Best Festivals for Solo Travellers

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The increase in popularity of solo travel has led to an increasing number of lone travellers embarking on their journeys around the world. Up to 24% of people travel without companions and youth travellers between the age of 20-30 are more and more choosing to travel alone. With no set destination, today’s travellers choose a location and then look for activities and interests. They want a journey that will enhance their lives and broaden their minds; they want to meet people, learn new things and experience other cultures. That’s where festivals come in and that’s why we’ve created this guide to the Best Festivals for Solo Travellers. Festivals appeal to solo travellers for many reasons. They are a way of diving straight into the heart of a community, a unique celebration that often dates back hundreds of years and can offer fantastic insight into a destination and its people. With music, dance, art, theatre or unique customs and traditions, festivals are a great way of becoming immersed in a culture. The feeling of community at festivals can be very welcoming to people travelling alone, and many festival goers report that they will talk to and make friends with people they would never usually engage with in their home environment. This creates a friendly and open atmosphere often making it easy for solo travellers to mix with groups. Meeting local people is something that many solo travellers want to do, and at festivals there is often an opportunity to volunteer or become involved in some way, allowing for a unique cultural exchange. An additional plus for solo travellers is that festivals can sometimes provide a safer environment for partying and socialising than many large cities which can be a consideration for the solo traveller.

Section 1: Festivals with Cultural Experiences

Festivals with cultural experiences tend to draw travelers specifically for the look and learn into the culture and traditions of the country or town. There are a number of important cultural experiences that a traveler may take an interest in. Traditional music and dance performances are key to a country’s cultural identity. Many festivals stage performances outdoors for the general public, providing a rich cultural mix from around the world. Some music and dance festivals are focused solely on traditional music and dance from a specific region. These can be excellent events to see both musicians and folk dancers in one place. Authentic local cuisine and food festivals are an interesting way to experience the food culture of a country or region. Often food is strongly tied with cultural identity and is an easy way to introduce the taste of a country to visitors. Food festivals can range from small events where local villagers sample homemade dishes to grand events involving restaurants and industry. Usually, a few free samples can be had at these events. Art exhibitions and craft workshops are prevalent at many festivals, especially in the summer months. Many artists and craftspeople use festival events as a way to promote and sell their creations in a lively and sociable atmosphere. High-quality local art and craftwork is typically displayed and sold. In some cases, there are opportunities to see the artists at work and even to participate in a workshop to learn the skills for yourself.

Point 1: Traditional Music and Dance Performances

Traditional music and dance performances are an integral part of many cultures and are often considered to be the best way to experience a slice of local life during your travels. Music and dance are universal and are not only reflective of traditions and cultural heritage but are also a way of expressing creativity and emotion. Festivals that incorporate traditional music and dance performances into their programs are providing a platform for local artists to showcase their talents to a wider audience as well as offering festivalgoers the opportunity to witness live performances that they may not have the chance to see elsewhere. For those who have an interest in the arts, dance performances have a visual aesthetic that can be captivating and moving. They are a means of storytelling using symbolism, expression, and movement and can convey cultural themes and tales. Folk and traditional dance performances often have roots in symbolism and range from re-enactments of old customs and rituals to lighthearted entertainment. Dance styles vary in different regions and create a diverse and colorful display when showcased at an international festival.

Point 2: Authentic Local Cuisine and Food Festivals

One of the great pleasures of travel is discovering new and amazing dishes that you just can’t find in your home country. Any globetrotting foodie knows that the biggest, boldest and most authentic flavours can be found at local markets and food stalls, and what better time to tuck in than at a food festival! Whilst some of these events can be major tourist affairs, any solo traveller knows that to truly get a taste of local cuisine, it’s best to seek out the food festivals that are a bit off the beaten track. Picture dining elbow to elbow with passionate locals, whilst a brass band plays on stage and the smells of spiced meats and freshly baked bread waft through the air. Or better yet, get to know the people behind the products via cooking demonstrations, gourmet seminars and wine tastings. Sound like your idea of heaven? Then seek out food festivals that truly let you experience the heart and soul of a culinary culture. Step away from international food and wine events and instead opt for smaller scale, regional focused festivals that are dedicated to just one type of local cuisine. Case in point, truffle festivals in various destinations throughout France, Italy and Croatia which celebrate these rare fungi with degustation menus, cooking classes, and of course truffle markets – where you can even join a truffle hunt, for a true foodie adventure!

Point 3: Art Exhibitions and Craft Workshops

Art exhibitions are mostly held in all festivals, big or small. These festivals attract the solo traveler to enhance their cultural experience. Art is a description of history, folklore, and change of tradition through visual representation. For example, tattooing is one of the most sacred art forms for the native Maori of New Zealand (you can see this at the Rotorua Maori Arts and Crafts Institute). In modern times, the Hawaiian islands have also included the art of tattoo in their culture. This can be depicted by the art of tattoo in a visual form put on canvas, which is what the Toubana Tattoo festival in Tahiti includes. Another example is the many exhibitions related to aboriginal art in Australia. In these art exhibitions, one has a platform to understand a visualized representation of their cultural folklore. Craft workshops provide not only a medium of learning the cultural art forms and crafts directly from the natives but also to provide amazing social interaction between the traveler and the native people. It is a constructive way of utilizing time in the festival, one can learn to make something that they can take home as a souvenir. This will give a feeling of accomplishment and nostalgia when they see the souvenir, reminding them of the amazing time that they had at the festival. This also brings the solo traveler close to the local people, providing a platform where they can interact, share, and learn from each other. Creating a craft requires a step-by-step learning and the traveler is bound to inquire from the local people about its art and form. This will, in turn, enhance knowledge exchange between the two parties.

Section 2: Festivals with Adventure and Outdoor Activities

Hiking and trekking festivals: These festivals are often based in mountain regions and include tours of local hiking trails of varying difficulty, with some more challenging treks being staggered over a couple of days. They are an excellent place to meet fellow trekkers and learn of new destinations to trek. Many local tour companies set up stalls and it is possible to arrange a trek in a foreign country in the company of experienced guides. Some festivals also include workshops geared towards hikers and trekkers, such as map reading, first aid, and survival skills along with seminars from well-known hikers and climbers. As trekkers are generally nature-minded people, these festivals usually have a strong emphasis on environmental and wildlife conservation and fundraising events. The festival in its entirety is often used as a fundraiser to maintain and improve local hiking trails, and many include a day of volunteering for such work. A good example of a hiking and trekking festival would be the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival, which is based around the Banff Mountain Film Festival and features many speakers and seminars from around the world and has an outdoor bivouac and gear exposition from local and international manufacturers.

Point 1: Hiking and Trekking Festivals

The global appeal of trekking is underscored by the opportunities that the activity provides in terms of exploration, personal satisfaction, and cultural interaction. Steps have been taken in various parts of the world to develop trekking routes that facilitate the flow of tourists to both popular and isolated regions. This has led to the development of trekking festivals in places such as India and Japan, which are focused on the cultural exchange between trekkers and locals of a region. These cultural festivals may involve guided treks to remote villages, homestays, dances, and other performances by local villagers, and trekking events with the aim of promoting the area and assisting with the preservation of the local environment. The festivals may be spread out over a few days to a week and involve a variety of trekking events and difficulty levels.

Hiking and trekking are identified as journeys in which individuals or groups walk more than 30 km in a single trip for the primary purpose of experiencing the natural environment. The activity of trekking in many areas has become so popular that many trekkers are not hikers.

Point 2: Water Sports and Beach Festivals

For a little more sophistication, The Festa da Flor in Funchal, Madeira celebrates the arrival of spring with a water parade. The festival features decorative floats which are covered in flowers, traditional dance and music, a flower show, variety of exhibits, arts and crafts stalls, and an incredible wall of flowers which is built in the town centre. On the final day of the festival, the wall of flowers is broken down and the flowers are given away to the public – something to bear in mind if you have any hay fever sufferers in your group!

At the Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand, you can expect to get very wet – and the whole country is one big water fight! Songkran is the Thai New Year and is held on April 13th every year. Thais roam the streets with water pistols and buckets of icy water and drench anyone and everyone in sight. If you are out of your accommodation, make sure you don’t mind getting wet and take a plastic bag to keep your valuables dry! This is a fun and memorable day for anyone who’s taken part.

If you’re up for a bit of playing in the sun and you fancy water fights with complete strangers, then you might think about checking out the wettest, wildest and craziest events on the planet. Bring your dry clothes and plenty of sunblock – let the fun begin!

Point 3: Wildlife and Nature Festivals

Point 3: There are various wildlife and nature festivals held around the world. The majority generally revolve around a photography competition or workshop, a talk, guided tour, or outdoor experience, combined with an exhibition of conservation and wildlife/nature photography. They form a mini wildlife and environment film festival within the overall festival. Most are aimed at enthusiasts and professionals in wildlife and nature photography. Nonetheless, many are designed to be family-friendly and allow keen amateur wildlife and nature photographers to develop their skills. These festivals are great for anyone who enjoys the outdoors or has an interest in wildlife and the environment. Some are actually designed to be a fundraiser to support a conservation project or nature reserve, so you can be content in the knowledge that your festival participation fee is going to a good cause. The Bay Islands Underwater Festival focuses on the marine environment, encouraging the entry of images taken beneath the water from locations around the world. This event consists of a digital photo shootout competition with over $14,000 in prizes. It also has an educational Marine Forum, where participants can learn more about the marine environment and what they can do to help protect it. A print exhibition will display the best of the shootout and underwater images from around the world, and an island tour will be conducted at various locations showcasing the best of the Bay Islands topside and diving treasures.

Point 4: Extreme Sports Competitions

Extreme sports are quite a popular aspect of the adventure traveling world and can provide some of the most excitement in a traveler’s experience. Festivals for caving, paragliding, first descents, and base jumping are in supply and demand, however, can be a little hard to come by as they take a lot of organization, location factors, and depending on the extremity, safety precautions. Paragliding and base jumping events are more open to public viewing with a few happening around the world. Some good examples are the Grand Prix events in France and Spain and the World Base Race in Norway. For caving enthusiasts, there is the Great Dorset Underground Festival, with underground camping, bar, and live music, an unusual environment with a fun vibe. Whitewater first descents are a little more underground with new events cropping up all over the world. The Adidas Sickline event in Austria is a good example, where paddlers come from around the world to race the hardest whitewater in Europe for one day on the Wellerbrucke section of the Ötz river. Fans of extreme sports need to keep their eyes peeled for events like these.

Section 3: Festivals with Social Interactions

The first suggestion for a solo traveler is to look for events that have meetups and networking events. While this may seem obvious, many events have specific nights where travelers and locals can all meet at a specific place, and this is a great opportunity to meet people in a less overwhelming environment. Most people have been to an event where everyone partied too hard on the first night and spent the rest of the time recovering. While fun, this is not a good way to meet the majority of people at an event. By planning to attend a festival meetup, you can be sure to meet people who are serious about enjoying and getting to know new people. This is an excellent opportunity for travelers to meet locals, and is a very low-pressure environment in which to do so.

While meeting people is very easy to do when attending a festival, it is very difficult to form long-lasting relationships and friendships with people at an event when often times you are just passing in the crowd. Those who attend solo can find that even while being surrounded by people, it can be a very lonely experience. There are many festivals and events that cater specifically to solo travelers, and those who are interested in meeting and forming connections with people from all over the world. This type of event is highly recommended for solo travelers as it is an excellent way to meet locals and other travelers, while fully immersing yourself in a new culture. These types of festivals create a comfortable social environment and a sense of community for all of those attending. The following points are specific features to look for in any festival or event if you are a solo traveler looking to meet and connect with new people.

Point 1: Meetups and Networking Events

Festivals are great because people are open to new friendships and to go out of their social comfort zone. One good reason for solo travellers to attend a festival is to take part in meetups. Meetups are targeted towards bringing together people who have similar interests in certain topics. Or better still, to people who are from a particular segmented group. An example of this would be Snowbombing, where there is an annual hockey match between Europe and North America. This would be great for travellers who are either European or from North America, the camaraderie that comes with it and the feeling of representing your home country is unbeaten. The group harmony from this will lead to travellers making good friends with others taking part. Meetups don’t have to be specific to groups, it could be to anyone. Those who have taken part in the Tomatina festival will know about the Tomato fight in Bunol. After the Tomato fight is over, everyone looks like they’ve had a slide in the mud, everyone heads to the river to clean wash off. This would lead to spontaneous water fights in the river, plenty of laughter and probably a beer afterwards. Two complete strangers could partake in the water fights against each other, and walk out of the river and to the beer stand finding out where each other is from and end up being friends. Another great method for making friends is in a comfortable environment where there is often no second language barrier. This can be achieved at international festivals from an English speaker at a festival in a country where English is not the primary language. It is also possible for a solo traveller to befriend local people who are interested in learning English. Networking events aren’t always through formal sit down meetings where business cards are exchanged. Brief encounters of new people are also classified as networking events. With the aim to travel for the sake of travelling, some travellers may be looking to visit and experience an entirely new country or continent. Other travellers may have visited countries which the first group are planning to visit. By chance they may meet travellers of the second group at a festival being held in the country which the second group wishes to visit. These encounters can lead to acquiring plenty of useful information about the destination country which can be used in the future for the first group.

Point 2: Cultural Exchange Programs and Language Workshops

Festivals with an international presence are particularly noteworthy for featuring cultural exchange programs, and as these usually require a somewhat longer commitment, solo travelers are ideal candidates. The specific environment of travel and culture-based festivals can create an almost family-like atmosphere with fellow attendees in a very short time. Cultural exchange areas are designed for travelers to meet locals and other travelers of a similar mindset in a structured environment. They usually provide language and cultural lessons, offering travelers the chance to gain a deeper understanding of the country they are visiting. This can also be a great chance to network with festival organizers and locals; once you are in with the people running the festival, more often than not it can lead to a longer-term involvement with the festival in terms of work or further visits, and there have been many cases of travelers being offered work or even accommodation through contacts made at festivals. An alternative to formal language courses, various festivals offer free informal lesson-style workshops in the language of the country. This is often more suited to travelers wanting to learn the basics of a language or simply improve their language skills in a no-pressure, fun environment. Language workshops are also a great way to meet other travelers, and many of the new friends that you make in classes can develop into travel partners for the rest of the festival or visits to other countries. Many festivals also have skill or knowledge exchange programs between travelers and locals. This can be anything from music lessons to cooking classes and can be very rewarding for both travelers and the local people involved. Validating the point of view of these programs from a travel-based festival, “World Village Festival” in Finland said, “We believe that it is extremely important to offer the public ways to participate in global issues and that informed people will make better decisions.” This illustrates the high level of cultural understanding that can be achieved through festival involvement people.

Point 3: Group Tours and Guided Activities

Festival organisers are increasingly recognising the appeal of hosting group tours and activities aimed at solo travellers. By providing a designated meeting point at a particular time, these make it easy for solo travellers to join a group for part of the festival. Tours and activities offer some structure and focus for your festival experience, as well as inspiration when there is so much else to choose from. They also provide a great opportunity to meet people, particularly those with similar interests to yourself. Our Solomon’s seal – a solo traveller’s initiative, aims to support and connect solo travellers at the festival to each other. It does this partly by providing resources and information to help people get the most out of their festival experience. We also organise events aimed at bringing solo travellers together, and relevant to this point, we are compiling information about various group tours and activities offered by different festivals in the coming years, to help people coordinate their plans and maximize the chances of meeting other solo travellers.

Point 4: Volunteer Opportunities and Community Projects

Volunteering at a festival is an excellent opportunity to connect with the local community while gaining a deeper understanding of the festival and its cultural significance. It also provides a chance to integrate with other festival goers in a non-pressured environment as the work is usually laid back and the volunteers are given ample time to enjoy the festival outside of their working hours. Many festivals offer perks such as free entry, meals or drinks in exchange for a few hours of work each day and some even have a specific volunteer camping area with facilities provided. Working with the festival as a volunteer can also provide an opportunity to make lifelong friends with people from around the world. Community projects are often run in conjunction with festivals and provide a great way of getting involved with the local community and giving something back to the area in which the festival is held. Projects ranging from building and restoration to environmental and social projects often have roles for volunteers. This can be a much more rewarding experience for a solo traveler and offers the chance to integrate with local people and learn about the culture in a way that typical