Best Festivals and Events: 2017 Listings & Dates

burning man festival, nevada, usa

Burning Man Festival, explosive pyrocussion music, Nevada desert, USA

Why participate in a crowded, noisy festival?

Festivals and indigenous culture events are a superb time to visit interesting destinations as the extra colour added by historic or peculiar costumes, portable shrines, fireworks, angry bulls, local music, excitable locals and more can’t fail to add a new dimension to an already fascinating location.

Think Italy’s Venice Carnival, Japan’s Takayama Spring Festival, America’s Burning Man and consider basing your next vacation on not just a place, but a place blazing with kaleidoscopic colour, traditional activities and marginal insanity.

What to do

These are the busiest times of the year for these locations unless it happens to be the monsoon season, so book accommodation well in advance of dates.
Ask permission before taking pictures or videos if possible, festival participants are human too, well, most of them. That being said it’s easier to take photos of locals going loco at these times than normally.

Festivals tend to be crowded and pickpockets may well be lurking, so keep valuables to a minimum and money in a zipped or buttoned pocket. Read the Travel Safety section.

Best Festivals and Events in the World

Glastonbury Festival, England

Glastonbury Music Festival,  Somerset, England, a massive, multiple music event, with different stages featuring different music, but heavy on rock variations.

Perhaps the world’s  best, longest running music festival but always booked up early so if you’re interested plan/buy a ticket a year ahead or if you have a fat wallet comfortable yurts/Camper vans etc can be found a bit nearer to the time.

This is the closest to Woodstock most of us will ever get. Camping is fine. . . but why does it always rain?

Check out the inside story!  In the photo the several music stages curve across the busy spaces in the middle-distance.

A giant Mantis on the Promenade des Anglais during Nice Carnival, Côte d

Nice Carnival in the south of France is one of our favourites – massive, varied, creative and inexpensive. Also, if you’re lucky, it’ll be blue skies, flowers and monsters during  the two weeks around February/March.

Happenings in Europe that tend to be of the Art and Music Festival variety, though exotic flourishes of colourful expression still exist, especially around Carnival time February/March.

Apart from Nice Carnival other colourful European carnivals worth making an effort to see are:  Carnival of Venice, Italy; Ivrea Carnival, (and battle of oranges!) Turin; Cologne Carnival, Germany’s answer to Mardi Gras; Binche Carnival,  – one of Belgium‘s wildest parties and a UNESCO Heritage event. And many more…

Adelaide Fringe folk, Australia. Photo by Trentino Priori.

Adelaide Fringe Festival.

Confusingly ‘Fringe’ festivals in some parts of the world indicate a celebration of gay pride or LGBT lifetyles but in others – such as Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival  – it’s more about antiestablishmentarianism (yes, that is a word!), which obviously includes gender-alternatives but is more about wacky humour and entertainment and does not include gay parades and extraordinary outfits (Well last time I was there it didn’t. More’s the pity!).

These are ‘cultural’ events that focus on music, dance, drama and other art-oriented activities, usually set in pretty, interesting locations, often in Europe, but we also  list non-European LGBT events under both Arts Festival and English Speaking Festivals.

These festivals can be expensive; accommodation and even tickets will need to be booked well beforehand. Similar to European festivals but focusing on the most outstanding events worldwide.

Snowbombing music festival, with wild bands in a fantasy alpine setting, Austria.

Snowbombing music festival, with wild bands in a fantasy alpine setting, Austria.

The best musical events, big and small, central and remote.

papua new guinea, Mt Hagen festival

Mt. Hagen ‘Gathering of the Clans’ Festival, Papua New Guinea.

Outstanding, colourful events in superb locations, often exotic heritage events that usually include a variety of activities, but mostly focus on local people in local dress doing traditionally loco things to the amazement and delight of visitors.

Hell to get to but these kind of super-weird, out-of-the-comfort-zone, third world events make the most long term impact (that PNG event and the days around it were soooo strange) so they are worth the cost and effort.

However do research the event properly to ensure a) it’ll be happening and will be relatively foreigner-friendly. b) do we need to say ‘dress-down’?

Take minimum cash (hidden somewhere out of reach of pick-pockets, for example up your bottom if you’re anally retentive…..joke!), dump the gold necklace and Gucci shoes, buy sandals, a $20 watch and leave the Rolex behind etc.

Isle of Man TT street racing. Original photo by Phil Long.

World class festivals and events in English Speaking Countries, such as Isle of Man TT Races.

These may be art-oriented, colourfully odd happenings or extraordinary sporting occasions. Or motorcycles! Yes, my bucket list definitely includes a visit to Sturgis Rally,  Florida‘s Daytona Bike Week or Isle of Man TT Races. But enough about me.

How about the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, or Burning Man in Nevada, USA.
Incredible and unforgettable, though apparently recently les riches have been assuming their traditional position of my comfortable space,  f*** the proletariat luxury tents and “bring me another chilled Krug, James”.

Festivals backpack checklist

(For large gatherings, day/multi-day outdoor events when the weather is iffy)

• comfortable walking shoes.
• compact cold and rain protection.
• hat, sunglasses and sun block.
• painkillers and plasters/band-aid.
• mosquito repellant?
• lightweight, large water bottle and possibly booze/energy drinks transferred to plastic bottles.
• a distinctive flag to find yourself later (! )
• wind-up or solar phone charger.
• a handkerchief for wiping sweat, dabbing mud off the camera or naff but light headgear and more.
• tissues.
• some compact protein for energy maintenance. Nuts? Beef jerky? Roll mop herrings?

Share