Updated August 2017
Introducing the IGLU guide to the best and most interesting festivals and cultural celebrations from around the world. Perfectly organised with date and destination information to help you plan your travels, so that you can witness some of the most magnificent festivals the world has to offer. From Samba dancers in Rio, to dragons parading the streets of Hong Kong, this list has it all. Now is the time to experience life the way it should be lived.
When: March Where: India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Worldwide
Why you should go: Holi Festival, or The Festival of Colours, celebrates the end of winter and beginning of spring. It’s fun, safe, and free. It is an ancient Hindu religious festival that is celebrated with enthusiasm, singing, dancing, and a rainbow of colours. Groups carry drums and other musical instruments and go from place to place, while everyone plays, chases, and colours each other with dry powder and coloured water, with some carrying water guns and coloured water-filled balloons.
Snow & Ice Festival
When: Late December to February Where: Harbin, China
Why you should go: The Harbin festival is the largest snow and ice festival in the world, exhibiting the most exquisite ice and snow sculptures ever made. Experience the magnificent Ice and Snow World - with incredible carvings that tower an amazing 20 feet high. Not to mention the perfectly crafted full-size monuments, that are designed from gigantic blocks of ice and decorated with lights and lasers. This exhibition has a lot to offer, and is definitely worth a visit at least once.
When: Mid September - Early October Where: Munich, Germany
Why you should go: The famous Oktoberfest is the largest Volksfest beer festival and travelling funfair in the world. Held annually in Munich, Germany, Oktoberfest began life as a wedding for the Bavarian crown prince Ludwig to Princess Therese on October 12, 1810. It has since grown into an extremely popular festival running from mid - late September to the first weekend in October - with more than 6 million people from around the world attending the event every year. The event is all about beer, beer, and only beer. Grab a stein and start the celebrations.
When: Mid February to Early March Where: Taiwan
Why you should go: The Lantern Festival was originally celebrated to ward off evil and disease from the town. The Taipei Pingshi Sky Lanterns were released to let others know that the town was safe.
Witness thousands of sky lanterns light up during one of the world’s largest lantern festivals. If you’re looking for a little magic, there is nothing more surreal than a sky ablaze with thousands of floating lanterns. The lanterns are decorated with wishes and images relating to the owner before being released into the night at the same time, magically decorating transforming the sky into a sanctuary of lights. Don’t miss the great street festivals that take place during the day.
When: February Where: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Why you should go: Rio carnival is simply electrifying; the combination of pulsating music, samba dancing, a nonstop party, with the special addition of Brazilian flair. The Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is a world famous 5-day festival held before Lent every year, and is considered to be the biggest carnival in the world - with over 2 million people on the streets of this vibrant city every day. The first festivals of Rio date back to 1823. The typical Rio carnival parade is filled with revellers, dancers, glittering costumes, giant parades, and adornments. This festival is a mind-blowing week of sequin-fuelled fun, in one of the world’s most beautiful destinations.
Chinese New Year Parade
When: February Where: Hong Kong and Major Cities Worldwide
Why you should go: This ancient festival is an experience like no other; it marks China's New Year - an important traditional Chinese holiday celebrated at the turn of the Chinese calendar. With dragons, fireworks, symbolic clothing, flowers, lanterns, and celebration, China marks their most important and significant day of the year in style. In Hong Kong, the heart pounding action features a fabulous parade of floats, dragons, symbolic clothing, international and local performers, and a stunning fireworks show over the harbour.
Albuquerque International Balloon Festival
When: October Where: Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Why you should go: The Albuquerque International Balloon Festival hosts the largest gathering of hot air balloons in the world. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a yearly festival of hot air balloons that takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA. The Balloon Fiesta is a nine day event, and has around 750 balloons. Once the balloons are let off, watch as the Skies of Albuquerque become a rainbow of vibrant colours, creating a breath-taking spectacle. You can take part, climb aboard and take flight, or even get married way up in the clouds.
Mardi Gras Festival
When: February - March Where: New Orleans, USA
Why you should go: In many ways Mardis Gras’ reputation precedes itself — if you want to party like there’s no tomorrow, New Orleans is where you belong. Mardi Gras, meaning “Fat Tuesday” in French, is a festival marked by an endless cyclone of feathers, costumes, beads, and booze that whips through city streets of New Orleans. It’s been called the wildest fete in the U.S and for good reason: Every year, droves of party-goers flock to New Orleans to take in the floats, the festivities, and the food, and to leave their mark on the Big Easy. Don’t miss the throwing of beads - it’s a staple of the festival.
Up Helly Aa Fire Festival
When: The Last Tuesday in January Where: Lerwick, Scotland
Why you should go: This is Europe’s largest fire festival, complete with the burning of a full-scale Viking ship. Need we say more? This superb spectacle is a celebration of Shetland history, and a triumphant demonstration of the islanders' skills and spirit. Up Helly Aa day involves a Nordic themed series of marches and visitations, and the procession culminates in a torch-lit procession and the burning of a galley. This is followed by hours of performing acts and dancing in halls throughout Lerwick. This northern Mardi Gras lasts just one day (and night). But it takes several thousand people 364 days to organise. Much of the preparation is in strictest secrecy.
Carnevale di Venezia
When: Late January to Early February Where: Venice, Italy
Why you should go: Carnevale, or “Carnival,” has been a Venice tradition dating back to the 13th century. The Carnival of Venice is an annual two-week festival that ends with the Christian celebration of Lent, forty days before Easter on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. The carnival is well renowned with visitors flocking from around the world to admire and even participate in the masquerade masked celebrations, arguably making it one of the best and visually stunning shows on Earth.
Do any of these festivals sound intriguing to you? Why not plan your next trip so that you can attend. We can tailor-make your cruise holiday to add additional stays in destinations before or after your cruise. Call us to find out more.