One of the most important parts of having a successful trip is choosing exactly when to visit your chosen destination. Should you go during the hot season, cool season, rainy season, dry season, festival season, etc. etc.?
One great way to decide when to visit a country is to find out when national holidays will be taking place and what exactly they will be like. Some celebrations you may want to steer clear of, as they tend to draw a big crowd of both tourists and locals thus congesting the area and filling up restaurants and hotel rooms. However, some celebrations are more than worth the crowd, and are incredible experiences.
Some of these holidays are very well known, others have yet to be discovered on a wide scale. Feel free to add any fun holidays you don’t find on this list in the comments section!
The Grand Daddies
You better know about these ones
1. Oktoberfest (Munich, Germany)
Oktoberfest is one of the most well known festivals in the entire world, and for good cause. The festival is all about boozing it up with your compatriates, and lasts 16 days, putting St. Patty’s day in Boston in a scary perspective. Weighing in at over 5 million partygoers annually, Oktoberfest is one of the biggest festivals in the world. Gastrointestinally challenged beware: Oktoberfest is about drinking heavy beer and eating food designed to grind your metabolism to a halt. Bring you’re A-game. Or at least some antacid.
2. The Running of the Bulls (Pamplona, Spain)
Quite likely the most well known and advertised festival the world over, The Running of the Bulls is one of the only festivals where death and serious injury at the hands of a 2,500 pound beast is a distinct possibility. The festival has its origins in the 14th century, although it is not clear when it became official, and little more than farmers running alongside their bulls in order to herd them (jealous you missed the good old days?)
3. Carnival (Brazil)
Another one of the world’s most popular festivals, Carnival is 46 days of pure celebration. Music, dancing and fun times abound; Carnival is all about letting loose and celebrating the very essence of life. The biggest celebration is in Rio De Janeiro, but you will be hard pressed to travel anywhere in Brazil during the 46 days leading up to Easter that doesn’t require a party hat. Debbie downers and party poopers need not apply. If you’re ready to shake your rump and cast your stresses and real world responsibilities aside, this is the festival for you.
The mid-heavy weights
Not as well known but just as bucket list worthy
4. Songkran (Thailand)
If you arrive in Thailand between April 13-15, consider yourself lucky if you make it out of the airport without getting hit by your first squirt gun, let alone getting into your hotel. For 3 days just about every man, woman and child cease all normal activity, take to the streets (usually in front of their home or business), and commence the biggest water fight in the world. Old ladies? Fair game. Driving a motor bike? Fair game. Wearing an expensive business suit? Guess what. You’re fair game. There’s only one way to avoid getting soaked during this festival: stay inside. Even then the hotel employees may get you. A better idea is to run out into the mayhem and let everyone have it.
5. Tomatina (Buñol, Spain)
It might be unjust to give a country 2 shout outs, but Spain most definitely deserves it. What could be more fun than grabbing all the tomatoes you can and wreaking havoc all over everyone nearby? The fight begins at 11am, when several truckloads of tomatoes are dumped in Plaza del Pueblo and chaos immediately ensues. The fight is over after an hour, by which time everything and everyone is sporting a healthy shade of crimson. And no need to feel guilty about wasting food, these tomatoes are grown specifically for the festival and are not meant to taste good.
6. Holi (India)
The fact that this festival is relatively unknown outside India combined with the date and duration changing every year, means Holi takes many travelers by surprise. It’s not an easy celebration to stumble upon either, as the partiers will not hesitate to cover you head to toe in colored powder and water. This holiday takes Songkran to an entirely different level. Steeped with Hindu tradition, this is a great chance to experience a new culture and have more fun than you’ve had since you were 5 years old smearing walls with finger paint with wreckless abandon.
7. Lopburi Monkey Festival (Lopburi, Thailand)
Thailand reigns in as our second country with multiple mentions. You will undoubtedly see many monkeys here. Hopefully before it’s made off with your sticky-rice lunch. In Lopburi, however, there are so many monkeys they outnumber the dogs, and sometimes you wonder if they might outnumber the people. For one day during the last weekend in November the monkeys are celebrated with a giant feast just for them. The monkeys are small and cute, but make sure you’re guarding your pocket book
So travel to the festivals, and make your experience that much more unforgettable, or be a hermit crab and avoid them at all costs, but either way make sure you know before you go.