Festivals allow you to jump in and experience a place during its most emotional and exciting time. Join the locals as they celebrate whatever it is they see fit to celebrate — and there are certainly some interesting events out there!
July is summer in the northern hemisphere, mid-winter in the south. The weather affects things and these top July festivals around the world reflect the seasonal differences. Wherever you go, though, you’re sure to find a fantastic festival to take part in.
1. Calgary Stampede
Where: Stampede Park, Calgary, Canada
When: 2018: July 6-15, 2019: July 5-14
Some of the best cowboys in the world come to Calgary to shake their chaps and show their skills in what’s been optimistically called the “best outdoor show on earth“. There’s rodeo, racing, and a fair amount of beer to wash the dust away.
2. Festival of San Fermin: The running of the bulls
Where: Pamplona, Spain
When: July 6-14 every year
Race down narrow streets ahead of a confused and slightly annoyed herd of bulls before spilling out into the arena where the action really starts. Surviving the running of the bulls is a backpacker merit badge whether you’re watching from the balconies and stands, or hot-footing it with the locals. Afterwards, you can start the Camino Francés walk right from the centre of town.
3. Festival of the Virgen del Carmen
When: July 16 every year
A mammoth procession in the grand style of South American Catholicism, the festival of the Virgen del Carmen is a chance to watch dancers, admire indigenous costumes, and observe the prestige and pomp of priests and laymen as they carry the float of the Virgin through town. Be prepared to get up early to see the sunrise!
4. Salzburg Festival
Where: Salzburg, Austria
When: 2018: July 30 — August 30, 2019: tbc
Since 1920 (with a brief pause during WWII) the Salzburg Festival has been one of the world’s most prestigious fine art events with a focus on opera and the performing arts. Starting in July and running for one-and-a-half months, you’ll have a chance to see the world’s best producers and performers in spectacular theatres, all in the home of Mozart.
We recommend you pick up a Salzburg Card for your visit — if you have time between performances!
5. Ratha Yatra, The Festival of Chariots of Lord Jagannatha
Where: Bada Danda, India
When: 2018: July 14, 2019: July 4
Chariots feature heavily in this festival — in fact, in Sanskrit ratha means chariot and yatra means journey, so you might guess that a chariot journey is a key part of the event. You’re not the one travelling by chariot, though! Statues representing the deities Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Sudarshana are transported through the streets, often through the monsoon rains that characterise this time of year.
Where: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
When: July 11-13 every year
Sports are an important part of Mongolian culture, so it’s fitting that their major festival is a celebration of “manly sports”. The three sports are horse racing, archery, and Mongolian wrestling; but drinking is almost an unofficial event in itself! Women can take part in the racing and archery, though not the wrestling. Games are held throughout the country, but the biggest festival takes place in Ulanbaatar in the National Sports Stadium — if you can make it to the opening or closing ceremony, you’re in for a treat.
Where: To’ata Sq, Pape’ete, TAHITI
When: 2018: July 16-26, 2019: tbc
Head to To’ata Square in Pape’ete, Tahiti to take part in Tahiti’s biggest event of the year! When you get there you’ll find a 5,000-seat pavilion which hosts many of the events during the festival.
Events include dancing, music and singing competitions (you’ll hear a lot of ukulele), traditional sports events such as stone or fruit lifting, javelin throwing, and outrigger canoe races. There’s also a Mr and Miss Tahiti competition, which isn’t just a beauty contest — entrants have to scale palm trees, crack open coconuts and lift stones.
Plus there’s a handicraft fair and plenty of delicious food to try, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy!
8. Oregon Brewers Festival
Where: Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Portland, Oregon, USA
When: 2018: July 25-29
Since 1988, the Oregon Brewers Festival (OBF) has sought to introduce the public to the diversity of microbrews — and they’re doing a great job at it! This festival is held every year at the end of July, and currently attracts over 80,000 beer lovers to downtown Portland. For just $7 for the souvenir mug plus $1 per taste, it’s an affordable way to try a wide range of flavours — including some beers that are brewed just for the festival. Go on a weekday during the day to avoid the crowds.
9. The Rocks Aroma Festival
Where: The Rocks, Sydney, Australia
When: Currently on hold
If you’re in Sydney in July, and have even a passing interest in coffee, make your way to the charming harbourside neighbourhood of the Rocks. There, you’ll find the Rocks Aroma Festival celebrating all things coffee — but mostly, well, coffee itself. Arrive early to avoid the crowds and make the most of your day. Unfortunately, the event wasn’t held in 2017; we hope it will return soon!
10. Esala Perahera – Sri Lanka’s Tooth Festival
Where: Kandy, Sri Lanka
When: 2018: July 18-28
Here’s a story that caught my eye… Legend has it that during the Buddha’s cremation, one of his followers managed to steal a tooth from the Buddha’s jaw. It was smuggled across India in the hair of a Sri Lankan princess who, along with her husband, dressed as Brahmins (priests) to help their travels.
As holy relics go, this was some scoop and — over 1,500 years later — it’s still celebrated with a parade and festivities. Maybe it’s time to head over to Sri Lanka?
11. Vardavar Festival
When: 2018: July 8, 2019: July 28
Head to Armenia in July to take part in the Vardavar Festival, when everyone takes to the streets to throw water at each other. There are also events in the main parks, and a festival atmosphere fills the day.
This list of the top July festivals is in no particular order, and is completely subjective — they’re the festivals we’ve most enjoyed, or would most like to take part in, of all the July festivals out there. Let us know if there are festivals you think we should add to this list!