There are thousands of languages, countless religions and hundreds of countries in the world. One thing almost all of them share is their love of having a good time.
From Bali to Brazil and everywhere in between, communities love coming together to celebrate music, movement and significant milestones. So wherever you travel in the world, there’s a good chance you’ll find a great party to enjoy.
Here are eight must-do festivals to explore in 2019.
1. Carnival, Brazil
When: 1 - 9 March 2019
Where: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Website link: https://www.riocarnaval.org/
As far as street parties go, they don’t come much larger, more colourful or more heavily-sequinned than Rio’s Carnival. The annual celebration attracts over two million people to Brazil, where samba parades, intricately decorated floats and thumping rhythms spill onto the city streets.
It’s worth noting that Carnival’s biggest parade takes place in a stadium called the Sambadrome, which is a ticketed event.
Carnival is the festival for you if you love:
- High-energy celebrations
- Nonstop dancing and music
- Beach parties and street celebrations
Top tip: Rio’s biggest party has an unfortunate reputation for petty thieves, who travel from surrounding areas to prey on unsuspecting tourists. If you’re heading to Carnival, protect yourself against pickpockets by leaving expensive items in hotel safes, carrying no more than you need and using a concealed money belt.
2. Mardi Gras, USA
When: 5 March 2019
Where: New Orleans, Louisiana USA
Website link: http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/
Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans were first recorded in the 1730s. The Catholic celebration involved music, dancing, masks and cross-dressing - but didn’t look quite like it does today.
The New Orleans Mardi Gras attracts over 1.2 million people every year and is one of the city’s biggest calendar dates. The parades, floats, marching clubs and legendary ‘Krewes’ of partiers light up the streets and spill into countless bars and clubs.
The New Orleans Mardi Gras is perfect for travellers who love:
- Intricate costumes, parades and floats
- Celebrations with a rich history and tradition
- Incredible bars and restaurants to enjoy when the sun goes down
Top tip: The best parades attract massive crowds, so arrive early and stake your spot to avoid disappointment.
3. Nyepi, Bali
When: 7 March 2019
Website link: https://publicholidays.co.id/bali-hindu-new-year/
Celebrated on Hindu New Year’s Day, Bali’s famous day of silence and self-reflection is about as far from Carnival or Mardi Gras as you can imagine. During Nyepi, the Balinese reflect on the year past and think about ways to improve in the coming year. They fast, stay indoors and abstain from using electricity.
During Nyepi, Bali’s airport closes, police patrol the streets to ensure people remain indoors and all shops shut their doors. Nyepi can be an eye-opening experience for travellers to see nation-wide mindfulness in action. If this doesn’t appeal to you, Bali’s many other festivals might.
Nyepi is great for travellers who like:
- Unique cultural experiences
- Taking time out from the screen
Top tip: Nyepi is just about as close to shutting down an entire island as you can get, so plan your travel dates accordingly.
4. Holi Festival, India
When: 20 - 21 March 2019
Website link: https://www.holifestival.org
India’s Holi Festival is one of the largest celebrations in the country and has a message that resonates throughout the world. The so-called “festival of love” is celebrated in every part of India with utmost joy and enthusiasm.
The day before Holi is Holika Dahan, where a large bonfire is lit which is said to symbolize the triumph of good over the bad. On Holi itself, revellers celebrate by dousing each other with coloured water and powders called Gulal or Abeer.
Holi Festival is a must-see if you like:
- Uplifting atmospheres
- Colour and light
- Cultural traditions
Top tip: Holi’s 'colour fight’ is incredible fun but can quickly turn sour after a handful of Gulal in the eyes. Wear a pair of old sunglasses to protect yourself.
5. Songkran, Thailand
When: 13 - 16 April 2019
Website link: https://publicholidays.asia/thailand/songkran-festival/
Another nation-wide celebration that involves throwing things at each other, Thailand’s Songkran Festival swaps the coloured powders for a good old-fashioned water fight.
The first day of Songkran involves cleaning Buddha statues, parading them through the streets and purifying them with jasmine water. The festival then turns into an all-out water fight reminiscent of a schoolyard summer’s day.
You’ll love Songkran if you like:
- Joyous celebrations
- A refreshing way to escape the tropical heat
- Celebrating with the locals in a fun and lighthearted way
Top tip: Thailand’s already dangerous roads become even busier during Songkran, so use extra care if you absolutely need to drive.
6. Glastonbury, UK
When: 26 - 30 June 2019
Where: Pilton, Somerset UK
Website link: https://www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk
The UK’s premier music festival has come a long way since it drew a crowd of just 1,500 in its first year of 1970. The next year, word of the free festival quickly spread, with high-profile artists like David Bowie and Traffic attracting a crowd of over 12,000.
Today, Glastonbury is the largest outdoor music festival in the world, with almost 200,000 music fans descending on the fields of Worthy Farm in Somerset to see the biggest acts in the world.
Glastonbury is up your alley if you like:
- Classic music festival atmosphere
- Camping and meeting new people
- Giving up the creature comforts
Top tip: Glastonbury is almost as famous for its mud as its music. Just about every year, green fields turn into brown mud pits, courtesy of hundreds of thousands of stomping feet and the inevitable drizzly weather. Pack for the worst; you’ll be happy you did.
7. Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland
When: 28 June - 13 July 2019
Where: Montreux, Switzerland
Website link: https://www.montreuxjazzfestival.com/
Another one for the music lovers, Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival has arguably more musical heritage than even Glastonbury, beginning in 1967 and hosting top-tier jazz musicians like Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald and Bill Evans.
But it’s not just the softer sounds that grace the stages of Montreux; the festival has also seen performances by groups like Deep Purple, Alice Cooper and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
You’ll love the Montreux Jazz Festival if you enjoy:
- All things live music
- Scenic surrounds and medieval architecture
- Meeting like-minded music fans from all around the world
Top tip: After accommodation, meals and concert tickets, prices can quickly start to add up. Check out the program of free events if the budget starts to look tight.
8. Burning Man, USA
When: 25 August - 2 September 2019
Where: Black Rock Desert, Nevada USA
Website link: https://burningman.org/event/
No list of bucket-list festivals would be complete without Burning Man; the pop-up city that graces Nevada's Black Rock desert each year. The festival began as a bonfire ritual among friends in San Francisco in the mid-1980s but has since grown to attract around 100,000 people to the middle of the desert.
Burning Man is famous for its focus on creativity, community and self-expression. ‘Burners’ are encouraged to cast aside the realities of their everyday lives (including money), and adopt principles of gifting, self-reliance, participation and communal effort.
Burning Man is the festival for you if you like:
- Other-worldly experiences
- Meeting people from all walks of life
- Letting go and trying new things
Top tip: All Burning Man attendees are encouraged to read the Burning Man Survival Guide, which includes information on the principles of the event and outlines some basic guidelines. You’ll also learn about unexpected necessities (like plenty of lip balm) to make a week in the desert more comfortable.
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