Bucket List Cultural Festivals Around The World

What do music, food, wine, snow sports, and flowers share? Festivals! These massive celebrations honor seasonal happenings, religious events, and traditions that revel in everything from cherry blossoms and bulls running to burning a man. Festivals are a great time to come together and relish the intentional gathering of beauty, flavors, sounds, and spirit.

Read on to discover these can’t-miss cultural celebrations around the world.


Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, typically preceding Lent, Good Friday, and Easter

There is some mystery shrouding where this outstanding display of culture and tradition originated. Some say a notable alignment is with ancient pagan Roman ceremonies, while others say it’s rooted in a primitive celebration of the new year and the rebirth of nature.

Today, Carnival is arguably the most incredible show on Earth. Riddled with parades, elaborate costumes, and Samba performances in the Sambadrome, over 5 million patrons participate in this spectacle each year. Over 70 Samba schools from various neighborhoods compete for titles and prizes, all providing the best dance viewing parties for festival goers.

Look for similar Carnival festivities in many Latin nations and cultures, typically hovering around Lent, Good Friday, and Easter.

Mardi Gras is a  great runner-up festival to visit in New Orleans if you can’t make it to Rio.


Munich, Germany from September 16 – October 3, 2023

If you’re into beer or greatly appreciate German culture, this is the festival for you.

Lederhosen, Fräuleins, Doppelbocks, sausage and steins, oh my. Not only will you get the best of German culture and beer during Oktoberfest, but you’ll also get to partake in a festival preparing to crest two centuries of history. This festival is so pervasive and modern it has a magazine subscription, webcams, and many options for families and children.

Can’t make it to Germany? Grab a stein and scout a satellite Oktoberfest festival – they pop up all over the United States and likely in your area.

Día de los Muertos

Mexico, from October 31 – November 2, 2023

Happening from October 31 – November 2 every year, this holiday experience invites you to honor those who have passed before us. October 31st starts with ‘All Saints Eve,’ November 1st is ‘Day of the Innocents,’ and November 2nd is ‘Day of the Dead.’

Contrary to popular belief, the ‘Day of the Dead’ is markedly different from the traditional Halloween celebrated in the United States. Rather than dressing up in costumes to trick or treat, it’s a sacred time to remember the passing of loved ones and ancestors.

A unique feature of Día de los Muertos compared to other festivals is the unique way many cities honor the traditions around Mexico. It isn’t necessarily centralized. Oaxaca City, Mexico City, and Mérida in Yucatán rank among the best celebration cities to check out.

Other can’t-miss cultural celebrations around the world:

Boryeong Mud Festival – South Korea

La Tomatina – Buñol, Spain

Yi Peng Festival: Lantern Festival – Chiang Mai, Thailand

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival – Harbin, China

About the Author

KM Collins
Hailing from the Oregon Territory, K.M. Collins is a geologist-gone-writer. Five generations deep in PNW hydrology, her Grandmothers were daughters of the White Salmon, Clackamas, and Willamette Rivers. Though rowing is her favorite whitewater pastime, she doesn’t discriminate when it comes to paddle sports. Roller skating, snowboarding, and shuttling by bike rank among her favorite land-based activities.

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