Five of the World’s Most Unique Festivals

10 Oct Five of the World’s Most Unique Festivals

Festivals around the world offer travelers unique possibilities for connection—to history, culture and each other. In such a whirlwind environment, a traveler’s experience can be truly transformative. And did we mention? Fun!

While celebratory gatherings are nothing new, the modern traveler has more to choose from than ever before. With a world of festivals at our fingertips—celebrating everything from resurrection to rockets—why not add one or two to the next travel adventure?

Here are five unique festivals to add to your travel wish list.

1) White Nights Festival/Scarlet Sails

St. Petersburg, Russia

May – July

Photo by Irina,

Photo by Irina,

An iconic crimson­-sailed ship, framed by a waterfall of fireworks on the Neva River, is just one glimpse of White Nights, Russia’s premier arts and classical music festival.

For 3 months of long summer days and twilight nights, classical music performances the likes of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” top off a bevy of nightly operas, ballet performances, film premieres, and carnivals in which actors in period costumes reenact historic events.

Between performances, you can stroll along the River Neva, past roving gypsy bands, jugglers, sword swallowers, fire eaters, Russian mimes, and stage acts.

And if classical music and ballet are not your thing, not to worry. There is also a Jazz Festival, a Brass Music Festival, a Film Festival, a Romantic Music Festival, a Dance Festival, and a Sand Sculpture Festival during the 3 month extravaganza.

The Stars of the White Nights was created in 1993 by Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Theatre as a “musical gift” to St. Petersburg.

Sail into St. Petersburg during May, June or July during the White Nights Scarlet Sails Festival to explore the cultural epicenter of Russia.


A schedule of performances and tickets are available here.

Linblad Expeditions has a Baltic cruise which includes a 2 day stop in St. Petersburg each April through May. 1 (800) 397-3348 

GeoEx arranges customized trips to stunning St. Petersburg. As they say, “Just let us know what intrigues you.”


2) Argungu Fishing Festival in Nigeria

Argungu, Nigeria


Photo by

Photo by

Argungu, in northwestern Nigeria, plays host each February or March to one of the world’s most frenzied of festivals. A gun blast signals the start of a 1-hour contest whereupon thousands of fishermen and fisherwomen plunge into the murky Matan Fada River to catch fish using only a net and their bare hands.

It’s all part of an ancient fertility ritual which marks the end of the growing season and welcomes in the fishing season.

When the hour is up, the participants stagger, exhausted, up the stone steps to have their catch tagged and weighed. The pair that catches the largest fish wins. In 2007, it took 4 men to hoist their winning 75 kilo fish onto the scales.

After the winning fishermen are crowned, the crowds and participants dance and sing long into the night.


Bushtracks, leaders in tours to the continent of Africa, can help you design and customize your own trip to Nigeria., 800-995-8689


3) Near Death Experience Festival

Las Nieves, Spain

July 29

Photo by News Spain.

Photo by News Spain.

The Fiesta de Santa Marta de Ribarteme, also known as The Near Death Festival, is held on July 29 each year to celebrate those who died and returned to tell the tale. The survivors are carried through town in coffins to the cemetery and around the church.

Thousands come to pay their respects to Santa Marta de Ribarteme, the patron saint of resurrection, also known as the ‘Saint of Death.’ The pilgrimage to the church is led with an effigy of the saint and participants chant, “Virgin Santa Marta, star of the north, we bring you those who saw death.”  The parade winds its way through town to a tiny church where the mass is broadcast on loudspeakers outside to the thousands unable to fit into the church.

After mass, there are fireworks, copious servings of pulpo a la gallega (Galicia’s ‘signature dish’) and dancing in the streets to gypsy dance bands.


Backroads offers “Anywhere Anytime” private bike tour offerings and “custom trips.” 1 (800) 462-2848


4) Rouketopolemos or Rocket War

Chios, Greece

Easter Sunday

Photo by Eleftherios Kostans.

Photo by Eleftherios Kostans.

Rouketopolemos—the ‘Rocket War’—takes place annually on the night before Easter on the Greek island of Chios. Starting at 8:30 pm and ending at 12:30 am, two rivaling churches in Vrontados, the Agios Markos and Panagia Erithiani, fire rockets across the 400-meter valley that separates them. Meanwhile, worship services are held inside. The goal is to hit the rival church’s bell tower.

The origins go back to Ottoman times when the Greeks, forbidden to worship, used the noise of the rockets as cover while they continued holding their annual Easter service. Actual cannons were used until the Ottoman Empire banned the practice in 1889. Since then, wooden rockets are loaded with an explosive mixture containing gunpowder.

Thousands of tourists come to watch the display each year. Direct hits on each belfry are counted the next day to determine the winner. However, each parish invariably claims victory over the other, they agree to disagree, and the rivalry continues.


Sail Greece aboard Expedition Adventure’s tall ship Seacloud to Greece. 1.800.EXPEDITION (1.800.397.3348)

Backroads “Anywhere Anytime” private bike tour offerings will take you anywhere you want to go, including Greece.



5) Bluedot Festival

Chesire, England

Photo by Peter Gaunt.

Photo by Peter Gaunt.

This intergalactic festival of music, science, food and the exploration of space takes place under the shadow of the Lovell telescope in Cheshire, England. The festival gets it’s name ‘blue dot’ from the photograph of earth taken in 1990 by the Voyager 1 Space Probe.

Revelers gather for the 3-day, mind-bending celebration to watch electronic musical performers, astrophysicists and ambient light show artists. There are lectures, debates, robot workshops, pulsar hunting, parades, and graphene making.

A 2016 Blue Dot festival attendee posted on Facebook, “Fabulous festival! And not just JMJ’s awesome set and unbelievable light show, but the mix of science talks, exhibits, the Luminarium, the Outer Space, Brian Eno’s ambient artwork, the excellent beer… And plenty of musical surprises, especially in the Nebula tent… We had a blast!‬”

The festival is supported by the UK Space Agency and the EuroScience Open Forum, Europe’s largest interdisciplinary science meeting, which meets in nearby Manchester the same week.


Details and registration at

Backroads offers trips to England including “Anywhere, Anytime, the Choice is Yours! Private trips.”


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Robin Sparks
Robin Sparks writes stories that connect hearts across borders, ethnicities, and different belief systems. Her stories have been published in numerous magazines and newspapers including The San Francisco Examiner, Yankee Magazine, The Reno Gazette Journal and Women’s World. She is a former travel columnist for the Reno Gazette Journal and former assistant editor for the online magazine, Escape Artist. She is writing a book about her 9-year global search for a new home in a new country - an odyssey which took her to France,Thailand, Nepal, Brazil, Turkey, Argentina, and Bali. Today Robin is based in Marin, California with homes in Istanbul, Turkey and Bali, Indonesia. Robin facilitates and teaches writing workshops around the world.
Robin Sparks

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