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Top Trip Memories

  • Joining in the party at New Orleans’ Mardi Gras or Rio’s Carnaval; will it be catching beads or sampling the samba?
  • Floating over New Mexico’s high desert at Albuquerque’s hot air Balloon Fiesta
  • Braving the firecrackers and embracing the fervor at India’s Diwali, the Festival of Light
  • Downing a few liters of beer (and dancing on the tables) at Munich’s boisterous Oktoberfest
  • Getting splattered by fresh tomatoes and then plastering others with same at Spain’s one-of-a-kind La Tomatina
  • Running with the bulls (if you dare) at Pamplona’s notorious San Fermin fest
  • Grooving to the vibes at Montreal’s Jazz Festival
  • Taking in the spectacle of lion dances and marching bands at San Francisco’s colorful Chinese New Year celebration
  • Bathing in mud at South Korea’s Boryeong Mud Festival
  • Absorbing the local culture at Mexico’s Cinco de Mayo or Day of the Dead festivities
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Tour Tips

  • Plan well in advance to attend top festivals since tours, lodgings and flights may fill quickly
  • Be prepared to pay a bit more for everything around festival time
  • If price hikes during top festivals stretch your budget, consider structuring a tour around lesser-known events
  • Festivals are ideal times to arrange custom tours, whether on your own or with friends and family
  • Keep in mind that festival days may not be the best times to do regular sightseeing, if that’s a priority
  • Also consider your tolerance for crowds and noise before booking a festival tour
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Festivals & Special Events Travel Reviews & Ratings

4.6 out of 5

98%

recommend

1,169 Reviews

  • Excellent 772
  • Great 299
  • Average 58
  • Disappointing 18
  • Terrible 6

Rating Details

  • Value
    4.6
  • Guide
    4.6
  • Activities
    4.6
  • Lodging
    4.6
  • Transportation
    4.6
  • Meals
    4.6

Tour Reviews

Stunning and unforgettable experience !

Classic India

5.0
May 2017
Myths and Mountains
Recommend: Yes
Four of us travelled together, and everyone had different favourite moments. For me, Varanasi was a stunning and unforgettable experience -- from witnessing the celebration of a religious festival to experiencing the chaos of the street life. It was India in a microcosm: history, life & death, colours, noise, mystery, diversity. In contrast, our peaceful evening eating dinner with a family in Jaipur who opened their home to us was every bit as wonderful as any of the sites. They were welcoming, interesting and gracious. And the homemade meal was a bonus.

Guidance through the visa process was quite helpful.

Almost all of the accommodations were first-rate. Ahilya Fort, Dera Mandawa and Sarai at Toria stood out because they were small, and each had a uniquely personal touch. The Fort was in a great location -- adjacent to the town and the river -- yet quiet with amazing rooms and views of the river. We were able to go down to the river early in the morning and see the town come to life. The rooms at Dera Mandawa were beautiful, the staff amazingly attentive. Again, although we were in a city, the hotel was a peaceful refuge. Sarai was a surprising spot next to Panna, again with interesting and helpful owners and staff. If you found places like these throughout India, I would forget about staying the in big five-star hotels.

Kaush, our guide beginning in Indore, was friendly, knowledgeable and attentive to our needs and interests. He handled the logistics of meeting local guides, porters, local drivers and dozens of other details flawlessly. In a disorganized country, he was a model of organization. We knew we were in good hands, start to finish.

A guide he engaged in Khajuraho to take us through the temples stood out as a brilliant and interesting individual. Everyone loved him.
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Cherry Blossom and so much more in Japan

Ancient & Modern Japan

5.0
April 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
We had high expectations for our visit to Japan for the Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) season and they were exceeded. Not only did we get to see the beautiful blossom but also the old Japanese streets of Kyoto, dancing Geisha, the spring fair in Takayama, snow monkeys bathing and so much more.
We got to stay in a traditional ryokan with great dining which was a great Japanese experience. Over and above the standard tour, our group leader also arranged on our free days to see Mount Fuji (wonderful view from Lake Ashi) and the sumo wrestlers training.
We've been back a week and still processing all the wonderful experiences.
There were so many but four that come to mind are:
- being in Takayama for the spring fair and seeing all of the giant shrines (yatai) in all their glory.
- coming into Tsumago from the old Japanese Nakasendo highway. Like stepping back in time.
- snow monkeys bathing in the hot springs.
- a fantastic view of Mount Fuji from Lake Ashi (after not expecting any view at all!)

Ayaka was absolutely fantastic, organising everything wonderfully and going above and beyond on our free days to ensure everybody saw what they wanted. She even came with us to Mount Fuji on one of our free days in Tokyo and what a difference it made (not only did we see the mountain from a perfect viewpoint, she also took us down the Tokaido highway, arranged a presentation at the secret box shop and made sure we caught the pirate boat across the lake). You could tell that she really wanted to make sure everybody had the perfect trip.

Make sure to pack sturdy walking shoes as you will be on your feet a lot if you want to see everything this wonderful country has to offer.
Assume you will be paying cash for everything and get the money before you go as ATMs accepting foreign cards are not prevalent. You can pay a little by credit card in Tokyo and Kyoto but, in general, everything is paid for in cash.

Try and go in the cherry blossom season as it is stunning. If we went back, it would probably be in the autumn as we saw photos which looked fantastic with the red acers.

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Land of contrasts

Ancient & Modern Japan

5.0
April 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
This trip was everything I had hoped for, AND so much more.
Our mid-March tour was a little too early for us to catch the cherry trees in full bloom, but meant we were able to view the first blossom without the crowds and queues.
Japan is full of stunning contrasts: from the tranquillity of the beautiful Golden Temple to the noise and bustle of the Tokyo fish market; from the dignified Peace Memorial at Hiroshima to the hilarious showmanship of a crazy pancake chef. Photo-opportunities are EVERYWHERE …
Breathtakingly beautiful scenes as we stood in a fairytale landscape – with snow still falling – watching the snow monkeys playing in the hot pools.

Throughout, our local guide led us confidently from bullet train to funicular, from tram, to bus, to ferry. He took us to places only a local would know about, including, at our request, to a karaoke bar on our last night!

Do heed the warnings in the Trip Notes about bringing cash instead of cards; and take warm clothes and sensible footwear to the mountains – we hit minus 4 one morning!
The underground system in Tokyo is efficient and easy to navigate, with plenty of signs in English. You do need to be reasonably fit, however – there were lots of steps.

All the Japanese people we met were extremely friendly and eager to help and, especially to those of us who had visited China, the ordered calm of both traffic and people in Tokyo came as a surprise.
If you’re thinking of booking this trip, I really can’t recommend it highly enough. Just go for it.

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Japan Ancient and Modern

Ancient & Modern Japan

5.0
April 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
Starting in Kyoto and then going into the countryside. Down to Hiroshima and then on to Tokyo.
Too many to mention. Japanese baths were lovely. The bullet train was quite an experience.

He was really good. He has so much to organise but makes it all look effortless.

Pack warm clothing. The snow monkies are actually in the snow!

This was more of an experience than a holiday. You need to pack light with good walking shoes.

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Wonderful Introduction to Japan

Ancient & Modern Japan

4.0
April 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
An excellent trip that enabled us to experience a wide variety of regions from the old capital of Kyoto to the smaller towns and villages in the Japanese mountains and finishing with the hustle and bustle of vibrant Tokyo. The travelling was very comfortable in clean, punctual trains and there weren't any ridiculously early morning starts. The Japanese people were friendly and extremely polite and it was great to learn about their culture and traditions. A great itinerary with a good balance between organised activities and free time to explore alone.
There were so many moments:
Our first sight of Mount Fuji as we approached in on the train and the various perspectives of Mont Fuji from the Hakone region.
The sight of Matsumoto Castle gloriously lit at night and the excellent tour of Matsumoto Castle by a knowledgeable volunteer guide in the day.
Seeing the cherry blossom in Toko's Park and understanding the significance to the thousands of Japanese people having their picnics under the trees during the day and night.
Fushimi inari-taisha shrine.
Our day trip to Hiroshima.
Walking along the sunlit path through the trees to see the 'Snow Monkeys' bathing in the hot springs.
Bathing in the outdoor onsen in Yudanaka.
The Hokusai Museum in Obuse.

We had a young Japanese group leader called Misa. She gave us a daily briefing of each day's activities and ensured that our travel arrangements ran smoothly by giving us timings, meeting places and train platforms.
She was very helpful with the dietary requirements of the vegetarians and those with food allergies and always made sure that everyone in the group had suitable food.
Misa was particularly good at giving us detailed information about the attractions we viewed and the Japanese culture for example how to wash at the shrines before praying and how to pray. She also made sure that we followed Japanese culture by being very quiet on the trains.
It was clear that Misa was very proud of her country and was keen for us to get as much out of the trip as we could. I was also impressed with the way she made sure that any litter was taken with us or place in the trash cans.
Misa went beyond her line of duty when she escorted us to the Hakone area on what was our free day in Tokyo. Having her with us make the trip far easier and more interesting than if we'd gone alone.

Read the trips notes, which are very accurate, carefully and think about your own limitations.
You are travelling on public transport and whilst you have a seat on the longer journeys you often have to stand on the short journeys on very crowded trains.
There is a certain amount of walking and climbing steps etc and if like us you love walking great but if you never walk you could find it tiring.
Do try the onsens particularly the outdoor one in Yudanaka, this might be your only ever chance to do so.
You do sleep on the floor and eat sitting on the floor in the Ryokans which was great and we felt immersed in the culture but some people with bad backs etc could find it problematic.
If you are a vegetarian be prepared that you will not be eating the same amount of fruit and vegetables that you are used to and check carefully about the broth the noodles are cooked in. The fruit in Japan is extremely expensive in all the regions we visited. We shopped in the large supermarkets and apples were £1.50 each as were oranges. Bananas were 80p each. When we were served fruit as part of our breakfast we had a quarter of an orange.

If you are visiting Japan at the end of March, like we did to see the cherry blossom, be prepared that you might not see any cherry blossom until you reach Tokyo. This year had been a very cold winter and the cherry blossom was quite late. We were extremely disappointed not to see any cherry blossom on the Philosopher's Walk or in the gardens of the Temple of the Golden Pavilion in fact there was barely any cherry blossom until we reached Tokyo on April 4th.
Do make the effort to go to the Hakone area on your free day in Tokyo using your Japan Railcard. The views of Mount Fuji were magical.

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Festivals & Special Events Trips & Tour Advice

Festivals, which you can find the world over in a myriad of forms, aren't just fun -- they're a reflection of a culture. Some are centuries old celebrations, such as Il Palio, an elaborate horse race in Siena, Italy. Others are more recent in vintage, such as San Francisco's annual Gay Pride Parade. And of course, many are indeed great fun, such as Rio's Carnaval, New Orleans' Mardi Gras, and Spain's chaotic Tomato Festival, in which everyone pelts each other with juicy red fruit. Special events may include Christmas Markets in Germany or New England fall foliage tours. Whatever your favorite festival or event, a good tour will take you there.

Festivals can be among the most memorable and colorful experiences in travel.

Whether you’re shouting “Hey, Mister, throw me some….” as the krewe floats pass by at Mardi Gras in New Orleans; watching a solemn religious procession at Semana Santa in Seville, Spain; downing way too much beer at an Oktoberfest tent in Bavaria, Germany; or checking out the wares at India’s exotic Pushkar Camel Fair, festivals can be fun and frenetic but also fascinating, by serving as a window into the very heart of a culture.

They can also be just plain wacky or offbeat, such as Spain’s La Tomatina (tomato-throwing) or South Korea’s Boryeong Mud Festival (mud play).

Here’s a calendar of major festivals around the globe as they take place throughout the year. Note that many dates are approximate and change based on factors such as holidays or lunar cycles.

Top January Festivals Around the World

Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Harbin, China. This is the world’s largest snow and ice sculpture festival and, appropriately, features the largest actual sculptures as well. Starting in early January each year, it runs for an entire month. Harbin is in northeast China, and, perhaps needless to say, is cold in winter, but the festival attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators.

Quebec Winter Carnival, Quebec City, Canada. Quebec’s two-week-long Winter Carnival, which typically starts in late January and runs into February, is a celebration of all things snow: It’s the world’s largest winter carnival and ranks third for all carnivals after those in Rio and New Orleans (Mardi Gras). Winter sports, dogsled races, snow sculptures, an ice hotel and more are featured. 

Top February Festivals Around the World

Carnaval, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Extravagantly designed yet skimpy costumes, samba dancing, and a certain degree of licentiousness mark Rio’s Carnaval, held in the week leading up to Ash Wednesday and the 40 days of Lenten sacrifice. This is the place to drop your inhibitions and let yourself go, in the company of a million other visitors. Since Carnaval dates are tied to Easter, they differ each year and may extend into March.

Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Louisiana. With similar timing to Carnaval, Mardi Gras culminates in a parade of brilliantly decorated floats sponsored by a variety of krewes (clubs). Krewe members typically toss out beads and candy to spectators, who have also been known to imbibe a bit on Bourbon Street.

Chinese New Year, San Francisco, California (and many other cities around the world with large Chinese populations, including, of course, in China). Chinese New Year, which varies with the lunar calendar and sometimes falls in March, is celebrated by lots of noise (firecrackers), color (lion and dragon dances), gift-giving, and traditional feasting. It lasts about two weeks and culminates in parades and visits to family and friends.

Top March Festivals Around the World

St. Patrick’s Day, throughout Ireland and New York City and Boston, Massachusetts. Ireland’s patron saint, who is said to have converted the island to Christianity, is honored by parades and freely flowing green beer. It falls annually on March 17.

Top April Festivals Around the World

Semana Santa and Feria de Sevilla, Seville, Spain. Seville’s Semana Santa – or Holy Week leading up to Easter – is marked by processions of huge religious floats carried by bearers and followed by hundreds of penitents. Seville’s Fair, also known as the April Fair, follows two weeks later, and is a week-long party of all-night eating and drinking. Many local women and men wear traditional dress – think flamenco costumes – and ride around in decorated carriages. Dates vary along with Easter.

Top May Festivals Around the World

Cinco de Mayo (May 5) is holiday time in Mexico, but it’s actually celebrated more fervently in areas of the U.S. with large Mexican populations, especially California and the Southwest. Parades, mariachis, Mexican foods, and margaritas are a big part of the mix. It commemorates a victory in battle over the French in 1862.

Top June Festivals Around the World

White Nights Festival, St. Petersburg, Russia. Centered around evening ballet, opera, orchestral and popular music performances, the White Nights Festival actually extends from late May through mid-July, but includes all of June, when sunlight lasts well into the night. Carnivals and costume parties round out the festivities.

Top July Festivals Around the World

Fiesta de San Fermin (“Running of the Bulls”), Pamplona, Spain. Made famous by Ernest Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises, San Fermin draws up to a million visitors per year Attendance is exciting but dangerous if you’re actually running with the bulls and not just spectating; one or more people get gored almost every year. The bulls run daily from July 7-14 each year.

Montreal Jazz Festival, Montreal, Canada. The world’s largest jazz festival attracts some of the biggest names in music to this ten-day event, which draws two million visitors and 3,000 musicians for 1,000 shows, both indoor and outdoor, many of them free. The festival typically starts in late June and runs through the first week of July.

Boryeong Mud Festival, Boryeong, South Korea. Situated each summer in the little beach town of Boryeong south of Seoul, this nine-day festival is all about the mud: mud sliding, mud games, mud massages, mud swimming, mud bathing. It’s South Korea’s most popular festival for international visitors; dates vary.

Top August Festivals Around the World

Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Scotland. The world’s largest arts festival, the Fringe Festival takes place over three weeks in some 300 venues around Edinburgh – currently more than 50,000 performances of more than 3,200 shows per year. Drama, comedy, dance, music – if it’s the arts, it’s here.

Palio di Siena, Siena, Italy. The Palio is one of the world’s most historic and colorful horse races, with costumed bareback riders representing ten different areas of the city competing in the Piazza del Campo, Siena’s beautiful central square. With origins dating back to the 6th century, it now takes place on August 16 and July 2 each year. Parades and other festivities extend over four days, culminating in the race itself.

Top September Festivals Around the World

Oktoberfest, Munich and other cities in Bavaria, Germany. It may seem strange that Oktoberfest begins in September, but it’s too much fun to wait—and the weather’s better. Mostly it’s about drinking beer, singing, eating sausages and general merrymaking in big groups seated in roomy tents or beer halls. This goes on from mid-September to early October, and has for more than 180 years.

Top October Festivals Around the World

Diwali, throughout India and various other countries with large Indian populations. Diwali is an ancient five-day Hindu celebration marked by gift-giving, candle lighting, and – most visible and audible to visitors – firecrackers. While dates can change each year, October is the most typical time.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico. The world’s largest hot air ballooning festival gets ramped up at dawn for five mornings (out of nine days) in early October. It’s also said to be the world’s most photographed special event, as hundreds of colorful balloons float over the high desert framed by the Sandia Mountains.

Top November Festivals Around the World

Day of the Dead (Dia de las Muertos), throughout Mexico and other regions with large Mexican populations. The Day of the Dead – marked each year from October 31 to November 2 – is much less morbid than it sounds. Yes, there are visits to cemeteries to honor dead ancestors and lots of skull masks and skeleton costumes, but they are incorporated into parades and other festivities. Oaxaca has some of the best.

Pushkar Camel Fair, Pushkar, India. Even if you’re not in the market for a camel, the six-day Pushkar Camel Fair is one of India’s most colorful spectacles – which is saying a lot. Along with some 11,000 camels and horses for sale, traders and vendors come from all over Rajasthan, among the hundreds of thousands of participants and spectators.

Top December Festivals Around the World

Whirling Dervish Festival, Konya, Anatolia, Turkey. For a week in mid-December (December 10 to 17), some devout adherents of Sufi Islam -- known as whirling dervishes -- perform rhythmic, twirling dances that are meant to transport them into mystical unions with God. In their white outfits with flowing skirts, they are mesmerizing to watch. The dances commemorate a 13th century Sufi mystic.

Related Categories

Popular Continents:                      

AsiaEuropeNorth America & South America

Popular Countries:

IndiaItalyMexicoSpainCanada & Brazil

Popular Festivals:

Calgary Stampede, Canada; Day of the Dead, Mexico; Oktoberfest, Germany; Rio de Janeiro's Carnaval, Brazil; Kumbh Mela, India & Many More

Popular Amongst: 

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