Anywhere The Outlandish

21 Completely Weird World Festivals You Have to Hit in 2019

Weird and Unique World Festivals

The world is absolutely full of weird and wonderful things. Sure, travel is often about venturing to legendary sites that you’ve always dreamed about. You may hike long days to the farthest corners of the earth to experience stunning nature. The moments you best remember may be beautiful moments shared with people in tiny communities or the best plates of food that you ever ate. But, sometimes? Cultural experiences take a very different form. Almost every country in the world has a lighthearted and even slightly ridiculous side. In our opinion, there’s no better way to get a glimpse at it than at a weird or unique world festival for 2019. And from tomato fights in Spain, to city-wide mud wrestling in South Korea, to nomadic games in Mongolia, boy, there are a lot of them.

Ready for some fun in 2019? Plan your next trip around one of these weird world festivals!

** This post was updated on December 28th 2018

The Weird + Unique World Festivals of 2018:

Festivals in January

International Kite Festival | India

When: January 6th – January 14th, 2019
Where: Gujarat, India

The International Kite Festival in Gujarat marks the end of winter and the approaching harvest season. Those who come to celebrate will most appreciate the abundant local food and kites of all shapes and colors filling the sky.

Why you should go: “Kites (popularly called patang/guddi locally) for the uninitiated are thin sheets of paper stretched, glued and tied on to springy bamboo (or similar light wood) frames and attached to a long ball of string called manjha wrapped around a wooden contraption called latai/firki. There are friendly competitions in every neighbourhoods in which every challenger vies to be the king of skies and defeat the rest by cutting their kites through an act of deft aerial skills. Every battle is followed by shouts of “Kai Po Chhe” meaning (I’ve cut it) from the winner and long sighs and urgent orders to get the next kite up by the losers.” – Rishabh of the Gypsy Couple

Plan your Trip: Booking.com

Thaipusam | Malaysia or Singapore

When: January 21st, 2019
Where: Penang or Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia or Singapore

Thaipusam is a Hindu festival where devotees fulfill their vows by practicing severe asceticism. While the festival is mostly a walking pilgrimage, it is memorable for the body piercing and hooking practiced by the devout.

Why you should go: Thaipsum is a shocking sight, to say the least. Go to admire the extraordinary devotion.

Plan your Trip: Booking.com 

Up Helly Aa | Scotland

When: January 29th, 2018
Where: Lerwick, Shetland

Up Helly Aa represents any of Scotland’s raucous fire festivals that take place after Christmas. Squads of torchbearers deck themselves out in viking costumes, drag a replica galley through the streets, and torch it once they’ve reached their final stopping point.

Why you should go: When else will you get to pretend to be a viking for the evening?

Plan your Trip: Booking.com

Festivals in February

Yanshui Fireworks Festival | Taiwan

When: February 18th – February 20th, 2019
Where: Yanshui, Taiwan

In case you thought bottle rockets were boring, imagine a stack of thousands going off at the same time. The Yanshui Fireworks Festival is thought to have originated after a Cholera outbreak. The locals invited the God of War to protect them with a display of fire. In modern times, thousands of locals take to the streets to set off fireworks of their own. Getting hit with a bottle rocket is said to bring luck, so come with fireproof pants if you’re hoping for the good fortune.

Why you should go: “15 days after the beginning of Lunar New Year, the population of Yunshui, Taiwan, swells with people hoping for a lucky new year. Their plan? Get hit with as many bottle rockets as possible at the annual Feng Pao bottle rocket festival. Armed with homemade safety gear and motorcycle helmets, thousands willingly stand shoulder-to-shoulder in front of manmade beehives packed with firecrackers, as trucks drive through town, shooting explosives at the crowd.” – Katie of Wandertooth on the Feng Pao Bottle Rocket Festival

Plan your Trip: Booking.com

Sitges Carnival Bed Race | Spain

When: February 26th – March 5th
Where: Sitges, Spain

The Sitges Carnival Bed Race is the perfect combination of respectable footrace and Carnival debauchery. Teams of four will strap their fifth team member onto a bed, dress in a themed costume, and race to the finish line using manpower only.

Weird Festivals in 2019 - Sitges Carnival Bed Race

Surfing the Planet

Why you should go: “One of the craziest festivals you can attend around Carnival time is the Bed Race they organize every year in Sitges, a small coastal town near Barcelona. Teams push beds on wheels that are dressed up in Carnival style to see who becomes the fastest. It is probably the funniest race we have ever seen.” – Gabor of Surfing the Planet on the Sitges Carnival Bed Race

Plan your Trip: Booking.com

Festivals in March

Battle of the Oranges | Italy

When: March 2nd – March 5th, 2019
Where: Ivrea, Italy

While the actual origin of Battle of the Oranges is unknown, theories are that the city-wide food fight started as a rebellion against an Ivrean tyrant. For this festival, you can hide behind the nets, or arm yourself with oranges to join the battle.

Weird Festivals in 2018 - Battle of Oranges

Photo by The Crowded Planet

Why you should go: “The Battle of the Oranges is definitely one of Italy’s craziest festivals. For three days during Carnival, teams on foot and horse cart haul oranges at one another in the streets of the city of Ivrea, not far from Turin. Bystanders and tourists are recommended to wear a special red hat, or else they might be mistaken for the ‘fighters’ and thrown oranges at – but at the end of the day, oranges were just flying everywhere and we did get hit a couple of times. It’s the highlight of the year for locals and the atmosphere is just amazing! One the best parties we’ve ever had! ” – Margherita of The Crowded Planet on Battle of the Oranges

Plan your Trip: Booking.com

South by Southwest | USA

When: March 8th – March 17th, 2019
Where: Austin, Texas, USA

Every March, some of the greatest minds in the world head to Austin for South by Southwest (SXSW). With music, film, and interactive components, SXSW is more of a cultural summit than a plain old music festival.

View of Austin from HOPE Outdoor Gallery

Why you should go: “For the first time in three years, Craig and I will not be attending the music portion of South By Southwest in Austin, Texas so here is why you should go for us! SXSW is a free (music and tech) festival. Yes, I said free. Free booze, free burritos and free live shows from bands. Well, it’s kind of free, you have to pay in time via queuing. Each year thousands of media types buy badges to attend workshops and network then rock out to popular and new bands at night. So what do the bands do during the day? They entertain the cheapos like Craig and I and that is how you get to see live music for free every March in Austin, Texas. SXSW takes a bit of organisation to work out who is playing where and when you have to queue to pick up the free passes but it is worth it. Music lovers get the chance to see established bands do new tricks (like Will Butler, the brother in Arcade Fire) or discover new music (like Daniel Wilson who is currently playing on UK radios). For those with a spare grand you can cut the queues and see bands without the faff but where’s the fun in that?” – Gemma + Craig of Two Scots Abroad on SXSW for Free

Plan your Trip: Booking.com

Fasnacht | Switzerland

When: March 11th – March 14th, 2018
Where: Basel, Switzerland

Switzerland’s largest Carnival, Fasnacht, is a festival of masks. The masks most commonly represent politicians, characters, and animals, and it is considered inappropriate to reveal one’s identity while parading.

Weird Festivals in 2019 - Basel Fasnacht Festival

Photo by Europe Diaries

Why you should go: “Basel, Switzerland celebrates one of the biggest carnivals in the country each year- the Basler Fasnacht. It commences with a parade at 4 am on a Monday morning, known as  Morgenstreich. Members of different cliques (or groups) showcase giant lanterns depicting social issues and play instruments like piccolos and drums in a synchronized manner. The three days of the Fasnacht are an experience in itself but be prepared to get attacked with confetti on the streets if you are caught without a badge supporting the Fasnacht.” Menorca of Europe Diaries on the time she was attacked by innocent looking kids

Plan your Trip: Booking.com

Holi | India

When: March 20th – March 21st
Where: Anywhere in India

Holi is the Hindu festival that celebrates good over evil, forgiveness, and the arrival of spring. Perhaps more famously, Holi is a carnival of colors. Participants take to the streets with dry powder and water balloons for a full on color fight.

Weird Festivals in 2018 - Holi in India

Drifter Planet

Why you should go: “Holi is a Hindu festival which was earlier celebrated in only India and Nepal, but is now popular all over the world. It is also known as the festival of colors, and rightly so because it is full of psychedelia. Faces, clothes, streets – literally everything gets painted in vivid colors. Many people let their inner child out while celebrating Holi and join water-gun fights. In many parts of India, a special marijuana drink called “Bhang” is legally sold on Holi. In many countries, “Holi parties” are celebrated at different times, but the actual festival is celebrated in spring as per the Hindu calendar. We have attended many parties and music festivals all over the world, but Holi is the most psychedelic party because everything and everyone gets painted in technicolor.” – Sonal of DrifterPlanet on Celebrating Holi in India

Plan your Trip: Booking.com

Festivals in April

Songkran | Thailand

When: April 13th – 15th, 2018
Where: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Songkran is the Thai New Year’s Festival symbolizing transformation and purification. At this unique world festival, you can arm yourself with a bucket, hose, water gun, or really anything you can find, to join in the nationwide water fight.

Weird Festivals in 2019 - Songkran

Travel Outlandish

Why you should go: “If you’ve ever dreamed of super soaking a stranger, Songkran is the perfect festival for you. For 3-days, it’s non-stop water gun wielding and water balloon sniping. It’s a hilarious and perfectly weird way to experience Thai culture.” – Taylor + Daniel of Travel Outlandish on Songkran

Plan your Trip: Booking.com 

Festivals in May

Bay to Breakers | USA

When: May 19th, 2018
Where: San Francisco, USA

Bay to Breakers is a 12km race created to boost morale after the devastating earthquakes that shook San Francisco in 1906. In modern day, Bay to Breakers is more like a citywide event for breakfast beers and full on non-sense.

Weird World Festivals 2019 - Bay to Breakers

Travel Outlandish

Why you should go: Bay to Breakers may be a 12km footrace, but nobody is running. Instead, expect full nudity, groups of grownups in gorilla costumes, and an entire city getting weird.

Plan your Trip: Booking.com

Festivals in June

Pride | Worldwide

When: The entire month of June
Where: You will find some of the best pride festivals in San Francisco, London, Berlin, and beyond.

Pride at its core is a public protest for gay, lesbian, and trans rights, but the festivities worldwide are anything but serious. In practice, Pride festivals are days full of glittery parades, drag queen shows, and Elton John sing-a-longs. Going to Pride in just about any major city will ensure one of the most fun world festival experiences.

Why you should go: “Pride in San Francisco is like a Gaga tune in June. Boys will be boys and girls will be boys, and they’ll love each other in any combination but hey… who cares anyway? Go for the parades, the parties, and to stand alongside a community for the common goal of equality.” – Taylor + Daniel of Travel Outlandish on San Francisco Pride

 Plan your Trip: Booking.com

Festivals in July

Naadam | Mongolia

When: July 11th – 15th, 2018
Where: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Celebrating 13th century tradition and paying tribute to Mongolia’s liberation from Chinese rule in 1921, the Naadam Festival is what we might call the ultimate display of Mongolian masculinity (though girls can play too!). With participants competing in horse racing, archery, and wrestling, it’s nomadic games of epic proportion.

Weird Festivals in 2019 - Naadam

NOMADasaurus

Why you should go: “Mongolia’s Naadam Festival is a celebration of nomadic sports and culture that is held all over the country in the month of July. Showcasing the best in horse racing, archery and wrestling it really is an intense spectacle. While the festival in the capital Ulaanbaatar is the largest, it is actually much more enjoyable in the smaller villages around Mongolia.” – Jarryd + Alesha of NOMADasaurus on all things adventure and Central Asia

Plan your Trip: Booking.com

Boryeong Mud Festival | South Korea

When: July 19th – 28th, 2018
Where: Daecheon Beach, South Korea

The website describes the Boryeong Mud Festvial as “the exciting mud experience with the people around the world”. That sounds about right, huh? Join in the massive mud fight complete with slides, concerts, mud paint stations, and something called mysteriously named the mud prison.

Why you should go: Getting messy with strangers seems to a bond that defies language and cultural barriers. We’ve got to love how quirky South Korean culture is, and this unique world festival just sounds like a ton of fun.

Plan your Trip: Booking.com

Festivals in August

Burning Man | USA

When: August 25th – September 2nd, 2018
Where: Black Rock City, NV, USA

What started as a beach burn in San Francisco for summer solstice has evolved into a worldwide movement. Modern day Burners will join a community of more than 70,000 artists, performers, creatives, free lovers, and straight out weirdos that take over the desert in one of the world’s most fascinating and unique festivals.

Why you should go: There’s something magical about spending days in the middle of the desert, amongst people experimenting with the limits of social norms. Long-time Burners suggest the festival is getting more commercialized each year.  Go before the tech camps take over.

Plan your Trip: Get Tickets

La Tomatina | Spain

When: August 28th, 2018
Where: Buñol, Spain

Maybe La Tomatina started as a revolt against city councilmen, or maybe the people of Buñol were just down for a good tomato fight. Either way, those who make it to La Tomatina can join an hour-long brawl of epic proportions.

Weird Festivals in 2019 - La Tomatina

The World Pursuit

Why you should go (once): “My friend and I were in Valencia a few years ago during the time of La Tomatina. I convinced her to join me exclaiming we couldn’t miss the biggest food fight in the world. The festival was great for the first ten minutes…until I got plowed with a tomato to the eye. I ended up walking out of the giant mess covered in tomatoes and with a black eye. I’ll do anything once, but I won’t be partaking in that again! ” – Natasha of The World Pursuit on La Tomatina

Plan your Trip: Booking.com

Festivals in September & October

Oktoberfest | Germany

When: September 21st – October 6th, 2019
Where: Munich, Germany

Munich’s 18-day folk festival is all about the beer, but the amusement rides, brass music, and traditional foods are nothing to balk at.

Why you should go: “I grew up about 3 hours North of Munich and yet last year was the first time I made it to Oktoberfest. Shame on me, I know. We had a reserved table in the Paulaner tent and I highly recommend getting a reservation. You wont have to worry about finding a place, you can go in and out, and best of all: VIP toilet access. Very useful, especially after consuming copious amounts of beer, let me tell you. ” – Maria of MariaAbroad on all things beer

Plan your Trip: Booking.com

Vegetarian Festival | Thailand

When: September 28th – October 7th, 2019
Where: Phuket, Thailand

While the Vegetarian Festival in Phuket is free of meat, it’s certainly full of gore. By cutting out meat from their diets during the ninth lunar month, participants hope for health and peace of mind. In other acts of intermediation with the gods, devotees will walk on hot coals, pierce themselves, or perform other somewhat horrific acts of body modification with the belief that they will be protected from scarring.

Why you should go: Few other world festivals are quite as fascinating to watch at the Vegetarian Festival in Phuket. The mah song – or those possessed by a god – undertake incredible feats. And if you still have an appetite, the food is amazing.

Plan your Trip: Booking.com

Festivals in November

Día de Muertos | Mexico

When: October 31st – November 2nd, 2019
Where: Oaxaca, Mexico

While popularized by flower crowns and skeleton face paint, Día de los Muertos is actually about recognizing the deceased. The celebration takes place largely at cemeteries where extravagant alters are built for offerings of toys, food, alcohol, and flowers, but head to the city, and you’ll see everyone celebrating!

Weird Festivals in 2019 - Dia de Los Muertos

Where Sidewalks End

Why you should go: “One of the most unique and wonderful celebrations found in Mexico is the celebration of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). It’s almost like Halloween, though full of parades that go on all night, fireworks, and deep rooted cultural significance of remembering deceased relatives and loved ones. It also goes on (unofficially) for a week! Fun and fascinating – definitely a must!” – Ian of Where Sidewalks End on all things Mexico

Plan your Trip: Booking.com

Festivals in December

Krampusnacht | Austria

When: December 5th, 2019
Where: Throughout Austria

Some cultures may discourage bad behavior with an Elf on a Shelf, but Austria prefers a more direct approach. Krampus is the hairy, fanged goat-demon that terrorizes children who misbehave. On Krampusnacht, the very creepy Krampus takes to the streets, visiting homes and businesses dispensing coal to the badly behaved.

Weird Festivals in 2019 - Krampusnacht

Make Time to See the World

Why you should go: “Intriguing and terrifying at the same time – Krampusnacht is the stuff nightmares are made of! Small alpine towns in the Austrian alps have the men and teenage boys of the village dress up as the Krampus – a half goat/half demon who is meant to whip children into being nice at Christmas. The Krampus parade through the streets dragging chains, carrying torches of fire and whipping innocent bystanders with twigs! The creatures masks burn into your memory – and you might not have the best night sleep afterwards!” – Vicki of Make Time to See the World on Krampusnacht and Other World Festivals

 Plan your Trip: Booking.com

Hogmanay | Scotland

When: December 31st, 2019
Where: Edinburgh, Scotland

New Years may be excellent in any part of the world, but in Scotland, it’s extra special. Possibly derived from the Norse winter solstice, customs include first-footing (being the first to enter a home or neighborhood), fireball swinging, eating steak pie, and singing along to Auld Lang Syne.

[easy-image-collage id=4025]

Why you should go: “Picture the core of the city bustling with people partying, jumping from one stage to the other as 5 bands are usually playing at the same time all over the place, staring at fireworks as midnight approaches, having a blast even when the weather doesn’t help and you will start understanding how much fun it is. And then add popular dances, an ice rink, Christmas markets, a ferris wheel, a torchlight procession on the 30th, a proper music festival on the 31st, the nuts Loony Dook race that ends up swimming in the not so warm waters by the Forth bridge on the outskirts of the city as well as an art explosion taking over 9 bizarre venues called Scot:Lands. I doubt there is another place on earth rocking NYE as much as Edinburgh!” – Inma of A World to Travel on Loony Dook

Plan your Trip: Booking.com 

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Travel doesn't always have to be serious. The world is full of weird and wonderful things, you know? 21 weird and unique world festivals for 2017.

Ever been to any of these weird / unique world festivals? Got any plans for festival travel in 2019? Be sure to check out the links throughout the post to start planning your trip!

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8 Comments

  • Reply
    Gemma
    January 13, 2017 at 10:49 pm

    Really want to go to Up Helly Aa! Exciting festivals, thanks for featuring us.

    • Reply
      Taylor Record
      January 17, 2017 at 12:20 am

      Isn’t that a Scottish right of passage or something, Gemma ;)? Thanks for sharing SXSW! Hope you get to go again soon!

  • Reply
    21 unique world festivals to attend once in your life - #TLCJ
    January 24, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    […] Source: 21 weird + unique world festivals you can’t miss in 2017 – travel outlandish […]

  • Reply
    Katie
    February 14, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    Great list of festivals – another one is Frozen Dead Guy Days in Nederland Colorado http://frozendeadguydays.org/. I haven’t been yet but would love to go

    • Reply
      Taylor Record
      February 14, 2017 at 8:51 pm

      Ha! I actually had that one on the list, but decided 21 sounded better than 22. Looks like it should have made the cut. I got to go once when I was a kid, and I do remember it being sufficiently bizarre!

  • Reply
    Shahzaad Kamboh
    January 12, 2019 at 3:12 am

    Thank you, for the shot of inspiration, Taylor.

    The world sure is full of beautifully weird or weirdly beautiful things or places.

    Reading this post makes me feel like I now have already been there, in each of this festival. But can’t wait to actually be there. Thanks.

    • Reply
      Taylor
      January 13, 2019 at 5:04 pm

      Hey Shahzaad. Festivals are great for that! The photos really bring a place to life in the way a landmark or scenery shot can’t. Do you have any festival travel planned this year?

  • Reply
    Shahzaad Kamboh
    January 14, 2019 at 8:21 am

    Ah! not in particular at this very moment but who knows I may strike with one while wandering.

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