There is nothing quite like timing your holiday with a local festival. Today we thought we would take you on a journey around the world to look at autumn festivals in the hope that it may inspire you to add one to your travel bucket list. 

1. Day of the Dead, Mexico 

Dia de los Muertos
Photo by Miguel Gonzalez on Unsplash

Regarded as one of the biggest festivals in the world, the artistic skull face paint is commonly associated with Mexico’s Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead festival. This two-day holiday has origins dating back to the Aztec, Toltec and Nahua times, and is traditionally celebrated on November 1 and 2. Mexicans see it as a celebration of life to honour those who have passed before them. They believe that their ancestors rise from the dead to join the living so parties, dressing up, singing and dancing are commonplace.  

2. La Mercê Festival, Spain 

Human tower
Photo by @neartoafar on Instagram

Beginning in the Middle Ages, La Mercê Festival is held in Barcelona each year on September 24. Locals gather to honour the Roman Catholic Feast Day of Our Lady of Mercy (Barcelona’s Patron saint) with street parades (including giant, human-operated wooden puppets), live music and fireworks. You may have also heard of the Catalonian tradition of castells, or human towers, which are a part of this autumn festival. Held in Plaça de Jaume, it’s an impressive feat to watch team members clamber onto each other’s shoulders to build between six and ten levels! It is considered completed when a young child climbs to the top and raises their hand.  

3. Diwali, India 

Diwali decorations
Photo by Suchandra Roy Chowdhury on Unsplash

Another monumental festival is Diwali, one of the most important in Indian religions. Diwali celebrates the spiritual ‘victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance’ so has a powerful message. Held over five days, families come together for important quality time over delicious meals and sweet treats. Decorations include colourful floral arrangements and clay lanterns, topped off with plenty of fireworks.  

4. Moon Festival, China 

Moon cake
A traditional moon cake
Photo by @olivegreen.botanica on Instagram

The mid-autumn Moon Festival is said to be a time of good fortune for the Chinese culture. The three-day national holiday date is determined by the Chinese lunar calendar coinciding with the full moon on the fifteenth day of the eighth month (usually between September and October). Based around three key principles – gathering, thanksgiving and praying – families come together to celebrate with traditional food like the auspicious moon cakes, crab, duck and autumn harvest produce. Similar holidays are also celebrated throughout Asia with their own unique twists. 

5. Nuit Blanche, France 

Exhibition at Hotel de Ville de Paris
A Pierre Hermé installation for Nuit Blanche at Hôtel de Ville, Paris. Pierre Hermé is a renowned French pastry chef and chocolatier who began his career at age 14!
Photo by @nicefoodie75 on Instagram

Literally translated, this French autumn festival means ‘white night’. Whilst Paris is the original city that started this tradition in 2002, it has since spread across the world. Held every October, Paris’ art and culture scene comes alive for one night only. Museums, art galleries and event spaces are open until the early hours of the morning with free events and live performances held across the city. There’s an even more magical atmosphere to Paris on Nuit Blanche so we would highly recommend a trip to Paris during this time!  

6. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, USA 

Albuquerque balloon fiesta
Photo by @adventuresofmattandnat on Instagram

Head to Albuquerque, New Mexico to see the world’s largest balloon festival! Every October over nine days, the skies fill up with hundreds of balloons of all shapes, sizes and colours. There are several events during the festival from the Mass Ascensions (when all balloons take to the sky simultaneously) and the Special Shape Rodeo (for the uniquely shaped balloons to launch in all their glory) – all of which are breath takingly beautiful.  

7. Guyfawkes, United Kingdom

Guyfawkes fireworks in London
Photo by @afraser84 on Instagram

In 1605, a man named Guy Fawkes planned to blow up the House of Lords in London. He was unsuccessful and nowadays, Guyfawkes is held across the globe on November 5 with fireworks displays and bonfires. There is even a traditional cake eaten on Guyfawkes in England called Parkin Cake, a mix of oatmeal, ginger, treacle and syrup.  

Which autumn festival would you plan on attending during your holiday?

Disclaimer: Globus, Cosmos and Avalon Waterways do not always have itineraries that feature these festivals. This post is designed to inspire you to add one of these autumn festivals to your travel bucket list.

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