Big Five Festivals & Celebrations

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Though the world is divided by culture, religion and language, there's one universal dialect that brings us all together: a big celebration. From horseracing to celebrating the deceased (yes, really) here's a selection to get the party started.

1. Esala Perahera

SRI LANKA >

At the island’s most famous festival, thousands of drummers, dancers and beautiful elephants light up the delightful town of Kandy. Esala Perahera, or the Festival of the Tooth, is a bright and colourful nighttime festival held over ten days every August, widely regarded as the most spectacular of Sri Lanka’s festivals and one of the most colourful religious pageants in Asia. With its origins dating back to the arrival of the Tooth Relic in the 4th century, this festival has serious history. It has become a unique symbol of the country, with imaginative dances including fire dancing, whip dancing, traditional Kandian performances and other cultural variances, all carefully orchestrated with a great degree of theatre. Each beginning and end of a procession is signalled by a deafening cannon shot, so bring your earplugs.

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For more information about this, or any of our other Top Five experiences, please call one of our specialists on 01242 547 755 or enquire online




2. Day Of The Dead

MEXICO >

Despite its macabre name, these national celebrations are jovial in nature as the lives of lost loved ones are celebrated with food, drink and humorous stories. In a carnivalesque remembrance of life, the Latino use papier-mâché skeletons and candy skulls for a rave from beyond the grave that sees markets fill with miniature coffins, skulls and skeletons made of chocolate or paper. The celebration is far from morbid: the belief is that the spirits exist on a different plane, but can return to their homes at this time of year. Families spend time making their homes feel welcoming to the spirits, with flowers, ribbons and coloured candles, cooking special foods and placing dedications and offerings on an altar. The main event climaxes with a visit to the cemetery, via a funfair en route, flashing neon rides and stands selling snacks, before the family devotes a day to cleaning the graves and enjoying a picnic.

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For more information about this, or any of our other Top Five experiences, please call one of our specialists on 01242 547 701 or enquire online






3. Palio Di Siena

ITALY >

Held twice yearly on the 2nd July and 16th August, the Palio is one of Italy’s most spectacular festivals, dating back to the Middle Ages to honour the Virgin Mary. The festival features a series of colourful pageants, with the obligatory eating and drinking thrown in for good measure, and a bareback horse race around Piazza del Campo to offer up some thrills and spills. One of the few surviving spectacles of its type in Italy, Siena’s tenacious population has ensured the festival’s endurance despite demands on the national television network to televise the festival. During the race, the town’s 17 districts, or contrade, compete for the coveted silk banner, the palio, in a fight that often ends in fisticuffs – quite a feat considering the race itself lasts little more than one minute.

A 4 day trip to Italy taking in the Palio Di Siena costs from £3,065pp*

For more information about this, or any of our other Top Five experiences, please call one of our specialists on 01242 547 703 or enquire online




4. Hermanus Whale Festival

SOUTH AFRICA >

This annual event takes place at the end of September to celebrate the return of southern right whales to the waters of Walker Bay, an opportunity to revel in music, comedy, cabaret and African rhythms. Hermanus has front row seats for the Cape Whale Route, and during migrating season visitors flock to the craggy clifftops for a chance to glimpse the endangered whales. The festival began in order to formalise the clifftop viewing and one of its many highlights is the Whale Crier, the world’s one and only decoder of whale movements with a kelp horn to direct eager spotters. It’s also the perfect place to learn about the beasts of the deep, and there’s also a Whales n’ Wheels classic car show. Of course.

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For more information about this, or any of our other Top Five experiences, please call one of our specialists on 01242 547 702 or enquire online






5. Water Festival

CHIANG MAI, THAILAND >

Songkran, or Thai New Year, is marked by a national three day holiday from 13th to 15th April, with towns and cities throughout the country hosting their own unique New Year celebrations. Songkran is the largest festival in Thailand, and – even better – the largest water-fight in the world. If you’re in Thailand over this period, prepare to get wet. Chiang Mai is considered the best place to experience the extravaganza as people douse, sprinkle, spray and soak each other with everything from water pistols and buckets to hoses and cannons. The traditional ‘throwing of water’ symbolises the washing away of all the bad from the previous year and welcoming in the new one. It’s also said to bring good luck. A time for reunion and cleansing, this is a period where houses are cleaned and elders are honoured, with many people returning to their hometowns for the festivities.

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For more information about this, or any of our other Top Five experiences, please call one of our specialists on 01242 547 704 or enquire online


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