This article first appeared on January 28, 2015. It has been updated to reflect festival dates for 2017.

The year has just begun, and if 2015 is the year you want to experience cultural festivals that will change your life, let us help get you started. Whatever your travel list includes, our expert team and custom itineraries let you explore and engage in ways you never thought possible. Contact us to begin planning your journey.

Tapati Festival, Easter Island | January 27 – February 12, 2017

This weekend marks the beginning of the Tapati Festival on Easter Island. The yearly festival celebrates the traditional music, dance, and sports of the Rapa Nui culture with dance competitions, carving competitions, horse races, the Rapa Nui triathlon, and haka pei where villagers slide down the island’s steepest hill on banana trunks. The entire event culminates with the crowning of a festival queen by moonlight. The Tapati Festival offers guests the opportunity to peer into the rich culture of the Rapa Nui, but with the weekend quickly approaching, this festival might be one to add to your calendar for next year.

tapati festival easter island

To fully experience the culture of Chile and and the Tapati Festival on Easter Island, consider our Majestic Chile journey. It pairs the beautiful winelands and adventurous landscapes with the wonders of Easter Island. You’ll spend a few days discovering the Chilean winelands where you will learn about the growing Chilean wine industry at Casa Lapostolle Residence and Clos Apalta Winery, visiting several of the beautiful Colchagua Valley vineyards, before voyaging to Rapa Nui, the most isolated populated island in the world.

Easter Island holds a wealth of archaeological and anthropological wonders that you’ll discover through hiking and biking excursions, with explora en Rapa Nui as your home base. Your dedicated guide will develop your outings around your interests and activity level, uncovering the mysteries of the fascinating island and offering a glimpse into sights few travelers have seen before.

easter island heads

You’ll finish your journey in the oasis of Awasi Resort in the Atacama Desert, considered to be the driest desert on Earth. Explore 70,000 square miles of desert with sand boarding, trekking, horseback riding and mountain climbing with a private guide and stargaze in the evening under a canvas of stars in the desert’s night sky.

Aste Nagusia, Spain | August 19 – 27, 2017

Travel to Portugal and Spain this year with our Icons of Portugal and Spain journey. Explore Porto from The Yeatman in the heart of the historic port wine district before heading to the Douro Valley and epicenter of Portugal’s wine country for a private cruise on the Douro River. In Lisbon, you’ll explore the coast and discover the city’s maritime history before heading to Spain.

A detour north to Bilbao allows you to experience “Big Week” and its flurry of Basque culture – competition games, traditional and contemporary arts, and the famous parades of giants. More than 100,000 people show up for the nine-day street party dedicated to the Virgin of Begoña, to partake in Strongman competitions, bull fights, and concerts. In the evening, the sky lights up with nightly fireworks competitions, and the streets stay busy with parties.

aste nagusia spain

In Spain you’ll explore history and heritage of Madrid from the beautiful Hotel Villa Magna before boarding a high speed train heading south to Cordoba where you will see the historic quarter and the Cathedral-Mosque before arriving to Granada. From your palatial accommodations at Hotel Palacio de los Patos, set off to explore the fantastic La Alhambra fortress and the quiet streets of the city. Your journey ends in Seville at the Hotel Alfonso XIII, a former palace reserved for royal guests, where you’ll take in performances from flamenco dancers and the famous Andalusian horses.

hotel alfonso spain

Hermanus Whale Festival, South Africa | October, Dates to be Confirmed

Each year Hermanus, a seaside town on the Western Cape of South Africa, plays host to an annual whale festival to celebrate the Southern Right whales returning to the bay for calving and mating season. The coastal town offers the best land-based whale watching in the world for the thousands of visitors who come out for the festival, which includes sporting events, crafts, great food, and a music stage with over 20 artists performing during the three-day celebration.


Combine the magic of the migratory Southern Right whale with the sophistication of the Western Cape’s culinary and visual arts with our most requested itinerary: Royal South Africa. It includes time at the award-winning Birkenhead House, the best whale-spotting point in Hermanus. Watch the whales in the bay from the beautiful sun deck or while lunching on local cuisine in the restaurant.

The journey includes cultural tours in Johannesburg and Cape Town, and a stay at La Residence, a sister property of Birkenhead House, set in the heart of the Franschhoek Valley Winelands. Explore the Winelands on a full-day private tour of the treasury of rustic beauty and sprawling estates shaded by giant oak trees. The towns of Stellenbosch, Paarl, and Franschhoek are on the wine tasting agenda, including a visit to the Groot Constantia Estate.

You’ll conclude your journey in exquisite safari luxury in the Thornybush Game Reserve at the multi-award-winning luxury safari lodge, The Royal Malewane. The Big Five roam freely here, and the region is known for its many exciting wildlife sightings. Lion, buffalo, rhino, hippo, giraffe and elephants will capture your heart and imagination on twice-daily game drives and bush walks with experienced armed rangers.

royal malewane south africa

Yi Peng Lantern Festival, Thailand | November, Dates to be Confirmed

With each year that passes this ancient local tradition grows in global popularity. The festival features live music and dance, but is best known for the incredible release of thousands of lanterns into the sky. Head to Chiang Mai on our Northern Thailand Encounter and skip the crowds with our local guides to watch the lanterns fly from tiny rural temples.

yi peng lantern festival

On our Northern Thailand Encounter, you’ll explore ancient temples, markets, and the incredible nightlight of Bangkok from the luxurious Mandarin Oriental Hotel – renowned for its sheer extravagance and prestige as the choice of royalty, presidents, and celebrities.

You’ll continue to Chiang Rai to explore the exotic bamboo jungles and the Mekong River on boat cruises. Your journey concludes in Chiang Mai at the famous Four Seasons Resort overlooking terraced rice fields and the mountains in the Mae Rim Valley. Explore the culture of Chiang Mai with a Thai cooking class, cycle through the communities, and the Yi Peng Lantern Festival.

four seasons chiang mai thailand

Ready to celebrate? Start planning your journey to attend a festival around the world by contacting your Travel Professional or visit us online at Stay up to date on all of Ker & Downey’s online content by “liking” our Facebook page.