10 Unique Festivals Around the World (and How to Get There)
From camel festivals to water to colors, traveling in time to catch one of the following festivals can create an even more memorable trip. Consider some of the world’s most unique festivals and Discover Corps’ trips that operate during these times below:
Inti Raymi (“Festival of the Sun”)
Cusco, Peru: June 22, 2018
This festival is a tribute to the venerated Sun God Inti and draws thousands of local and international visitors to the ancient Inca capital of Cusco. The celebrations are similar reinactmants of what occurred in Inca Times, starting in the morning in front of the Inca Temple of the Sun, Korikancha, with representatives from the four suyos, or servants, of the Inca Empire praising Inti. Next you will witness a reading of the sacred coca leaf before moving to Saqsayhuman, an Inca archaeological site, for a ritual sacrifice of a llama. Horns, drums, and music fill the air to celebrate. At this festival, expect to join thousands of spectators crowded along the hills for a glimpse of the ceremony. More than just a party, this festival truly brings you back to ancient times.
Discover Corps Trip: Peru: Children of the Andes
Thailand: April 13-15, 2018 and April 13-15, 2019
Known as Thailand’s wildest festival, Songkran celebrates the Thai New Year’s Day. This water festival involves throwing water on passersby, sometimes with buckets or even water guns, so you can expect to get soaked in all of the major cities throughout the country (but don’t worry, in the heat of April, it will be a welcome surprise!). Despite the wild nature of the festival, it started as part of a ritual where members of the community would use blessed water to clean Buddhas and images of Buddha to pay respect and bring good fortune.
Discover Corps Trip: Thailand: Cultural Kaleidoscope
Loi Krathong and Yi Peng
Chiang Mai, Thailand: November 23, 2018
Considered one of the most breathtaking festivals in all the world, Yi Peng occurs on the full moon day in the second month of the Thai lunar calendar each year. Made of thin rice paper and stretched over bamboo wire, you’ll see thousands of lanterns filled with good luck wishes and prayer flock the sky. The only thing to keep in mind with Yi Peng in Chiang Mai is that there is a cost to experience the festival, which you can learn more about here.
While Yi Peng is the festival most of us have heard of, Loi Krathong is actually the second most well-known festival in Thailand (after Songkran). If you weren’t able to make it to the festival in April, you will be blown away by Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai. The festival always takes place on the evening of the full moon on the 12 month of the Thai calendar. Expect to see decorated baskets made from a slice of a banana tree trunk, or krathongs, floating along the river with a candle lit inside. Most agree that the tradition was adapted by Thai Buddhists to honor Buddha with light, while the krathong’s floating symbolizes letting go of one’s hatred.
Belize: April 14-20, 2019
Nearly 80% of Belizeans are Christians, and Holy Week is what is known as their Easter. The country gets the entire week off to travel and be with family, and this week the annual cross-country cycling race is also held for locals and travelers alike to watch from San Ignacio.
India and Nepal (some Bangladesh and Pakistan): March 20-21, 2019
Also known as the “festival of colours,” this festival signifies the victory of good over evil and the arrival of spring. Those in the Hindu religion use the day to pray that their internal evil will be destroyed, and the colours symbolize a celebration of love. Don’t be surprised to see water guns and water balloons filled with colours filling the sky, streets, parks, and buildings. With singing and dancing at every turn, it’s difficult not to feel the incredible energy of the human spirit at this festival.
Discover Corps Trip: India: Tigers, Temples & Taj
Pushkar Camel Fair, or “Kartik Mela”
Pushkar, India: November 15-23, 2018
This festival is incredibly unique and offers an opportunity to experience one of India’s oldest traditions – marvel at 30,000 camels covering this tiny desert as far as the eye can see. The fair started as a way to attract camel traders to do business, but has quickly become a spectacle for travelers and locals to enjoy. The camels are dressed up, entered into beauty contests, and traded, with plenty of music, snake charmers, mustache contests, and even carnival rides along the outskirts of the festival. You can learn more about the festival here.
Discover Corps Trip: India: Tiger Volunteer Adventure
La Batalla de Pichincha
Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, Galápagos: May 24, 2018
On this day the country commemorates their independence with parades up and down Calle Baltra and along Charles Darwin Ave through Puerto Ayora. Expect to see students in school uniforms marching through the streets, and the student with the highest grades in the class having the privilege of holding the Ecuadorian flag and leading the parade through the community.
Discover Corps Trip: Galápagos Islands: Family Volunteer Adventure
Fiestas de Quito
Quito, Ecuador: November 28 – December 6, 2018
The mayor of the capital kicks off the celebration in the Plaza de San Francisco to celebrate the Spanish foundation, which occurred in 1534. You can expect to see nativity reenactments, bullfights, traditional dancing and carnivals in the Old Town, but the real festival occurs in the local neighborhoods around Quito. Walk the streets to find traditional music, hot canelazo (a rum and cinnamon drink), marching bands, and more. To really get a feel for the local culture in Ecuador, this festival makes it easy.
Discover Corps Trip: Galápagos Islands: Family Volunteer Adventure
All of Australia: January 26, 2019
Australia Day is the official National Day of Australia, marking the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships and the raising of the flag of Great Britain at Sydney Cove. In more recent years, the celebration has turned into a celebration of all things Australia: the lifestyle, diversity, the democracy, and most importantly, the people. On this day you will often find citizenship ceremonies welcoming new members of the Australian community as well as the televised Australian of the Year awards and addresses from the Governor-General and Prime Minister. Wherever you are in the country, though, expect a party!
Discover Corps Trip: Australia: Beachside Wildlife Adventure
San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic: January
Starting the first day in January, this festival is where you will see Afro-Dominicans dress in vibrant Junkanoo-like costumes and dance through the streets to drums and flutes. The Guloyas’ dance is classified by UNESCO as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Patrimony of Humanity.” For a taste of local culture and the festival spirit, this is a festival to plan your trip around this upcoming year.
Discover Corps Trip: Dominican Republic: Heart & Soul of the Caribbean
These are by no means a full list of festivals you can find on Discover Corps destinations. Let us know what festivals you’ve attended and recommend in the comment section below!