From the most famous to the more obscure, we have compared our globetrotting notes here at Adventure HQ and put together a calendar of our favourite festivals around globe.
Sure to whet the appetite for a new cultural experience, whether it be watching horse racing in Mongolia or shaking your tail feather in Rio! Joining in with a local festival lets you transcend cultural boundaries and discover the true spirit of a country.
So what are you waiting for – let’s party!
Timkat - Ethiopia
Ethiopia’s Timkat festival, the highlight of the Ethiopian Orthodox calendar, is a lively parade accompanied by native music, dancing and ritual re-affirmation of faith in baptismal waters celebrates the Ark of the Covenant, a huge focal point of the Christianity practiced here. In the past ladies had to be watchful of flying lemons during the festival because to catch a lemon lobbed your way was to agree to a first date!
Discover Ethiopia – 12th & 14th January (special extended departures)
Everyone knows about the Rio Carnival. And who could fail to be excited by the intoxicating crush of feathers, sequins and salsa. The biggest carnival in the world truly is just that; everything is big, flamboyant and bright.
Kumbh Mela - India
But this year, another festival has captured our eye. The Kumba Mela festival only takes place once every 12 years. A mass Hindu pilgrimage to the sacred banks of the River Ganges gives bathers the chance to affirm their spirituality; the waters swim with saffron-robed sadhus with painted faces and holy men and women.
Ganges Explorer – 2nd February
In the run up to the Easter weekend, colourful parades and street parties sweep across Latin American nations in celebration of Santa Semana. Join in the vibrant revelry of this holy week in Cusco as Peruvians gather together to rejoice the end of lent.
Essential Peru – 23rd March
The Inca Trail – 20th March
Surround yourself in a blaze of colour as masked performers adorned in bright robes pay homage to their Buddhist spirituality with ritual dances and mantra chanting. The celebrations culminate with the unveiling of the Thangka (silk painting).
Festivals of Bhutan – 23rd March
Land of the Thunder Dragon - 24th March
We’ve all heard of Chinese New Year, but what about the Thai New Year? The festivities of Songkran, in April, delight in the beauties of one of the most important substances on Earth: water. This celebration of the end of the hot dry season gives everyone a chance to cool off with a nationwide water fight. Partially, it is a ritual of cleansing the dirt of the previous year – but mostly, it’s just some good clean fun!
Thai Indochina Grand Tour - 14th April
Jerez is a city where flamenco, horses and sherry normally compete for top spot, but in May there is no question which is number one as the Andalucian’s celebrate their love of their equine friends with its annual horse fair.
Historic Andalucia – 27th April
Each year in a remote corner of the Indian Himalayas, Ladakhi’s come together on the courtyard of Hemis Gompa to commemorate the birth of Guru Padmasambhava, the credited founder of Tantric Buddhism. Masked dancers perform expressive ritual dances to music punctuated by clashing cymbals, pounding drums and the drone of long horns.
A Himalayan Journey – 7th June
Once a year, the people of Mongolia head to the capital Ulaan Baatar for the Naadam Festival. Watch in awe for three days as competitors battle it out in the “Eriyn Gurvan Naadam” – the ‘three manly sports”. Grab a front row seat as galloping horses thunder past, arrows twang on hitting the target and wrestlers grapple on the dusty steppe.
Mongolian Adventure - 7th July
Tucked away in Sri Lanka’s lush hill country, Kandy is the keeper of Buddha’s tooth and as such plays host to this annual 10-day “festival of the tooth”. Illuminated by torchlight and lead by whip-crackers and elephants, colourful parades made up of drummers, fire eaters, flag bearers and vibrant dancers, wind their way through Kandy’s streets and around its temples.
Discover Sri Lanka (specific festival dates TBC, but likely to be early August depending on the lunar calendar)
Each September before the onset of autumn, Madeira celebrates the fruits of its labours with its wine harvest festival. Take a step back in time as the island celebrates age-old tradition of winemaking; the ‘pickers parade’ – the ceremonious crushing of grapes, live music and light shows bring this usually tranquil isle to life.
Walking in Madeira - 1st September
A must for wildlife fans! Claimed to be the world’s best land-based whale watching destination, Hermanus plays host to a celebration of these magnificent marine mammals each year.
Cape Town & The Garden Route – 28th September
The spectacular fire dance of the Jambay Lhakhang festival is the dictionary definition of “off the beaten track”. Not only is Bhutan the smallest and least visited of the Himalayan countries, but the Bumthang Valley is a step deeper into a unique corner of the world. The festival draws together the disparate villagers to celebrate an age old myth, the quelling of a violent ogress, with ritual masked dances and traditional dress.
Sold out for 2012 – book now for 2013!
The Bumthang Valley - 18th October
Puskar Camel Fair - India
Rajasthan is a parade of pigments at any time of the year, a region where bright colourful saris weave between the buildings and shops flaunt vibrant dyes on every corner. But each year this vortex of colour congregates around the vivid Puskar Camel Fair. A true insight into Rajasthan life, you’ll learn all the fun of the fair as you see livestock and livelihoods change hands.
Classic Rajasthan – 17th November
Colours of Rajasthan – 18th November
Cycling Through Rajasthan - 18th November
The only celebrations usually on people’s minds in December are Christmas and New Year. But instead of getting bogged down in wrapping paper and up to your neck in turkey trimmings this year, why not spend the festive season doing something extra special. We have a number of Christmas departures on offer, here are a few to get you started:
Costa Rica – A wildlife lover’s delight!
Highlights of Morocco – Discover a land abounding in cultural treasures!