Your diary to a world of culturally arresting community, tribal and religious festivals.
All dates are approximate. Many may change with the moon, seasons, harvests, weekends, etc…
10th January – Fête du Vodoun (Voodoo Festival), Benin
15th January 2019 – Kumbh Mela, Allahabad, India. Vast Hindu pilgrimage, bathing in sacred waters, held every three years. 2019 Kumbh Mela runs until mid March.
Dinagyang, third Sunday in January, colourful religious and cultural street festival, held in Iloilo City, Philippines.
Festival on the Niger, (Jan / Feb.) music and dance, near Segou, Mali
Timkat, Feast of the Epiphany, the most colourful of Ethiopia’s festivals
Pongal, a harvest festival celebrated in late Jan / early Feb by the Tamil Nadu in southern India
Theyyam, ritual worship of an elaborately costumed deity, most spectacular when combined with fire dances. Held January to April across Kerala, India.
Kukeri Festival, hairy costumed Pagan parades and games across Bulgaria in January. Most famous is Surva festival held in Pernik, late January.
Sammakka Saralamma Jatara, one of the largest gatherings of people in the world, honoring two goddesses. Held biennially, (2018, 2020, 2022…). Held for 4 days at the end of January, early February in Medaram, Andhra Pradesh, India.
Wat Phu, traditional dance, processions, recitals and boat races in Laos’ biggest festival. Held at the end of January or start February in and around the Wat Phu Temple, Laos
2nd to 17th February, Tapati Festival, traditional dance, games and ceremonies, Easter Island
3rd February, Dia de San Blas, in honour of the patron saint, Paraguay
Mayasvi Festival, red-robed members of the Tsou tribe gather in the jungle. Remote settlement of Dabang, Taiwan.
Sa Sartiglia, medieval horseback festival with masked riders. Sardinian festival best seen in Oristano. Last Sunday before Lent and Shrove Tuesday
Oruro Carnival, “Dance of the Devils” costumes, parties and parades, across Bolivia
Carnaval, flamboyant parades held in Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Uruguay, but the Rio Carnival is the most famous
Festival de la Candelaria, masks, music, parades, traditional dancing in Bolivia and Peru
Messenger Feast, (not officially annual) in Alaska, held by the Iñupiaq and Yup’ik peoples
FESTIMA, tribal mask dancing festival in Dedougou, Burkina Faso
Janadriyah Festival, impressive showcase of Saudi heritage. Held at the beginning of February each year, just north of Riyadh
1st March, Phagwah, Hindu festival similar to Holi, in Hindu areas of Guyana
23rd to 27th, Paro Tshechu, colourful mask dancing for Bhutan’s Spring festival
Bau Nyale Fishing Festival, held in Feb. or March, Lombok, Indonesia
Holi Festival, India (nationwide)
Semana Santa, week before Easter, Catholic processions across Peru
13th to 15th April, Songkran Water Festival, Thailand
Dipo Festival, Krobo tribe ‘coming of age’ celebration, Ghana
Bouake Carnival, music, food, costumes and parades, held at St Michael’s Cathedral, Bouake, Cote d’ Ivoire
Fête du Dipri, overnight festival to exorcise villages of evil spells, Gomon, Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire
Sigui or Fête des Masques, five day Dogon mask festival, Dogon region, Mali
8th May, Dia de la Virgen de Lujan, parades and processions in Lujan, Argentina
Quyllur Rit’i, Star Snow Festival, dance processions in the Sinakara Valleys, Peru
Aboakyir Festival, celebrated by Simpa or Winneba peoples, central Ghana
Homowo Festival, “Hunger Festival,” Ga people of Ga State, climaxing in Gamashie, in May and August / September harvest
Joshi Festival, bright costumes, music and dancing celebrate the end of Winter and beginning of Spring in the Hindu Kush, Pakistan
6th – 8th June, Haa Summer Festival, colourful celebration of Bhutanese culture, sports, and religion. Haa Valley, Bhutan
11th, Kamehameha Day, floral parade and traditional costumes, Hawaii
21st June, Aymara New Year, best seen in Tiwanaku, Bolivia
24th June, Inti Raymi, the Inca Festival of the sun, held in Cusco, Peru
24th June, Fiesta de San Juan Bautista, Venezuela
29th June to 14th July, Heiva i Tahiti, biggest Tahitian festival. Expect stone weight lifting, palm tree climbing, and coconut cracking. Across Tahiti
Festa Junina, feast and fireworks in Brazil
Ulwaluko, initiation rite by the amaXhosa, South Africa, in late June and again in late November. Not a festival per se
Ka’el Obesity Pageant, Bodi people in the Omo Valley, Ethiopia
Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival, last weekend in June, every two years (2017,2019, 2021…). Largest and most varied display of indigenous culture. Laura, Queensland, Australia
2nd July (and 16th August), Palio di Siena, wildly colourful bareback horse race around the Piazza del Campo, Sienna, Italy.
11th to 14th July, Mask Festival, Kokopo, Papua New Guinea
8th – 12th July, Gungu Masks Festival, Gungu, DR Congo
11th – 13th July, Naadam, nationwide festival with three sports fiercely contested: traditional wrestling, horse-riding and archery. Mongolia
14th July, Nachi-no-Hi Matsur, dramatic Shinto fire festival, held at Kumano Nachi Taisha Shrine, Nachikatsuura-chō, Japan
Boryeong Mud Festival, mid July annually, using the skin enhancing local clay. Expect mud wrestling to mud massages. Daecheon Beach, South Korea
Donga Stick Fighting, Surma tribe, Omo Valley, Ethiopia
Gule Wamkulu, ritual dance performed by the Chewa in Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia (post- harvest, in July)
Mwakakogwa Festival, sacrifices, dances and “field fighting” to celebrate local New Year, practised in southern Unguja, Zanazibar
Shandur Polo Festival, held in early July amongst snow capped peaks and crystal clear lakes, atop the Shandur Pass, Chitral District, Pakistan
5th to 7th, Crocodile Festival, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea
10th August, Auto de Floripes or São Lourenço de Príncipe, epic street theatre performances, across the island of Príncipe, São Tomé and Príncipe
17th to 19th, Hagen Show, tribal festival, Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea
Second Saturday in Aug., Nehru ‘Snake Boat’ Races, Punnamada Backwaters, Alappuzha District, Kerala, India
Third week August, Urkupina, thousands of dancers and musicians in Cochabamba, Bolivia
Enga How, cultural festival, Wabag Town, Papua New Guinea
15th to 17th, Goroka Show, PNG’s biggest tribal festival, Goroka, Papua New Guinea
14th to 16th, Thimphu Tshechu, Bhutan’s biggest festival held in the fortress in the capital. Expect music and mask dances extraordinaire
Mistura Food Festival, in Mistura, Peru
Cure Salée or Gerewol, gathering of Tuareg and Wodaabe people, including colourful courtship rituals. Held in the last two weeks of September for three days. Across Niger but famous at InGall
Epe Ekpe, voodoo festival in Glidji, Togo
Kutubu Festival, Lake Kutubu, Papua New Guinea
Sebiba, 10 day Tuareg festival held in Djanet, Algeria, from the first day of the Islamic month of Muharram (changes annually in Western calendar)
Phaung Daw U, 18 day festival, vast aquatic procession venerating five images of Buddha. Held at the end of September into October. Lake Inle, Burma
Umhlanga Reed Dance, at the end of September or beginning of October. Swaziland’s biggest traditional festival, bare breasted young ladies present the Princess with reeds they have cut down. Held in Ludzidzini, Swaziland.
19th to 21st , Hawaiiki Nui Va‘a, annual six-man canoeing race, starts at the Fare waterfront lagoon on Huahine, Tahiti
18th to 22nd, Jambay Lhakhang Drup, highlight is the Mewang fire ceremony. Held at the Jambay Lhakhang Monastery, Bhutan
20th to 25th, Asmat Cultural Festival, artisan products from the Asmat people, as well as costumed dance and song. Held in Yos Sudarso Field, in the Asmat Regency of Papua.
Baba Ghundi, celebrating the Sufi saint of the same name. Traditional horseback games and music over two days in Chipurson Valley in the Upper Hunza on the Pakistan – Afghanistan border.
Morobe Show, Papua New Guinea
Señor de los Milagros (Lord of the Miracles), large Catholic procession in Lima Peru
Tahiti Carnival, street parties and parades, Papeete, Tahiti
El Dia de los Muertos, (Day of the Dead), across South America
Kenu & Kundu Festival, boat festival, Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea
San Antonio de Areco Gaucho Festival, horsemanship extraordinaire in San Antonio de Areco, Argentina
Hogbetsotso Festival, “The Festival of Exodus,” first Saturday of November, Anlo Ewes people of Volta Region, Ghana
Mombasa Carnival, music, parades and floats from all cultures and groups across Kenya
Pushkar Camel Fair, one of India’s largest cultural and agricultural events. Held late November in Pushkar, Rajasthan, India
15th-16th December, Fire Festival, held at Kanzanji Temple and at Akihasan Hongu Akiha Temple, in Hamamatsu-shi, Japan
1st to 10th December, Hornbill Festival, gathering of tribes to showcase their traditional costume, dance and games. Held in Kohima, Nagaland, India.
Cattle Crossing, most important Fulani festival in Diafarabe, Mali
Nguon Festival, ceremonial deposing of king with chaotic procession by thousands, Foumban, Cote d’Ivoire (biannual: 2016, 2018, 2020…)
King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, prize money tops US$57m and attracts 300,000 tribes people. Al Dahan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. December into January annually.
Monthly San Healing Ceremonies, trance dances performed by the San people of Botswana and Namibia
Akwasidae Festival, held every six weeks on a Sunday, by the Ashanti people, Ghana
Every three years Kumbh Mela, a vast Hindu pilgrimage, involving bathing in sacred waters in one of four sites across India, (Allahabad, Haridwar, Nasik and Ujjain) and hence every twelve years for each location. Next up, 15th January to 4th March in Allahbad.