If you’re looking for a travel experience like no other, you might want to think about attending a traditional festival in the country you’re visiting. Every nation in the world has its own distinct celebration, usually dating back hundreds of years and filled with authentic cultural traditions.
The festivals of the world feature everything from explosions of color to parades of masks to days dedicated to drinking beer. Always full of fun, these festivals are a great way to become immersed in the local culture and enjoy a unique experience that you’ll remember for a lifetime.
Keep reading to learn about 10 strange but wonderful festivals to add to your bucket list.
10 Yanshui Fireworks Festival, Taiwan
Two weeks after Lunar New Year, the Yanshui Fireworks Festival is celebrated in Taiwan. Here you can see thousands of bottle rockets going off at the same time, and you might just be lucky enough to be hit by one—legend has it that this is good fortune.
It is believed that the festival originated after locals prayed to the God of War for protection after a cholera outbreak. Worshippers asked the god to protect them with a display of fire, and celebrate every year with the grandest displays of fire that they can achieve.
9 Fasnacht, Switzerland
Fasnacht, the festival of masks, is the largest Carnival in Switzerland and marks the week leading up to Ash Wednesday in the Christian liturgical calendar. It’s actually considered bad form to reveal your true identity while participating in this festival, so people wear masks of politicians, famous characters, and even animals.
The festival carries on for three days, being kicked off with a parade at 4 a.m. that showcases various social issues through creative giant lanterns. If you get caught in the city of Basel during Fasnacht and you don’t have a badge supporting the celebrations, prepare to be attacked with confetti.
8 Naadam, Mongolia
Celebrating traditions from the 13th century, Naadam has been referred to as the “ultimate display of Mongolian masculinity” by Travel Outlandish. Held all over the country, the festival features a series of traditional nomadic competitions where competitors participate in wrestling, archery, and horse racing.
The celebration pays tribute to Mongolia’s 1921 liberation from Chinese rule using games that have been part of the local culture for centuries. It is held during the month of July and takes place in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar as well as in the smaller villages.
7 Dìa De Los Muertos, Mexico
Most people instantly associate skeleton face paint and flower crowns with the Mexican Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), but few people know what the festival is actually about. The celebration recognizes the deceased and takes place at the end of October.
During the festival, extravagant altars are built at cemeteries, where toys, food, flowers, and even alcohol are offered up as a tribute for the dead. In the city of Oaxaca, you’ll find locals celebrating with firework displays and parades that carry on well into the night.
6 Krampusnacht, Austria
A Christmas tradition of a different kind, Austria’s Krampusnacht is spookier than festive. The figure of Krampus is a goat-demon hybrid that comes for children who misbehave. On Krampusnacht, the anti-Santa makes his way through the city streets, visiting homes and leaving behind coal to those who didn’t make the nice list.
In most towns in Austria, men and teenage boys dress up as Krampus and drag chains through the streets. They carry torches of fire and even whip bystanders with twigs, resembling the way Krampus whips naughty children into being nice.
5 Floating Lantern Festival, USA
One of the most visually stunning festivals in the world, the Floating Lantern Festival takes place on the shores of Hawaii. More than 40,000 people gather every year to release their lanterns in the water. This is a way to honor loved ones and a way to symbolize hope for the future.
The event is held on the island of Oahu on Memorial Day and is streamed to millions around the world. There’s a great sense of community at the festival, as participants lean on each other while honoring their deceased loved ones.
4 Hogmanay, Scotland
A New Year’s Eve party like no other, Hogmanay is a must for anybody in Scotland over the holidays. Thought to have originated from the Norse winter solstice, Hogmanay is one massive party filled with Celtic traditions. Here you can eat steak pie and sing along to Auld Lang Syne until your heart is content.
Often, there are as many as five bands playing at once. Participants partake in traditional dances, go ice-skating and enjoy the Ferris wheel. There’s also the Loony Dook race, which ends up in the freezing waters by the Forth bridge.
3 Oktoberfest, Germany
Today, Oktoberfest celebrations are held all over the world, but it’s still worth checking out the event in Munich where it all started. The main star of the 18-day festival is undoubtedly beer, but there’s also amusement rides, traditional food and brass music to keep you satisfied.
The festival originated with King Ludwig I who was married to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. The citizens of Munich join in on the festivities with the royal family in the fields in front of the city gates, which are now called Theresienwiese (Theresa’s fields).
2 Pride, Worldwide
During the month of June, you can find festivals celebrating pride throughout the world, with some of the most notable celebrations taking place in San Francisco, Berlin, and London. Pride festivals are fun and cheerful occasions that are a call for GLBTQIA rights.
In most cities, pride festivals feature glittery parades full of spectacular costumes and props, as well as loud music and drag shows. The celebrations are a chance to reflect on the achievements and identity of the community and typically feature all the colors of the rainbow.
1 Holi, India
One of the world’s most colorful festivals, Holi is a Hindu celebration that pays tribute to the concept of forgiveness and good triumphing over evil, as well as the arrival of spring. During Holi, participants use fry powder and water balloons to literally have a color fight on the streets of India.
The official festival is celebrated in spring, but there are many “Holi parties” paying homage to the festival which take place at different times and in different countries. The best way to describe the experience is an explosion of color that’s not to be missed.