This July sees fantastic festivals kicking off all around the world. When you're planning your travels, be sure to factor in a stop at one of these events for an experience like no other.
What better way to get a taste of the vibrant local culture than at an event that celebrates history, the people and what makes the area unique?
July 6 – 14, Pamplona, Spain
Held in honour of Saint Fermin, the annual festival of San Fermin has become internationally renowned. It celebrates Spanish culture throughout many events, many of which are rooted in rich tradition and folklore.
The festivities kick off with a bang when a rocket is launched by the mayor from the balcony of city hall. People hailing from all over Pamplona and beyond wave their red-neck scarves as street bands begin to play music that fills the streets and everyone sings along.
The most famous event is arguably the Running of the Bulls, otherwise known as the Encierro. Hundreds of people run in front of charging bulls and steers down a stretch of narrow streets in the old town section of the city.
Hear the emotional and passionate chants of the runners pumping themselves up, asking Saint Fermin to bless them before the run. After a breathless few minutes, participants complete the run and the bulls are herded into Pamplona's bullring. Being a spectator of this thrilling event is an intense experience.
Every day of the festival is packed with fun and energy with a whole host of sporting events, displays of ancient art and music, dancing, fireworks, parties and more.
June 29 – July 7, Puri, India
Otherwise known as the Chariot Festival, this is a massive Hindu celebration of Lord Jagannath, or the Lord of the Universe. Millions of people from throughout the country and beyond arrive excited to take part in the festivities.
Deities are transported on huge, gilded and intricately decorated chariots that are built new every year by devotees. Lord Jagannath has a chariot known as Nandighosa, a wooden structure with 16 wheels, and vibrant red and yellow fabrics making up the body. These constructions are magnificent, towering over visitors and conveying the glory of the Gods.
The chariots are pulled through the streets of Puri, marking their journey to their aunt's temple, the Gundicha Temple. At the conclusion of the festival, the chariots and the deities are returned to the Shri Jagannath temple.
Over the course of the festivities, various ceremonies take place to embrace the deities, including songs with drums, tambourines and trumpets, as well as offerings.
This festival is one of epic proportions and a great way to come into contact with the spiritual side of this dramatic and colourful country.
July 24 – 25, Osaka, Japan
Japan has a long and splendid history that can be encountered at this festival. The thousand year old spirit of Osaka is still alive and well in Tenjin Matsuri, one of the three greatest festivals of the country. Here, many aspects of Japanese tradition is displayed, including performing arts like kagura music and bunraku puppet shows.
One aspect that makes this festival special is the land and boat procession. Over 3,000 people parade through the city, decked out in traditional imperial costumes from the 8th – 12th centuries and are flanked by portable shrines. When the crowds have passed through the city, night is beginning to fall. They board 100 boats lit up with fires from the Tenmabashi Bridge and sail upstream. Visitors can watch the procession and fireworks display from pavilions of river banks.
The festival is dedicated to Sugawara-no-Michizane, the god of learning and art, and the Tenman Shrine is a central point. The whole city is filled with festivities, however, with events happening throughout.
Each of these festivals promise a wonderful celebration where you can get caught up in the energy and tradition of various places around the world.