Student Flights Samba dancer with refreshment, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil


Alternative bucket list festivals for those who dream a little differently

Published September 13th, 2017

Are you someone who likes to travel not just to experience a different culture but then to also feel a part of that culture even if only for a day? Someone who would rather a festival where you drink sangria from a sack in between dodging bulls rather than crushing red-bull-and-vodkas while dodging singlet wearing bros?

Yes? These are the off-the-beaten-path and cultural festivals you need to add to your ever-growing bucket list. 

Oktoberfest - Germany

This has got to be at the top of everyone's bucket list. It's not just a European must-do; it ranks up there as one of the world's biggest parties. Oktoberfest is like an adult fairyland complete with rides, food stalls, the best of the German 'wurst' and of course, beer. Millions and millions of litres of it. Enjoy it - no doubt this will be one for the memory books. Where else can you drink from steins the size of your head, burp loudly to oompah music and get away with wearing lederhosen?


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La Tomatina - Italy

 Bunol, home of La Tomatina - is the world's biggest food fight. The atmosphere building up to the 'fight' is like one big street party, with the occasional water fight added just for fun. Technically the festival doesn't kick off until someone has climbed up a greased pole to retrieve a ham (no,really) - however a cannon blast will also signal the start of the tomato onslaught at 11am. Huge trucks packed with tons of tomatoes roll through the street dropping their tomatoes in the middle of the packed crowds. Then it's game on: everyone for themselves in the fight which lasts for an action packed hour!

St Patricks Day - Ireland

The Irish day that captures the world, St. Patrick’s Day is best spent in Ireland itslef. Dust off your green get-up, prime your palate for Guinness, and get ready for cultural festivities like no other. Your day will be jam packed with parades, concerts, city explorations and general running amok.

Harbin Ice Festival - China

 Winters are very long and very cold in Harbin, and for entertainment a tradition of ice carving developed, said to date back to the Qing dynasty when fishermen would pull ice from the Songhua river to carve into lanterns. This has evolved into an epic winter festival, with artists and sculptors competing to create the largest, most extravagant and intricately detailed structures. Entire buildings - cities, almost - are reimagined in frozen form. The festival is the largest of its kind in the world.


Winter Wonderland❄️ #travelgram #harbinicefestival

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Day of the dead - Mexico

 Although Die de los Muertos is celebrated all over Mexico, Oaxaca is known for its particularly ornate celebrations, with festivities taking place up to a week before November 1st and 2nd. Shop for an outrageously loud costume to wear during the festivities, get your face painted, or visit the giant sand tapestries at the Museo del Palacio (which are made just for Dia de los Muertos). November 1st is the most traditional and culturally fascinating day of the Day of the Dead celebrations. On this day families prepare altars for their deceased loved ones, which they display at homes and over graves at cemeteries.

Naadam festival - Mongolia

 Mongolia’s annual Naadam Festival is a centuries-old tradition that dates back to the era of the great Khans and their dynasties. Wrestling, archery and horse racing, the three skills that Chingis Khan considered essential for any Mongol warrior, are showcased today at the country’s largest celebration of the three sports.

Rio Canival - Brazil

Head to Rio for Carnival, the world's largest street party. Rio Carnival. The biggest party on the planet. And the oldest festival in the world. If you ever wanted to experience all the pleasures of the flesh in one wild party then Rio is for you. Held for five days, 40 days before Easter, the end of the Carnival signals the beginning of Lent, which means this festival was historically seen as a final farewell to all things fun. These days it’s a euphoric event filled with parties dancing and singing.

Timket Festival - Ethiopia

 Timket festival is a three festival that commemorates the baptism of Jesus Christ in the river Jordan by John the Baptist. Today the priests remove the 'Tabots' (replicas of the Ark of Covenant) from each church and march to the nearest water source, where the communal baptism takes place. The procession is accompanied by thousands of locals dressed in dazzling white traditional dress that contrasts the colours of the ceremonial robes and sequined velvet umbrellas of the priests.

Calgary stampede - Canada

 Travel to the slick city of Calgary, home to what's known as the greatest show on earth: the Stampede. It's all about Alberta's pioneer past and ranching tradition at this massive cowboy carnival. This mind-blowing festival is surely going to be an unforgettable experience, get ready for a whole lot of action over the next two days. From bull-riding to calf-roping, steer-wrestling to cow-tackling, our amazing seats have you up close to these electrifying events at the Rodeo.


These boots were made for walking (and Saddle Bronc. Bareback, Bull Riding, Tie-Down Roping, Steer Wrestling and Barrel Racing).

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Sapporo snow festival - Japan

 This is Japan's biggest snow festival and full of beautiful snow sculptures, exciting food and lots of different activities. The markets serve up hot wine, which is great to warm you up while you enjoy the spectacular sculptures.

However, if you are more of a red-bull and duff duff fan then our exclusive tickets to Ultra Melbourne might be more up your alley...

Student Flights

Sam Aldenton

Sam Aldenton is a travel writer, digital content creator (read: takes photos/videos with her iphone and sometimes a real camera) and former retail and youth trend forecaster. When she's not off discovering the world’s best pizza (an obsession picked up from her 4-years in New York), she makes her home in Brisbane, Australia. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram at @samaaldenton.