It seems every country has one major event on the annual calendar that claims to trump all others. But with almost 200 countries across the globe, experiencing every single one is near impossible for most us – despite how much we’d like to go. Each year there are tons of different festivals around the world to choose from, but don’t fret, we’ve got you covered! Here we’ve boiled down the options to the absolute top events to add to your bucket-list.

1. Holi Festival

  • Location: India and Nepal
  • When: Between the end of February and the middle of March

Holi is undeniably one of the biggest religious festivals around the world. Dubbed the Festival of Colors, Holi is a springtime celebration of all things good prevailing over evil. The festival also marks the end of winter and the anticipatory celebration of the abundance of the upcoming spring harvest season. For locals and tourists Holi offers a chance to play, dance and sing without a care in the world. Commemorated each year on the day after the full moon in March, people spend the day smearing richly colored powder on strangers, friends and relatives, throwing colored water at each other, and dancing under water sprinklers. Great emphasis is placed on Hindu tales about the burning of the demoness Holika and its relation to the festivities, so Holi celebrations are kicked off by large bonfires complete with singing and dancing on the eve of the festival.

2. Rio Carnival

  • Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • When: Begins on Friday and ends on Ash Wednesday

There’s no Carnival like Rio’s Carnival. In fact, it is almost impossible to think of Brazil’s capital city without thinking of its Carnaval. Carnival, as Rio de Janeiro presents it, is one of the most interesting and well-attended cultural celebrations around the world. Even though the festival’s origins are in ancient Greek revels honoring Dionysus the god of wine, overtime Carnival was modified by the Romans to honor two of their own gods and later the Catholic church would make its own modifications and have the festival celebrated just before the period of Lent. Rio de Janeiro has earned its title as the Carnival capital of the world with its famous samba dancing, colorful eye-catching costumes, pulsating music, magnificent float displays and electrifying energy. Join a samba school (a local samba club) and dance, sing and let loose at one of the best festivals in the world.

3. LA TOMATINA  

  • Location: VALENCIA, SPAIN

Launched way back in 1945, La Tomatina is one of the oldest festivals on our list. It’s also easily the messiest, coming off like the world’s biggest food fight. Legend has it that the whole thing started when some local boys joined a parade alongside musicians, “Giants” on stilts, and “Big Head” figures. The unruly boys knocked one of the performers off his stilts, he became enraged and started lashing out, and a vendor’s vegetables stand fell victim to the mayhem until the police arrived to break it up. The Spanish festival was banned for much of the 1950s, but in 1957 locals protested with a mock funeral, carrying a coffin with a giant tomato inside as bands played a funeral march. Eventually the powers-that-be relented, and La Tomatina has grown into a huge tourism draw in the decades since. If you go, please follow some simple rules: Don’t throw hard objects, squash the tomato before throwing it, stay a safe distance away from tomato trucks, and stop when the starter pistol indicates that the hour of mayhem has ended. In other words, have fun, but don’t hurt anybody and don’t be a jerk.

4. Semana Santa

  • Location: Seville, Spain
  • When: March/April

The Andalucía city of Seville is host to Semana Santa (Holy Week), one of the most spectacular and elaborate of the Easter festivities. There is a great deal of emotion on display during the festival, along with intricately crafted baroque religious statues paraded through the streets and large processions of Easter brotherhoods in traditional robes (with their pointed, vaguely sinister-looking hoods). Although the atmosphere is usually rather sombre, there are moments of lightness, too, as well as plenty of feasting. If you’re after a raucous romp, this probably isn’t the festival for you, but from an artistic and cultural perspective, it’s fascinating and hard to beat.

5. Boryeong Mud Festival

  • Location: Boryeong, South Korea
  • When: July

First staged in 1998 The Boryeong Mud Festival is a fairly new festival celebrated in the coastal town of Boryeong, South Korea. It was originally conceptualized to provide PR for a range of cosmetics created using the nutrient-rich mud from the area but the festival quickly became Korea’s most popular summer festival. Now, Boryeong Mud Festival is just a great excuse to get down and dirty and have some fun. Each year festival goers head to Daecheon Beach for rocking live music, a wade in the nutrient-rich mud and for a chance to try out various mud-related health and beauty products and services. Immerse yourself in nutrient-rich mud at the mud pool, slip down the mud slide or embrace your artistic side by body painting with colored mud, make your own mud soaps and challenge yourself on the mud maze obstacle-course.

6. Albuquerque International Balloon Festival

  • Location: Albuquerque, USA
  • When: Early October

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the largest annual international event held in the US. For more than four decades, the first or second week in October has ushered in the magical moving picture show of colorful hot air balloons gliding through the crisp fall air. From its modest beginnings in the 1970s at a mall parking lot with less than 15 hot air balloons, the Balloon Fiesta has steadily grown to become the largest ballooning event in the world. With nearly 600 beautifully colored balloons being launched annually, Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is one of the most photographed happenings on Earth. Laser light shows, fireworks, live band performances and interactive education complete the magic at Balloon Fiesta and ensure that there’s something fun to do or see for everyone.

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