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24 Must-see cultural festivals in Asia


Asian festivals are a fascinating blend of local culture, lifestyle, and religion, each with its own rich identity. They offer insight into the diverse cultures of Asia and the lives of its people. These festivals provide a fun and delightful experience for both locals and tourists. Don’t miss out on these festivals during your trip to Asia. Explore 24 Asian festivals full of adventure, tradition, and diversity for a lifetime of memories.



Harbin Snow Sculpture Festival (China)

Witness the world’s largest ice and snow festivals from January to February, featuring incredible sculptures and tall buildings made from huge ice and snow blocks, decorated with colorful lights and sharp lasers. China is proud to host this wonderful event, rewarding talented artists and architects for their fine carvings while ensuring an amazing experience for visitors. 



Thaipusam Festival (Malaysia)

Thaipusam is one of the largest and most extravagant Hindu festivals in Asia, celebrated by millions of followers worldwide every January in honour of the Hindu God Lord Murugan. In Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur and Penang are two of the most vibrant places to experience the festivities, especially at the Batu Caves on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.




Chinese New Year

February is a great time to visit China because of the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival. February is a great time to visit China because of the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival. February is a great time to visit China because of the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival. This is the most significant and extensive traditional holiday celebrated by Chinese people worldwide. It lasts from the last day of the last month in the Chinese calendar to the 15th day of the first month. This significant event marks the greatest family reunion ever, celebrated inside and outside of Asia. It concludes dragons, fireworks, flowers, and lanterns, as well as symbolic dumplings, desserts, and clothing.



Marha Puha (Laos)

The Marha Puha festival is held on the night of the Full Moon in February to commemorate an inspirational speech given by the Buddha, in which he dictated the first monastic rules to over a thousand enlightened monks. In the speech, he also predicted his own death. Grand parades and candlelit processions take place throughout the country, especially in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, and at the Khmer ruins of Wat Phu near Pakse.




Holi Festival (India)

The festival of colours is an important event in Hindu culture that celebrates the legend of Radha and Krishna. In India and other countries with Indian populations, people gather in the streets to celebrate Holi by throwing dyed dry powders and colored water at each other while chanting ‘Holi Hai.’ Other groups travel from place to place carrying musical instruments and singing and dancing.



Male’an Sampi (Indonesia)

The festival’s name comes from the local Sasak language, with ‘Male’an’ meaning ‘to chase’ and ‘Sampi’ meaning cow. An annual tradition on the Muslim island of Lombok, the event involves a series of cattle races on a 100-metre-long soggy race track and is a favourite among local families.




Songkran Festival (Thailand)

If you travel to Thailand in April, Songkran is a traditional New Year festival that you should not miss. It is also celebrated in different ways across Asian countries, such as Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka, as well as outside of Asia to honour Buddha and pay respect to elders. Thailand is worth visiting at this time as you can have fun splashing water on each other on every street. The festival also marks the end of the dry season and the beginning of the rainy season.



The Bali Spirit Festival (Indonesia)

The Bali Spirit Festival is an annual event that celebrates yoga, dance, and music. It takes place in a stunning venue surrounded by rice fields, jungle, and temples. The festival offers hundreds of workshops for yoga, dance, breathwork, and music, attracting up to 7,000 yoga enthusiasts each year.




Pulilan Carabao Festival (Philippines)

In Pulilan, residents take two days off every year on May 14-15 to show their gratitude to their family buffaloes for their hard work. After a day of cleaning, shaving, and grooming, the buffaloes are treated to massages and adorned with crowns of sweetly perfumed frangipani and hibiscus. Some of the buffaloes are then brightly painted and paraded through the streets in a procession of floats.



Koh Samui Regatta (Thailand)

The annual Koh Samui Regatta is a significant sailing event that attracts over 200 participating teams and thousands of boat enthusiasts from around the world. Over five days, various races will take place around the island, including long-distance and short sprint races, as well as cruising displays. Expect a fun-filled event, with plenty of partying on dry land too.




Singapore Arts Festival (Singapore)

The Singapore Arts Festival is a dynamic event that showcases local and international talent through dance and musical performances, theatre shows, talks, historic presentations, art displays, and more. In addition to headliner performances by internationally renowned artists and troupes, Singapore is illuminated by outdoor, late-night, and children’s shows spread throughout the city for three weeks.



Bali Arts Festival  (Indonesia)

This festival is a unique extravaganza of arts, music, dance, and history celebrating pride in Balinese culture. The festival takes place over an entire month, from mid-June to mid-July. Among other performances, famous masked dances originating from tribal villages are showcased, and ancient classic stories are retold. There is a lively atmosphere throughout the island as both locals and travellers enjoy the celebrations.




Bali Kite Festival (Indonesia)

The purpose of this festival is to send signals to the Hindu Gods to ensure a bountiful harvest in the upcoming year. Kites of various shapes, sizes, and colours soar above Bali, with some measuring up to 10 metres long. Teams from nearby villages compete for the best launch and longest flight. Live music is provided by a Gamelan orchestra throughout the festival, and hundreds of spectators attend.



Singapore Food Festival (Singapore)

Additionally, visitors can enjoy a diverse range of cuisine from around the world. The festival creates a festive atmosphere that is perfect for indulging in delicious delicacies and immersing oneself in the local culture. The festival offers a variety of cultural activities, including street shows in Chinatown, riverboat cruises, music, and entertainment.




George Town Festival  (Malaysia)

The George Town Festival is a month-long celebration of art, music, theatre, dance, opera, and film. It commemorates George Town’s inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage listing on 7 July 2008. Since 2009, GTF has transformed Penang into a platform for the arts, heritage, and culture.


Hungry Ghost Festival  (Chinese communities in southeast Asia)

In August, Chinese communities across Southeast Asia celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival, during which they believe their ancestors’ spirits descend to earth in search of food. Although you may not encounter a ghost, you can experience the festival in Penang, Malaysia, and other places like Phuket, Thailand. Offerings are left outside temples and houses to appease the hungry ghosts during this festival. Chinese Opera performances and puppet shows are also common.




Mid-Autumn Festival (Chinese communities in southeast Asia)

Due to ancient China’s cultural influence, the Mid-Autumn Festival has spread to other parts of Asia. However, the way in which different countries celebrate it varies. In China, people gather under the moonlight to light lanterns, burn incense, and enjoy mooncakes. In other countries, such as lanterns and funny masks are bought in Vietnam, roofs are decorated with pampas grass in Japan, gifts are prepared in Cambodia, and traditional folk games in Korea are relived to celebrate this occasion.



Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival (Myanmar)

A large boat with a bird motif carries the statues of Buddha and is paraded from one village to another connected by the Inle Lake. People pay their respects and enjoy local food sold near the banks of the lake.




Deepavali (Malaysia)

Deepavali, also known as the ‘Festival of Lights’, is a significant event in the Hindu calendar. It is celebrated in Hindu communities across Asia and symbolizes the victory of good over evil and light over darkness. Candles and lanterns are lit to guide the souls of the deceased back to their loved ones during this time. Many Hindus observe strict diets, pray, or fast in the weeks leading up to the festival.



P’chum Ben (Cambodia)

P’chum Ben is a Cambodian festival that occurs on the fifteenth day of the tenth month in the Cambodian calendar. It is believed that the spirits of dead ancestors rise and walk the earth during this time of year. Offerings are made at temples as early as 4 am, with people giving food to the spirits to ease their suffering. Sticky rice is thrown on the ground as it is said to be the easiest food for them to consume.




Yee Peng Festival  (Thailand)

If you remember the stunning photos of thousands of brightly lit lanterns rising into the night sky, you can experience it for real in Chiang Mai, Thailand during the month of November. This magical festival marks the end of the monsoon season and the beginning of the cool season, and symbolizes moving away from spiritual darkness to let inner light shine. The largest light celebration in Chiang Mai takes place on the full moon day in November.



Angkor Photo Festival (Cambodia)

The annual Angkor Photo Festival takes place in Siem Reap between November and December. The week-long festival showcases the work of over 100 photographers through a series of indoor and outdoor exhibitions, as well as daily evening slideshow projections. Additionally, there are workshops available for aspiring photographers.




Hmong New Year (Laos, Vietnam and Thailand)

This New Year celebration is unique to the Hmong people, one of the largest ethnic groups in Northern Southeast Asia. The event occurs at varying times each year, depending on the rice harvest. The community enjoys traditional performances and games.



Christmas or Hari Natal (Philippines)

While Christmas is not officially celebrated in Southeast Asia, the spirit of Christmas can still be felt in many places. Christmas trees, plastic reindeer, and fake snow may seem out of place in a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur. Parts of the Philippines, East Timor, and Indonesia hold traditional Christmas celebrations among their large Christian populations.



Asia is a colourful continent that offers an immersive travel experience, and the exciting festivals mentioned above are a testament to that. Try to participate in these diverse celebrations to feel the spirit of Asia.