Colourful costumes at the Hemis Festival | Brad Atwal
The spring season sees a lot of cultural festivals being celebrated around the world. We collected the most colourful ones that are a privilege to take part in once in your life.
Travel to Paro in Bhutan for the Paro Tshechu festival or reach higher spheres during the Hemis festival in Ladakh. And then there are the Buddhist Pi Mai (New Year) in Laos, Mongolia’s Naadam Festival and Cusco’s Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun) - all colourful celebrations that are attended by locals and visitors alike.
Inti Raymi | Peru
What? The Festival of the Sun
Also known as the “sun festival”, the Inti Raymi festival is a religious ceremony that dates back 500 years to the Incan Empire’s heyday. The festival honours one of the most venerated gods in the Inca Empire: Inti. Celebrated on the shortest day of the year, also known as winter solstice, the event traditionally involved the sacrifice of an animal to ensure healthy crops. The sacrifice was banned by the Spaniards, and today the festival involves a procession through the streets with music, prayers, dancing, and scattered flowers. Women with brooms sweep away the evil spirits plus you will see priests and participants dressed as snakes, condors and pumas. It’s the second largest festival in South America with hundreds of thousands of people travelling to Cusco to celebrate the weeklong event.
Want to join? In 2020, Inti Raymi Festival is celebrated on 24 June. Visit Peru for the festival on popular trips like the Best of Peru or the Classic Inca Trail. Combine your trip with a community project and help build healthy cook stoves in Huilloc Village >>
Hemis Festival | India
What? Birth of Guru Rinpoche (or Lord Padmasambhava)
Celebrated at the Hemis Monastery, situated in a gorge in the north-Indian province of Ladakh, this is a colourful celebration in honour of Lord Padmasambhava. The festival is famous for the masked dances that represent the good prevail over evil and is performed by gompas that follow tantric traditions. The festival is said to originate in the 8th Century and other activities include offering of food, playing of traditional music (think cymbals, trumpets and drums), and performing of spiritual ceremonies. Joining the festival is believed to give spiritual strength and good health.
Want to join? You can visit India for the Ladakh Hemis Festival:
Hidden Valleys of Ladakh departs 15 June 2020 (2 to guarantee) or 14 June 2021 and is centred around the festival >>
Naadam Festival | Mongolia
What? Three Games of Men Festival
Mongolia’s Naadam Festival is locally known as “The Three Games of Men”. The festival is an ancient cultural spectacle that combines colourful costumes and performances with an exciting tournament of three traditional sports: archery, wrestling and bareback horse riding. This biggest festival of the year in Mongolia is held throughout the country in midsummer, from July 11-15. Travel to Chandman village to experience the festival in a setting of nomadic life. In capital Ulaanbaatar visitors are presented with an incredible opportunity to experience the culture and people of this amazing land.
Want to join? You have several opportunities to visit Mongolia for the Naadam Festival:
Mongolian Panorama departs 9 July >>
Trans Siberian Adventure Naadam Festival departs 4 July >>
For other suggestions, you can check this overview of all trips that include the Naadam Festival
Pi Mai | Laos
What? Buddhist New Year celebrations between 12-16 April
Like its neighbouring countries of Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar, celebrations for the new Buddhist year are an important one for local people. Expect to be celebrating alongside them towards the last days of the festival. Usually days on the start of the festival are set aside to clean homes and temples and to spend with family. A traditional ceremony is for women to pour on men a cup of perfumed water with flowers. Today, this transformed in a carnivalesque water festival in places like Luang Prabang.
Want to join? You have several opportunities to visit Laos during the cultural festival of Pi Mai:
Hanoi to Luang Prabang by Bike departs throughout the year, book the April departure to join the festival >>
Laos & Cambodia Family Adventure departs throughout the year, book the one of the April departures to join the festival >>
Paro Tshechu | Bhutan
What? The Festival of Paro
A tshechu is a religious and cultural festival in Bhutan and, according to the lunar Tibetan calendar, throughout the year many are being held. One of the most popular ones is in Paro valley: Paro Tshechu. Experience the living Bhutanese culture when the local people celebrate Guru Rimpoche who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan. Festivities include masked dances, drums, trumpets, ceremonies and people wearing their beautiful, colourful costumes. One of the highlights of the festival is the unfolding of the thangka, named ‘thnongdroel’ in Bhutan.
Want to join? You can visit Bhutan for the Paro Tshechu Festival on the Bhutan Explorer & Paro Tshechu Festival trip in April >>
Do you want to know more about some of the world's best cultural festivals to attend? Learn more from our blog or contact one of our travel experts to discuss your wishes.