15 of the World’s Weirdest Festivals to Add to Your Bucket List
Ever wanted to throw mud at people or swim with a snorkel through a Welsh bog? Thousands of curious people have made festival tourism their new way of traveling, and there’s a good reason: you can find yourself a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s time to explore!
Although we live in a time of globalization, lots of the traditions of people around the world are surprising and can seem unusual and even weird. But that doesn’t mean they become less interesting. Our world is rich in the craziest festivals that you won’t believe are real. Sounds like we’ve found some new vacation destinations!
Bright Side found the oddest ones and can’t wait to head off to them!
15. Thaipusam, the Hindu Piercing Festival
The most extreme and crazy festival you’ve ever seen is organized every winter in Malaysia and Singapore. Local Hindus pierce their entire bodies and hitch sharp hooks to their backs. They can walk with weights called “kavadis” attached to their bodies for 10 hours. The whole ritual is supposed to show the devotion of religious people and cleanse them of all their sins. This might sound unreal, but more than one million people take part in this unbelievable demonstration of faith.
14. El Colacho: Baby Jumping Festival, Spain
Every June, the Spanish village of Castrillo de Murcia swarms with flying devils and…babies!
El Colacho — the Baby Jumping Festival — gathers lots of people at a kind of baptizing event. It’s also a spectacular attraction for both locals and tourists. It starts with men disguised as devils in red-and-yellow suits and masks running around the village swearing at the crowd and whipping those who get in their way with a horsetail. Then the sound of drums announces the second part: the devils start jumping over one-year-old babies displayed on mattresses. This ritual is believed to protect children from bad luck and, more importantly, take away all their sins.
Though it all looks breathtaking and dangerous, you needn’t worry about the children: over the last 400 years, the tricks have been performed by professionals, and no child has been harmed or injured.
13. Boryeong Mud Festival, South Korea
The Boryeong Mud Festival doesn’t look like other spas and resorts, and it’s a whole lot of fun. Every July, you can take part in all kinds of entertainments on the coast of the Yellow Sea, which is rich in mineralized mud. Mud games, mud baths and massages, and even a mud obstacle marathon along with music and dancing competitions — these activities draw people from around the world to Boryeong, South Korea. A perfect place to take care of your health and have a blast.
12. Monkey Buffet Festival, Thailand
Now that the babies are sinless and the adults are healthy, it’s time to take care of the wild world. That’s what the Old Town of Lopburi is famous for. Each November, they invite thousands of monkeys to feast at the Monkey Buffet Festival. Over 4,000 kg of various Thai dishes are served near the Khmer Temple just for them. The idea is to honor the creatures who are believed to bring good luck. Where else can you see a monkey eating delicious desserts and drinking soda from a can? “The City of Monkeys” now attracts lots of tourists and makes sure all the apes are treated well. What a day to be a monkey!
11. La Tomatina, Spain
Every year, the small town of Bunol, Spain, hosts the “World’s Biggest Food Fight” — La Tomatina. To make sure that there are enough tomatoes for the huge battle, they are brought in big trucks. For one hour, Bunol’s streets are covered in juicy red slush and exalted people. The fighting rules are simple: squash the tomatoes before throwing them, don’t bring any objects that might cause accidents, put on old clothes and shoes you won’t regret getting rid of afterward, and be respectful to others. Sounds like lots of fun for vegetable lovers.
10. Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Festival, Japan
Japan rates this festival as one of the top 3 most “eccentric,” and it’s hard to argue. The Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Festival is a male-only, practically naked event that gathers participants in a temple to catch 2 “shingi” — lucky sticks. The only thing the men are allowed to wear is a loincloth. Although the event takes place in February, it’s not cold at all in the temple because the participants huddle together as they strive to grab the items. Once a man gets it, he can be sure that luck won’t turn away from him. Looks very sporty.
9. Hair Freezing Day, Canada
These pictures will make you feel frozen even if it’s summertime. But just imagine how much fun the Hair Freezing Contest must be!
Every February, you can go hot and cold in the Takhini Hot Pools in Canada and even raise money at the same time. The rules are simple: all you need to have is hair, the willingness to go out in −20°F, and a little patience. Once you’re in the hot springs, you dip your hair into the water, take it out, and wait. All the rest will be done by the cold. As soon as you feel the air performing its frozen magic (which takes some time), start working on your hairdo. Take a photo, and the best one wins the prize.
Sounds like a perfect winter attraction for those who are not huge fans of skiing.
8. Night of the Radishes, Mexico
On December 23, the Mexican city of Oaxaca creates the most unusual Christmas atmosphere with the help of the least expected vegetable — the radish. The locals use it to carve whimsical figures and expose them to the delight of passersby and curious travelers. The main topic is, of course, Christmas, but crafty artisans and amateurs don’t limit their imagination. They create peculiar folk scenes out of huge radishes grown especially for the festival. Very inspiring!
7. Day of Silence, Bali
The New Year in Bali is completely different from what we’re used to. Unlike most countries where this holiday comes with parties and crowded celebrations, Balinese people take the opportunity to welcome the beginning of the year in peace and calm.
On Nyepi Day, the Day of Silence, all the residents on the island (including tourists) are obliged to follow several very strict rules: no fire, no travel, no activity, no entertainment. These rules require traffic and electricity to be shut down (with the exception of the emergency services) for the next 24 hours to allow for self-reflection, meditation, and relaxation.
What if we all let ourselves have a Nyepi Day from time to time?
6. The Bog Snorkeling Championship, UK
The World Bog Snorkeling Championship is one of the weirdest races you’ve ever seen. Every August, the locals and some reckless visitors of Llanwrtyd Wells voluntarily dive into the bog to compete for the title of Champion. There’s also a Fancy Dress competition for those who are not that sporty but still enjoy paddling in the dirt. The World Bog Snorkeling Triathlon for real racing fans is also on the program.
If you’ve tried a lot in your life and think that nothing can impress you, go ahead to the bog.
5. Pikachu Festival, Japan
This movie star beats all popularity records. Besides the world-famous cartoon, merchandise, and love of devoted fans, Pikachu now has its own parade.
Over 1,000 performers in Pikachu costumes take over the streets of Yokohama, Japan. This year they will be accompanied by other Pokemon characters. The initiative is very new, but it has an army of lovers who are happy to join in every year.
4. Snowman Burning Day, USA
When winter melts down, it’s time to cheer up and celebrate! The citizens of this cold area — Lake Superior, USA — warm up by burning a snowman figure on March 20 to mark the return of the long-awaited spring. The tradition is a local attraction, but people from other states find it nice and inspiring. Who knows? Maybe one day it will spread.
3. Battle of the Oranges, Italy
Another food fight event that is worth visiting is the Battle of the Oranges in Ivrea, Italy.
3 days before Fat Tuesday, the town of Ivrea is turned into a battlefield for 9 squads fighting for the sake of justice. Each team has its own commander, uniform, and a bunch of oranges to throw at their opponents. The judges make their decision at the end of the third day, and the winning team is honored by the whole town.
Although the fighting looks like fun, it’s actually very dangerous because oranges leave heavy injuries. It’s forbidden to participate without a helmet. For curious visitors, it is possible to watch the battle from a distance.
2. The Viking Festival, Iceland
Every year, Hafnarfjörður, a small town in Iceland, becomes the venue for a huge historical reenactment: The Annual Viking Festival. For 5 days, visitors can travel back in time and immerse themselves in the way of life of the Vikings.
You can purchase traditional utensils in the market, take part in numerous workshops on handcrafting and fighting, and try local food. In the evening, the most exciting part of the festival begins with staged battles, dancing, and partying at authentic restaurants. Though the fights are performed by professionals, it’s strongly recommended to keep away from the warriors as it can be dangerous and scary.
1. Burning Man, USA
A combination of art, freedom, and self-reliance. And all in a radical way. 8 days in the Black Rock Desert and you’ll never be the same person.
The Burning Man is a gathering of people who forget about their ordinary way of life and create a new, developed society based on the principles of gifting, self-expression, civic responsibility, and respect. Some may think it’s a site for hippies, although visitors of all mindsets and professions are welcome. If you’re looking for both a spiritual and crazy place to stay, The Burning Man is for you.
Our editorial team has already put most of these festivals on their list of must-visit places. Which one would you choose to start with? Share in the comments, and maybe you’ll find a fellow traveler!