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My 5 favourite events around the world (plus 5 I want to go to)

From the biggest water fight in the world to the largest food fight, these are my 5 favourite events from around the world.

You can put these amazing events at the top of your travel bucket list right now – because you’re going to want to go after you read this.

The La Tomatina tomato fight in Spain.

1. La Tomatina

On the last Wednesday in August every year, Buñol in Spain is ground zero for the biggest food fight in the world – La Tomatina.

Truck-loads of tomatoes are hauled in and dumped on to the streets, where thousands of people then launch them at each other. Later, the frenzied food-fighting fun becomes a giant water fight as locals launch buckets of water from the rooftops above to wash down the streets and everyone on them.

Call it shell-shock or call it battle fatigue, but for weeks afterwards even the sight of a tomato would make me feel slightly queasy.

Inside London 2012's Olympic Park

2. The Olympic Games

The world came out to play at the 2012 Olympic Games in London – and I was there, too, cheering on the Kiwis.

London had never been so patriotic – or as friendly – and the sport was sublime. Usain Bolt was once again the fastest man in the world over 100m, NZ equalled it’s best ever medal haul (13, including 6 gold) and the Blade Runner was still an inspiration to one and all.

In this sports fan’s humble opinion, the Olympics is the best sporting event in the world (before you shout “What about the World Cup?!” – you should probably read on).

Me and bagpipes in Edinburgh, Scotland

3. Edinburgh Festival Fringe

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world, featuring everything from interpretive dance to the complete works of William Shakespeare. For my money, though, it’s all about the comedy.

At the Edinburgh Fringe you’ll get to laugh your ass off as some of the best stand-up comedians in the world, but this is also where the likes of comedic performers Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry and members of Monty Python made names for themselves.

A girl throws water at a motorcyclist for Songkran in Chiang Mai

4. Songkran

Songkran is every kid’s dream come true – a water fight of truly epic proportions, where practically no-one is safe from an old fashioned soaking.

Songkran is Thailand’s famous New Year celebration, occurring every 13-15 April. Chaos doesn’t just reign during this annual water festival; it pours. And Chiang Mai, not Bangkok, is undoubtedly the place to be for it – that is, if you think you can handle it.

Check out my comprehensive guide to surviving Songkran in Chiang Mai.

London's famous Notting Hill Carnival

5. Notting Hill Carnival

Check out that photo above (that’s my wife in the middle). I’ll bet most people won’t guess it was taken in London.

For three days every August the affluent area of Notting Hill in West London becomes ground-zero for Europe’s biggest street festival – a Caribbean-themed party known simply as the Notting Hill Carnival.

The streets become a sea of colour as calypso music rings out and hundreds of thousands of people pack into the London borough to watch the colourful floats slowly drive past. People dance and drink, eat Caribbean food like curried goat and jerk chicken, and have an awesome time.

I imagine, the Notting Hill Carnival is almost as much fun as being in Rio for Carnival…

Honourable mentions: I’m forever thankful for getting to go to New York’s famous Thanksgiving Day Parade, and during the four years I lived in London I never once passed up an opportunity to go to the tennis at Wimbledon.

Spider-Man at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York

Plus the top 5 events I want to go to…

1. San Diego Comic-Con

I’m a closet geek but at the world famous San Diego Comic-Con I’d definitely let my geek flag fly.

2. The FIFA World Cup

I had tickets to support the New Zealand football team at the World Cup in South Africa but it proved too much of a logistical nightmare to make it to all their games and still see as much of the country as I would have liked (how much of a fair-weather fan am I?). I’d love to go the World Cup one day.

3. Carnival, Rio de Janeiro

I’ll bet you already figured the world-famous Rio Carnival would feature somewhere on this list. Carnival is the biggest carnival in the world, with nearly two million people taking to the streets during each of the five days it runs for every year in Brazil.

4. Cannes International Film Festival

I’m a total movie buff so of course I’d love to rub shoulders with movie stars and famous directors on the glamorous French Riviera. I’ve been to Cannes but I haven’t made it to the film festival just yet.

5. Oktoberfest

Likewise, I’ve been to Munich but I never made it to Oktoberfest which, weirdly, kicks off annually in September. Some day I’ll make it to the world’s most famous beer festival…

What about you? What are your favourite events from around the world and what events feature at the top of your travel bucket list?

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  1. Audrey

    For me it’s also the FIFA World Cup! I grew up in Argentina where soccer is a religion. I so wanted to make it down to Brazil this year, but it looks like I’m going to have to wait until the next one comes around…

  2. The Travel Sisters

    Great list! We would also include the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona and Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Not super original but were a lot of fun!

  3. MightyTravels

    So will you come out for Songkran next month?

  4. James Driscoll

    Seriously? You had tickets to the World Cup and didn’t go? How? Why? Just ugh.

    Otherwise, pretty good. I definitely want to go to La Tomatina. I can all say Oktoberfest is 100% worth the time and effort. The whole atmosphere as people march to the grounds at 6:30 AM to wait in line for tents. I hope to make it back again.

    1. Simon Petersen

      Haha, yes, I am a fool. I should have gone to the World Cup when I had the chance! Now I might have to wait another 20 years until NZ qualifies again. Oktoberfest sounds immense. I can’t believe I haven’t been. Thanks James.

  5. Thomas @ Journey Scout

    Thanks Simon for sharing your experience. I also like cannes festival. so many popular actors and actresses come here. its a wonderful moment. and I am sure everybody likes FIFA world cup. Thanks to offer this awesome material. I really knowledgeable to research this content.

    1. Simon Petersen

      Thanks for the feedback, Thomas! Happy travels

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