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The 15 Best International Festivals 2024 – A Guide To Experiencing Local Celebrations Worldwide

The 15 Best International Festivals 2024 – A Guide To Experiencing Local Celebrations Worldwide

If you’re planning to explore different cultures and festivities around the globe in 2024, this guide is your perfect companion. It covers 15 of the best international festivals, offering a mix of traditional, modern, and unique celebrations. These festivals are not just about observing; they’re about experiencing the heart of each destination’s culture. From the electrifying atmosphere of the Rio Carnival in Brazil to the tranquil beauty of Japan’s Cherry Blossom Festival, each event offers a unique insight into the customs, traditions, and celebrations of its people. This guide provides essential details about each festival, including dates, insider tips, and travel information, helping you to plan an unforgettable journey into the world’s most vibrant cultural experiences.

Rio Carnival, Brazil

Image Credit: Shutterstock / lazyllama

February 9 to 14, 2024

Throughout the Rio Carnival in Brazil, you’ll be swept up in a whirlwind of vibrant colors, rhythmic samba beats, and the infectious energy of the Cariocas (Rio locals). This week-long festival, renowned globally, transforms the streets of Rio into a grand stage for samba parades, where samba schools compete with dazzling floats and flamboyant costumes. As you immerse yourself in street parties, or ‘blocos’, you’ll feel the city’s pulse with celebration and joy. The atmosphere is electric, with music, dance, and festivities continuing day and night, offering you an unparalleled experience of Brazilian culture and festivity.

Insider’s Tip

To get the full experience, join a samba school and participate in the parade. 

Travel

Fly into Rio de Janeiro–Galeão International Airport and use local transport to reach the carnival venues. 

Website

https://www.riocarnaval.org/rio-carnival/what-is

Holi Festival, India

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Kristin F. Ruhs

March 8, 2024
At the Holi Festival in India, you’ll find yourself at the heart of an exhilarating celebration that blankets the streets and skies in a kaleidoscope of colors. This traditional festival, celebrated across the country, symbolizes the victory of good over evil and heralds the arrival of spring. As people of all ages and backgrounds come together, you’ll be invited to join in the fun, smearing colored powder on friends and strangers alike, symbolizing unity and joy. The air resonates with laughter, music, and splashes of water, creating a lively and inclusive atmosphere. It’s a unique opportunity for you to participate in an age-old tradition where barriers dissolve, and the spirit of togetherness prevails, embodying the true essence of joy and renewal.

Insider’s Tip

Protect your skin and hair with oil before joining in the color play. 

Travel

Major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata have international airports; local transport is available to festival sites. 

Website

https://www.holifestival.org/ 

Oktoberfest, Germany 

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Kzenon

September 21 to October 6, 2024
During the Oktoberfest in Munich, you’ll step into the heart of Bavarian culture, surrounded by the lively buzz of the world’s largest beer festival. This event celebrates traditional Bavarian customs, where massive beer tents are filled with long communal tables, perfect for socializing with locals and fellow travelers. As you sip on various rich German beers, each served in the iconic ‘Mass’ (a one-liter beer mug), you’ll be treated to the sounds of oompah bands playing traditional German music, creating an infectious atmosphere that encourages singing and dancing. Indulge in hearty Bavarian fare like pretzels, sausages, and roast pork, and immerse yourself in a vibrant festival that is as much about the communal experience and cultural immersion as the beer.

Insider’s Tip

Reserve a table in the beer tents well in advance. 

Travel

Munich International Airport is the closest, with good public transport to the festival grounds. Website

https://www.oktoberfest.de/en

La Tomatina, Spain 

Image Credit: Shutterstock / BearFotos

August 28, 2024
Prepare yourself for an extraordinary experience where the streets turn into a lively battlefield of tomatoes. This unique La Tomatine festival invites you to join thousands of participants in a massive tomato fight. This tradition is all about fun and frivolity. Armed with overripe tomatoes, you’ll find yourself in the middle of good-natured chaos, hurling tomatoes at friends and strangers while drenched in a sea of red. Amidst laughter and shouts, this energetic event is not just a playful fight but a chance to let loose and enjoy a truly unique and liberating experience. Remember, it’s all in good spirits, and the camaraderie among participants is as much a part of the festival as the tomato throwing itself.

Insider’s Tip

Wear old clothes and goggles to protect your eyes. 

Travel

Fly into Valencia Airport and take a bus or train to Buñol. 

Website

https://www.latomatinatours.com/

Cherry Blossom Festival, Japan 

Image Credit: Shutterstock / GrooveZ

Late March to Early April 2024
During Japan’s Cherry Blossom Festival, or ‘Sakura’, you’ll witness a captivating natural spectacle as the country transforms under a blanket of delicate pink blossoms. This period of bloom, celebrated across Japan, symbolizes beauty and the transient nature of life. In popular cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, you’ll find parks and streets lined with cherry trees in full bloom, creating picturesque landscapes. This is the perfect opportunity for you to join in the traditional practice of ‘hanami’, picnicking under the cherry trees, a serene way to enjoy the fleeting beauty of the blossoms. The festival offers stunning natural vistas and a chance to partake in a deeply cherished cultural tradition that brings communities together in appreciation of nature’s fleeting beauty.

Insider’s Tip

Engage in ‘hanami’, picnicking under cherry blossom trees, for a full experience. 

Travel

Tokyo’s Narita or Haneda, Osaka’s Kansai, and Kyoto via Osaka or Tokyo. 

Website

https://nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/travel-to-japan/

Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Scotland

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Edinburghcitymom

August 2 to 26, 2024
At the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival, you’ll find yourself amidst an unparalleled celebration of creativity. Spanning theater, comedy, music, and dance, this festival transforms Scotland’s capital into a hub of artistic expression, where thousands of performers take to stages across the city. As you navigate the bustling streets of Edinburgh, you’ll have the freedom to curate your own experience, choosing from a dizzying array of shows ranging from cutting-edge to classic, from profound to playful. This festival is not just about spectatorship; it’s an invitation for you to engage, interact, and be part of a global community celebrating the diversity and dynamism of the arts. Whether in grand theaters or intimate venues, each performance offers a unique glimpse into the world of creativity and expression.

Insider’s Tip

Plan and book your show tickets in advance, but also leave room for spontaneous choices. Book your accommodation early!

Travel

Fly into Edinburgh Airport, which has good public transport links to the city. 

Website

https://www.edfringe.com/

Carnival of Venice, Italy 

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Baber Ghazi

February 3 to 20, 2024
Step into a world of historical elegance and mystery, marked by its famous elaborate masks and costumes at the Carnival of Venice. This festival is a vibrant homage to Venice’s rich cultural heritage, where the streets and canals of the city come alive with masquerade balls, gondola parades, and artistic performances. As you wander through the winding alleyways and across the bridges, you’ll encounter a spectacle of ornate masks and costumes, each telling a story of Venice’s storied past. The carnival offers a chance to immerse yourself in an age-old tradition, where you can don a mask and become part of the city’s living tapestry of history and celebration, all set against the backdrop of Venice’s stunning architecture and romantic canals.

Insider’s Tip

Attend one of the masquerade balls for an unforgettable experience. 

Travel

Venice Marco Polo Airport, with water taxis or buses to the city. 

Website

https://www.venice-carnival-italy.com/

Mardi Gras, USA

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Suzanne C. Grim

February 13, 2024
At Mardi Gras in New Orleans, you’re plunged into a whirlwind of vibrant colors, lively music, and festive spirit that fills the streets. This iconic celebration, culminating on Fat Tuesday, is a cultural spectacle deeply rooted in the city’s rich traditions. As you join the throngs of people watching the flamboyant parades, you’ll see elaborate floats and costumes that embody the creativity and spirit of New Orleans. The air is filled with the sounds of jazz and brass bands, drawing you into the heart of the city’s celebrated musical heritage. Mardi Gras in New Orleans is more than just a party; it’s an immersive cultural experience celebrating the unique history and exuberance of one of America’s most iconic cities.

Insider’s Tip

Catch the parades in the Uptown and Mid-City districts for a less crowded experience. 

Travel

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport has various transport options to downtown. 

Website

https://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/

Diwali, India 

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Snehal Jeevan Pailkar

November 12, 2024
During Diwali, the Festival of Lights in India, you’ll experience a celebration illuminating the country with a sense of joy and renewal. This vibrant festival symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil. As you immerse yourself in the festivities, the night skies come alive with fireworks, and the streets and homes twinkle with lamps and candles. This is a time for sharing sweets, exchanging gifts, and gathering with family and friends. The warmth of Diwali goes beyond the physical lights; it’s a time for reflection, forgiveness, and rekindling relationships, offering you a chance to partake in a deeply meaningful cultural experience that resonates with the universal themes of hope and rejuvenation.

Insider’s Tip

Participate in local celebrations for an authentic experience. 

Travel

Major airports in Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore; local transport is readily available. 

Website

https://www.diwalifestival.org/

Chinese New Year, China

Image Credit: Shutterstock / CandyRetriever

February 10, 2024
The Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival in 2024, marks the Year of the Dragon. You’ll find yourself immersed in China’s most significant and jubilant celebration. This festival is a time of family reunions, where homes are filled with the aromas of traditional foods and streets come alive with the vibrant colors and sounds of lion dances and fireworks. As you explore, you’ll witness how each aspect of the celebration, from the red lanterns adorning the streets to giving red envelopes, is steeped in tradition and symbolism. The dragon, a symbol of strength and good luck in Chinese culture will feature prominently in 2024’s celebrations, adding an extra layer of excitement and significance to the festivities. The Chinese New Year offers a unique opportunity to experience the depth of Chinese cultural traditions and the strong sense of community and familial bonds at the heart of this annual festival.

Insider’s Tip

Enjoy the lantern displays and try traditional New Year dishes. 

Travel

Major airports in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou with extensive public transport. 

Website

https://chinesenewyear.net/

Songkran Water Festival, Thailand

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Mr. James Kelley

April 13 to 15, 2024
You’ll be swept up in a unique and exhilarating experience as the entire country engages in massive water fights during Songkran, Thailand’s traditional New Year celebration. This festival, which marks the beginning of the new year, transforms streets into lively battlegrounds where people of all ages splash water on each other, symbolizing the washing away of bad luck and misfortunes. As you join in, armed with water guns or buckets, you’ll feel the communal joy and playfulness that defines Songkran. It’s a time when the usual formalities are set aside, and everyone comes together in a spirit of fun, refreshment, and renewal. This festival offers a chance not just to cool off from the hot Thai weather but also to participate in a tradition that fosters goodwill and a sense of unity among locals and visitors alike.

Insider’s Tip

Keep your valuables in waterproof bags during the festivities. 

Travel

Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport is the main gateway, with local transport to festival areas. Website

https://www.tourismthailand.my/Songkran_Water_Festival.php 

Glastonbury Festival, UK

Image Credit: Shutterstock / marietta peros

June 26 to 30, 2024

At the Glastonbury Festival in Somerset, UK, you’ll find yourself at one of the world’s most renowned music and arts festivals. This event brings together a diverse array of performances spanning music, dance, comedy, and theater, set against the backdrop of the picturesque English countryside. As a festival-goer, you’ll have the opportunity to see headline acts from some of the biggest names in the music industry alongside a wide range of other performances that showcase emerging talent and alternative arts. The variety is immense, ensuring there’s something to suit every taste. Whether you’re there for the legendary headline acts or the eclectic mix of arts and cultural experiences, Glastonbury offers a unique and vibrant atmosphere that encapsulates the spirit of contemporary music and artistic expression.

Insider’s Tip

Book tickets and accommodation as early as possible; they sell out quickly. 

Travel

Closest airports are Bristol and London; local transport to the festival site is available. 

Website

https://www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk/ 

Balloon Fiesta, USA 

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Wirestock Creators

October 5 to 13, 2024

Witness the world’s largest balloon festival, a visually stunning spectacle where hundreds of colorful hot air balloons fill the sky. This annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico invites you to watch a diverse array of balloons as they take flight, creating a mesmerizing display against the backdrop of New Mexico’s clear blue skies. Experience the awe of both dawn and dusk mass ascensions, where the coordinated launch of balloons forms an unforgettable panorama. Beyond the balloon displays, engage in various on-ground activities and entertainment, adding to an event that celebrates the visual spectacle in the sky and community and outdoor enjoyment.

Insider’s Tip

Arrive early for the Dawn Patrol to see balloons lit up in the dark. 

Travel

Albuquerque International Sunport, with shuttles to the fiesta park. 

Website

https://balloonfiesta.com/   

Burning Man, USA 

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Pandora Pictures

August 25 to September 2, 2024
At Burning Man, held in the vast expanse of Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, you’ll be part of an event that transcends the traditional festival experience. This unique gathering is centered around community, art, and self-expression, where participants come together to create a temporary city known as “Black Rock City.” As a participant, you’re encouraged to contribute to the communal ethos through interactive art installations, performances, and themed camps. The environment fosters radical self-expression and self-reliance, encouraging creativity and collaboration. Large-scale art installations dot the landscape, providing a backdrop for various performances and spontaneous artistic expressions. In this space, you’re not just a spectator but an active participant in a living, breathing community that thrives on the principles of inclusion, participation, and shared responsibility.

Insider’s Tip

Be prepared for a harsh desert environment and practice Leave No Trace principles. 

Travel

Reno-Tahoe International Airport, then drive or take a bus to the festival site. 

Website

https://burningman.org/

Vivid Sydney, Australia 

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Taras Vyshnya

May 24 to June 15, 2024
Experience how Australia’s harbor city transforms into an extraordinary canvas of light, music, and ideas during Vivid Sydney. This annual event showcases outdoor lighting installations and projections that illuminate the city’s landmarks, including the iconic Sydney Opera House, which becomes a highlight with its sails bathed in stunning light art. As you stroll through the city, you’ll be treated to a fusion of contemporary music and engaging public talks and debates, adding depth and vibrancy to the visual spectacle. This festival is not just a celebration of lights; it’s an immersive experience that blends art, technology, and thought-provoking content, offering a unique way to see and engage with Sydney.

Insider’s Tip

Take a harbor cruise for breathtaking views of the illuminated cityscape. 

Travel

Fly into Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport and use public transport or ferries to reach the festival venues. 

Website

https://www.vividsydney.com/

The Bottom Line

These festivals, each unique in its own right, offer a glimpse into the diverse ways people around the world celebrate life, culture, and tradition. When planning your travels, consider timing your trips to coincide with these extraordinary events for an unforgettable experience. Remember to check each festival’s website for the most up-to-date information and travel advisories.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Devo Satria Ichwaldi.

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