The world’s most bucket-list-worthy events

Start planning your 2019 getaway with our list of the globe’s best festivals

04 June 2018 - 11:00
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Imperio da Tijuca's Laynara Teles at Samba School parade in Sambodromo during Carnival at Marques de Sapucai Street
Imperio da Tijuca's Laynara Teles at Samba School parade in Sambodromo during Carnival at Marques de Sapucai Street
Image: 123RF/celsopupo

If you thought Oppikoppi and AfrikaBurn were big, think again. Flight Centre has put together a list of the globe’s biggest and best celebrations, festivals and events – plus their 2019 dates.

Carnival – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
March 2 to 9
Rio’s Carnival is the most famous in the world, even though similar festivals are held in other countries and cities– notably in Venice. More than 2-million people flood the streets every day to take part in a week-long fiesta, which marks the beginning of Lent. Because it’s the “last chance” to eat good food and indulge before Lent begins, you can expect street food stalls galore. But the street parades are the real spectacle. Brazil’s fusion of African and Portuguese culture is what gives Carnival its reputation as the biggest party in the world. The rhythmical samba dances, rousing music and the sense of unity that prevails is second to none. There are more than 200 samba schools in Rio alone, and each year they take part in the parades. Not only do they dance for the love and enjoyment of it, but there’s also a panel of judges who declare a winning school each year.


Glastonbury – Somerset, England
June 26 to 30
Held every two years, the world’s biggest music festival sees close to 200,000 people pitching tents and stomping around in their wellies, Bridget Jones style, all while taking in some of the biggest music acts in the world. Like most music festivals this size, alongside the music performances there’s plenty to see and do, including comedy, crafts, acoustic sets, cabaret and theatre. For a vibe like Rocking the Daisies, but on steroids, and with loads more British accents flying through the air, Glastonbury is where you want to be.

Image: 123RF/stockbroker

Mardi Gras – New Orleans, US
March 5
Mardi Gras (literally meaning fat Tuesday) celebrates the days leading up to Ash Wednesday – much like Carnival in Rio does – and over the same time period. Celebrations start before the Tuesday, which is the official Mardi Gras day, when revellers are treated to parades and a long weekend full of festivities. The vibe is completely different from the Carnival, though. In New Orleans you’ll find lavish balls and rich, luxurious foods. Pleasure-seekers wear over-the-top costumes, feathers, beads and masks; and true to the event’s musical roots, there is no shortage of jazz and bluegrass.


Songkran – Bangkok, Thailand
April 13 to 15
Songkran is the celebration of the Thai New Year and is probably best known for the massive water fights. The celebrations happen all over Thailand, but Chiang Mai and Bangkok host some of the largest ones. Nevertheless, if you are in Thailand, you will find a Songkran festival regardless of how far removed you are from the major tourist centres. The water throwing is actually a sign of respect and well-wishing, and the tradition came about from the belief that water will rinses away misfortune for the forthcoming year.

Image: 123RF/weerapat

La Tomatina – Valencia, Spain
August 28
La Tomatina is the infamous Spanish tomato festival where participants hurl tomatoes at each other. Legend has it that the festival started in the 1940s after some disgruntled boys threw tomatoes during a street parade. The tradition survived, and despite being banned several times, La Tomatina has persisted and grown into one of Spain’s most iconic festivals each year. All we can say is don’t wear anything white. Oh, and stay after the festival has ended. The tomatoes have a weird effect on the pavement, leaving them really shiny even after they’ve all been washed away.

Image: 123RF/gustavofrazao

Oktoberfest – Munich, Germany
September 21 to October 6
Arguably one of the most famous celebrations in the world, Oktoberfest is about as German as it gets. Also known as Wiesn, it’s officially a “folk festival” but anyone who knows anything about the two-week party will agree that it’s really more about the beer. Reportedly, 7.5-million litres of beer are served over the course of Oktoberfest – and all of them are brewed in Munich. Even if you’re not a huge beer drinker, the spectacle of Oktoberfest is still worthwhile. It’s a celebration of Bavarian culture on an enormous scale. The tents, costumes and sheer scale of the event is something to behold and if a trip to Germany is on your radar, planning it to coincide with Oktoberfest dates will really give you something to write home about.

This article was paid for by Flight Centre.

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