Have you ever ticked off a bucket list destination while there was a big event in town? The heightened party atmosphere, whole-city celebrations and unique experiences will catapult that trip to your all-time favourite memories.
After all, visiting Venice during the Venetian Carnival will make those few days unforgettable. Just like a trip to Japan is something you’ll always remember, going during cherry blossom season is something you’ll speak of for years to come.
Bucket list events are a great excuse to book a trip and get up close with authentic, cultural experiences. Click steins of beer with Bavarians at Oktoberfest, embrace the colours of Holi in India and see the greatest upcoming artists at Edinburgh Fringe. Here are the bucket list events to seek out around the world.
1. Christmas markets in Europe
Medieval squares lit up with fairy lights, traditional choirs and music playing, glühwein and roasted nuts filling the air… it is magic to experience a European Christmas market. Cities throughout Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Italy and Scandinavia transform into enchanting winter wonderlands during December. Visit these bucket list destinations during the festive season for an extra jolly experience – and a chance to buy Christmas gifts.
2. Holi in South Asia
Each spring Holi, the colourful and vibrant Hindu religious festival, pops up across South Asia. The festival of love is observed in India and Nepal and anywhere with large Hindu populations. Thanks to its bright colours and message of love, Holi has become a bucket list event drawing people to South Asia at this time of year. Have you been or would you add this event to your bucket list?
3. Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Carnival celebrations pop up across the globe just before lent, but nowhere does it quite like Brazil. In the great city of Rio de Janeiro more than two million people attend a week-long party. The city fills with floats and huge samba schools who showcase strong drum rhythms and fast-paced dancing. The sheer scale of this bright and brilliant event makes Rio’s Carnival a bucket list event worth flying across the world for.
GET INSPIRED BY: Impressions of South America
4. St. Patrick’s Day, Ireland
Ireland is a fantastic destination to visit year-round, but there’s no better time to visit than during this uniting national celebration. On St Patty’s day the streets fill with good vibes and the pubs spill out with patrons enjoying whiskey, beer and a few too many pints of Guinness. In the capital city, Dublin, the annual parade draws nearly a million people to the streets. Dress up in green and enjoy the fun – the luck of the Irish will be on your side.
GET INSPIRED BY: Best of Ireland
5. Cherry Blossom Festival, Japan
Each April, fragrant pink cherry blossom trees burst to life drawing locals out for picnics and events throughout Japan. The picture-perfect trees bloom across the whole of Japan at different times, so plan your footsteps carefully. In the city of Kyoto the historic shrines and temples host events, performances and ceremonies worth visiting, plus in April you can see geishas strolling the streets as part of the Miyako Odori Geisha Dance. Mount Yoshino is another favourite spot to view the spring blooms, with some 30,000 trees lining the slopes. Arrive early to beat the crowds.
6. Oberammergau Passion Play, Germany
In 1633 the local villagers promised to perform the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ every 10 years if they stopped succumbing to the deathly plague. Fast-forward nearly four centuries and the 42nd Oberammergau Passion Play will take place from 14 May to 2 October 2022. Local actors bring the story of Jesus of Nazareth to life in this mega-sized once-in-a-decade production – don’t miss it!
GET INSPIRED BY: The 7 Trafalgar tours to take to best experience different religions
7. Day of the Dead, Mexico
Celebrated throughout Mexico, the Day of the Dead is a special holiday where families and friends gather to pray for and remember their loved ones who have passed on. Día de los Muertos was even listed with UNESCO as intangible heritage in 2008. Time your vacation to Mexico to line up with this bucket list event and witness this unusual and theatrical cultural day.
8. Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany
Did you know this beer-drinking festival started as a marriage between Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese? In 1810 the locals were invited to the ceremony and requested a celebration every year. Now the mega-sized festival is a bucket list event that sees tourists fly in from around the world to clink steins, stand on tables and sing German tunes. There’s also carnival rides and plenty of Bavarian culture. Pack your lederhosen.
GET INSPIRED BY: Imperial Europe
9. Mardi Gras, New Orleans, USA
If you don’t make it to Rio de Janeiro, head to New Orleans in February for the wildest Mardi Gras festival in the world. The lively city of New Orleans knows how to throw a party and this bucket list destination and event combines incredible Cajun food and jazz music with colourful beads, parades and parties.
GET INSPIRED BY: Tastes and Sounds of the South
10. Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Scotland
Every August Edinburgh Festival Fringe takes over the Scottish capital as the biggest celebration of arts and culture on earth. For three whole weeks in the peak of summer Edinburgh transforms into the creative capital of the world with artists and performers flying from across the globe to take stages big and small across the city. If you’re a fan of the arts, this bucket list event is a must-see.
11. Sapporo Snow Fest, Japan
Imagine a world made entirely of snow and ice. Each year the Sapporo Snow Festival attracts around two millions people for this unique week-long festival. Wander through ice mazes, marvel at intricate sculptures and witness entire buildings made of frozen water. A fun one for the whole family! If Japan is on your bucket list, plan your travel to coincide with the festival.
12. Carnival of Venice, Italy
A third carnival on this bucket list of events? Well, there’s something magical about seeing locals come together for a city-wide celebration and Venice in Italy does carnival unlike anywhere else. Falling 40 days before Easter, the Venice Carnival is best known for its magnificent masks with street performances, masquerade balls, canal parades and fancy suppers. About three million visitors descend on the city for carnival each year with people contesting for the most beautiful mask.
13. Yi Peng Lantern Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Passionate photographers will be drawn to this unique festival celebrating the final full moon on the Thai lunar calendar, which usually happens in November. Chiang Mai is the best city to witness gorgeous decorations and flower wreaths that adorn many Buddhist temples. At sunset, thousands of paper lanterns begin to float high into the sky while the fragrant scent of incense fills the air. Simply magical.
14. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, New York, USA
Since 1924 this annual three-hour parade has marched through the streets of New York City each Thanksgiving. More than 3.5 million people flock to the streets to witness the mega parade with more than 1500 dancers and cheerleaders, 1000 clowns and 30 floats. The huge parade of floats and costumes has been televised since 1952, but if you’re in New York at the same time, be sure to catch it in real life.
GET INSPIRED BY: New York
15. Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland
Each July the Montreux Jazz Festival brings big names from Nina Simone to David Bowie to Kendrick Lamar to the stage. This bucket list music event falls around the gorgeous Lake Geneva with a backdrop of Swiss mountains. There’s nowhere dreamier to watch concerts, attend pool parties and see big names join jam sessions.
Have you attended any of these bucket list events? Let us know in the comments which bucket list destination is next on your list?…