Six of the Best Festivals Around the World

19th February 2018


There are few better ways to truly immerse yourself in a new country than to attend an event full of cultural displays, traditional rituals, authentic food and local people. Here is a round-up of our favourite festivals from around the world.

Joshi Festival, Pakistan

Taking place each May, the Joshi Festival is a celebration of the end of winter and the coming of spring for the Kalash people of the Hindu Kush in Pakistan. The begins with purification rituals followed by traditional music and dancing before leaves are thrown on participants heads to mark the arrival of spring and the end of the festival. This is a spectacle not to be missed, with the women of the tribe dressing in traditional colourful embroidered garments and the whole community in high spirits. Watch Jonny’s video from the Joshi Festival in 2010 here.

You can experience the Joshi Festival on our 16 day Hindu Kush Festival Adventure tour.

Nagaland Hornbill Festival, India

The state of Nagaland in north east India is home to several different tribes, all with their own distinct cultures, traditions and festivals. The Hornbill Festival is organised annually by the government to encourage these tribes to interact and to preserve and celebrate the traditional ways of life, and takes its name from the Indian Hornbill, which appears in the folklore of most of the state’s tribes. The festival takes place each December, with music, performances, arts and crafts, food fairs, games and ceremonies all organised. It’s an incredible opportunity to experience the colourful costumes, traditional music and dancing and religious rituals of these tribal communities.

Spend two days at the Hornbill Festival on our Meghalaya Tree Bridges & Nagaland Hornbill Festival tour.

Timkat Festival, Ethiopia

The Ethiopian Orthodox celebration of Epiphany, the Timkat Festival is said by many to be one of the most spectacular religious festivals in the world. Timkat is a celebration of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, and involves the Tabot, a model of the Ark of the Covenant, being wrapped in luxurious cloth and carried by a priest to a nearby stream or pool, followed by the church’s congregation in their Sunday best. The Tabot is immersed, symbolising Jesus’ baptism, and the priest then blesses the water and devotees splash themselves and each other with the blessed water, symbolically renewing their baptismal vows. The Tabot is then returned to the church amid plenty of chanting, music and dancing, before everyone returns home for a feast.

Our Timkat Festival tour takes in the festival in a village in the Central Highlands for a truly authentic cultural experience.

Naadam Festival, Mongolia

The ‘three manly sports’ – wrestling, horseracing and archery, have a long history in Mongolia, dating back to the time of Genghis Khan when events would be organised before and after battles. In the 1920s Nadaam became a nationwide celebration honouring the People’s Revolution and the forming of the independent nation of Mongolia, and it’s now a national holiday. The major festival is held in July in Ulaanbaatar with wrestling, horseracing and archery tournaments as well as an ankle bone shooting competition, which isn’t as painful as it sounds! Smaller events are also held in provinces and villages around the country, with everyone turning out to celebrate in their best traditional dress.

Rather than spend Nadaam with the crowds in the capital, on our Alternative Nadaam tour we spend two days celebrating with the locals in Erdenet, as well as taking in some of the highlights of beautiful Mongolia.

Goroka Festival, Papua New Guinea

The longest running tribal gathering and cultural show in Papua New Guinea, the Goroka Festival was started in 1957 as a way to bring people together and help tribal groups forget their differences. Today over 100 tribes come together for an incredible show of singing, dancing and cultural performances, including the Mud Men of Asaro in their scary-looking clay masks. These amazingly colourful and energetic displays of tribal traditions are known as singsings, and showcase the vibrant and diverse cultures of Papua New Guinea.

Visit Papua New Guinea on our Tribal Lands of Papua New Guinea tour and spend a whole weekend enjoying this spectacular festival.

Day of the Dead, Mexico

Dating back to pre-Colombian times, Mexico’s Day of the Dead is an annual celebration of the memory of deceased loved ones, and despite its morbid theme, this is one of Mexico’s most joyful and colourful festivals. Skull masks and makeup, marigolds (the flower of the dead) and colourful decorations are seen everywhere, and the celebration last for three days. One unique tradition of the Day of the Dead is the ‘cleaning the bones’ of dearly departed family members.

Experience the Day of the Dead celebrations in Campeche and the surrounding villages, including witnessing the ‘cleaning the bones’, on our Through the Mayan Heartlands: Day of the Dead tour.

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