There are hundreds of unique festivals celebrated around the world for religious, cultural, historical and nonsensical reasons. Each one, from the small local celebrations to the huge festivities that bring locals and tourists alike to a region, offers an incredible experience.
You could spend years visiting the best festivals in the world. We suggest you start by adding these famous gatherings to your festival bucket list for a year of film, music, religious celebrations and history lessons.
January: Harbin International Snow and Ice Festival
Start the year with the illuminated sculptures carved from ice harvested from the nearby Songhua River. Pack your parka, because this festival is just as cold as it is beautiful; temperatures can be as low as -11 °F (-24 °C).
February: Mardi Gras
New Orleans, United States
The days just before the start of the Lenten season are celebrated around the globe, most notably with Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venice. Of course, there’s also New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, which has turned the French celebration of Boeuf Gras into a very American affair.
Jaipur and Udaipur, India
Holi is a Hindu festival honoring Krishna, the source of the world’s spiritual energy, with colorful clothing, powders and water. Holi is celebrated throughout India, but some of the most energetic festivals are in Jaipur and Udaipur, where there are parades, competitions and elephant races.
April: King’s Day
Join Amsterdam’s celebration of King Willem-Alexander, who serves within the Dutch government as monarch, for one of the world’s largest street parties. You’ll be treated to music, markets, street performers and a lot of orange (the national color).
May: Cannes Film Festival
You don’t need an excuse to visit Cannes, but the Cannes Film Festival is a good one. Watch some of the best movies in the world and catch a glimpse of industry stars before retiring to the beach and enjoying fine dining.
Almost half a million people gather to take in electronic music together in the small town of Boom, which has existed for half a dozen centuries. This circus-like festival is a community of its own and not one for the faint of heart.
July: White Nights Festival
Saint Petersburg, Russia
For a more refined festival experience, the White Nights Festival offers a beautiful lineup of ballet, opera and music ranging from pop to rock during the season of the midnight sun, or “white nights.”
August: Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Any performer can add themselves to the lineup at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, resulting in a wonderful collection of comedy, cabaret, puppeteers and so, so much more.
For more than 180 years, locals and tourists have gathered to celebrate under more than a dozen beer tents in Munich. What started as a celebration of a royal wedding is now a mecca for beer aficionados and music lovers.
October: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
Albuquerque, United States
Take in music, sky divers, car shows, fireworks and, most notably, hundreds of colorful hot air balloons. This is a family-friendly festival set against the stunning Sandia Mountains.
November: Día de los Muertos
Mexico City, Mexico
Passed friends and relatives are celebrated by Mexicans throughout the world. Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a colorful festival that combines Catholic All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day with indigenous beliefs. Mexico City’s celebration of loved ones spills onto the streets with parades, shrines and delicious food.
December: New Year’s Eve
One of the best fireworks displays in the world takes place during Sydney’s celebration of the New Year. Parties, performances and the Harbour of Light Parade lead up to the stunning pyrotechnic affair.