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May 2017

Unique Summer Festivals From Around the World

International festivals that encourage summer travel

Summer is a great time for travel. With the warm weather, destinations around the world host all manner of festivals that lure people from abroad. Some of these are well-known celebrations, yet many festivals are still unknown outside of their homes. In this article we’ll take a look at five unique festivals from around the world, some you may know and others you can discover for yourself.

Fiesta de San Fermin (Running of the Bulls) – Pamplona, Spain – July 6-14


The Fiesta de San Fermin in Spain is known by many across the world, thanks to Ernest Hemingway. To celebrate San Fermin, the patron saint of the city, raging bulls are released into a crowd of runners who make their way across 800m of city paths. Participants can either actively participate in the encierro (bull run) themselves, or stick to the sidelines with a drink in hand. The festival is highly contentious, particularly among those who value animal rights. It’s also dangerous for the participants as well. Bulls are known to run up to 55km per hour, meaning a human could not outrun one. Runners must then find ways to jump out of harm’s way by knowing their routes. This festival is hardly “boring” in the adjective sense, however there have been instances when runners have received just that from a bull: a boring.

Wife-Carrying World Championships – Sonkajärvi, Finland – First saturday in July

Do you trust your partner? Finnish women take the physical challenge as they let their male counterparts carry them across Market Square in the municipality of Sonkajärvi. The origins of the festival are much darker: it has loose ties to the era when warriors would pillage other villages for women. Winners are awarded with the woman's weight in beer, among other trophies. And, since it’s 2017, the only men going home with their carried women are the ones already married to them.

Naadam - Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia – July 11-13

Naadam is a celebration and showcase for traditional Mongolian activities, such as archery, wrestling, horse racing, and, of course, celebratory drinking. Held inside the National Sports Stadium in Ulaanbaatar, participants show their fortitude in a number of games. Women are welcome as well for all competitions aside from wrestling. The celebration has existed for centuries, used also by Genghis Khan to recruit new soldiers. And when it’s all done and the trophies are awarded, all can kick back with some nice airag (fermented milk from a mare).

Gilroy Garlic Festival – Gilroy, California – Last weekend in July


Garlic reigns supreme at this foodie festival, where a dusty field is transformed into a veritable carnival celebrating all things garlic. The city, dubbed also the “Garlic Capital of the World”, is known for growing the pungent gem, so it’s only appropriate that it should host the gathering of food vendors in "Gourmet Alley", where 65,000 portions of garlic-enhanced dishes are sold. From the commonplace garlic sausage to the not-so-common garlic ice cream, there's something for both the hesitant and bold foodie. Cooking demonstrations, live music, and the Miss Gilroy Garlic Festival competition are other attractions to look for. In the end, the savory celebration raises money for charity as well.

Burning Man Festival – Black Rock Desert, NV –  Aug 27-Sept 4


Closing summer is the famous Burning Man Festival, held in a makeshift “city” in the middle of the Nevada desert. Attendees leave behind civilization as they travel to the middle of nowhere for a gathering of art, experimental ideas, a release from capitalistic and commodified society, and, at the end, the burning of a large wooden effigy dubbed "the Man". The festival started modestly in 1986 along the beach in San Francisco. As it grew, it was moved to Black Rock Desert near Reno, Nevada. Throughout the 90s, the festival grew further still, such that Black Rock Desert became more and more like a city itself, complete with rules. While some old-timers scoff at the inevitable growth of the festival (the availability of Wi-Fi has caused some eyes to roll), for many attendees, Burning Man remains an oasis where like-minded freethinkers can come together and exist, albeit temporarily, in something akin to a utopia.

Will you travel this summer? What festivals or destinations are you looking forward to? Let us know your thoughts on our Facebook Page, and be sure to “like” TELC English for more articles on culture from around the world!


Bild: © Fotolia, jakkapan

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