The travel experts at Full Circle Travel – an independent boutique travel company – have created a month-by-month guide to unmissable events happening around the world in 2016. So start planning now! From the ethereal Aurora Borealis dancing across a wintery night sky; to the pounding of millions of wildebeest hooves across the Serengeti in their annual migration.
This is a great chance to highlight some lesser known festivals and celebrations that take place around the world. Such as the White Nights festival of culture and arts in St Petersburg, or the Yi Peng and Loy Krathong lantern and light festival in Thailand.
Aurora Borealis – Lapland
You’ve probably seen pictures – where green, blue and purple hues dance across a pitch black sky – but trust us when we say that this won’t come close to preparing you for the otherworldly experience of actually seeing the Aurora dance above and around you.
One of our favourite destinations for chasing the lights is Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Lapland. January is a great time to visit, when the sun finally rises (albeit for a short period of time) after a long hibernation.
Carnivale di Venezia – Venice
Famous for its elaborate costumes and masks, the annual Carnivale di Venezia takes place annually in Venice. In 2016, the carnival runs from 23rd January to 9th February.
If you only see event throughout the carnival, make it the Grand Masquerade Ball on February 6th. Spend your night dancing anonymously among the Venetian élite and enjoy a sumptuous gala dinner.
Holi eve Elephant Festival – Jaipur
Holi, also known as the festival of colours or festival of love, is an ancient Hindu festival that marks the start of spring, and the triumph of good over evil.
The major celebrations are held in India and Nepal, although an increasing number of Western cultures are adopting the custom. For a traditional experience of Holi, we don’t think you can beat Jaipur, in the north of India. Here, you’ll experience India at its happiest and most colourful (see header image)
Holi morning will see the beginning of a colour fight. Young and old, rich and poor frolic through the city throwing coloured powder over friends, family and strangers. Lighten up and enjoy the child-like fun and games.
Sakura (cherry blossom) season – Japan
Cherry Blossoms, or Sakura, have become symbolic of Japan throughout much of the Western world. The trees blossom at different times year to year, but early April offers the most consistent peak in blooms throughout the country.
Kyoto is a popular choice for travellers, with multiple treks, mountains, parks and gardens in which to marvel at the blossoms. From the weeping cherry trees of Maruyama park, to the philosopher’s path that leads to Wakaoji-jinja shrine, where you can gaze out towards a panoramic vista of sakura blanketing both sides of the river.
White Nights Festival – St Petersburg
The White Nights Festival is an international fine arts festival held in St Petersburg during the season of the midnight sun.
Usually beginning in May and running through until mid July, the festival sees a series of classical ballet, opera and musical events performed by Russian artists, dancers and actors, as well as acclaimed international guests.
Whale Watching – Iceland
If whale watching is on the list, then we’d suggest Iceland as an accessible destination from the UK. There are whale-watching cruises and tours from Reykjavík throughout most of the year, with peak season between May and September.
In Iceland you will have the chance to watch minke whales humpback whales and orcas, but what makes Iceland one of our favourite destinations is the ability to witness blue whales off the North Coast (accessible from Húsavík), under the light of the midnight sun.
Olympics – Rio
We couldn’t write a guide to 2016 world events and miss off the Olympics. The 2016 Rio Olympics marks the first Olympic Games to be held in South America.
While in Rio for the games, you can brave the crowds and head to the famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, and climb to the summit of Mt. Corcovado to stand aside the iconic Cristo Redentor, “Christ the Redeemer” statue.
Wildebeest Migration – Tanzania
It’s called “the greatest show on earth”, and we wouldn’t dare to disagree. It’s a common traveller’s dream to witness some 1.5 million wildebeest make their way across the Serengeti and Masai Mara ecosystems, with 400,000 zebra and 200,000 gazelles accompanying them along the way.
Throughout the year there is plenty of activity to witness along the route, from watching 8,000 wildebeest calves emerge everyday for three weeks around mid-February at Lake Ndutu, to the infamous crossing of the Mara River which starts in July.
Festival of Lights – Berlin
Each year in October, landmarks, monuments and buildings across Berlin transform into a blank canvas for innovative and colourful light displays.
2016 will see the 12th year of the Berlin Festival of Lights, which is one of the most famous light-art festivals around the world. The displays are crafted by both German and international artists, each of them telling a unique story or spreading awareness about different causes and cultures.
Yi Peng and Loy Krathong lantern festival – Thailand
For a light show of a slightly different nature, we’d suggest visiting Thailand in November to catch the Yi Peng and Loy Krathong lantern festival. Celebrations are held throughout the country, but the biggest celebration is held in Chiang Mai.
The most iconic is the release of thousands of lit lanterns, called khom loi, into the night sky. It’s not all about the lanterns and lights, as there are plenty of parades, concerts, dances, firework displays and an endless supply of street food to enjoy. As the year starts to draw to a close, this is an incredible mindfulness break and opportunity to pause and take stock.
Christmas Markets – Cologne
The city transforms into a nostalgic winter-wonderland with seven markets within the city. Each have their own theme and are mostly within walking distance from one another.
At the market under the Cathedral you’ll find hundreds of wooden huts, selling and showcasing all sorts of craftsmanship, gifts, food, and drink. The Christmas Market on the Rudolfplatz sets a scene of Brother’s Grimm fairy tales, and is a particular favourite for children, whereas the smaller Harbour markets take on a nautical theme.
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