10 breathtaking world festivals you won’t want to miss
From Mumbai to Nevada, Sydney to South Korea there's a festival with your name on it
For everything we Brits do well when it comes to festivals – the orderly queuing, M&S snacks, neon cagoules, our willingness to tackle environmentally friendly ‘long drops’ – we still suffer when it comes to our wholly unreliable climate.
It doesn’t matter that the BBC app is promising ‘grey with sunny intervals’ we both know Michael Fish and his pals start twerking a rain dance on the Met Office roof as soon as Glastonbury opens it’s doors.
But what if you could enjoy music and other gloriously life-affirming outdoor festivities without the skies opening? Well, you actually can!
Granted, not on the shores of our green and pleasant land, but across the globe such opportunities exist. Quidco Discover goes exploring…
San Fermin (the Running of the Bulls)
The Festival of San Fermin sounds innocent enough – until you realise it’s the annual gathering of nutcases, locals and bulls in the Spanish town of Pamplona, known worldwide as the Running of the Bulls. You’ll have seen the pictures and YouTube videos of white- and red-dressed crowds charging through slick, cobbled streets chased by fired-up bulls, so why not join them yourself? Nope, us neither. We’ll just watch, thanks.
If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t deal well with searing heat and roughing it, maybe give Nevada’s Burning Man festival a miss. Founded by a group of free-spirited mates on a San Francisco beach in 1986, the festival has become a global pilgrimage for those seeking good times, self-sufficiency (you can’t buy anything – so bring it or barter for it) and hedonistic fun in the middle of the desert. Bring water, sunglasses and a very open mind.
Harbin Ice Festival
Heilongjiang Province, China
The Chinese like to do things bigger and better, so when they put on one of the world’s largest ice festivals, you know they’ll bring the, ahem, heat. Held in the far north east of the country, in the city of the same name, the annual Harbin Ice Festival hosts brightly lit ice sculpture and architecture that’s both dazzling and dizzying in ambition and size. And just in case you were wondering how they stop it from melting, don’t worry – a Harbin winter can hit -30ºC. Maybe give the ice creams a miss, then.
Boryeong Mud Festival
Chungcheong Province, South Korea
Of course, you don’t have to travel halfway across the globe to cover yourself in mud, but the mud in the Korean city of Boryeong isn’t any old mud – and its annual festival isn’t any old festival. You’ll find a whole range of activities, mostly focused around slathering yourself and others in the abundant, mineral-rich gunge, not to mention music (Gangnam Style writer/inflicter Psy opened the 2016 festival) and fireworks.
New Orleans Mardi Gras
Louisiana, New Orleans, US
New Orleans is a place like no other; a melting pot of cultures and traditions that’s resulted in one of the greatest and most colourful festivals on the planet: Mardi Gras. Organised groups of revellers (known as ‘krewes’, each with their own colours and unique history) take to parade floats for a long weekend of celebrations before the eye- and ear-popping finale on ‘Fat Tuesday’, the day before Lent begins. Dress up and leave your inhibitions at home.
Need a bit of colour in your life? The Hindu festival of Holi, known as the ‘festival of colour’, delivers that in spades. Huge crowds of people get together to hurl coloured powder at each other, and while India and Nepal are the traditional Holi heartlands, the festival has spread throughout the globe, so wherever you live you (and your clothes) can get involved. Head to Mumbai for a taste of Holi at its brightest and most exciting. Not one for wearing your Sunday best, obviously.
Just in case you thought debauched street parties were a new thing, the annual Carnevale di Venezia proves otherwise, with its heaving and colourful throwback to centuries-old Venetian good times. The emblems of the carnival are the masks – you’ll need one of these highly decorated icons to join in the decadent (and pricey) masquerade balls, though you’ll be the odd one out without one anywhere in the canal-crossed Italian city.
You won’t have much difficulty finding a party in Barbados at any time of the year, but for the ultimate Bajan carnival experience, head to the Caribbean island for Crop Over. Founded in the 18th century to celebrate the end of the sugar-cane harvest, Crop Over begins in July and ends with the Grand Kadooment on the first Monday in August, where brightly dressed dancers and bands take to the streets for a calypso-, food- and rum-fuelled party you’ll never forget. Unless you’ve overdone the rum, obviously…
New Year’s Eve
Bored of the same old pub-Auld Lang Syne-hangover routine every new year? You need a trip to Edinburgh for Hogmanay, where the ‘eve’ gets stretched to a three-day celebration with live music, parades and lots of Scottish dancing. If you need to blow away some cobwebs on new year’s day, get involved in the Loony Dook, where the very bravest hurl themselves into the icy waters of the Firth of Forth – while wearing fancy dress, of course.
Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
New South Wales, Australia
First held in 1978, Sydney’s gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras isn’t just a focal point for the Australian LGBTQI community any longer – it’s a truly global event that’s grown in size and status every year. The parade is a rainbow-coloured celebration of togetherness, that’s as much about defiance and protest as it is about undiluted fun in a city that really knows how to let its hair down.