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9 Unmissable Festivals in Asia

9 Unmissable Festivals in Asia

We believe that destinations in Asia are often at their best during festivals: locals in welcoming holiday mode, streets awash with colour and a chance to see centuries-old traditions played out in front of you. If you’re currently planning a luxury tailormade cultural tour in Asia, these are the nine festivals to try to factor into your forthcoming trip.

FEBRUARY

Chinese New Year, China

Wednesday 29 January - Wednesday 12 February 2025

Determined by the Chinese lunar calendar, the date of Chinese New Year (or Spring Festival) falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice, between 21st January and 20th February. Celebrations are centered around removing the old and the bad and welcoming the new and the good with gifts, good food, family gatherings, fireworks, lion and dragon dances, temple fairs, and flower market shopping. In the run-up to the New Year, families clean and redecorate their houses with spring couplets (red paper strips with black or golden characters), lanterns, new flower pots and furniture. Celebrations traditionally last for 16 days starting with Chinese New Year's Eve and ending with the Lantern Festival.

MARCH

Holi Festival, India

Friday 14th March 2025

Every spring people across India and around the world celebrate the Hindu Festival Holi. Known as the "Festival of Colours", Holi is celebrated on the last full moon in the lunar month of Falgun to celebrate the end of winter, love and new life. The ritual starts in the evening of Purnima by lighting up the bonfire to symbolise the triumph of good over evil. On the day of Holi, everyone heads to the streets to throw coloured water and powders (gulal) over one another in a raucous celebration. Holi is a fantastic time to be in India, as the country comes together to celebrate in a manner quite unparalleled! This makes it a very popular time to travel, so make sure to make your travel plans well in advance to experience it in the best possible way.

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JULY/AUGUST

Esala Perahera, Sri Lanka

Saturday 10th - Tuesday 20th August 2024

The Esala Perahera, also known as the Festival of the Sacred Tooth, is one of the oldest and largest Buddhist festivals in the world. It takes place every year in July or August in Kandy, Sri Lanka to honour Buddha’s sacred tooth, the relic of Kandy’s famous temple of the same name. The festival, which lasts for 10 days, is characterised by a procession of dancers, drummers and fire-eaters parading their way around Kandy Lake and the Temple of the Tooth, alongside ornately decorated elephants, the largest of which carries the sacred relic belonging to Lord Buddha that was brought from India in 4th Century CE.

OCTOBER

Durga Puja, India

Wednesday 9th - Sunday 13th October 2024

Kolkata’s Durga Puja is a grand and vibrant festival celebrating the goddess Durga's victory over the demon Mahishasura, symbolising the triumph of good over evil. It typically falls in September or October. During this time artisans craft elaborate clay idols of Durga, displayed in intricately decorated pandals (temporary structures) across the city. The festivities, lasting five days, are rich with rituals, cultural performances, and pandal hopping, where attendees admire the artistic themes and craftsmanship. The celebration includes feasting on Bengali delicacies and concludes with the immersion of the idols in the river, signifying Durga's return to her divine abode. Durga Puja is not just a religious observance but a cultural, social, and artistic event deeply embedded in community and tradition. It’s impressively sophisticated and artistic - think Venice Biennale but with an Indian flavour and a lot of extra spirituality!

Diwali, India

Friday 1st November 2024

Diwali is an important five-day festival that takes place every year between October and November. Known as the 'Festival of Lights', this is possibly the most significant celebration of culture on the Indian Subcontinent, bringing together Hindus, Sikhs and Jains to celebrate the triumph of light over darkness, and good over evil. This is a very special time to be in India; you can expect feasts, fireworks, fairy lights and incredible festivity as the country celebrates its largest holiday. As with Holi, this is a very popular time for travel to India, so it is worth making your plans well ahead of time to secure the best possible accommodation.

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NOVEMBER

Pushkar Camel Fair, India#

Saturday 9th November - Friday 15th November 2024

One of the world’s largest camel and cattle fairs, India’s Pushkar Camel Fair is a must-see for anyone travelling to Rajasthan in November. It all kicks off with a camel race and the tempo continues at a similar pace for the next fortnight, culminating in a day of religious festivity when pilgrims bathe themselves in the holy Pushkar Lake.

Black-Necked Crane Festival, Bhutan

11th November 2024

Black-necked cranes are one of the rarest birds on earth and, in Bhutan, are considered sacred and revered as a symbol of longevity. Every year, approximately 300 birds migrate from their breeding grounds in the Tibetan Plateau in China across the Himalayas to the Phobjikha Valley, seeking warmer temperatures. Their arrival in Bhutan in early November is celebrated during the Black-Necked Crane Festival, which takes place in mid-November in Gangteng Monastery. You can expect folk songs and mask dances performed by locals, school children and monks.

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DECEMBER

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, Heilongjiang, China

Public viewing from mid-December 2024 to mid-March 2025 Official opening ceremony on 5th January 2025

Every December, Harbin, a city in China’s northernmost Heilongjiang Province, is transformed into a winter wonderland of beautiful ice and snow sculptures drawing tourists and photographers from across the globe. The festival opens in late December and lasts for around two months until late February when the snow starts to melt. As well as glorious ice sculptures, the festival includes many activities such as ice-sailing, sledging, ice hockey, ice football, speed skating, skiing, fishing, swimming, painting and photography exhibitions, dance performances and wedding ceremonies on ice.

Mahabalipuram Dance Festival, Tamil Nadu, India

25th December 2024 - 21st January 2025

Bordering South India's Indian Ocean, Mahabalipuram hosts a month-long dance festival with performances from the country's greatest classical Indian dancers. Watching them perform Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Odissi, Mohini Attam and Kathakali against this magnificent backdrop of ancient Pallava rock sculptures can truly be considered a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

If you’d like to experience one of these spectacular events as part of your next Asian adventure, get inspired by our suggested itineraries, or speak to one of our travel specialists to create your own tailor-made trip.

The Most Spectacular Festival in Sri Lanka - Esala Perahera

Diwali - India’s Festival of Lights

India’s Pushkar Camel Fair

Bhutan’s Black Necked Cranes


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