Traveling for a party seems more noble when it’s really a cultural celebration, dating back hundreds of years and a cornerstone of a country’s culture and proud history. Still, it’s a party and there are some incredible festivities happening around the world you won’t want to miss.
Setting aside New Year’s Eve celebrations — those deserve their own story — we are going to focus on the new year of travel. Whether planning a post-holiday trip early or getting some inspiration for next year, this list can help you build your timeline of must-sees in 2020.
Now we said no New Year, but this one is different — it’s a phenomenon. Falling on Jan. 25, this Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, marks the Year of the Rat and welcomes incredible celebrations from locals all over China. According to the Chinese zodiac, people born in 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996 and 2008 will be in their Zodiac Year of Birth — so happy birthday and enjoy the festivities! Famously celebrated in Beijing and Hong Kong with incredible paper lanterns, theatrics and festivities around the city, evidence of the festival can be found all over mainland China.
You’ve seen the pictures of thousands of paper lanterns illuminating the sky like flickering stars on a dark night — that’s the Pingxi Lantern Festival in Taiwan. It’s an incredible visual, but one with far more to it than you might expect. Celebrated Feb. 8–23, the festival is also known as the Little New Year and gives thanks to the gods. Participants take to the streets during the Lantern Festival, the major event, but also enjoy games, food and fun festivities hosted around the city.
Few parties compare to the epic celebration that is Carnival in Brazil. While celebrated all over the country Feb. 21–26, in Rio de Janeiro, the Samba parades and private parties (balls) are infamous for good reason. Hit the streets filled with incredibly detailed and over-the-top costumes, dance and be merry, or get into a private ball for even more festivities. Be ready to party — this city celebration is not for the faint of heart.
Mardi Gras, New Orleans
Celebrated Feb. 25, Mardi Gras is in New Orleans, a city that knows how to party. Take to Bourbon Street with the best of them and expect Hurricane drinks, purple, green and yellow fanfare, live jazz and dozens of beads flying at you from the terraces above — contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to show some to get some; it’s 2020, the beads will come to you.
Maybe the most colorful celebration in the world, Holi brightens up nearly every North Indian neighborhood, March 9–10. Depending on the location, Holi can be celebrated for a few days or a whole week with Hindu locals throwing colored powder at other participants in the street. See Holi to the fullest in locations like Sriji temple in Barsana, located in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. This colorful, messy and beautiful celebration is one worth traveling for, just be prepared to get dirty.
Cherry Blossom Festival, Japan
One of the more dignified celebrations in the world, the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan is all about timing. With seasonal reports typically coming out in January, the best time to see the Cherry Blossoms can be anywhere from early April to late May. The never predictable, but always stunning flowers attract visitors from all over the world to Japan’s tourist-ready cities, like Kyoto, Tokyo and Osaka. Head to the countryside or nearby park for some of the best viewing.
Semana Santa in Spain
Also known as Holy Week, Semana Santa in Spain is one of those old-world religious festivals with gravitas for days. Celebrated April 5–12 with incredibly somber parades, Passion of the Christ performances and dark costumes, this is one for history and culture seekers.
Songkran is the Thai New Year (okay, we lied about the no New Year thing). Celebrated April 13–15, the opening ceremony kicks off in Wat Pho, but Songkran can be found celebrated all over the country. One of the most popular destinations for the fun is the Bangkok Songkran Splendours Festival.
Naadam Festival, Mongolia
Also known as the Three Games of Mongolia, Naadam Festival is an epic display of wrestling, archery and horse racing. The live event July 11–15 is beloved by locals and truly something to see for avid travelers with a penchant for sports.
Edinburgh Fringe Festival
One unique, artistic and completely creative festival known the world over, Edinburgh Fringe Festival celebrates off-beat everything Aug. 7–31. Through creative displays of artistic expression spread throughout the Scottish capital, this festival is truly original each year.
This list should hold you over for 2020 travel plans for now, but check back for more ideas on where to go and what to see on your next year of festival travels.
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