Cool Cultural Festivals Around the World

By: Clarissa Vanner
Millions of visitors during weeks of Oktoberfest. Getty Images / © Francois Cadiou 2011

A cultural festival is a celebration of the traditions of a particular place or group of people. There are many different types of cultural festivals from national to religious and seasonal but the root of their importance is to strengthen the sense of community through happiness and celebration. These exciting events allow you to celebrate and truly immerse yourself in the historical traditions, culture, and community of a particular country or place. From art festivals to cheese, beer, and food festivals here are the coolest cultural festivals in the world worth seeing.


Monkey Buffet, Thailand

One of the most popular festivals in the central region of Thailand is the Monkey Festival held annually in Lopburi. The festival is held around the main Khmer temple, Prang Sam Yot. Tables are set up and covered with an abundance of food for the hundreds of monkeys to come and feast. on that day.
Getty Images / ashit desai

Despite how it sounds, this is a Thai festival for monkeys, not of them (thankfully). Held on the last Sunday of November in the Lopburi Province north of Bangkok. The festival involves thousands of pounds of fruits and vegetables laid out on tables for the guests of honor that live in the area. Respect for these beautiful animals traces back 2,000 years and they are thought to bring good luck to the people and the area. You’ll also witness a number of monkey-related elements such as dances, masks, and costumes. While you may be tempted to grab some of the delicious fruit off the table, you can have your fill from the surrounding vendors and food stalls. 

National Cheese Festival, Spain

If you love cheese you have to check out Spain’s National Cheese Festival in Trujillo, Caceres. The festival features over 300 different types of cheese and attracts about 100, 000 international cheese-lovers each year. At the festival you’ll get to witness cheese artisans of different nationalities, tasting sessions and demonstrations, contests, and workshops! There is so much fun to be had at this exciting cheese festival! 

World Bodypainting Festival, Austria

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One of the only festivals of its kind on the planet, The World Bodypainting Festival is a weeklong mixture of remarkable body art and music that takes place in Poertschach, Austria. A unique combination of a musical event mixed with a body-painting competition results in a true one-of-a-kind artistic experience for festival-goers. You’ll get to witness and enjoy the artistic skills of over 45 competing nations as well as participate in a number of other extraordinary festival events and activities.

Sandfest, Texas, United States

On the last weekend of April, nearly 100,000 people gather on Port Aransas beach in Texas to check out the amazing annual sand sculpture competition. This also happens to be the state’s largest art competition. Featuring not only master sculptors from around the world, but both attending adults and children try their hand at and showcase their sand-sculpting skills. Sandfest is spread out over three days and also features a lineup of musical acts, as well as a slew of other activities and events, comprising a full weekend of family-friendly fun!


Up Helly Aa Fire Festival, Scotland

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One of the most spectacular and misunderstood festivals in the world is the Up Helly Aa Fire Festival. It takes place in Lerwick, Shetland on the last Tuesday in January every year. Commemorating Shetland’s Norse heritage, the festival features the torching of a massive replica of a Viking longship followed by 36 hours of celebratory activities. The Up Helly Aa Fire Festival is a community event in which countless volunteers contribute many hours each winter to organize and plan the following year’s festival. During the festival, you will witness elaborate costumes, skits, and a number of other cultural performances that make this a must-see event.

Songkran Water Festival, Thailand

water battle in the street
Getty Images / Kentaro SEKINE

Songkran Water Festival is a celebration of the Thai New Year. This festival typically spans over three days but sometimes goes longer in rural areas. This celebration is noted as the country’s most important public holiday. The event also denotes the end of the region’s dry season, explaining the giant national water-fight that has become the holiday’s main event. Citizens use water guns, hoses, and buckets to drench their peers and engage in an all-out water war. While probably one of the coolest things to be a part of while vacationing in Thailand, travelers should be aware that tourists are especially targeted with ice-cold water and should head into battle with their game faces on.

San Fermin Festival, Spain

The Festival of San Fermin (or Sanfermines) in the city of Pamplona where the Running of the Bulls involves thousands of participants, Navarre, Spain.
Danny Lehman / Getty Images

The San Fermin Festival in Pamplona, Spain is a world-known event famous for its “running of the bulls”. The festival is a celebration devoted to San Fermin, the patron saint of Navarra. Although, the religious aspect of the event has been overshadowed in recent years, with the cultural highlight centering on the atmosphere created by the mass gathering of people from all over the world. This thrilling festival provides you with a unique experience where you actually get to participate in the festivities instead of observing on the sidelines. Even though the festival is best known for the bulls, this is a week-long event that features plenty of other festivities you don’t want to miss! 

Frozen Dead Guy Days, Colorado

(XX) fdgd08 Frozen Dead Guy Days in Nederland,CO. Joe Amon, The Denver Post (Photo By Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Denver Post via Getty Images / (C) 2007 The Denver Post

Frozen Dead Guy Days, located in the town of Nederland, Colorado may be one of the most unique, strange, and intriguing festivals on this list. The festival pays homage to Bredo Morstoel (aka Grandpa), a frozen corpse that has called their townhome for many years. Taking place in March, festival events involve everything under the sun that is cold and/or freezing including coffin racing, snowy human foosball, polar plunging, frozen salmon tossing, ice turkey bowling, and a brain freeze and frozen t-shirt contest. In addition to these odd yet fun activities, you’ll also get to witness over 30 live bands and indulge in local craft brews, and delicious craft food vendors! The event garnered international attention and has now been singled out as one of the best cultural events in America.

Oktoberfest, Germany

Millions of visitors during weeks of Oktoberfest.
Getty Images / © Francois Cadiou 2011

Perhaps one of the most widely recognized German festivals is Oktoberfest. This vibrant festival occurs each September in Munich, Germany, and is essentially an enormous celebration of food and beer! There are 14 large beer tents and countless smaller ones which will ensure you have your fill of delicious beer and traditional German food! There are also plenty of other activities and vendors worth checking out too! 


Mardi Gras, Louisiana

Image taken in the Marigny
Getty Images / Erik H. Pronske, M.D.

This enormous New Orleans celebration in the southeastern United States is one of the best-known festivals both in the country and worldwide. Commemorating Carnival season (the time of indulgence and feasting before the Lent season), the string of festivals and parades preceding (and including) Mardi Gras day does not disappoint. The festival features impeccable costumes, music events, parade floats, and of course, bead throwing. The event only gets bigger and bigger every year when hundreds of thousands of people gather in New Orleans each February and generate an estimated $1 billion economic impact!

Desert Festival of Jaisalmer, India

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The Desert Festival of Jaisalmer, located in the stunning desert city of Jaisalmer, India is a vibrant festival that takes place in February every year. The festival spans over three days and features awesome events such as camel racing and camel tug-of-war, as well as turban tying and mustache competitions. The festival also boasts a majestic opening ceremony and a beautiful fireworks display you need to see. There are also a variety of musical performances, street merchants, and culinary delicacy vendors that draw hundreds of people to the festival site each year.