Everyone has their own motivation behind traveling. For me, I can talk all day about the different reasons I live to travel, but one that sticks out to my friends and family is my love for culture. When I hear people speaking a language other than English, my ears perk up and I eavesdrop just to see if I can recognize the tongue being spoken. Well with culture, also comes tradition and festivities which are my favorite! Some of the best festivals around the world take place in small areas and people travel from all over just to be a part of them. Here are a few festivals around the world worth traveling to be a part of:
Spain – La Tomatina
The juiciest festival award goes to Spain for their La Tomatina festival held every year in a tiny, quaint town of Bunol, just west of Valencia. Bunol is usually populated with 9,000 people, but every year on the last Wednesday in August, over 40,000 people gather for a tomato throwing war. The tradition has been going on since 1944 with an unclear history, but regardless people congregate here from all over for a day of tomato throwing, music and celebration. Shop owners and residents prepare for La Tomatina by covering their shops with plastics and in the aftermath, the roads are cleared up with water from nearby Roman aqueducts. The tomato throwing portion of the festival lasts an hour and is kicked off with a blast from water cannons and ends the same way. Make sure to wear goggles and clothes you don’t care to ruin!
India – Holi Festival of Colors
Holi is a colorful Hindu festival that’s celebrated to ring in the spring season with colored and perfumed powder thrown at and smeared on everyone in the town square and it’s usually hundreds and thousands of people. It begins on the fifth night of the full moon in either February or March called the Panchami. On the evening before the powder throwing, towns are lit with bonfires to ward off evil spirits to prep for the daytime celebrations. Participants dress in white saris and kurtas and throw colorful neon powders mixed with water at each other to honor a Hindu mythological story about Lord Krishna who liked to play pranks on girls in the town. The celebration goes on throughout India including in the temple cities of Mathura and Vrindavan.
South Korea – Boryeong Mud Festival
This new South Korean tradition has a physical and messy kick. Every year, millions of people travel to Boryeong, which is about 100 miles south of Seoul to participate in what looks like a giant mud bath. The mud has minerals in it that are used in cosmetics and supposedly the recipe to beauty, so in 1998, a cosmetics company began a marketing ploy that turned into an annual and practically national festival. They bring thousands of pounds of mud for people to “play” in at the “Mud Experience Land” on the beach and turns into a giant two-week long party. Playing around in the mineralized mud may be an excuse to rejuvenate your skin, but it’s more of an excuse to have fun since they set up mud slides, mud massage areas, mud sculpture contests and other mud related activities. The festival takes place from July 19 to 28 this year.
Thailand – Yi Peng Sky Lantern festival
The Yi Peng Sky Lantern festival is on the top of my bucket list of things to experience. Thousands of people come to the city of Chiang Mai during Loy Krathong to light up paper lanterns (khom loi) that work like hot air balloons and release them into the night sky for good luck. Once the lanterns are released, the lanterns look like thousands of glowing stars making it a real life picturesque experience. The festival lasts three days and takes place during the second full moon in of the Thai Calendar which changes every year, but is always in November. In 2013, the celebration will be from November 17 to 19. Expect large crowds of tourists!
China – Harbin Ice and Snow Festival
Elaborate sand castles have become a thing of the past next to the massive ice and snow sculptures that artists create every winter in Harbin, a snowy town in China, since 1963. People can walk through the ice structures, some that are the size of football fields, that are lit up with colorful LED lights that light up the buildings. Some ice sculptures are buildings like palaces, churches, people and holy figures from various cultures. Thousands of people come to Harbin just to see the spectacular ice sculptures in the blustery cold every year during the month of January. The sculptors are also from around the world; they migrate to the Harbin to take part in creating the massive icy works of art.