Our eclectic list of the World’s best cultural events emphasises authenticity and the ability to be thought-provoking.
All the events on our list are memorable and remarkable occasions that will challenge your thinking and create memories that last a lifetime.
Number 5. La Tomatina, Spain
Throwing tomatoes in a giant food fight sounds almost juvenile – and it is. Due to the incredible popularity of this event hosted in the small Spanish village, Brunol (approximately 40 kilometres from Valencia), participation is ticketed and now capped to 20,000 participants.
If getting covered in tomatoes isn’t quite messy enough you can compete in the palojabon.
The Palojabon is a greased pole with a Spanish ham at the top. Whoever can climb the pole and reach the ham wins! Added bonus, winners can keep the ham, that is the prize. Most attempts fail, of course, which makes for a hilarious spectacle.
The event’s origins are obscured, however there is general agreement that it started out as a sign of disrespect to petty politicians. The event seeks to bring about equality through squishy tomato frivolity.
Release your inner child – and don’t wear white… http://latomatina.info/la-tomatina/
Number 4. Day of the Dead, (Dia De Muertos), Mexico
Different cultures approach the issue of death and respect for ancestors in a myriad of ways. Few cultures immerse themselves in the ancestor remembrance as comprehensively as the Day of the Dead in Mexico.
The day is an official public holiday on 31 October and continues to 2 November each year.
Heavily decorated altars adorned with flowers, and skeletons and skulls made from alfenique, moulded sugar paste, are built all over Mexico.
The altars can also include wooden sculptures, patterned paper, clay pottery and food offerings. Markets sell sugar skulls and Dia De Muertos merchandise for the fortnight prior.
The festival is not gruesome or horrible, rather, it is a way to revere and remember one’s ancestors.
No specific location in Mexico stands out as exceptional for the Day of the Dead and it is not really a conventional festival. However, you will find pockets of intense observance throughout the country and it is gaining a broader following throughout Latin America and globally.
Number 3. Berlinale (Berlin Film Festival) Germany
While there are some amazing classic film festivals including Cannes, Venice and Toronto, for the cinephile, Berlin stands out as the largest film festival.
Rolling out the red carpet through the middle of February each year, this massive film festival dominates Berlin’s fashion, art, dining and media landscapes.
The grand scale makes the Berlin Film Festival both accessible and diverse. With over 400 films and half a million tickets sold annually, the Berlin Film Festival has a program comprised of seven subsections which could each be stand-alone events in their own right.
A major film industry market event, the European Film Market, is held at the same time further reinforcing the star power on offer. Film screening venues include the Prussian Parliament and many of the best cinemas in the world for both comfort and screen quality.
Number 2. Secret Solstice Festival, Iceland
This is a new event that commenced in 2014, however it provides another reason to visit Iceland along with the world’s only music concert held inside a volcano!
But beware - this event is restricted to just 20 patrons for a price of 250,000 Icelandic Krona (approx. AUD $2750). While that is a steep investment it includes helicopter transfers from Reykjavik to the Thrihnukagigur Volcano; and access to an acoustic concert located 140 metres underground.
It also includes VIP tickets to the three-day music festival back in Reykjavik during the epic summer solstice where the sun never sets.
Number 1. Burning Man Festival, Nevada USA
Dreamers, pyromaniacs and creative constructors this one could be for you. For those who love a good bonfire and some desert sun, with a bonus of up to 10 days of desert dust and pumping electronic music then welcome to the festival that is Burning Man.
Held in a temporary community constructed in the vast space of a dry lake, a playa, in the Black Rock Desert, attendees become a citizen of the “burner” community from the last Sunday in August to the first Monday in September.
Disclaimer: this is niche event that won’t appeal to everyone. And that is what makes Burning Man so great. This a radical, self-reliance festival that is now capped at 70,000 diehard participants and sells out months in advance.
The event is run by its own non-profit organisation on the following philosophy : "Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community."
The counter-culture vibe to this event is strong and that makes it both unique and complex.
The elaborate art and “unconditional giving” make Burning Man a continuation of Woodstock’s legacy. It is ecologically sustainable with a “leave no trace” policy.
Plus a bonus - Tết - Vietnamese New Year, Vietnam
New Year is the most important celebration in Vietnamese culture. Like much of Indo China the New Year is based on the Chinese calendar for the first new moon in late January or February. Tết celebrates the arrival of spring and is usually celebrated on the same day as Chinese New Year.
Tết also has national significance as it is the anniversary of a major battle in 1968 during the Vietnam War. For Australians, the festival shows the resilience of the Vietnamese people. It is a time to look to the future with optimism and a chance to reflect on a tragically shared past.
Fireworks, lanterns, dragons, feasting and goodwill make Tết an exciting time to experience Vietnam.