Bored of going to the same old parties? Why not shake things up and see how it’s done on the other side of the world?
This planet is packed full of parties, festivals and carnivals celebrating everything from saints and spirits to royalty and even mud. Some of these shindigs are so famous they’ve become the stuff of legend, like the Rio Carnival or New Orleans’ Mardi Gras.
From mud-wrestling to pop-up dance parties and parades that must be seen to be believed, these experiences are more than deserving of a place on your party bucket list.
Other famous get-togethers, however, might fail to live up to their heady reputations. Has Glastonbury really become a middle-aged mud bath and a victim of its own success? And what about the infamous Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan, Thailand? The event has been mired in bad headlines hinting at a dangerous underbelly that tourists might be wise to avoid.
If you want to party like it’s 1999 and experience a celebration like no other, here’s our guide to the world’s most awesome parties, and a few that have suffered some serious overhype. Party on, dudes.
25 10. Overrated: Oktoberfest, Germany
Every September, over six million people head to a field outside of Munich for the two-week event known as Oktoberfest. Women wearing traditional Bavarian attire serve thirsty patrons from around the globe. A staggering seven million litres of beer are consumed, as are thousands of grilled sausages, chickens and giant pretzels.
But in the last decade, Oktoberfest has become a victim of its own success, with rowdy tourists ruining the atmosphere for the locals, according to The Independent. Plus, it’s reportedly overpriced, overcrowded and, all in all, overrated.
24 6. Overrated: Coachella, USA
It’s one of the most famous festivals in America, thanks to the Instagram feeds of its dedicated A-list fanbase, but is Coachella really all that?
Perhaps it’s because of its popularity on social media that this Southern California event attracts lots of teenagers. That’s not a bad thing in itself, but if you’re an experienced festival-goer, bumping into inebriated festival newbies hoping to spot Kendell Jenner might be a little irritating. Plus, it’s dusty, sprawling and overpriced.
23 5. Overrated: New Year's Eve In Times Square, New York City
Want to know what New Yorkers do on New Year’s Eve? They avoid Times Square at all costs. Seriously.
The bash in Times Square is one of the most famous NYE parties in the world, and it can even look appealing to the casual observer. After all, superstars like Mariah Carey perform a musical number, there’s some massive descending ball, and it’s all free. But you do pay a price.
According to the New York Post, more than two million people hit Times Square every New Year’s Eve. That’s a lot of people crammed into a small space, standing around for hours in the freezing cold, without bathroom facilities. Public urination is not unheard of at this event. We can think of better ways to party.
22 7. Overrated: Full Moon Party, Thailand
It’s been a must-see staple of backpackers for years, but the all-night Full Moon Party on Ko Pha Ngan has become notorious for all the wrong reasons.
For one night each month, 30,000 tourists descend on the crescent-shaped Haad Rin beach for the ultimate hedonistic experience under the bright moonlit sky. While most party-goers leave unscathed, others aren’t so lucky. Injuries (often self-inflicted) and pickpocketing are common occurrences. Most mishaps are avoidable with a bit of self-awareness, so go easy on the buckets of Thai Red Bull.
21 9. Overrated: Glastonbury, UK
This five-day music festival is one of the world’s largest. Think Glasto, as it’s affectionally known in the UK, and you’ll probably think free love, hippy vibes and mud.
This was the reality for many years. In fact, the first Glastonbury festival took place on Worthy Farm in 1970, attracted 1,500 people, and there was even free milk for all, according to The Spectator. These days, however, nothing is free - it’s a heavily policed, tightly regimented gathering, which doesn't sound very hippy-friendly at all.
20 8. Overrated: San Fermin Festival, Spain
It’s not that the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona, Spain, lacks a party spirit - it has fiesta vibes by the bucket load - but the fact it’s so controversial puts a real downer on the whole celebration.
The Running of the Bulls is the best-known event, as are the bullfights, and these traditions have attracted criticism from animal rights groups across the globe, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Spanish group AnimaNaturalis, according to USA Today.
There’s plenty to see and do besides the blood sports, but whatever side of the fence you sit on, it’s hard to have a good time when there’s such a dark shadow over proceedings.
19 4. Overrated: La Tomatina, Spain
Every August, the small Valencian town of Buñol plays host to the world’s biggest food fight. It reportedly originated in 1945, after some young boys started a fight during a parade and armed themselves with fruit from the nearby market stall.
But what began as a quirky rural tradition has become a massive draw for tourists, attracting 22,000 people each year, who throw a whopping 160 tonnes of tomatoes. And that’s the problem - what the event has gained in size, it’s sadly lost in charm.
18 3. Overrated: Tomorrowland, Belgium
Tomorrowland is the biggest electronic dance music gathering in the world, according to Festicket. With line-ups including the world’s most popular DJs, and epic stage design that will blow your mind, it looks, on paper, like the ultimate bash for fans of EDM.
When the Belgian event launched on the festival scene in 2005, it was every bit deserving of the hype, but more than a decade later, it’s not so much packed with people there for the music, but people who want to be seen to be there, which totally changes the atmosphere - and not for the better.
While the event’s scale is off the charts, with 15 stages and 180,000 people from across the planet, it’s more impressive than practical, because it takes forever to walk anywhere and fully explore the experience.
17 2. Overrated: Venice Carnival, Italy
Okay, we’ll admit it, if money was no object, the Carnevale di Venezia would be one very cool party. Those incredible masquerade balls look wonderfully opulent, hedonistic and olde worlde. However, they can cost a whopping €500 per person, which puts them way beyond the party price bracket of most travellers.
It’s not all super fancy balls, admittedly. There are free events throughout the festival, including the Flight of the Angel in St Mark’s Square and the daily costume parades. But does this sound as fun as playing make-believe and dressing up as an 18th-century European aristocrat for a night? Nah. Probably not.
16 1. Overrated: Burning Man, USA
Describing Burning Man as a week-long art festival in the Nevada desert doesn’t really do it justice. Around 70,000 people head to the Black Rock desert to create a temporary city in the sand and celebrate human expression. There’s body paint and glitter galore, art installations, music, dancing and a massive emphasis on the spirit of community and self-reliance. It’s a proper hippy Mecca. Or at least it was.
Nowadays, it’s just "middle-class people behaving embarrassingly" according to one Redditor. Plus, it’s also reportedly been hijacked by Silicon Valley, TechCrunch reports, with tech-types using the event to network and further their careers. This definitely puts “the man” in Burning Man.
15 21. Worth it: Good Clean Fun: Boryeong Mud Festival, South Korea
What started out as a marketing event to flog local mud-based cosmetics has become one of Korea’s biggest festivals, attracting thousands of revellers from Korea and beyond each year.
It’s a two-week event that sees the sleepy town of Boryeong transformed into a site of mud-slinging carnage. Mud wrestling, mud sliding and mud swimming are among the must-do mud-based activities, plus there are fireworks displays and live performances during the opening and closing ceremonies.
14 12. Worth it: New York City Pride, USA
June is Pride month across the globe, but nowhere celebrates more wildly or with more enthusiasm than New York City.
Home to one of the biggest Pride parades, the Big Apple is upping the ante in 2019, as it commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising - the event which inspired the very first Pride march in US history. According to The Independent, the city will also host the global WorldPride event in 2019, in tribute to this important anniversary.
New York's Pride celebrations include rallies, parties and lectures with the party culminating in the NYC Pride March.
13 11. Worth it: New Orleans' Mardi Gras, USA
It’s known as the “greatest free show on earth,” and for good reason. New Orleans’ Mardi Gras has a deserved reputation for being one of the wildest and most exhilarating parties on the planet. But behind the bead throwing, elaborate floats, quirky costumes, king cake and oysters, is a fascinating history that dates back to 1699.
It was French Canadian explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville who first bought Mardi Gras to Louisiana’s shores, according to History, and these days the celebrations begin on Twelfth Night (January 6th) and run through to Shrove Tuesday.
Events really hot up during the last week of the Mardi Gras season and usually there is one major parade each day, weather permitting.
12 25. Worth it: The Ancient Hindu Festival Of Holi
Holi is an ancient Hindu festival that takes place around March throughout the world, but mostly in India and Nepal. As the timing of the celebration is synchronised with the moon, the date varies each year.
The festival is split into two events - Holika Dahan, for which wood and dung-cakes are burned to signify good defeating evil, and the more famous Rangwali Holi. The latter event is a raucous one, as people gather in public spaces and chase each throwing handfuls of coloured powders. Hence why it’s known as the Festival of Colour.
11 24. Worth it: The Caribbean's Wildest Party: Trinidad and Tobago Carnival
This centuries-old blowout has a wild reputation and is one of the biggest festivals in the Caribbean, and one with a rich history. Before emancipation, slaves were banned from attending the fancy parties and balls of their masters, so they improvised by creating their own events, laying the foundations for the multi-billion dollar extravaganza the islands enjoy today.
Officially, it’s celebrated on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday but festivities start just after Christmas, with dozens of parties and competitions.
Carnival Monday starts at 4am, when revellers parade through the streets immersed in paint, grease and mud until sunrise. Later in the day, thousands of masqueraders in colourful costumes parade to traditional soca, steelpan and calypso music.
10 23. Worth it: Switzerland's Biggest Carnival - Fasnacht
Switzerland’s biggest bash takes place in Basel, over the course of three days. It kicks off at 4am on the Monday following Ash Wednesday and attracts more than 20,000 costumed participants in a whirlwind of colourful outfits, homemade lanterns, live music, parades, confetti, eating and general partying.
Groups of drummers and piccolo players, known as ‘cliques,’ and guggemusik bands are the beating heart of the festival and perform throughout the three days in restaurants, cellars and in the streets.
9 22. Worth it: Northern Europe's Biggest Festival - Roskilde
Created in 1971 by two high school students, Roskilde has grown into one of the largest music festivals in Europe. What sets it apart is its sheer diversity of genres, from synthpop to hip-hop and everything else in between.
The event takes place in June or July each year, outside the town of Roskilde, 35 km from Copenhagen. According to the European Festival Association, all of its profits are donated to humanitarian, cultural and non-profit projects.
Previously line-ups have included some legendary performers, including David Bowie, Prince, Beastie Boys, The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder and Kanye West.
8 20. Worth it: The Battle of the Oranges, Italy
One small Italian town, nine teams, and 500,000 pounds of oranges - this is Italy’s biggest food fight. Held in the city of Ivrea, this three-day event sees men, women and children hurl fruit at each other in battle, with the hope that a winning team will emerge triumphant.
The tradition is rooted in local folklore and inspired by the tale of a young woman who took revenge against a violent marquis, prompting the townspeople to storm his palace in revolt.
7 19. Worth it: For The Craic: St. Patrick's Day, Ireland
St Patrick’s Day is Ireland’s biggest party and right at the centre of the action is its capital city, Dublin.
A massive parade, folk music and lots of Guinness are just a few things to look forward to during these epic four-day celebrations, which attracted nearly half-a-million revellers in 2018, according to RTÉ News.
The full St Patrick’s Festival offers a full schedule of events to suit all tastes, from comedy shows, theatre, music, arts and sports.
6 18. Worth it: Party On The Move: Bay to Breakers, San Francisco
This 12-km race through the heart of San Francisco is about as close to a mobile party as you’ll find. More than 100,000 runners and walkers don vibrant costumes - and, in some cases, wear nothing at all - for this annual event which culminates in a festival with food, drink and entertainment.
According to USA Today, Bay to Breakers was created in 1912 as a way to boost the city’s morale after the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire. Around 190 runners ran the inaugural race and by 1986, about 110,000 participants set a world record for the world’s largest footrace.