Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

The world's messiest festivals

By Daisy Carrington, for CNN
updated 6:42 AM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
Glastonbury, the world's biggest music festival, is almost as renowned for its muddy setting as it is music. The festival is often credited with inventing "mud surfing". Glastonbury, the world's biggest music festival, is almost as renowned for its muddy setting as it is music. The festival is often credited with inventing "mud surfing".
Boryeong Mud Festival
Orange Battle
Orange Battle
Els Enfarinats
Haro Wine Festival
International Pillow Fight
World Bodypainting Festival
World Bodypainting Festival
World Bodypainting Festival
  • Glastonbury, the world's biggest music festival, is credited with inventing "mud surfing"
  • La Tomatina is probably the best known food-themed gathering
  • This year, the event will be limited to 20,000 participants, with tickets on sale in advance
  • At the annual World Bodypainting festival in Austria, artists paint models to resemble works of art

(CNN) -- There is something innately messy about summer. The air's more pungent, bodies are stickier, and people seem more willing to make a mess. That must be why some of the world's filthiest festivals bide their time until the warmer months.

Mud pack

Glastonbury, which culminated Sunday, is the world's biggest music festival. But it's almost as renowned for its mud-splattered setting as it is the music -- indeed the festival is even credited with the invention of "mud surfing".

Rain boots are de rigueur for the event's 150,000 attendees, thanks in part to the U.K.'s typically soggy weather. This year was no different, with revelers arriving undeterred by the pouring rain.

"Sometimes, you'll see a fairly innocuous-looking shortcut between some tents that no one else seems to be using," recalls Rebecca Milford, a Glastonbury veteran. "You get halfway in only to discover it's actually a three-foot-deep mud hole. I was stuck for 30 minutes before some kind soul decided to pull me free."

iReport: Send us your best fireworks shots

While celebrating muck is only incidental at Glastonbury, at the Boryeong Mud Festival in South Korea, sludge is the main event. The festival started in 1998, when a local cosmetics company started making products using Boryeong mud -- which is highly regarded for its high mineral content. They launched the festival as a marketing initiative. It has since become one of the main events on the South Korean calendar, with over 2.6 million visitors attending last year.

People start partying in the street and building themselves up into a frenzy.
Corey Kirkham, a guide with Top Deck Travel, which annually offers tours of La Tomatina festival

This year, festivities start July 19. Prospective attendees can expect the usual mix of messy attractions, namely, mud fights, mud slides, mud baths, mud wrestling and a mud marathon.

Food fights

La Tomatina is perhaps the most famous gastronomy-themed gathering, though the celebrated produce in question (tomatoes) gets thrown, not eaten. Last year, 45,000 revelers joined the red riot in Buñol, Spain. Though the event has become increasingly well-known, veterans say there's no preparing for the juicy onslaught.

"People start partying in the street and building themselves up into a frenzy. Then the trucks roll out and a mass of red shoots into the air. Next thing you know, you're diving in there and face-washing strangers with tomatoes," says Corey Kirkham, a guide with Top Deck Travel, which annually offers tours of the festival.

Over 150,000 tomatoes get chucked during La Tomatina, and Kirkham says that a shower isn't always sufficient in washing away the remnants of the event.

"The next day you're finding tomatoes everywhere, and still cleaning stuff out of various parts."

Read: 8 amazing outdoor music venues

This year's event is slated for August 28, though for the first time there will be a limit on the number of participants. Only 20,000 will be allowed in, and those attending will need to procure tickets beforehand.

Hindu tradition celebrated through color

Still, there are several other, less-known festivals dedicated to the art of food-throwing. On June 29, thousands of winos gather in Haro, Spain, a small town in the Rioja region, to drench each other in reserve stocks of the area's signature vino. The event is known as La Batalla del Vino, or the Wine Fight.

According to the organizers, the festival dates back to the 13th century, and started as a land dispute that ended in some upended wine. To commemorate that first battle, attendees come armed with buckets, water pistols, wine skins, and various other receptacles to get things flowing.

Toby Paramor has been organizing tours through Stoke Travel for four years. He notes that clean-up isn't always straight forward.

"You smell like wine for days," he says. Any clothes you bring to the event will be stained eggplant by the end, so it's best to consider anything worn on the day disposable.

We want people to understand that body painting is an art form. It's not just about coloring in some bodies.
World Bodypainting Festival organizer Denise Molzbichler

Body of work

Sometimes, mess is merely the byproduct of a spectacular work of art. That's doubly true when bodies are used in place of a canvas, as is the case at the World Bodypainting Festival in Pörtschach, Austria.

Read: Travel photos you wish you had taken

The event, which kicked off July 1, started as a small gathering 16 years ago with 20 artists showcasing their work. Today, 30,000 people attend yearly. Festival organizer Denise Molzbichler says the artwork has become more sophisticated, pulling in professional makeup artists from around the world. Models aren't merely painted (often with a sponge of airbrush), but bedazzled, sculpted and adorned with elaborate headpieces. Prosthetics are also commonly used in crafting the type of fantastical characters usually reserved for a sci-fi epic.

One of Molzbichler's favorite examples, she says, was when an artist painted three separate models and posed them to look like a motorcycle.

"It was fascinating, because you couldn't recognize where the people began and ended. All you saw was the motorcycle," she recalls.

Several bands play throughout the festival, though the art is definitely the key component. Molzbichler says she hopes the festival will help redefine how people view the practice.

"We want people to understand that body painting is an art form. It's not just about coloring in some bodies," she says.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:42 AM EST, Mon December 2, 2013
No matter the time of year, or place, a bounty of vegetables is often all it takes to get people singing, dancing, cow racing -- even parading around giant phalluses.
updated 2:06 PM EDT, Fri November 1, 2013
Fireworks boom, bulbs flash, and flames flicker as tens of millions of people across the globe celebrate the beginning of the Festival of Lights.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Thu October 31, 2013
halloween costume no eyes
Still think Halloween is just for the kids? You won't -- not when you've seen CNN's gut-twisting, down-right disgusting mob of morbid maniacs.
updated 5:42 AM EDT, Fri November 1, 2013
Our list of doomed sites include a haunted school, political prisons and an abandoned hospital. No...we wouldn't go in there either!
updated 6:46 AM EDT, Thu October 31, 2013
Catch the best Halloween costumes from tinseltown featuring Heidi Klum, Jimmy Kimmel, Ellen DeGeneres, Miley Cyrus and all their A-list friends.
updated 1:18 PM EDT, Mon October 21, 2013
There are still many places in the world that treat magic as serious business. Check out our guide to the world's witchiest hotspots.
updated 10:07 AM EDT, Mon October 14, 2013
The best photos of the eighth and annual gathering of geeks in the city that never sleeps. The sold out event allowed fans to mingle with stars.
updated 9:44 AM EDT, Wed October 9, 2013
When animals come together en masse, very often so do humans. Here's our guide to the animal migrations that bring people out in flocks.
updated 2:26 AM EDT, Fri September 20, 2013
Surviving the all-day drinking sessions of highly potent wheat beer at the (in)famous Oktoberfest in Munich is marathon, not a sprint.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Fri September 13, 2013
For one weekend in September more than 155 million people in six neighboring countries across Central America pull out all the stops to honor the birth of their nations.
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Wed August 28, 2013
Some hobbies take genuine talent, others just don't, but the real skill is turning your weird past-time into an international event.
updated 1:59 PM EDT, Fri August 9, 2013
For Muslims, Eid al-Fitr is one of the most festive periods in the religion's calendar. We asked you to send us your best Eid photos, here are your best shots.
updated 6:46 AM EDT, Thu August 8, 2013
Award-winning British chef Aktar Islam shares his best Eid food memories. Find out what culinary delights are on his table.
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue August 20, 2013
Humans have a strange relationship with food. This seems to be a global truth that is perhaps best evidenced by the array of unusual food festivals the world over.
updated 6:42 AM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
Each year, proponents of the healing powers of mud (and those that just like to getting down in the dirt) descend on Daecheon Beach in South Korea for the annual Boryeong Mud Festival. Last year, 2.6 million people participated, many diving in to the mud marathon, mud wrestling, and several other mud-related activities on offer.
There is something innately messy about summer. That must be why some of the world's filthiest festivals bide their time until the warmer months.
updated 5:14 AM EDT, Fri August 9, 2013
From Bastille Day and 4th July to Chinese New Year and Disney Land, your shots of the world's greatest fireworks.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
We asked you to send us your best solstice photos. From skinny dipping, fire jumping and dancing like a rocket -- here are your best shots.
updated 5:53 AM EDT, Mon June 17, 2013
Linked to fertility -- both of the vegetal and human variety -- the solstice has spawned celebrations meant to fan the flames of love and lust.
updated 6:43 AM EDT, Thu June 13, 2013
Why did the midsummer maypole cause offense and who celebrates midsummer by running naked through the streets?
updated 1:07 PM EST, Thu December 20, 2012
For some it was an exhilarating holiday to an exotic place, finding new love or conquering their greatest fear. For others, it was witnessing an historic event.
updated 10:39 AM EST, Mon December 17, 2012
The champagne is on ice, the fireworks are exploding overhead -- but isn't your New Year's Eve party a bit, well, last year?
updated 10:54 PM EST, Thu December 13, 2012
Edinburgh is cast aglow at its annual New Year's Eve (Hogmanay) festivities with a torchlight procession involving more than 25,000 locals
For many people, New Year's Eve can be disappointing -- there's so much hype in the lead-up to the event, it often falls short of the mark.
updated 8:45 PM EST, Tue December 11, 2012
If your Christmas is too often one of tacky decorations, over-cooked turkey and bitter family feuds, now may be the time to plan yourself a Yuletide getaway.
updated 5:36 AM EST, Mon December 24, 2012
Jen Best from Liberty, Misouri, snapped this adorable picture of her six month old nephew, Grayson, playing with fairy lights after seeing the idea on Pintrest.
Christmas is synonymous with decorations, markets and extravagant quantities of food. But traditions differ greatly depending on where you are in the world.
updated 10:22 AM EST, Sun December 23, 2012
For something intended to bring pleasure to loved ones, Christmas shopping in the Internet age can be a peculiarly joyless and atomized activity.
updated 3:31 PM EST, Fri December 7, 2012
For some, Hanukkah is "the potato pancake holiday" -- a holiday that takes the mundane potato and gives it a massive makeover.
How much do you know about Christmas traditions around the world? Find out with our quiz.
updated 8:07 AM EST, Tue November 26, 2013
The biennale will attract artists such as Sudarshan Shetty, whose previous works have included this aluminium and wood sculpture known as
The port-city of Kochi, on India's west coast, isn't known for its arts scene but that will change as it's first arts bienale.