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Reasons to Go

5 Can’t-Miss Festivals for Travellers

Reasons to Go

5 Can’t-Miss Festivals for Travellers

When it comes to celebrating a people’s collective heritage, gaining a deeper appreciation of a favorite destination and having the time of your life doing it, these five cultural festivals never fail to deliver.

By Bennett Neuhauser, A&K Staff Writer | October 15, 2019

Asia India Pushkar Fair Dancers 1

Pushkar Fair, India

Already a year-round pilgrimage site for Hindus, the town of Pushkar in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan swells to bursting each November with some 200,000 livestock traders from around the country. Beyond the livestock sale, the fairgrounds teem with tribal villagers dressed in their traditional best who mingle with acrobats, fortune tellers, puppeteers, musicians and storytellers. Also on display are a bevy of sporting activities, including tug-of-war, and camel and steer races. All of this takes place simultaneously with the Hindu observation of Kartik Purnima, a sacred cleansing ceremony that offers a solemn counterpoint to the robust activities of the fair. The resulting milieu is a true extravaganza not found with most luxury travel in India; the kind of experience that makes a journey to India so deeply rewarding.

Americas Easter Island Tapati Festival Dancers 2

Tapati Festival, Easter Island

The vibrant Tapati Festival on Easter Island, 2,300 miles off the coast of Chile, transpires over the course of a fortnight each February and celebrates the indigenous Rapa Nui culture, which has experienced a rebirth in recent years. Highlighted by music and dancing competitions, the Tapati Festival also includes the Haka Pei, a contest in which local men lie on their backs on lashed-together banana tree trunks and go sliding, toboggan-like, down the side of an extinct volcano to the cheers of family, friends and tourists picnicking at the base of the hill. It’s all part of a friendly rivalry between two island clans who once settled their differences far less cordially and leads up to the selection of a “queen,” a young local woman whose symbolic reign will last until next year’s fest. If you’ve always wanted to visit this remote green pinpoint in the middle of the vast blue Pacific and stand beneath the watchful gaze of its famous moai statues, time your Chile luxury travel adventure to include the lively Tapati Festival.

Europe England Chelsea Flower Show 3

Chelsea Flower Show, England

There are garden shows, and then there is the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Formally known as the Great Spring Show, it runs for five days in May on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London and is presented by England’s Royal Horticultural Society. Held at Chelsea since 1912, the show attracts horticulturists and gardening enthusiasts from around the world as well as the attention of members of Britain’s Royal Family, with Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, regularly in attendance. The refined art of the English garden is in evidence at every turn, ranging from traditional flowerbeds to detailed recreations of woodland tableaus, built from scratch using everything from rakes and hoes to cranes and dump trucks. In addition to countless species of flowering plants from across the globe and displays of dazzling color ranging from formal to fanciful, attendees enjoy lectures and workshops on gardening from renowned experts, covering topics such as the latest topiary techniques and the best way to bend a bonsai.

Asia Mongolia Nadaam Festival Musicians 4

Naadam Festival, Mongolia

The Gobi Desert of Mongolia can be an unforgiving place and the skills required to survive in it, and on the expansive steppes surrounding it, are highly prized even today. A fierce, annual competition in such skills, including horsemanship, archery and wrestling — considered by locals “the three games of men” — form the heart of the dynamic Naadam Festival. Scheduled each year for three days in July, and centered in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar, the competition attracts male and female athletes alike (although women leave the wrestling to the guys). Festivities kick off with the athletes bedecked in traditional military regalia, accompanied by singers, musicians, dancers and monks. Two days of the rugged contests follow and the festival concludes on the third day with food, drinking and merriment, celebrating the victors as well as the spirit of this age-old culture. What better reason to visit this distant, barren corner of the earth, other than the chance to ride a Bactrian (two-humped) camel?

Europe Scotland Edinburgh Military Tattoo 5

Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Scotland

If the organ-like drone of bagpipes and the bracing snap of snare drums sets your heart astir, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is not to be missed. Hosted at Scotland’s legendary Edinburgh Castle, this friendly, but ardently contested, musical donnybrook takes place in August, making it the perfect centerpiece for end-of-summer European travel. Over the years, the Tattoo has attracted military bands from more than 40 countries, which compete with close-order-drill precision, dressed in historically accurate uniforms and kilts. Its international roster of participants has taken traditional forms of martial music from Scotland and other countries, and turned them into rousing entertainment appropriate for all ages.