bring contemporary artistic creation to the people and to encourage them to engage in a night of exchanging experiences. Art lovers will enjoy the opportunity to participate in Nuit Blanche.

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Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (Albuquerque, New Mexico): Watch about 750 hot air balloons be let off into the sky, painting it with their vibrant colors and designs. In addition to breathtaking hot air balloon displays, the festival also includes light shows and laser shows. It is a spectacle not to be missed.

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Diwali (India): Diwali is the Festival of Lights. It is a celebration of good conquering evil and light conquering dark. Diwali festivals involve people decorating their homes with bright lights. Shops and public spaces are also decked out in lights. In addition, fireworks displays are put on.


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Day of the Dead costume

Day of the Dead (Mexico): Day of the Dead is a day to honor ancestors and loved ones who have passed in order to help them on their spiritual journey. Family and friends gather and decorate their homes with flowers, candles, incense, and sugar skulls. They also build private altars with photos of the dead, sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods of those being honored. People will also visit the graves of their loved ones and leave gifts or beloved possessions. Parades and processions also take place on the street, and dressing in costumes is customary.

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Yi Peng Lantern Festival

Yi Peng Lantern Festival (Chiang Mai, Thailand): During this festival, thousands of paper lanterns are set free into the sky. This tradition represents letting go of any negative feelings or misfortunes from the year. During this time, you will find the streets packed with vendors, parades, and of course, lanterns.


Blog69_CulturalFestivals_Gurdwara-300x200 28 Cultural Festivals Around the World You Don’t Want to MissGurpurab (Punjab, India): Gurpurab is a Sikh celebration that honors the birth of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. Gurpurab typically involves a visit to the Gurdwara (the Sikh place of worship) for special services. There is also a street procession in which the Sikh flag and the Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh holy book) are held in a palanquin. During the procession, people sing Sikh hymns. Some processions also include a traditional Sikh martial arts performance. The streets are usually decorated with flowers and Sikh flags.


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Whirling Dervishes

Mevlâna Festival (Konya, Turkey): Also known as the Whirling Dervish Festival, this event commemorates the death of the poet Mevlâna, more commonly known as Rumi. Features of the festival include sacred music and Whirling Dervish dancing in their flowing white robes. Over a million people attend each year.


Blog69_CulturalFestivals_GirlOnComputerBed-300x169 28 Cultural Festivals Around the World You Don’t Want to MissWhat are your favorite cultural festivals? Tell us about them in the comments below, or better yet, share your experiences on Konversai! Konversai is a global knowledge platform that brings together providers of knowledge and seekers of knowledge from anywhere about any subject imaginable, all through one-on-one live video sessions. Konversai was founded on the premise that no matter who you are, where you’re from, or what your circumstances in life are, you have valuable knowledge, skills, and experiences to share that can benefit somebody elsewhere in the world. All users are encouraged to be both knowledge providers and knowledge seekers on any and as many topics as they wish. Knowledge providers have the option of charging as much as they wish for their time. If they don’t need the money, they can hold sessions for free or donate their earnings to a charity of their choice. Meanwhile, knowledge seekers can enjoy a personalized session with an actual human being on exactly what they’re looking to learn on a given topic. Konversai’s mission is to democratize knowledge, put the human connection back into technology, and make the world better by enabling meaningful and authentic conversations that can improve people’s lives. Whether you’re on Konversai as a knowledge provider or knowledge seeker, you are sure to leave a session on the platform feeling enriched. Get started on Konversai today!

By Pavita Singh


  1. Day Zero. Top 50 Festivals & Cultural Events
  2. Delaqua, Victor. (2017). 10 Traditional Festivals Around the World: A Good Excuse to See New Architecture. Arch Daily.
  3. Faustino, Anna. (2017). Festivals Around the World That You Have to Experience. Adventure in You.
  4. Green Globe Travel. 20 Best Festivals in the World (for Your World Travel Bucket List).
  5. 22 Breathtaking Festivals Around the World That You Must See Before You Die. Emii.
  6. Marcotte, Rina. 11 Cool Cultural Festivals Around the World. Escape Here.



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