Notting Hill Carnival is one of the highlights of London’s summer calendar. Held over two days every August since 1966, the chic neighbourhood of Notting Hill explodes with colour and Caribbean flare, as members of the city’s British West Indian community celebrate their rich culture with dancing, authentic food markets, intricate floats, and an eye-catching procession that has earned the event a place on the icons of England list.
Combining the best of music, film, dance, spoken work, street performances and comedy, the internationally-acclaimed Edinburgh Fringe Festival draws thousands of revellers to the streets of this historic city each year. Developed as a cheeky alternative to the Edinburgh International Festival, everything goes at this truly unique affair – there are free events taking place across the city as well as ticketed concerts, performances and productions held in venues across Edinburgh.
Time your next visit to South America to coincide with Peru’s colourful Inti Raymi or sun festival, a religious ceremony that dates from the Incan dynasty. Paying tribute to the sun god, the festival coincides with the winter solstice and much of the action takes place at Cusco’s city centre, with a mass at the cathedral followed by a procession to the Fortress of Sacsayhuaman where the religious ceremony is re-enacted.
Combine summer in the alps with a touch of the arts at the original global art show, Art Basel. The internationally-acclaimed show brings together almost 300 of the world’s top galleries, who in turn will be showing works by over 4,000 artists. In addition to the exhibition halls, look out for glamorous side events as the show welcomes the art world’s elite.
Celebrate the end of winter and the warmth of long summer nights with the residents of St Petersburg during the annual Stars of White Nights festival, a collection of captivating events that run from mid-May to mid-July when the sun only dips briefly below the horizon. Look for the Scarlet Sails, a fleet of red-sailed tall ships that play a vital role in a sensational fireworks display; walk the riverfront amongst mimes, fire eaters and gypsy bands; and catch breathtaking ballet performances at the iconic Mariinsky Theatre.
Spanning three days before Ash Wednesday in Binche, Belgium, the Carnival of Binche has a long history tracing back to the 14th century, and is a Unesco recognised folkloric event. Shrove Tuesday will see up to a thousand Gilles, dressed in joker costumes, as well as Peasants, Pierrots and Harlequins, march to the rhythm of drums and viola. Spare a hand to catch the oranges thrown by parade characters for good luck. Pre-carnival activities include days of drum rehearsals and lavish gala events complemented by orchestra performances. www.carnavaldebinche.be
One of the world’s largest New Year celebrations, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is a three-day event that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Scottish capital each year. The festival begins with a torchlight procession in Old Town, followed by a range of parades and music performances back dropped by Edinburgh Castle. Join the big New Year’s Eve party on Princes Street and stay to sing the Scots folk song, Auld Lang Syne, with other revellers as the midnight bell rings in the new year. If you have a friend in town, make sure to bring a bottle of whiskey for good fortune when you visit their home. www.edinburghfestivalcity.com
Thailand’s biggest arts and music celebration, the ecofriendly Wonderfruit Festival provides a four-day immersive experience of arts, music, wellness and adventures amidst Pattaya’s world class Siam Country Club. In addition to cultural experiences, such as fire shows and graffiti painting, this annual festival introduces a range of music by the likes of Brooklyn-based musical duo Buke and Gase; British singer-songwriter Lianne La Havas; and electro-music artist Eric Volta. Do yoga in a canvas tent or learn Muay Thai with professionals on hand, and recharge at the nearby food trucks. www.wonderfruitfestival.com
Established to commemorate the rule of Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the fourth king of Bhutan, who reigned from 1972-2006, the Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival is a cultural event held annually at the 3100-metre Dochula Pass in the Eastern Himalayan mountains. Offering views of the scenic snow-covered mountain range, the festival sees royal family and ministers join local and foreign spectators to watch a series of Bhutanese folk and mask dance performances by the Royal Bhutan Army. Visit the iconic Druk Wangyal Lhakhang temple and the 108 chortens before you check the festival off your list. www.tourism.gov.bt
A 55-day winter event featuring light and art installations all over the city centre, the Amsterdam Light Festival transforms the streets and canals into light artists’ themed exhibition platforms. Cruise on the Water Colours boat route, along which massive floating artworks are displayed, and view lit buildings and tunnels along the Illuminade walking route, an open-air light museum featuring interactive pieces created by designers from the Plantage neighbourhood. www.amsterdamlightfestival.com
Boasting lighting projections that turn the iconic Sydney Harbour into a captivating canvas, the world’s largest annual festival of light, music, and ideas attracts two-million visitors from around the world. This captivating 23-night outdoor art exhibition will bring the Sydney shore-front to life with colourful, glowing artworks, decorated building exteriors, and live music performances, many held at the Sydney Opera House. www.vividsydney.com
Celebrating the best of Louisianan music and culture, the world-famous New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival once focused exclusively on local acts. With growing popularity across borders and oceans, this annual event now welcomes both national and international artists to The Big Easy to perform jazz, Afro-Caribbean, and folk music. Infused with passion and energy, the festival showcases emerging and established talents as well as plenty of opportunities to dine on Louisiana’s brilliant Cajun cuisine. www.nojazzfest.com
An annual celebration of the victory of good over evil and of a good harvest, the Holi Festival is an ancient Hindu religious event that takes place on the first day after the full moon in March. Signified by the burning of the demoness Holika, this ‘festival of colours’ takes its inspiration from the stories of Lord Krishna, who would prank village girls by drenching them in water and coloured powder. Today this event draws passionate participants from around the world to coloured powder street battles, guaranteeing amazing photo opportunities. www.holifestival.org