travel

From partying in an American desert to celebrity spotting on the French Riviera, pack your bags for the best festivals the world offers. The key to being a perfect festival goer is meticulous forward planning. It’s not only about the tickets, but the best accommodation, the top spot with in-the-action view and, of course, knowing which event is worth going to in the first place. These are our picks for the year ahead…

January: Chinese New Year, Hong Kong

Description: Chinese New Year celebrations in Hong Kong will be especially festive in 2012 as the auspicious year of the dragon is welcomed in.

Chinese New Year celebrations in Hong Kong will be especially festive in 2012 as the auspicious year of the dragon is welcomed in.

2012 is the year of the dragon: the ultimate auspicious symbol signifying success and happiness for the Chinese. So there’s no better year to head to Hong Kong – the good vibes will be infectious. This is a party that combines history, pageantry, ancient customs and modern pyrotechnics with parades, fireworks exploding over Victoria Harbor, and skyscrapers decorated in neon colors. One of the most charming ways to soak up the atmosphere is by going to one of the pre-holiday flower markets. The most popular is at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, and stays open past midnight. The party begins on January 23. Visit www.discoverhongkong.com

February: Carnival Rio de Janeiro

Description: Leave your inhibitions at home, as no country knows quite how to throw a party like Brazil – as proven year after year at the flamboyant Carnival in Rio De Janeiro.

Leave your inhibitions at home, as no country knows quite how to throw a party like Brazil – as proven year after year at the flamboyant Carnival in Rio De Janeiro.

Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is, quite literally, the biggest party in the world, drawing fun-seekers keen to leave their inhibitions behind and watch the samba schools shake their collective booty. Carnival mixes European carnival flavor with African influences and rhythms. Head to the beach suburbs of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon, where sound systems and food stalls line the beach. To get into the Sambódromo, the purpose-built parade area, buy a ticket from Riotur. Visit www.rio-carnival.net.

March: Holi in Mumbai

Description: The Hindu festival of Holi is celebrated in a riot of color in Mumbai.

The Hindu festival of Holi is celebrated in a riot of color in Mumbai.

Peacock blue, mustard yellow, screaming magenta, deep indigo: Holi is a colorful religious festival celebrated by Hindus over 16 days. The main day, Holi, also known as Dhuli, sees festival goers celebrate by throwing colored powder and water at one another. Mumbai is the party capital of the “new” India, and Holi is the most raucous time of year there. Bonfires are lit on the eve of Holi, in memory of a holy man’s escape from the fire that a demon threw him into, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil. If you want to avoid the intensity of downtown, take a slow train from Churchgate station to Juhu Beach to find a local family scene. Visit www.holifestival.org.

April: New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

Description: Guitar hero, Jeff Beck, is one of the many acts performing at the iconic Jazz & Heritage Festival in New Orleans in April.

Guitar hero, Jeff Beck, is one of the many acts performing at the iconic Jazz & Heritage Festival in New Orleans in April.

Sultry New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz and the nexus of Southern culture in the US, and is this soul city’s greatest festival, 40 years in the making, Jazz is the headline, but expect a soulful mix of jazz, gospel, Cajun, zydeco, blues, R&B, rock, funk, African, Caribbean and folk. Anyone who’s anyone has headlined here, from Aretha Franklin and Miles Davis to LL Cool J and Erykah Badu. This is a festival that reflects America in all its diversity and creativity, wrapped up in the spirit of Louisiana. Visit www.nojazzfest.com.

May: Cannes Film Festival

Description: Visitors lap up the glamour at Cannes International Film Festival in May.

Visitors lap up the glamour at Cannes International Film Festival in May.

Cannes International Film Festival is a French institution that began in 1946, and earned a reputation of impossible glamour from the 1950s when the likes of Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot and Cary Grant graced the town. Now, it’s no less star-studded. The downside is it’s an industry event so you have to have accreditation to get into the film showings. Instead, go to the Cannes Tourism Office and get tickets to the Cinéma de la Plage. This is a huge outdoor film screen, so take a picnic and champagne. If you wish to celeb spot, make a booking at the InterContinental Carlton, where many of the stars stay. Visit www.festival-cannes.com.

June: Fes Festival of World Sacred Music

Description: Fes Festival of World Sacred Music at night, Fes, Morocco

Fes Festival of World Sacred Music at night, Fes, Morocco

Fes in Morocco is the oldest surviving medieval city in the world – a magical, labyrinthine world – and June is the best time to experience it. This is when it comes alive to the spiritual sounds of sacred music from many faiths and cultures, from Indian classical and English choral singers to American gospel choirs and African musicians. Fes is considered to be the most high-quality world music festival on the globe. Most of the big events are split between the Musée Bathar and the courtyard of Bab Makina; free shows are held at Bab Boujloud square, and in Dar Tazi Gardens late at night there is Sufi chanting. Visit www.fesfestival.com.

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