Whether you’re partying in the outdoors or throwing tomatoes at strangers, participating in festivals can add plenty of fun to your travels. Having recently taken part in the water festival in Thailand and Burma, we’re convinced that the best time to visit a country is during a festival. So get your party hat ready – we’ve rounded some of wacky (and slightly bizarre) festivals that attract travelers from all around the world.
Mardi Gras, New Orleans – USA (Shrove Tuesday)
Why be at home eating pancakes when you could absorb the sights and sounds of the world’s most famous carnival? If you catch a plane to Louisiana before Lent begins, you could be part of the biggest party you’ve ever seen, celebrating the end of gluttonous ways. While the fun culminates with a last hoorah on Shrove (or Fat) Tuesday, there are parades, balls and king cake parties during the two weeks leading up to this day. Most visitors tend to hang around Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, which is the nucleus of the Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans.
Flickr photo by Loren Javier
La Tomatina – Buñol, Spain (August)
Another famous food-fest takes place in the village of Buñol in Northern Spain, where locals and tourists celebrate freedom by throwing ripe tomatoes at one another. On the day of the event, lorries bring in trucks of tomatoes for the 20,000 or so people taking part – anyone can join in the fun as long as you squash the tomato in your hand before throwing it. La Tomatina only lasts around 30 minutes, but the memories will be priceless – so long as you don’t try and capture them with your camera!
Flickr photo by puuikibeach
The Bun Festival – Hong Kong, China (May)
As a Taoist get-together, the Cheung Chau Bun Festival is one of the biggest celebrations in Hong Kong. Held over four days in May on Cheung Chau island, visitors can marvel at the many huge bamboo towers built in the courtyard of Pak Tai temple. If that wasn’t enough – and you have a sweet tooth – the towers are covered in buns. Even more mind-blowing is what happens on the third day: children are carried through the streets of the island on poles, making them look like they’re floating effortlessly above the crowds. Adding to this magnificent height display are stilt walkers, who pull all kinds of tricks for the assembled masses.
Flickr photo by laszlo-photo
Night of the Radishes – Oaxaca, Mexico (December 23rd)
The curiously-titled Night of the Radishes, which takes place the day before Christmas Eve, may be a great way to keep yourself entertained later in the year. Oaxaca is home to ancient Zapotec and Mixtec ruins and promises a true local experience away from the well-trodden tourist trail. Locals carve thousands of dolls from radishes to depict anything from Jesus to aliens – and these sculptures are exhibited around the city. During the festival, you can also get your teeth around a traditional buñuelo – essentially a beautiful fried pastry – and make a wish by throwing your bowl into the air afterwards, enjoying processions, fireworks and floats as you unwind before Christmas.
Flickr photo by Drew Leavy
Tunarama – Port Lincoln, Australia (January)
As the only festival in the world dedicated solely to tuna, Tunarama is an Aussie delight that has to be seen to be believed. Given that it’s the height of summer, you may initially be put off by the concept of fish in the baking sun, yet you can take your mind off it by watching the Tuna Tossing World Championship. Celebrating Port Lincoln’s fishing industry, there’s also a number of other traditions such as a street parade, music and fireworks.