From the most bizarre to the most spectacular, festivals around the world offer a unique way to explore a country’s culture, history, and traditions.
If rolling down a hill chasing cheese, or a food fight with tomatoes is your thing, then you will definitely love some of these 10 unique festivals in the world.
1. Festival Of Spring, India
- When: March 8th
- Location: India
Holi is one of the most popular festivals in India. This festival marks the advent of spring and celebrates new beginnings.
It is celebrated by Hindus all over the world, particularly in India, where it is a national holiday.
On Holi, people gather together to sing and dance and throw brightly colored powder at one another as a way of expressing joy and happiness.
People also take part in various other activities such as:
- visiting family members and friends
- having feasts
- exchanging gifts
- burning effigies of demons
- playing music
- and lighting bonfires
Holi traditionally begins with the lighting of a bonfire on the eve of Holi which symbolizes the burning away of evil forces from our lives.
The next day, people gather in the streets and parks to greet each other with gulal (colored powder) and water balloons.
2. Cheese Rolling Festival, UK
- When: May 29th
- Location: Cooper’s Hill, Gloucestershire, UK
The Cheese Rolling Festival is an annual event held in the village of Brockworth, Gloucestershire in the UK.
Cheese Rolling Festival dates back to the 18th century when it was first recorded as being held on Cooper’s Hill.
It has since become a beloved tradition that draws large crowds each year and encourages participants to race down the hill after a wheel of cheese!
The main event of the festival involves competitors chasing a round of Double Gloucester cheese down Cooper’s Hill.
Winner is the one who reaches the bottom of the hill first and is rewarded with their own wheel of cheese! Other fun activities at this traditional festival include egg rolling and sack racing.
The festivities usually last all day and feature live music, stalls selling food and drinks, and a variety of entertainment.
3. Spectacular Lantern Floating Festival, Hawaii
- When: November 8th and 9th.
- Location: O’ahu, Hawaii
The Spectacular Lantern Floating Festival in Hawaii is an incredible event that celebrates and honors the deceased.
It takes place on Memorial Day, and features thousands of people gathering along the shores of Waikiki to watch as a sea of glowing lanterns float on the ocean water.
As they drift away, it’s said that their prayers are carried out by the lanterns to their loved ones who have passed away.
It is truly a moving experience for all involved.
During the ceremony, participants write messages of remembrance on small paper lanterns with floating candles inside them before setting them off into the ocean.
As these beautiful lights fill up the night sky with color and light, everyone silently reflects on those who have passed away.
4. The Carnival of Basel, Switzerland
- When: February 27th – March 1st
- Location: Basel, Switzerland
The Carnival of Basel, or Basler Fasnacht, is a historical carnival in Switzerland that dates back to the 17th century.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people come to celebrate this unique celebration lasting three days and nights.
During this time, the town comes alive with music and dancing as well as colorful parades showcasing traditional Swiss costumes.
The festivities begin on the Monday after Ash Wednesday when Basel’s residents gather for morning prayers and ringing bells at 4 am.
From then until 6 pm, bands take the streets playing traditional carnival tunes known as “cliques”.
The parade starts from Barfüsserplatz at 11:11 am featuring floats made by local artists and actors dressed up in traditional costumes.
Throughout the day, accompanied by drummers, dancers, and musicians, these floats make their way around the city center of Basel.
5. La Tomatina Festival, Spain
- When: August 30th
- Location: Bunol, near Valencia, Spain
The La Tomatina festival is an annual event held in the small Spanish town of Bunol near Valencia.
It is held on the last Wednesday of August and it attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world.
During this unique event, participants engage in an hour-long tomato fight using over-ripe tomatoes as ammunition.
While the origin of this unusual tradition remains a mystery, some believe it began in 1945 when a group of friends spontaneously decided to start their own fruit-throwing battle.
The festivities begin with a festival procession that moves through the streets of Bunol followed by music and singing performances:
- At noon, trucks filled with tomatoes enter Plaza del Pueblo and signal the beginning of the tomato fight.
- For one hour, participants hurl tomatoes at each other and soak in the juicy mess.
- At precisely one o’clock, a water cannon fires off signaling the end of the fight.
Participants are then encouraged to clean up their mess using buckets and hoses provided by volunteers.
6. The Boryeong Mud Festival, South Korea
- When: 16th July – 15th August
- Location: Daechoeon Beach, Seoul, South Korea.
The Boryeong Mud Festival is an annual event held in the South Korean city of Boryeong.
It is a festival dedicated to celebrating the natural beauty and healing powers of mud.
Visitors can enjoy various events such as:
- Mud wrestling
- Obstacle courses
- Swimming pools filled with mud.
Visitors can also experience mud baths and massages, made possible through a special type of black clay extracted from Daedunsan Mountain near Boryeong called “Boryeongmud” which contains many minerals that are beneficial for skin care.
The festival also celebrates local culture with traditional music performances and art installations.
Boryeong festival has become internationally renowned since its inception in 1998, drawing more than 2 million visitors annually.
Its popularity continues to grow because the festival is also beeing featured in newspapers and television programs around the world.
It is an ideal destination for those looking to enjoy a unique cultural experience while taking advantage of the natural healing properties of mud.
7. Sitges Carnival Bed Race, Spain
- When: 16th – 22nd February
- Location: Sitges, Spain
Sitges Carnival Bed Race in Spain is a unique and exciting event that attracts visitors from around the world.
Teams of 6 to 8 people race in custom-built beds through the streets of Sitges, cheered on by thousands of spectators.
With several sharp turns, tight corners, and a number of obstacles, the course is typically (0.6 miles) 1 km long.
Teams are judged on speed, teamwork, and presentation with the fastest bed crowned the winner!
In addition to enjoying the bed race itself, visitors can also join in with traditional Spanish festivities such as folk music performances, dances, and traditional parades.
There are also plenty of opportunities for foodies to indulge in some delicious local cuisine while they watch the race!
8. Burning Man, Nevada
- When: 27th August – 4th September
- Location: Black Rock Desert, Nevada
Burning Man is an annual festival held in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, USA.
It began in 1986 as a bonfire ritual on San Francisco’s Baker Beach and has since evolved into one of the largest art, music, and self-expression events in the world.
Burning Man is much more than just a place to party: it’s a unique experience that encourages participants to be creative and explore their own individual expression.
The event culminates with the burning of a large wooden effigy called “The Man”.
This act serves as a representation of freedom and rebirth – values that are core to Burning Man culture.
Participants come from all over the globe:
- to express themselves
- interact with others
- and create amazing art installations in the harsh conditions of the Nevada desert.
Burning Man has become a powerful symbol of self-expression, community, and transformation.
It is an inspiring reminder that when we come together, we can create something remarkable.
9. Oktoberfest, Germany
- When: 16th September – 3rd October
- Location: Munich, Germany
Oktoberfest is the world’s largest annual beer festival and traveling funfair, held in Munich, Germany over a two-week period from late September to early October.
It attracts some six million visitors each year and is renowned for its huge selection of beers, traditional foods, and folk music.
The celebration has been taking place since 1810 as part of an agricultural show and today it stands as one of the most famous festivals in Europe.
During Oktoberfest, revelers are treated to an array of Bavarian food such as:
- potato pancakes (Reiberdatschi)
- or roasted almonds washed down with specially brewed “Oktoberfestbiers”
Traditional Bavarian music and performances entertain the crowds and there is an array of different rides, and games, along with a parade on the first Sunday of the event.
The festival closes with a spectacular fireworks display on the final Sunday evening.
For visitors to Munich during this period there are momentous festivities for everyone to enjoy and it’s the perfect opportunity to experience German culture at its best!
10. Up Helly AA, Scotland
- When: Last Tuesday in January
- Location: Lerwick, Shetland, Scotland
Up Helly AA is an annual festival held in the Shetland Islands of Scotland. The event celebrates the end of Yule and marks the beginning of spring.
It centers around a procession involving dozens of men dressed in traditional Viking costumes carrying flaming torches, followed by a symbolic burning of a replica longship.
Up Helly AA has been celebrated since 1881 and continues to be an important part of Scottish culture today.
During the festivities, residents from around Shetland will gather for music, dancing, speeches, storytelling, eating, and drinking.
A highlight of the event is the Guizer Jarl Squad who give gifts during their procession and perform ancient Norse rituals such as sword fighting and shield bashing.
This exciting celebration brings together locals from all across the Shetland Islands for a day of merriment and revelry.
Up Helly AA is an amazing festival to witness if you ever get the chance to visit Scotland.
Festivals are a great way to discover vibrant colors, see wild costumes, eat delicious foods, and drink tons of beers.
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