8 of the world's best festivals

Festivals bring joy to all walks of life - from ancient customs with roots deep in history to contemporary celebrations embracing modern flair, festivals offer so many different cultural experiences.   

Whether you're passionate about cinema, music, wellness, or cultural exploration, there's something for everyone! Explore some of the most popular festivals in the world that are well and truly worth adding to your bucket list.    


1. Mardi Gras

Where: New Orleans, Louisiana  

When: February/March  

Why: Revel in a riotous celebration of music, parades, and culture 

Experience the vibrant energy of Mardi Gras in New Orleans (first recorded in the 1730’s!), where the city comes alive with colourful floats, lively music, and elaborate costumes. The festival attracts over 1.2 million people every year, and is one of the biggest festivals across the US. Join the festivities, catch beads, and indulge in the rich traditions of this iconic carnival. The best parades often attract massive crowds, so arrive early to avoid disappointment!  


2. La Tomatina: The Great Tomato Fight

Where: Bunol, Spain 

When: August 

Why: Engage in a chaotic food fight 

Food fights don’t get much bigger than La Tomatina in Spain. The annual festival culminates in thousands of revellers chasing each other through the Valencian streets with tomatoes, in a colourful and chaotic celebration of nothing in particular. 

Legend has it that the festival began in the 1940s after a group of teenagers began an impromptu food fight when a parade collided with a market stall of tomatoes. In recent years, the tradition has attracted as many as 50,000 revellers, however participant numbers are now restricted to 20,000 with a ticketed system controlled by the town. 


3. Diwali: Festival of Lights

Where: India and beyond 

When: November 

Why: Celebrate the triumph of light over darkness 

Diwali, celebrated across India and several other countries, illuminates the night with its dazzling displays of light and colour. Join in the festivities and witness the spirit of hope and renewal. During Diwali, homes, temples, and public spaces are adorned with intricate oil lamps, colourful lanterns, and decorative candles, creating a mesmerizing spectacle that lights up the darkness. Streets come alive with vibrant processions, fireworks fill the sky with bursts of colour, and the joyous celebrations are unforgettable!  


Diwali festival of lights


4. Glastonbury Music Festival

Where: Glastonbury, UK 

When: June 

Why: Immerse yourself in the best of modern music. 

When it comes to the best music festivals in the world, Glastonbury is certainly up there. The annual music festival has come a long way since its beginnings in 1970, when just over 1,000 people attended the ‘Pilton Pop, Blues & Folk Festival’. Since then, its stages have hosted acts like The Rolling Stones, Radiohead, Kanye West, Beyoncé, David Bowie and countless other music heavyweights, making it one of the biggest music festivals in the world. Today, the five-day festival in the UK attracts over 200,000 people, who flock to enjoy all things music, arts and culture, more often than not with a healthy serving of mud. 

5. Envision Festival

Where: Uvita, Costa Rica 

When: February or March 

Why: Connect with nature and community 

Envision Festival offers a unique blend of music, art, yoga, and sustainability against the backdrop of Costa Rica's stunning coast. Showcasing its tagline: ‘One epic experience, with the power to change your life’, you’ll have high expectations diving into this world of creativity, wellness, and adventure. 

6. Sapporo Snow Festival

Where: Sapporo, Japan 

When: January-February 

Why: Marvel at intricate ice sculptures 

Each winter since 1950, the city of Sapporo in northern Japan transforms into a captivating celebration of ice and snow. Incredibly ornate sculptures, winter-themed performances, delectable Japanese cuisine and countless other attractions make it one of the longest running and largest annual celebrations in Japan. 

Japan is a mainly cash-based society, so remember to carry enough physical money to enjoy Hokkaido’s world-renowned cuisine. 


Sapporo snow festival

7. Cannes Film Festival

Where: Cannes, France 

When: May 

Why: Experience the magic of the silver screen 

While the Cannes Film Festival may be exclusive, its aura extends beyond the red carpet. Explore the charming town of Cannes in France and immerse yourself in the world of cinema during this prestigious event. Stroll along the picturesque Promenade de la Croisette, where you’ll find palm trees and luxury boutiques along the waterfront. The Le Suquet district offers great views of the mediterranean sea, or wander through the bustling Marché Forville to sample local delicacies and soak up the vibrant atmosphere. Cannes truly captures the essence of cinematic magic that is just exciting to be around!  

8. The Rio Carnival

Where: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 

When: March 

Why: Get your groove on  

As far as street parties go, they don’t come much larger, more colourful or more heavily-sequinned than Rio’s Carnival. The annual celebration attracts over two million people to Brazil, where samba parades, intricately decorated floats and thumping rhythms spill onto the city streets. 

It’s worth noting that Carnival’s biggest parade takes place in a stadium called the Sambadrome, which is a ticketed event – get them early to make sure you’re in the midst of the celebrations! 


Carnival parade

As you explore these diverse festivals, you'll discover the power of community, the beauty of creativity, and the joy of shared experiences. So why not incorporate these festivals into your next travel plans and embark on an unforgettable journey of discovery and adventure? After all, life is too short to miss out on the magic of festival season! 

The content of this article is general and provided for information purposes only. Southern Cross Travel Insurance (SCTI) doesn’t guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness or currency of any article.

This article may contain hyperlinks to other websites owned or operated by third parties, or references to third party products or services. SCTI isn’t responsible for, and makes no recommendation about, the content or accuracy of any third party website, or for the suitability or performance of any product or service. The inclusion of a link in this article doesn’t imply that SCTI endorses the website or third party product/service.