From reindeer racing, midsummer pagan rituals and camel beauty pageants to crazy street carnivals, leg rowing races and even Ernest Hemingway’s favorite fete, global celebrations offer travelers unique opportunities to experience a country’s culture, cuisine and spirit.
To help you discover some of the planet’s biggest parties, custom travel company Kensington Tours has crafted a collection of trips exclusively designed to get you behind-the-scenes of the world’s best festivals.
Cruise the waters of time back to a celebration evocative of Southeast Asia centuries ago with a pilgrimage to Phaung Daw Oo – otherwise known as Myanmar’s Leg Rowing Festival. Held upon the shores of Inle Lake, a trip to this spiritual 18-day pageant is true cultural nirvana. Watch as a golden barge holding four Buddhas is towed by ornamented leg-rowers from private boat with expert guide. Take part in the eclectic festivities, from magic shows, dancing, leg rowing races and fireworks to fortune tellers, spiritual blessings and Burmese banquets. To amplify your experience, plan your visit to coincide with Thadingyut, the festival of lights.
Give into a hypnotic fusion of glitter, dance, rhythm and culture at the highlight of Latin America’s calendar, Brazil’s intoxicating Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Join millions in the streets as they get the party out of their systems before Lent through outrageous outfits, mind blowing floats, pulsating music and seductive samba performances. Celebrate with friendly “blocos,” opt for a dazzling samba makeover, dance lessons or even catch one of the extravagant balls held at Copacabana Palace!
Celebrate the Summer Solstice in “the land of the midnight sun” at the top of the world. Honor this mystical ancient tradition marking the longest day of the year in Reykjavik, Iceland. From druid priests, live music, bonfires and culinary feasts with the locals to champagne toasts, drinking “Viking blood,” carving sacred runes and unveiling legends of old with private Icelandic folklore guide, this northern party makes the most of all 24 hours of light.
Embark on a northern quest to Alaska’s Fur Rendezvous Festival and Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. From this historic event’s opening banquet in Anchorage across thousands of miles to Finger Lake, watch as the mushers and their teams vie for the “Golden Harness.” Give into the grandeur of nature untamed on tours and scenic flights over this winter wonderland’s mountains, glaciers, lakes and forests. Celebrate at the Fur Rondy, voted the #1 carnival in the world by National Geographic Traveler. Enjoy kennel visits, reindeer running, sled rides and more.
Picnic under trees radiant with cherry blossoms and take part in the centuries old Japanese tradition of “hanami” in Tokyo and Kyoto during the most desirable time of year. Delve into this ancient spring custom and more, as you’re swept into a land of kimono-clad geishas, zen gardens, sushi, samurai castles and shrines, all narrated by private guide. Stroll the flowery “Philosopher’s Walk,” tiptoe across nightingale floors, cruise the Sumida River, visit mountain temples and behold cherry blossoms season at its finest.
Not for the weak of heart, this wild Spanish fiesta is known for the Running of the Bulls which dates back to 14th-century Pamplona. Over time it has evolved into a daring weeklong fête where 2,000 people run in front of 15 charging bulls. Behold the spectacle from a private balcony as Ernest Hemingway did and head to the country where the famous bulls are raised. Not ready to take life by the horns? Fireworks,gigantes y cabezudos, contests, dancing and spirited locals will keep any globetrotter on their toes.
There’s nothing quite as mind boggling exotic as a trip to India’s Pushkar Camel Fair. Held every year in the desert of Rajasthan during the full moon, this spectacular event attracts over 300,000 people and up to 50,000 camels. Plunge into this cultural spectacle while staying at a whimsical luxury tented camp. From camel painting, beauty pageants, races, livestock trade, religious rituals to music, gypsies, mouth-watering feasts and other lively events, this exotic festival has it all!
Note: this post is brought to you in partnership with Kensington Tours.