Top Four Festivals In The World You Should Be Traveling To Right Now

Whether celebrating life or death, wildlife, religious deities, rowing, or even ice sculpting, festivals add another dimension to your travels. Streets thrum with music and kaleidoscopic parades, you might see traditional rituals that aren’t performed at any other time, and you’re fully embraced in local life as everyone joins in with the celebrations.

Below, we share our pick of festivals around the globe that we feel are worth experiencing as part of a wider trip.

  1. Diwali, India

This festival of lights usually occurs between mid-October and mid-November, and is celebrated by a number of religions across India and beyond. Marking the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance, it’s interpreted differently across Hindu, Sikh, and Jain communities.

Walking through towns and cities, you’ll see houses, shops, and public places lit with lanterns and small earthenware lamps called diyas, while flower displays brighten the streets further. Over five days of festivities, parades and live music take place, fireworks are set off, and gifts and sweets are exchanged.

  1. Semana Santa, Guatemala

To mark the start of Holy Week, towns throughout Guatemala host celebrations featuring giant floats with enormous statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, wafting incense, and sumptuous costumes.

Beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Good Friday, Antigua is the most spectacular place in the country to experience Holy Week. Here, local residents line street after street with intricately woven alfombras (carpets), all made by hand using flowers, brightly dyed sawdust, and palm fronds, and planned months in advance. The alfombras have a vivid but fleeting beauty — they help cushion the feet of the volunteer float bearers (cucuruchos) who carry the huge statues as an act of penitence.

  1. Obon Festival, Japan

For more than 500 years, the Japanese have commemorated their ancestors during Obon, a three-day festival that’s usually held in August. It’s celebrated through Bon Odori folk dances, seasonal cuisine, and the lighting of bonfires. Some of the largest fires are in the hills surrounding Kyoto, with huge bonfires arranged in the shape of kanji, Japanese characters.

It’s a time in Japan when people reunite to visit family graves and make food offerings at temples and shrines. At the end of the festival, communities gather around lakes and rivers to float paper lanterns that help guide their relatives back to the spirit world.

  1. Mardi Gras, New Orleans, USA

Also known as Fat Tuesday, this celebration marks the last day before Lent, when traditionally people would eat rich, fatty foods before fasting. While it’s celebrated by Christians worldwide, New Orleans has become almost synonymous with the festival, recording its first parade in 1857.

Visit the city today and you’ll still see these lively parades of floats and masked, costumed participants dressed in purple, green, and gold (standing for justice, faith, and power, respectively). Long beads and other trinkets are thrown into the crowd, and each year a King of the Carnival is chosen and revealed the day before the parade.