There are some interesting, unique and downright crazy festivals happening throughout the year all over the world that could easily be paired with an adventure excursion in the same region. It is a good way to combine sightseeing with thrillseeking with the benefit of getting exposure to both culture and being outdoors. Most of the festivals are steeped in history and seem to really capture the essence of tradition. In PathWrangler tradition, instead of highlighting well known festivals like Carnival or Mardi Gras, I want to show you some different ones that you may not have heard of before.
• Up Helly-Aa is held on Shetland Island, Scotland and pays tribute to the island’s Viking heritage and the end of the yule season. The must see event is the torchlight procession of a 1,000 guizers which culminates in the burning of a 32′ long Viking galley.
After witnessing the obliteration of a longboat it would be a good time to participate in one of Scotland’s top winter sports, winter mountaineering. It is a huge challenge to tackle the snow packed rocky ridges of the Highlands like Ben Nevis and Aonach Eagach. With an abundance of mountain ranges Scotland offers plenty of snow based sports like skiing, snowboarding and ice climbing.
• Camel Wrestling is naturally inherent in camels. The bull males routinely engage in knockout matches in the desert to establish dominance in the heard as well as priority in mating. Selçuk, Turkey, the gateway to the ancient city of Ephesus, is home to the Camel Wrestling Championships. A female camel in heat is paraded in front of two males to get them excited. Streams of milky saliva coming from either of the male’s mouth and nostril are the signal the interest is peaked and that the match is about to begin. Now the butting and wrestling is pretty standard, but gets more interesting if a wager has been placed. The real excitement is that these animals are unpredictable and one will escape by charging toward the spectators with the other in hot pursuit. The camel that falls or flees will have obviously lost the match.
Since this only takes up a morning, there is plenty of time to take a day drive to the mountains of Uludag for some snowboarding (with or without a kite) and skiing.
• Battle of the Oranges is the annual reenactment of the history of civic rebellion in Ivrea, a small Italian town located at the foothills of the Alps. The oranges represent the head of the marquis whereas the pulp and juice represent his blood. Once the juicy fighting has begun the participants are throwing and dodging a bombardment of oranges until it is over. The aftermath is a sea of slippery pulp and squashed peels as far as the eye can see.
Once the thrill of throwing oranges at complete strangers has subsided and a shower has rinsed off the sticky mess, the thrill of getting up to the snowy Alps to do some ice climbing in the Valle di Fasse or skiing Mont Blanc can commence.
• La Tomatina is probably the world’s biggest food fight with 45,000 people using 100 tons of rotten or over-ripe tomatoes as weapons. This occurs in the town of Buñol near Valencia, Spain. Once it begins, all hell breaks loose and no one is safe in this tomato throwing frenzy.
Since it is only a day trip from Andalucia and Granada, it is easy to partake in this tomato craziness and then get back to the summer sports these areas are known for: caving, paragliding, skydiving and mountain biking.
• Monkey Buffet Festival is a buffet at Pra Prang Sam Yot Temple in Lopburi, just a 3 hours drive from Bangkok, Thailand. It is a traditional “thank you” feast with over 4,400 pounds of fruits and vegetables prepared for the guests of honor, over 600 macaque monkeys, who attract thousands of tourists annually to the town. As legend has it the Monkey King, Hanuman, was rewarded the Lopburi area by his ally, the ancient Hindu God, Ramayana, and ever since then monkeys have ruled the area. It is believed that the monkeys will bring good fortune, prosperity and karma to any visitor who offers them food.
Thailand is a dream place for anyone who loves the excitement of water sports. Diving, kayaking, sailing and windsurfing all happen here in the beautiful waters of the Indian Ocean. For those who seek higher altitude excitement, there is mountain trekking and bungy jumping in Chiang Mai and whitewater rafting along the Pai River.
Every country has their own festivals where one can be an active participant or a spectator. Either way, it is a fun way to experience traditions that differ from your own and that broaden your cultural awareness.
As for me, I say hand me some rotten tomatoes and oranges and let the pulp fly.