Even if you don’t know the history and culture behind these festivals, the aesthetics alone can hold your attention. Here are 15 of the most visually stunning South African festivals.
This article originally appeared on AFKInsider.com.
1. FNB Dance Umbrella, Johannesburg
Every February, the FNB Dance Umbrella puts on a festival showcasing dance choreography and dance performances by groups ranging from community-based troupes to international dance companies. The costumes and movements are a thrill to watch, and the festival has launched many choreographers and dancers into international careers.
2. Prickly Pear Festival, Uitenhage, Nelson Mandela Bay
Be careful where you sit down at this prickly festival! Each year, the Cuyler Hofstede farm hosts a food festival that showcases the best of many traditional South African dishes from potjiekos to fish braai, but the festival superstar is the stunning prickly pear. This gorgeous, colorful fruit is everywhere — in art displays, in bouquets, and of course in creative dishes.
3. SciFest Africa, Grahamstown
This festival isn’t your traditional idea of beautiful but it is captivating. Sometimes called the National Festival of Science, Engineering and Technology, this festival is the setting for around 600 events, with the most stunning including a laser show, sunset shows, robotics competitions and a film festival. More than 35,000 visitors attend this imagination fest.
4. AfrikaBurn, The Karoo
Africa’s branch of The Burning Man festival, this huge gathering in the desert is all about radical self expression. You’ll see it in the outlandish costumes, massive man-made monuments, artwork, body paint — you name it. The entire festival grounds look like a psychedelic fantasyland.
5. Pink Loerie Mardi Gras, Knysna
The Knysna loerie is a green bird, and this festival captures the showy nature of the feathered beauty. It’s a gay festival in a coastal town, and it’s a non-stop party. Pink feather boas, splashy head dresses, wild floats and of course beverages abound, and several parades go on throughout the four-day festival.
6. National Arts Festival, Grahamstown
The National Arts Festival is the oldest, largest and most popular arts festival in South Africa. It offers constant culture for 10 days with live music, singing groups, theater performances, dance companies, film screenings and much more.
7. Bushveld Festival, Lephalele, Limpopo
If you want a real rugged South African experience, this festival is not to be missed. You’ll see cattle shows, a game auction, horse jumping, dog shows, a four-by-four competition, traditional South African food, massive camp fires and so much more evoking a long-lost era. You’ll swear you’ve gone back in time.
8. Hantam Vleisfees, Calvinia, Northern Cape
This might be the most beautiful thing any avid carnivore ever beholds. Hantam Vleisfees (translation: meat fest) is a festival dedicated entirely to the celebration of meat. You can try it almost any way you like, from meat braaied, stewed and curried to meat sosaties (kababs), in potjies (traditional three-legged, cast-iron pot) and in pita. You can even purchase rare cuts of meat like a full sheep’s head, for unbelievably low prices. The festival is also the setting for the Miss Vleisfees competition, a showy event of dancing and entertainment based around an enormous feast.
9. Hermanus Whale Festival, Hermanus, Western Cape
This festival celebrates the yearly migration of the southern right whales which travel thousands of miles to the Cape’s south coast to mate and give birth. As if the coastal town of Hermanus isn’t charming enough, it offers some of the best land-based whale watching in the world.
10. Ficksburg Cherry Festival, Ficksburg, Free State
The Ficksburg Cherry Festival is one of the oldest festivals in South Africa, dating back to 1969. Today it attracts more than 20,000 visitors looking to enjoy the gorgeous small town of Ficksburg, and the unforgettable cherry and asparagus tastings and tours. The festival also features live music and the Miss Cherry Blossom and Miss Cherry Pip competitions.
11. Knysna Oyster Festival, Knysna
Knysna is famous for its oysters, and is becoming equally well-known for its Oyster Festival, held in July each year. There are more things to do than you can poke a mollusc at: oyster braais, oyster tasting, oyster-eating competitions to name just a few. There is also live entertainment and sporting events, should you feel all those succulent oysters are adding pounds to your figure.
12. Standard Bank Joy of Jazz
Held in August in Johannesburg, this is the city’s biggest annual jazz festival and features a range of musical style, but notably jazz. It’s an ideal outing for the whole family, and over 200 local and international musicians preform at various venues across town, but especially in Newtown.
13. Splashy Fen, Underberg, KwaZulu-Natal
South Africa’s own version of Glastonbury music festival, Splashy Fen attracts thousands to camp at a farm near Underberg. There are plenty of facilities on hand but for those who’s muddy music festivals are behind them — nearby towns offer many excellent B&Bs.
14. Tondeldoos Country Festival, Mpumalanga
Previously known as the Peach Festival, it has been renamed the Tondeldoos Country Festival, and takes place in the village of (yes, you guess it!) Tondeldoos, about two hours drive from Johannesburg. The festival is pretty peachy and offers everything you can imagine made with or from peaches, and then some. A highlight is peach mampoer, if you’re feeling brave (and if you’re not driving!). It’s held in late March or early April.
15. Lambert’s Bay Kreeffees, Lambert’s Bay, Western Cape
Kreef is Afrikaans for crayfish, and a fees can be both festival and feast; in this case it is both. Kreeffees is held every March in the West Coast town of Lambert’s Bay, where you’ll feast on fresh crayfish and get festive at rock concerts by some of South Africa’s favourite musicians. Should you need motivation before rewarding yourself with crayfish, set your sights on the half-marathon.