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The Most Bizarre & Beautiful Local Festivals Around The World

From the most popular on social media, to ones that social influencers haven’t discovered yet...
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There are many quirky and wonderful festivals around the world that are unique to their location; from the Cheese Rolling Festival in Gloucester to La Tomatina in Buñol, festivals are a superb way to explore a town’s traditions, meet local people and celebrate the community’s culture.  At Explore, we’re all about incorporating as much adventure into your holidays as possible, and local festivals are brimming with exciting experiences. Our experts set out to reveal some of the most popular local festivals around the world for those who are looking for a truly culturally immersive trip.

Our research analyzed over 280 brilliant, beautiful and barmy local festivals from around the globe to reveal the most popular cultural festivals on social media, according to their Instagram and TikTok hashtag data.
From blowing up a giant snowman in Zurich, to epic-sized fantasy renaissance fairs in Minnesota, a festival filled with Elvis look-a-likes in Australia and dragon boat racing in China, the festivals that are loved the most on social media can be found below, with results broken down globally and by continent.

 

Amazing Festivals, Not Yet Discovered By Social Media

Whilst most of the cultural festivals we looked at had lots of love on social media from both local and visiting attendees, our study revealed some incredibly weird and wonderful festivals that, so far, have flown under the Instagram and TikTok radar. We share five of our favorites:

1. Hokkai Heso Matsuri, Japan

Local residents of Furano, in Hokkaido, have taken it upon themselves to create a unique festival inspired by their geographical location. Furano is the center of Hokkaido, the same way the center of one’s body is the belly button. Thus, the Hokkai Heso Matsuri, or Belly Button Festival, was born. In July, dancers invade the streets of Furano, painting their bodies as characters with the belly button as the mouth, and proceed to belly dance their way through the streets.
(Pictured via Instagram @syen.xan

2. Scarecrow Fest, USA

Just an hour west of Chicago, along the Fox River, a weekend-long festival is held in honor of … scarecrows! You might assume with a name like ‘Scarecrow Fest’ that it’s only about these comical or spooky characters, but this beloved festival is also heavily focused on arts & crafts. Held in St. Charles, with more than 25 years of history, the Scarecrow Fest includes live entertainment, a carnival, along with make-your-own scarecrow stations and (of course) a Scarecrow Contest with over 150 participants battling for the winning title of best scarecrow.

3. Lopburi Monkey Festival, Thailand

In Lopburi, north of Bangkok, mischievous monkeys overrun the temples, so, of course, a festival must take place to celebrate them. The Lopburi Monkey Festival is meant to celebrate the Hindu monkey-god Hanuman, so all the monkeys who are usually free to roam and eat sunflower seeds are thrown a banquet consisting of dozens of monkey-friendly treats such as salads, fruits and many other delights. If you care to join, be advised: food fights are not uncommon, so don’t be too fussy with your attire.
(Pictured via Instagram @a.s.e.v_travel

 

4. Lazarim Carnival, Portugal

A far cry from the feathers and glitter of a typical carnival parade, Lazarim Carnaval is one of the few places in Portugal that celebrates instead with incredible, large Celtic wooden masks. The masks are worn by people called ‘caretos’ (which means disguised as the devil) and the festivities include a drum parade and feasting on cauldrons of tasty stew. On Shrove Tuesday the caretos parade the streets and the festival finishes with two young caretos sharing embarrassing exploits of their friends and peers.

5. Jaffa Race, New Zealand

Baldwin St. in Dunedin, New Zealand is the steepest street in the world. Locals have decided that the ideal way to make use of it is through a unique yearly charity event. Thousands of residents and visitors gather to launch jaffa lollies, a chocolate donated by Cadburys, from the top of the street and let the round candies race each other down the steep incline. Participants are welcome to purchase a jaffa, with the proceeds going to several charity foundations, and the lucky winner claims the title of ‘King of the Jaffa Race’.

 
 

Ten Of Europe’s Most Picture-Perfect Festivals

Rank Location Festival Name Social Media Views and Posts
1 Buñol, Spain La Tomatina 6,129,00
2 Whitby, UK Whitby Goth Weekend 2,325,000
3 Zurich, Switzerland Sechseläuten 1,600,000
4 Pernik, Bulgaria Surva 1,206,329
5 Borsh, Albania South Outdoor Festival 914,996
6 Nice, France Nice Carnival 830,000
7 Limassol, Cyprus Limassol Carnival 827,508
8 Menton, France Fête du Citron/Lemon Festival 700,000
9 Seinäjoki, Finland Tangomarkkinat 527,858
10 Varaždin, Croatia Stroller's Festival aka Spancirfest 477,970

1. La Tomatina, Buñol, Spain

Dubbed as ‘The World’s Biggest Food Fight’ La Tomatina is one of the most well-known bizarre festivals on the planet, with over six million views and posts of the festival on social media. A blast of water cannons signals the start of this messy festival, where participants pelt each other for an hour with ripe tomatoes. The history of the festival is a little vague, some say it started as a food fight between friends that got out of hand, others say it was a practical joke on a performing musician and others claim it started as a protest against the town’s council. Whatever the origin story, La Tomatina has been going strong since 1945 and shows no signs of slowing down.
(Pictured via Instagram @mi_hispania

2. Whitby Goth Weekend, UK

For many, the seaside town of Whitby in Yorkshire is an unassuming place, however, this quaint port has an edge to it. With links to Captain Hook and Dracula, the town has become a pilgrimage destination of sorts for those who adore gothic culture. Whitby Goth Weekend sees thousands of goth and alternative lifestyle advocates descend onto the town to enjoy the unique markets and alternative music gigs. The weekend takes place in April officially, but Halloween sees another influx of visitors dressed in alternative costumes, including Victorian steam-punk and sci-fi.

3. Sechseläuten, Zurich, Switzerland

Taking place in early April, the festival of Sechseläuten commemorates the end of winter, and culminates in the burning of the Böögg - a massive snowman effigy that’s filled with explosives. Legend has it that the length of time it takes for the Böögg to explode indicates whether the summer with be warm and sunny or a wet and miserable season. 

 

Ten Of Asia's Most Picture-Perfect Festivals

Rank Location Festival Name Social Media Views and Posts
1 Yangtze River, China Dragon Boat Festival 40,305,709
2 Thrissur, Kerala, India Thrissur Pooram 31,347,008
3 Dubai, UAE Dubai Shopping Festival 13,765,692
4 Dubai, UAE Dubai Food Festival 10,430,616
5 Phuket, Thailand Yi Peng Festival 2,806,583
6 Abu Dhabi, UAE Hornbill Festival 1,026,100
7 Naga Heritage Village, Kisama, India Solo Batik Carnival 1,018,833
8 Solo City (Surakarta), Indonesia Loi Krathong 928,867
9 Pushkar, India Qixi Festival 434,818
10 Kawasaki, Japan Wat Bang Phra 281,842

1. Dragon Boat Festival, Yangtze River, China

Topping Asia’s most picture-perfect festival is The Dragon Boat Festival with over 40 million social media views and posts. This is a traditional Chinese holiday that’s celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month in line with the Chinese Lunar Calendar. The origins of the festival are said to date back to the suicide of the famous Chinese scholar Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in the Milou River after he was exiled by the King of Chu. The Dragon Boat Festival takes place to commemorate the attempts to rescue him. On this day, citizens will line the banks of the Yangtze River to watch as teams race dragon boats down the river; the team that reaches the flag first wins the game. It’s also a custom to indulge in a dish known as zongzi, a sticky rice dumpling which is gifted and exchanged by people. 
(Pictured via Instagram @china_dragon_festival

 

2. Thrissur Pooram, Kerala, India

In second place comes Thrissur Pooram, which is thought to be one of the grandest temple festivals in the region of Kerala. It’s a seven-day cultural event that’s hosted annually on the day of Pooram. Throughout this week-long extravaganza, attendees can witness flag-hosting ceremonies, taste succulent cuisine, witness vibrant fireworks displays and observe a majestic elephant ceremony. These activities are hosted in the name of paying respect to Shiva, who presides as the deity over the Vadakkunnathan temple.

3. Dubai Shopping Festival, UAE

Finishing up in third place is the Dubai Shopping Festival with over 13 million views and posts on social media. Shopping is one of the major cultural activities in Dubai, and this festival takes place over 46 days and has been running for over 25 years (it was established in 1996). With over 700 brands and 3000 stores participating, it’s not a surprise that the event proves extremely popular in the city, with visitors hoping to snag a designer bargain. But as well as shopping, to commemorate the festival, the city also holds firework displays, street performances and many other shows to entertain its visitors when they are not indulging in retail therapy. 

 

Ten Of Africa's Most Picture-Perfect Festivals

Rank Location Festival Name Social Media Views and Posts
1 Bonoua, Cote d'Ivoire Popo Carnaval 60,332
2 Lamu Island, Kenya Lamu Cultural Festival 32,888
3 Kinshasa, DRC African Zuri Festival 19,818
4 Highlands Regions, Papa New Guinea Goroka Show 10,034
5 Kampala, Uganda Uganda Film Festival 9,907
6 Cape Coast Traditional Area, Ghana Fetu Afahye 6,293
7 Dakar, Senegal Dakar Biennale 5,404
8 Dakar Biennale Lake of Stars Festival 3,238
9 Lobamba, Eswatini (Swaziland) Umhlanga Reed Dance 1,603
10 Kinigi, Musanze District, Rwanda Gorilla Naming Ceremony 805

1. Popo Carnaval, Bonoua, Cote d’lvoire

Popo Carnaval is the Ivory Coast’s biggest festival and it’s easy to see why. Known for its eccentricities and bright colours, there’s a whole bunch of activities and celebrations for people to indulge themselves in, from torchlight ceremonies and mask parades to beauty contests and street dancing. You can even witness a spot of live theatre and check out some burlesque! The event is held annually for two weeks out of the year, so don’t miss your chance to witness this eclectic spectacle.
(Pictured via Instagram @jacques_allatin

2. Lamu Cultural Festival, Lamu Island, Kenya

The Lamu Cultural Festival prides itself on being an inclusive, multicultural environment that attracts both locals and international visitors alike. It’s a space that celebrates tranquility and coexistence as it promotes the cultural history of the Lamu citizens to both Africa and the world. An annual three-day event, the festival displays various aspects of the local culture such as dance, poetry, arts and crafts, board game tournaments as well as the opportunity to taste some local Swahili dishes.

3. African Zuri Festival, Kinshasa, DRC

Are you interested in experiencing several different cultures in one location? If this sounds like a bit of you, then visiting the African Zuri Festival is a must. It brings the best of contemporary arts and activities to one place. There are indoor and outdoor games, a wide array of unique food and drink to try, cultural performances, live music and they even make time to host a fashion show. The crowning glory comes with an evening gala and is considered the pinnacle of the event.

 

Ten Of North America's Most Picture-Perfect Festivals

Rank Location Festival Name Social Media Views and Posts
1 Guanajuato, Mexico Festival Cervantino 8,210,563
2 Black Rock Desert, Nevada, USA Burning Man Festival 3,144,409
3 Shakopee, Minnesota USA Minnesota Renaissance Festival 2,508,732
4 Key West, Florida, USA Fantasy Fest 1,203,359
5 National Capital Region, Canada Winterlude 1,054,275
6 La Uvita de Osa, Costa Rica Envision Festival 827,527
7 Vancouver, Canada Honda Celebration of Light 541,473
8 New Orleans, Louisiana USA New Orleans Mardi Gras 473,905
9 Albuquerque, New Mexico USA Albuquerque Balloon Festival 416,610
10 Port Aransas, Texas USA Texas SandFest 373,687

1. Festival Cervantino, Guanajuato, Mexico

The Festival Internacional Cervantino (FIC) is one of the biggest and most important festivals in Mexico and Latin America. The town of Guanajuato has a  dense and rich cultural history, especially given its size, and it has hosted this landmark festival since the 1970s. The festival includes a diverse and exciting number of events, from Mexican folk dancing and acrobatic shows to street art spectaculars and operas, Festival Cervantino presents some of the world’s finest cultural performances.
(Pictured via Instagram @radiotoxiko

 

2. Burning Man Festival, Nevada, USA

One of the biggest festivals in the western world, Burning Man is all about celebrating community, art and self-expression. It gets its name from the final closing event where a huge wooden effigy is burned – a symbolic gesture to encourage people to keep their creative fires burning even when the festival ends. This summer festival was originally attended by bohemians and free-spirits, but has grown so popular that it now attracts a much more mainstream audience and it is hugely popular with social media influencers.

3. Minnesota Renaissance Festival

A bucket-list festival for anyone in love with the fantasy period of knights, damsels and dragons. Minnesota Renaissance Festival runs in August and September each year and creates an incredible backdrop based on an “England-like” 16th century era, complete with jousting events, medieval banquet food, mermaids, dragons, rides, games, live music and more. 

 

Ten Of South America’s Most Picture-Perfect Festivals

Rank Location Festival Name Social Media Views and Posts
1 Quito, Ecuador Fiestas de Quito 69,251,889
2 Cali, Colombia Cali Fair 15,350,454
3 Barretos, Sao Paulo, Brazil Festa do Peão de Barretos 15,287,204
4 Belém, Brazil Círio de Nazaré 2,246,641
5 Chaco, Paraguay Trans-Chaco Rally 2,104,381
6 Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Bauernfest 807,066
7 Gualeguaychú, Argentina Gualeguaychú Carnival 756,950
8 Paraty, Brazil Festival de Cachaça 478,466
9 Arica, Chile Carnaval Andino con la Fuerza del Sol 439,055
10 Guyana Mashramani Festival 301,062

1. Fiestas de Quito, Quito, Ecuador

Whilst many of the popular social media festivals in South America are one or two-day affairs, the Fiestas de Quito is such a large event that it requires a week-long celebration for all involved. From flamenco dancing, marching band competitions and theatre performances, it displays the very best the city has to offer.
(Pictured via Instagram @edu.foto

2. Cali Fair, Cali, Colombia

Most famous for its Salsa marathon, Cali Fair, or as the locals call it ‘La Feria de Cali’, is the second most picture-perfect festival in South America and it is easy to see why. Colorful parades, fireworks, dance parties, are all a part of this exciting and diverse festival.

3. Festa do Peão de Barretos, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Every summer in the city of Barretos, Sao Paulo, the ‘Festa do Peão de Barretos’ takes place. With deep roots in local cowboy culture, this event is all about grandiose rodeos, traditional music and cattle exhibitions. But don’t be fooled: this is a massive celebration that has hosted the likes of Mariah Carey, Shania Twain and A-ha. 

 

Ten Of Oceania’s Most Picture-Perfect Festivals

Rank Location Festival Name Social Media Views and Posts
1 Nadi, Fiji Bula Festival 152,585
2 Samoa Teuila Festival 130,984
3 Marshall Islands Manit (Custom) Day 61,903
4 Parkes, NSW, Australia Parkes Elvis Festival 52,867
5 Boorowa, NSW, Australia Boorowa’s Running of the Sheep 6,771
6 Lismore, NSW, Australia Lismore Lantern Parade Festival 5,960
7 Nauru Angam Day 5,040
8 Tonga Heilala Festival 4,749
9 Christchurch, New Zealand Bread & Circus World Buskers Festival 2,433
10 Merriwa, Australia Merriwa Festival of the Fleeces 1,190

1. Bula Festival, Nadi, Fiji

Ranking in the first spot of Oceania’s picture-perfect festivals that have taken social media by storm is the Bula Festival in Fiji. Local artists gather in Nadi for this two-day event to showcase their talents, from music to dance, cuisine and more. But this exciting celebration is not limited to locals, visitors are welcome to join in and honor the history and heritage of Fiji. 
(Pictured via Instagram @hal33mahb.fj

 

2. Teuila Festival, Samoa

Another festival dedicated to preserving local traditions that’s also super popular on social media is the Teuila Festival. Dedicated to highlighting the very best of Samoan and Polynesian culture, this annual celebration features unique traditions such as fire knife dancing, tattooing and carving demonstrations and (of course) crowning Miss Samoa.

3. Manit (Custom) Day, Marshall Islands

Wrapping up the top three most picture-perfect festivals in the Oceanic continent is Manit Day. This event has been declared a public holiday in the Marshall Islands and is part of a week-long celebration dedicated to honoring the Marshallese cultural history. Colorful parades, performances, traditional canoe races, coconut husking competitions are all part of Manit Day and the public is welcome to join in.

 

20 Of The World's Favourite Cultural Festivals According to Social Media

Rank Location Festival Name Social Media Views and Posts
1 Quito, Ecuador Fiestas de Quito 69,251,889
2 Yangtze River, China Dragon Boat Festival 40,305,709
3 Thrissur, Kerala, India Thrissur Pooram 31,347,008
4 Cali, Colombia Cali Fair 15,350,454
5 Barretos, Sao Paulo, Brazil Festa do Peão de Barretos 15,287,204
6 Dubai, UAE Dubai Shopping Festival 13,765,692
7 Dubai, UAE Dubai Food Festival 10,430,616
8 Guanajuato, Mexico Festival Cervantino 8,210,563
9 Buñol, Spain La Tomatina 6,129,000
10 Black Rock Desert, Nevada, USA Burning Man Festival 3,144,409
11 Phuket, Thailand Yi Peng Festival 2,806,583
12 Shakopee, Minnesota USA Minnesota Renaissance Festival 2,508,732
13 Whitby, UK Whitby Goth Weekend 2,325,000
14 Belém, Brazil Círio de Nazaré 2,246,641
15 Chaco, Paraguay Trans-Chaco Rally 2,104,381
16 Zurich, Switzerland Sechseläuten 1,600,000
17 Pernik, Bulgaria Surva 1,206,329
18 Key West, Florida, USA Fantasy Fest 1,203,359
19 National Capital Region, Canada Winterlude 1,054,275
20 Abu Dhabi, UAE Hornbill Festival 1,026,100

 
Study Notes: We looked at over 280 festivals around the globe and found the number of posts under each festival’s relevant hashtags on Instagram and the number of views of videos with those hashtags on TikTok. Data sources include Instagram and TikTok data, all data correct as of December 2022. We have excluded festivals in countries and regions that are deemed not safe for travel according to the UK Foreign Travel Advice.

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