Mountain Festivals You Can’t Miss: From Folk Festivities to Parades

by | 1 May 2024

The allure of a mountain festival is multi-faceted: up in the hills, celebrations take place in a truly atmospheric setting, with views that stretch over the horizon and sunsets so beautiful, they might distract from the main event. Whether it’s a centuries-old cultural tradition in high-altitude villages, or using a natural amphitheater for a mountain music festival, we think these are the best mountain festivals you’re bound to make memories at.

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Festival de la Candelaria, Peru

The mountain festival Festival de la Candelaria in Lake Titicaca, Peru

On February 2 each year, a burst of colour on the shores of Lake Titicaca springs to life. Held in the city of Puno, Peru (considered the country’s folklore capital), the Festival de la Candelaria celebrates the ‘Mamacha’ Candelaria, Puno’s patron saint.

The celebrations usually extend for a full week either side of the big day, when up to 30,000 dancers take to the town’s Torres Belón stadium for the ultimate dance-off, with even their costumes designed to move in time with the rhythm of panpipes.

After the televised contest, the mountain festival shows off its traditional Andean side, with masked participants from 150 Quechua and Aymara folkloric groups parading through Puno’s streets.

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Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Colorado USA

A mountain view over the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Colorado USA

This mountain music festival in Telluride, one of Colorado’s top ski resorts (with an altitude of 8,750 feet), has filled the Rockies with the sound of bluegrass music for over 50 years.

Every June around Midsummer, performers stand upon a wooden stage that perfectly blends with the cowboy vibes of the old mining town, and let their banjos and bagpipes serenade a crowd of up to 50,000 people over a four-day shindig.

If the sounds of bluegrass and country aren’t enough, dance under the Solstice sun, greet the day with 8AM yoga sessions, or simply tuck into a paper plate of flavor-packed dumplings; the festival is famous for the savory snack.

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Frozen Dead Guy Days, Colorado USA

Who knew that one US state could offer so much diversity in the realm of mountain festivals? During the quirky Frozen Dead Guy Days, held on the second weekend of March, the foothill town of Nederland, Colorado clubs together to celebrate Grandpa Bredo – a Norwegian citizen whose body was cryogenically preserved and brought to Nederland from his home country by his grandson.

After four decades and a few legal difficulties, Grandpa Bredo’s corpse currently lies in a Tuff Shed designed to cryogenically preserve him. He is long dead, but the community comes alive to celebrate him with coffin races, a hearse parade, and ‘Frozen Dead Guy Lookalike Contests’.

Although the 2023 festival was held in the town of Estes Park – an hour’s drive north of Nederland – it’s well worth making the trip for this truly one-of-a-kind mountain festival.

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World Ski & Snowboard Festival, British Columbia Canada

A snowboarded jumping in the air on the snowy mountain slopes

This mountain music festival in Whistler, Canada combines the best of winter sports into one big April fiesta. As well as witnessing the world’s best skiers whizz down one of the world’s steepest (and scariest) black ski slopes, at the World Ski & Snowboard Festival you can experience some of the coolest après-ski North America has to offer: there are short film and photography competitions, rejuvenating wellness sessions in luxury hotels, and of course, DJ parties until dawn.

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Fort William Mountain Festival, Scotland, UK

A mountain view of the Scottish Highlands

Scotland’s Highlands may not be as tall as the epic ranges of Europe or America, but they’re still mighty, and the Fort William Mountain Festival – held every February in the Outdoor Capital of the UK – shows you how to see them at their finest.

You’ll exercise both your mind and your body. Lace up your boots for winter-walking workshops and guided hill hikes, learn how to ski or snowboard, dance at a lively cèilidh or simply sit and listen to a riveting mountain-themed talk in the cosy confines of a traditional Scottish bothy – the Fort William Mountain Festival offers an unrivalled opportunity to get under the skin of Scottish mountain culture.

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Festival of Roses, Morocco

A close-up of pink damask roses

Throughout history, the arrival of spring has been cause for celebration. When Morocco’s M’goun Valley blooms with up to 4,000 of damask roses each May, the air is filled with aromas of all kinds: smoke from bonfires, spicy Berber food, but mostly of all things rose.

At this time of year, thousands of pink petals are harvested to make aromatic rosewater and valuable rose oil, which perfumes everything from soaps to sweets. Local artisans sell their floral wares at handicraft markets, Berber women dress in pink robes, and one lucky young lady is crowned the year’s Rose Queen. If the sweet scent of flowers floats your festival boat, this is definitely one mountain festival you should not miss.

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Alice is a travel and history journalist, passionate about food, cultural connection, music and language. She specialises in Greece, and has travelled widely around the mainland and islands. She has written for a number of travel publications, including Lonely Planet, National Geographic Traveller, Atlas Obscura, British Airways' High Life, The Independent, the i and Travel Weekly.