Catch it while you can: destinations and experiences to start planning now
As the year wanes to a close, many start looking ahead to the next, and even beyond. Both 2018 and 2019 are already brimming with a bumper crop of one-off happenings (such as India’s solar eclipse) as well as annual country-specific celebrations (for example, the saturnalia that is Peru’s Corpus Christi). But whatever your travel ambitions, in our experience it pays to reserve as early as possible. In no particular order, we’ve compiled our own list of the upcoming highlights of 2018 and 2019 which need careful advance planning, as well as ideas for how to extend your trip.
The Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia
14th to 27th January 2019
Melbourne Park, Australia
‘The thing about the Australian Open,’ says Australia specialist (and avowed tennis fan) Joshua, ‘is that the whole city gets behind it. Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows are more self-contained, whereas Melbourne has an infectious buzz about it.’
Go to Federation Square any night during the tournament and you’ll see what he means: crowds gather in front of a big screen to watch the action live, slouched on beanbags and deckchairs or clustered around picnic baskets. Corks pop, beers are clinked. Nab your spot here early for the semi-finals and finals. That said, tickets to the Rod Lever Arena are usually easier to come by in contrast to other Grand Slams, and with the balmy summer weather, there’s the added bonus of lots of evening matches. Plus, the grounds are free to enter.
Tennis over, you might like to travel the Great Ocean Road, which begins an hour’s drive southeast of Melbourne. After the city hubbub, Cape Otway National Park is like some lost Eden, all fern gullies, fantailed waterfalls, and sub-temperate rainforest. It once had the most concentrated koala population in the country, and you still stand good chances of seeing them in the wild here.
Aim to reserve as early as you can for the most central properties, and for good availability along the Great Ocean Road: it’s highly coveted in January and February.
Corpus Christi, Cuzco, Peru
31st May 2018
Blue Saint being paraded during Corpus Christi, Cuzco, Peru
Cuzco’s annual celebration of the Eucharist can bring the whole city to a standstill. If you get swept up in it all, the streets will pulsate with song, dance and religious zeal. It’s the epitome of a full-blooded, authentically Latin American fiesta, when designated litter bearers transport statues of gaudily decorated saints and virgins from each of the city’s 15 parishes to the central square, Plaza de Armas.
Witnessing Corpus Christi also gives you a vivid sense of the syncretism that’s so central to Peruvian identity, for this procession of the statues marries Catholic devotion with a ceremony that has its real roots in Inca traditions. On feast days, the Incas would parade their mummified ancestors in public — until the conquistadors decided to sanitise the proceedings a little by replacing the mummies with statues.
Today, each VIP saint has their own cacophonous calvacade: a marching band, a crowd singing sacred ditties at the top of their lungs, a rainbow swirl of dancers. Children zip around brandishing fantastical papier mâché effigies. Look out for the statues of Santiago, mounted on horseback, and San Sébastian, which allegedly contains the remains of an Inca mummy. The wooden latticework balconies overhanging the plaza heave with merrymaking spectators; street stalls are piled high with chiri uchu (‘cold food’ in Quechua) — a platter that includes roasted guinea pig, blood sausage, tortilla, chicken, and cod roe. Tradition dictates it’s only ever eaten at Corpus Christi.
Once the statues have reach the square, the next day sees all 15 processed with great pomp and circumstance around the plaza. Then, they’re all deposited in the cathedral for a week to conduct a sort of saintly AGM. ‘It’s a great privilege to carry the statue of your parish patron saint,’ explains Peru specialist (and long-time Cuzco resident) Fiona. ‘You might see younger congregation members preparing for it by carrying their own ‘trainee’ statue.’
If you’re planning to be part of it all, we recommend booking four or five months in advance for the best choice of rooms. From Cuzco, you can easily go on to explore the adjacent Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.
Andy Warhol Retrospective, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, USA
From November 2018
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA
In just under a year’s time, the Whitney Museum of American Art will unveil a comprehensive retrospective of Warhol’s work, the first by an American institution since 1989. It will be one of the largest monographic exhibitions to date for the gallery, revealing the breadth of Warhol’s output, including performance art, silk-screened clothing, and digital art.
Alex from our USA team recently visited the museum: ‘The Whitney is very accessible: the exhibitions are carefully curated to draw the most apathetic visitor in. Sculptures sit outside on balconies overlooking the city and even the elevators are hung with work.’ And to make the most of your time there, you could even take a guided tour with a curator or PhD student.
The museum’s located north of Greenwich Village in Manhattan. The most interesting way to reach it is walking the High Line, a disused elevated railway that’s been converted into an urbanite’s park of sculptures and wildflowers. For lunch, try nearby Chelsea Market where you can watch doughnuts come straight off the conveyer belt, taste artisan cheeses and try a quintessentially American corndog.
Solar eclipse, India
26th December 2019
If you’re looking to escape to more exotic climes for the festive period in 2019, consider south India. On the morning after Christmas Day, an annular solar eclipse will cross the country, working its way from Kannur in the west towards the tip of Sri Lanka to the southeast.
You could stay at Neeleshwar Hermitage in northern Kerala, dipping your toes into the Arabian Sea as the sun vanishes over a deserted beach. Or head to Trichy, the one-time capital of Tamil Nadu, where you could climb the Rock Fort Temple and watch as the eclipse rises over the 49 shrines of Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple below, some with ornate gilded gopuram (towers) that glint in the morning sun.
For India specialist James (who has a degree in environmental science of the earth and atmosphere), ‘the optimum view will be from Ooty, a British-colonial hill station perched in the Nilgiri Hills — which you can still reach by narrow-gauge railway. At an altitude of 2,286 m (7,500 ft) there’s likely to be fewer clouds and, from 09:27 to 09:30, the moon will be perfectly in front of the sun for three minutes.’ He also points out that ‘this isn’t a total eclipse, so during this time you’ll see the phenomenon of a thin, concentric circle of light in the sky known as a ring of fire’.
Spring flowers in South Africa
August and September 2019
Fynbos plants, Cape Region, South Africa
For a few weeks a year between late August and mid-September, South Africa’s rare fynbos vegetation dazzles to life in a kaleidoscope of oranges, reds, purples and yellows. It’s as if the hills, meadows and mountainsides have enjoyed their own Holi festival as they’re transformed by vivid splotches of wildflowers.
Fynbos makes up around 80% of the country’s Cape floral kingdom — the smallest but most dense of the planet’s six floral kingdoms. The majority of flower species are endemic, so South Africa is the only place you can see these tie-dye-like landscapes. As such, places to stay book up far in advance — the 2018 season is already looking full, so you may need to plan your trip for 2019.
‘Spring flower displays are accessible from Cape Town,’ explains South Africa specialist Toby. ‘The West Coast National Park, around an hour’s drive from the city, is a good option for those who don’t want to venture too far. But for the most spectacular blooms, I suggest taking a self-drive trip up to Namaqualand, close to the Namibian border. Here, the arid terrain contrasts starkly with the bright splashes of flora, which you can explore with a local guide on foot, or independently by car.’
While Namaqualand is some seven hours north of Cape Town, you could break up the journey with stops in the Winelands and the Cederberg Mountains, returning to Cape Town along the west coast via the sleepy fishing village of Paternoster.
Wendake International Pow Wow, Québec City, Canada
29th June to 1st July 2018
First Nations longhouse, Canada
‘Prior to European settlement, First Nations people in eastern Canada would have lived in longhouses just like the National Ekionkiestha Longhouse at Wendake,’ explains Canada specialist Jon. ‘You can join a ‘myths and legends’ experience where you sit by the fire inside the longhouse and listen to a storyteller regaling tales passed down the generations of his tribe. These are stories he’d have listened to as a child and grown up with, and his delivery really brings them to life.’
The longhouse is part of the Hôtel Musée Premières Nations in Wendake, around half an hour outside Québec City. Owned and managed by members of the local Wendat tribe, the boutique hotel also uses indigenous materials such as furs in its rooms.
While you can stay here at any time of year, it’s important to book early if you want to experience the Wendake International Pow Wow, which takes place annually between late June and early July. The event brings First Nations communities from across North America together in celebration of their culture and history, providing an opportunity for meeting other tribes, renewing friendships and sharing cultural traditions. As a visitor, it’s a chance to acquaint yourself with First Nations heritage in an authentic setting.
‘At the event,’ continues Jon ‘you can watch a variety of traditional dances performed to the beating of wooden drums and songs that have been passed down the generations. These might include shawl dances performed by First Nations women, and men’s grass dances, which involve a lot of foot stomping — a tradition that stems from when tribe members would need to flatten the ground to set up camp.’
Naadam Festival, Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia
11th to 15th July 2019
‘From my seat in the stadium, I watched as men of all ages and sizes — dressed in nothing but tiny shorts — grappled with each other, each trying to force the other to the ground,’ recalls Central Asia specialist Matt. ‘My guide leaned over and explained that Mongolian men had been wrestling in this way for millennia, with 7,000-year-old rock carvings depicting the sport.’
Wrestling competitions form part of the country-wide festival of Naadam, which unites the whole of Mongolia every July, from nomadic families to city dwellers. Rooted around the three national sports of horse racing, archery and Mongolian wrestling, the event celebrates the country’s history and its independence through competitions, games, food, music and dance.
The best way to experience the festival is by stopping off in the Mongolian capital, Ulaan Bataar, as part of a journey along the Trans-Siberian Railway — though you can also tag Mongolia on to a wider China or Russia trip. Unsurprisingly, it’s a popular time to visit, so booking far in advance is essential.
The main stadium in Ulaan Bataar hosts a huge opening ceremony, featuring themed parades, military processions with soldiers dressed in traditional red and blue uniforms, and twirling Mongolian dancers. Spectators can then watch wrestling matches (this can involve up to 1,000 competitors), or head to the smaller stadium next door to see archery competitions. You can also travel farther out of the city to witness the final stretch of the country’s largest horse race.