Holi, also known as the festival of Colors, is one of the biggest festivals of India. It not only celebrates the victory of Good over evil but also welcomes the onset of Spring. India is a land of diversity where traditions and culture change every 100 kilometers. Hence, we have created this list of the best places to celebrate Holi in India where each celebration is different from the other.
We hope that this article helps you plan your Holi vacation better and you get a clear idea of all the different flavors you can hope to enjoy. There are also numerous legends and folklore associated with Holi and we shall explore them all in this blog post. Without further ado, let’s start with the most famous place to enjoy Holi in India.
Best Places to Celebrate Holi in India: Vrindavan & Mathura
The OG Holi capital of India. The images that you generally see when you google Holi in India, are those of Vrindavan and Mathura. These are the places where the beloved Hindu God, Lord Krishna spent his childhood and youth. His shenanigans during the festival of Holi, were responsible for starting this tradition of celebrating Holi by splashing colors on each other.
As Vrindavan and Mathura are located just 15 kms apart, we have included them together as one destination. Here, Holi Celebrations start almost a month and half before the official date of Holi. In the morning, people gather in the streets Vrindavan, outside the Banke Bihari temple, inside the temple and the main square to splash colors on each other, dance to the constant beats of dhol and drink Bhaang Laced Thandai! In the afternoon they participate in the Holi procession that starts from Vishram Ghat in Mathura for a full day of craziness and joy. To witness the full scale of Holi celebrations, arrive about 3 days before Holi and leave the day after Holi.
The Holi celebrations in Vrindavan and Mathura are so grand that we have dedicated a separate post on How to spend Holi in Vrindavan and Mathura. Check it out for all the details you need to plan an amazing trip.
Best Places to Celebrate Holi in India: Manipur
If you wish to witness something truly unique and offbeat during Holi, visit Manipur. The festival of Holi is celebrated as the Yaoshang Festival in Manipur by the Meitei tribe.
It takes place over a period of 6 days starting from the day of Holi, and has an incredible balance of religion, tradition, festivities, sports events and colors.
The morning of the first day, there’s a very vibrant procession that starts from Kangla fort to the local sports complex. This marks the inauguration of the sports meet.
In the evening, the ceremony of Yaoshang Mei Thaba is performed. This involves the burning of the ceremonial hut of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, something similar to Holika Dahan, else where in India.
Join the locals as they perform the traditional Moonlight folk dance known as Thabal Chongba. It’s a group performance where people hold hands in a circle and dance to the beats of tribal drums.
The next day, grand sports events are conducted with full gusto. Exciting competitions like Tug-of-war, football and Yubi Lakpi add to the exhilarating energy of the festival.
In recent times, the youth organizes a lot of rock concerts during Yaoshang. These add a different flavor to the festival and take the celebrations to a completely different level.
On the last day, people spray colors on each other and celebrate Holi, to mark the end of the Yaoshang festival.
This truly is a representation of the diversity in India. The same festival is celebrated with a completely different name and in a totally different manner than the rest of the world. Find out more details on the official website here.
Best Places to Spend Holi in India: Jaipur
Another great place to celebrate Holi in India is the pink city of Jaipur, Rajasthan! Jaipur is the place where the famous color bombs, Gulaal Gota are manufactured!
Gulaal Gotas are water canon balls made by molding lacquer and filling them up with colored water. Colors and pichkaris (traditional water guns) are common through out the country, but you won’t find these Gulaal Gotas anywhere else.
Up until 2012, you could also play Holi with elephants during the Elephant Festival that takes place on the eve of Holi. However, they were banned keeping animal rights in mind.
Today, you have two amazing options for celebrating Holi in Jaipur.
- The Holi celebrations organized by Rajasthan Tourism at Khasa Kothi. It features traditional folk music, lip-smacking food and dance. People play in the lawns by throwing organic colors at each other.
- Theme parties organized by private resorts. Jaipur is home to a number of regal holiday resorts. These resorts organize special theme parties that involve performances by famous Bollywood celebrities, international DJs, cocktails, great food along with the traditional celebrations with organic colors. The themes include rain dances, Bollywood and one resort even organized a Tomatina festival in Jaipur! Each of these theme parties is a full-fledged Holi extravaganza!
Best Places to Celebrate Holi in India: Udaipur
While we’re on the topic of regality, how can we not mention Udaipur? The city of Palaces and Lakes has its own traditions in celebrating Holi.
Everywhere else, the focus is on the festivities involving colors. But in Udaipur’s Holika Dahan (burning of the effigy of Demon Queen Holika) is right out of pages of royalty.
Also known as Mewar Holika Dahan, the festivities start with the lighting of the Holi pyre in the City Palace Grounds by the ruling King of Mewar. It’s followed by the locals performing the folk dance ‘Gair” around the pyre.
After Holika Dahan, a splendid procession takes place from the Shambhu Niwas Palace to Manek Chowk. In the procession, the Royal family participates in the procession on elephants, camels, horses and vintage cars, followed by a band and locals.
It is one the unique experiences you can have in India and it should not be missed. The next day you can play Holi with the locals in city squares and common grounds.
Pro Tip: To make the most of your trip, we recommend attending the Mewar Holika Dahan in Udaipur and leaving for Jaipur the next day to participate in the extravagant Holi parties mentioned above.
Best Places to Celebrate Holi in India: Barsana
One of the most unique celebrations of Holi that you will ever witness in the world. Barsana is a town located about 50 kms from Mathura. It is the home town of Lord Krishna’s beloved, Radha ji.
Legend says that Lord Krishna, in his youth, would visit Barsana with his buddies to tease Radha ji and her friends. As a result, the women would chase the guys and beat them up with sticks.
This tradition is kept alive to this day by the locals of the village. In the central square, locals dressed in traditional attire, gather and play with sticks.
Men hold shields to protect themselves from the women who beat them playfully with big sticks known as laths. This tradition gives it the name Lathmaar Holi.
While it also has all the flavors of traditional Holi like colors, music, dance and lots of people, Lathmar Holi is a must witness tradition in India.
Note: You can club this with the celebrations of Holi in Mathura and Vrindavan as Barsana is located only 50 kms away from both of these places. However, Lathmar Holi is celebrated 7 days before the actual date of Holi. We recommend you to check out our detailed blog post on spending Holi in Vrindavan, Mathura and Barsana.
Best Places to Celebrate Holi in India: Pushkar
Pushkar is the new hot destination for celebrating Holi in India. The laid-back lake town in the Ajmer district becomes a hub of electronic music and colors during the time of Holi.
When we visited Pushkar, we were taken aback by the sheer scale of the festivities! The main square was full of people splashing, spraying and smearing colors on each other.
On one side of the street an array of high-volume speakers played electronic music. On the other side, a group of enthusiastic dhol players were matching the speakers in intensity.
A lot of stalls and street carts selling bhaang-thandai, finger food, chaats and ice-slushies are available round the clock. The atmosphere changes overnight from that of small-town pilgrimage to the one in the rave parties of Goa!
Pushkar is a remote village in Rajasthan but is a hit among backpackers. So, you’ll be able to find a lot of amazing hostels and budget hotels with great facilities.
As the number of tourists is almost at par with the number of locals, it is also one of the safest places to celebrate in India.
Best Places to Celebrate Holi in India: Shantiniketan
Shantiniketan is the home town of the great poet and Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore. It is where he established the esteemed Viswa-Bharati University. Every year during Holi, the university celebrates Basant-Utsab – a tribute to springtime and nature.
As a result, the festival of Holi is an entirely different affair here, with nature as the centerpiece. While Holi in the rest of the country is a boisterous and a rather wild affair, Holi in Shantiniketan is celebrated with utmost grace and tranquility.
Locals and students of the Viswa Bharati University wear colorful traditional clothes, mostly yellow to reflect the color of spring. There’s a grand cultural program that involves traditional music and dance performances by the students.
This is followed by the poetry recitals and music of the university’s great Founder, Rabindranath Tagore. In the end, there’s a formal celebration of the festival where people greet each other by smearing organic dry colors.
If you have already witnessed Holi in India in any of the other places listed in this article, you need to witness Holi in Shantiniketan.
It showcases the diversity of India and confirms that Holi is not just a festival of dhols and water colors but also a sublime celebration of the beauty of nature and spring.
Best Places to Spend Holi in India: Goa
Holi in Goa is quite a unique experience. With its white sandy beaches, mystical blue oceans and a vibe that cannot be replicated anywhere in the world, Goa is the perfect setting to celebrate the most colorful festival of India.
Holi in Goa involves a beautiful procession known as the Shigmo festival. It is celebrated with drumbeats, enactments of mythology and people dancing in the procession.
Tourists can also participate in the merriment irrespective of their religion or nationality. Participating in the Shigmo festival is a must for celebrating Holi in Goa.
Another must, is attending one of the many amazing beach parties. Every year, lots of beach clubs organize Holi parties with great music, unique themes and a colorful vibe.
Participants play Holi with dry powder colors and colored water. Some parties also have foam throwers, rain dance, color bombs and live performances. Belwo, we have listed some of our favorite theme parties in the region:
- Colorland, Vagator
- Holi Tandav, Arambol
- Sunburn Holi, Vagator
- Tito’s Holi, Calangute
- Rang Barse, White Beach
In our opinion, Holi in Goa with its shacks, beaches and the party vibe, guarantees the best experience for anyone looking to enjoy a crazy Holi.
Best Places to Spend Holi in India: Hampi
For the uninitiated, Hampi is a town in the South Indian state of Karnataka, known for its ancient temple ruins and hipster vibe. Holi is not a very popular festival in Southern India.
However, in Hampi, Holi has been celebrated for as long as these ruins have stood. In fact, you may also witness carvings in the temple depicting citizens playing Holi.
In the modern day, people dress up in white and play Holi along the banks of the Tunga Bhadra river. There is music, dance, smearing of colors, food and drinks!
After the festivities, it is customary to wash the colors off your body by jumping into the Tungabhadra river. In addition to this, there is also a hippie island where frequent Holi parties are organized.
Hence, Hampi with the backdrop of its ancient ruins and the continuous charm of the Tungabhadra river, is definitely one of the best places to enjoy Holi in India.
Best Places to Spend Holi in India: Anandpur Sahib
Anandpur Sahib is a town located about 85 kms from Chandigarh. Every year on the second day of Holi, locals celebrate the famous Hola Mohalla. It is a 3 day fair organized to celebrate the bravery of a particular sect of Sikh Warriors.
Celebrations include a whole host of events glorifying the rich, cultural heritage of the Sikhs. Needless to say, The festivities are truly a sight to behold as participants perform daredevil stunts through horse riding, profound displays of martial arts and mock fights showcasing the battles of the great Sikh warriors.
These celebrations are accompanied by delicious Punjabi food served in langars organized by the locals. The food here is free of cost as it is considered as Seva (service) by the Sikhs. Hence, be respectful and don’t waste any food if you don’t provide any other service.
In a nutshell
As you might have noticed, Holi is celebrated in different styles, with different traditions and with different levels of energy throughout India. But what remains at the center of these festivities, is the spirit and hope that the good shall always triumph. We hope that you are leaving this article with a whole lot of information to plan your Holiday (pun intended).
If you have any other questions, leave us a comment below and we shall be happy to answer them. Also, you can reach out to us on our Instagram handle @worldwidewander_org where we share bite sized travel information.