Need something to look forward to? Time your holiday to coincide with one of the world’s most life-affirming festivals. Here are 10 of the best to get you celebrating, dancing and, er, throwing tomatoes
1. Festival of Colour, India – fly from £290
This year’s dates: 20 – 21 March 2019
The Hindu festival of Holi (or Festival of Colour as it’s commonly known) is an explosion of colour… literally. It’s a symbolic local festival to celebrate the arrival of spring and the triumph of good over evil. There are Holi festivals all over the world, but one of the most famous is in Hindu god Krishna’s birthplace: Mathura, India. In the week preceding Holi, a musical procession walks from the temples to the Holi Gate, then on the day itself head to Dwarkadheesh Temple and get caught up in the iconic colour fight.
Stay: Regal Hotel, rooms from £28
2. The King’s Birthday, Netherlands – fly from £48
This year’s date: 27 April 2019
Also known as the National Day in the Netherlands, it used to be celebrated on 20th April, before the Queen handed over succession to her son. And to celebrate the occasion, the Dutch throw one pretty big birthday party for the King. Locals celebrate by donning their best bright orange outfit (now the national colour) complete with orange wigs and make-up too, and get together with friends and family to eat and drink. There’s also a country-wide flea market that you may want to check out.
Stay: Orange Tulip Hotel, rooms from £57Fly to the Amsterdam from £48 Search hotels in Amsterdam
3. Harbin Ice Festival, China – fly from £495
This year’s dates: 25 December 2019 – 25 February 2020
Hidden away in the northern Heilongjiang Province in China is a two-month winter festival. The appropriately named Ice and Snow World is created out of snow buildings lit up each evening with colourful projections (think igloos on a whole new scale) each made out of snow bricks. Across the Songhua River, the Sun Island hosts the festival with numerous snow sculptors. Of course for the buildings to stay, temperatures are going to be low – in winter it can be anywhere between -16 °C to -35 °C, but this snowy wonderland is worth wrapping up for.
Stay: Lvshen Holiday Hotel, rooms from £13
4. La Tomatina, Valencia – fly from £69
This year’s date: 28 August 2019
So you’ve done the music festival and celebrated a different type of New Year – but how about a giant food fight? The Spanish festival of La Tomatina is exactly that, a massive food fight dedicated to the tomato in the town of Buñol. Traditionally the fight begins once a participant climbs the greased pole and reaches a Spanish ham (stay with us) and a water cannon is fired into the air. You’ve then got one hour to pelt as many tomatoes as you can, squashing them in your hand before catapulting them towards your target – prepare to get very messy. This is an experience to add to your bucket list.
Stay: Casa Quiquet, rooms from £35
This year’s dates: 12-14 April and 19-21 April 2019
Coachella (if you haven’t heard, where have you been hiding) is an annual music festival in the Californian desert featuring an impressive line up, a city full of tents and 250,000 attendees. It’s got so big in recent years it now takes place over two weekends with identical line-ups. Dance the weekend away and see if you can spot the many art installations and sculptures around the campground. The temperature can get pretty high during the day – you are in the desert after all – so remember to pack for the blazing sun and stay hydrated. Come sundown however, without any cloud cover, the temperatures plummet and the winds can pick up so take a layer to cover you up and protect you from the sand.
Stay: While you’ll be camping over the weekend, stay in nearby Palm Springs for a post-festival recovery at Vagabond Inn Palm Springs, rooms from £60
This year’s dates: 7-13 August 2019
Sziget Festival has its very own island – and at 108 hectares it’s not exactly small. The week-long festival on the outskirts of Budapest is the largest in Europe and has headliners to match. If you’ve ticked off the main stage and want something a little different, join the Sziget’s boat party – you’ll sail directly from the campground into Budapest and be accompanied with the best live music.
Stay: Boat Hotel Fortuna, rooms (or cabins, rather) start at £41
7. Day of the Dead, Mexico – fly from £410
This year’s dates: 31 October – 2 November 2019
Already a fancy-dress staple around the world, Mexico’s Day of the dead is the real deal. The three-day celebration across Mexico begins with Halloween (traditionally called All Hallow’s Eve) where children make an altar to invite the angelitos (spirits of dead children) to visit. The following day (All Saints Day) is dedicated to adult sprits and the final event (All Souls Day) is a time for the whole family to visit the cemetery and welcome relatives’ spirits back for the day. From candy to face painting, you’ll see plenty of skulls across the country but Mexico City, Puerto Morelos and Veracruz really put on a show.
Stay: Hotel Astor, rooms from £43
This year’s dates: 21 September – 6 October 2019
Germany’s most famous festival began as a royal affair to celebrate the marriage of King Ludwig I in 1810. Today, however, you’re more likely to associate Oktoberfest with lederhosen and beer – lots and lots of beer. Visit Munich where beer will literally be spilling onto the streets across the 17-day event. There are 14 main tents to choose from; the biggest Schottenhamel hosts a mighty 10,000 seats (it was a mere 50 seats back in 1867). Not after a pint? Stop by the designated Weinzelt wine tent instead.
Stay: Landhotel Martinshof, rooms from £46
9. Songkran, Thailand – fly from £302
This year’s dates: 13 – 15 April 2019
Thailand’s New Year doesn’t come around until April but by then, the locals and many travellers are prepared to celebrate in style, with a big water fight! Most people participate in a symbolic ritual of washing away sins at local temples. Then the fun truly begins as everyone fills the streets for a gigantic water fight. The festivals take place across Thailand but grab your nearest bucket (or come with a water pistol) and be prepared to get soaked in Chiang Mai where one of the biggest celebrations takes place. You’ll be able to find street food, traditional performers and plenty of water-throwing opportunities in the streets.
Stay: Changpuak Boutique House, rooms from £16
Next year’s dates: 21 – 26 February 2020
You may have just missed Rio Carnival this year, but all the more reason to get organised and ready for 2020’s extravaganza. The annual carnival attracts two million people a day – no wonder it’s known as the world’s biggest. Watch the rival dnce schools take part in the Samba Parade in the famous Sambadrome. Then head into the streets where you’ll find plenty of costumes to marvel over and any number of parties merging together as the dancing begins.
Stay: Windsor Florida Hotel, rooms from £49
All flight and prices mentioned in this article are estimates of the cheapest prices based on Skyscanner’s flight search tools. These are subject to change and were correct at time of writing on 11 March 2019.