13 worlds best festivals 13 worlds best festivals

From masquerade balls to dancing in the streets of Rio, these are the world’s most unforgettable festivals.

From vibrant street parades to age-old traditions, festivals around the world offer a unique window into the heart and soul of a culture. For the luxury traveller, these events present an unparalleled opportunity to experience the extraordinary in an extraordinary way. Here, we take you on a journey through the world’s ten most remarkable festivals, where opulence meets cultural richness.

READ: These Are the World’s Best Airlines for 2024

From masquerade balls to dancing in the streets of Rio, these are the world's most unforgettable festivals. 

Carnival of Venice, Italy

Thought to trace its origins to a military parade in 1162, Venice’s Carnival is a timeless celebration of extravagance, where the city’s canals and squares transform into a stage for masked balls, opulent costumes, and grand processions. Taking place in February each year, this kaleidoscopic event, which was abolished by the suspicious Holy Roman Empire before returning with gusto, has often cameoed in movies thanks to its striking regalia and tradition, which draws some three million visitors annually.

READ: Is This the World’s Most Expensive Holiday?

Staying in a historic palazzo and partaking in exclusive masked balls offers a truly immersive experience, as does attending the Ballo del Doge, one of the most exclusive events of the Carnival, held in a magnificent 15th-century palace of Palazzo Pisani Moretta, situated on the Grand Canal.

From masquerade balls to dancing in the streets of Rio, these are the world's most unforgettable festivals. 

Mardi Gras, New Orleans, USA

Taking place in February and March each year, New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, which has been celebrated in Louisiana since the 1600s, is synonymous with vibrant parades, jazz music, street parties, and lavish masquerade balls. During this pre-Lent celebration, the city’s French Quarter and Bourbon Street come alive with festivity, colour, and unmatched Southern hospitality. Be sure to secure a balcony room at the Royal Sonesta Hotel to enjoy the parades with a prime view and personal service.

From masquerade balls to dancing in the streets of Rio, these are the world's most unforgettable festivals. 

Diwali, India

Known as the Festival of Lights and commemorated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Muslim Indian communities across the world over, Diwali is celebrated with grandeur across India. Homes and streets are adorned with millions of oil lamps, fireworks light up the skies, and families gather to feast and exchange gifts.

READ: 9 Awesome Dining Experiences in Monaco This Summer

For the ultimate experience, make for Jaipur or Udaipur in October-November, and stay at a palace hotel like the Rambagh Palace or the new Raffles Jaipur, where the the timeless festivities of thanks for the bounty of the harvest are celebrated with white gloved royal flair.

Best Festivals From Around the World

Rio Carnival, Brazil

The Rio Carnival is the world’s biggest and possibly most dynamic street party, featuring spectacular samba parades, glittering costumes, and pulsating music. The energy and passion of Rio de Janeiro come to life in this spectacular celebration, the first of which took place in 1723. Taking place annually between February and March and coinciding with Lent, the parades are led by over 200 samba schools, who dance and strut their stuff to win acclaim from the crowds.

Be prepared to battle the masses unless you book a book a VIP ticket for the Sambadrome parade, which includes gourmet dining and access to exclusive lounges as well as front row seats to this unforgettable extravaganza.

Best Festivals From Around the World

Holi, India

Another important festival celebrated in India and by Indian communities abroad, Holi, the March festival of colours, celebrates the arrival of spring with a riot of coloured powders and music. Participants joyfully throw handfuls of coloured powder and water at each other across India, dancing and singing in the streets, and don’t think tourists are immune from the pageantry.

READ: Guatemalan Grass Roots

Be sure to wear clothes you don’t mind leaving behind when you leave India and for the ultimate party atmosphere, make for five star hotels like Rajasthan’s The Oberoi Udaivilas, or one of the Ganges cruise ships, including Antara Cruises‘ fleet, which will hosts private Holi events for guests.

Best Festivals From Around the World

Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany

Slip on your lederhosen and bring an empty belly because Oktoberfest, held in Munich annually since 1810, is the world’s largest beer festival. It’s a celebration of Bavarian culture, featuring traditional music, hearty food, and, of course, vast quantities of beer, with the myriad tents welcoming travellers (more than six million) from across Europe and beyond. You’ll feast on Schweinebraten (roast pork), Schweinshaxe (roasted ham hock), and Würstl (sausages) and drink the best brews from Bavaria’s many breweries – 7.7 million litres were consumed in 2014.

For a more elegant take on this iconic festival, reserve a table in the Käfer’s Wiesn-Schänke tent, known for its exclusive atmosphere and gourmet cuisine.

Best Festivals From Around the World

Cherry Blossom Festival, Japan

A favourite with travellers from Asia and increasingly from further away, the Cherry Blossom Festival, or Hanami, is held in March/April with the arrival of the beautiful but fleeting cherry blossoms. Parks and gardens are blanketed in pink and white blooms, creating a picturesque and serene atmosphere. The celebration traces its origins to the 8th century, under the Nara era, when Japanese peasants left offerings for the gods they believed came to hide in the cherry trees each spring.

READ: Island Shang Launches The Shangri-La Suite

For an insider’s perspective, book a room at the Aman Tokyo, which offers exclusive cherry blossom viewing tours and picnics.

Best Festivals From Around the World

La Tomatina, Buñol, Spain

Don’t wear your most expensive party frocks because La Tomatina is a unique festival, held each August, where participants engage in a massive tomato fight, covering the streets of Buñol in a sea of red. What started out as a friendly food fight among friends is now a fun and lively celebration of summer that draws thousands of visitors to the town. However, to help handle the crowds, the festival is now a ticketed event with a cap of 20,000 so be sure to book your ticket soon.

Best Festivals From Around the World

Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, China

Wrap up warm as this middle-of-winter festival in the northern Chinese city of Harbin showcases breathtaking ice and snow sculptures, illuminated by colourful lights in all their icy glory. It’s a magical winter wonderland that attracts artists and visitors from around the globe.

READ: Soho Seduction

During the festival, you can take an  ice lantern park tour, hit the slopes at Yabuli alpine skiing, and, for the brave, take a dip in the Songhua River. Stay at the Shangri-La Hotel, Harbin, which offers stunning views of the frozen Songhua River and easy access to the festival.

Best Festivals From Around the World

San Fermín, Pamplona, Spain

Best known for the Running of the Bulls and immortalised by Ernest Hemingway, San Fermín is a thrilling and historic festival that includes parades, fireworks, and traditional music each July. The excitement of the bull run is matched by the rich cultural festivities, which include parades, dancing and plenty of music. Be sure to book ahead for a balcony spot with a hospitality package to safely enjoy the bull run and then retreat to the comfort of the Gran Hotel La Perla, a historic hotel with modern amenities.

Best Festivals From Around the World

Día de los Muertos, Mexico

The Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, is a uniquely Mexican festival that joyfully honours deceased loved ones. This vibrant celebration, which traces its origins to ancient Mesoamerican cultures, takes place annually in November, intertwining indigenous traditions with Spanish influences, creating a rich tapestry of customs and rituals that celebrate life, death, and memory.

READ: Anantara Chiang Mai Resort Launches Luxury River Cruise

Expect processions (the largest is in Mexico City), family feasts, colourful markets (especially in Oaxaca) and plenty of tequila.

worlds greatest festivals

The Dragon Boat Festival, Asia

The Dragon Boat Festival, also known as Duanwu Festival, is a traditional Chinese holiday celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar. This vibrant festival, rich in history and cultural significance, features dragon boat races (the best are in Hong Hong and on Hangzhou’s West Lake), special foods like zongzi (sticky rice dumplings) and realgar wine, a yellow rice brew, and various folk customs.

The festival, which is thought to be 2,000 years old, commemorates the life and death of the famous Chinese scholar and poet Qu Yuanis, who drowned himself in the Miluo River after being exiled, is celebrated with great enthusiasm not only in China but also in other parts of Asia and around the world.

Bali’s Day of Silence, Indonesia

For a festival with a difference, Nyepi, also known as Bali’s Day of Silence, is a unique and deeply spiritual celebration observed by the Balinese Hindu community and marked by every resident on the island, including tourists (even the airport closes). It marks the start of the Balinese New Year according to the Saka calendar and is a day dedicated to reflection, meditation, and self-restraint, which means you can’t leave your home or hotel, and can’t make noise or turn on lights, but instead embrace the quietest take on Bali you’ve ever experienced (it’s brilliant for star gazing).

READ: Capella Sydney Launches Inaugural Chef in Residence Series

The day leading up to Nyepi is pretty much the opposite, with the Melasti Ceremony seeing Hindu processions from various temples to the sea, and the brilliant Ogoh-Ogoh parade, where local groups carry towering statues, many with lighting and sound, depicting malevolent spirits. Expect plenty of noise to cast away evil. Best tips are to plan ahead, gather friends and book a villa in the mountains for a spectacular night sky, or check into a resort like the Raffles Bali where you’ll embrace the serenity without sacrificing the creature comforts.

For more Experiences click here.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook for the latest travel and lifestyle inspiration.