When you want to be involved in a pure cultural experience, there is nothing like witnessing an authentic cultural festival. They can make your vacations remarkable, beautiful, and unique in ways that a cookie-cutter resort stay cannot. Here are a few that are guaranteed fun and welcoming to foreign visitors. As always, when involved in any of these festivals, be respectful of cultural traditions.

Carnaval at Rio de Janeiro, BrazilCarnaval at Rio de Janeiro, BrazilPhoto Credit : kikesan

Carnaval, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Because of course. Originally a celebration of Catholicism's "Fat Tuesday", a day of gluttony before the asceticism and sacrifice of Lent, the event has transformed into a six day party that very literally shuts down Rio de Janeiro's businesses, malls, and services. Instead, a huge parade of dancing and singing, in a style highly influenced by African and Native American culture. Brazil's most famous and most popular holiday in recent times has reached epic proportions; around 5 million attended Rio's event in 2011, 400,000 of those being foreigners.

Float at Festival de la Luz float, San Jose Costa Rica
Photo Credit: wanderlasss

Festival de La Luz, San Jose, Costa Rica

Festival de La Luz in December marks a week-long celebration for the end of the year, involving some 1,800 fireworks and a grand choreographed dance in the nation's capital, San Jose, that features over 1,500 individual dancers. The trees are all covered in lights in the capital to create an overall breathtaking, romantic atmosphere that perfectly accompanies the holiday season and the holiday spirit.

Buenos Aires Tango Festival, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Celebrate the most romantic dance of all time in the place of its origin. There will be performances all over the city, plus a ton of lesson opportunities for the adventurous types. A great non-traditional vacation for passionate travelers who appreciate world culture.

Guatemalan People picking up CoffeeGuatemalan People picking up CoffeePhoto Credit : berlinerkaffeeroesterei

Coffee Harvest Celebration, Fraijanes, Guatemala

A smaller festival in the Guatemalan town of Fraijanes, the town becomes filled with life in early February . Come for the traditional dancing and beautiful displays celebrating El Sagrado Corazon de Jesus , but stay for the amazing food. A beautiful glimpse into traditional Guatemalan culture and the agricultural lifestyle of many of its citizens.

Paucartambo Celebration in Peru
Photo Credit : the MaGe

Paucartambo, Paucartambo, Peru

Scary costumes and drinking and shenanigans are the signature moves of the 3 day festival in a tiny ghost town near Cuzco. Debauchery mixes with the whimsical sound of several marching bands in a series of processions that almost always ends in a meeting hall for an escape of delicious Andean cuisine. A fascinating mixture of Catholicism and folklore that has spun into a legendary party. A hidden gem.

Diablada Pillarena in Ecuador
Photo Credit : Sebasluke

Diablada Pillarena, Pillaro, Ecuador

A festival that surprisingly has no religious undertones, the impressive and elaborate festival actually celebrates the rise and rebellion against oppression, symbolized by a devil. The main event features a parade of costumed dancers, adorned like demons with real animal horns and furs.

Vina del Mar Festival, Chile
Photo Credit : alobos Life

El Vina del Mar Song Festival, Vina del Mar, Chile

Considered one of the most important musical events in the Americas, Vina del Mar Festival is huuuuge, featuring dozens of artists in two song competitions: pop and folk. The audience is known for often being so opinionated and choosy, it has gained the nickname "el monstruo" or "the monster". However, gaining the acceptance of the monster often signals the overall commercial success of the artist. You'll see some of the best music in the country and surrounding countries, and see some of the best fun times.

Dia de los Muertos, Patzcuaro Mexico
Photo Credit : guerillagrrl

Dia de los Muertos, Patzcuaro, Mexico

I'm sure you've become familiar with the famous Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico, which involves indigenous culture's outlook that death should involve a celebration of life. It is a take on Halloween like you've never seen, including both a beautiful vigil of candles and flowers, and an amazing cultural celebration.