Best cultural festivals around the world

Festivals are a great way to explore new places and immerse yourself in a culture which is not necessarily close to your own.

April 2020 • Jules Verne

Best cultural festivals around the world

We have select some of our favourite cultural festivals from around the world which celebrate culture and heritage through lights, bright colors, and music.

  • Carnival - Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Considered “the greatest show on Earth”, Brazil’s Carnival attracts nearly 5 million people each year. The first records of Carnival festivities in Rio de Janeiro date back to 1723! The festival occurs in February or March, 5 days before lent begins. With lively music, plenty of colour and fantastic dance shows, it is an impressive spectacle.

  • Harbin International Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival - Harbin, China

The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival is an annual winter festival and now is the largest ice and snow festival in the world. The official opening ceremony is usually held on 5th January each year, and the festival includes many interesting activities and events, such as an ice lantern show, sliding, ice-sailing, sledging, ice hockey, ice football, speed skating, cross-field skiing and more.

  • La Tomatina - Valencia, Spain

La Tomatina is a food fight festival held on the last Wednesday of August each year in the town of Buñol, near to Valencia in Spain. Many trucks haul the huge supplies of tomatoes into the centre of the town, Plaza del Pueblo, and when the cannon sounds everyone grabs tomatoes and starts throwing. It’s everyone for themselves!

Celebrating The Day of the Dead has a long history in Mexican tradition. The holiday is about getting together with friends and family to remember and celebrate ancestors who have died in order to help them on their spiritual journey. Specific celebrations of the holiday differ from region to region, with some towns holding lively parades and celebrations, while others keep it a more subdued affair.

The King’s official birthday (King’s Day - Koningsdag) in the Netherlands is celebrated each year with parties, street markets, concerts and special events for the royal family on 27th April. Each year, the royal family visits one or a few places on King’s Day. They are entertained with displays and performances around local historic events. 

Songkran comes from a Sanskrit word meaning ‘passing’ or ‘approaching’. This water festival, which occurs on 13th April each year, is an important event in the Buddhist calendar and marks the beginning of the traditional Thai New Year. The first day of the festival is a huge celebration with processions of Buddha images taking place throughout the country. In more recent times the throwing of water has become a main part of the annual celebrations with water pistols, water bombs and buckets being used.

  • Fes Festival of World Sacred Music - Fes, Morocco

This festival started 25 years ago and it advocates music as a means of promoting dialogue and harmony between civilisations. Performances occur throughout the days and evening concerts are held at Bab al Makina, the open-air parade ground in front of the Royal Palace. 

  • World Sacred Spirit Festival - Jodhpur, India

Each February, the World Sacred Spirit Festival brings together musicians from all over the world to celebrate the different forms of sacred art from music and chant to dance and poetry. This festival takes place in the prestigious sites of Ahhichatragarh in Nagaur and Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur. 

Holi, the Hindu “Festival of Colours” is celebrated to mark the arrival of spring and to signify the victory of good over evil. In Hinduism, the colours of the rainbow are all symbolic and this festival uses lots of colours - revellers tend to cover each other in coloured powder and water.

  • Mevlana Festival - Konya, Turkey

For eleven days, the Turkish city of Konya hosts the Whirling Dervishes Festival. Thousands of people will gather to commemorate the life and teachings of the 13th-century Persian poet and Sufi mystic Rumi – also known as Mevlana. The festival is full of Sufi dance and music ceremonies. The Sema rituals include trancelike whirling, a form of physically active meditation that is famous for its fast, controlled spinning. 

One of Papua New Guinea’s most important tribal events, the Mount Hagen Cultural Show, provides an incredible opportunity to discover the tribal diversity of this country. Each August tribes from all over the country gather in Hagen in an amazing conglomeration of colour, beauty and culture to reveal the most exciting sing-sings (cultural presentations) involving traditional performances and rituals.