From tomato fights on the Spanish streets to fish fries in Lisbon and beer blowouts between the German mountains, this list has plenty in the way of awesome festivals that every traveler wants to go to…
1. Feast of St Anthony, Lisbon
If you've got a taste for the saltier side of European cuisine, then the Feast of St Anthony might just be the perfect festival for you. It takes place in June each year, and transforms the Portuguese capital from a cool boho metropolis to a cool boho metropolis with outdoor BBQs and sizzling sardine stands. You'll also see live music, open-air beer sellers, and plenty in the way of smiling locals.
2. Oktoberfest, Munich
Oompah bands serenade the sausage stands; the lederhosen are out in force; the Bavarian milk-maid outfits are ubiquitous. Yep, we're talking about Germany's number one festival: Oktoberfest. Despite the name, the events are usually held at the end of September, and see the whole city of Munich transformed into one huge beer hall, complete with endless streams of the local tipple – brewed only to the region's exacting medieval standards, of course!
3. Sziget Festival, Hungary
Every August, Sziget roars to life on the bends of the Danube River in the very heart of Hungary. The whole blowout – which now attracts nearly half a million revellers – is considered one of the largest open-air music fests on the globe. It sprawls out in a series of electronica stages and surrealist art expos a la Burning Man, showcasing everything from underground digi-punk to big name acts like Iggy Pop, REM, The Prodigy and more.
4. Coachella, United States
Now we know US travelers don't have to go far to enjoy the mishmash of electronica, alternative rock and boundary-breaking music that serenades Coachella each year, but the fest is still worth a mention as one of the most coveted annual blowouts in all of North America. Set in the scorched lands of the Colorado Desert, it's the perfect place to let loose to the tunes of MGMT, Tame Impala, Interpol, Sufjan Stevens and other great muses of the Millennial generation.
5. Snow & Ice Festival, China
Globetrotters and ice enthusiasts (is that even a thing?) flock to the city of Harbin in the north-east corner of China each year to wonder at the colossal art works that pop up on the islands of the Songhua River. They are all carved straight out of ice and snow, taking the form of complete palaces and recreations of the mighty Egyptian Sphinx, the Eiffel Tower or the Pyramids of the Kings – all life-sized (or at least almost), mind you!
6. Balaton Sound, Hungary
The second great music blowout in Hungary to make this list comes in the form of the famous Balaton Sound. It takes place on the banks of the largest lake in Central Europe, and draws partiers from Budapest, Prague, Vienna, Bratislava and beyond with its global line-up of hip hop and electronica acts. (Don't worry, after the all-nighter you can just nip to the nearby beaches to cure that hangover in the volcanic waters!)
7. Burning Man, United States
With a philosophy that adheres to ethical travel, gifting, self-expression and other creative ideas, the Burning Man Festival has become one of the most iconic get-togethers on the American calendar. It tends to draw hefty crowds (think upwards of 50,000 people or more) to the deserts of Nevada each year, where music, theatre, art and camping are all part of the regimen.
8. Ultra Europe Music, Croatia
Okay, so we've got to come clean with a little bit of bias here. The LBW crew have been hitting the Ultra Europe Music Festival on the pebble beaches and ancient streets of Split for some years. We've even integrated it into our awesome YachtLife Croatia itinerary, which is great news if you want to go straight from splashing around the Adriatic to partying the night away in the company of world-class DJs!
9. Holi, India
If you've ever traveled the Indian subcontinent around early spring, then you may well have been taken by surprise by a dousing of ochre powder, yellow plumes of dust, grass-green coloring or any other kaleidoscopic hue that’s involved in this life-affirming festival. Holi is actually the ancient Hindu celebration of good over evil, but has now spread to the four corners of the globe as a fun and frantic blowout of color powder and music. Of course, there's nowhere like India to see the real thing!
10. Hogmanay, Scotland
When it comes to bucket-list-topping New Year's Eve celebrations, there's really nothing that can beat the famous Hogmanay of Scotland (sorry Times Square!). The whole thing draws an estimated 150,000 people to Edinburgh – the capital - alone, where it's possible to see awesome fireworks displays and ancient Pagan fire-burning rituals going hand in hand.
11. Full Moon Party, Thailand
Hardly a yearly festival, but surely one of the most coveted on any traveler's list, the Full Moon Party of Thailand is nothing short of a rite of passage for most backpackers making their way around Southeast Asia. Expect oodles of neon face paint, twirling fire shows, plenty of bucket cocktails and not a wink of sleep for the whole sesh. Trust us, we've been doing it for years on our various Thailand tours!
12. Carnival of Venice, Italy
Venice is a darn attractive place for the globetrotter even when there's no curious medieval festival going on in the streets. However, when the iconic Carnevale takes over just before Easter, you'll get a real hit of culture with those displays of elaborate masks made from leather, porcelain and – of course – blown glass (a Venetian specialty!).
13. La Tomatina, Spain
There's nothing quite like getting a whole ton of tomatoes and pelting the unsuspecting folk of a rural Spanish town with them, right? Well, if you happen to agree, then the Valencian summer party known as La Tomatina might just be the festival for you. You'll be hit with squished red fruit for almost an hour if you do attend, but the upshot is you also get to do some throwing yourself!
14. Rio Carnival, Brazil
Rambunctious, wild, fueled by more Caipirinha cocktails than you can shake a plumed peacock feather at, and hosted along one of the world's most iconic seaside boulevards (between Copacabana and Ipanema beaches), the Rio Carnival is the largest of its kind in the whole world. An estimated two million people go to get involved in the action, where samba is the backing track and fun abounds.
15. Day of the Dead, Mexico
While most of the Day of the Dead rituals take place behind closed doors, with families offering deceased relatives fruit and flowers at specially made altars, there are now much larger-scale parades in places like Mexico City. These include haunting fancy dress shows and massive floats depicting ghouls and skeletal figures. It's an interesting one for sure.
16. Koningsdag, The Netherlands
Orange, orange and more orange is what covers the Dutch capital on the famous Koningsdag. Celebrated in honor of the country's royal family, it takes place on the birthday of the currently reigning monarch, which means for the foreseeable future it'll be 27 April. Everyone dons their national dress, hits the beer and the boats, and turns all those UNESCO-tagged Amsterdam canals into one big outdoor club.
17. Running of the Bulls, Spain
Made famous by Hemingway's' classic novel The Sun Also Rises, the Running of the Bulls is not only one of the most famous festivals in Spain but also one the most dangerous. Why? Well, because it consists of antagonizing bulls and proceeding to run around the tight-knit streets of Pamplona with them in tow. That's why. The festival is an expression of traditional Spanish country ritual though, and still continues to draw huge crowds to the Navarre region each summer.
From Thailand to Spain, Italy to India, we'd love to hear about any other festivals you can think of to put on this list. Or, feel free to check out the various awesome tours LBW Travel has on offer for the budding globetrotter this year…
We believe that travel is not a reward for working, but the most valuable and impactful form of education for life. We aren’t just a travel company; we were built to introduce you to the rest of the world. LBW Travel is about more than taking vacation time. We connect you with people and offer experiences that will change the way you look at your world. Travel reminds us what is truly important: family, friendship, love, exploration and adventure.
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