One of the best ways to spice up your foreign travel experience is by being a part of that country's festivals. Whether it is a festival celebrating life or death, there is a different charm of stepping into the realms of the unknown. You not only get to explore and learn about the ways of foreign people but being a part of the celebrations in a strange land transforms you, a shift that is more spiritual than superficial.
"Understanding languages and other cultures build bridges. It is the fastest way to bring the world closer together and to the Truth. Through understanding, people will be able to see their similarities before differences."
~ Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem
tourHQ has curated a list of the top 10 world-famous festivals to look out for in 2023. Be it the famous carnivals of Rio or Venice or the ice festival in China; we have diverse options for your diverse needs! So read along to know the details of each festival.
Rio Carnival, Brazil
Date: February 17 - 25, 2023
Right before the Catholic season of Lent, Rio hosts the world's largest dance party! It is almost impossible to mention the city without referring to its carnival. This long-enough celebration is a crazy theatrical play of performers, surprisingly beautiful statues, parades, eye-catchy costumes, loud cheering, delicious food and a crowd of millions of people on the streets almost every day!
However, if you plan to visit for a shorter period, visit between the 23rd and 25th of February, which are the dates for the festival's main events. One of the most special attractions is the once-in-a-lifetime experience of witnessing the competition in the Sambodromo, where Rio's 70+ best Samba schools participate. What is genuinely appreciated is that these schools prepare all year for this competition! On top of that, there is also a masquerade ball competition for the most outlandish costumes called Baile Gay at the Scala.
Apart from the frequent parades and events, the constant attraction of Rio's carnival is the overflowing street and beach parties! Around 500 parties happen everywhere, all at once, throughout Rio de Janeiro.
Also known as Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras is the last day before Lent when people gather to eat fatty foods and party before they start fasting. Since the first parade in New Orleans, the festival has become synonymous with the city and is embraced by residents beyond those of French or Catholic heritage. During the festival, the street is flooded with parties, parades, delicious foods and participants throwing long beads and trinkets in the crowd.
The special attraction of the festival is the marches that start from Napoleon Avenue, with Krewes circling New Orleans neighbourhoods. [Krewes are big car parades carrying 50 to 3000 people.] Even the spectators of the parade share the zeal and enthusiasm!
Another speciality of the festival is that it's truly a foodie's paradise! Considering food forms a crucial part of the festival, you should definitely taste the King Cake, the staple dish of Mardi Gras season.
Add more thrill to your winter trip with the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, the largest annual ice and snow festival worldwide. In fact, Harbin has even got the nickname "ice city" due to its freezing weather. And yet, at a -25°C temperature, you will see people lining up to buy ice cream!
Although all the ice sculptures are exquisite pieces of art, the most special attractions are the sculptures of St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square, Copenhagen Mermaid, and Thai temples. You can also find the Empire State Building and the Sphinx. These sculptures are lit at night with colour-changing lights that give an amazing feeling of walking through a winter wonderland. While you're there, make sure to skate over the frozen Songhua River or grab a drink at a bar made entirely of ice, from counter to cups!
Please keep in mind that the festival dates are flexible and can change every year, as they're weather dependent.
Venice transforms into a magical land in February. The city becomes a stage of masked performers, parades, dances, music and lots and lots of tasty delicacies! Everyone is in an elegant and extravagant mask and a sweeping cape called a tabarro.
The Venice carnival officially opens with the ritual performance of Flight of the Angel, or in Italian- Volo dell'Angelo. At this ritual, a chosen women acrobat, attached to a rope, descends from the top of the bell tower of St. Mark's Basilica and lands in the middle of St. Mark's Square. The atmosphere makes you feel like an angel is blessing you to have a good time! Well, if you visit the carnival, that is for sure!
What makes the Venice carnival unique is that there is a flavour for every taste. There is traditional music in Campo San Tomà. There is a silent party with headphones in Campo Santa Margarita, and for those planning to go all crazy, there is loud rock music in Piazza San Marco. Moreover, there is a grand ball in the Palazzo Pisani Moretta. So if you're in the mood to be in a masquerade ball in a Romeo and Juliet style, Venice Carnival is the place to be.
Although a festival originated in the Hindu religion, over the years, Holi has become the festival for all, irrespective of place and religion. So no matter in which part of India you plan your trip, there are high chances you will experience this festival of colours.
Usually, it is a two-day festival, where the first day is reserved for Holika Dahan. According to legend, Holika (a demoness) and a young boy- Prahlad- sat in a burning pyre. However, the fire burns Holika, whereas young Prahlad does not even get a scratch! Since then, the bonfire has become a symbol of burning evil. Following this is the second day of a fun-filled affair when Holi is celebrated by throwing gulal (colourful powder) at each other while dancing to traditional folk music.
Moreover, there are unique ways of celebrating this festival as well. For instance, in Vrindavan, Holi is celebrated with flowers. In Barsana, Lathmar Holi is celebrated in a unique way, with women playfully beating men in shields with wooden sticks!
If you are looking for a playful time, food and a perfect trip with family, this is the festival for you. Songkran is an annual celebration of the Thai New Year involving a friendly water fight. It’s all about soaking strangers with water, signifying an act to wash away the past year’s sins and prepare for good fortune.
And, considering April is one of the hottest months of the year in Thailand, a little splash of cold water in fun street parties does sound like fun!
Although Silom Street forms the epicentre, there are also various water play areas, party hubs and cultural sites all around Thailand, like Phuket, Chang Mai, and Nong Khai.
We have to admit that Burning Man is definitely one of the coolest parties out there and also the biggest festival in the US. Burning Man is a pop-up art and artistic self-expression festival. Over 80,000 dreamers, makers, and artists camp in the Black Rock Desert for one week to celebrate Burning Man.
There are fun camps and activities from 2 o’clock to 10 o’clock while from 10 o’clock to 2 o'clock there is no camp area—just desert and amazing art installations. On the last night of the festival, the 80,000 burners gather to see the giant wooden man statue burn to ashes along the firework display. Opposite to what it may seem, Burning Man is not a large bonfire party, and it has sculptures you can climb, art performances, and art exhibitions available during the entire week.
What is truly special about this nomad-like experience is the community you will meet there. Burning Man’s community believes in giving you unconditionally, whether it’s toilet paper, a 30-minute-long hug, or a goggle when a sandstorm comes out of nowhere. It’s the community that makes burners come back to Burning Man. No wonder the festival sells out every year!
Imagine pelting around 22,000 strangers with over-ripe tomatoes! Sounds fun, right?
According to the original story, La Tomatina started in 1945 as a dispute between 2 young farmers, which escalated into a huge tomato fight in Buñol's main plaza. We guess it was so much fun to watch that the Spanish people made a festival out of it!
La Tomatina festival starts at noon with a cannon blast when tomato trucks deliver around 160 tons of over-ripe tomatoes to be tossed in the fight. To Buñol's people, if someone is holding a grudge over a neighbour, La Tomatina is when they get even, respectfully. Usually, the fight lasts only one hour. To wash off, you can walk down to the Buñol river and take a swim. It's easier than dripping tomato sauce all the way to your accommodation!
Every year in October, the sky of the US turns into the most photogenic landscape, with nearly 500 balloons flying up in the sky. It is also considered one of the largest international events happening in the US.
What started as an event of flying ten balloons now captures the attention of worldwide media and people. At first, some 9-10 balloons fly to check on the wind directions, and after that, the entire parade of balloons takes place. Be it dawn or dusk, the sky is filled with balloons, and the land with parties, great food and mesmerising fireworks. Remember to meet the hosts of the event, who are ever-ready to share the history of the festival and its significance to the US culture.
This festival as a whole itself is a special experience. The festival of Días de Los Muertos is about honouring people who passed away. The Mexicans believe that on this day, the dead awakens from their eternal sleep to celebrate with their loved ones, where the land of the living and dead meet together. Therefore, Mexicans put small offerings or ofrendas of fruits, food, and flowers on a built altar. These offerings can also include items that belonged to their loved ones. They even decorate the grave sites of their loved ones.
Another key tradition is making skeleton face masks. It is because La Calavera Catrina, an 'elegant skull', is considered a popular symbol of the festival. Apart from the traditions, there is incredible street art, spiritual cleansing rituals, giant ofrendas in the Zócalo (Main Square), and delicious Mexican food!
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