Introduction

There’s nothing like the life-affirming buzz of a major festival, whether it’s toasting the arrival of summer in Iceland, chugging beers at Munich’s Oktoberfest, or joining in the orgy of beats at Ibiza’s closing parties.

This book is a guide to over two hundred of the greatest events on earth, and represents the culmination of years of research, travelling and party-hopping by Rough Guide authors and contributors. Armed with this book, you’ll find out all you need to know before you go, and what to do while you’re there, as well as the practical details that can make or break your trip.

Every country in the world has its own festivals and celebrations. They’re a colourful key to unlocking local cultures and can make for a fantastic travel experience. Many travellers have their own special memories of spectacular events they have attended, whether it’s a long-planned visit to the Fiesta de San Fermin, or a stumbled-upon saint’s-day procession in a dusty southern Italian town. The festivals in this book come in all shapes and sizes. Many have been around, in one form or another, for decades – some, such as Kumbh Mela and Naadam, for centuries – and have deep roots in the culture of the country they take place in. Others, such as Burning Man, will be following, perhaps even initiating, newer traditions. Some, like Sri Lanka’s Esala Perahera, will have deep religious significance; others will be secular occasions based on a key, history­ changing event – Lewes Bonfire Night, for example. Some, like Pushkar Camel Fair, will be a mixture of all of these things. And some, like Spain’s La Tomatina, will be no more than a massive food-fight. However, nearly all the festivals in this book draw people from local communities together and demonstrate tangibly the values and priorities of local cultures – and, as such, they almost all involve some sort of cultural exchange; attending and getting involved in a sensitive and non-voyeuristic way offers a travel experience like no other. The philosophy of this book, indeed of Rough Guides in general, is a relatively simple one: to get out there and see the world – responsibly and to enjoy yourself while you’re doing it. Which is definitely  something  you can do at all the festivals featured in this book. The list of events we’ve included is fairly subjective and inevitably highly selective. So how did we choose? Well, the list in part reflects the interests and preferences of our writers, and of visitors to our website. Also, we have tried to make sure that cultures and traditions from most, if not all, parts of the world are represented. We’ve also only included festivals that are annual and well established attended by thousands rather than hundreds of people, and that have a big focus on participation. So, although you won’t find all of the big music festivals, sports events and one-off parties here, you will find the classics – Rio Carnival, Glastonbury and Mardi Gras – as well as smaller events such as Scotland’s Common Ridings and Australia’s Birdsville Races. Arguably, these are the real gold dust in this book – all big enough to produce a great vibe in their own individual way, but small enough to retain a sense of community, authenticity and accessibility that many of the mega-events have lost.

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