One of the things that connects every culture around the world is that we all love to celebrate. And just like traditional food, drinks or clothing, festivals around the globe are as diverse and colorful as it gets. There are common celebrations like Christmas that have become an integral part of global pop culture. And then there are events that are mind-blowing but, at the same time, hardly known beyond borders. We have explored all the most extraordinary festivals around the world – big and small – and collected them here for you. Which ones have you experienced already and which go right onto your bucket list? Let’s take a look!
As an integral part of Catalonian culture, Castells can be found in town squares across the region. In this extraordinary team sport, so-called Castellers build swaying human towers up to ten levels into the air! It is a tradition that participants pass down generation by generation. At the same time, all generations are involved as the teams range from older sturdy men to lightweight children. Join the crowd in cheering for the courageous tower builders and hope they don’t collapse.
Boryeong Mud Festival
This mad annual summer event happens at one of the largest and most popular beaches in South Korea. As the name implies, the entire festival is all about mud and its cleansing and healing effects. There are lots of fun and somewhat crazy activities for adults and children alike. Jump into the ring and start a mud fight or take it easy with a relaxing massage with the grey sediment.
Up Helly Aa
Every year in late January, Scotland’s Shetland Islands host an extraordinary fire festival. Known by the unusual name of Up Helly Aa, this traditional celebration is a true once-in-a-lifetime spectacle which summits in the burning of a grand Viking boat. Prepare for scenes that could be right out of a historic epic!
Harbin Ice Festival
Winter in China’s far northeast has something very special on offer. Visitors to the economic hub of Harbin can dive into an entire city of ice and snow. The Harbin Ice Festival awaits with the most breathtaking ice sculptures and fun snow activities for young and old. Just wait for the sun to set and you won’t cease to be amazed!
Originally, Songkran marked the Thai New Year. Today, the turn of the year has been moved to a different event, but Songkran stays as popular and important as ever. The highlight for locals and visitors alike is the water festival which roots in the traditional background of cleansing. In many cities, major streets are closed to traffic and are used as arenas for water fights. Join the fun and get soaked!
As the world’s largest public festival, the sheer size of Oktoberfest saves it a well-deserved spot on this list. In 2018, the fair attracted more than six million visitors who consumed almost eight million liters of beer! While there are similar, smaller events across the world by now, the original German beer festival takes place in Munich, Bavaria. Put on a Dirndl or Lederhosen, get a liter of beer and join the party!
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Inti Raymi is an annual celebration in Cusco, the capital of the ancient Inca Empire. In the original festivities, Andean people praised their creator, sun god Inti, with colorful dances, processions and golden Chicha. Also sacrifices of animals or even children were given to him as a sign of gratefulness. Today, theatrical performances have replaced the original ceremony. Yet, it keeps being as fabulous and important as ever – for locals as well as for tourists.
The wandering festival or sport, known as Pacu Jawi, happens in different regions in West Sumatra, Indonesia. In a competition, coupled cows run along a muddy field of about 20-30 meters. A jockey steers the two cows with his hands on the cows’ tails and his feet on a wooden contraption that bind the cows together. It is a courageous and exceptional event like no other that you will surely not see anywhere else in the world.
Noche De Rábanos
The Night of the Radishes is a yearly festival that takes place during Christmas time in Oaxaca, Mexico. In this Christmas tradition, people create figures from carved radish and let them compete against each other. Whether it is biblical scenes or objects from everyday life, the creations are highly delicate and cute at the same time. Quite a unique way of celebration the holy days in December!
Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling & Wake
At this extraordinary annual event in England, up to 5000 participants run after a rolling Double Gloucester cheese which zooms down the steep Cooper’s Hill. Participating is definitely not for the faint of heart as people often stumble and “fly” down the hill in their thirst for catching the cheese. So, you might be better off standing on the sides, watching the spectacle from a safe space.
Fête Du Citron
Just before the beginning of spring, during carnival season, thousands of lemons, oranges, grapefruits and tangerines make for a gorgeous festival in the south of France. At Fête du Citron, citrus fruits are in the center of attention and form huge yellow and orange masterpieces. Every year a different theme enchants visitors from near and far.
Every year in late August, a silly crowd comes together in the streets of Valencia, Spain, for a mad festival. Thousands of participants throw tons of over-ripe tomatoes at each other until everything is completely covered in tomato sauce. It is almost like starting a snow fight – just with the delicious red fruits instead. So if you want to feel like a kid again and not care about the mess, this is your event!
You think there is an out-of-this-world, breathtaking, ultra-fun, extraordinary festival missing on this list? Get in touch and let us know – we always love some new inspiration!
Photos by davNava, Jirka Matousek, Nyall & Maryanne, David Little, Hans Domjan, Ikhvan, nedim chaabene, Saskia Heijltjes, Drew Leavy, Roman Boed, Wyndham Hollis