Why 2019 is the year of itchy feet
New Year, new adventures on the horizon? Whether it’s a long weekend away or a once-in-a-lifetime trip, plan ahead for 2019 with this round-the-world round up of inspiring locations and unforgettable experiences.
January tends to be the first month you can practice the Japanese art of hanami – or 'looking at flowers'. Gather under cherry trees in Okinawa at the start of the year to welcome in spring. Knowing when they'll bloom has become a science in itself, with national meteorologists dedicated to producing the prophetic sakura weather map.
Pictures simply don't do justice to Carnevale. Venice's magnificent masquerade is a Baz Luhrmann-worthy riot of colour, costume and cabaret, with balls and candlelit parties hosted in palaces off the Grand Canal. Venetian ateliers hand-craft beautiful creations, from imaginative Commedia dell-arte clothing to intricate historical dress. Make a commission, don a mask and promenade with the locals. It's a magical, memorable experience.
Head Down Under for a flavour of Australia's incredible food scene at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. Innovative restaurants, local growers, makers and artisan producers come together in a 250-event celebration of food and drink. Think pop-ups, supper clubs, street food and picnic-perfect markets.
The fourth month is peak snow season in Austria. And 2019 is the year Snowbombing (aka 'Glastonbury on ice') celebrates its 20th anniversary. With the mountains as your backdrop, enjoy world-renowned music acts and luxurious après ski. After all, this winter festival is less about tents and yurts and more about elegant Alpine spa hotels.
It may be warming up in New York, but May is the month of the Frieze. This unique art fair brings work by over 1,000 contemporary artists to Randall's Island Park. Watch ground-breaking performances, listen to an inspiring programme of talks and view (or even buy) your favourite pieces. If you miss it, London plays host to the event in October.
June is rainy season in Costa Rica. And while that may not sound appealing for sun-seekers, it means surf's up. While there's no bad time to catch waves here, in June seasoned surfers can expect bigger, better swells. Try Santa Teresa de Cobano – an under-the-radar surf spot with a tropical jungle backdrop.
It's a vintage year for Switzerland's Winemakers' Festival – or Fête des Vignerons. This rare celebration of viniculture happens just 'once in a generation' – so it's little wonder it draws hundreds of thousands of people to the little town of Vevey. Now recognised by UNESCO, the event blends music and dance with a joyful parade. Avoid the scramble for accommodation by staying in not-too-far-away Lausanne.
With a rare chance to see some of the world's most awe-inspiring wildlife migrations, August is the month for budding Attenboroughs. If you're in the northern hemisphere, watch beluga whales and their calves off the coast of Canada. In Kenya, July to November is prime wildebeest time. Depending on the rains, August is a good time to catch the incredible sight of thousands of them crossing the Mara River – if they make it past the lions, hyenas and crocodiles, that is.
Catch the last precious weeks of Documenta in Kassel, Germany. An arts festival held just once every five years, this remarkable event turns the town into a living gallery. Contemporary pieces pop up everywhere, from shopping centres to parks. If you're passing through as part of a road trip, drive the Fairy Tale Road – 600km of Grimm Brothers-inspired creativity preserved from past Documenta years.
Come to China in the first week of October and see how the country celebrates Golden Week – a seven-day national holiday. People travel hundreds of miles to visit family or to discover more of their vast and beautifully varied country. See ancient sites in Beijing, bucolic scenes in the south or modern China in Shanghai. Just be sure to book hotels and tickets as far as possible in advance – hundreds of millions of Chinese people will be travelling this week.
A festival of death may not sound all that appealing, but Mexico's Dia de los Muertos – Day of the Dead – is more magnificent than macabre. Joyful, vividly-coloured and wonderfully noisy, many travellers actually find it a life-affirming experience. Expect parades, ghoulish costumes, poetry slams, elaborate shrines and delicious feasts on 1st and 2nd November.
There's arguably no better time to visit Iceland than December. Freezing temperatures blanket the lunar-like landscape in snow – and the country's warm personality shines through. It's a time to join in with one-of-a-kind traditions, such as the 'gift in the shoe'. From 13 days before Christmas, children leave shoes beside open windows, hoping the 'Yule Lads' will come down from the mountains with a gift. It's also the time to talk literature, as the whole nation gives and receives books – to be read in bed with chocolates on Christmas Eve. And, if you're here still for New Year, stay in Reykjavik for the firework 'battle' in front of the church. It's an unbelievable, unforgettable experience.