It might have seemed like a distant dream at one point – gathering together with others to celebrate for one reason or another. But it looks like finally things are starting to get back to normal as festivals up and down the country have kicked off this week, with big ones like Leeds and Reading Festival and dance gathering Creamfields taking place this weekend!
With that in mind, we thought we’d give you a round-up of some of the best (and most bizarre!) bucket-list ideas in the form of festivals from around the world. These festivals abroad are sure-fire experiences to get us Brits buzzing with excitement!
Some of these unique gatherings are based around music, some will have you diving into delicious food and ALL give you a taste of captivating culture. So take a look at our list of cheap holidays and find out which one is at the top of your travel bucket list?
Day of the Dead – Mexico
Date: 30th October – 2nd November
If you’re planning a trip to Mexico in the near future, experiencing the festivities of the ‘Day of the Dead’ is truly a unique and memorable experience.
Many mistakenly think of it as the Mexican version of Halloween, but this isn’t the case. This traditional Mexican holiday – more natively called Día de los Muertos – is celebrated throughout Mexico as a way of showing honour, respect and love for deceased family members.
Up and down the country, flamboyant celebrations get fully underway in the form of street carnivals, parades and parties, all to celebrate the joy of those who once lived and the sanctity of life. In 2008, UNESCO even recognised the importance of the holiday by adding it to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
If you’re staying in the beautiful Rivera Maya region or the likes of Playa Del Carmen, then we’d definitely recommend celebrating the Festival of Life and Death at Xcaret park. Known for promoting all the natural beauty, history and culture that Mexico has to offer, Xcaret goes all-out when it comes to showcasing the Day of the Dead.
During the four-day extravaganza you’ll be able to witness concerts, theatre plays, dance displays and even interactive workshops based around the long-standing celebration. Foodies will love this festival as cooking up delicious Mexican cuisine is all part of the celebrations! We’re talking Fresnillo enchiladas, beautiful burritos, gorditas and tacos envenenados. Yum!
La Tomatina – Valencia, Spain
Date: 28th August
La Tomatina – otherwise known as the Great Tomato Battle – is a tomato festival in Spain, and it’s basically one big food fight. Spanish festivals are notorious for being rather wacky, but this one might just top them all.
Every year at the end of August, the town of Buñol near Valencia plays host to the ‘world’s biggest food fight’. And if you think we’re exaggerating, how’s this for size – more than one hundred tonnes of over-ripe tomatoes are thrown in the streets during this event every year! Thousands of people from all corners of the world make their way here to take part. This long-standing tradition has taken place since 1944, and everyone wants a piece of the action.
You need to buy a ticket in advance and you must abide by the tomato-throwing rules – including partially squashing the tomatoes before you throw them to reduce the impact. The food fight lasts for an hour, after which a water cannon will fire and no more tomatoes can be thrown.
If you’re having a summer getaway to the British favourite of Benidorm in Costa Blanca, then it’s definitely worth penciling in a day trip to experience all the madness of this unique food festival. Many local tour guides in the area will be offering organised day trips to the town that’s just over an hours drive away. This will be one excursion you won’t forget in a hurry!
Benicassim – Spain
Date: 18th – 21st July
Sun? Tick. The beautiful Spanish coast? Tick. International music acts? Tick tick tick. Benicassim festival takes place in the town of the same name and if you could ever bottle-up summer vibes and sell them, then we’re pretty sure that this festival would come close.
This huge summer bash boasts a stellar line up every year, with previous bills featuring musical geniuses like Fatboy Slim, Lana Del Rey, Kings of Leon and Jess Glynne. It’s a real mixed bag of music artists, so there’s something to suit everyone’s taste.
This sea-front festival serves up several stages with different acts, serene chill-out spaces to soak up the atmosphere and a plentiful food and drink offering. With a section of the festival right on the beach, it’s up to you whether to be a part of the crowd or enjoy the tunes as the waves crash in.
You can choose to purchase day tickets if your favourite acts are on a specific day, or if you want to experience more of the festival you can buy two, three or four-day tickets too. Benaccasim is just over an hour’s drive away from the popular Spanish spots of Cambrils, Portaventura and Salou, all of which lie along the Costa Dorada. Attending this gig is guaranteed to take your Spanish summer holiday to the next level!
Songkran – Thailand
Date: 13th – 15th April
If this one isn’t already on your travel bucket list, then it really should be! What could be better than exploring all that Thailand has to offer, from fascinating temples to sumptuous street food and glorious sunshine? Having a massive water fight against the locals whilst you’re there to cool down, of course!
The annual Songkran marks the Thai New Year and the whole country celebrates with days off work, family outings and trips to their local temples. Oh and one other thing – an enormous water fight! Because how can you bring in the New Year holiday without getting soaked through?!
If you opt to stay on the gorgeous island of Phuket, you’ll be right in the midst of the action down at Patong Beach. The Songkran festival spills out into the surrounding streets, where every man and his dog will be armed with the water gun of their choice. There’s music and a total free-for-all attitude as complete randomers soak each other as they make their way to and from the beach. If you’d rather stay dry (that’s if you can!) then there’ll also be water-free celebrations underway, like a Buddha parade and traditional dances from the locals.
Even the sleepier resort of Khao Lak joins in with the celebrations, and you certainly won’t be excluded from getting drenched just because you’re on holiday! It’s all good fun and let’s face it, not your every day holiday occurrence. So get stuck in and have fun!
Make sure to time next year’s visit to Thailand right and you could be mixing ancient traditions and natural beauty with an all-out water battle. You’ll dry off soon enough but the memories will stay with you forever!
Venice Carnival – Venice, Italy
Date: 8th – 25th February
It’s said that the carnival of Venice originated in the year 1162, as a victory dance of the Venice Republic against the Patriarch of Aquileia. From then, it became an official celebration in the Renaissance and was very popular during the 17th and 18th century – although it was briefly outlawed entirely in 1797 and the use of masks became forbidden.
The Venice Carnival as we know it today reappeared fully in 1979 in an effort to bring back the history and culture of Venice. Now, round about 3 million visitors come to Venice every year to experience the carnival in all its glory. World famous for it’s elaborate Venetian masks, we’re pretty sure you’ll want to take one home as a souvenir.
A stay in the Venetian Riviera in the first few weeks of February will reward you an even more magical experience of the already astounding Venice. You’ll witness the ‘Flight of the Angel’ where an angel zip-wires over St Mark’s Square, as well as colourful parades with the most intricate costumes on display. Don your own mask and join in with the fun! You’ll feel as though you’ve stepped back in time.
For the best of both worlds, a stay in the vibrant seaside resort of Lido Di Jesolo will provide you with a slice of sandy beachfront, while remaining in close proximity Venice. Choose to relax and sunbathe, enjoy lively nightlife and you can even have a go at a selection of watersports if that’s your thing. Historic Venice is only a 40-minute journey away, so you can head there for the day whenever you like.
Dubai Shopping Festival – Dubai, UAE
Date: Every January
There’s only one place on earth that can actually celebrate the art of shopping – and that’s Dubai of course! The Dubai Shopping Mall is well-known for it’s sheer size and offering of shops, and was – up until very recently – the largest shopping mall in the world.
So it only makes sense that this dreamy destination, which is known for being as extravagant as extravagant can be, plays host to it’s own shopping festival. It’s grown in popularity ever since it began in 1996, and if you’re partial to a bargain then believe us when we say this is truly a shopper’s heaven. The Dubai Shopping Festival takes the January sales to a whole new level!
We’re talking high-end brands dropping unbelievable discounts left, right, and centre, with special offers and added extras coming with just about every purchase. But the shopping sales aren’t the only thing on offer – there’s other festivities on place throughout the entire city, too.
The already dazzling city is further adorned with bright lights in every nook and cranny, and there’s also concerts and amazing fireworks displays on offer too. Rising pop star George Ezra even made an appearance this year! You’d better hope Lady Luck is on your side too, as there’s plenty of competitions ran over the course of the month with fabulous prizes up for grabs.
Some of this year’s winners found themselves leaving with whole hoards of cash and even flash new cars! Treat yourself to a post-Christmas break in Dubai and you’ll experience a festival like no other.
So what are you waiting for?
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