Celebrations bring communities and cultures to life. They’re a time when people can set aside day-to-day pursuits and join together to explore something much deeper.
Take Japan’s cherry blossom festivals. While they are rare and stunning visual spectacles, they also remind the Japanese people of the fragile and finite nature of beauty. Something they call mono no aware.
For the traveller, festivals are often fleeting moments which leave a lasting impression. Explore the ones that we cherish below – and join something that you will remember for a lifetime.
January – Timkat, Ethiopia
Next event: 20th January, 2020
This Orthodox Epiphany celebrates the baptism of Jesus in a display of dancing, singing and dramatic re-enactments that brings the country to a standstill. Crowds fill the streets, dressed in colourful silk robes and filled with religious fervour.
February – Carnival Barranquilla, Colombia
Next event: 22nd February, 2020
This carnival is the most popular event in Barranquilla’s annual calendar, and one of the most important in Colombia. A care-free atmosphere sweeps through the area as the creativity of the Colombian people is expressed to its fullest. The carnival was proclaimed as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, by UNESCO.
March – Cherry Blossom Festivals, Japan
Next event: March, 2020 – date TBC
Spring arrives in Japan and its landscapes explode into a blanket of pink and white. Hirosaki Castle Park brings dazzling views from the castle and dream-like illuminations at night. It’s also equally magical when the blooms fall – leaving a sweeping blossom carpet all around.
April – Reindeer Herder Festival, Russia
Next event: 4th April, 2020
Travel to the harsh Yamal Peninsula in the Russian Arctic to witness the gathering of the most isolated tribal people on the planet – the nomadic Nenet reindeer herders. Each year the herders move to the Aksarka village to meet with friends, compete in contests and share their culture with the limited visitors who are privileged enough to attend.
May – Silk and Spices Festival, Uzbekistan
Next event: 24th – 26th May, 2019
Held annually amidst the turquoise-domed mosques and minarets of Bukhara, this festival showcases the rich legacy which has thrived from the ancient Silk Route. Experience three days of joyful celebrations, folklore performances, masterclasses, traditional games and skilled local artisans.
June – Festival of World Sacred Music, Morocco
Next event: 14th – 22nd June, 2019
Artists from all over the world will represent music and performance art – with everything from gospel choirs to Sufi chants – against a backdrop of palaces and jasmine-scented gardens. We can arrange an All Events Pass to guarantee access to the daily concerts held in the stunning Bab Al Makina and similar historic sites.
July – Whale Festival, Madagascar
Next event: 11th – 14th July, 2019
When the humpback whales arrive off the coast of Ile Sainte Marie, festivities engulf the island. Parades, concerts and exhibitions mark this annual event, celebrating the arrival of the island’s most famous visitors.
August – Mount Hagen Festival, Papa New Guinea
Next event: 17th – 18th August, 2019
The Mount Hagen Festival is famous for its colour, culture and vibrancy. Over six days, an unforgettable experience of feathered headdresses, fascinating body decorations and animated ritual displays takes place as tribes descend to compete for top honours.
September – Kwita Izina, Rwanda
Next event: September, 2019
Gorillas are an integral part of Rwanda’s national identity – a symbol of hope and survival. This annual ceremony in Volcanoes National Park celebrates the arrival of a new generation, giving carefully chosen names to all of the baby mountain gorillas born that year.
October – Day of the Dead, Mexico
Next event: October 31st – November 2nd, 2019
Day of the Dead is a fiercely celebrated tradition in Mexico; each town and city has its own way to mark the event. Visit local cemeteries at night to witness families honouring their dead, sample sugarcraft creations and, of course, meet an array of ghoulishly-clad locals.
November – Gaucho Festival, Argentina
Next event: 8th – 9th November, 2019
The Gaucho Festival is an annual celebration of the traditional gaucho and their exceptional equine skills. This week-long fiesta takes place in the small town of San Antonio de Areco – stay at a nearby estancia for daily transport to the festival and its parades, rodeos, demonstrations, craft stalls and mouth-watering asado barbeque.
December – Hornbill Festival, India
Next event: 1st – 10th December, 2019
Witness one of the most colourful and vibrant congregations of tribes during the Hornbill Festival. This annual mix of cultural displays from all 16 tribes of Nagaland – known as the last head-hunters – includes colourful pageants showcasing the cultural treasures of the area.