Attending festivals is one of my favorite things to attend when I travel. Aside from the fact that festivals are fun, it is also a good way to learn about the place you’re visiting. Most festivals are celebrated to commemorate religious and cultural beliefs. And some of them are simply a way of thanksgiving. So if you like festivals like me, here are some of the most unique and amazing festivals around the world that you should at least attend once in your life.
1. Basler Fasnacht (Carnival of Basel)
Where: Basel, Switzerland
When: From Monday to Wednesday, taking place the week after Ash Wednesday (in 2019 that will be the from 11th-13th March)
Why you should go: The Basler Fasnacht is the most important event in the Basel calendar. It attracts tens of thousands of spectators every year, and has around 12’000 active participants. In 2017, the carnival of Basel was inscribed onto the UNESCO list as having an intangible cultural heritage. Like most of the other carnivals in the Christian world (e.g. Mardi Gras of Rio), it has its roots in the festivals that marked the start of Lent.
The Basler Fasnacht starts every year on a Monday with the “Morgestraich” at exactly 4am. All the lights in the city go out simultaneously, and hundreds of masked drummers and flute-players start to march through the city accompanied by colourful lanterns. After that, they do pretty much the same thing for the whole three days – day and night! The musicians are joined by brass bands and “Wagecliquen” – masked participants on wagons mostly drawn by a tractor – during the Monday and Wednesday afternoons. The “Wagecliquen” hand out gifts of oranges, sweets, flowers and various other items. But they also throw a lot of “Räppli” (colored confetti) over the waiting crowds. In some places, the confetti can be ankle-deep!
How to buy tickets: The Basler Fasnacht is free, but if you don’t want to be bombarded with “Räppli”, then you better get yourself one of the carnival badges you can buy everywhere in the city. They come in three different variations with the copper one for about $9, the silver one for about $18 and the golden one for about $45.
Insider Tip: Bring some warm clothes with you if you want to see the “Morgestraich”, as it can be really frosty at 4am during this time of year.
Recommended place to stay: The hotel prices in Basel are astronomically high during the carnival, so you might be better off with looking for an AirBnB – cheapest would be right across the borders in either French St Louis or German Lörrach. If money is not a question, then “Les Trois Rois” is definitely the luxurious option. It is very close to the action and one of the oldest hotels in Europe.
Source: Thomas from TripGourmets.
2. La Mercè Festival
Where: Barcelona, Spain
When: September 21-24 (It’s always four consecutive days surrounding September 24, the official public holiday in Barcelona.)
Why you should go: La Mercè is the annual town festivity of Barcelona celebrating Mare de Déu de la Mercè, the patron saint of the city. Barcelona comes alive and visitors are thrown right into the heart and soul of Catalan culture through traditional activities such as castellers (human towers), la sardana(traditional dance), gegants (large paper mâché figures), and correfoc (a fire run through the streets). Each year a guest city is chosen to share their culture and art; 2018 will highlight Lisbon, Portugal. There are many free activities scattered about the city—light shows, parades, performing arts, BAM concerts (an indie music festival within La Mercè), and free entrance to museums are some of the favorites. Another highlight is the Catalan wine and Cava fair held outdoors in Ciutadella Park. Buy some drink tickets and wander the tents trying various wine and cava from throughout the region.
How to buy tickets: Most activities are free and do not require tickets.
Cost of Ticket: Free. Check out the program. (site will be updated when it gets closer to the festival) http://lameva.
Insider Tip: Make sure to grab a program, download the app, or look online to create an itinerary of the activities you would like to do since multiple events are held at the same time. The city is very crowded so arrive early for the best view!
Recommended place to stay: Chic & Basic Born Boutique Hotel is affordable and within walking distance to many of the festival‘s activities. It’s also located right next to an authentic and low priced tapas bar if walking makes you hungry.
Source: Kalena McElroy of Lost And Abroad
3. Fringe Festival
Where: Edinburgh, Scotland
When: August 3-28 (the first three weeks in August)
Why you should go: Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the world’s largest performing arts festival. Taking over virtually the entire city over the space of three weeks, you can find everything at Fringe ranging from opera to improv. One of the highlights of the festival is the Military Tattoo, which takes place every night in the castle itself. Each year a different nation is invited to perform as an honoured guest alongside the British Armed Forces in a showcase of culture that culminates in a firework display over the city.
How to buy tickets: The Festival is a collective of many different events, each of which have their own individual. Tickets can be bought through the main box office, although many events will also have tickets sold at the door or are by donation.
Cost of Ticket: 10 GBP per show on average, but depends on venue.
Insider Tip: Sometimes the high energy of Fringe Festival can get overwhelming. If you need a break, head into New Town and Stockbridge where you’ll find an oasis of leafy parks and . If you really need a break, the quaint fishing village of North Berwick is just a short 45 minute train ride away from Waverley Station, but feels a world away.
Recommended place to stay: During Fringe Festival, the cost of accommodation skyrockets. Your best bet is to try to sublet an apartment with a couple of other friends. Public transit in Edinburgh is great, so even if you’re a little further from the city centre you’ll be able to get everywhere easily!
Source: Rosalie of www.rosaliegoes.co
4. Hornbill Festival
Where: Nagaland, India
When: December 1 – December 10
Why you should go: The renowned Hornbill Festival, named after the bird, is one of the largest celebrations of the indigenous warrior tribes of Nagaland, India’s far north-east region and one of the most popular festivals in India. Proclaimed as the ‘Festival of Festivals,’ the Hornbill Festival of Nagaland is a testament of diversity, harmony and solidarity. Tourists come together to experience the best of Naga hospitality in a fine blend of culture, colours and communities. The festival is reflected in tribal folklore, dances and songs. Night Bazaar, several food-eating contests – including the pork fat and King Chilly eating competition – the Rock Festival, various stalls, Adventure Rally, sights, sounds, smells and vibes, everything has a sense of frivolity, frolic and merriment. Celebrating camaraderie, joy and ties that bind, the Hornbill Festival isn’t bereft of the element of fun. Each day, each event is peppered with activities, making one eagerly wait for each new day during the festival.
How to buy tickets: Entry permits are no longer necessary for foreigners visiting Nagaland. However, foreigners will need to register themselves with the Foreigners Registration Office (District Superintendent of Police) within 24 hours of entry into the state. Indian tourists need an Inner Line Permit. This is available from any Nagaland House. Tickets for the festival could be brought from the venue. You can find a ticketing booth at the entrance of the festival ground.
Cost of Ticket: INR 20 for Entrance fees, INR 30 for DSLR camera and INR 50 for video camera.
Insider Tip: The Hornbill Festival is one of the top tourist draws in Nagaland, so if you’re planning to attend, do book accommodations well in advance.
Recommended place to stay: The best place to stay in Kohima is the Hotel Japfu, Government Tourism hotel. Rooms cost upwards of 3,500 INR for a double. Advance bookings are imperative. Alternatively, there are homestays in Kigwema village within walking distance of the festival venue. Expect to pay 2,500-3,000 INR per night for a double. Try Lalhou’s Homestay or Greenwood Villa. Another option is to camp. Kite Manja provides the only campsite inside the festival gate, just 100 meters from the main festival arena. Packages start from 1,365 INR per person, per day.
Source: Nivi Selvaraj of Postcard Chronicles
5. Bristol International Balloon Fiesta
Where: Bristol, England
When: August 9-12 (dates can sometimes vary, but it’s during the same weekend every year)
Why you should go: Running for over 35 years, Bristol’s International Balloon Fiesta is now one of Europe’s largest meeting of hot air balloons, seeing over 130 balloons take to the skies every year. Not only is the fiesta a great place to do a bit of balloon spotting, but there’s also live music, tasty street food and funfair rides… all for FREE! During the evenings, there’s also an event called the ‘Night Glow’, which sees hot air balloons stay on the ground, while lighting up in time to music and fireworks… it’s all very magical! This combination of everything going on makes the fiesta perfect for kids and adults alike… even dogs are welcome! So tell me, have I convinced you enough yet to make a trip to Bristol in the summer?
How to buy tickets: The balloon fiesta is free to attend and doesn’t require any advance booking – just turn up!
Cost of Ticket: Free
Insider Tip: A free shuttle bus is available to take you to the fiesta from Bristol City Centre (and back again). It’s recommended that you arrive early, or give yourself a few hours to get to the fiesta as queues for the bus can be very long. You may be waiting a while!
Recommended place to stay: Berkeley Suites in Clifton. The apartments are close to the festival, and you can even see balloons flying just by looking out of the window!
Source: Justine of www.wandereroftheworld.co.uk
6. Vivid Sydney
Where: Sydney, NSW, Australia
When: 25th May to 16th June 2018
Why you should go: Vivid Sydney has only been running for nine years, but is already one of the best events on the city’s calendar. Over three winter weeks, the city’s main landmarks are lit up beautifully every night, normally from 6pm to 10 or 11pm and they make for an amazing backdrop. Some buildings and landmarks have light shows, while others, including the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, are the backdrop for a full son et lumiere set. You’ll also find lots of other light installations around the city. Vivid’s scope has expanded in recent years – it’s now branded as a festival of “light, music and ideas” with more events around festival time, including live music concerts and seminars.
Cost: Nearly all of the light shows are free – the only one that isn’t is the one at Taronga Zoo, which is filled with amazing light sculptures of endangered animals. Tickets for this are available at https://www.vividsydney.com/event/light/taronga-zoo-lights-wild. The various concerts and seminars are also ticketed – for a full list see the festival homepage.
Insider tip: Wherever you decide to view the light shows, try to get there early, as plenty of others will have the same idea. Mrs Macquarie’s Point is a great place to see the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, and Circular Quay is brilliant for either, but gets very busy. The Cahill Walk above Circular Quay is one of the best places to see the main landmarks.
Recommended place to stay: Our favourite place to stay in Sydney is the Primus Hotel, a stunning Art Deco building a few minutes from the shops of Pitt Street and a 15 minute walk from Circular Quay.
Source: David Angel of travelwithlittleone.com
7. The Beltane Fire Festival
Where: Edinburgh, Scotland
When: April 30th (eve of May Day)
Why you should go: The festival is a modern reinterpretation of the ancient Celtic festival of Beltane which traditionally marked the beginning of warmer months. A procession, led by the May Queen and the Green Man, goes around Calton Hill and ends with a large bonfire that signifies the birth of summer. Flaming torches, hypnotic drumming and wild dancing characterise this magical event. The May Queen and the Green Man stop at various points on the hill, where one can watch a different performance by each of the groups involved in the festival. The event is organised by volunteers at the Beltane Fire Society and draws thousands of people every year.
How to buy tickets: You can book your ticket at http://tickets-scotland.com
Cost of Ticket: Tickets cost £9.00 (+£1.00 booking fee) when you book in advance, and £13.00 on the day.
Insider Tip: Wear something warm because it gets very cold on Calton Hill (despite the presence of fire) and get there early so you can get a good spot in front of the National Monument as that is where the procession starts from.
Recommended place to stay: Stay at a place that is in the city centre as it might be difficult to get a taxi back to your accommodation due to the large crowd at the festival. There are two Ibis hotels close to Calton Hill (on the Royal Mile and South Bridge) and you can get cheap deals if you book well in advance. There are also three good hostels that are just a 10-minute walk from Calton Hill: The Baxter Hostel, Haystack Hostel and Princes Street East Backpackers Hostel.
Source: Daniela of www.grumpycamel.com
8. Festival of Wine and Horses – Caballos del Vino
Where: Caravaca de la Cruz, Andalusia Spain
When: First, weekend in May
Why you should go: This is a festival that celebrates the story of the True Cross in Spain – the Verz Cruz. A fragment of the True Cross has been protected in the Holy City of Caravaca since the 13th Century. This is one of only five Holy Cities in the world.
The legend dates back to the times of the Knights Templar, who came to the aid of the townspeople when the invading Moorish army had poisoned the water supply so it was undrinkable and they were dying. The only thing that could be drunk was wine, so the Templars tied flagons of wine to their horses and ran with the up the hill to the City before the Moors even realised what was happening.
Because of the magic of the True Cross, the town was not only saved with the wine, but the wine healed the sick and wounded. To commemorate this miracle every year 60 horses are dressed in spectacular embroidered and decorated cloaks and re-enact the race up the hill.
The Festival takes place over 5 days and on the 5th there is a massive parade of all the decorated horses, live bands, lots of singing and dancing and drinking in the streets of Caravaca.
How to buy tickets: Tickets are Free.
How to get there: Caravaca is a small town in Andalusia and we took a bus tour from Mojacer to the Festival with Day Tours Almeria the cost of which including transportation and reserved seating was €23 a bargain.
Source: Faith of XYU and BEYOND
9. Hogmanay Festival
Where: Edinburgh, Scotland
When: New Years Eve. Celebrations typically start on December 30th and end January 1st.
Why you should go: Edinburgh is one of the best cities in all of Europe to visit. Year, rain or shine, there is always something to do in Scotland’s capital. They also have some of the best festivals in the world and New Years is no joke here. For three full days, people from all over the world gather to celebrate the new year together. The whole city is alight and parties are everywhere. It’s not just a music festival either. Hogmanay consists of an annual torchlight procession on the 30th, followed by a street party with live musicians on the 31st. As well as the Cèilidh Under The Castle, Concert in the Gardens with a headliner, and fireworks over the castle. After the party on the 1st, there is a parade and onlookers can watch people jump into the Colin Firth to cure their hangover.
How to buy tickets: On the Hogmanay website
Cost of Ticket: Prices range from £21 for the basic street party to £300 for all access events.
Insider Tip: Accommodation will book up. Make sure to book six months in advance for the best rates.
Recommended place to stay: Old Town Chambers is close to the action and unique
Source: Natasha of The World Pursuit
Where: Munich, Germany
When: Oktoberfest begins on a Saturday in mid-September and ends on the first Sunday in October or on German Reunification Day (Oct 3rd), whichever is later. Exact dates are different every year.
Why you should go: Oktoberfest is considered the largest folk festival in the world (six million people from around the world attend Oktoberfest each year) and is definitely the largest dedicated to beer and Bavarian culture. The beer and hearty German foods are unbeatable, the atmosphere is electric, and, somehow, even the tents of 10,000+ people still seem cozy.
The festival is free to attend and the colossal beer tents are free to enter making Oktoberfest better than most festivals already. The live, traditional German music blasts all day and really gets you into the spirit – that spirit being gemütlichkeit, a German term conveying a feeling of warmth, friendliness, and overall good cheer. The festival, now in its 208th year, is composed of two weeks of parades, rides, traditional outfits, and hoisting a glass with a new friend… or twenty.
How to buy tickets: No tickets necessary, just walk on in.
Cost of Ticket: No tickets necessary, just pay for what you eat and drink.
Insider Tip: For the best chance of easily claiming your spot in a beer tent, arrive when the park opens and on a day during the week–no reservations necessary. Avoid weekends; avoid late nights; and dress the traditional part!
Source: Ashley Smith of mywanderlustylife.com
11. Les Médiévales de Provins
Where: Provins, France
When: During a weekend in June. Next festival is on 9th and 10th June 2018
Why you should go: Provins is a cute medieval town near Paris which seems lost in time. The timbered architecture is beautiful, and there are many interesting sights to visit. Provins was in the Middle Ages a very rich prosperous trading town, and today its inhabitants commemorate this glorious past with a MedievalFestival, les Médiévales de Provins. Les Médiévales de Provins is the biggest Medieval Festival in France and it is a great event to see medieval markets, tournaments or taste interesting recipes many centuries old. Also, its inhabitants are dressed in medieval costumes and there is music everywhere.
How to buy tickets: You can wander around the streets for free but the medieval shows come with a ticket. Book your tickets online at here.
Cost of Ticket: it depends on the show.
Insider Tip: better go with public transportation (there are direct trains for Paris) and arrive early in the morning as it is a very popular festival with lots of visitors.
Recommended place to stay: Provins is very close to Paris so we recommend visiting the Medieval Festival only during the day, especially because this is the most important weekend in the town and everything is booked out. If you decide to stay in Provins, a nice place to sleep is Le César Hotel Provins. This luxury accommodation is very centrally located and with a contemporary design.
Source: Elisa of World In Paris
12. Aoling Festival
Where: Mon District in Nagaland, India
When: First week of April
Why you should go: Attending the Aoling Festival would bring you face to face with the famous headhunters of the Konyak tribe. It celebrates the arrival of spring, but it’s also the time to pray for a good harvest. It usually lasts for a week, but the most important day is the fourth. That is when you will get to see the locals dressed in their traditional and colorful Konyak garments. Their costumes are a mix handwoven fabrics and elaborate headgear. They are meant to remind the world of the glorious times of the headhunter tribes. It’s a day filled with singing and dancing when every village will turn on the party mode.
How to buy tickets: Not applicable, you will need to get from one village to the other.
Cost of Ticket: Free
Insider Tip: The schedule is not fixed, and the performances will be held in multiple villages. Try to find out from the locals in which village you should go, especially for the fourth day.
Recommended place to stay: There are not that many accommodation options in Mon district. The safest option would be the Paramount Guest House in Mon Town.
Source: Andra of Our World To Wander
13. Wilderness Festival
Where: Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire, UK.
When: 2nd to the 5th of August 2018.
Why you should go: Wilderness Festival is magical, there’s no doubt about that. It’s set in a deer park in the centre of rural Oxfordshire surrounded by ancient woodland for starters.
Reasons to go to Wilderness Festival.
1) Dress up – 10th century kimono, Rio carnival costume, sparkly space suit. You imagine it, you can wear it (or buy it there!)
2) Pack your swimming costume – you can take a wild swim in Lake Majestic and they have hot tubs (yay!)
3) This ain’t no boring £10 for a dry burger festival – We’re talking decedent banquets, wine tasting and some impressive award-winning Chefs.
4) Learn a new skill – taxidermy (seriously!), archery, wild singing, the list goes on…
How to buy tickets: You can book your ticket at wilderness.co.uk through Ticketmaster.
Cost of Ticket: Prices start from £190.75 for adults including booking fee. The tickets can sell out a few weeks before the festival, but they even have the option to pay in instalments – you can secure your ticket for £48, followed by 3 monthly payments of £48.
Recommended place to stay: There are plenty of camping options, boutique, quiet and family, but the general campsite is clean, comfortable and not too loud late at night. It’s also a short, easy walk from car to campsite to festival. Perfect for first time festival goers. Chipping Norton, Witney and Oxford are all within 30 minutes of the festival site and have plenty of guest houses and hotels if you prefer not to camp.
Source: Niall & Bryony of Independent Atlas
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