Looking to meet new people and immerse yourself in different cultures while having a blast? Experiencing cultural festivals all over the world allows you to soak in a country's traditions in the most colorful way.
If you're someone who likes to party, festivals are a great way to get your groove on, discover unique customs and rituals, and maybe even try a few exotic dishes.
So where are my party people at? I've listed some of the world's biggest, most exciting cultural festivals for you to add to your next travel itinerary. Let's go!
3. Sinulog Festival: Philippines
Attention all party animals: This festival is for you! Sinulog festival in Cebu, Philippines, is arguably the biggest religious festival in the country. It's in celebration of Sto. Niño (or the baby Jesus) and begins every third Sunday of January.
What It's About
The name "Sinulog" comes from the Cebuano word "sulog", which directly translates to "current", as in that of a river. The festival is believed to have originated in 1521, when Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan handed a statue of the baby Jesus to Rajah Humabon in Cebu, ushering in the beginnings of Catholicism in the country.
Don't let this religious festival give you any ideas about a solemn ritual though. Sinulog is loud, big, and can even go a bit crazy with non-stop parties and merriment galore! Celebrations go on for a full week, with events and parties livening Cebu City for weeks before the main event.
The main attraction in this week-long festival is the Sinulog Grand Parade, which features a seemingly endless group of dancers dressed in elaborate costumes accompanied by marching bands.
Book hotels in advance. Cebu gets very busy and crowded during the Sinulog festival season. Whether you're flying to Cebu from overseas or from somewhere within the Philippines, you should plan your itinerary and book accommodations in advance.
Hotels get packed quickly, especially the ones in Metro Cebu. Be sure to book your accommodations at least a couple of weeks ahead.
Pro tip: Lots of hotels give discounts for booking dates around the Sinulog festival, so take advantage of these while you can!
Don't carry valuables during the Grand Parade. The streets get wild during the festivities. This can mean thick crowds and heavy traffic. Expect to do a lot of walking and squeezing through crowds of tourists.
Stay hydrated. Cebu is pretty hot during the day, so make sure to bring a bottle of water to stay hydrated while enjoying the merriment in the streets.
2. Songkran Festival: Thailand
From the Philippines, let's go to another country in Southeast Asia: Thailand. Unlike Sinulog, the Songkran festival is celebrated throughout the country in the form of parties, parades, street performances, and food!
What It's About
Songkran festival is the celebration of the Buddhist New Year in Thailand, which happens every 13th of April.
What's truly unique about Songkran is that it's a huge water festival where people gather in the streets to participate in water fights– young and old alike! To take part in all the fun, don't forget to arm yourself with a water gun or just a plain bucket of water that you can splash on a passersby, passing cars and motorbikes, and even strangers (Don't worry, they won't be mad!).
You might be wondering, "Why the water fights?"
The splashing symbolizes the washing away or cleansing from the past year and the coming of a new one. The word "songkran" can be translated as "passing", as in the passing of the previous year.
- Use waterproof bags for gadgets. If you do participate in the festivities, you will be soaking wet. Make sure that all valuables, like your money and gadgets, are placed in waterproof pouches. If you're unsure whether your valuables will hold up, it's best to leave them in your hotel.
- Bring a change of clothes. If you're going far from your hotel, make sure you have extra clothes to change into. You might also want to wear flip-flops instead of shoes as your socks will most likely get wet in the craziness of the water fights.
- Expect strangers to pour water on you. If you come, do so with a fun attitude. Expect strangers and random passersby to pour water on you or splash you with their water guns. Don't forget to spray them back!
1. Day of the Dead Festival: Mexico
From its name you might think this was a somber ritual. You couldn't be more wrong. It's a time of remembering the dead–but in an incredibly festive atmosphere involving lots of music, partying, and, of course, Mexican food!
What It's About
Dia de los Muertos is celebrated all over Mexico every October 31st to November 2nd. Mexicans believe that during this time of the year, the spirits of departed loved ones visit them on earth. This is why it's common to see richly decorated "ofrendas" or altars outside homes as a way for families to greet the spirits that come to visit them.
While death is the central theme of this festival, the vibe is that of a massive party –and that's because people are elated to welcome the spirits of their loved ones back home.
Aside from decorated altars, people also don costumes and elaborate make-up. Locals visit gravesites at midnight, where they can watch nearby street parades and enjoy a feast with upbeat music thanks to a roving Mariachi band.
It's the perfect joyful celebration with which to remember loved ones.
- Learn a few Spanish phrases. The best way to immerse in the festivities is to spend time with local friends. But even if you don't know anyone, basic knowledge of Spanish will help you take part in the party at cemeteries and even find a group that will invite you!
- Make travel plans early. Mexico gets extremely crowded during this season. To avoid a headache, book accommodations and plan your itinerary ahead of time.
- Be respectful towards the locals. While the festival is undoubtedly joyful, always be respectful towards the locals. Do not touch the altars or the offerings people leave on them!
Let the Party Begin!
Have these festivals gotten you in a party mood?
Plan your trip to these countries during festival season with Pilot.