Most Unusual Festivals Around the World - Award Winning Destinations

Most Unusual Festivals Around the World

We all love community gatherings in which people celebrate different occasions from religious milestones and cultural events to the coming of spring and a good harvest. While some are flat out bizarre and not for the faint-hearted, you might be guessing from the title, how crazy can they be, well, read on!

1. Cheese Rolling - Gloucestershire, England, UK

Every year on a cool day at the end of May, grown adults gather in the village of Brockworth to chase a rolling nine-pound wheel of Double Gloucester cheese down a steep hill. Before the race down Cooper’s Hill begins, the fences are removed, the undergrowth is cut and the site is swept through for stones and other dangerous objects, but the race is still dangerous for competitors and spectators. Over the years, many have been seriously injured due to the steepness and unevenness of the hill and the bulk and speed of the cheese itself. Around 4,000 people regularly come to watch the spectacle.

2. Pamplona Bull Run

The Bull Run is part of the Fiesta San Fermin, which runs from July 6th to the 14th every year. Basically, a group of charging, angry bulls are released, chasing men down the streets for over half a mile. The goal? To get away before a half-ton bull knocks you down. Since the Bull Run tradition began in 1910, there have been over 300 people injured and some killed. The cause of death is usually goring by a bull, with only one death a result of being hit by the bull’s horns. Despite the physical harm a bull can cause to a human, particularly during a bull run, these animals are highly respected among the Spanish people.

3. Burning Man - Black Rock Desert, Nevada, USA

At the end of every summer, an artistic community comes together to create and dismantle a city in the Nevada desert. Founded in 1986 in San Francisco, California, Burning Man is a mindset as well as a festival. Some of the group’s values include ‘radical’ inclusion, self-reliance, self-expression, community cooperation, decommodification and more. The community celebrates by combining all their individual talents to create artistic sculptures, buildings, performances, art cars, and more that all participants can enjoy. The event culminates in the burning of a large wooden man, which has reached a height of 105 feet in recent years. After the event, the festivalgoers aim to leave no trace of their activities by restoring the environment to exactly as it was when they arrived.

4. La Tomatina - Buñol, Valencia, Spain

The Spanish Tomato Festival has run annually in August during a weeklong celebration in Buñol since 1945, when a rowdy crowd took the tomatoes from a vegetable stall and started a food fight. The hour-long tomato fight uses up an estimated 300,000 pounds of tomatoes. Since 2013 La Tomatina has been a ticketed event to limit participants to just 20,000. Before then, up to 50,000 guests had been reportedly involved in the food fight. After an hour of free-for-all tomato tossing, trucks spray down the streets and many participants wash themselves in the pool of “los peñones.”

5. Air Guitar World Championship - Oulu, Finland

The Air Guitar World Championship has been held annually in Oulu, Finland, since 1996 as part of the Oulu Music Video Festival. What started as a joke has turned into a serious draw for the event. Participants must play air guitar on stage in two rounds with each lasting at least one minute, one song is chosen by the participant and one by the organizer. They must play air guitar only, no drums, piano, etc. and are scored out of 6.0. The ideology behind the event is a simple one: ‘Wars would end, and all the bad things would go away if everyone just played air guitar.’

6. Boryeong Mud Festival - South Korea

Tourists and locals alike are happy as pigs in mud during July in the town of Boreyong in South Korea. For two weeks, the Boryeong Mud Festival draws millions of visitors from around the globe. Here, you can wallow in mud along the coastline and enjoy the cosmetic benefits of the mud’s mineral qualities. The festival began in the late 1990s to promote the region’s mud-based cosmetic products but has developed into a major tourist event. Truckloads of mud are laid out on Daecheon Beach, where festivalgoers enjoy mud wrestling, mud skiing, mud slides, and even body painting with specially colored mud. You can also enjoy a rejuvenating mud massage.

7. Monkey Buffet Festival - Thailand

Visit most animal sanctuaries around the world, and you will be asked not to feed the animals. However, in Thailand, there is an entire festival dedicated to feeding the monkeys. On the last Sunday of November each year, the residents of Lopburi, one of the oldest cities in Thailand, prepare a massive banquet specifically for their resident monkeys. Long-tailed macaques inhabit the ancient Khmer ruins and also freely roam the streets of Lopburi, gnawing on everything from food scraps to electricity cables. However, the monkeys are considered to be descended from the Monkey King and to bring good luck, so the locals are unwilling to engage in any sort of pest control. Instead, they hold a banquet in their honor, and local residents decorate their homes with fruit sculptures to attract good fortune and prosperity from the long-tailed inhabitants.

8. Jalilkattu, Tamil Nadu, India

This bull-taming festival held in Tamil Nadu is part of the Pongal celebrations. The main event consists of a specially bred Bos Indicus bull getting released into a crowd of brave participants that hump on the bull’s back and try to hang on as the bull rages in the crowd. Unsurprisingly, casualties are an inevitable part of this festival. Jalilkatu was first practiced in the 3rd century BC as a test of bravery among the ancient Ayars. The festival was briefly banned in 2017 but violent protests by the local population gave the local authorities no choice but to revoke the ban.

9. Battle of the Oranges, Ivrea, Italy

Every year, Ivrea hosts one of the largest modern food fights in the world. The festival recreates the Revolt of 1194 against the king who practiced his tyranny on the people of Ivrea for years. The revolt was successful, and this festival celebrates the liberation of the people of Ivrea. The only difference between the two events is that the modern Ivrea festival uses oranges rather than weapons.

10. Sweet Wars Festival, Vilanova, Spain

Even though this festival isn’t internationally famous, it’s the only Catalan festival to survive General Franco’s regime. Despite the attempts to ban the festival, it carried on throughout the years and today, it’s Vilanova’s biggest festival. As its name suggests, the main event consists of thousands of participants divided into groups throwing sweets at each other. The festival also features an array of other mock battles, pranks, and a lot of social satire to honor Sa Majastat el Rei Carnestoltes (His Majesty the King Carnival), also known as the” King of the Senseless”.

11. Hadaka Matsuri, Okayama, Japan

The most famous of festivals is the Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri in the city of Okayama in western Honshu. This particular Hadaka Matsuri has blown up to legendary proportions. More than 10,000 loin-clothed participants gather at the Saidai-ji temple to vie for the title of “the lucky man,” an honor achieved by catching the shingi or sacred lucky sticks. The one “lucky man” must not only capture the symbolic batons, but he must also successfully defend himself against 10,000 contending men before thrusting them into a container filled with rice. His efforts are well rewarded, however: Bestowed upon him will be abundance, wealth (a cash prize), and bragging rights for an entire year.

12. Baby Jumping Festival | El Salto del Colacho

This is one of Spain’s more weird annual festivals which has taken place in the Province of Burgos since 1621. During the act, known as El Salto del Colacho (the devil’s jump) or simply El Colacho, men dressed as the Devil (known as the Colacho) jump over babies born during the previous twelve months of the year who lie on mattresses in the street. The festival has been rated as one of the most dangerous in the world. The origins of the tradition are unknown, but it is said to cleanse the babies of original sin, ensure them safe passage through life and guard against illness and evil spirits.