Celebrate Like a Local with These Must-See Festivals and Events Around the World
There's no better way to get to know new cultures than by diving in with a dance at a local festival.
November 23, 2023
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The world contains a vivid tapestry of diverse countries and cultures, each woven with its own unique traditions and celebrations. What better way to immerse yourself in the culture of a region than joining in with the festivities? From the rhythmic beats of Carnival to the kaleidoscopic lights of Diwali, take a step beyond the typical tourist trail with Intrepid Travel. Discover the heartbeat of a place through the lens of its most enchanting festivities. It's time to pack your bags, strap on some comfy shoes and create memories that transcend borders.
The festival of lights is celebrated worldwide, but experiencing it in India itself is something else entirely. Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights. It symbolises the victory of light over darkness, goodness over evil and knowledge over ignorance. There are variations across the region and the different local religions of the country. Some things are always included: lots and lots of candles, lights and delicious food. The festival happens in the first weeks of November to tie in with the darkest days of the year (in India). Time your adventure to this stunning country to coincide with the festival so you can see the magic of the celebrations with the locals.
DIA DE LOS MUERTOS
Feel the mystical vibes of the weird and wonderful Dia de los Muertos, the annual Day of the Dead festival, in Mexico City. Participate in a traditional Day of the Dead ceremony and see elaborate altars dedicated to those who have passed. Enjoy delicious tacos and other street food at the openair Mercado Jamaica, and venture outside the city to see the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan. If you are passing through the capital on your exploration of Central America, time your travel so you can be there for this iconic festival.
LAND DIVING FESTIVAL
If you have been dreaming of heading to the tropics, immerse yourself in island life with a next-level trip to Vanuatu. Leave the luxe resorts of Port Vila behind and uncover these rainforest-rich islands' raw beauty and vibrant culture by timing your trip to coincide with Naghol, the legendary land-diving festival of Pentecost's Indigenous people. Watch as young men haul themselves off a platform in this coming-of-age festival that predates colonisation in the region. The ritual ties back to animism, the original belief system that spirits manifest in objects and creatures. It has ties to local myths and legends and is performed as a kind of sacrifice to the spirits for a good harvest.
Bram Stoker may not have intended it, but thanks to the setting of his novel, Dracula, in Transylvania, locals now celebrate his creation based on local legends with a next-level celebration on All Hallow's Eve. Head to central Europe to Bucharest, Romania and explore the haunting beauty of Sighisoara (the birthplace of the infamous creature of the night) and spooky Bran Castle (aka Count Dracula's castle) in Brasov. Break out your scariest costumes for a spooky Halloween party in Cluj-Napoca — the former capital of the historical principality of Transylvania.
The Christmas season just hits different when it's in Europe. Snow falls on rooftops of buildings and market stalls on narrow cobbled streets as stallholders give out mulled wine, chimney cakes, hot cider, pretzels, hot chocolate and sweet treats to the tourists and locals meandering from stall to stall. If a trip to Central Europe is on the cards, be sure to time it so you can explore the famous Christmas markets from Munich to Budapest. And the best way to travel in Europe? By train, of course.
Bright colours, headdresses and more feathers than you can count — Carnival is the world's greatest party on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, just waiting for you to rock up. Witness an elaborate parade of floats and dancers in the Sambadrome, which stretches into the wee hours. Samba your way through non-stop action, join the conga line with the locals and move to the rhythm of the drum-fuelled street fiestas. Whether you're journeying through Brazil on an epic adventure or specifically going to Rio de Janeiro for the fest, it's definitely not to miss.
While the Greeks have the Olympics, the Mongols have Naadam. This festival might not be well known, but it is the best time of the year to see Mongolia. The annual colourful festival is a centuries-old tradition that dates back to the Khans and their dynasties. Expect archery, wrestling and horse racing — the primary skills a Mongol warrior requires. While in the area, explore the stunning natural landscapes of central Mongolia, such as Baga Gazriin Chuluu (granite rocks worshipped by locals), the Bayanzag Flaming Cliffs and the dunes of Khongoriin, called the 'singing sands' by locals for the whistling sound made by small avalanches of sand on a windy day.
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