WHETHER your holiday hit list includes beaches, bars or bags of style; perhaps you want to know about the hippest events around the globe – this is our pick of the top hot spots you should be visiting this year.
Wizards in Oz
Australia never goes out of fashion but this year it’ll be rugger fans rather than gap year students heading down under to follow the British Lions tour. Kicking off in Hong Kong before moving to Oz, the matches will be held in Perth, Brisbane, Newcastle, Sydney and Canberra. So if time and money are no object, make a grand tour of it and touch down in each.
Join the Scan clan
Wrap up Sarah Lund-style in your finest festive sweater and head for Scandinavia this month. Sweden’s second largest city hosts the Gothenburg International Film Festival, the leading international festival in Scandinavia and one of the largest audience festivals in the world, showing 450 films from 70 countries. This year, the 36th, it’s even bigger and kicks off on Friday with Norwegian Oscar nominee Kon-Tiki about the Norwegian researcher and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl. We suggest you go by plane or ferry, rather than raft, though. ‘Lights, camera, action’ gives way to ‘on your marks, get set, go’ with the European Athletics Indoor Championships, held in the city from 1-3 March. With four Michelin-starred restaurants, vintage and designer shops, a stunning setting and edgy art at Roda Sten, Gothenburg is definitely a goer.
Gothenburg International Film Festival, Friday to 4 February (www.giff.se); European Athletics Indoor Championships, 1-3 March (www.goteborg2013.com)
anyone for Venice
Venice is always awash with tourists, but 2013 is a biennale year so, with the 55th International Art Exhibition running from June to November, it’s going to be busier than ever. As well as the queues for St Mark’s Basilica, there will be equally long lines for the contemporary artworks on display at the Arsenale and pavilions. Take comfortable shoes, or slip away from the crowds to the backstreets and enjoy the undiscovered piazzas and quieter galleries. www.labiennale.org
Bulgaria is building up its destination reputation with both sun and snow holidays, and hedonists will be hotfooting to its inaugural Horizon Festival in March. A week of underground electronic music set against the stunning snow-covered Pirin mountains at Bansko in the south-west, it is headlined by Glasgow’s own Jackmaster, aka Jack Revill, DJ and co-founder of the Numbers label. Also featuring Alex Arnout and Klosse One, the festival is six days of techno, house, garage and hip-hop in bars around the slopes. And, if that’s not enough, it has 70km of Europe’s coolest pistes, but without the wallet-bleeding Alpine price tag.
Horizon Festival, 23-29 March, £256 for six nights accommodation, ski pass and festival ticket (www.horizonfestival.net)
New Orleans is always up there with its jazz festival in April/May and last year’s big noises included Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, the Beach Boys, Foo Fighters and Florence and the Machine. This year’s line-up will be announced shortly but the biggest Twitter rumours hint at an appearance by Fleetwood Mac. Staying Stateside, also in April, there’s Coachella in California. Over two weekends in April, it will be looking to match last year’s line-up of Pulp, Radiohead, Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg.
New Orleans Music Festival, 27 April-6 May (www.nojazzfest.com)
Coachella, 12-14 and 19-31 April (www.coachella.com)
Strokes of genius
Derry/Londonderry is the UK City of Culture 2013, and has been undergoing something of a renaissance in preparation.
The historic walled city has a whole programme including the ten-day All Ireland Fleadh, the world’s biggest Irish festival, and it’s also hosting the entertainingly stooshie-prone Turner Prize.
Hundreds of other events, such as the Earhart Festival, marking 80 years since aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart landed here, and its annual jazz festival, will see it attracting tourists all year long.
Elsewhere in the Emerald Isle, 2013 is the year of The Gathering, when the country opens its arms to visitors from all over the globe.
Sometimes a country can stand back and let its natural beauty do the work, which is what the stunning waterfall at Foz de Iguazú has done for Argentina and Brazil.
Now considered one of the new seven wonders of nature, following a worldwide 2011 poll, this water feature making a splash along the Argentine–Brazil border is taller than Niagara Falls and is putting the nearest city of Puerto Iguazú on the map and a host of spas, hotels and restaurants are set to clean up. Go now before the bubble bursts.
Brazil will be big with footie fans flocking to the South American teams’ Confederation Cup, a dry run for next year’s World Cup and the Olympics in 2016.
Elsewhere in South America, Peru with its legendary Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is perennially popular, but other countries – such as Ecuador with its rainforests – are attracting more visitors.
Meanwhile Uruguay, just over the river Plate from the more razzle-dazzle Buenos Aires, is attracting a chic new in-crowd that includes Shakira and Ronnie Wood.
Malawi will be in the headlines with the bicentenary of Scottish explorer David Livingstone’s birth and modern-day adventurers may wish to follow in his footsteps to this African country, with its lakes, mountains and abundant wildlife, as well as bone up on the history of the Victorian explorer. Elsewhere in Africa, you can’t beat Kenya for the great migration between July and October, and Mozambique is winning fans for its amazing beaches. Head for Tofo near the capital Moputu, for a laid-back vibe.
Mumbai’s Independence Rock Festival is a two-day event that has grown to attract around 6,000 fans on the final day. Regarded as one of the best hard-rock festivals, and proving India isn’t all sitars and saris, the heat means the Chitrakoot Grounds site won’t get churned up by all those Harleys and biker boots. T in the Park this isn’t.
If it’s a long-haul flight you’re after, all roads lead to Asia, with Burma topping the list after democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi called for visitors to come to her country, not least to boost the ailing economy. She called for travellers to avoid the state-owned hotels and airlines, and opt for smaller, family-run establishments, putting cash directly into the pockets of everyday citizens. Check Foreign Office travel advice before forming your plans. n