Holi, a festival of color celebrated in northern India in March. Credit: Corbis Images
No matter how enthusiastic a traveler might be, there are some adventure destinations that just don’t appeal to everyone. Take me, for example. I’m a person with no cold weather tolerance at all, so I tend to avoid those low-temperature destinations. Interested in cruise around Antarctica? Send me a postcard. Thinking about watching the Iditarod next year? Tell the dogs I say hi.
But there are some adventure destinations that should be on everyone’s to-do list, places and events where a photo or a story just isn’t enough.
An annual tradition marking the arrival of spring, Holi is a Hindu festival of color celebrated in northern India. Originally dedicated to the god Vishnu, the festival has picked up new meanings to religious participants over centuries of celebration.
Holi is celebrated over two nights. On the first day, bonfires are lit, a ritual intended to ward off evil spirits. The second day is when eruptions of colored flour and perfume spread through crowds of festival participants.
Even though the event is primarily composed of Hindu revelers, secular participants are most than welcome, as long as they don’t mind getting a face full of colored powder ever now and again.
Carnival celebrations might take place the world over in the week before Lent, but Brazil manages to put on a show that outshines any other.
Tracing as far back as the 18th century, Carnival in Rio de Janeiro hosts millions of revelers, attracted to the massive, costumed samba parades. Invented in the 19th century, samba is a form of music native to Rio and serves as the soundtrack to the entire event.
A dancer from Portela samba school in this year's parade in Rio. Credit: Leandro Neumann Ciuffo/Flickr
Though they are certainly a spectacle for travelers, the parades are show time for the escolas de samba, or samba schools, to strut their stuff on routines they’ve been practicing for months as they compete against one another.
Given my hesitation about cold weather destinations, it should come as no surprise that a festival in the middle of a desert in August that culminates in the burning of a statue some 70-foot-tall would be on this list of must-see adventures.
A week-long annual tradition held in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada since 1986, Burning Man is a massive arts festival that attracts tens of thousands of people, known as “Burners.” Every year has a different theme, with “Fertility 2.0″ set to be the theme for 2012.
Event organizers expect a crowd of some 60,000 people, making Black Rock Desert one of the top 10 most populous in Nevada, at least for a week anyway.
Running of the Bulls
Pamplona, Spain, hosts the adrenaline-pumping Running of the Bulls every year for the festival of San Fermin. Although Pamplona isn’t the only place where the Running of the Bulls takes place, the city hosts the most famous run.
Immortalized in Ernest Hemingway’s novel “The Sun Also Rises,” the Running of the Bulls is attended by thousands of runners, all dressed in white shirts and red scarves. The run begins in the morning with six bulls and nine steers who are led nearly a kilometer into the bullfighting ring. Later that day, the bulls are fought that afternoon by matadors.
Given that the event involves running away from thrashing, wild animals weighing more than a ton, it’s no surprise that each event has its share of injuries. Every year, runners are gored and fatalities, though rare, aren’t unprecedented.
If being chased down and potentially gored by a bull isn’t your idea of a vacation, but you’re still fortunate enough to be able to spend the summer in Spain, La Tomantina might be the answer for anyone hungry for a little adventure.
Billed as the world’s largest food fight, La Tomantina is an event held annually in the Valencia region of Spain that turns the tiny town of Buñol red with tomatoes. Although the origins of the food fight have been lost to history, La Tomantina has been an ongoing tradition since 1945.
If you’ve made a trip to the world’s largest food fight, then why not clean up with what might be the biggest water fight on the planet?
Held in Thailand, Songkran was originally a spiritual festival celebrating the arrival of new season and the cleansing of soul. The festival’s name is derived from the Sanskrit term for “to pass.” The celebration is nationwide, but the best place for travelers looking to be at the center of the action would be Chiang Mai, where Songkran can last up to a week.