Load up your daypacks and dust off your comfy shoes, it’s Festival Season, friends. Whether it involves costumes and customs or simply taking in the action as a spectator, festivals around the world offer a unique and sensational way to experience and celebrate a new culture with the locals. Here are eight festivals that each offer the perfect excuse to pack up, head out, and be festive.
1. Burning Man, Nevada, USA (August 26 – September 3). The Burning Man website declares that “The Burning Man organization will bring experiences to people in grand, awe-inspiring and joyful ways that lift the human spirit, address social problems and inspire a sense of culture, community and personal engagement.” What you can expect is massive, hands-on art installations peppered throughout a pop-up city in a dusty desert, a myriad of nightly raves, and a self-sufficient instant community that might change your life.
2. Pushkar Cattle Festival, Rajasthan, India (November 15 – November 23). Originally intended for local camel and cattle herders to sell and trade livestock, the festival has evolved into a full-blown Indian extravaganza with camel races, music and dancing, an arts and crafts bazaar, and a camel beauty contest for the camels who can’t help but be extra.
3. Cascamorras, Granada, Spain (September 6 – September 9). Basically the OG Color Run, the Fiesta Cascamorras is rooted in a legendary fight between two towns over a statue of a virgin—a fight now carried out via throwing black olive oil and paint at each other. The event has been declared a Fiesta of National Tourist Interest of Spain but is still widely unknown outside the country. Put it on your must-do list before it’s all over Instagram.
4. La Tomatina, Bunol, Spain (August 29). The festival where you’re most likely to spot Fozzie Bear, La Tomatina is literally a city-wide food fight in which over one hundred metric tons of over-ripe tomatoes are thrown in the streets. Although the origins of the event are unclear and date back to the mid-1940’s, the festival always occurs on the last Wednesday in August, requires a ticket to attend, and has a strict code of conduct which includes a cease-fire one hour after the first tomato is thrown. Because civility.
5. Running of the Bulls, Pamplona, Spain (July 6 – July 14). You’ve seen the photos. You’ve seen the videos. You’ve wondered why, and how, and what if. The only way to know for sure is to see it – or run it – for yourself. The event occurs in early July as part of the San Fermin festival and consists of running approximately half a mile with a small herd of bulls and trying not to be one of the 50 – 100 people who are injured annually at the event.
6. Kirpinar Oil Wrestling Tournament, Edirne, Turkey (July 2 – July 8). Dating back to 1346 (take that, Burning Man), this wrestling contest holds the Guiness World Record for the longest-running sports competition and consists of guys covering themselves in olive oil before wrestling each other on a grassy field until someone gets pinned down or hoisted above his competitor’s shoulders. If you need a break from oiled up flesh, the three-day event also includes belly dancing, beer, and roasted lamb (okay only one of those things isn’t oiled up flesh, but you get the idea).
7. Boryeong Mud Festival, South Korea (July 13 – July 22). Perhaps a contender for the fastest-growing festival, the first Mud Festival was staged in 1998 but by 2007 attracted 2.2 million visitors. The local mud is high in minerals, bentonites, and germaniums, so whether you partake in the mud pool, mudslides, mud prison or mud skiing competitions, you can also count it as a spa day. The festival also includes a main stage for live music and other attractions, but if you don’t get muddy it doesn’t count.
8. Pride Parade, San Francisco, USA (June 23 – June 24). Anchored by a parade that draws 100,000 spectators annually, SF Pride encourages you to “get your queer on and make the world a better place.” See every color of the rainbow during this June event in the city that’s also home to the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and those iconic cable cars.