WHEN TO VISIT FESTIVALS

The best time to go to a festival? When it’s on! Most have fixed dates, publicised long in advance, while others are staged according to weather conditions or local calendars.
Many festivals are intimately connected to the seasons, being held during mild summer months or just after the rains, when it’s pleasant and possible to gather, celebrate, camp and cook. Others, such as Harbin’s Ice and Snow Festival, rely on the extreme cold of winter to run, while in Bhutan, festivals are held throughout the year, but always on the 10th day of the month. Organised tours to witness the world’s festivals know exactly when each event is scheduled to take place and will get you there ready for the opening ceremony, often allowing time either side to explore or relax, too.

WHEN TO VISIT FESTIVALS AROUND THE WORLD, MONTH BY MONTH

January and February are the coldest months in the city of Harbin, northeast China, and this is when its Ice and Snow Festival takes place. Bring thermal gear and expect sub zero temperatures of -16°C at least, cold enough to preserve the sculptures carved beautifully from chunks of the frozen Songhua River. You can also catch the Khovsgol Ice Festival in Mongolia in February – which feels like a party for Mongolians, thrown by Mongolians. The Voodoo festival in Benin takes place on January 10th each year. Benin is dry and dusty at this time, with the harmattan wind blowing down from the Sahara. Paro, not far from Bhutan’s capital Thimphu, stages a popular tshechu across five days during March, which includes the ceremonial unveiling of a gigantic silk scroll, known as a thongdroel – one of Bhutan’s most important sacred blessings. You can find more local tshechus happening in April and May around Bhutan. Get our groove on at the Rainforest World Music Festival, held in mid July or early August each year just outside Kuching, Sarawak. July is also the time to catch some archery, wrestling and horse racing at a Nadaam in Mongolia. Temperatures are pleasant in Mongolia at this time of year – in the low 20°Cs – and the steppe is lush and green. September is a busy month for festivals. Several take place in Bhutan, including the Jambay Lhakang Drup Festival and Thangbi Mani Festival, often at the end of the month or sometimes in early October, depending on the Bhutanese calendar. This is a good time to hike and explore Bhutan, too, as the temperatures are mild and the weather pretty dry. The World Nomad Games kick off in Kyrgyzstan in September, when the sun is warm and the landscape lush. The Gerewol in Chad takes place towards the end of September, after the rainy season, but the exact dates are not usually confirmed until June and may be shifted by a couple of days either side. The Altai Kazakh Eagle Festival is staged in September in western Mongolia, and another, larger event, the Golden Eagle Festival, happens in the first week of October each year. Wrap up for both; strong, intensely cold winds blow across the steppe. In November, celebrate the return of the black necked crane to the beautiful Phobjikha Valley in Bhutan after a long migration, at an eponymous festival that’s about conservation as much as celebration. In December, see the Druk Wangyel Festival in Dochula Pass, around 22km from Bhutan’s capital Thimphu. For both, pack for average temperatures of around 13-8°C.

Our top Festivals Vacation

Bhutan vacation, culture and festivals

Bhutan vacation, culture and festivals

Festival Tour in Bhutan

From £2495 to £2885 13 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2018: 11 Dec
2019: 12 Feb, 12 Apr, 3 Nov
Helpdesk
Hello. If you'd like to chat about Festivals or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.
Written by Joanna Simmons
Photo credits: [Page banner: Arian Zwegers] [Harbin Ice festival: Brain Jeffrey Beggerly]
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