Best seasonal holidays around the world: As an avid traveler and professional travel blogger, I’m constantly on the hunt for the most unique, authentic and photo-worthy holiday celebrations around the globe. From riotous festivals to spiritual observances, many cultures have their own way of commemorating certain seasons or events.
After years of first-hand experience and research, I’ve compiled this list of my 21 favorite seasonal holidays and festivals around the world that are worth scheduling a visit around. As you read through, you’ll notice I’ve organized them by season and highlighted key details like the location, background, traditions, and reasons to attend. I’ve also included some pro tips to help you make the most of these one-of-a-kind events. Get ready for some serious wanderlust!
Spring Seasonal Holidays Around the World
The earth comes alive in the spring, making it one of my favorite times to travel. From flowers and parades to cleansing rituals, here are 6 springtime holidays worth experiencing.
1. Songkran Water Festival in Thailand
When: April 13-15
Celebrated as the Thai New Year, Songkran revolves around the world’s largest water fight! Locals and tourists splash water (sometimes mixed with chalk or talc powder) on each other to symbolize washing away the sins of the prior year. I’d recommend wearing a GoPro to capture all the action!
Why Go: To join in the world’s biggest water fight and experience Thai culture Pro-Tip: Protect cell phones in waterproof cases but dress to get soaked
2. Holi Festival in India
When: March/April (depends on the moon cycle)
Paint powders of all colors fill the air during this Hindu holiday that celebrates spring, love, and the triumph of good over evil.Known as the “festival of colors”, locals light bonfires and cover each other in brightly hued powders.
Why Go: Witness the vibrant colors and joyful atmosphere Pro Tip: Wear white clothing and prepare to be covered in color
3. Cherry Blossom Season in Japan and Washington, D.C.
When: March-May (Japan), March-April (Washington, D.C.)
Few natural wonders can match the beauty of cherry blossom trees in full bloom. Both Japan and Washington, D.C hold annual Cherry Blossom Festivals to celebrate the flowering trees. Japan’s includes tea ceremonies and dance performances while Washington’s features a parade, cultural exhibits and concerts.
Why Go: Appreciate the glorious blooming landscape
Pro Tip: Book accommodations early since both festivals draw big crowds
4. St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland
When: March 17
While St. Patrick’s Day parades take place worldwide, Dublin, Ireland hosts the holiday’s most authentic festivities. Expect shamrocks, Irish dancing, drinking and tons of green everywhere!
Why Go: Drink beer, see historic sites and embrace Irish culture Pro Tip: Pub crawl on Temple Bar early to avoid long queues
5. Easter in Italy
In the week building up to Easter Sunday, you’ll find elaborate religious processions and mass celebrations across Italy. One of the most remarkable takes place in Trapani, Sicily where 20 life-size wooden sculptures depicting Christ and his disciples are paraded through the streets.
Why Go: Witness historic sculpture processions
Pro Tip: Book well in advance since Easter is peak season
6. Spring Equinox at Chichen Itza in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula
When: March 20-21
The ruins of the ancient Mayan city Chichen Itza draw crowds on the Spring (and Fall) Equinox who come to see an incredible calendar-related phenomenon. At the temple of El Castillo, the setting sun casts a shadow that forms the body of a feathered serpent down the side of the northern staircase.
Why Go: Experience this solar illumination spectacle
Pro Tip: Arrive early to reserve a good spot
Summer Seasonal Holidays Around the World
Summer sizzles with lively cultural celebrations of faith, ethnic pride and historical milestones. You’ll find people dancing in the streets at these 5 vibrant summer holiday festivals!
7. Haro Wine Festival in Spain
When: June 29
Dating back to the early 17th century, this famous Spanish wine fight originated as a way to celebrate St. Peter and the region’s abundant wine production. Today, thousands of participants dress in white and throw wine (not water!) at each other amidst music, food and pure revelry.
Why Go: Party with locals during this iconic mess fest! Pro Tip: Wear eye protection like goggles (and prepare to be permanently purple!)
8. Gay Pride in San Francisco
San Francisco’s annual LGBTQ celebration welcomes over 1 million attendees making it the world’s largest Gay Pride event. The Grand Parade features flamboyantly-dressed dancers, musicians and activists while the festival includes concerts, exhibits and family-friendly activities.
Why Go: Join in the world’s biggest LGBTQ celebration in its birthplace
Pro Tip: Reserve rooms early since hotels sell out months in advance
9. Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain
When: July 7-14
Part of the weeklong San Fermin Festival, the Running of the Bulls gained fame from Hemingway’s 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises”. On each morning of the festival, brave (or crazy?!) participants test their speed and agility against a dozen aggressive bulls let loose on the streets.
Why Go: Experience this iconic adrenaline-pumping spectacle
Pro Tip: Wear proper footwear and know exit points if attempting to run
10. Bastille Day in France
When: July 14
Bastille Day commemorates the turning point during the French Revolution when citizens stormed the Bastille medieval fortress and prison. Today the holiday celebrates French culture with military parades, fireworks feasts and parties across the country.
Why Go: Witness military regalia and pride for French independence
Pro Tip: Watch fireworks above the Eiffel Tower from the lawns of Champs de Mars
11. Mardi Gras in New Orleans
While Brazil may hold the world’s biggest Mardi Gras bash, the holiday originated in 1699 at New Orleans. Today, rows of colorful floats, outrageously dressed krewe members, and flying beads and coins attract over 1 million attendees. Bourbon Street becomes the scene of absolute mayhem!
Why Go: Party with amazing live jazz amid contagious festive energy Pro Tip: Bring a costume and beads to fully join the frenzy
Fall Seasonal Holidays Around the World
From symbolic rituals to celebrations of bountiful harvests, Fall hosts cultural holidays marked by tradition, superstition, feasting and community. Bundle up and get ready for some serious sights at these 5 festive autumn events!
12. Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany
When: September 17 to October 3 (dates vary per the calendar)
In 1810, King Ludwig I hosted a grand festival to celebrate his marriage featuring horse races, games and lots of beer. Over 200 years later, Oktoberfest continues today as the world’s largest Volksfest attracting over 6 million attendees. With giant beer tents, women dressed in dirndls, oompah bands and plenty brews, this epic 16-day festival screams cultural tradition!
Why Go: Drink liters wearing lederhosen alongside other festival fanatics Pro Tip: Make reservations up to a year out for hotel rooms
13. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
Imagine a sky filled with over 700 colorful hot air balloons floating in every direction. That’s exactly what draws nearly 1 million people to Albuquerque’s annual balloon fest. From special shape balloons to the mesmerizing unique glowdeo night show, this is definitely a bucket list event for any traveler.
Why Go: Capture incredible photos against of balloons set off by the surrounding Sandia mountains
Pro Tip: Bundle up before sunrise balloon mass ascensions
14. Day of the Dead in Mexico
When: October 31 to November 2
The Day of the Dead mixes Catholic rituals with Aztec tradition as Mexican families gather in cemeteries to pay respect to deceased loved ones. Altars decorated with marigolds and skeletal figurines give a festive vibe while parades feature creepy masks and face paint. Oaxaca hosts the liveliest multi-day holiday celebrations.
Why Go: Appreciate this indigenous cultural holiday
Pro Tip: Sample seasonal pan de muertos sweet bread
15. Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City
When: Fourth Thursday in November
There’s no more iconic sight than the three-hour Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade filling the Manhattan skyline each year with giant character balloons, clowns, marching bands and celebrity performers. Over 3 million attendees and 50 million television viewers make this the world’s largest parade.
Why Go: Cross an item off your bucket list at this historic NYC tradition
Pro Tip: Bundle up! With no fixed route or seats, you’ll need to arrive early stake out a spot
16. Lantern Festival in China
When: Fifteenth day of the first Chinese lunar month
The illuminated Lantern Festival marks the grand finale festivities for Chinese New Year. Thousands of glowing lanterns transform temples, parks and bridges into stunning photography scenes. Experience incredible lantern art, solve riddles on the lanterns and munch on sticky rice balls!
Why Go: See elaborate displays of traditional Chinese lantern art
Pro Tip: View lanterns reflecting across still waters
Winter Seasonal Holidays Around the World
Twinkling lights, steaming mugs of cocoa, building snowmen…the magic of the winter season brings out some of most enchanting holiday celebrations across snow-covered destinations. Wrap yourself in layers to fully experience these 5 winter wonderlands!
17. Christmas Market at Nuremberg, Germany
When: Advent season (December)
Germany hosts some of Europe’s best traditional Weihnachtsmarkts (Christmas markets), but Nuremburg’s reigns supreme as one of the world’s largest and most famous. Under the glow of Christmas lights, you can browse over 200 wood carved stalls selling handmade ornaments, nutcrackers and authentic German treats like bratwurst, roasted nuts, mulled wine and stollen fruitcake. Bundled shoppers roam amidst festive music, sweet smells and holiday cheer!
Why Go: Shop for handmade crafts and ornaments during the picturesque opening ceremony Pro Tip: Take an old-timey carriage ride then warm up with a mug of gühwein mulled wine
18. New Year’s Eve in Sydney, Australia
When: December 31
Spectacular bursts of fireworks explode around Sydney’s Harbour Bridge and Opera House during one of the world’s first and grandest New Year’s Eve parties. Over 1 million gather around the water and in boats to count down to midnight as the Australian city’s skyline provides a stunning backdrop.
Why Go: Countdown to the New Year at one of the world’s best fireworks shows
Pro Tip: Book a cruise, waterfront restaurant or hotel far in advance for a front row seat
19. Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When: Starts 40 days before Easter
Rio’s world-famous bacchanal Carnival needs little description. Around 1.5 million join in this annual 5 day non-stop dance party celebrated with parades featuring elaborate floats and scantily-dressed drum queen dancers, plus street parties, and competitions between musical samba groups.
Why Go: Experience the world’s biggest Carnival celebrations
Pro Tip: Bring costumes and prepare to dance the samba!
20. Holiday Season in New York City
When: November to January
From the gigantic Norway spruce Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center to the unbelievable department store window displays along Fifth Avenue and holiday concerts at Carnegie Hall, New York City becomes a truly magical wonderland after Thanksgiving. The intoxicating atmosphere and lights provide the perfect backdrop for romantic winter strolls or horse carriage rides in Central Park.
Why Go: Soak up Christmas spirit in this iconic metropolis covered in twinkling lights Pro Tip: Ice skate at Rockefeller Center before checking out storefronts and the famous evergreen tree
21. Chinese New Year in Hong Kong
When: Late January/Early February (per lunar calendar)
Ushering in the Year of Rabbit for 2023, vivacious Hong Kong hosts tremendous cultural festivities for Chinese New Year like vibrant parades with lion dancers, Chinese acrobatic performances, and sensational fireworks over Victoria Harbour. Wander flower markets as families purchase auspicious red and gold holiday plants like cherry blossoms kumquat trees.
Why Go: Experience authentic and exciting Chinese New Year traditions
Pro Tip: Don’t wash your hair on New Year’s Day or you’ll wash away your good luck!
Frequently Asked Questions About Seasonal Holidays
What is the best way to travel between seasonal holiday destinations?
Booking flights, trains and hotels months in advance secures availability and budget rates allowing you to maximize experiences at each holiday celebration versus overspending on travel logistics.
How early should someone arrive in order to properly experience a holiday?
I recommend arriving to the festival city at least 2 days prior. This allows you time to recuperate from jet lag, familiarize yourself with the area, talk to locals for insider tips, scout photography hotspots and purchase necessary gear (costumes/accessories) for your full participation.
What fashion tips or etiquette should travelers follow while attending holidays abroad?
Research and respect customs that dictate appropriate attire or behavior. When in doubt, err on the side of modesty. While some holidays encourage flashy costumes or drink-sloshing rowdiness, be extremely conscientious and avoid cultural appropriation. Ask permission before photographing locals partaking in spiritual rituals or solemn remembrances.
How can travelers and bloggers respectfully capture diverse holiday traditions on camera?
First, educate yourself on behaviors considered offensive like wearing folk garb in disrespectful ways or taking unauthorized photos during formal ceremonies. Always ask for consent before photographing individuals, rituals or private moments. Disabling camera sounds shows extra courtesy. To gain fresh perspectives, connect with international photographers or travelers from the local community willing to provide insider access.
What role can travelers play to ensure sustainable tourism such that seasonal holiday traditions continue?
While joining in the revelry, remember overtourism stresses limited local resources, infrastructure and the population’s way of life. Consider lower-impact destinations, travel during off-peak dates, use public transport instead of taxis, choose small locally-owned businesses over big chains, and follow Leave No Trace principles. Let’s protect these precious cultural traditions and communities!
Seasonal holidays give travelers like us bloggers an incredible opportunity to temporarily embed ourselves within foreign cultures during their most precious observances and jubilant community celebrations. I hope reviewing this global list of 21 remarkable seasonal festivals ignites some wanderlust inspiration for your next big adventure! Let me know in the comments which holiday you’re adding to the bucket list!