The holidays are almost here, and it’s the perfect chance to get away. Whether you want to spend your holiday break lying on a sandy beach, skiing down some of the world’s best snow, or exposing yourself and your family to a new culture, here is a list of 10 must-see travel destinations.
Nara, Japan — Wakakusa Yamayaki
Japan is a gorgeous country full of cultural exploration, but around the holiday season there is an event you shouldn’t miss out on–Wakakusa Yamayaki. This spectacular Japanese festival involves monks from two religions–Buddhism and Shintoism–setting fire to a mountain after fireworks displays and religious rituals at their respective shrines. The history behind the festival involves an ancient boundary dispute, but this has been long resolved, and the festival is a way to commemorate that occasion. The fires the monks set are more of a controlled burn than a raging inferno. However, the image of the greater part of a mountain on fire from a distance is not one you’ll soon forget. The Wakakusa Yamayaki takes place in Nara, Japan on January 23, 2016.
Bahia, Brazil — Mareh Festival
For New Year’s Eve, what could be better than being on a serene private beach on an island off the coast of Brazil’s Bahia state for beach bar fetes and day-long parties that run for almost 10 days in their entirety? The Mareh Festival features some of today’s hottest performers and entertainers in an exotic location with crystal-clear water and open beaches. Boats offshore host their own private parties, with international DJs and musical acts in abundance. The festival runs from December 26 to January 3 on the Boipeba island of Bahia and includes festive New Year’s Eve celebrations. What better way is there to ring in the new year?
Park City, Utah, USA — Sundance Film Festival
From January 21-31, 2016, Hollywood takes over Park City, Utah, for the Sundance Film Festival as movie stars and producers rub shoulders with the downhill ski crowd and screenings compete with local scenery for the attention of the world’s press. You don’t have to be a film junkie to be invited; the slopes of the nearby Mountain and Canyon Resorts will keep you occupied just as much as the movies (if not more so). Be sure to get tickets for major screenings as far in advance as possible, and don’t forget your skis!
Playa del Carmen, Mexico — BPM Festival
Packing 375 musicians into 10 days isn’t easy, but if you need to blow off some steam in early January–January 8-17 to be exact–you should head for this coastal resort near Cancun on Mexico’s Riviera Maya coast on the Caribbean. From beachfront blowouts to hot club nights, this festival is large and raucous. Besides attending performances, you can also swim with dolphins, snorkel, scuba dive, kayak, visit Mayan ruins and archeological sites or just lay on the beach and soak up the sun.
Rajasthan, India — Magnetic Fields
In the historical and decadent 10-acre palace of Alsisar Mahal in Rajasthan, India, the Magnetic Fields event will host Indian and international musicians from December 18-20. The amazingly-preserved Alsisar palace and grounds, which recall another time, have been fashioned into a luxury hotel, featuring courtyards and outdoor garden areas. Eventgoers have the opportunity to camp out on the grounds in bedouin-style luxury tents, each suited for up to three guests. Alternatively, attendees can pitch their own tents and sip from a selection of the finest Indian teas.
Sydney, Australia — The Sydney Arts Festival
Australia always sounds like a good idea, but if it’s not incentive enough then you must go for the Sydney Arts Festival. This three-week arts festival is the site of symphonic performances, outdoor movie screenings, and live film music orchestra. The Sydney Festival, which runs from January 7-26, features music, theater and dance, opera and classical music, circus and cabaret as well as family events. Many performances take place in waterfront parks or public theaters; some are free. Sydney’s hottest months are December and January, so be sure to pack light.
Miami, Florida — Holy Ship!
This four-day cruise featuring 40+ electronic music acts on the 4,000-passenger ship MSC Divina is a sun-filled excursion to nowhere–well, almost. Technically, the ship docks in the Bahamas, and some people disembark to go to a private island, but otherwise, the main action is aboard the ship. Performers will improvise sets in rooms, lounges and just about anywhere they can find a space and an audience. Because of the cruise’s popularity, Holy Ship! takes place twice; the first cruise is January 3-6, 2016, and the second one is February 10-13, 2016.
Miami Florida — Jam Cruise
As opposed to Holy Ship!, above, Jam Cruise is a happy-go-lucky, laid-back affair where 3,000 revelers sail off into the Caribbean sunset enjoying jam-band music and partaking in easygoing revelry. There are shipboard casinos, restaurants, yoga classes, and–of course–musical shows. Along the way, Jam Cruise makes stops in Mexico and Honduras, and you can disembark to do some local exploring. Jam Cruise sets sail from January 6-11, 2016.
Saalbach, Austria — Rave on Snow
From December 10-13, 2015 the villages of Saalbach and Hinterglemm in Austria are the site of Rave on Snow, which features international DJs and performers from Europe, the U.S. and Asia. The celebration’s Gipfel Party happens on the peak of Schattberg Mountain, over 2,000 meters above sea level. During the day there are over 200 kilometers of ski and snowboard runs to explore, and at night the entire village becomes a vibrant festival area surrounded by snow-capped mountains.
Reykjavik, Iceland — Sónar Festival
The Sónar Festival in Reykjavik, Iceland takes place from February 18-20 and features over 50 noted international performers. Sónar Reykjavik is a satellite festival of the main music, technology and creativity festival of the same name, which takes place in Barcelona, Spain in June. For Sónar Reykjavik, there will be five stages and a capacity for more than 3,500 guests. At least some of the festival will take place underground as well as in the country’s most avant-garde large music venue, the Harpa Concert House.
Featured photo credit: Hinterglemm village seen from Zwölferkogelbahn lift, Saalbach-Hinterglemm, Austria/MattiPaavola via en.wikipedia.org