Where to celebrate the Holi Festival in India?

Where to celebrate the Holi Festival in India?


Who hasn’t dreamed of taking part in the Holi Festival, India’s famous festival of colors? It’s one of the great feasts awaited by the locals, and one of the most beautiful celebrated for a few days throughout the country.



“HAPPY HOLI, HAPPY HOLI”, these are the first words you’ll hear all day as soon as you arrive in India at Holi Festival time. The country already bustles with activity all year round, and is even more so on the eve and day of Holi. Now you’ll understand why the Holi Festival is one of the most popular celebrations for travellers from all over the world! It’s an incredible experience not to be missed.


I invite you to read all our other articles on Rajasthan to help you prepare for your trip:



Above all, it is a Hindu religious festival that celebrates Krishna, one of the gods of Hindu mythology and symbolizing the arrival of fertility and the victory of good over evil. This festival is celebrated in all castes, but also in other Hindu communities such as Pakistan and Nepal. During the Holi, everyone is equal, on the same level, there are no social differences and that’s what we liked. Religious and cultural barriers disappear for a moment. But the Holi is more than just a celebration of spring, it’s a colorful one! It is also known as the universal love festival. Yes, everyone loves you for a few days, and even more so when you’re a tourist! Holi is also an opportunity to put an end to family and friendship conflicts.

Color pigments (often chemical) are sold from stalls around town on the days leading up to and on Holi day. A small bag doesn’t cost much, around 20 rupees, and that’s enough to throw some at the locals from time to time. For 2 days, everyone kindly covers your face, body and hair in a variety of colors: yellow, fuchsia, blue, red, purple…you name it! In reality, everyone is covered from head to toe in all kinds of colors, and no one is spared! Finally, each color has a meaning: in general, red represents purity, green vitality, blue is the color of Krishna, symbolizing calm, yellow piety…). The Holi is the festival of colors!




This Hindu festival dedicated to the God Krishna in northern India and to Kâma in the south, is celebrated around the spring equinox. It is celebrated for two days on the full moon of the month of Phâguna, between February and March. The dates change every year, so make sure you find out the exact dates well in advance so you don’t miss out. We arrived 1 day early in Jaipur for the Holi Festival and the festivities were just beginning. The locals were getting ready for the big event.



This festival is normally celebrated all over the country, but if you want to experience Holi to the full and make the most of the festivities, we recommend a trip to northern India, to the Rajasthan. Ideally, you should make this festival part of your trip to this region.

These gatherings take place mainly in large cities such as Jaipur, Udaipur, Pushkar. This town (Pushkar) is renowned for its different, more festive atmosphere, with many young Indians partying to electro-trance music.

But if you want to experience Holi traditionnel, take the road towards Mathura and Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh, the historic birthplace of many religious festivals.

In Mathura and Vrindavan, it’s a real battle of colors, with very special religious celebrations! It’s the most cultural and authentic place we’ve ever been! Pilgrims flock to Krishna’s temple to offer him offerings. Here live some 2,000 widows rejected by their families after the death of their husbands. The ceremony is more religious, with slightly fewer tourists, or at least tourists who have come for something other than a party!

It was our first choice before the locals talked us out of it because of the safety problems on the access roads to the city! The road to this small town is 5-6 hours away. Jaipur and Delhi. Don’t rely on kilometers, ask yourself if the road is damaged or not!
We were going to go there, but after hearing a lot of feedback from local guides, we decided to abandon the idea. In fact, there was a conflict between Muslims and Hindus that prevented access to the city. Cars trying to get in were shaken down. If they didn’t pay the locals, they threw stones at the vehicles! Several tour groups had to change their itinerary at the last minute.

It’s best to arrive 2 days in advance and leave 1 or 2 days later to avoid problems, peace of mind and the many flying stones on your rental cars! Remember to get up early because the “war” starts early!

Finally, on the Barsana, just 40km from Mathura, the Holi festival, also known as the « Lathmaar Holi » is very curious, atypical and completely mad. Hindu mythology tells of Krishna being chased out of the village by women with lathis (sticks) when he came to see his beloved Radha. It is celebrated by the city’s women, dressed in their finest saris, who perform stick dance, also called Danse Gair , a zany dance that involves tapping (in good spirit) the men of the village, protected by a shield. They sing traditional songs in chorus.




The Holi festival starts either in the first few days of March or mid to late March and lasts just a few days. It’s nice to come at least a day before to get a feel for the atmosphere of the place and of course, get christened in the streets and attend the famous “Holi fire“. This gigantic bonfire is organized by the locals, in the street, and is accompanied by song and dance.

You have the choice of celebrating the Holi festival, or like most locals, with family and friends. In general, tourists gather together in different locations, such as the Forts, Palaces or central square where the event is held. On the whole, locals stroll the streets. Younger kids party and dance. A lot of men are drunk, so drifting is common. That’s why we recommend you to be careful on the streets and if you can, to be accompanied by locals because as “tourists“, you’re an easy target for young people. We know what we’re talking about, because as a couple, we were surrounded in the space of a few seconds by dozens of men, excited, with their hands wandering and sometimes even inappropriate for Marion.




Finally, wherever you are in North India, the festival of colors can be celebrated in many ways:


  • In the family, in the traditional way

We stayed for a few days with an Indian family outside the center of Jaipur, which enabled us to get as close as possible to the traditions. Here the Holi festival is celebrated with family, friends and neighbors. It’s a bit like celebrating Halloween and knocking on doors to ask for candy. Except that here, there’s no need to knock, because the door is always open to friends of friends, and that’s really appreciated!

We welcome you with sweet and savory Indian pastries and offer you a glass of cardamom almond milk. Here it’s all about sharing, talking, laughing and, of course, the color battle fought by all family members.

After this moment of conviviality, we go to our neighbor’s who welcomes you in the same way! And off we go for the grand tour!

Then come the traditional Indian dances, accompanied by musicians and their drums. The sound of the Drums still echoes in my head and inevitably leads me onto the dance floor. The young members of our Indian family perform the first jumps, arm movements and finger movements, all smiling, and then the men and even the animals join in! Rhythms quicken and time flies, we’ve already been celebrating the traditional Holi with our family for over 3 hours and our day isn’t over yet! Head for the city streets.



  • In town

We set off by car into Jaipur’s city center, our heads full of color! We’re ready to discover the other side of the Holi festival! This flamboyant festival can be a real nightmare if you’re not prepared on every level (see our tips at the end of the article);

The atmosphere is different, livelier, even more agitated. People gather on foot, others in cars and motorcycles. A concert of horns and shouts of joy can be heard everywhere. Everyone is euphoric and shouts « HAPPY HOLI, HAPPY HOLI »

As soon as you hit the road to the old town, accidents start to happen! Motorcycles overturned, young people drunk on whisky, young people sitting 3 or 4-up on scooters, young people on the ground because hit by a car. It’s the perfect opportunity for young people to drink themselves into oblivion. It’s better to know. Sound systems play loudly for hours, sometimes into the night. It’s a completely different atmosphere. The longer the hours go by, the more alcohol- and substance-impaired people become.

It’s worth noting that on Holi day, virtually all the city’s stores are closed. The lively streets of the day before seem so quiet on the day of the festival. It’s a chance for us to get out of the car and take a stroll. Our guides weren’t too keen on leaving us alone in the city, and we soon found out why. Within 5 minutes, we were surrounded by dozens of drunken youngsters, dreaming of putting their colored pigments on your face and body because it’s fun, but it’s also about touching a white girl!

To be honest, I did feel a few wandering hands, but I put that down to the festival. It may sound funny, but it can be a real relief at the end of the day, especially when you’re being followed by groups of young people on the street! Some want to spray you with water guns and brush you with chemical pigments (hardly recognizable from natural pigments). Sure, they fade from your skin after a few days, but for some Europeans, these colors cost them a nice short haircut when they got back to France. So be careful!

You should also know that for several years, the town of Jaipur organized the “Holi festival elephant”. In other words, a parade was organized in the city, where you could see elephants parading around adorned with jewels, Indian fabrics and make-up. This event no longer exists due to the mistreatment of animals, but some people still make up a few elephants for the pleasure of color.





The Holi Festival is all about getting ready, whether you’re looking for a location, photo equipment, outfits or hair… Here are a few tips to help you make the most of it.


  • The colour pigments are sold everywhere on the shelves, but there are both chemical and natural pigments. Be very careful with your eyes, nose and mouth, as artificial powders can irritate your skin and mucous membranes. If you have a guide, ask him or her to find you pigments based on natural powders made from cornstarch and flowers or spices for color.


  • Choose a light clothing (sari type, long-sleeved tee shirt), disposable or old clothes, worthless because pigments can attack fabrics. You can buy clothes on the spot in the many shops in the towns. Choose white ones to bring out the colors and your photos. Also wear closed shoes such as sneakers or water shoes (plastic at decathlon) but avoid flip-flops. At the end of Holi, soak clothes in cold water, without soap, before putting them in the washing machine, as hot water fixes the colors. Also bring old underwear as the powder passes through clothing. You may find them in poor condition.


  • For hair, you can wear a turban to protect them from color. It won’t be enough to spare them, but it will limit the damage! If you have any coconut oil or almond oil, remember to brush your body and hair with it, it will save you 3 or 4 shampoos (some pigments are very chemical and attack your hair) and irritation.


  • Do not wear contact lenses because powder jets can affect your eyes! The sunglasses won’t be of any use at all, as you risk breaking them, losing them or even having them snatched away by wandering monkeys.


  • Move with friends, guides and groups to avoid incidents. Never be alone! Go out during the day, not in the evening. Beware of crowds, which can be anxiety-provoking.
  • Holi is a huge, eagerly-awaited festival where men of all generations gather in large numbers. Alcohol flows freely all day long! Reportedly, drinks nicknamed the bhang lassi or bhang thandai would circulate and be offered to tourists. They are drunk a lot by young people because they contain cannabis, which enables them to prolong their state of inebriation.


  • Personal belongings remain at the hotel, so take only what is strictly necessary. A waterproof bag to hold your camera and laptop, a bottle of water, money can be useful.


  • About your cameras, either do as the Chinese do, i.e. wrap your SLR in a plastic bag to avoid letting the pigments in (you leave only the end of your zoom lens visible to take the photo), or take a photo of your own. Gopro for filming and photography, with the protective housing, or buy a waterproof case to protect your reflex. You’ll find quite a few on this link.


  • Don’t take any unnecessary risks, be vigilant.



The Holi festival is it dangerous for girls or single girls? It all depends on whether you’re celebrating with your family, where it’s safer, or in town. From our experience, I would be very careful and would not recommend it.

Choose the places you go to carefully and join people somewhere, the idea is to blend in. You absolutely must avoid places where men are too present. Even when accompanied by my husband and locals, firm and vocal, the situation almost degenerated in a matter of minutes. Our guides asked us to leave quickly and get into the car. All it takes is for a group of men to see you, and within minutes you’re surrounded, which can get out of hand. All in all, don’t stress, but remain wary, as this festival often goes off without a hitch. Some of the locals are friendly, though.

In the big cities, many Indians come to celebrate this event, but also to see tourists and white-skinned women. They’ll want to touch you, put powder on you, take photos with you, and some of them will have wandering hands (even more so with the alcohol they’ve been drinking all day). The crowds are large and you can quickly feel oppressed.

The Holi Festival is a testing, powerful and intense celebration. My advice is to avoid taking part alone, but rather to stay in a group or join the tourist spots so you’re well surrounded. You can also admire the festivities from rooftops or balconies. The view is different, but rather beautiful, with all those pigments gushing out on all sides.

We won’t forget that the Holi Festival is above all a magical celebration, where joy can be seen on every face, from the youngest to the oldest. Colors embellish this moment, making it magical and exuding energy! We loved taking part and would love to do it again!

How would you like to celebrate Holi in India? If you’ve already celebrated this festival, tell us about your experience in the comments.


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Please note that, as an accredited tailor-made travel designer, I can help you create your own personalized itinerary for your stay in India. Please send me an email at : contact@mademoiselle-voyage.fr

Before you leave, don’t forget to read all our other articles on Rajasthan to help you prepare for your trip:






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