5 Unmissable Summer Festivals in 2016

January 29, 2016 by Alexandra Gregg

With key world events like the Rio Olympics and the Battle of the Somme centenary coming up this summer, we reckon it’s going to be one of the best years for festivals, celebrations and commemorations. To prove our point, we’ve selected five unmissable summer festivals in 2016:

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Pride Festival March

WHERE? 5th Avenue and West Village, New York City
WHEN? 25th June 2016, from midday
TELL ME MORE: The gay rights movement began in the Big Apple and this event is all about paying homage to its roots. Simultaneously fun and serious, it commemorates the 1969 police raid on New York’s Stonewall Inn – which provoked a revolt against police treatment of gay people – while showcasing how cohesive and resilient the LGBT community has become since then. Gay Pride is actually a month-long affair, packed with carnivals, AIDs fundraisers and awareness events, all of which culminate in the Pride March. Bright, colourful and proud, this incredible parade will put beaming smiles on the faces of spectators and activists alike.

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Summer Solstice

WHERE? Worldwide
WHEN? 20th June 2016
TELL ME MORE: The Summer Solstice is the stuff of fairytales. The day (almost) never ends, vampires and nocturnal animals alike are confounded by the lack of darkness and, around the worldwide, people celebrate a higher power – from Mother Nature to prehistoric ancestors. There is a plethora of places to mark the longest day of the year, but our favourites are Stonehenge for the late-night Druid party; Svalbard for being the lightest place to visit; Reykjavik for its not-so Secret Solstice Festival; and Egypt for the sunset, which goes down between the Great Pyramid and its neighbour.

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Havana Carnival

WHERE? Havana, Cuba
WHEN? Weekends in July and August
TELL ME MORE: From its fifties architecture to the rhythmic beats of traditional Cuban music, Havana does culture and colour better than anywhere else. Even this festival has been running for more than four centuries, making it one of the country’s oldest celebratory events. An explosive collection of vibrant floats, costumes and street parties are the order of the day (or rather, weekend), with festivities continuing into the wee hours. If you like rum, fiery dancing and fireworks, this is the event for you.

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Gion Matsuri

WHERE? Kyoto, Japan
WHEN? Throughout July
TELL ME MORE: Dating back to the 9th century, Gion Matsuri (the festival of Yasaka Shrine) is one of the most famous celebrations in Japan. In Kyoto, the entire month of July is given over to its elaborate processions, night street-food markets and ancient customs, wherein Japanese locals exhibit their family heirlooms for those partaking in the festivities. The highlight, you ask? A larger-than-life parade comprising 32 decadent floats, some reaching 25 metres in height. It’s pretty spectacular, especially considering the festival’s roots lie in appeasing the gods to prevent disease.

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Burning Man Festival

WHERE? Black Rock Desert, Nevada, USA
WHEN? The last Monday in August to the first Monday in September
TELL ME MORE: For the active festival-goer, this is an event not to be missed. Tens of thousands of people gather in the Nevada desert for a week of partying, creativity and construction: together the attendees build a temporary town that goes by the name of Black Rock City. Within this Mad Max-esque metropolis, art installations are made, incorporating sculptures and mechanical steam-punk-style monsters. All the creativity comes to a head on the final day, when a giant wooden effigy is burnt and the city dismantled in a bid to signal the end of the summer season.


Planning your holiday so it includes one of these incredible festivals? Speak to one of our Travel Experts about tailor-making your Journey so the timings are perfect.


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About Alexandra Gregg

Once a roving local news reporter and now a travel-obsessed writer/sub, I'm head-over-heels for nature, wildlife and the ocean. When I'm not underwater or deploying a snorkel, I'm seeking out the sets of my favourite TV shows around the world. Tweet me @wonderg1rl