Want to add a twist to your holidays and experience a new adventure? What better way to immerse yourself in a country’s culture than by celebrating their festivals? Here are 14 Asian celebrations that are well worth hanging around for.

Magh Mela Festival India

The Magh Mela is one of the most sacred Hindu festivals, which takes place annually. Millions (up to 30) of devotees make their way to the confluence of three sacred rivers (the Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati) with the belief that the holy waters will wash away their sins. Every 12 years, the positions of stars and constellations make the rivers all the more sacred, enabling them to cure illnesses and purify the devotees’ inner-selves – and that is when Kumph Mela takes place.

Where: Triveni Sangam, India

Snow and Ice Festival China

China’s coldest city plays host to the annual Harbin Snow & Ice Festival, which showcases jaw-dropping works of art, sculpted with ice from the Songhua River. This ephemeral art show is the ultimate Winter Wonderland and will delight kids just as much as adults. But make sure to bundle up, as temperatures in this northeast Chinese city can fall as low as minus 30 degrees centigrade!

Where: Harbin, China


Pingxi Lantern Festival, Taiwan

Celebrating the Lantern Festival doesn’t get any better than in Pingxi. Every year, this city located north of Taipei, welcomes throngs of tourists and locals, inviting them to release lanterns into the sky, each inscribed with the owner’s wishes for the upcoming year. Thousands of lanterns floating into the night sky make for some pretty stunning photographs!

Where: Pingxi, Taiwan

Holi festival

Another Hindu festival not to be missed is the Holi Festival (aka Festival of Colors), which celebrates the end of winter and beginning of spring. Prior to the street dancing and colour water fights, a Holika bonfire takes place the night before, symbolising the burning of the devil (Holika). From there begins a day-long carnival of colours. Don’t forget to bring your own dye to partake in the festivities!

Where: India, Nepal and popular in many parts of South Asia.


Songkran, Thailiand

An important date in the Buddhist calendar, Songkran marks the beginning of the traditional Thai New Year. Locals celebrate by soaking anyone in the vicinity by any means possible (buckets of water and water guns are often the weapons of choice). Processions of Buddhas also take place on the first day of the festival (Songkran Day), followed by Wan Nao (Buddhists going to the temple) on the second day. On the third and last day (the Thai New year), offerings are left at temples.

Where: celebrated all over Thailand, but the most reputed Songkran festivity takes place in Chiang Mai

Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival, India

If there was an Olympic medal for World’s Greatest Temple Festival, the Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival would win hands down. Every year, 30 or so elephants dressed to the nines, parade in the streets of Kerala and head to Vadakkunnathan temple, where Hindus then pay their respects to Shiva.

Where: Thrissur, Kerala, India


Naadam, Mongolia

Naadam (“games” in Mongolian) is a traditional festival which shows off male participants’ strength. Referred to as the ‘Manly Games’, the festival pits contestants against each other in three different disciplines: wrestling, archery and horseback riding. Women also take part in the festivities – but do not wrestle. Naadam dates back centuries – pre-Genghis Khan, who later strategically used the festivities to scout top-notch talent for his army- and is now inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

Where: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Bali Kite Festival

This is not your typical kite festival… the Bali Kite Festival, in addition to being an international event boasting each teams’ kite-flying skills, also has religious connotations, as the kites serve a purpose: sending messages to the Hindu Gods for an abundant harvest.

On the ‘Islands of the Gods’, you will discover the art of kite-flying, Balinese style, that is to say, the bigger the better! Teams consist of 70 to 80 people, 10 of which are needed to fly the kite. The competition is intense as are the festivities.

Where: Bali, Indonesia


Obon Festival, Japan

Every August, a 3-day festival takes place across Japan to honour ancestors’ spirits, more specifically remembering and appreciating their sacrifices. Their spirits are brought back with lanterns, and candles and dance on the 15th day of the 7th month, a day when the gateways to Heaven and Hell are believed to open, enabling spirits to visit the living world.

Where: Across Japan

Esala Perahera, Sri Lanka

Dancers dressed decadently, the constant thumping of drums and elephants decked in their finest clothes make Esala Perahera one of Sri Lanka’s not-to-be-missed celebrations. According to legend, one of the Buddha’s teeth was stolen from his grave 1700 years ago and is believed to have been smuggled into Sri Lanka. Esala Perahera honours this tooth during a 10-day-long incense-infused festival.

Where: Sri Lanka


Thimphu Tsechu, Bhutan

Tsechu (‘day ten’), are annual religious Bhutanese festivals held in each district in the country, on the tenth day of the Tibetan lunar calendar. Thimphu Tsechu is the country’s biggest social gathering, filled with Cham Dances, colourful national costumes and lots of laughter to go around. The festival commemorates the birth of Bhutan’s patron saint, Padmasambhava, who introduced Buddhism to the country.

Where: Bhutan


Guru Nanak Jayanti, India

Celebrating the birth of the first Sikh Guru (Guru Nanak), this is one of the most sacred festivals for Sikhs. The festivities are not only a wonderful submersion into Sikhism, they also offer beautiful sights to behold, namely the lit-up Golden Temple, the lake illuminated by twinkling lights, Sikhs in their finest turbans and silks.

Where: Amritsar, India


Mevlana Whirling Dervishes, Turkey

Following the death of Mevlana Calaledin Rumi (Persian poet and philosopher) in 1273, his disciples founded a Sufi order, known as the Whirling Dervishes. Every year, the Whirling Dervishes remember their spiritual leader by seeking to achieve ecstasy and unity with God by controlled trance-like spinning.

Where: Konya, Turkey

To include one of these festivals in your next holiday, contact Lightfoot Travel

Suggested Itineraries

Adventures in The South Island

Auckland & Waiheke Island Lake Taupo & Rotorua Queenstown, Milford Sound & Southern Lakes Franz Josef & the West Coast New Zealand Australasia

  • Soar over the Canterbury Plains in a hot air balloon

  • Travel along the TranzAlpine railway, one of the world’s great train journeys

  • Take a guided heli-hike expedition of the Franz Josef Glacier

  • Enjoy an exhilarating jet boat ride on the Dart River

  • Explore Fiordland on a Hollyford Track guided three-day hike

When to go:

ideal length 8 nights

Classic Costa Rica

San Jose & the Central Valley Costa Rica

  • Explore the waterways of Tortuguero in search of wildlife
  • Experience the volcano and cloud forests at Arenal
  • Discover the rainforest and beaches of Manual Antonio
  • Marvel at the diversity of Costa Rica’s flora and fauna
  • Experience the habitats of the Caribbean and Pacific coasts

When to go:

ideal length 11 nights

Puglia’s Coast and Cities

Puglia Italy Europe

  • Savour lunch in a noble palace while listening to a private baroque concert
  • Explore the coast and towns of Puglia, the ‘heel of Italy’
  • Learn the secrets of traditional cookery from an Italian mamma
  • Discover the famous ‘trulli’ houses of Alberobello and the ‘White City’ of Ostuni
  • Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Matera and spend the night in one of its famous cave hotels

When to go:

ideal length 8 nights
Destinations Featured in the Article
Beautiful Tourist wear Sali, traditional dress in Amber Palace, Jaipur, Rajasthan - India


Experience a world of elephants and tigers, turmeric-coloured villages, coconut-studded coastlines, dazzling cities, and spicy curries on a holiday in India.

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