6 Dazzling Light Festivals Around The World To Check Out Every Year

Light festivals around the world offer a unique journey through a kaleidoscope of colours, cultures, and creativity. Apart from the ancient traditions of Diwali in India, the illuminating celebrations of the human spirit through contemporary marvels, such as Vivid Sydney and many more, are spectacular events that every traveller should experience at least once in a lifetime.

Join us as we unravel the unique features and significance of the world’s must-see light festivals as a top travel itinerary guaranteed to inspire and brighten your world of travel.

Best Light Festivals You Won’t Want To Miss

1. Amsterdam Light Festival, The Netherlands

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In 2022, the ‘Sign’ light installation by artist duo Vendel & De Wolf comprised bamboo poles covered with aluminium tape that resembled a mass of flickering flames. | Credit: amsterdamlightfestival.com

Why: Illuminating the city centre of Amsterdam, the famous festival of lights in the capital of the Netherlands transforms into a winter wonderland with an open-air art exhibition with innovative light displays and artwork created by artists, designers, and architects from around the globe. You may wonder what makes this light festival one of the must-see light festivals in the world. Well, each year, the festival adopts a new theme inspired by social and cultural trends that translate into unique and thought-provoking light installations, adding a touch of magic and enchantment across the canals of Amsterdam and various spots across the city centre that span over 6 km long.

In 2022, the light festival featured futuristic light displays and art installations in line with the theme ‘Imagine Beyond’ with over 20 artworks. Among the notable art and light displays include ‘Light Gate’ by American architect and visual artist Edwin Baruch, made of illuminated metal mesh. Meanwhile, ‘Spin Me A Yarn’ by Studio Vertigo from the United Kingdom featured a quirky light display centred around a giant wool ball that had fallen from an old crane and floated across the water. The illuminations and enormous nature of the display encouraged travellers to see things from different perspectives. For example, a secret second ball intertwined in the light thread redefined the meaning of human relation to ordinary objects and the environment.

This year, the 12th Edition of the Amsterdam Light Festival is set to take you into the exciting world of artificial intelligence and digital technology with close to 24 illuminated art displays. For the best experience, get a front-row seat to enjoy the magical lights and artworks from the water on a canal cruise or explore the illuminated city streets on foot or by bike.

When: The light spectacle commences in winter and lasts 53 days from the end of November until mid-January.

2. Vivid Sydney, Australia

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The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney hosted ‘Lightscape’ for the first time in 2023, featuring a multi-sensory experience of sounds and captivating lights on tree canopies and wildflowers. | Credit: vividsydney.com/blog

Why: Nestled along the picturesque Sydney Harbour, Vivid Sydney is a hallmark of innovation, artistry, and wonder in the world of light festivals. Every year, this luminous extravaganza transforms the iconic Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and other architectural marvels into canvases for spectacular light installations, captivating locals and visitors alike. Vivid Sydney is undoubtedly a top destination as one of the world’s must-see light festivals for a transformative experience featuring state-of-the-art technology and artistic brilliance.

The major highlight of Vivid Sydney is the vast array of spectacular light displays that range from immersive 3D projections to interactive exhibits designed by local and international artists, turning Sydney’s landscape at night into a futuristic dreamscape.

Immerse in all forms of creativity and innovation, such as music and live performances by renowned artists, inspiring talks and forums on technology and art, which play an integral role in Vivid Sydney’s mass appeal. Australia’s vibrant culinary scene also takes centre stage during Vivid Sydney, with food stalls and restaurants offering delectable treats to tantalize your taste buds. One of the best ways to experience Vivid Sydney is by taking a harbour cruise to witness the city shimmering in colourful lights and electrifying sound displays.

In 2024, Vivid Sydney celebrates humanity as a global event through creativity, innovation and technology. The global event aims to encourage people from all over the globe to unite to share and embrace the differences and commonalities of the human spirit for the greater good.

When: Vivid Sydney lasts close to three weeks during the day and night in late May to early June each year. Mild weather during this period allows you to comfortably explore the outdoor installations. Weekends are typically livelier with special events, while weekdays offer a more serene atmosphere for those who prefer a quieter experience.

3. Fete des Lumires, Lyon, France

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The Place des Terreaux is one of the majestic buildings in Lyon that serve as a backdrop for awe-inspiring light displays. | Credit: Festival of Lights – Lyon Tourist Office

Why: Lyon, the third largest city in France, is well-known for its annual festival of lights (Fête des Lumières), steeped in historical and cultural significance. The annual event dates back to 1852 when the residents of Lyon lit candles in their windows to honour the Virgin Mary due to bad weather that interrupted celebrations, which coincided with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Today, the festival has evolved into a grand light display across the cityscape of Lyon while preserving its unique cultural tradition.

The artistic installations crafted by international artists range from subtle, poetic displays to grand, immersive experiences, each telling a unique story and adding to the city’s magical ambience during the year-end holiday season. Whether you prefer to travel solo or with family, be prepared to gain memorable experiences up close with interactive displays that respond to human movement and engage in an immersive dialogue with captivating, brightly-coloured lights.

Another unique feature of the festival is the yearly candlelit processions to pay tribute to the Virgin Mary. The sparkling sea of locals and tourists alike adds a profound spiritual depth to this event, making it one of the best light festivals to experience in a lifetime. In addition, the festive holiday atmosphere during Fete des Lumires is also a perfect opportunity to experience French culture and hospitality at its best.

When: The festival usually takes place from 8th to 11th December. Over four nights after sunset, from 6 pm until late at night, experience the charming and captivating festive atmosphere of Lyon and the grandeur of Fete des Lumires.

4. Loy Krathong, Thailand

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It is believed that the Loi Krathong Festival was influenced by the Hindu Festival of Lights, Diwali. | Credit: Austin Neill via Unsplash

When the full moon graces the sky, various spots across Thailand, from Chiang Mai to Phuket, come alive with the mesmerizing festival of Loy Krathong. Rooted in ancient traditions and spiritual reverence, this festival of lights is a sight to behold, drawing travellers from across the globe to experience its unique charm.

Are you seeking to forge a deep connection with Thai culture and a magical immersion in the beauty of light? Look no further, as Loy Krathong is one of the most popular must-see light festivals to experience in Asia.

At the heart of the celebration of lights lies the intricate krathongs – small, lotus-shaped boats crafted from banana leaves adorned with candles, incense, and flowers. These delicate creations are floated on rivers, lakes, and ponds, creating a breathtaking scene as thousands of flickering lights gracefully drift away. The act symbolizes letting go of negativity and grudges, bringing inner peace and harmony.

During Loy Krathong, candlelit processions are common throughout Thailand, illuminating temples and public spaces. Locals carry candles, paying homage to Buddha and expressing gratitude to the goddess of water, Mae Khongkha. Participating in these processions provides an intimate insight into Thai spirituality and devotion.

Apart from water-bound festivities, the skies are adorned with impressive fireworks, and traditional paper lanterns, known as khom loi, are released into the air. These lanterns, carrying wishes and prayers, create a surreal spectacle as they ascend, transforming the night into a canvas of floating stars.

Loy Krathong is also ideal for travellers to experience Thailand’s rich heritage and culture. Cultural performances such as traditional Thai music, dance and theatrical performances transform the celebration into a festive and vibrant mood.

When: Loy Krathong typically falls on the night of the full moon of the 12th lunar month, which usually occurs in November. The exact date varies each year based on the lunar calendar. Festivities extend for several days, enabling travellers to immerse in the festival’s spirit.

5. Tumbilotohe Festival, Gorontalo, Indonesia

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Gorontalo people have a unique tradition called Mohibadaa during Ramadan, where they cover their faces with a local mask made from rice flour and herbs like turmeric to avoid dry skin due to fasting. | Credit: regional.kompas.com via indonesia.travel

Why: A hidden gem among international travellers when it comes to must-see light festivals of the world, the province of Gorontalo on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia is a quaint travel destination to witness the Tumbilotohe Festival held in conjunction with the Eid al-Fitr festivities. During the annual light festival, local communities create impressive light displays that light up the rural countryside with picturesque paddy fields and rivers.

In the local language, tumbilo means installing, while tohe is a lamp. Therefore, the event is regarded by Gorontalo residents as the night to set the lights. This tradition dates back to the olden days when residents of the province placed kerosene lamps along roadsides to provide light for local officers who were collecting zakat fitrah alms in the form of rice from houses in the areas. In modern times, the tradition has been extended to welcome the Lebaran day and to appreciate the people who practice their fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

After Maghrib (the evening Islamic prayer), locals light lamps held by wooden poles and stroll around their neighbourhood, exploring and admiring the illuminated installations that burn until dawn. Meanwhile, children visit the homes of neighbours, family members, and relatives, singing a unique song called tumbilotohe as they go on their way. Experience the warm local hospitality of the people of Gorontalo during this festival and indulge in one of the most famous dishes of Gorontalo, Sate Cakalang, a skewered fish dish served with rich peanut sauce.

One of the festival’s most remarkable features is its commitment to environmental sustainability. Energy-efficient LED lights and eco-friendly practices align with conservation and responsible tourism principles. This dedication towards preserving the environment sets the Gorontalo Light Festival apart, making it a shining example of how cultural celebrations can be both spectacular and environmentally conscious.

When: The Tumbilotohe Festival typically occurs during the dry season that begins around April every year. It is held for three days during the evening and ends on the eve of Eid al-Fitr.

6. Kobe Luminarie, Japan

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Approximately three to five million people visit Kobe Luminarie every year. | Credit: Vicky via Tripadvisor

Why: Regarded as one of Japan’s most enchanting light festivals, the Kobe Luminarie is one of the must-see light festivals for international travellers and serves as a symbol of hope, resilience, and solidarity. The festival originated to commemorate the victims of the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995 and has since evolved into a breathtaking celebration of light and unity.

From elaborate light displays comprising magnificent archways and buildings adorned with intricate light patterns and vibrant colours to cultural performances like concerts and traditional Japanese art, the Kobe Luminarie experience provides insights into Japanese culture and enables travellers to contribute to charitable causes while enjoying the festivities.

This year, the event occurs near Motomachi Station on the JR Kobe Line, starting at the Former Foreign Settlement and extending to Higashi Yuenchi Park.

When: The annual light festival is typically held in December, illuminating winter nights. Although specific dates may vary each year, visitors can expect to witness this dazzling spectacle during the first two weeks of December.

However, in 2024, for the first time in four years since the COVID-19 pandemic, the light festival is set to be held in January.

Ultimately, what we take away from these radiant annual light festivals is more than just the memory of the celebrations. It is the enduring light ignited within our hearts, guiding us forward in our own journeys and lighting the way to a brighter, more connected world.

Discover the infinite power of light on your journey of light festivals around the world!
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