Everyone loves a good festival – whether it be food and wine, wellness, film or cultural. To combine a cultural festival with your travels, is the ultimate travel experience and we share with you the best festivals to experience in 2017!
Tibetan Horse Racing Festival – China
In the isolated and mysterious village of Shangri-la, the Tibetan region of the Yunnan Province, a horse racing festival takes place each year on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month, at the foot of Wufeng Mountain. Horse racing in Shangri-la dates back to 770 B.C. This folk festival is one of the most important in the area, acting as a grand springtime rally for local Tibetans. Not only is the festival a sporting competition for showcasing horsemanship, but it also serves a celebration of different folk traditions, including local singing and dancing. Amongst the spring flowers blooming on the warm Yunnan grasslands, this colourful festival of youthful passion and equine exuberance brings idyllic Shangri-La to life.
For five days every year in October, the city of Kolkata takes on a new visage as the city celebrates Durgapuja, the largest and most vibrant festival of Bengal. Despite being a modern city, the underlying tempo of life is set by a cultural heritage dating back to ancient times. The cult of Goddess Kali or Durga dominates the lives of people. The lanes and parks of Kolkata transform into an open art exhibition as various groups compete to set up lavish and innovative pandals (makeshift prayer arrangements), each displaying an interpretation of the Goddess Durga. The ten-armed Goddess saved the world from evil when she slayed the demon, Mahishasur. Durga is a symbol of woman power. In her modern incarnation, she brings a message of destroying evil in its many forms -hunger, poverty, gender discrimination, ecological change and even terrorism.
Ambunti Crocodile Festival – Papua New Guinea
A cultural and environmental celebration, the Sepik River Crocodile Festival takes place over three days in August, highlighting the importance of the crocodile and its cultural significance amongst Sepik River communities. In the Sepik culture, man and crocodile share a special bond, as the crocodile symbolises strength, power and manhood. This festival features live crocodile encounters, traditional dancing, colourful costumes and visits the sacred spirit houses where men undergo intensive initiation rituals.
Hornbill Festival – Nagaland, India
Nagaland tribes traditionally organised and fought each other but came together during World War II to fight against the invading Japanese army. The week long annual fest is named after the colourful bird, Hornbill, which is widely respected and depicted in Naga folklore. Elaborate red head-gear, an exquisite warrior ornament fashioned out of feathers of this bird and multi-coloured beads can be seen during the festivities. With the longing to revive, protect and promote the rich Naga heritage, all tribes dress in their traditional battle-gear and bring alive the age-old traditions. You will witness remarkable cultural dances, indigenous sports, paintings and sculptures expressing headhunting, decoration of morungs or unmarried men’s communal houses.
Timket is a religious festival celebrated with much zeal throughout Ethiopia. The festival is the Ethiopian Orthodox celebration of Epiphany and venerates Christ’s baptism in the River Jordan. Although the festival is observed by orthodox Christians all over the world, in Ethiopia it takes on a special significance as it is the most colourful event of the year in the country. The most relevant symbol of the festival is colourful embroidered umbrellas that protect the sacred Tabot and the priests carrying the Tabot.
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This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.