5 'Must See' Events and Festivals

Bored with lying on a beach, looking for a holiday that's a little bit different? Why not time your holiday to coincide with one of these fantastic 'must see' events and make your trip a once in a lifetime experience.

Il Palio — the ultimate horse race in Siena!

Italy's Il Palio dates back to 1701 when the magnificent horse race first took place in honour of the Virgin Mary. Today, the tradition is still strong- Il Palio takes place twice a year in July and August, and it's one of the most renowned events in the whole of Europe.

Il Palio is held in the Piazza del Campo in Siena, where 50,000 spectators watch ten jockeys ride their horses bareback. Il Palio is hectic, with the horses careering around the tight corners of the Piazza del Campo at breakneck speed. Sometimes jockeys are thrown off their steeds and horses often finish the race without their riders.

The actual horse race only lasts about a minute and a half, but it's all the other festivities and excitement that makes Il Palio special. If you plan to watch Il Palio, why not arrive a few days before the main event to allow yourself time to soak up the atmosphere and find out what else Siena and Tuscany has to offer. Why not take a wine tour, enjoy a great view of the city from the top of Mangia Tower, or simply take a stroll and enjoy Siena's ancient streets.

Oktoberfest, Munich

Oktoberfest, is a 16 day celebration of beer held annually in Munich, it's the biggest beer festival in the world with over 6 million people attending annually. Reportedly over 6 million liters of beer are consumed within the beer gardens there. Yet despite all of the alcohol-consumption, Oktoberfest boasts a great family atmosphere with a huge fairground to entertain kids and adults alike. The event kicks off with a huge procession of the tent concessionaires, all of which are pulled by gigantic horses.

The Oktoberfest is an important part of Bavarian culture, having been held since 1810,only beer which is brewed within the city limits of Munich is allowed to be served at the festival.

La Tomatina — throwing tomatoes in Spain!

La Tomatina is perhaps one of the messiest festivals in the world! Every year on the last Wednesday in August the streets of the little town of Bunyol in Spain drown in a sea of tomato juice in a massive food fight known as La Tomatina.

Truck loads of tomatoes are brought in especially for La Tomatina. Anyone can join in with this madcap event- it often attracts visitors from far and wide. La Tomatina has a simple concept, to throw as many tomatoes as you can in the time available.

If you decide to take part in La Tomatina, be prepared to get messy. Even spectators are sure to have a tomato or two thrown in their direction. Accommodation in Bunyol is scarce so it's best to stay in nearby Valencia where there are many hotels and hostels to choose from. There are trains that run from Valencia Central Station to Bunyol offering a quick and convenient service to La Tomatina.

It's unclear exactly how La Tomatina began, but one theory dates back to 1945, when a gang of youths threw tomatoes at a passing parade. They returned to throw tomatoes the following year and it's said that La Tomatina grew from there.

The Pamplona Bull Run — it will get your heart racing!

The Pamplona Bull Run is a wild event held every year in the town of Pamplona in Spain. Runners risk their lives as they career down the streets ahead of six angry bulls- 15 people have died since the Pamplona Bull Run first started keeping records in 1924.

During the Pamplona Bull Run, the town streets are sectioned off with wooden fencing to control the direction of the bulls and enable spectators to watch the excitement unfold. Certain points in the fencing are designed to allow the runners to escape to safety if they feel they need to.

The Pamplona Bull Run ends in the town's bullring and the event is one of the highlights of the San Fermin festival, which takes place from 6 July to 14 July each year.

Unlike bullfighting, almost anyone can be a runner in the Pamplona Bull Run, provided the participant is over 18, in good health and hasn't been drinking. Runners are not allowed to 'egg on' the bulls- they must simply run away from them.

If you plan to attend the Pamplona Bull Run, book your accommodation well in advance as hotel rooms often get snapped up quickly. One option is to sign up to a guided tour which will ensure all your accommodation, transportation and tours are organised for you. And you could benefit from a hotel balcony with a direct view of the Pamplona Bull Run- well out of harm's way!

Rio Carnival — an event not to be missed

The Rio Carnival is arguably the most spectacular and largest parade of its type anywhere in the world. It is an elaborate display of sequinned costumes and stunning floats. Rio Carnival takes place 40 days before Easter and lasts for four days.

Visitors from all over the world attend the Rio Carnival each year to get a fascinating insight into Brazilian culture. The aim of the carnival is to give everyone the chance to laugh, dance, sing and have as much fun as possible! Rio Carnival doesn't just parade the streets. It infiltrates bars and clubs around the city so that there is a carnival atmosphere everywhere. Even if you don't have Rio Carnival tickets, you'll still have the chance to join in with the fun.

The Carnival parades move through a designated area with tiered seating,book your Rio Carnival ticket prior to travel and choose which section you want to sit in. Allocated seating ensures that visitors can all get a great view of the Rio Carnival parade.