8 Festivals You Need to Add to Your Bucket List

Estimated reading time 10 min

One of the most popular items on any bucket list is to experience festivals around the world. Everyone has dreams of attending world famous music festivals, as well as festivals showcasing cultures and other parts of the world. f you have been searching for the world’s best festivals, we can help! Here are the highlights of some of the best festivals found around the globe.

Wanderlust in Taupo, New Zealand

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Spend four days getting in touch with nature as you realign your mind and body at Wanderlust held each February. Located on the pristine Great Lake Taupo only three hours south of Aukland, this holistic festival features something for everyone. Start your day on foot with a hike around the lake, stand-up paddleboarding on the open water or chasing your dreams on horseback. Your days are also packed full of lectures, classes and workshops to expand your mind. Yoga teachers, world famous authors, business leaders and health experts bring their knowledge to the audience at Wanderlust.

When you get hungry, explore the most sustainable and satisfying menu items. There is a Food Co-op, Farm to Table Dinner and Wanderlust Uncorked in which you can savor foods from New Zealand. Every night, indulge your senses with incredible live performances from artists, popular and obscure, mixed with live dance and theatrical shows. Don’t forget to leave a little time to go shopping at the Mindful Market where you’ll find keepsakes from local artisans! The natural beauty of Great Lake Taupo is located within a few hours drive of Auckland so you’ll be in the perfect place to take advantage of the urban highlights of Auckland before and after you experience the Wanderlust festival.

Donauinselfest

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In Vienna, Austria, the free music festival of Donauinselfest brings tourists and locals alike together for what is considered the biggest open air festival in all of Europe. The festival takes place at the middle or end of June, unless there is another major event during that time. For instance, in 2008 Donauinselfest was rescheduled for September so it wouldn’t compromise attendance with the European Football Championship that was also held in Austria. So plan accordingly and check out the latest schedule if you are visiting Vienna for Donauinselfest.

During Donauinselfest more than three million festival goers experience world famous acts from far and wide. At past events, the festival showcased live music performed by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Basshunter, Master Blaster, the Bloodhound Gang, Christina Stürmer and Fettes Brot. There are 21 different areas across 6.5 kilometers where performers keep the crowds entertained at this free fest. While the festival is free for admission, there are vendors selling a variety of exotic and local cuisines ranging from Austrian to Turkish and vegetarian food. People go for the free music but indulge their taste buds on the for-sale eats.

Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival

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At the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in Harbin, China the weather is perfect for this family-friendly festival. Held annually from January 5 to February 25, this festival takes advantage of the Siberian windchill. Here temps typically drop to -30 degrees Fahrenheit, which puts quite the chill on guests. However, it doesn’t stop more than 15 million visitors from exploring this awe-inspiring site each year.

Thanks to the sheer size of the ice and snow sculptures, measuring more than 600,000 square meters, this is the world’s biggest festival featuring ice sculptures. At the tallest peak, the sculptures are 46 meters high. It takes more than 10,000 workers to cut and move the ice blocks used to build these magnificent frozen palaces. To top it all off, there is a stunning light show presented alongside the sculptures, highlighting the frozen beauty.

There are three different areas to visit during the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. The Sun Island Scenic Area is showcased during the daylight hours. Meanwhile, the Ice and Snow World is lit up at night for a frozen wonderland. It includes the showstoppers of the Great Wall of China and palaces. Meanwhile, at Zhaolin Park there are more than 1,000 figures carved out of ice. Here you can see magical statues and animals, as well as ice lanterns lit from within. For kids, the highlight is the slippery ice slides that keep them moving through the sculpture park.

Oerol Festival

netherlands-music-festival

The Dutch host an annual cultural festival called Oerol every June. For 10 fun-filled days on the Wadden Island of Terschelling in the Netherlands, nearly 100,000 visitors flock here for the Oerol festival. The focus of this cultural extravaganza is public theatre live and on stage. There are also visual arts exhibitions and musical performances to round out the offerings. For this festival the entire island of Terschelling gets into the spirit. The world oerol is literally taken from the Dutch translation of “overall” or “entirely”.

As such, the Oerol festival involves every possible space for performing arts. Attendees pay for passports that allow them to travel across the island and be involved in as many performances as they want. Shows are held in more than 70 boathouses, beaches, army bunkers, forests and farm sheds. It is a total immersion in performance arts for the ultimate cultural experience. The spirit is free and forgiving, allowing guests to become one with the open mindset of the arts.

AfrikaBurn

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Down in Calvinia, South Africa, the AfrikaBurn festival is the African equivalent of America’s Burning Man festival. AfrikaBurn is held each year in April for a week-long spectacular in the Tankwa Karoo. If you have been to Burning Man and want to up your festival experience, plan today to attend the upcoming AfrikaBurn. While the two festivals are related they are not managed by the same organizations, so expect similarities along with cultural differences. The AfrikaBurn experience involves a temporary city created among festivalgoers who organize themed camps, live music, art displays and costumes. Along with creating art and driving mutant vehicles, participants also burn sculptures, which gives the festival its name.

Everyone who attends is expected to follow the cultural values of the festival. These include survival before services and moral relationships before politics. It also means that nothing is for sale at the festival—except for ice. You won’t be bombarded by vendors or brands and everything you give and receive is based on the gift economy. If you are searching for a life changing festival that will alter the way to view the world long after AfrikaBurn, then consider traveling to South Africa in April.

Street Parade Zurich

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Every August the Street Parade Zurich takes place in Zurich, Switzerland. The festival is in remembrance of the former Love Parade in Berlin, for which the Street Parade gets its inspiration. Located at Lake Zurich in Burkliplatz, this festival is one giant street party. For a single day the festival brings one million partygoers to the middle of the road in Zurich. More than 600 DJs or music groups play in this out-of-this-world fest. Along with the Love Parade inspiration are 30 love mobiles that encourage a free spirited happy-go-lucky attitude. It is a celebration of peace, love and music that is the envy of any Woodstock attendee.

The first ever Street Parade was held in 1992. Today the festival continues to grow and attract the most current music followings. Right now there is an emergence of electronic music which dominates the streets. In fact, the Street Parade Zurich is considered the quintessential street music festivals for electronic dance music. As such, it attracts the top international names in DJs.

Positioned with the stunning Lake Zurich in the background, the Street Parade is focused on the rural charm of the city. This helps to maintain a relaxed atmosphere that attracts an international crowd. Festival goers range in age, culture, occupation and musical interests.

Gion Matsuri

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In Kyoto, Japan, the civic festival of Gion Matsuri has its origins in gods of natural forces. In order to appease these gods Gouy-e, which are purification ceremonies, took place dating back to 794. These ceremonies involved spears and shrines that were used for paying respect to these gods. Today the festival of moving shrines, called the matsuri, remains live and well with Gion Matsuri in Kyoto.

These ceremonies last for an entire month, in July. They include a lanterns ceremony, tea ceremony festival, folding screen festival and flower umbrella procession. Each festival is held on one or more days. The most important procession is the Yamaboko Junko parade. This involves enormous wooden floats made the traditional way without nails. These floats are so massive it can take 40 men to drag them along Kyoto’s streets. The decorations and designs of the floats embody the history of Kyoto as moving museums. In fact, these movable museums have been designated as UNESCO sites via the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity listing.

The other festivals and processions are also popular among attendees and locals. You can even get involved by adding a good luck charm to a float in the festivals. However, as you move toward these collections of artifacts and moving shrines, expect anything to happen. These shrines are truly moving masterpieces meant to entertain and delight passersby.  Wear traditional yukata, which is a lightweight kimono, even if you aren’t a local so that you can best fit into the culture of the festival. It is considered a good omen to dress traditionally for this festival even if you aren’t Japanese.

Mathura-Vrindavan Holi

India Color Festival - HOli

Known simply as Holi, the Mathura-Vrindavan Holi festival (or Color Festival) is easily the most vibrant fest you will attend in your lifetime. This festival has historic origins dating back to King Hiranyakashipu of ancient Hindu texts called Puranas. Taking place in Vrindavan, India in February or March depending on the final lunar cycle of winter, Holi is colorful, literally. The festival is fully immersive, as you are bombarded with color. Dyes known as gulal and abeer made from natural sources, such as flowers, as well as synthetic dyes, explode into crowds. People throw powdered dye and water balloons filled with paint, while also spraying paint using water pistols. Everyone is soaked in brilliant hues as a way to welcome the bright colors of spring. It’s a wonderful way to whisk away the doldrums of winter.

Holi is celebrated by everyone no matter their caste or religion, making it a great equalizer among those living in India. As a result, it is a very popular festival garnering great attention. The best Holi celebrations are in northern India in the cities of Mumbai, Manipur, Varanasi and Delhi. If you attend Holi, make sure to wear clothing that can be dyed, as some of the dyes are permanent on fabric. You may want to cover your hair if you don’t want it to become dyed, as well. Also make sure to remove any contact lenses and jewelry that could be ruined by the dyes during the festival as you will be covered in color from the tip of your nose to your tippy-toes.

 

If you have discovered a festival that strikes your fancy, then it’s time to start planning your next trip. Finding your way to the world’s best festivals is easy with go-today. We offer complete travel packages that help you meander from festival to festival, whether you are a music goer, or searching to improve your cultural understandings. Go-today wants to provide you with travel package opportunities to help you make the most of the world’s best festivals. Travel via packages by go-today!

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