Food, wine, music, parties — one of the best things about travelling is to experience how other countries eat, drink, and make merry. Taking part in a local festival is a fantastic way to get deeper into the local psyche, and generally have a great time!
June is the height of summer in the northern hemisphere, the depth of winter in the south. These top ten June festivals around the world reflect these seasonal differences, but wherever you happen to be, you’ll have an amazing time.
1. Summer solstice
Where: Northern hemisphere
When: 2016: June 20, 2017: June 21
It’s summer solstice time for those in the northern hemisphere. The most magical place to be might just be Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England.
The romantic view of Stonehenge imagines druids here with strange rituals and hints of human sacrifice. In 2013, you’re more likely to find a blend of mystic spirituality and a whole lot of onlookers enjoying a picnic and a visit on a hot day.
2. Haro wine fight
Where: Haro, Spain
When: June 29 every year
It seems like a terrible waste, but every year on June 29 the people of Haro celebrate St Peter’s Day with a giant wine fight called La Batalla del Vino (the wine battle). Apparently it has its origins in a land dispute between the town and a neighboring one, and if representatives of Haro don’t visit every year on June 29, they’ll lose jurisdiction of the area.
Prepare in advance by obtaining a white t-shirt, red bandanna, and a water gun of your favourite colour. Add a couple of litres of wine and sunglasses or goggles to protect your eyers, and get out there and throw wine with the best of them.
Where: Dublin, Ireland
When: June 16 every year
It’s time to celebrate James Joyce in this literary celebration based on the novel Ulysses, and a whole lot more. Dress in Edwardian kit and make your way from pub from pub in grand Dublin style – bonus points if you can find yourself a horse-drawn cart to jump in.
4. Stars of the White Nights
Where: St Petersburg, Russia
When: 2016: May 27 – Jul 31, 2017: tab
Those long summer nights are used to good effect in St Petersburg, as the city hums with an enormous street party. There are plenty of highbrow events, including Russia’s top classical music festival, or you could attend festivals of jazz, brass, or romantic music. If music’s not your thing, try the dance festival, the film festival, or the sand sculpture festival — there’s certainly something for everyone.
5. Bonfires of St James/San Juan festival
Where: Spain, Portugal
When: June 23 every year
We’d never heard of the San Juan festival until we spent a summer in A Coruna, where it’s the biggest event of the year — and then we got to experience it first-hand. This festival has roots in pagan solstice celebrations and summer cleansing rituals, and is celebrated all over Spain and Portugal.
In Alicante, where the biggest event takes place, the modern celebration started in the 1920s and involves burning intricate structures created by local artists. In A Coruna, just one of these structures is burned, representing the major events that have happened in the city during the previous year.
For most people, the main event is the lighting of bonfires — the twin beaches of Orzán and Riazor blaze through the night as hundreds of fires are lit. It’s traditional to jump over your fire to symbolise leaving the troubles of the previous year behind; be careful, people get hurt every year.
6. Inti Raymi
Where: Cusco, Peru
When: June 24 every year
Also known as the festival of the sun, the Inti Raymi festival in Peru is a weeklong celebration of the Sun God. The biggest events take place in Cusco, where people throng the streets and concerts and street parties fill the city with atmosphere.
The main event takes place on June 24, when a team of actors reenact the holy rituals of Inti Raymi in the main square in front of Santo Dominigo Church. It’s a great time to be in town.
7. Calitzdorp Winter Festival
Where: Calitzdorp, South Africa
When: 2016: June 16-19
Warm up your winter with a visit to the the Klein Karoo town of Calitzdorp. This small town is the port-wine capital of South Africa, a fact which it celebrates over a four-day weekend in June during its annual port festival. As well as visits to the eight host wineries, you can join in a historical treasure hunt and shop for tasty food and local arts and crafts at the market stalls.
8. Vivid Sydney
Where: Sydney, Australia
When: 2016: May 27- June 18, 2017: tab
On the face of it, Vivid Sydney isn’t the most exciting idea ever — it basically involves projecting bright designs on to the side of various buildings. However, there’s something enchanting about seeing the charming city of Sydney illuminated in this way, and it certainly helps that the canvas for these fluorescent displays includes two of the most iconic man-made structures on earth: the Harbour Bridge and stunning Opera House.
It’s winter in Sydney, so wrap up warm and head out for a wander to admire the bright lights of this Australian city.
9. Dragon boating
When: 2016: June 9, 2017: May 30
The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival is one of China’s longest-running festivals. The Duanwu festival, as it’s known, is celebrated in China on June 9th this year – it’s a public holiday as well as a chance to watch teams race their dragon-crested boats in harbours and lakes across the country.
Dragon boating is now an international sport, and there are other Dragon Boating festivals held around the world. Some organisations’ events aren’t held at the same time as the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival, so do a bit of research to find out when your local races will be held.
10. Birthday week
Where: Wherever you are
When: June 11-18 every year
If you find yourself in the same city as us, join us for our own private festival — birthday week! Craig’s birthday is June 12, Linda’s is June 16, and dozens of our friends celebrate the anniversary of their entrance into the world sometime between the 11th and the 18th.
Celebrations include eating out with family and friends, wishing each other “happy birthday week” on Facebook, and trying not to dwell too much on the passing of time. You are most cordially invited to join in!
This list of the top ten June 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 June festivals out there.