10 great gatherings from around the world

Great events bring people together to share common experiences. Here are events that unite the planet, if momentarily

Mardi Gras

The massive blow-out occurs just before the 40 abstinent days of Lent. These are two weeks of excess of every pleasure known to mankind: booze, music and unabashed nudity, culminating in the hedonistic Mardi Gras (literally, Fat Tuesday). Flamboyant and garish flotillas glide by, adorned by sequinned dancing girls who tempt the crowds with trinkets, baring their breasts as enticement. Spicy Cajun dishes, the best blues on the planet and $2 drinks on tap 24 hours a day; a party never got better.

Rio Carnival

Foot-tapping samba and the curviest hips and fittest bodies in the world—that is what you get in this four-day festival, attended by a million people each year. The main attraction is the Sambodromo Parade, a dance-off between competing samba schools, all done on glitzy floats that cruise the streets of Rio. The Masquerade Ball is not to be missed, hordes of beautiful people, most of them wearing just G-strings, dancing in masks and wigs. The perfect lesson on how fun must be had.

La Tomatina

Get ready to get dirty, in a relatively clean, vegetarian way; that is the only way you will truly enjoy this friendly food-fight with a difference. Tens of thousands of people gather for a week each year in Bunol, Spain, to fling pulpy tomatoes at each other, in honor of the patron saint of Bunol. Over a hundred thousand tomatoes are hurled and pulped until the streets run a squishy, slippery red. Be sure to attend the paella cook-off on the night before the festival.

Burning Man

Bring your skills and talents and leave your money at home. There are no spectators; everyone has to contribute something—art, dance, music or craftsmanship—in this most-comprehensive arts festival in the world. Money does not exchange hands, except at the coffee and ice-cream stalls; only bartering is allowed. The feeling of love and brotherhood is palpable. The shindig ends with thousands of participants witnessing the burning of a giant effigy under a brilliant desert sky.

Exit Festival

This festival, born out of student protests against the excesses of the Serbian government in 2000, was voted as the Best Major European Festival in 2013. Situated on the banks of the mighty Danube that runs through Serbia, the fun happens in the Petrovaradin Fortress, a venue that lends itself to excellent acoustics as well as great scenic beauty. Six stages blast out rock, electronica, drum & bass, hip-hop and R&B over four days to crowds of 300,000+ fans.

White Nights Festival

This annual arts festival celebrating the midnight sun attracts a million people each year, and is no less than the best of Russian culture and entertainment. Classical ballet and opera occurs side-by-side with a host of other forms of song and dance, attracting both local and major international stars. The cherry-on-top is the Scarlet Sails Show, where special acts like the Cirque du Soleil perform, and the city bursts to life with fireworks.


Every beer lover has to attend one of these in their lifetime. Imagine 16 days of the best beer on tap, a fun-filled convivial atmosphere like no other, the cheesiest drinking music blasting all day, the most scrumptious German sausages you will ever eat, and the best of Bavarian beauty. Be sure to start early, by 10am, or you won’t find a place to sit, and the waitresses only serve those seated.

Glastonbury Music Festival

This is the big daddy of music festivals. It reminds one of the legendary Woodstock, if not in crowds, then in their stellar line-ups and ensures a crowd of 175,000-200,000 each year. It’s set in the idyllic and historically significant countryside of King Arthur’s England and every music lover must earn his bragging rights by visiting at least once. The capricious English weather is no issue; come prepared for rain and mud, whether in tents, caravans or motorhomes, for the best mainstream and indie music.

Zurich Love Parade

When the Berlin Love Parade folded up, the Swiss stepped in and decided to do it better. It is marketed as a festival of love, peace, freedom, generosity and tolerance, with 30 ‘love-mobiles’ coasting the gorgeous promenade of Lake Zurich and 600 of the world’s best DJs blasting music off seven stages. Every year has a theme like Friendship, Follow Your Dream, Dance for Freedom, and so on. Cheesy, you might say, but who does cheese better than the Swiss!

Mahakumbh Mela

This gargantuan congregation of people occurs every 12 years at the Mahakumbh Mela in Allahabad. This holiest city in India is perched on the confluence of the two mighty rivers, the Ganga, the Jamuna, and the third mythical river Saraswati. Naked sadhus of every strip and colour descend from their mountaintops, caves and jungles to take a holy dip in the waters. This is a celebration of life and faith like no other on the planet, attracting millions from every corner of the planet.