It can be overwhelming trying to decide where exactly to visit for the best festival experience in the world. Where to go and when? What locations and events can you afford to leave off your list?? There are a million and one festivals that happen across the globe that are as diverse as the people and places themselves.
Here is a bucket list of the top ten, for any type of person:
1. Rio Carnival
This really is the biggest party in the world. A glittering and theatrical extravaganza, the event is the benchmark to which all other festivals are measured.
The festival attracts an average of 2 million people per year. Celebrating the art of Samba dance, it provides the opportunity for Samba schools to compete against one another in a truly elaborate spectacle.
The main parade takes place in a special facility called the Sambodromo where dancers and carnival participants (accompanied by fantastical floats) provide the ultimate display for the senses. Sumptuous balls are held in the Copacabana Palace and parties litter the beaches and streets.
Why should I go? Rio Carnival is a magnificent, hyperactive celebration that should top anyone’s bucket list.
The ultimate homage to beer drinkers everywhere, Oktoberfest is a colossal 16 day fair held in Munich, Bavaria, Germany. In fact, it’s the world’s largest fair and, of course, it revolves around the consumption of Oktoberfest beer – as well as traditional Bavarian foods such as meats, pretzels, sauerkraut and potato and bread dumplings.
The consumption of litres upon litres of beer and, well… pretty much acres of food is all served up under tents. These are referred to (imaginatively enough) as “beer tents”. The festival spirit is embraced wholeheartedly with most people choosing to wear the traditional and fancy dress Bavarian costumes. But, it’s not all beer and busty wenches – there are parades, processions and live music to soak up.
Why should I go? A cultural event and an undoubtedly bawdy fair that’s simply not to be missed.
3. Sydney Mardi Gras
Sydney Mardi Gras is one of the largest festivals in the world and attracts hundreds of thousands of people every year. A massive parade and dance party, the festival promotes Gay pride in an ostentatious display of pageantry and frivolity.
Why should I go? The spectacular costumes and outrageous drag queens are enough of a draw card alone to place this festival on your must-do list.
4. Monaco F1 Grand Prix
The Monaco F1 Grand Prix is considered to be the largest and most prestigious racing event across the globe. The race is held on the Circuit de Monaco, a narrowing, winding road the traverses the main streets of the principality of Monaco and La Condamine and also includes the harbour.
It is one of the most difficult tracks in Formula 1 racing (full of sharp turns and elevation changes) which makes for edge-of-your-seat viewing. More than one driver has ended up in the harbour since the race’s 1939 inception.
The Monaco Grand Prix always proves an amazing race. But, it’s more than this. It’s glamour personified – bringing its fair share of celebrities as well as millionaires (including Monaco’s residents as the principality is a tax haven).
Why should I go? It’s a necessity for car racing enthusiasts and/or aficionados of the glamorous life.
5. Edinburgh Fringe Festival
If you really enjoy a good laugh then the Edinburgh Fringe Festival should rank highly in your festival bucket list. It’s the world’s largest arts festival – a showcase for comedy and theatre, music and dance and can incorporate almost any form of entertainment.
Organised by the Fringe Festival Society, it runs for over 25 days and features a host of free shows. It celebrates the arts in an open forum.
Why should I go? The Fringe would appeal to anyone who enjoys comedy and entertainment such as theatre, music, dance and even children’s shows.
6. Bastille Day
France’s national holiday celebrates the nation’s independence from the Monarchy, commemorating the seizing of the Bastille prison on the 14th of July 1789. The oldest and largest military parade takes place on the morning of the anniversary every year.
The festivities include dances, balls, communal meals and spectacular fireworks, as well as acrobatic displays by aircraft.
Why should I go? For those who love pomp and history, Bastille Day is the event to place on your travel calendar.
If it’s a beautiful and uplifting festival that you are searching for than look no further than the experience that is Diwali. The 5 day celebration, commonly referred to as the “festival of lights” involves a plethora of small lamps lit absolutely everywhere (on doorsteps, balconies, gardens, roof tops and outer walls) over the nation of India.
It signifies the triumph of good over evil and the renewal of life before the onset of winter. Diwali sees the exchange of sweets and also magnificent displays of fireworks.
Why should I go? The general vibe of joy and affirmation of life is pervasive across India throughout the celebrations.
8. Full Moon Parties
Occurring with every full moon (as the name suggests) Thailand’s full moon parties are a must for beach bums and hedonistic party goers. Taking place in Koh Phangan, on Had Rin Beach, the parties are a crazed reveller’s dream.
MCs, jugglers fire eaters and an eclectic range of music provide the entertainment for the 10,000 to 30,000 people that may attend on any given party night.
The parties began as a celebration of the brilliance of the full moon in this particular region of Thailand.
Why should I go? If you like the idea of a manic dance party that takes place on the sand, under the night sky and against the backdrop of breaking waves than a Full Moon Party is for you.
9. The Great Calgary Stampede
Heralded as the “greatest outdoor show on earth” the festival is a tribute to the Old Wild West and takes places in Calgary, Canada. It’s a massive rodeo and features such events and activities as draughthorse shows, miniature donkey showcases, chuckwagon races and just about anything you could wish a good hoe down would have.
It’s all about Western hospitality and country spirit. There are free pancake breakfasts each day of the show (a 10 day event) and a nightly grandstand show with up to 400 singers, dancer, acrobats and other performers that end in firework displays.
Why should I go? Get ya boots on and have a cracking good time cowboy (or girl). The Great Calgary Stampede is for anyone who loves country spirit and showmanship.
10. Dubai Shopping Festival
Held over 32 days, the Dubai shopping festival shows off the spoils of the emirates. It’s a celebration of commerce – offering discounts, prizes and competitions and, of course, lots and lots of shopping opportunities.
There are other elements to the festival. Light shows and fireworks, fashion shows, street performers and musicians form part of the vast array of entertainment options on offer. There’s even a massive opening ceremony.
Why should I go? What we have here is basically the “Shopping Olympics”. Die hard shopping fans should flock.
By Patricia Higgins, Australian journalist, copywriter and model/actor.