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32 Festivals Worth Traveling For

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I've been on a whirlwind tour of festivals this past year, from Europe to Africa to Asia and right here in the USA. As I prepare once again for Burning Man, it's fun to look back at some of my favorite festivals. And, I've enjoyed seeing my fellow adventurers' entries, too. So, here are of few of my highlights, and a few from kindred spirits on AFAR who travel near and far to cultivate their own cultural curiosity...and share them here with all of us.
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Black Rock City, NV, USA
Burning Man conjures up all kinds of images for those who’ve never been. Naked new agers dancing till dawn. Polyamorous pursuers fueled by ecstasy. Yes, the Playa (the desert stage where the Man, the temple, and much of the art is located) is a...
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09109 Castrillo de Murcia, Burgos, Spain
Do the Spanish have the weirdest festivals in the world? I asked myself this as I made the 43-kilometer trek by taxi from the charming city of Burgos in northern Spain (no public transportation to this remote village). Since 1621, the...
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Like Hemingway…I like to drink, I like to write, and, on occasion, I like to be a contrarian. I also like to understand the culture of the “other,” especially when it has such a deep history. So, that’s why I came to Pamplona. Still, my conscience...
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Prinsengracht 323, 1016 GZ Amsterdam, Netherlands
Grachtenfestival is a week-long outdoor classical music festival held every August in Amsterdam. World-famous musicians, ensembles and new talent perform in locations around the city. The festival's grand finale, the free Prinsengracht Concert, is...
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Kampung Selayang Permai, 68100 Batu Caves, Selangor, Malaysia
Landing in heat-soaked Kuala Lumpur after being on the road for 24 hours can be disorienting. Incessant chanting (“vei vel shakti vel”), monkeys screeching, wafting incense, a glorious moon, and a million people. Thaipusam falls on a full moon and...
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Newada Samogar, Uttar Pradesh 211009, India
Kumbh Mela is a perfect habitat for exploring "cultural curiosity." It forms a place for the salvation of mankind who wish to be free of the cycle of life and death. No small theme for the world’s biggest gathering. The crowd on the main days is...
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Pingxi District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 226
If you’re logical, you might not make the trek to the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival. Depending upon where you live, this is a long way to go for just a few hours of visual splendor in the sky. The fact is that the highlight lasts no more than about...
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Harbin, Heilongjiang, China
My ideal habitat is a warm day on a tropical beach. I'm also a sucker for beauty in all its most unusual forms (part of the reason I'm on the Board of Burning Man). So, when I heard about the Harbin International Ice & Snow Festival in northeast...
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Jl. Surapati, Tua, Marga, Kabupaten Tabanan, Bali 80116, Indonesia
The sun's gift to the island of Bali (Island of the God's and Devotion) for Valentine's Day...my eyes will never forget.
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One of the most important celebrations in Bali is Galungan. Beginning in or around late March, the festival symbolizes the victory of virtue (dharma) over evil (adharma). Hear the mysterious clangs of gamelan music; see women and girls in...
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Magic Island, Honolulu, HI 96814, USA
Even before I moved to Hawaii, I knew I wanted to be a part of the Lantern Floating Festival. It takes place on Memorial Day weekend in May at Ala Moana Park in Honolulu. An estimated 40,000 people turned out for the 2012 celebration where...
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Sycamore Building, Sycamore Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, Co. Dublin, Ireland
A fanciful three-week celebration of the arts, Fringe has been an annual asylum for artistic oddballs since 1994. Nearly 650 productions— theater, dance, poetry, magic, outdoor installations—enliven venues all over Dublin. 353/(0) 1-670-6106....
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Nong Han, San Sai District, Chiang Mai, Thailand
One of my favorite festivals in the world is the Loi Krathong / Yi Peng ‘festival of light’ in Thailand. Both occur at the same time and although differing slightly, both represent the cleansing of sins. Yi Peng takes place mainly in Chiang Mai in...
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Each fall, crowds of partygoers at Munich’s Oktoberfest lift steins of golden beer skyward and bellow “Prosit!” The German holiday began more than 200 years ago at the marriage celebration of Bavarian Crown Prince Louis and...
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Camí de Binissaida, 108, 07720 Es Castell, Illes Balears, Spain
To really get to know the Spanish island of Minorca, be prepared to sit atop a saddle. The island has a love affair with a breed of horse: the graceful, strong, coal-black Minorcan. While donkeys traditionally worked the fields, the Minorcan was...
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French Quarter Fest is billed as the largest free concert in the South and features local musicians of varied genres. Over the course of four days in April, you can experience all kinds of music, by over 100 performers scattered throughout the...
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From the Highlands to the Sepik River... this is where I had the fortunate experience of seeing a country & culture that rarely is seen by Western eyes. It took about 2 years in the planning to ensure my safety as this is not one of the most...
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Seongji-ro 153beon-gil, Choeup-dong, Busanjin-gu, Busan, South Korea
The temples of South Korea are always one of my favorite things to check out while traveling there. For one, the temples in South Korea are usually accessible by hike and are often perched on the top of a mountain so just getting to the temple can...
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Ohara, Isumi, Chiba 298-0004, Japan
Ohara is a small town known for its fishing port (in fact, roughly 60 percent of all of the ise-ebi, or Japanese spiny lobster, caught in Japan comes from Ohara Port). It is about a 1 1/2 hour train ride from Tokyo Station on the Wakashio express....
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Ai Guo Lu, Luohu Qu, Shenzhen Shi, Guangdong Sheng, China
Before the Spring Festival in Shenzhen, the city blocks off streets for several huge Flower Fairs. The one in Luohu on Aiguo Rd is the biggest, and it was packed the day I went with people celebrating the year of the dragon. You could buy some...
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Lotificacion San Jose, Nejapa, El Salvador
Once a year on August 31st, the little town of Nejapa, just outside of San Salvador hosts the Fireball Festival (Bolas de Fuego). Started 90 years ago to commemerate the eruption of a nearby volcano, balls of cloth wrapped with wire are soaked in...
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Bennelong Point, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, the Sydney Opera House was inspired by its dramatic setting on Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbour, a location that’s long been sacred to the native Gadigal people. While construction took...