Top 10 Festivals in the World for Your World Travel Bucket List

Holi Festival in India

Top 10 Festivals For Your World Travel Bucket List 


No matter where you go around the globe, everybody loves a good party. It doesn’t matter if you’re into rhythm (the Bahamas’ Junkanoo), reproduction (Japan’s Kanamara Matsuri), rock ‘n roll (England’s Glastonbury), the rodeo (Canada’s Calgary Stampede) or eternal rest (Mexico’s Dia de Muertos), there’s a gathering somewhere in the world with your name on it. One of the world’s most colorful affairs, the Holi Festival, happens across south Asia later this week. As we prep for that vibrant annual party, we felt it was time to grant you VIP access to the top 10 coolest celebrations on Earth.



Next Event: June 8-16, 2012

For the last 17 years, the ancient city of Fez has sat atop the must-visit list for world music-loving revelers. Each June the Moroccan destination is transformed into a global stage where the sounds of everything from French vocal ensembles to Turkish Whirling Dervishes are on display. We’d need another hour to justly describe breathtaking venues like Bab Al Makina. For this year’s 18th edition, the Festival welcomes names like Icelandic star Bjork, Lebanese chanter Abeer Nehme and US folk legend Joan Baez.


9. QUEEN’S DAY  (The Netherlands)

Next Event: April 30, 2012

The rest of the world could learn a thing or two from The Netherlands about properly celebrating a dignitary’s birthday. Officially called Koninginnedag, Queen’s Day is the national holiday commemorating Queen Beatrix’s birth. So what if her Royal Highness was actually born in late January?! By having the festivities in pleasant April, the proud Dutch are able to throw on their loud orange attire and toss back a few drinks without having to worry about weather. The great climate also makes for ideal conditions for a countrywide flea market you just have to see to believe.


Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival


8. PINGXI SKY LANTERN FESTIVAL  (Pingxi District, Taiwan)

Next Event: February 24, 2013

Every year thousands of people trek to the mountainous township of Pingxi for this unforgettable event. Lantern launching began as a means of communication during war, but the act has since eased into an all-out celebration where individuals buy lanterns, write their wishes inside and release them into the heavens. The magical experience, which has influenced Hollywood (Disney’s Tangled) and architecture, culminates with a release of thousands of lanterns simultaneously.


7. BURNING MAN  (Black Rock Desert, Nevada)

Next Event: August 27-September 3, 2012

Merriam-Webster says there are roughly one million words in the English language. We’re not sure any of them can fully explain what goes on at this man-made city every summer. Part art show, part experiment in self-expression, part deleted scene from Survivor, Burning Man is the celebration of life’s simpler times. Present-day critics turn their noses at the flat-screen TVs in the air-conditioned RVs, but once the weekend winds down with the burning of the wooden effigy, you’ll need to refer to Webster’s for the right word to describe all the desert love.


6. SONGKRAN  (Thailand)

Next Event: April 12-15, 2012

Thailand’s traditional new year has evolved into a fun, interactive holiday for all. Though a tourist magnet these days, Thais still pay homage to Buddha images, clean their houses and sprinkle water on their elders out of respect. It’s with the latter practice, however, that things have gotten a little wild—even for traditionalists. Elder or not, if you venture onto the streets during Songkran, expect a friendly (but thorough) dousing from water balloons and Super Soakers.


Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival



Next Event: January 2013

Listen, we’re sure the snowman you built when you were 10 was nice. Still, you have to give it to the igloo-inspired ingenuity on display at this unique fest. Harbin, the Ice and Snow Festival’s home on and off since 1963, is in chilly Northeast China. Thousands of curious, well-layered visitors make their way to the village annually to look at chiseled masterpieces that astonish the eye. Sculptures range from small mythical creatures to 250-feet monuments. It might be -20° C, sure, but it’s the amazing display of craftsmanship and light that ultimately prove so darn cool.


4. MARDI GRAS  (New Orleans, Louisiana)

Next Event: February 12, 2013

Though masks and beads are worn everywhere from Mobile, Alabama, to Quebec City, Canada, no place captures the carnival-like spirit of Mardi Gras quite like New Orleans. Far too fat for just one Tuesday these days, the million-plus party goers now take to the streets for a week-long celebration. And honestly, you’ll need about that long to sample all the creole delicacies, listen to all the sweet jazz and admire all the loud, inventive outfits adorned by paraders and parade-watchers alike.


La Tomatina


3. LA TOMATINA  (Valencia, Spain)

Next Event: August 29, 2012

There are epic food fights in high school. There’s even a wacky orange battle in Ivrea, Italy. But nothing on earth is quite like this human salsa. On the last Wednesday in August, the city of Valencia (and, we’re guessing, anyone else with respectable aim) takes out a year’s worth of frustration by hurling squashed tomatoes at all comers within striking distance. There are other happenings that give La Tomatina an event feel—as if 40,000 folks flinging squishy fruit at each other wasn’t event enough. Even in all the excitement though, we’re still trying to figure out who’s crazier, the guy who endures the pelting ever year or the person who’s always in charge of clean up.


2. HOLI FESTIVAL  (India, Nepal and Pakistan)

Next Event: March 8-9, 2012

The Amazing Race once centered one of its weekly challenges around this spectacular festival. The colorful powder, the smiles, the mess– it’s all still so vibrantly entrenched in memory. During this celebration, the Hindus across India and throughout the world share in prayer, food and a universal sense of mischief that sees no religious or economic boundaries. While we haven’t experienced Holi for ourselves just yet, we know that when we do finally make our way to India, we’ll pack for the unforgettable experience by leaving our nice, white linen pants at home.


Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


1. CARNIVAL  (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

Next Event: February 8-12, 2013

In the days leading up to Lent, all rich meats, fats and sugars had to be tossed. Historians believe this collective disposal of foods to be the origins of Carnival. Of course, the revelry of 1600s Italy is vastly different than what you see across the globe today. From hip shaking in Belize to parading through the French Quarter, Carnival’s reach is unlike any other celebration on the planet. The most celebrated version takes place in Rio, where natives affectionately call it “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Reports say a record 2.2 million people ventured down to Brazil for 2012’s February’s fun. We’re willing to bet most of them already have the 2013 date circled on their calendar for a return visit.  –DeMarco Williams


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    • We actually had a chance to do a press trip to Mongolia recently as part of a Trans-Siberian Express journey, but we turned it down because it was like 12 days in Russia (mostly in cities, which aren’t so much our thing) and only one in Mongolia. I’d rather go and spend a week in Mongolia! I’m already practicing my Tuvan throat singing…

    • Thanks, Jade! I’d love to see the lantern festival as well, but I think Holi, Fez and Carnival would be at the top of my list just because of where they’re located.

    • Me either, Ellen. But then again, I tend to avoid massive crowds like the plague. I’d have to be at the edge of the mayhem, photographing at all (while simultaneously protecting my camera gear).

  1. Carnival ..Hmm i wanna visit that .we have celebrated Holi in college last year wow ..its really a nice festival to enjoy with everyone ..Great Post with full of information Bret ..Thx a lot i learnt something today !!

  2. Thanks for reading/commenting, Sheril! Learning about the world is a big reason we wanted to launch Green Global Travel, so I’m glad others are able to get something from it. We’re constantly adding to our list of must-see destinations as we do stories like this.

  3. A nice list of festivals. I visit Thailand a lot and want to be there during Songkran one of these years. Although, lately I have been hearing more negative comments than good. A lot of people think the water throwing has gotten totally out of hand.

  4. These photos are incredible – I particularly like the first one with all the colours of the Holi fesitval. A friend of mine got married in India, and he spent a lot of time with powder 😀

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    • Your most welcome in India For Holi festival . I am going to organise International Holi Festival on27th march 2013.
      Updates will be online on website soon.

  6. This is a gat list and I’m going to keep it my own little reference library for when to go where on our travels!

  7. Great list, though I feel like Las Fallas from Valencia should have made it to the list too… I’m still in Fallas spirit as it just ended yesterday night, I can’t help it 🙂

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  9. Apparently, I have a lot of celebrating and partying to do around the world! I haven’t been to most of these YET, but boy will I ever go sooner than later. They all look so much fun and interesting!

    • Actually we do not support Running Of The Bulls, as we do not think it is humane treatment for the animals. I understand its historical importance and cultural significance but, much like bullfighting, we believe it is a barbaric tradition that has no place in the 21st century.

      • Thats what makes you folks and your Eco-Tourism outreach so exciting and legitimate, you folks no the difference in saying you love animals versus saying you love animals with ketchup or for a price.
        Yep, Bret and Mary are the real thing and you deserve the support and sponsorship of those who appreciate and value Nature for her splendor. Thanks for all you do as it does not go unnoticed by those who care. Have a happy day, Chipa the Wolfe

  10. Sorry to break it to you, but you’re off on Queensday. I’m Dutch and born on that same day.
    It is not to commemorate the birth of Queen Beatrix, her B-day is in January…like you said.
    It was actually Queen Juliana’s birthday (Beatrix mother). She started Queensday as a holiday for everyone in the Netherlands.
    When Beatrix became queen on April 30th 1980, she decided to maintain April 30th as Queensday in honor of her mother and the acceptance of the throne.
    And yes, that the weather is better in April than in January was just a nice coincidence.
    When Willem-Alexander will become king, we are confident he’ll keep the tradition of Queensday alive and on April 30th as well. His b-day is on April 29th, when we actually celebrate Koninginnenach (Queensnight). So he’ll still have a party on his b-day as well 🙂

    But yes, it is a great Party!! At least 24 hours long. Fleamarkets everywhere and on every square there are dj’s playing music. Oranje indeed is the color to wear!

    For the rest I’ve only done Songkran (Amazing and lots of fun!) and La Tomatine (kinda nasty…but fun). Would love to do the Holi Festival, Carnaval and the Lantern Festival.

    • Queensday is NO MORE!!!

      This year, on April 30th 2013, Willem-Alexander took over the throne from his mother…our former Queen Beatrix. Since his B-day is on the 27th (and I now notice I wrote the 29th, but that was a mistake…oops), he moved Queensday to the 27th of April and from now on it will be called KINGSDAY (Koningsdag). I presume there will be a Kingsnach the night before…
      Next year will be the first Kingsday, but since a Kingsday (or former Queensday) can’t be celebrated on a Sunday, it will be held on Saturday the 26th of April. In 2015 it will be on the 27th.

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  19. All the festivities are with fun and frolics. But I would like to see Brazil’s carnival once in my life. Hope it happens in the near future, but not definitely the coming year.

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  23. Festivals are one of the main reasons I LOVE to travel! My desired list consists of dozens – the list I’ve already been to is almost on par, yet sadly, I’ve only made it to 3 of the ones on this list so far! An excellent resource indeed 🙂


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  26. Great list and photos too. I always wanted to go to the Holi Festival, still have to fulfill my dream.
    I was in Thailand during the Songkran this year and it was pretty wet 🙂
    I’d also add the Hindu Festival of Thaipusam to this list, we were in Singapore when it happened and it was quite interesting to watch.

  27. Great list as always! La Tomatina is at the top of my event bucket list – can’t wait to hurl some tomatoes 😀

  28. I love festivals like this–great list! I really want to make it to Harbin one day–we went and saw ICE! in Orlando last year and the sculptures at the event are made by ice carvers in Harbin. Holi and the Lantern Festival are also near the top of our list!

  29. Great list, surprised the lantern festival in northern Thailand in November wasn’t on here, I know that is on the top of my list of festivals. Songkran is great but after 2 days of it your ready for it to be over! Mardi Gras has to be insane: I’ve been to New Orleans in April and even then it’s crazy!
    Carrie @Jetwayz recently posted..Top National Parks in AfricaMy Profile

  30. I’ve celebrated Songkran in Bangkok and on Koh Phi Phi and both were amazing! Just did Carnaval in Rio this year and also a ton of tun!!

    Highly recommended 🙂 Holi and Burning Man are on the top of mine!
    Steph recently posted..In Memory of My MotherMy Profile

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  32. You should check out Cozumel Scuba Fest.. it isnt as big as the ones on your list but it combines incredible diving with conservation conferences…. this year we hosted Jean Michel Cousteau and Dr. Sylvia Earle

    it was amazing!

  33. Holi in india is one of the best festival in the world. This festival is celebrated by all the indians weather they are hindu, christian, islamic or sikh. This is the festival of colors. lots of the forigners are coming this holi. readers should also come to enjoy the festival.