Travelling offers unique experiences and the most memorable are often the extravagant ones. Every country celebrates distinctive festivals and traditions rooted in local history and culture. Some events are so bizarre that they surprise anyone who attends them. If your main motivation for travelling is to discover different ways of life, here are five of the world’s strangest festivals and traditions.
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Lopburi Monkey Banquet in Thailand
Every last Sunday in November, Lopburi, Thailand hosts the Monkey Buffet Festival. This custom has been ongoing since 1989 and sponsored by local merchants to attract prosperity to the community. The festival is a thanksgiving to the monkeys, beloved inhabitants who contribute to local tourism. At the Temple of Phra Prang Sam Yot, thousands of monkeys are honoured with colourful fruits and juices. Lopburi, still little known, also offers magnificent temples and a National Park, guaranteeing an authentic tropical experience. Nearby, you can stay at MRK Resort & Massage, a beautiful traditional property with air-conditioned rooms and a relaxing Thai-style garden.
Night of the Radishes in Oaxaca, Mexico
Every 23 December in Oaxaca, Mexico, the evocative Mexican tradition of the Noche de Rábanos, or Night of Radishes, comes to life. It is a radish-carving contest in which local farmers showcase their artistic skills. Started in 1897, this extravagant event attracts visitors from all over the world to admire carved radishes depicting elaborate scenes. Oaxaca, with its magnificent squares and churches, offers the perfect atmosphere to immerse yourself in Latin culture and enjoy local delicacies. To sleep in the heart of the city, the Grana B&B offers you a memorable stay in a traditional atmosphere with a panoramic terrace.
Lerwick Up Helly Aa in Shetland, Scotland
Every last Tuesday in January, Lerwick, in the Shetland Islands, Scotland, hosts the Up Helly Aa. Europe’s largest fire festival celebrating the Viking roots of the population with parades and a spectacular closing bonfire. The event dates back to 1880 and involves all the inhabitants of the town. Disguised as Viking warriors, people parade through the streets and pubs throughout the day. The most spectacular part of the Up Helly Aa festival, however, is in the evening, when the participants set fire to a traditional Viking wooden boat in the concluding bonfire. To make the most of this experience, you can stay at the Islesburgh House Hostel, a property overlooking the Jubilee Floral Park, perfectly placed to enjoy the day of the festival.
International Hair Freezing Contest in Yukon, Canada
Every February, the International Hair Freezing Contest takes place at the Takhini Hot Springs in Yukon, Canada. This quirky festival attracts participants from all over the world, ready to soak in the hot springs and then freeze their hair into the most extravagant shapes. The Takhini Hot Springs are a 30-minute drive from Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon, surrounded by breathtaking scenery. To participate in the festival, you can stay at the Inn on the Lake – Whitehorse, a short drive from Whitehorse, a property with an enchanting view of Lake Marsh for a unique experience in the frozen Yukon lands.
The Battle of Oranges in Ivrea, Italy
Italy can also boast a very special festival. During the mid-February carnival, the town of Ivrea in Piedmont hosts the traditional Battle of the Oranges. During this battle nine teams fight each other by throwing oranges. The tradition dates back to 1808 and re-enacts a historical revolt, symbolising the people’s struggles against the nobility. The participants wear colourful costumes, embellished with bells on their ankles. Dora maison de charme, a structure overlooking the Dora Baltea with an exceptional view of the river, is perfect for witnessing the Battle of the Oranges because it is centrally located.
Write to me in the comments if you also agree that these unique traditions are perfect for an immersion in local cultures as well as memorable adventures on the road.