Festivals are a thrilling way to experience the culture of a region - from the internationally renowned Pushkar camel fair in India to the wild spectacle of the Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival, here’s a list of our favourite festivals around the world!
Bhutan has a long history of festivals or Tsechus as they’re known locally which honour Guru Rimpoche, the saint who brought Buddhism to the country. The Thimpu festival is one of the biggest festivals in the country and features masked dancers, story telling, prayers and plays.
The Thimpu International Music Festival is Bhutan’s answer to Glastonbury Festival and took place for the first time last year – it’s a combination of traditional music, arts and food and an impressive lineup of including and film screenings and photography and art exhibitions.
The Timkat festival in Ethiopia is often dubbed as ‘one of the greatest festivals on earth’ and commemorates Jesus’ baptism in River Jordan. Check out our special Timkat departure where you’ll experience the celebrations in Mekele or Gondar.
The Pushkar camel fair in India is by far the most famous camel fair in the world and is held at the time of the Kartik Purnima full moon in November. The fair itself lasts over 2 weeks and attracts over 11, 000 camels, horses and cattle and over 400, 000 visitors. Competitions like the ‘matka phod’ longest moustache and ‘bridal competitions’ are popular attractions, as well as music, exhibitions and cricket matches between local teams and tourists!
Gerewol is a courtship competition that takes place after the rainy season and is the most important social event among the semi nomadic Wodaabe people of Niger, Chad. The festival kicks off with one of the female judges singing “The morning star has arisen! Beautiful girls! Handsome boys! Get up before the day begins!”
The young eligible bachelors adorn themselves in ornate costumes and face paint, dance and singing for hours to catch the eyes of the judges and impress the critical eyes of the female crowd!
Rio Carnival was according to some originally a Greek spring festival in honour of the god of wine, Dionysus. The Romans later adopted the same tradition with a feast in honour of Bacchus (?), the Roman God of wine, and the celebration evolved into the feast of Saturnalia, a festival preceding the beginning of lent. Today the Rio Carnival is the most extravagant carnival in the world and the whole city comes alive with music, singing and dancing... The streets are never empty. Be prepared for sleepless days and nights, as the partying is non-stop, be it in the streets, or at one of the many balls, or in the famous Sambadrome watching the parading carnival groups with their extravagant costumes and floats.
The Harbin Ice and Snow Festival in China is the largest ice and snow festival in the world; it officially starts on January 5th and lasts one month but exhibits often open earlier and stay longer, weather permitting. We think the photos say it all!
The Nadaam Festival, or the ‘festival of three games’ (wrestling, horse racing and archery, Mongolia’s most popular sports) is held in July and runs for three days throughout the country. The celebrations are kicked off with a vibrant procession of musicians, dancers, athletes, and monks, and then the games commence! Catch some of the celebrations on our three week Mongolia overland adventure.
Chinese New Year Feb 2015-05-22 also known as the Spring festival or Lunar New Year in China is an ancient traditional holiday dedicated to pay respects to deities and ancestors. It is celebrated as far and wide as the Chinatowns in major cities such as London and San Francisco to all across China, Malaysia and Mauritius.
Pingxi Lantern Festival is one of the lesser known celebrations in the Chinese calendar. According to elders of Pinxi (a remote mountain town an hour’s drive from Taipei), the sky lantern festival originated in the Xing Dynasty more than two thousand years ago. The aim is to scribble down your wish and then send it to the heavens on lanterns made from rice paper silk, satin or sheepskin.
The Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival takes place in Turkey at the end of June – over 1000 men get well oiled up and slap and wrestle each other to the ground! It's a serious business!