June Festivals and Events
1. Inti Raymi Festival, Cusco, Peru
This festival, which is called the Festival of the Sun in English, is actually the second-largest festival of any kind in the whole of South America. It can trace its roots back many centuries, when the Inca people initiated the festival to worship Inti, one of the most important gods in their pantheon, to mark the winter solstice. Seeing as Peru is located in the earth's southern hemisphere, the winter solstice takes place in June. Sadly, the festival was outlawed from the time of the Spanish conquistadors until the middle of the 20th Century, but it has been revived in the time since (minus the mass sacrifices, thankfully). It take place annually on June 24th.
2. Montreal International Jazz Festival, Montreal, Canada
If you're considering going to this festival, be prepared to be joined by millions of other jazz music lovers from around the world. In fact, it's the largest jazz festival held anywhere in the world. No less than 3,000 musicians take part each year, and many of the world's most famous jazz names can be found in each new year's lineup. What makes this festival even better is that some two-thirds of all the concerts that are held during the festival are put on entirely for free. It's unbelievable to think that the festival has grown to become the largest event of its kind in the world in the space of just 35 years.
3. Summer Solstice, Stonehenge, UK
The world-famous circle at Stonehenge comes alive on the day of the northern hemisphere's summer solstice, June 21st, when druids, pagans and other believers visit the sacred site to watch the morning sun rise through the perfectly-aligned stones on what is the longest day of the year. If you're a more adventurous type, you can try camping the night before the solstice and watch dawn break at the monument, as the people in the photo above are doing.
4. White Nights Festival, St. Petersburg, Russia
St. Petersburg is the northernmost big city in the world, so as you can imagine, its people love to celebrate the warmer months. The date for the White Nights Festival actually varies from year to year, however the festivities always reach their crescendo around the summer solstice on June 21st. The White Nights Festival came into being to celebrate the midnight sun by means of artistic performances, and these range from opera to ballet and music. While the core of performers participating in the festival are Russian, there are many international performers that also participate. The festival concludes with the Scarlet Sails, an enormous fireworks show.
5. Parintins Folklore Festival, Parintins, Brazil
Held in the city of Parintins, which is located on an island in the Amazon River, this folklore festival is bursting with color. Brazilians call it Bumba Meu Boi, or "hit my bull" when translated into English. According to the folk tale around which the festival is based, a bull dies and is brought back to life by a series of characters, including a pregnant girl, a priest and a cowboy, among others. Each year, the folk tale is interpreted through song and dance by row upon row of colorfully-dressed performers. The festival takes place annually in June, and while Parintins represents the core of the festivities, other similar celebrations can be found on the same day throughout northern Brazil.
July Festivals and Events
1. Running of the Bulls, Pamplona, Spain
This San Fermin Festival, during which the infamous Running of the Bulls takes place, has taken place since at least the 14th Century in honor of St. Fermin, who is the patron saint of Navarre. Each year, six bulls and six steers are let loose for a half-mile run through the streets of Pamplona, with hundreds of runners dashing ahead of the animals in a bid to avoid being gored, or even killed, by them. The run finishes at the town's bullring. If running in front of crazed bulls doesn't sound like your idea of fun, don't worry - just make sure you get a spot sitting in a balcony above the route to the bullring, so you can witness the chaos unfolding below you in total comfort and safety.
2. Palio di Siena Horse Race, Siena, Italy
This famous race is the Italian equivalent of the Triple Crown in the US, and two races are held to honor two saints. The first race of each year takes place on July 2nd, whereas the second takes place on August 16th. It was first run in the mid-17th Century, and still follows the same route in the present day as it did at its inception. Some 10 horses take part, with each one representing or originating from a different district in Siena. The horses compete for the palio, or banner, which features a depiction of the Virgin Mary. The race gets underway following a procession full of Sienese people dressed in colorful medieval costumes.
3. Nadaam Festival, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Mongolians are known for their horsemanship, and Nadaam is one of Mongolia's biggest annual celebrations, featuring wrestling, long-distance horse racing and archery. Many dancers also participate in the festival while wearing traditional Mongolian dress. The revelry kicks off with nine riders on horseback transporting nine yak tails into the main stadium. This is done in honor of Genghis Khan, the great conqueror, who founded the Mongol Empire.
4. Calgary Stampede, Calgary, Canada
The Calgary Stampede is one of the world's most famous rodeos, and can trace its origins back to the traveling wild west shows of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. In its modern incarnation, the best cowboys in the world compete for a $2 million prize. In addition to the rodeo itself, live concerts and a carnival also take place. The Stampede's opening is also very grand, with the parade to mark the occasion being some 2.5 miles (4 km) long. The locals even call it "the greatest outdoor show on earth".
5. Bastille Day, Paris, France
On July 14th, 1789, the French people took the future of their country into their own hands and stormed the infamous Bastille prison. They did so because the ruling monarchy at the time was locking people up inside it for no apparent reason. This event triggered the French Revolution, which led to the overthrow of the royal regime. Despite the day being a nationwide celebration in France, its epicenter is undoubtedly in Paris. One of the highlights is the ability to witness one of the largest and oldest military parades in Europe making its way down the City of Light's beautiful Champs-Élysées.
August Festivals and Events
1. Burning Man Festival, Black Rock Desert, Nevada, USA
Burning Man is yet another celebration that began its life as a summer solstice celebration, however it has since evolved into something much larger. Undoubtedly you have to be one of our more adventurous readers to consider visiting this festival, because it takes place out in the middle of the desert. It always begins on the last Monday in August, and ends on the first Monday in September. Each year, a temporary town, housing up to 60,000 people, is constructed as part of the festival. Another catch in addition to its remote location is the fact that spectators are not allowed at the festival, which means that every single individual in attendance is actually a participant - you're expected to share some form of art with your fellow participants.
2. La Tomatina, Bunol, Spain
Widely believed to be the world's biggest food fight, La Tomatina takes place in the small Spanish town of Bunol. Such is its popularity, that the number of participants is now restricted. No less than 110 tons of overripe tomatoes get thrown about once the festival is underway, and participants can usually be seen sporting goggles and swimming trunks to cope with the extent of tomato splatter coming their way. With that being said, La Tomatina is about more than just flying tomatoes. Music, dancing, parades and fireworks also abound, as does a paella-cooking contest. If this festival appeals to you, your best bet is to stay in the city of Valencia, then travel to Bunol.
3. Whale Shark Watching, Isla Holbox, Mexico
An island northwest of the Mexican resort town of Cancun is fast becoming one of the most well-known locations for spotting and swimming with whale sharks, the largest fish in the world. Getting to Holbox involves taking a ferry from the Mexican mainland, and depending on the tour company you make arrangements with, you might just be able to swim with the gentle giants in the open sea. Peak season for seeing these spectacular creatures is August.
4. Esala Perahera Procession, Kandy, Sri Lanka
This beautiful celebration is one of the oldest in the world, with its origins believed to date all the way back to the 3rd Century BC. The Perahera consists of five parades that feature, among other things, neon-lit elephants in full parade costumes (pictured), whip crackers, colorful dancers, and a lone custodian wearing ancient royal garb dating back to the time when the city of Kandy, where the festival is held, was a kingdom in its own right.
5. Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the world's largest arts festival, with its main focus being on the performing arts, with live theater a particular point of interest. Actors from up to 50 countries descend on the Scottish capital each year to take part in performances ranging from ancient Greek classics, to the most cutting-edge, experimental theater productions. Musical and opera performances also occur, however they are less common that theatrical performances. Some 2 million people visit the festival each year, and about 40,000 performances take place while it's going on.