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African celebrations and festivals offer a diverse culture, so we share these top options so you to plan a trip to experience.

We share those top African celebrations and festivals, spanning the continent from Kenya to Egypt, Zanzibar to Chad – pack your bags! Not only do we love to travel and live abroad, but we also have some great friends, fellow bloggers and fellow teachers, who have enjoyed living in Africa. We asked them all and took our own experiences, to share these events and festivals in some of the best places to visit in Africa.

With more than 3,000 ethnic groups and some 2,000 different languages, the African continent is the very embodiment of cultural diversity, resulting in many African celebrations and festivals throughout the year.

Combining this fact with the amazing biodiversity and natural beauty of the continent along with incredible features such as the Kruger National Park and the city of Cape Town; planning a holiday in Africa becomes an opportunity not to be missed!

Let’s explore the top cultural festivals and African celebrations from various countries across the continent to give you an idea of the immersive and exotic experiences you can expect to encounter when you visit this magical place.

Best African Festivals

Elephants in Kenya

Mombasa Carnival – November, Kenya

Kenya’s largest annual festival, organized by the Ministry of Tourism, is a carnival of floats, costumes, music, and dance that perfectly showcases the region’s cultural diversity.

Traditional and contemporary musicians perform, and the streets are lined with stalls offering all sorts of local delicacies, such as fresh coconut milk and the brewed concoction known as Mnazi, which is made from coconut sap.

During these African celebrations, participants often dress in traditional Kikoy and Kanga, and the parade finally winds its way down to the beach at Fort Jesus for a boat regatta!

Other things to do in Kenya

  • Hike Mount Kenya
  • Masai Mara safari
  • Relax on Diani Beach
  • See gorgeous views at Watamu
  • UNESCO World Heritage City of Lamu
  • Lake Nakuru National Park (Rhino spotting)
  • See beautiful elephants at Amboseli National Park
  • Visit the town of Kilifi
  • Hells Gate National Park
  • Stay at one of the most unique hotels in the world; the Giraffe Manor.

Where to stay in Mombasa?

  • PrideInn Hotel Nyali – For a cheap, clean, and comfortable room in a homely hotel, this is the place for you. Rooms start at $35 and the hotel even has a pool.
  • Ziwa Beach Resort – For a quirky, treehouse vibe, check out this beach resort, with rooms starting at $40.
  • Afrochic Diani – For 5-star luxury, splash the cash for this full-board resort.
African Festival of the Dhow Countries

Festival of the Dhow Countries – July, Zanzibar

Often described as East Africa’s largest cultural event, the Zanzibar International Film Festival, or Festival of the Dhow Countries is an iconic event.

It brings together the arts and cultures of several East African countries with those of India, Pakistan, the Gulf States, Iran, and the Indian Ocean islands.

While the film competition is the main event, it attracts an enormous variety of cultural experiences from music, theatre, and performing arts, to workshops, seminars, and conferences.

The festival sprawls between several beautiful and historical venues near the seafront in Stone Town, with a Village Panorama that extends the festival outwards to the rural communities.

It is a unique event to enjoy and one of the best things to do in Zanzibar on a visit. 

Other things to do in Zanzibar

  • Visit Zanzibar’s Old Town; Stone Town
  • Shop at Darajani Market
  • Try or watch Capoeira; often found on the beach in the evenings
  • Relax on one of the gorgeous beaches
  • Try snorkeling at Mnemba Atoll
  • Eat at The Rock
  • See the turtles on Prison Island

Where to stay in Stone Town?

  • Zenji Hotel – A small but comfortable option in the heart of the city with rooms starting at $42
  • Mizingani Seafront Hotel – This is a more luxurious option with the seafront location making it a romantic choice in Stone Town; starting at $88.
National Arts Festival in South Africa

National Arts Festival – June to July, Grahamstown, South Africa

Africa’s largest cultural event and African celebrations, this annual extravaganza sees the normally quiet streets of Grahamstown transformed into a hive of colorful activity that attracts local and international stars alike.

Every available room becomes a performance venue, and every park or sports field becomes a flea market to showcase over 600 separate acts, from drama to music to stand-up comedy and everything in between! 

Other things to do in Grahamstown

  • Cathedral of St Michael and St George
  • International Library of African Music
  • Provost military prison
  • 1820 Settlers National Monument
  • Kwandwe Private Game Reserve
  • Kwantu Private Game Reserve

Where to stay in Grahamstown?

Grahamstown, South Africa is full of fantastic guest houses to try, suiting all budgets. Here are some of our favorites:

  • A Stones Throw Hotel ($43)
  • 8A Grahamstown Luxury Guest House ($85)
  • Jenny’s Guest House ($63)
Whales in South Africa

Hermanus Whale Festival – late September, South Africa

Described as an ‘Enviro-Arts’ festival, the real stars of this show are the migrating Southern Right Whales, who are the main focus of this South African celebration.

Hermanus is renowned as the best land-based whale-watching destination in the world. Each year some 100,000 visitors flock to the pretty seaside town to experience the whales.

Enjoy some truly delicious food, and revel in great music and a festive atmosphere! And don’t forget to greet others with these different ways to say Hello in South Africa.

This is a great festival for the whole family, with kid’s entertainment, street parades, live shows, film, music, local arts and crafts, the Marine ECO Village, and even a Whales and Wheels Classic Car Show!

Other things to do in Hermanus

  • Hermanus Cliff Path Walk
  • Fernkloof Nature Reserve
  • Hermanus Wine Tours
  • The whale museum
  • Old Harbour Market Square

Where to stay in Hermanus?

  • House on Westcliff – This boutique-style guest house is the perfect little getaway place for couples on a budget.
  • Ocean Eleven Guest House – This 5-star luxury home is simply gorgeous, with rooms starting at $190 a night.
  • Beaumonte Guesthouse – With rooms at $120 expect a spacious and comfortable stay as well as a guesthouse pool.
Sunset in Botswana for the Maitisong Festival, African Celebrations

Maitisong Festival – April, Gaborone, Botswana

Now in its 30th year running, this annual event is a favorite among locals and international visitors alike and another one of the top African celebrations.

Music is one of the biggest attractions, with gospel, kwaito, and Afro-pop as just some of the styles on showcase.

The event hosts both free and paid events so that everyone has a chance to get in on the action!

Other things to do in Botswana

Central Kalahari Game Reserve
The San Bushmen
The Okavango Delta
Chobe National Park
Makgadikgadi Pans

Where to stay in Gaborone?

There are lots of villas and rental homes in the area, so head over to Agoda or Air B’n’B for a selection of rental options.

Abu Simbel Festival – February and October, Egypt

Abu Simbel in Egypt

Fans of Ancient Egypt will adore this African celebrations and festival, which takes place twice a year on October and February 22nd.

The magic of this festival is all in the timing – at these two times of the year, the sun aligns with the entrance of the Abu Simbel temples honoring Ramses II and his wife, Queen Nefertari, to illuminate two of the three statues within – leaving Ptah, the god of the underworld, in darkness.

Interestingly, the entire temple had to be moved when the Egyptian government made plans to dam Lake Nasser in the 20th century. This was achieved by cutting the monument into massive blocks for transport, each weighing 30 tons!

Needless to say, there was some careful maths involved to get the temples to align again as they used to, although in the process the day had to be moved forward.

Originally, the alignment would have occurred on the 21st of October and February.

Today the festival is celebrated by accompanying traditional Nubian dances, live music, and plenty of street food outside the venue – and it might be one of the coolest additions to an Egyptian holiday!

Other things to do in Abu Simbel

  • Explore the many temples
  • Lake Nasser
  • Tombs of the Nobles
  • The Nile river

Where to stay in Abu Simbel

There aren’t many accommodation options at the temples but you can choose to stay in nearby cities such as Aswan or Luxor.

  • Hapi Hotel – Located in Aswan, this is a budget hotel with rooms starting at $31.
  • Pyramisa Isis Island Aswan Resort & Spa – Treat yourself to this fabulous 5-star hotel costing $79 a night.
  • Pavillon Winter Luxor – Another great hotel with rooms starting at $70 a night.
  • Aracan Eatabe Luxor Hotel – A 4-star hotel with rooms costing just $32.
People dressed for Gerewol Festival in Chad

The Gerewol Festival – late September, Chad

If you’re up for having your beliefs about marriage and gender roles challenged quite a bit, then this has to be one of the most interesting cultural experiences a traveler can experience and a unique African celebrations.

Each year the nomadic Wodaabe tribes gather at the end of the rainy season, usually during the last week of September, for what has been described as the world’s most competitive male beauty pageant!

During this week-long festival, tribes gather on foot, via camel or donkey to come together to dance, feast, and most importantly – attract a lover or mate.

The men, who carry a small pocket mirror with them at all times, spend hours preparing their clothing and makeup for the Yakke dancing – in which three female judges each pick a winner who will carry acclaim and fame for years.

The Wodaabe are polygamous, and it is the women who take the lead in partnerships.

During the dance, a woman who wishes to be ‘stolen’ from her current husband by a more attractive mate taps him on the shoulder to indicate her choice.

Being a witness to the Gerewol festival is a rare opportunity for travelers to broaden their cultural horizons, and worth planning a trip around!

Other things to do in Chad

  • Visit the capital; N’Djamena.
  • Aouk National Park
  • Musee National N’Djamena
  • Zakouma National Park
  • Tibesti Mountains
  • Unwind on the Chari River, Douguia

Where to stay in Chad

  • Chains such as Hilton and Radisson Blue are available in Chad and are popular choices for international tourists.
  • Hotel Chez Wou is a modest but fair-priced hotel in the capital, with rooms starting at $68.
Kruger National Park in South Africa

Zimbabwe’s Harare International Festival of the Arts

This festival showcases the creativity, resilience, and strength of the Zimbabwean people. Taking place each April, the festival attracts over 1000 musical performances.

Established in 1999, the HIDA is one of the largest International arts festivals in Africa. Taking place each year in late April or early May, this week-long festival celebrates music, dance, fine art, theatre, and poetry. 

Other things to do in Harare:

  • Mukuviski Woodlands
  • Champing Sculpture Park
  • Wild Is Life & Zen
  • Balancing rocks
  • National Heroes’ Acre
  • Shona Sculpture Gallery
  • Haha camp Game Park
top places to visit in morocco

Morocco’s Fez Festival

This is a World Sacred Music festival, with Moroccan Song, Italian Renaissance Music, Balinese Dance, and African Sufism.

This annual festival first began in 1994 and runs every year for 10 days in early June. During this time, you can expect to see plenty of concerts, debates, and music from artists from all over the world. 

The goal of the event is to highlight Islam’s nature as a civilization, with the original idea seeking to foster dialogue between Western and North African scholars and writers. 

Alongside the music, you can enjoy international food and incredible art displays whilst enjoying some of the best places to visit in Morocco.

Other things to do in Fez:

  • Bab Boujloud
  • Al Attarine Madrasa
  • Marinade toMBS
  • Bou Inania Madrasa
  • Medina de Fes
  • Fes El Bali
  • Burj Nord Museum
  • The Royal Palace in Fex
  • Chouara Tannery
  • Dar Batha Museum

Chana’s Afrochella – Ghana

Drawing thousands of music lovers from all over the world, this festival highlights Musical talents from Africa. It is only a few years old but is becoming a major event in Ghana, running during the last week of December, and becoming one of the quickest growing African celebrations in the continent.

With live music, dance performance, and art installations, you can fully immerse yourself in the afrocentric festivals at one of our favorite African celebrations.

Celebrating the diverse culture and vibrant work of African creatives and entrepreneurs, this is a fun, unique festival to explore. Expect to experience African cuisine, music, and art during the festival!

Other things to do in Ghana

  • Cape Coast Castle
  • Kakum National Park
  • Elmina Castle
  • Mole National Park
  • Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park
  • Boo Beach
  • Wli Agumatsa Waterfalls
Airlines in South Africa

Knysna Oyster Festival in South Africa

Each year, South Africa hosts a half marathon, cycling race, swimming, scuba diving, and canoeing event alongside a food celebration; particularly focusing on Oysters. 

Attracting sport enthusiasts, foodies, and families, this is a fun, busy festival to enjoy. From bungee jumping, adventure racing, and golfing, to cooking competitions, whisky and wine tastings, and live music, there really is something for everyone.

This 10-day event does offer everything but has a huge focus on Oysters! This of course includes oyster shucking and eating but also oyster farm tours, oyster recipe challenges and oyster-themed dinners. 

Other things to do in Knysna:

  • Featherbed Nature Reserve
  • Knysna Waterfront
  • Knysna Elephant Park
  • The Motorcycle Room
  • The Heads
  • Wild oats Community Farmers’ Market
  • Tsitsikamma National Park
  • Brenton-on-Sea

Ouidah Voodoo Festival

Each January, Benin holds a national celebration in honor of its traditional religion and the associated cults. 

Considered a national religions holiday, this is one of the African celebrations which is dedicated to religion. 

Experience ceremonies, sacrifices, songs, dances, and a large banquet when visiting Benin. 

The festival has grown over the years, drawing people of African describe from across the world, including America, Brazil, and the Caribbean. 

Other things to do in Benin:

  • Pythons Temple
  • Dantokpa Market
  • Pendjari National Park
  • Ouidah Museum of History
  • Fidrosse Beach
  • Bab’s Dock
  • Cotonou
  • Lake Nokoue
  • Porto-Novo
  • The Museum of the Zinsou Foundation

Festival of the Dancing Masks in Burkina Faso

This festival brings together people from over 40 different villages, wearing masks and costumes to celebrate, storytell, and perform music. 

Also known as FESTIMA, this is one of the fun African celebrations, full of dance, music, and mask-wearing. The masks are made from leaves, straw, wood, and textiles, playing an important role during the rites and the cycle of life.

Other things to do in Burkina Faso:

  • Ouagadougou Cathedral
  • Monument of National Heroes
  • Bobo-Dioulasso
  • Grande Mosquee de Bobo-Dioulasso
  • Paroisse Cathédrale notre Dame des Lourdes
  • Ouagadougou
  • Elise de Apoya
  • Pics de Sindou
  • National Museum of Burkina Faso

Timkat in Ethiopia

This Orthodox celebration is a 3-day celebration, held in towns and cities across the country. The most famous celebration is in Gondar, where thousands of pilgrims join, dressed in white robes. The waters of the Fasiladas’ bath are blessed and pilgrims renew their baptism vows. 

Other things to do in Ethiopia:

  • Abuna Yem’ata Ruh
  • Bale Mountains National Park
  • National Museum of Ethiopia
  • Red Terror Martyr’s Memorial Museum
  • Fasil Ghebbo
  • Rock-Hewn Churches, Lali-Bela
  • Simien Mountains National Park
  • Mount Entoto
  • Omo National Park
  • Nahiso Terara

Tunisia’s International Festival of the Sahara

This 4-day event celebrates the rich culture of the Sahara Desert and its people; full of singing, poetry readings, feasting, and dancing. 

This is one of the most unique African celebrations and unique art festivals in the world. Showcasing Berbe and Bedouin traditions and culture, you can see a variety of activities, from dancing and parades to camel racing. 

Other things to do in Tunisia:

  • National Museum of Bardo
  • Ribat of Sousse
  • Medina
  • Amphitheater of El jam
  • Djerbahood
  • Ez-Zitouna Mosque
  • Guellala Museum
  • Maths of Antonius
  • Jasmine Hammamet

BONUS EVENT: The Great Wildebeest Migration

Although not technically one of the African celebrations or festival, this is a spectacular event that should be witnessed on your trip to Africa.

Each year, the Great Migration takes place through Tanzania and Kenya and you can plan a trip to witness natural wildlife at its best.

The Great Serenegti Wildebeest migration, is the movement of many of the animals from South Serengeti. You can expect to see a vast array of animals, including lions, hyenas, zebra and gazelle.

This is unlike any other natural event that you will find in the world; making the timing and exact locations being hard to pin point.

Rain can change the course or timing of this event, but we recommend heading the Ngorongoro Conservation Area or the Serengeti national Park in Tanzania, whilst the Maasai Mara national Reserve in Kenya is another fantastic place to see this event. 

We personally loved visiting Arusha National Park!

Airlines in South Africa

African Celebrations and Festivals FAQ

What is the African Traditional Festival?

There are many African Traditional Festivals but the Mombasa Carnival in Kenya and the Gerewol Festival in Chad are two popular, traditional festivals in Africa. 

What holidays do they celebrate in Africa?

The Central African Republic holidays are generally celebrated throughout the continent. 

These include:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Anniversary of Barthelemy Boganda’s Death (29th March)
  • Easter Monday
  • Independence Day (August 13th)
  • Feast of the Assumption (August 15th)
  • National Day (December 1st)
  • Christmas Day

Why Africa Day is celebrated?

Each year, Africa Day commemorates the founding of the Organisation of African Unity. Africa Day celebrates the solidarity, unity, diversity, creativity, and successes of the continent. 

Who started Africa Day?

31 African Leaders convened a summit meeting, where they founded the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on May 25th, 1963. This is of one of the most popular African celebrations in the continent.

This date is known as Africa Day and as such, is celebrated each year on the 25th of May. 

What do they celebrate in South Africa?

South Africa has many different celebrations and festivals including:

  • Cape Town Minstrel Carnival
  • Knysna Oyster Festival
  • Cape Town International Jazz Festival 
  • Royal Reed Dance Festival
  • Oppikoppi Bushveld Festival
  • National Arts Festival
  • Arts Alive Festival
  • Jacaranda Festival
  • Up the Creek Outdoor Music Festival
  • Ultra Music Festival
  • Splashy Fen Festival
  • Afrikaburn
  • Bushfire Festival
  • Grahamstown National Arts Festival

What tribe celebrates Bakatue?

The Bakatue Festival is celebrated in the Central region of Ghana, by the chiefs and people of Elmina. It runs each year on the first Tuesday of July, dating back to 1847. 

Do South Africans celebrate Christmas?

December 25th is a public holiday in South Africa, with Christians commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. Schools close for the Christmas holiday and many towns and cities host carol singing events on Christmas Eve.

It is the summertime in December but Christmas Trees, decorations, and Christmas meals are popular in the country too.

South Africans also say Merry Christmas or Happy Christmas by saying ‘Geseënde Kersfees’ (Afrikaans), ‘UKhisimusi omuhle’ (Zulu) or ‘Le be le keresemese e monate’ (Sesotho). 

What is the African Harvest Celebration?

The Homowo Festival of Africa celebrates a traditional harvest festival. As the largest cultural festival of its kind, it is celebrated by the Ga people of Ghana, West Africa.

What are the traditional festivals in Ghana?

Homowo is the grandest festival in Ghana – celebrating the harvest, occurring each year in May.

Aboakyir is also celebrated in May and is a ceremonial and cultural event with the Effutu-Winneba people competing in a deer hunt.

Bakatue is celebrated in July whilst another harvest celebration runs in August, named Asafotufiam. 

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