Primarily India and Nepal
Holi is a Hindu festival that takes place in the spring celebrating the triumph of good over evil. It's known as the festival of colors and the festival of love, but it's the colors that are most prominently on display. The celebrations are gorgeous and include a bonfire, vivid color powder, and reconnections with family and friends. Holi is most prominent in India, Nepal, and any other country with a large Hindu population, though the festival has now spread through most of South Asia.
9. Carnevale di Venezia
Local history holds that this celebration began in honor of a military victory, but somewhere down the line it fell into place around Mardi Gras. Carnevale di Venezia dates back to the 12th century, and today some 3 million visitors come to Venice every year to wear Renaissance-inspired masks, throw balls, and party in the canals for the weeks leading up to Lent.
8. Full Moon Party
Haad Rin Beach, Thailand
This isn't actually an ancient or culturally significant festival in any way. It's just a massive party on the beach in Thailand, with several nightclubs in the area spilling out and mingling in celebration of the fact that the full moon looks really, really pretty in Thailand. The festival is held every month, and is known for the wide variety of music to be had as much as for the raucous nature of the festivities.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
You didn't think one Carnival was enough, did you? Rio de Janeiro's massive Mardi Gras celebration is renowned the world over, with 2 million people lining the streets every day to see the massively ornate parades. Costumers, float designers, and samba designers from around the country compete in one of the most flamboyant shows on the planet.
6. Up Helly Aa Fire Festival
Up Helly Aa isn't just a bonfire — it's a procession of nearly 1,000 torchbearers in Viking garb descending upon the town to kick off a massive party that lasts through the night and all through the next day. People party so hard that the day after is a public holiday to help people recover. There are several other fire festivals in the Shetland region, but only Up Helly Aa has thousands of people preparing year-round and enormous, flaming Viking ships.
5. Glastonbury Music Festival
There's no shortage of music festivals in the world. In some ways, this could just as easily have been Austin City Limits, Coachella, or Primavera Sound. Glastonbury's massive celebration, however, is a great place to start. With chances to immerse yourself in music and music lovers for days on end, constantly delighting in favorite acts and discovering new ones, this is an experience that everyone should have at least once.
Of course you've already heard about Oktoberfest. But simply hearing the name, having a local celebration, or watching an underwhelming comedy isn't the same as seeing firsthand the massive scope of the largest Volksfest in the world. A part of Bavarian culture since 1810, the 16-day festival celebrates the region's prodigious beer output in a massive fair environment. You'll be rubbing elbows with about 6 million other people, but they'll be in a good mood.
Another Hindu festival, this five-day holiday is held in honor of the goddess Lakshmi and celebrates the triumph of light over darkness. The light, in this case, is very literal, and that's what makes Diwali stand out. From the oil lamps dotting the landscape and floating in the water to the hanging lanterns and enormous fireworks displays, nothing anywhere in the world compares to the lights shining in the darkness at Diwali. The festival is celebrated in many Hindu countries, but the celebration in India is probably the largest and most impressive to behold.
2. Chinese New Year
The Spring Festival, a more literal translation of the Chinese name, is a 16-day celebration throughout China. Decorations and celebrations affect every aspect of life. Houses come to life with paintings, poetry, and bells. The lion and dragon dances aren't as popular as they used to be, but they can still be seen in Hong Kong and Macau. Nowhere are fireworks displays better than in the country that first developed them.
1. Dia de Muertos
The Mexican Day of the Dead coincides with the Christian All Saints' Day, and serves much the same purpose—to pray for and support friends and family who have passed away in the previous year. While somber in intent, the omnipresence of skulls (often cast in sugar), large number of marigolds, and the remarkable parades and floats make this a striking visual experience not to be missed.