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15 cultural festivals around the world to get excited about in 2024

Bright colors, sparkling costumes and elaborate parades of floats give travelers every reason to hop on a plane. But, there’s usually more to festivals than escaping to have a good time.

Whether you’re dreaming of heading to a far-flung island paradise or a bustling metropolis, there’s a good chance that there’s a festival you can take part in. By immersing yourself in the rich culture and traditions of a place, you can transcend the ordinary and begin to see your destination in a whole new light.

So, why not plan your next trip around a special event that will only enrich your travel itinerary? From India’s festival of light to celebrating the cherry blossoms that bring countries like Japan and Korea to life each year, festivals bring out the best in people and places.

While Germany’s Oktoberfest or Italy’s Venetian Carnival give tourists an opportunity to dress up and have fun, Asia offers plenty of festivals that invite in good fortune.

Here, you’ll find a collection of the most iconic and some lesser-known events around the world to consider. There’s something for everyone.

Yi Peng Lantern Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand

When: 15–16 November

This ancient festival dates back to the 13th century where it was celebrated to mark the end of the monsoon season and to pay homage to Buddha. The release of thousands of paper lanterns into the night’s sky is the main drawcard, and each year there are several locations in which this takes place. The lantern release is designed to invite in good fortune and carry away negativity. However, there are plenty of other cultural activities on offer, including traditional dance shows, contests, bazaars and worship rituals.

Places to stay:

Raya Heritage – SHA Plus

Shangri-La Chiang Mai

Chala Number 6

International Wildflower Festival, Bohinj, Slovenia

When: 24 May – 9 June

Bohinj is a paradisiacal valley surrounded by the Julian Alps in Slovenia. Each year from spring to autumn, this vast area becomes a feast for the eyes with more than 1,000 plant species showing off their vibrant colors for all to see. In an effort to keep folk traditions alive and honor this biodiverse rich landscape, a program of cultural events has been created that’s dedicated to botanicals. It’s the perfect way to enjoy the unspoiled beauty of this region, which weaves its way into local culinary creations.

Places to stay:

Bohinj Eco Hotel

Sunrose 7 Heritage Boutique Hotel

Hotel Bohinj

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, New Mexico, United States

When: 5–13 October

Imagine the night sky illuminated by a sea of colorful hot air balloons. This annual nine-day event in early October features more than 500 of them and is the largest festival of its kind. The highlight is undoubtedly the mass ascensions that begin at sunrise and are launched in two waves. The program includes fireworks and the Special Shape Rodeo where you’ll encounter unique balloons.

Places to stay:

Hotel Chaco

Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town

Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm

Dev Diwali, Varanasi, India

When: 15 November

Dev Diwali in Varanasi ends the celebrations of Diwali, transforming the city into a visually stunning masterpiece. For this reason, it attracts thousands of tourists who come to witness this spectacular sight. Once the moon is visible in the sky, the myriad steps leading down to the River Ganges are illuminated with millions of diyas. These small oil lamps represent the triumph of good over evil. They are lit to pay homage to the goddess Ganga. The streets are filled to the brim with processions and the night sky is ablaze with firecrackers. The firecrackers and diyas are symbolic acts to appease the gods and goddesses and invite their presence.

Places to stay:

BrijRama Palace, Varanasi

Radisson Hotel Varanasi

Taj Nadesar Palace

Taj Ganges, Varanasi

Fallas Festival Valencia, Spain

When: 15–19 March

The impermanence of life is a theme that is explored to its fullest at Valencia’s Fallas Festival in spring. In keeping with the age-old tradition of burning furniture to mark the end of winter, sculptural monuments are placed on display in the streets and squares of the city before they are destroyed in a sea of flames on the night of 19 March. With more than 800 of these spectacular monuments, there’s clearly a lot to choose from when it comes to casting your vote as to which of these artworks should remain unscathed.

Places to stay:

Meliá Valencia

Hotel Conqueridor

Palacio de Rojas Apartments

Aomori Nebuta Festival, Aomori, Japan

When: 2–7 August

This Japanese fire festival is held each year in Aomori – the northernmost prefecture on Japan’s main island of Honshu. A combination of local and international visitors gather together to observe large-scale lantern floats parade through the city. These floats or nebuta are brought to life by dancers and musicians before they are on display in the Aomori Bay on the final evening of the festival, when fireworks also light up the night sky.

Places to stay:

Aomoriya Hoshino Resort

Oirase Keiryu Hoshino Resort

Lamp Inn Aoni Onsen

Kai Tsugaru Hoshino Resort

Best festivals
Image: Ville de Menton

The Menton Lemon Festival, France

When: 17 February – 3 March

The small town of Menton on the French Riviera hosts one of France’s most beloved events: the Lemon Festival. Each year the event attracts more than 200,000 visitors who come to marvel at the citrus floats paraded through the corsos alongside shows, concerts and street entertainment. This year’s theme – The Olympic Games From Antiquity to the Present Day – takes its cue from the Olympic Games in Paris. It’s also a chance to check out the exhibition of citrus patterns in the Biovès gardens and the Festival of Orchids.

Places to stay:

Villa Genesis, Menton

Hotel Napoléon

Best Western Premier Hotel Prince de Galles

Ubud Food Festival, Bali, Indonesia

When: 31 May – 2 June

Since 2015, the Ubud Food Festival has been showcasing the very best of Indonesia’s cuisine with the help of world-class chefs, food entrepreneurs and mouth-watering local produce. This year dedicated food enthusiasts from around the world will meet yet again at Taman Kuliner to bring you live demonstrations and masterclasses alongside food stalls.

Places to stay:

Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan

Wana Bucu Villas by Pramana Villas

COMO Uma Ubud

Adiwana Bisma

Óbidos International Chocolate Festival, Portugal

When: 1–17 March

The medieval town of Óbidos has been hosting its International Chocolate Festival since 2002 with the aim of showcasing the full potential of cocoa. This year, however, the spotlight is on celebrating Portugal. Observe master chocolate-makers from around the world sculpting chocolate into delectable works of art, or allow chefs to show you just how versatile this one ingredient truly is via show cooking and live demonstrations.

This is your chance to be surprised by the sweet and savory creations cocoa can produce – plus you’ll be able to speak with the talented producers behind premium Portuguese and international chocolate brands.

Places to stay:

Casa D’Óbidos

Pousada Castelo De Óbidos

Casa Das Senhoras Rainhas

Festival of Roses 2024, Dades Valley, Morocco

When: Early May (unconfirmed)

Dubbed the ‘valley of roses’, Dades Valley transforms every year into a fragrant ocean of pink rose blossoms. To celebrate the harvesting of these precious flowers, the small town of El Kelaâ M’Gouna hosts an annual three-day festival that’s known as the rose festival. Normally, this takes place in early May with the dates yet to be announced. It’s an opportunity to try local dishes and plenty of rose products in form of lotions, perfumes and soaps. Expect to see the streets decorated with pink petal floats and a Rose Queen coronation.

Places to stay:

Auberge Chez Pierre

Hotel Riad Bahammou

Dades Xaluca Hotel

Day of the Dead, Oaxaca, Mexico

When: 1–2 November

The Day of the Dead festival is one of those iconic celebrations that should be on your itinerary when contemplating a visit to Mexico, and Oaxaca is the destination in which to take part in the festivities and immerse yourself in all that this enchanting city has to offer. But, be sure to arrive in the days leading up to the festival when the city prepares to celebrate the children who have passed on the 1 November followed by adults on 2 November. The departed souls are remembered through offerings, candles, parades and art. The city itself is a food mecca with plenty of options that range from street carts to fine-dining restaurants. As the birthplace of mezcal, a visit to one of the numerous mezcal bars is a must.

Places to stay:

Hotel Casa Santo Origen

Casa Hidalgo Hotel Boutique

Grand Fiesta Americana Oaxaca

Otro Oaxaca

Best festivals

Historical Regatta, Venice, Italy

When: 1 September

Both a sporting event and a historical reenactment, the Venice Historical Regatta takes place on the Grand Canal. It begins with a ceremonial parade of historical boats and Venetians in period costumes. This then leads to the regatta, which is made up of various races. Once this is finished, the canals of Venice are filled with boats of all sizes and people joining in the celebrations while street entertainers can be found in the main square.

Places to stay:

Aman Venice

The St. Regis Venice

Novecento Boutique Hotel

Oktoberfest Munich, Germany

When: 21 September – 6 October

As the world’s largest folk festival, Oktoberfest attracts millions of guests each year to Munich’s Theresienwiese, which has done for more than 200 years. While the main attraction is the beer tents housing up to 11,000 guests, there are also rides and attractions on the festival grounds. And, if you love Bavarian cuisine, the event is renowned for its soft pretzels and potato salads paired with some form of animal protein. Apart from giving guests an excuse to dress in traditional Bavarian attire, there are also ceremonies, parades and family days to take advantage of.

Places to stay:

Mandarin Oriental, Munich

The Charles Hotel, a Rocco Forte Hotel

Hotel Bayerischer Hof

Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival, South Korea

When: 24 March – 6 April

This popular festival in South Korea is visited by more than two million people each year who flock to Jinhae, which is bursting with the subtle shades of cherry blossoms dotted throughout the city. Among the most picturesque sites are Jangboksan Sculpture Park, Jinhae NFRDI Environment Eco-Park and Yeojwacheon Stream, so be sure to take a map with you. There are also cultural performances, street foods and cherry blossom ice cream to keep you satisfied along the way.

Places to stay:

Changwon 055 Poolvilla

Foreign Village in Changwon Jinhae

Grand Lct Residence

Mooncake Festival, Singapore

When: 17 September

Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Mooncake Festival, is celebrated in many Asian countries, including Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore. Some of the celebrations are unique to Singapore such as the moon-appreciating parties on the beach and hanging lanterns made my children that are put on display in many parts of the city. This year for the first time a new street light display in Chinatown will make its inaugural appearance, which will kick off with the official light-up and opening ceremony at 7pm.

Places to stay:

Artyzen Singapore

Pan Pacific Orchard

Marina Bay Sands

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