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7 Summer Festivals Worth Traveling For

5/11/17 by Samantha Larson

Summer is the season of long days, warm nights, kicking back, and having a good time. It’s also the season of festivals: From concerts to longstanding seasonal rituals to sporting events, summer festivities abound all over the world. The choices are seemingly endless, so we combed through the options and hand-selected some of the best. There’s something on the list for everyone, whether it’s bringing in the season with a ceremony at ancient ruins, soaking up great music, or getting down and dirty flinging mud (or even tomatoes!) at your friends. Here, a look at some summer festivals practically guaranteed to create memories that will last long past the fleeting, sun-soaked days.

1. Stonehenge Summer Solstice (Amesbury, United Kingdom; June)

For thousands of years, people have been celebrating the summer solstice at Stonehenge.
For thousands of years, people have been celebrating the summer solstice at Stonehenge. Stonehenge Stone Circle

The summer solstice is the longest day of the year and the first day of the season. In other words, it’s a day that calls for a celebration. And at Stonehenge, the festivities are well-practiced: People have been celebrating the solstice here for thousands of years. This ancient burial site centers on an iconic ring of massive standing stones, some up to 30 feet tall, and if you stand in the right spot to watch the sunrise on the day of the solstice, the golden orb will be perfectly framed by the rock towers. Thousands of people come to watch the event every year.

2. Inti Raymi (Cusco, Peru; June)

Of course, the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere means the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. And for the ancient Incan Empire, the winter solstice, or Inti Raymi, was one of the most important events on the calendar. The biggest ceremony was held in the Incan capital, Cusco, and it’s still held in the city today (although now Inti Raymi is usually held a few days after the true winter solstice). The festivities take place at an Incan ruin called Sacasayhuamán and involve an intricate procession from the sun temple that includes dancing, music, and prayer.

3. Gnaoua World Music Festival (Essaouira, Morocco; June-July)

Musicians perform in the Gnauoua Music Festival, which celebrates traditional music and culture of West Africa.
Musicians perform in the Gnauoua Music Festival, which celebrates traditional music and culture of West Africa. Magharebia

The Gnaoua World Music Festival is a unique cultural melting pot that celebrates the traditional Gnawa music and culture of West Africa while bringing together masters of other genres like jazz and rock. The laid-back coastal town comes to life as 500,000 people gather to open their ears to the rhythm of Morocco. The most unique parts of the festival, however, are much more intimate: the lilas, small star-lit performances where a maalem, or music master, leads a group of musicians and dancers through a repertoire of ancient Gnawa songs.

4. Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival (Edirne, Turkey; July)

One of oldest ongoing sporting events in the world is also one of the most outrageous. In short, pehivlans_—_meaning "champions"—strip down to leather shorts and a slick coat of olive oil, proceed to the middle of the stadium in pairs, and try to pin each other down. The annual Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival dates back to 1346. As the story goes, the event commemorates an evening long ago when the Sultan encouraged two Ottoman soldiers to tussle, offering a pair of leather pants as the winner’s prize. Apparently, the prize was so sought after that the two soldiers fought through the night—and were both found dead, still in a wrestler’s embrace, the next morning.

5. Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival (Brooklyn; July)

The hip-hop movement takes center stage at the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival.
The hip-hop movement takes center stage at the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival. Simon Abrams

Hip-hop is about so much more than dropping a beat: It’s a movement that has become a pillar of American culture. The Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival was founded in 2006 as a four-day appreciation and discussion exploring the deeper side of all things hip-hop: films, workshops, and lectures from some of the industry’s leaders about topics including entrepreneurship, criminal justice, journalism, and activism. The festival also showcases the work of artists, photographers, dancers, and, of course, musicians.

6. Esala Perahera (Kandy, Sri Lanka; July-August)

Kandy Maligawa—or, the Temple of the Tooth Relic—is one of Sri Lanka’s most sacred Buddhist sites. The name comes from holy relic that is housed within: the left canine tooth of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. Each summer, the Sacred Tooth Relic is honored with incredible flair during Esala Perahera, a ritual that includes a five-day elephant procession through the city of Kandy’s streets. One of the elephants carries the ancient incisor in a ceremonial casket on its back.

7. Boryeong Mud Festival (Boryeong, South Korea; July)

Prepare to get down and seriously dirty at the Boryeong Mud Festival.
Prepare to get down and seriously dirty at the Boryeong Mud Festival. Hypnotica Studios Infinite

Boryeong Mud Festival is your inner child’s dream come true: a chance to run wild in mud puddles, fling mud at your friends, and spend the day shamelessly caking yourself in the stuff. Originally put on as a way to promote local mud cosmetics, the Boryeong Mud Festival has grown into a chance for revelers of all ages to frolic in the muck, with a giant mud pool, mud slides, and muddy contests.

8. Cheyenne Frontier Days (Cheyenne, WY; July)

Cheyenne Frontier Days is the world’s largest rodeo and a celebration of a longstanding American icon: the cowboy. The festival draws rodeo masters and spectators from near and far for a series of classic western competitions, including saddle and bareback bronc riding, calf roping, and steer wrestling. If that weren’t enough to lasso you in, there are free pancake breakfasts, square dancing, and country tunes to boot.

9. La Tomatina (Buñol, Spain; August)

La Tomatina turns the streets and festival-goers into a tomato-coated mess.
La Tomatina turns the streets and festival-goers into a tomato-coated mess. Łukasz Lech

At the end of summer, the Spanish town of Buñol becomes awash in tomatoes, after the town breaks out in a massive food fight. The festival begins with a race up a slippery greased pole—while being sprayed with a hose, just to make the climb a little more difficult—in order to grab a piece of ham at the top of the pole. Once the ham has been secured, trucks loaded with tomatoes begin to dump their juicy goods into the town square, which quickly becomes the festival-goers’ ammo. Thousands of people begin to fling the summer vegetables at each other, until the town’s streets become a flowing tomato juice river.

Originally written by RootsRated for ExOfficio.