By Mary Isokariari
Festivals are a great way to experience a destination. Here are some of the world’s most vibrant and breathtaking cultural events to help you plan a trip of a lifetime.
Carnival of Venice
Enter the realm of make-believe at the Carnival of Venice, one of the oldest festivals in Italy, famous for its distinctive masks and elaborate costumes. The event from 11-28 February is a unique experience, mirroring what the Venetian world would have been like 300 years ago.
Walk around in fancy dress and admire this alluring city floating on water. Wander down secret passageways and narrow backstreets or board a gondola and cruise along Venice’s Grand Canal to catch a glimpse of renaissance and Gothic palaces. Appreciate this destination through genuine local experiences by learning about the Venetian tradition of carnival masks and paint your own to take home. Enjoy Tuscan cuisine with Count Miari Fulcis on his 15th century organic olive oil estate situated in picturesque rolling hills. Used as a location for many famous films, Room with a View was filmed here. Finally, watch Venetian craftsmen at work creating local specialities at a traditional glass blowing workshop on Giudecca Island.
Experience the electrifying energy and fascinating cultures of Brazil by witnessing the spectacle of Rio Carnival. The world-famous festival, which takes place from 24 February to 1 March celebrates the end of the hot summer with a famous parade in the nearly 2,300-foot-long Sambadrome stadium, which holds up to 90,000 spectators.
Explore the exhilarating sights and sounds of this intoxicating country. Soak up the stunning views from atop Corcovado mountain and gaze at the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, one of the New7Wonders of the World. Experience the magic of Iguassu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is home to one of the world’s largest waterfalls or ride a cable car to the peak of Sugarloaf Mountain to get a bird’s eye view of the mouth of Guanabara Bay. Discover the charm and beauty of Santa Teresa, which originated around a convent during the 16th Century and make sure to visit a renowned churrascaria restaurant for a barbecue complete with a caipirinha mixing demonstration.
Get ready for one of the greatest shows on earth; complete with giant parades, masked riders and marching brass bands playing blues and jazz, as well as rock and roll. Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) in New Orleans occurs on 28 February and celebrates the coming together of various cultures. Join the elaborate American costume party featuring multi-coloured wigs, glittery masks, oversized hats and huge feather headdresses. Throw beads and other ornaments while following the flamboyant floating processions along St. Charles Avenue onto Canal Street, located near the atmospheric French Quarter.
A trip to this multicultural melting pot would not be complete without tasting the amazing home-cooked Cajun, Creole and southern-style cuisine that New Orleans is famous for. Top notch dishes include, traditional seafood or chicken gumbo (stew), Jambalaya (a spicy meat or fish rice-based dish), oyster pie with buttermilk biscuits, and bananas foster (vanilla ice-cream with liqueur and cinnamon sauce).
Listen to the soothing sounds of blues and jazz any night of the week. During the day, stop at Frogmore Cotton Plantation and Gins to learn about the white gold of the Mississippi Delta. Cruise along the Mississippi River and explore undeveloped reaches of Louisiana or kayak through swamps and bayous to discover alligators, various species of birds and other animals.
Holi is one of the most joyous holidays of all Hindu festivals, celebrated primarily in North India on 13 March. Children and adults alike throw coloured gulal (powder) at one another while getting drenched in water to commemorate the immortal love of Radha and Lord Krishna. The ‘Festival of Sharing Love’ also marks the beginning of spring; a season of joy and hope that sees people hugging while wishing each other ‘Happy Holi’.
Take a fascinating journey around one of India’s most dynamic cities, Agra. Home to the Taj Mahal – considered one of the world’s most romantic monuments – watch as its ivory-white marble exterior shimmers at dawn and reflects the moon’s light late into the night. Walk along the pathway beside the reflecting pool with fountains up to the marble mausoleum, which is jewelled with semi-precious stones where the Queen rests in peace with her King.
Experience the colourful sights of Old Delhi all from the backseat of a three-wheel rickshaw. Weave in and out of cars, goats, sheep, mopeds and the bustling crowds of pedestrians and pick up aromatic spices from the market while skirting around this marvellous city. Visit the sleepy town of Narlai in Rajasthan, have dinner in the former hunting lodge of Jodhpur’s Royal Family and hear some fascinating stories about the hotel and the locals.
Images Courtesy of Trafalgar