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The World's Best-Kept Festival Secrets

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Before Burning Man was legendary, it was just a celebration of eclectic artists in the desert. Most festivals start off undiscovered, and for many this is a large part of their appeal. Some of the festivals in this list are emerging, whereas others have been around for a while but just haven't quite hit the mainstream circuit yet. Go experience them before they do.
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Khoroo 1, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
I wanted to go on a trip that was off the beaten path and so I picked Mongolia. I knew it was going to be quite an effort to get there so I wanted to make the most of it. I timed my trip to coincide with the Naadam Festival which is three day...
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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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5 Derb Zerbtana, Fès 30110, Morocco
When I told people I was traveling to Fes for north Africa’s most celebrated music festival, I heard, “Will you feel safe there?” or “You’re traveling halfway around the world to listen to church music?” Ironically, at the primary concerts,...
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Kırkpınar, Kemertaş Mahallesi, 69000 Kırkpınar Köyü/Bayburt Merkez/Bayburt, Turkey
“Enjoy watching groups of grown men dressed in leather and doused in olive oil grappling with each other?” asked my guidebook. As is true of many cultural traditions, it’s easy to mistake what this festival is all about. Kirkpinar is about honor....
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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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Gloucester, UK
Why do we still go to movie theaters when we can watch the same film at home? Why do we go to the Cheese Roll when YouTube captures the highlights for us without requiring us to make the trek? Sitting in front of our screens is just no substitute...
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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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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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Shiwar, Rajasthan 322704, India
The Holi Festival is also known as the festival of colors and is celebrated on a full moon at the end of February or beginning of March, which marks the end of winter. On the morning of the full moon people take to the streets ‘throwing paint’,...
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Av. Domínguez Ruiz 300, San Jacinto, 29160 Chiapa de Corzo, Chis., Mexico
Chiapa de Corzo’s Fiesta de Los Parachicos is held every January, and is part of a month-long celebration known as Fiesta Grande. The Parachicos celebration has been named by UNESCO as an item of intangible cultural heritage and is often described...
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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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683 Rue Saint-Joseph Est #150, Québec, QC G1K 3C1, Canada
Having worked in the music industry for nearly two years before switching to travel writing full-time, I attended more concerts than I can count. However, Québec Festival d'été made my record label days seem like a walk in the park. The festival...
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Whistler, BC V0N, Canada
Every April as the sun comes out and the ski season comes to a close, Whistler hosts the biggest annual gathering of winter sports, music, arts and culture, the World Ski and Snowboard Festival. It lives up to it's motto of ‘Party in April. Sleep...
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Lake Geneva
With well over a thousand lakes, Switzerland is blessed with its fair share of stunning bodies of water. The most extensive, however, is Lake Geneva (also known as Lac Léman), where you can bask in seductive views and amazing sunsets....
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West Town, Chicago, IL, USA
The annual Design Harvest festival brings more than 50 vendors to West Grand Avenue. Oversize tents fill up with metal sculptures, handmade messenger bags, and beautiful wooden furniture by Chicago designers such as Jason Lewis. September 29–30....
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2 Steele St # B100, Denver, CO 80206, USA
Every fourth of July weekend here in Denver, one of the biggest art events heads to the streets of Cherry Creek North. Going strong since 1991, the Cherry Creek Arts Festival now boasts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, and is a family...
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126 Tweed Valley Way, Yelgun NSW 2483, Australia
Held over three days in June just north of the surfer town of Byron Bay, Splendour in the Grass is Australia's largest winter music festival. Attracting an international crowd of 30,000, the festival features an impressive line-up of up-and-coming...