The Ultimate Bucket List: 5 Must-Visit Festivals in India for USA Travelers

Namaste, fellow globe-trotting NRIs! If you find yourself daydreaming about the intoxicating sights, sounds, and flavors of India while sipping on your pumpkin spice latte in the States, it’s time to plan your next visit back home.

And what better way to immerse yourself in India’s rich culture than by attending some of its most spectacular festivals?

From the kaleidoscopic chaos of Holi to the twinkling charm of Diwali, here are the top ten must-visit festivals in India that promise to rekindle your love for the motherland and leave you with memories to last a lifetime.

Holi: A Riot of Colors and Laughter

Date: March (varies) Location: All over India, with Mathura & Vrindavan being hotspots

There’s nothing quite like the technicolor frenzy of Holi to brighten your spirits and make you feel like a kid again.

Dodge (or embrace) the rainbow-hued powders and water balloons as you frolic through the streets, relishing in the joyous chaos of India’s most vibrant celebration.

Diwali: The Festival of Lights

Date: October/November (varies) Location: Nationwide

Ready to indulge your inner pyromaniac and bask in the warm glow of a thousand diyas?

Diwali, the festival of lights, is a must-visit for any NRI looking to reconnect with their roots.

Feast on lip-smacking sweets, don your finest ethnic attire, and join the locals in celebrating the triumph of light over darkness.

Pushkar Camel Fair: Of Camels, Culture, and Carnival Rides

Date: November (varies) Location: Pushkar, Rajasthan

Who needs the State Fair when you can have camels, sand dunes, and a dash of Rajasthani flair?

The annual Pushkar Camel Fair offers a fascinating glimpse into the desert culture of Rajasthan, complete with camel beauty pageants, traditional folk music, and yes, even a Ferris wheel.

Pongal: A Harvest Celebration Like No Other

Date: January (14th-17th) Location: Tamil Nadu

Swap your quinoa salad for a hearty plate of Pongal (the dish) as you revel in the bountiful harvest of Tamil Nadu.

Pongal (the festival) showcases the region’s unique customs, mouth-watering cuisine, and beautiful kolam (rangoli) designs, making it the perfect winter getaway for NRIs craving a taste of South Indian culture.

Durga Puja: A Divine Spectacle

Date: September/October (varies) Location: West Bengal, especially Kolkata

Trade in your designer shoes for a pair of comfy flip-flops as you embark on a pandal-hopping spree during Durga Puja.

Witness the divine glory of Goddess Durga as she vanquishes the buffalo demon, and soak up the electric atmosphere of Kolkata’s bustling streets, adorned with awe-inspiring idols and creative decorations.

Ganesh Chaturthi: Of Modaks and Majestic Processions

Date: August/September (varies) Location: Maharashtra, especially Mumbai

What’s better than the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

How about a ten-day extravaganza honoring everyone’s favorite elephant-headed deity, Lord Ganesha? Savor steaming modaks and join the euphoric crowds as they dance, sing, and celebrate the arrival of Ganpati Bappa.

Don’t forget to witness the mesmerizing visarjan (immersion) processions that mark the culmination of this beloved festival.

Navratri: Nine Nights of Dance, Devotion, and Dazzling Attire

Date: September/October (varies) Location: Gujarat, especially Ahmedabad

Dust off your dancing shoes and get ready to groove the night away during Navratri, a nine-night extravaganza dedicated to the divine feminine.

Experience the infectious energy of Garba and Dandiya Raas, and don’t forget to don your most colorful, twirl-worthy chaniya choli to blend in with the locals.

Mysuru Dasara: A Royal Affair

Date: September/October (varies) Location: Mysuru, Karnataka

Channel your inner maharaja or maharani as you revel in the regal splendor of Mysuru Dasara, a ten-day festival that commemorates the victory of good over evil.

Witness the grand procession of caparisoned elephants, indulge in the rich cultural heritage of Karnataka, and marvel at the illuminated Mysuru Palace – a sight that’s sure to leave you spellbound.

Hornbill Festival: A Kaleidoscope of Tribal Culture

Date: December (1st-10th) Location: Nagaland

Trade in your Manhattan skyline for the lush green hills of Nagaland as you explore the vibrant and diverse world of the Hornbill Festival.

Immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of India’s northeastern tribal cultures as you witness traditional dances, sample exotic cuisine, and shop for unique handicrafts that are sure to impress your friends back in the States.

Kerala Boat Races: A High-Octane Spectacle

Date: July/August (varies) Location: Kerala

Forget the Kentucky Derby – it’s time to place your bets on a thrilling snake boat race in the lush backwaters of Kerala.

Watch in awe as teams of skilled rowers propel their intricately carved boats through the water, their oars slicing through the surface in perfect unison.

The festive atmosphere and stunning natural beauty of the region make this a must-see event for any NRI seeking adventure and cultural immersion.


There you have it, fellow NRIs – a dazzling array of festivals that will transport you back to the enchanting world of India, complete with all the vibrant colors, flavors, and traditions that you’ve been yearning for.

So, pack your bags, brush up on your Bollywood dance moves, and get ready to embark on a nostalgic journey through India’s cultural extravaganza – a celebration of life, love, and the indomitable spirit of the motherland that will leave you yearning for more.

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Mani Karthik

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