If you’re planning a short break or weekend away next year and fancy timing it with a colourful, cultural holiday or festival overseas, then this guide is for you. Check out our full guide to the best dates to travel to Malaysia, India, Cambodia, Indonesia and more below – plus see a few snaps of what to expect in the gallery.
Dragon Boat Festival:
Crowds munching on sticky rice dumplings (zongzi) will be streaming to this exciting event that originated in China over two thousand years ago and now takes place in Chinese communities all over the globe. A festival of many names, it’s also known as Duanwu, Tuen Ng and Double Fifth Festival (falling on the fifth day of the fifth month).
2 June 2014
Rainforest World Music Festival, Sarawak, East Malaysia:
This three-day musical celebration has grown and grown since its inauguration in 1997. Dance along with 20,000 others to anything from local native chants and African dance to American folk music and percussion troupes.
20 to 22 June 2014
Boryeong Mud Festival, South Korea:
Since 1998, visitors have been getting down and dirty at the Boryeong Mud Festival, caking themselves in the nourishing, mineral-rich mud from the Boryeong mud flats while being entertained with bands, mud games, fireworks and more – all for around S$10 a day.
18 to 27 July 2014
Chinese and Vietnamese families gather in the evening to admire the mid-autumn harvest moon while eating mooncakes and pomelos.
8 September 2014
Pchum Ben, Cambodia:
Also known as the Festival of the Ancestors; food, flowers, rice and gifts are given to monks, while religious rites are carried out on the streets.
26 to 28 September 2014
Hari Raya Haji:
Marks the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia by Muslims worldwide. There’ll be bazaars to attend, and mosques and relatives to be visited.
5 October 2014
The “Festival of Lights” is a joyous four-day Hindu celebration of the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. Head down to Little India in Singapore to see the lights and street decorations, feast on festive delicacies, get a henna hand tattoo and join in the fun.
23 October 2014
Pushkar Camel Fair, Rajasthan, India:
One of India’s most highly rated travel experiences, a spectacle on an epic scale, attracting more than 11,000 camels, horses and cattle and visited by over 400,000 people.
30 October to 6 November 2014
All Saints Day, Philippines:
A day of remembrance of the dead and an important holiday for the Catholic Church. People attend Mass, decorate loved ones’ tombs and spend the day in graveyards with picnics.
1 November 2014
Bon Om Tuk/Water Festival, Cambodia:
Celebrate the end of monsoon season. Brightly decorated dragon boats will race over the three days and Phnom Penh will be super-crowded.
16 November 2014
Hornbill Festival, Nagaland, India:
Launched in 2000 by the Government of Nagaland to bring together the 16 major tribes of the region, the Hornbill Festival colourfully celebrates the Naga’s cultural heritage. Buy yourself a hornbill headdress, practise your moves and join in the fun.
1 to 10 December 2014
The Emperor’s Birthday, Japan:
This is one of only two occasions when the inner grounds of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace are open to the public, and Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will greet the flag-waving crowd.
Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, China:
Set in Harbin’s coldest months (and we’re talking minus 20 degrees Celsius or considerably lower!), this festival features stunning works of art, all created with over four million cubic feet of ice from the Songhua River – giving a whole new meaning to Winter Wonderland.
5 January until end February 2015
Ati-Atihan Festival, Kalibo, Panay Islands (Visayas), The Philippines:
This flamboyant fiesta, dubbed “The Mother of all Philippine Festivals” began in the 13th century when a small group of Malay chieftains landed on the Panays and were sold land by the local Ati people. To celebrate, the Malays painted their faces black to look like the tribe. This tribal celebration has now evolved into a wild, rhythmic, street party in honour of Santo Niño (the infant Jesus).
19 to 26 January 2015
Outdoor concerts, sporting competitions, fireworks shows and backyard barbecues are held all over the country to celebrate all things Australian.
26 January 2015
In Singapore, get up early to witness the 4.5-kilometre “Walk of Faith” by Hindu devotees carrying brightly decorated kavadis, burdensome metal frames with sharp skewers piercing their tongues, cheeks and bodies. Other major processions take place at the Batu Caves, just outside Kuala Lumpur, and George Town in Penang.
3 February 2015
Waitangi Day, New Zealand:
Commemorates the signing of Treaty of Waitangi, the founding document for New Zealand. Celebrations include flag-raising, naval salutes, Maori cultural performances, family-themed festivals, sports events and more.
6 February 2015
Chinese New Year:
Traditional Chinese decorations and lights abound. Families have a reunion dinner on Chinese New Year’s Eve and visit relatives over the next 15 days. Many businesses close for the whole week.
19 to 20 February 2015
Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival:
The Java Jazz Festival, first held in 2005, was projected to attract around 120,000 visitors in 2014 with 180 acts, including Jamie Cullum, Natalie Cole, Roy Ayers and Incognito. Arguably the biggest jazz festival in the Southern Hemisphere.
6 to 8 March 2015
Sakura (Cherry Blossom) Season, Japan:
Not really a festival, but a spectacular event nonetheless. The blossoming begins in Okinawa in January and reaches Kyoto and Tokyo late March to early April. When the blossoms are at their peak, the Japanese turn out in large numbers at parks, shrines, and temples to picnic, relax and admire the flowers.
Late January to early April 2015
Nyepi, Bali, Indonesia:
The evening before Nyepi (Balinese New Year and “Day of Silence”), loud street processions are held to drive away evil spirits with gongs, drums and huge, papier-mâché “ogoh-ogoh” monsters. On New Year’s Day itself, Bali retreats into silence for 24 hours. No work. No travel. No cooking. No noise. Even the airport closes. Village wardens (Pecalang), there to enforce the rules, are the only people outdoors. The idea is that any demons and evils spirits will be deluded into thinking that Bali is deserted, prompting them to leave the island.
21 March 2015
Ching Ming Festival:
Also known as Tomb Sweeping Day or Mourning Day where Chinese families visit their ancestors’ graves to offer incense and flowers.
4 April 2015
Lao New Year:
Laotians shower one another with water and white powder as a blessing, and pray at temples. Fun to watch, though it is the hottest time of the year.
13-15 April 2015
Songkran Festival, Thailand:
The Thai New Year often attracts droves of tourists and locals, where people splash water on one another as a blessing.
13 April 2015
Chaul Chnam Thmey, Cambodia
Cambodian New Year involves dressing up, visiting temples and cooking feasts with family. Celebrations last three to four days. The Angkor temples will be packed.
14-17 April 2015
Myanmar New Year:
Burmese visit their elderly to pay respect, and visit the temples. A religious tradition is to release caged birds or fish into lakes and rivers to gain merit. The accompanying Thingyan Water Festival is great to watch.
17 April 2015
Hamamatsu Festival, Japan:
For over 440 years, the Japanese have fiercely wielded their kites in kite fights at this festival. Fliers attempt to cut their opponents’ 5mm hemp string by using their own kite string to create enough friction to break the line. The last kite still flying is the winner as it soars through the leftover smoke created by the friction.
3 to 5 May 2015
Buddhists bring offerings of flowers, candles and joss sticks to temples where rituals are held to commemorate the birth, the Nirvana (enlightenment), and the Parinirvana (death) of Gautama Buddha. This is the most significant day of the Buddhist calendar.
1 June 2015
Ningaloo Whale Shark Festival, Exmouth, Western Australia:
When the world’s largest sharks visit in hordes, what do you do? Hold a festival, of course! Fortunately, whale sharks are completely harmless to humans so everyone can swim with these friendly giants. Floating parades, market stalls and plenty of beach game stations will be set up to celebrate the annual arrival of the whale sharks.
22 to 24 May 2015