A slight chill greets the air of November, where festivals are ripe and the layers come out. Whether you’re enjoying the first shivers of the season or hoping to escape to warmer spots—adventure beckons through every nook and cranny in the world. From decorating sugar skulls in Mexico City to making symbolic offerings in Chiang Mai and attending a film festival nestled in the Himalayas, here’s what to experience and where to do it in November.
Catch an explosion of colour when Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead—a UNESCO-recognised treasure of Intangible Cultural Heritage—is celebrated in Mexico City. The festival combines Aztec and Catholic traditions to honour those no longer in the realm of the living. Altars, or ofrendas, comprised of marigolds and family photos, help reunite spirits with their living friends and family. Sample pan de muerto, or bread of the dead, a sweet loaf often featuring anise seeds and decorated with bones and skulls made from dough. Then join revellers in vibrant costumes as they pour into the streets for parades and parties.
Lying 11 kilometres to the northwest of Ajmer, the small Rajasthani town of Pushkar turns magical in the month of November with the occurrence of the annual ‘PushkarMela’—a colourful mash of camels dressed as royalty, a thousand tourists decked in traditional garb and a chance to win big at the most unique competitions. With over 50,000 camels riding into the town with an entourage of cameleers, musicians and folk dancers, the air is ripe with excitement to commemorate the festival that was once one of the country’s largest trade fares.
Inspiring the nursery rhyme “Remember, remember the fifth of November,” Guy Fawkes Day, or Bonfire Night, commemorates the foiled plot to bomb the Houses of Parliament on November 5, 1605. In commemoration of this event, London lights up with stellar fireworks displays and bonfires along River Thames and around the city. Pro tip: The night can be long, so before turning skyward tuck into a meal at the River Walk Market, near the iconic Battersea Power Station.
If you’re an art enthusiast looking to discover some of the country’s hidden painted gems, then make sure to attend the India Art Festival (IAF) in Delhi on November 14. With a stated aim to ‘democratise’ the Indian Art Market, IAF showcases the undiscovered as well as celebrated artwork of over 400 exhibiting artists and 50 art galleries from across India and the Asian sub-continent. A platform for independent artists looking to make a name and dime, the IAF stage holds dialogues and hosts discussions between art legends of the world, ranging from contemporary art and the economy, art collection, infrastructure and more.
The 8th edition of the Dharamshala International Film Festival offers a visual treat for both cinephiles and nature-lovers—the experience of watching the most critically-acclaimed films of the year in the breathtaking foothills of the Himalayas. The brainchild of filmmakers RituSarin and TenzingSonam, the three-day festival’s aim is to promote contemporary cinema in the Himalayan region. Those opting for a break from both the screening and the scenery, have the option to hone their skills in acting and filmmaking workshops, hosted bythe likes of AdilHussain, Samuel Weniger and Kazuhiro Soda.
A harvest festival for the Garo tribe in Meghalaya, Nagaland and Assam—the Wangala Festival, also called the ‘Hundred Drums Festival’, is a day-long celebration of music, dance and local delicacies. The Garo women dance the DamaGogata, a popular local folk dance, to the beat of a hundred drums, while others pair in teams to play games originated within the tribe. Local delicacies, mostly made out of the tribe’s staple dish—rice—and locally brewed rice beer (which is also called chubitchi/chubok/chu), are also placed up for grabs.
During Loi Krathong, rivers in Chiang Mai, the largest city in northern Thailand, turn ethereal as thousands of tiny boats (krathong) drift down the waterways like twinkling stars. To welcome the new season, celebrants symbolically release their fears and regrets on boats laden with flowers, incense, and candles. Afterward, parades, musical performances, and fireworks displays take over. Sustainability tip: If you want to make an offering of your own, look for boats made of banana bark and leaves to lessen your environmental impact.
Forget Paris, Japan or D.C., Shillong in India has its own version of the International Cherry Blossoms Festival. The fourth edition of the festival will be filled with rock concerts, beauty pageants and golf tournaments. Take a walk through a canopy of colourful cherry blossom trees to find stalls brimming with local food, wine and crafts.
Starlight Williams is an editorial researcher and writer at National Geographic.
Sanjana Ray is that unwarranted tour guide people groan about on trips. When she isn't geeking out on travel and history, she can be found walking around the streets, crying for Bengali food. She is former Digital Writer at National Geographic Traveller India.