Flashes of feathers, the boom of drums and unfamiliar flavours: no wonder visitors around the world are drawn to festivals.
Dancing in processions, cheering on a parade and jostling among performers, street traders and other locals is a fun and fascinating insight into a culture, as festivals reveal traditions, beliefs and scents you may not be accustomed to.
This autumn, here are some of our favourite festivals for you to immerse yourself in.
28 September – 2 October 2022
This annual festival takes place in Seoul’s Olympic Park, on the site of Mongchontoseong Fort – the centre of a former capital known as Hanseong of the 2000-year-old Baekje kingdom.
Celebrate Korean history and culture by observing rice being ground, practising calligraphy and learning how to make Korean moon jars. Watch processions of dancers adorned in South Korea’s national flower, the hibiscus, while men with swords dance the geommu flanked by giant effigies of white tigers.
The festival culminates with a showcase of the history of the Baekje kingdom, told through a spectacular light and sound performance over Seokchon Lake.
24 October 2022
Much as a lighthouse steers ships to safety, during Deepavali (or Diwali), Hindus in Malaysia, and other parts of Asia, fill their homes with light to guide the goddess of prosperity Lakshmi and god of wisdom Ganesha towards them.
Home to more than 700,000 Hindus, the city of Kuala Lumpur has a bustling Little India district that buzzes all year round with Bollywood hits, shops selling aromatic spices and people wandering through colourful clay arches.
Come Deepavali, it’s a hive of noise, colour and joy. See the streets twinkle with lamps while kolams – geometric patterns made from flour – decorate doorsteps in a bid to bring prosperity, as you savour street snacks such as chirote, a sugary, deep-fried pastry, and karanji, crescent-shaped dumplings filled with coconut, cardamom and poppy seeds.
2 November 2022
Some 3,000 years ago, the Aztecs, among other indigenous people in Mexico, believed the dead were transported to Chicunamictlán, the Land of the Dead, before travelling through nine levels to reach Mictlán, their final resting place. Living relatives provided food and drinks to sustain them on their journey, and thus came about the Day of the Dead.
Today, locals believe that the border between the living realm and that of the spirits dissipates on this day, and passed relatives reawaken to eat, drink and dance among the living.
In Playa Del Carmen, parades of Catrinas – skeleton characters dressed in mariachi suits and floral headbands – make their way through the streets to the beat of drums, starting from Juarez Avenue. Have your face painted before taking part in the procession and along the way eat pan de muerto, glazed bread with a round top representing a grave.
Experience these cultural festivals yourself when you stay at Banyan Tree in South Korea, Malaysia, or Mexico.