13 of the world's best festival trips

Festivals are a truly eye-opening experience that immerse us in a different culture. Here are 13 of the world's best festival trips.

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Festivals can change the way that we view a destination. Seeing a city through a haze of incense, high spirits and ancient traditions lends something extra to any visit. The noise and frenzied atmosphere can even leave you a little punch-drunk, but at the same time they offer a glimpse into the inner life of a country, its history and heritage laid bare for all to see. From pilgrim celebrations to wild carnivals and holy festivals, here are the nine trips that will make you see the world in a whole new light…

1. India

See the Holi Festival in the land of its birth on Pettitts Travel’s The Great Tradition: Journey Across India with John Keay trip. Join in its kaleidoscopic celebrations away from the big cities in one of the Hindu religion’s holiest sites, Maheshwar. Wear some old clothes as the coloured water lets fly, then let the good times continue with a whistle-stop tour of India, including the Taj Mahal, Sanchi Buddhist sanctuary and the ancient Ajanta Caves.

Crowd celebrating Holi Festival
Crowd celebrating Holi Festival

Who: Pettitts Travel (01892 250316)
When: 8 Mar 2017
How long: 15 days
How much: From £4,670 (incl flights)

2. China, Tibet & Nepal

Embark on a multi-day trek around one of Asia’s holiest peaks before joining your fellow pilgrims to revel in ancient Buddhist celebrations. G Adventures’ Kailash Saga Dawa Festival trip lets you pay your respects at Tibet’s most holy festival: help raise the Tarboche flagpole and light butter lamps as the mountain is swathed in multi-coloured prayer flags. Sandwich all this with a visit to Beijing before finishing in Kathmandu.

Tibet Monks
Tibet Monks

Who: G Adventures (0344 272 2060)
When: 24 & 27 May 2017; 13 & 16 May ’18
How long: 21 days
How much: From £2,999 (excl flights)

3. Japan

Stay frosty on Wendy Wu Tours’ Sapporo & Snow Monkeys trip. Come face-to-face with Japanese macaques then wander the intricate ice sculptures at Sapporo’s Snow and Ice Festival. Twin with a visit to Otaru’s equally magical Snow Light Path Festival, where snow statues and flickering lanterns blanket the frozen city.

Sapporo’s Snow and Ice Festival
Sapporo’s Snow and Ice Festival

Who: Wendy Wu Tours (0800 988 8209)
When: 1 Feb 2017
How long: 11 days
How much: From £4,690 (incl flights)

4. India

Grab front-row seats on Travel the Unknown’s Assam & Nagaland Hornbill Festival tour. See 16 tribes from across Nagaland state come together in a feast of traditional music, warrior dances and pageantry in this now-annual gathering. Tie this is with a visit to Kaziranga NP to see one-horned rhinos and elephants.

Hornbill tribes
Hornbill tribes

Who: Travel the Unknown (020 7183 6371)
When: 24 Nov 2016 & 21 Nov 2017
How long: 15 days
How much: From £2,995 (incl flights)

5. Mongolia

Head to rural Bulgan on Wild Frontiers’ Mongolia: Alternative Naadam trip to see locals go toe-to-toe at Naadam Festival – essentially a Mongolian Games. As well as cheering on archery, horseracing and wrestling competitors, squeeze in a trip to the ancient Tovkhon Monastery.

Naadam Festival
Naadam Festival

Who: Wild Frontiers (020 7736 3968)
When: 2 Jul 2017
How long: 13 days
How much: From £2,145 (excl flights)

6. China

Pack in three carnivals on Bamboo Travel’s Guizhou’s Festivals, Tribes & Villages tour. See Miao courtship rituals at Liuzhi’s Tiaochuacha and Kaili’s Lusheng festivals, where young locals dress up and dance to attract a partner. Then feel the heat in Leishan, where the Fire-Dragon Festival sees processions and fireworks light up the night sky.

Guizhou’s Festivals
Guizhou’s Festivals

Who: Bamboo Travel (020 7720 9285)
When: 13 Feb 2017
How long: 13 nights
How much: From £2,995 (incl flights)

7. Malaysia

Feel the rhythms of Borneo’s Rainforest World Music Festival on Selective Asia’s Sarawak Adventure. Hear musicians from across the globe perform alongside local artists deep in the jungle, then visit the island’s famous orangutan residents before kayaking the rivers of Kuching.

Borneo Rainforest
Borneo Rainforest

Who: Selective Asia (01273 670001)
When: Jul-Aug (tailor-made departures)
How long: 13 days
How much: From £1,965 (excl flights)

8. Ethiopia

Join Rainbow Tours’ Ethiopia Timkat Small Group Tour for the world’s most vibrant Epiphany. Trumpets pierce clouds of incense as vivid processions parade through capital Addis Ababa in three days of celebrations to mark Jesus’ baptism. Tie in with visits to the shimmering Lake Tana and majestic Blue Nile Falls.

Timkat Ethiopia
Timkat Ethiopia

Who: Rainbow Tours (020 7666 1266)
When: 17 Jan 2017
How long: 13 days
How much: From £2,875 (incl flights).

9. Guatemala

Enjoy Easter Latin-style at the Semana Santa Festival on Sunvil’s Guatemala Adventure. Peer through billowing plumes of incense as floats roll across the flower-carpeted cobbles of Guatemala City, marking week-long celebrations that light up every city you visit in the country.

Easter week, Guatemala
Easter week, Guatemala

Who: Sunvil (020 8758 4774)
When: Apr 2017 (tailor-made departures)
How long: 14 nights
How much: From £3,698 (incl flights)

10. Bhutan

Bhutan Druk Path and Thimpu Festival
Bhutan Druk Path and Thimpu Festival

Feel the beat of one of Bhutan's most important festivals on KE Adventure's The Druk Path Trek tour. Watch colourful masked performers recreate moments (a Cham dance) from the lives of the country's most revered saints. Precede the festival with a five-day Himalayan trek from Paro to Thimpu and tick off the gravity-defying Tiger's Nest monastery.

Who: KE Adventure (01768 773966)
When: 9 Oct 2016 & 28 Sept 2017
How long: 12 days
How much: From £3,095 (incl flights)

11. Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina & Brazil

Fireworks at Copacabana Beach
Fireworks at Copacabana Beach

Join Brazilians at their best and go full party mode on Oasis Overland's Kingdoms and Carnivals – Quito to Rio trip. Celebrate the new year in the best way possible, on Rio's Copacabana Beach with revelling locals and plenty of fireworks. Before all that, spend nearly four months weaving through South America's heart, stopping off at the Amazon rainforest, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca and more.

Oasis Overland (01963 530113)
When: 17 Sep 2017
How long: 105 days
How much: From £3,250 (excl flights + $2,020 local payment)

12. Mexico

Mexico's Day of the Dead mask
Mexico's Day of the Dead mask

See one of Latin America's most chilling but captivating festivals on Intrepid's Mexico City: Day of the Dead tour. Delve into the Mexican's fascination with death, observing giant floating skeletons bob along streets and locals dressed as the deceased. Pair the carnival with a Day of the Dead ceremony in Mixquic and wander the sacred indigenous site of Tepoztlan.

Who: Intrepid (0808 274 5111)
When: 30 Oct 2016
How long: 5 days
How much: From £670 (excl flights)

13. Burma (Myanmar)

Hot-air ballon festival (Shutterstock)
Hot-air ballon festival (Shutterstock)

See blazing balloons above Burma on Panoramic Journeys' Fire in the Sky Balloon Festival Tour. Mixing hot air balloons with the country's full moon festival, watch paper lanterns float into the lanterns, before candlelit balloons follow only for their base to explode into a frenzy of fireworks and brilliant sounds. Aside from the balloon bonanza, enjoy the treasures of Mandalay, ride the rails over the Gokteik viaduct and stroll through Yangon and Bagan.

Who: Panoramic Journeys (01608 676821)
When: 11 Nov 2016
How long: 14 days
How much: £2,570 (excl flights)

Main Image: Holi Festival in Delhi, India (Shutterstock)

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