International Festivals and Events
Festivals are a great way of experiencing the culture of a country. You can witness local traditions that sometimes go back centuries. What’s more is that festivals allow you to immerse all of your senses even if you don’t participate and just people watch.
Festivals are worldwide and you don’t even have to travel to the original destination to see one. Events such as Oktoberfest which began in Munich are now held in several European countries with each holding its own mini-event. Dance festivals such as Tomorrowland have now spread to the U.S. and Brazil making it easier to experience the world’s best dance festival on different continents.
You don't have to be a music lover either. Events from tomato and orange throwing, to literature and comedy, cater for all kinds of solos. If you don’t like crowds you’ll find local festivals on smaller scales. Instead of going to Rio Carnival in Brazil, opt for one of the Caribbean carnivals held in February and March instead.
Some countries are renowned for their festivals but don’t think that just because you’re not travelling to Spain or India that you won’t find a festival. Even countries such as Africa have annual events.
Festivals are also a great way of meeting others especially if you attend one of the numerous music festivals held in Europe (of which Croatia has several). However, if the thought of turning up to a festival alone is daunting you can choose a tour company instead. Companies such as Explore Worldwide, and TopDeck Travel offer tours such as Oktoberfest with the option of travelling to Munich independently or with the group.
Planning your trip around a festival can enhance your solo trip. Especially if you are in a new country for Christmas or New Year. Check before to see what events are being held to celebrate the New Year and book accommodation early as prices can soar. Below are our pick of the best festivals for solos:
Igloofest – Montreal, Canada
January to February
Known as the coldest music festival in the world, this electronic music festival held at the Old Port of Montreal attracts hard-core clubbers who will dance no matter what the outside temperature. The festival is known for its igloo village and striking visuals and is one of the best raves in Canada.
For those who are worried about the freezing temperatures, there are warming stations across the event. Spread out over 3 weeks you’ll find some of the best DJs to keep you dancing for hours. Just remember to pack your thermals!
Pingxi Lantern Festival – Taiwan
The Taiwan Lantern Festival has humble beginnings. Lanterns were originally lit up as a safe sign to villagers to let them know that the town was safe from thieves. Nowadays, the lighting of the lanterns has become a way of asking for God’s blessing. Not only can you see lanterns flying in the sky during the festival but you can also have your own lantern and write down your wishes on it!
Venice Carnival – Venice, Italy
February – March
One of the best-known carnivals in the world, Venice Carnival is a masked event that is centuries old. Regardless of age and social status, people take to the streets of Venice is colourful costumes and masks to take part in this Christian tradition which celebrates the forty days before Easter. Some even dress in 18th-century costumes for the events. Don't forget to buy a mini Venice mask to take home as a souvenir afterwards.
Rio Carnival – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
If you've ever wanted to see the samba on a giant scale, head to the Rio Carnival. Over two million people a day flock to Brazil to watch the colourful floats and processions. Then there are the street parties with more than 300 held in the city. People literally party for weeks in events leading up to and during the carnival. Sexy, fun and so incredibly Brazillian, it simply has to be seen to be believed.
Battle of the Oranges – Ivrea, Italy
Similar to the La Tomatina, the Battle of the Oranges in Ivrea, Italy is a festival in which people throw fruit against one another. If you don't fancy getting drenched in tomato juice, you can get saturated in orange juice instead. The festival represents the rebellion of the town against the tyrant and is now a fun event to attend.
New Orleans Mardi Gras – Louisiana, USA
Everyone's heard of the Mardi Gras. Each year tens of thousands of party dwellers come to Louisiana to take part in the party festivities which begin on the Twelfth Night. It's a festival for consuming food and watching colourful parades whilst catching beads thrown by the passing floats. This colourful festival can be traced back to Medieval times and has a strong Christian influence.
Las Fallas – Valencia, Spain
Declared as a Cultural Intangible World Heritage by UNESCO, Las Fallas is one of Spain's biggest and best festivals. Celebrating the end of winter and the beginning of spring, Las Fallas is a multi-day event of bonfires, fireworks and plenty of parties in true Spanish style. City corners are adorned with giant paper-mache figures which are paraded through the streets. Some represent political figures and celebrities.
Firecrackers are set off daily as a concert of gunpowder whilst other events see people in traditional costumes offering bouquets to the giant Virgin. Las Fallas ends with a firework display and Fallas (the giant statues) being burned all over the city.
Holi – India
Like Las Fallas, the Holi Festival (or the Festival of Colours) celebrates the arrival of spring. This visually spectacular Hindu festival also represents good over evil as people throw colourful powder on one another from water guns and balloons. It begins with a bonfire before Holi is celebrated on the following day. The colours overcome the language barrier and you can't help but get immersed in this happy, colourful tradition.
Coachella – Indio, California
Coachella is an annual music and arts festival held in the Coachella Valley each year. From rock to hip hop and electronic music, the festival showcases different genres and attracts a quarter of a million people. It is one of the largest music festivals in the world and a must-visit if you love music.
Songkran Water Festival – Chiang Mai, Thailand
For the biggest water fight of your life, you simply have to take part in the Songkran Water Festival. The water fight takes part on Songkran as a celebration of the Thai New Year. Locals soak passers-by with water guns and hoses. It symbolises spring cleaning and is a welcome escape from the Thai heat. In Thailand, splashing water on others is a symbol of blessing you so expect to get drenched!
Cheung Chau Bun Festival – Cheung Chau, HKSAR
Held in the outlying Island Cheung Chau in Hong Kong, the Bun Festival is a traditional Chinese festival celebrated exclusively on the Island. It originated from superstitions as the villagers petitioned the god Pack Tai in order to get rid of the plague. The Bun Scrambling Competition is a must-watch at this festival.
Cooper Hill's Cheese Rolling Festival – Gloucester, England
Calling all cheese lovers. This UK festival may sound like a strange one but it's fun to watch and if you find yourself in the UK in May it's worth taking the trip to Gloucester to see it. On May 27, participants of the festival roll Double Gloucester cheese down Cooper Hill chasing it down to the bottom. Let's just hope there are some crackers and pickle there too!
Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Tournament – Erdine, Turkey
Classified as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, this Turkish tournament has a long history and has been held in Erdine since 1346. In the game, wrestlers cover their bodies in olive oil before wrestling against each other. The tournament is open to all men regardless of their religious belief, cultural background and age. The wrestlers are symbols of respectfulness, generosity and honesty within their society.
Boryeong Mud Festival – Boryeong, South Korea
In order to promote the local mud cosmetic products, which prevent skin ageing and contain natural minerals, and introduce the Daecheon Beach to foreign visitors, Boryeong City started to hold the Mud Festival in 1998. There you can enjoy yourself in the Giant Mud Bath and treat your skin at the same time too!
Tomorrowland – Boom, Belgium
Being one of the largest music festivals in the world, Tomorrowland attracted 360,000 music lovers last year. Originally held in Belgium this electronic music event has now spread to the U.S. and Brazil. Tomorrowland's mantra is: “Live today, love tomorrow, unite forever.” This unique concept combined with its amazing light shows makes this 3-day event the best you can go to. To head to the original festival in Belgium you have be quick as tickets sell fast.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe – Edinburgh, Scotland
If you like a laugh, get yourself down to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. This Scottish festival is a celebration of the best performances and entertainment from around the globe. Beginning in 1947, it is now the world’s largest arts festival with events taking place all over the city.
From theatre to stand up comedy, there are thousands of performances to see from jazz musicians to international celebrities. It runs for over three weeks in August and will have you constantly entertained.
Burning Man – Black Rock City, Nevada
August – September
Held annually since 1986, Burning Man aims to live as a self-sustaining community based on 10 principles: radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation and immediacy, in the Black Rock Desert. At the end of this event, a model of a man is burnt to signify the end. Hedonistic and completely freeing, this annual event is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
La Tomatina – Buñol, Spain
If you've ever felt like attending a food throwing party, head to La Tomatina where people throw tomatoes against one another in Buñol on the last Wednesday in August every year. Despite various versions of the festival’s origin, it is now a festival which became a tradition in the town. Over a hundred tons of tomatoes are used up in the tomato fight. Just don't wear your best clothes.
Cascamorras – Baza, Spain
Declared as Fiesta de Interés Turístico Internacional, this festival originated in the province of Granada in Spain. It began due to rivalry for a statue of Virgen de la Piedad between the two towns of Baza and Guadix, Habitants of Baza smear people coming from Guadix with black oil so as to avoid them from bringing back the statue.
Oktoberfest – Munich, Germany
September – October
If you like drinking beer then head to Oktoberfest. This German festival began as a royal wedding in 1810 and has turned into the largest beer festival in the world with more than 6 million guests each year. It's a fun festival with the chance to dress in Dirndl dresses and Lederhose, and dance on tables whilst swilling locally-brewed beer to German music. Over the course of two weeks 7.5 million litres of beer is consumed within the giant beer tents. It's definitely one for beer lovers.
Albuquerque International Balloon Festival – Albuquerque, New Mexico
Being the world’s largest balloon festival, Albuquerque International Balloon Festival attracts more than 700 balloons and pilots. Beginning as a 50th birthday celebration for a radio station, the event has become internationally recognised and is the largest convention in the world. It offers a magnificent landscape where you can watch over 700 balloons gracefully floating in the air and attracts thousands of spectators.
Frankfurt Book Fair (Frankfurter Buchmesse) – Germany
The Frankfurt Book Fair is the world's largest book fair and the most important marketplace for the publishing industry. This major cultural festival for book worms is now celebrating its 70th anniversary. From printed books to digital content, it is a book lover's dream festival.
Day of The Dead (Dia de los Muertos) – Mexico City, Mexico
Dia de Los Muertos or The Day of the Death is a Mexican Festival commemorating family members who had passed away. Although people have their faces painted as skulls and Halloween-style costumes this festival is not one of doom or gloom. Instead, it is a colourful event with decorated altars to welcome the spirits of their loved ones. The day is so important to Mexican culture that it has been recognised by UNESCO. If you've ever seen the Disney movie Coco, then you may have an idea of what to expect.
Festival of Lights – Lyon, France
The Festival of Lights originally began as a way to celebrate the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. It has since transformed from a traditional celebration to a unique urban event which has influenced creative light displays in the world. The spectacular performances and light show attracts millions of visitors to the city of Lyon each year.
Hogmanay – Edinburgh, Scotland
December – January
If you can’t make it to Edinburgh for the Festival Fringe then spend New Year here instead. Originally celebrated by Vikings to mark the winter solstice, Hogmanay is one of the best places in the world to celebrate the New Year with three days of unforgettable events.
Beginning on 30th December with the Torchlight procession, torchbearers dressed as Vikings parade through the streets of Edinburgh. On New Year’s Eve, the cannon at Edinburgh Castle is fired at midnight, followed by a spectacular firework display.
From traditional ceilidh bands to DJ sets, celebrations continue until 1st January with thousands of people from all around the globe descending on the city to celebrate the Hogmanay traditions. If you’re adventurous, join the hundreds of people who wearing fancy dress plunge into the River Forth on New Year’s Day.
Ice Festival – Harbin, Heilongjiang, China
December to February
The Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture is the world’s winter festival. This annual festival takes place in Harbin, Heilongjiang, China. This event has been running for more than 30 years and what makes it world famous are the size and the scale of the sculptures. See beautiful palace buildings, ice lanterns and even the Great Wall of China.
The best time to see the giant snow sculptures are during the day, and colourfully lit sculptures at the Ice and Snow World venue at night. Make the most of your trip there by staying in an ice hotel and going dog sledging too.
You don’t have to go all the way to China to experience a winter festival as Norway, Quebec, and Sapporo all hold their own.
There are so many festivals to list that we have just picked our favourites. Have you been to any of the above?
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