From barbecues and candlelit dinners in flower-filled gardens to baffling but brilliant rituals, pagan festivals are an unconventional, joyous way of immersing yourself in a new world through travel.
Here is Booking.com’s pick of the best alternative festivals for 2017.
A shadow illusion is cast over Chichen Itza on the equinox
Spring & autumn equinox, March & September 2017
Chichen Itza, Mexico
The elaborate stone carvings and mighty structures of the ancient Mayan pyramids of Chichen Itza, are impressive whenever you visit. And though there’s no formal festival or event as such, on the vernal and autumnal equinox the sight is even more spectacular. Using incredibly advanced geometry for their time, the Mayans managed to make the late afternoon sun cast a shadow over the steps only at this time of year. This shadow creates the spectacular illusion of a serpent moving down the El Castillo pyramid.
Traditional Midsummer Eve celebrations in Falun
Midsummer (Litha) solstice, June 2017
Midsummer is a major celebration in Sweden. On Midsummer eve, houses are decorated with garlands of flowers, maypoles go up for dancing, and smorgasbords of pickled herring, meatballs, and other Swedish specialties appear. Traditional, outdoor, communal gatherings can be found all over the verdant green region of Dalarna.
Watch the sun rise over the awe-inspiring Stonehenge
Summer solstice, June 2017
One of the world’s oldest archaeological sites, the prehistoric monoliths of Stonehenge are truly mind boggling. Especially when you consider that these 25-ton stones were transported from Wales with not so much as a horse and cart. On the longest day of the year, a pagan crowd ranging from academics to neo-Druids gathers to watch the sun rise over the monument in silence. As the sun peeps over the horizon, it casts a beam of light, which connects three significant stones of the henge.
Have your future foretold at Féile Draíochta in Dublin
Féile Draíochta, October 2017
A small, annual event in Dublin, Féile Draíochta bills itself as Ireland’s festival of magic and spirituality. A day festival including talks, workshops, exhibitions, and more, it’s a joyous celebration much like a traditional céilí - a Celtic gathering involving singing, dancing, and storytelling. And you can even have your future foretold by a Tarot reader.
Celebrate Imbolc at Gaia's Garden, Melbourne
Imbolc, July/August 2017
The festival of Imbolc, marking the beginning of spring, has Gaelic roots, but it has spread all the way to Australia. In Melbourne, a spiritual venue called Gaia's Garden in the Northcote neighbourhood hosts parties to celebrate Imbolc, along with various other pagan festivals. It’s run by the Goddess movement community, so offers a garden of ideas focused on gender and femininity. It’s an upbeat day devoted to creative workshops, readings, discussions, and sharing abundant food.