15 Cultural Festivals in the World You Can’t Miss

Festivals are a great way to experience a tourist destination in a unique and different way. With so many cultural festivals out there, you may be confused about which one to attend first. To make things easier for you, here are 15 cultural festivals around the world that you shouldn’t miss.

  1. Holi, India
    One of the most popular cultural festivals in the world for its vibrant display of colors and beautiful meaning of unity. Every year Indians come together to throw colors and celebrate how color unites them and sweeps away their differences throughout the day. Everyone in India celebrates the holiday and it is truly a unique spectacle for the tourists. The festival starts off fairly light in the morning and grows into a crazy and colorful party, almost out of control, by the afternoon.
  2. Wakakusa Yamayaki Matsuri, Japan
    The Wakakusa Yamayaki Matsuri is one of the cultural festivals in Japan that you shouldn’t miss. The festival which also means ‘The Mountain Roast’ is held on the 4th Saturday in January every year, when dead grass on the slopes of Mount Wakakusayama is burned – but only after one magnificent fireworks display.
  3. Taiwan Lantern Festival
    This lantern festival located in Taiwan dates back to the Xing Dynasty, which means the festival is more than two thousand years old. At that time, gangs of criminals often raided lowland villages, forcing residents to seek refuge in the mountains. Village guards use “fire balloons” as a signal to let residents know their homes are safe and when those hiding in the hills see the light, they know it’s time to go home. Currently this lantern has two main purposes. One: they display written messages about buyers’ hopes and dreams which then release them into the night sky; and Two: they represent the end of the Chinese New Year period.
  4. Songkran, Thailand
    Songkran is one of the cultural festivals in Thailand to welcome the celebration of the new year. The exact date varies annually depending on the lunar cycle but usually occurs in April. This celebration itself was once done to return to your family and honor your parents by spraying a little perfumed water on their hands. However, with the passage of time, this festival has become an exciting water fight all over the city and definitely not to be missed.
  5. White Nights Festival, Russia
    In general, the White Nights Festival is a collection of events from mid-May to mid-July. The festival is an extravaganza of arts – music, opera, ballet, film and outdoor celebrations including Scarlet Sails, a high sailing fleet, tall ships with a Russian-style gunpowder fireworks display. Strolling along the Neva River in the near-constant daylight reveals bands of itinerant gypsies, jugglers, fire-eaters and even Russian pantomimes who will surprise you with their humor.
  6. Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Scotland
    At this festival, you can find exciting theatre, music, film, comedy, dance, musicals, street performances and exhibitions. You can buy tickets in advance or walk the bustling Royal Mile and let the many promoters guide you to cheap or free shows. The festive atmosphere from across the city is totally infectious and something to experience at least once! And if you’re planning a visit to the festival, don’t miss the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo which is being held at the same time. Some of these things make this one of the cultural festivals in the world that you should not miss.
  7. Notting Hill Carnival, England
    Notting Hill Carnival is a summer cultural festival in London, England. Every August weekend, normally quiet Notting Hill is filled with steel drums, floats and gleeful dancers.
  8. Oktoberfest, Germany
    Oktoberfest is a cultural festival that is sure to be in great demand by beer lovers. At this festival, you can drink as much beer as you like. If you can’t drink beer, there is a cafe tent where you can enjoy Black Forest coffee and cake, and then head back to your inn to rest.
  9. Diwali, India
    Diwali or better known as the “Festival of Lights” lasts about five days and consists of an exchange of gifts, burning butter and oil lanterns, and fireworks. One of the cultural festivals in the world that should not be missed, this makes the atmosphere of cities in India lively so that many tourists from all over the world are attracted to enjoy this celebration.
  10. Día de los Muertos, Mexico
    Dia De Los Muertos is a two-day festival that reunites the living and the dead. Families make ofrendas (Offers) to honor their deceased family members. The altars are adorned with bright yellow marigold flowers, photographs of the deceased, and the revered’s favorite food and drink. The offerings are believed to encourage visits from the land of the dead when the souls of the deceased hear their prayers, smell their food and join in the celebrations.
  11. Carnevale in Venice, Italy
    Carnevale di Venice is one of the most famous cultural festivals in the whole world. Its origins are centuries old, and it still attracts thousands of tourists every year who arrive in Venice to admire the extravagant costumes and masks that are paraded through the streets and squares. Creating masks is indeed an art in Venice, and it is a tradition dating back hundreds of years that makes this cultural festival unique.
  12. Rio Carnival, Brazil
    rio Carnival is a cultural festival held before Lent every year and is considered the largest carnival in the world with more than two million people participating. Rio’s signature carnival parade is filled with revelers, floats, and jewelery from the various samba schools located in Rio. Dressed in beautiful costumes, these magnificent dancers parade through the Sambadrome; the official party was held at Copacabana Palace.
  13. La Tomatina, Spain
    La Tomatina is an annual Spanish festival of global renown. As the name suggests, tomatoes are very prominent in this day-long celebration, as thousands of people take part in fights with tomato ammunition en masse. This cultural festival was originally held in the mid-1940s, when the first public tomato food fight accidentally took place in the Spanish city of Buñol.
  14. Loi Krathong, Thailand
    Loi Krathong is one of Thailand’s most beautiful and most romantic festivals, which falls on a full moon night in the 12th month. At this festival, young couples, dressed in traditional attire, gather around lakes, rivers and canals to pay homage to the water goddess by launching Krathong into the water. Krathong is a lotus-shaped container made of banana leaves, containing candles, incense, flowers and coins.
  15. Mevlana Whirling Dervishes, Turkey
    Men in white robes and twirling tall hats don’t sound as attractive as running with the bulls or dancing at the Rio Carnival, but the chance to watch the Dervishes spin will change you in ways you never expected. Based on the teachings and practices of the 13th-century poet Rumi, this 10-day festival will expose you to the power of devotion and many other philosophies you can learn from.