Ibiza’s summer clubbing season is an orgy of hedonism, full of beats, late nights and frazzled young things. It reaches a messy climax in September, when the main club promoters and venues host a series of seratonin-sapping parties to round things off and extract a few final euros from their battered punters. These end-of-season events tend to attract an older clubbing crowd, who prefer to hop over to Ibiza for a cheeky long weekend, avoiding the gangs of teenage pill-monsters that descend on the island in late July and August. The British rave dinosaurs join a resident hardcore of Ibizan clubbers and an international cast of party freaks and techno geeks, all brought together by a common appetite for dance music.

Where you go depends on your tastes. In San Antonio, the young crowd gathers at Eden and Es Paradis, whose entire dancefloor is flooded just before sunrise, while in the village of San Rafael, Amnesia’s essential closing party usually throws open its doors for free after 4am – the last worn-out dancers are often still there come mid-afternoon. Just across the road, Privilege, the world’s biggest club, parted ways with the famously debauched Manumission in 2008, but still throws closing parties for crowds of up to 10,000. In a laudable attempt to inject fresh energy into the scene, Ibiza Rocks has added live music, including Florence and the Machine and Pendulum, to the mix in recent years. Across the island in Ibiza Town, the elegant Pacha has the cream of the world’s best DJs, including Erick Morillo and David Guetta, cranking things up to delirious levels. Four kilometres south of Ibiza Town, the after-party at Space usually gets going around 8am, with punters donning shades and getting down on the legendary terrace before moving inside, where the walls quiver to progressive techno.

The Space closing party was once the event in the Ibiza club calendar but lately it has lost out to the hardcore action down at DC10. The no-frills club has had regular battles with the authorities over licensing, but it’s gained a loyal crowd of the hippest partiers (and most outrageous mullets) in Ibiza).

The Ibiza closing parties take place in the last three weeks of September; DJ, Pacha and MixMag magazines have listings.


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Dark, dreary and cold in Europe and North America, February often feels like a long drag before spring arrives. Yet it’s a fantastic time to travel. Warm, balmy weather and riotous carnivals beckon below the equator, while chillier climes should be embraced for snow-fuelled activities and unique wildlife watching opportunities. Here are our tips on the best places to visit in February.

Be a Big Kid at Harbin’s Snow and Ice Festival, China

In February the weather is cruel here with temperatures plummeting well below -30°C. Yet winter is when Harbin is most alive; every January and February this northern Chinese city hosts one of the world’s largest snow and ice festivals. Transformed into a frozen fairytale kingdom, Sun Island is packed with snow-tube pistes, while hundreds of illuminated ice sculptures fill Zhaolin Park: intricate full-sized temples, ferocious dragons and massive buildings decked out with elaborate stairways and slides that beg to be clambered over. At the festival’s finale, fireworks are accompanied by an open invitation to smash down the sculptures with pickaxes.

Track wolves in Yellowstone National Park, USA

America’s first national park is arguably one of the best places in the world to see these elusive beasts. During the summer the park is choked with hordes of would-be Attenboroughs, yet in the winter you’ll have the place more or less to yourself. Yellowstone is stunning in February, transformed into a frosted world of snow-blanketed valleys, frozen creeks and bubbling geysers. Plus, this is an ideal month for wolf tracking; packs move at lower elevations, drawn down to hunt shuffling herds of elk, and the wolves are more visible, their lean, dark bodies clearly silhouetted against the pristine white snow.

Scuba diving, Andaman Islands, India

Scuba Dive in the Andaman Islands

Near-deserted beaches, untouched reefs and remnants of an intriguing past increasingly lure visitors to the Andaman Islands, a remote tropical outpost cast 1000km off India’s east coast. This is paradise for scuba divers and in February things couldn’t get much more perfect – blue skies, balmy weather and crystal clear waters can be enjoyed before the summer’s heavy rains and cyclones threaten. These reefs boast some of the world’s most abundant marine life; rainbow-coloured corals flourish while iridescent fish, manta rays, loggerhead turtles and reef sharks fill the waters.

Party in Brazil

Rio might get most of the attention but Carnival’s frenzied excitement infects every city in Brazil, making February an unforgettable month. Prior to Ash Wednesday, Brazilian bacchanals take over the country as months of feverish preparation explode into pure unbridled hedonism. Salvador, Olinda and Recife are just a few of the places swept up in the excitement. The air pulsates with booming sound systems from hundreds of street parties, gigantic floats accompanied by flamboyantly costumed dancers riot through city centres and glitzy, licentious Carnival balls extend well into the early hours. When it’s all over, the country nurses its collective headache before perking up to plan the next year’s extravaganza.

Carnevale, Venice, Italy

Have a ball in Venice, Italy

Venice is suffocating in summer, yet winter here is magical. Empty streets, low-slung mists and icy canals re-establish the city as the capital of romance. Head here for Valentine’s Day, or wait until the end of February for the Carnevale. Refined and extravagant, this is the highlight of the Venetians’ social calendar, when the city becomes an endless catwalk of elaborate costumes and intricate masks. Kitted-out locals pose in the piazzas or run errands decked out with traditional black coats, white masks and tricorn hats. Quieter canals become runways for processions of elaborately-decorated gondolas, while grand dinners and masked balls fill the nights.

Dance with devils at Oruro Carnival, Bolivia

For one week a year, prior to Ash Wednesday, this sombre mining city explodes into Bolivia’s most spectacular party, promising bizarre parades, massive water-fights and enthusiastic drinking sessions. The main event, Entrada, is a huge procession of brass bands and grotesquely-costumed dancers that is so large it can last up to twenty hours. Among the profusion of stomping demons and cavorting she-devils, the fiesta’s highlight is the diablada (the dance of the devils) waged by Lucifer and Archangel Michel. After the festivities there isn’t much to see in Oruro, but February’s rains mean that the surrounding Andean countryside is at its most beautiful, blanketed with lush grasses and wildflowers.

Tea Plantation, Darjeeling, India

Explore Darjeeling’s tea plantations, India

Perched on a mountain ridge, 2200m up in the Himalayas, Darjeeling is surrounded by sculpted tea-plantations, lush forests and soaring snow-capped peaks. On the cusp of the tourist season, Darjeeling is relatively quiet in February. It’s also free from monsoons, and the area is exceptionally beautiful as the landscape shakes off its winter slumber. Clear skies and cool temperatures make this an ideal time to explore the Buddhist monasteries that pepper the area, trundle through the hills on the endearing Toy Train or launch an expedition to Sandakphu for magnificent vistas of Everest.

Get cultural in Oman

In the summer (March to October), Oman is oppressively hot, with blistering temperatures easily soaring above 40°C. February, meanwhile, promises pleasantly warm days and breezy nights. This mild climate is perfect for roaming around Oman’s dramatic landscapes of vast rolling dunes, rugged mountains, plunging canyons and quiet coastlines. There’s also a host of burgeoning cities to explore. Throughout February, the Muscat Festival holds Oman’s capital captive. This fascinating blend of arts, culture and tradition fills Muscat’s theatres with shows and concerts, while the Oman Food Festival and Muscat Fashion Week also draw in great crowds.

For more ideas on where to go when, check out the Inspire Me page. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

It happens to most newcomers: noses flare, eyes widen and pulses quicken upon entering La Boqueria, Barcelona’s cathedral to comida fresca (fresh food). Pass through the handsome Modernista cast-iron gateway and you’re rapidly sucked in by the raw, noisy energy of the cavernous hall, the air dense with the salty tang of the sea and freshly spilled blood. As they say in these parts, if you can’t find it in La Boqueria, you can’t find it anywhere: pyramids of downy peaches face whole cow heads – their eyes rolled back – and hairy curls of rabo de toro (bulls’ tails). Pale-pink piglets are strung up by their hind legs, snouts pointing south, while dorada (sea bream) twitch on beds of ice next to a tangle of black eels.

The Mercat de Sant Josep, as it’s officially called, was built in 1836 on the site of a former convent, though records show that there had been a market here since the thirteenth century. Its devotees are as diverse as the offerings: bargain-hunting grandmas rooting through dusty bins; gran cocineros (master chefs) from around Europe palming eggplants and holding persimmons up to the light; and droves of wide-eyed visitors weaving through the hubbub. At its core, though, La Boqueria is a family affair. Ask for directions and you might be told to turn right at Pili’s place, then left at the Oliveros brothers. More than half of the stalls – and attendant professions – have been passed down through generations for over a century.

When it comes time to eat, do it here. The small bar-restaurants tucked away in La Boqueria may be low on frills, but they serve some of the finest market-fresh Catalan fare in the city. Flames lick over the dozens of orders crammed onto the tiny grill at Pinotxo, a bustling bar that has been around since 1940. Pull up a stool, and choose from the day’s specials that are rattled off by various members of the extended family, like the affable, seventy-something Juanito. Tuck into bubbling samfaina, a Catalan ratatouille, or try cap i pota, stewed head and hoof of pig. As the afternoon meal winds down, Juanito walks the bar, topping up glasses from a jug of red wine. There’s a toast – “Salud!” – and then everyone takes long, warming swallows, as all around the shuttered market sighs to a close.

La Boqueria has a website – www.boqueria.info – and is open Monday–Saturday 8am–8.30pm.


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After a search for the most captivating, exciting and beautiful travel photography, the Travel Photographer of the Year Awards announced their final winners last week. Here is a selection of our favourite images from this set of talented photographers.

Eagle hunter, Alti Region, Mongolia

Eagle hunter, Alti region, Western Mongolia. TPOTY Simon MorrisBy Simon Morris | www.tpoty.com

Powell Point, Grand Canyon South Rim, USA

Powell Point, Grand Canyon South Rim, Arizona, USA. TPOTY Gerard Baeck By Gerard Baeck | www.tpoty.com

 A woman serves butter tea in her home in Laya, Bhutan

Laya, Laya Province, Bhutan. A woman serves butter tea in her home TPOTY Timothy Allen By Timothy Allen | www.tpoty.com

Emma Orbach playing the harp in her mud hut in Pembrokeshire, Wales

Emma Orbach playing the harp in her mud hut in Pembrokeshire, UK TPOTY Timothy AllenBy Timothy Allen | www.tpoty.com

Japanese Macaques, Jigokudani Yaen Kōen, Japan

Japanese Macaques, Jigokudani Yaen Kōen, Yamanouchi, Shimotakai District, Nagano Prefecture, Japan TPOTY Jasper DoestBy Jasper Doest | www.tpoty.com

Nepali New Year festival, Bhaktapur, Nepal

Bisket Jatra – the Nepali New Year festival - Bhaktapur Nepal TPOTY Jovian SalakBy Jovian Salak | www.tpoty.com

Lionesses hunting, Chief’s Island, Botswana

Lionesses hunting, Chief's Island - Okavango Delta, Botswana TPOTY Ed HetheringtonBy Ed Hetherington | www.tpoty.com

Northern Lights, Kirkjufell, Iceland

Northern Lights, Kirkjufell, West Iceland TPOTY James WoodendBy James Woodend | www.tpoty.com

Lioness defends her kill from vultures, hyenas and jackals Masai Mara, Kenya

Lioness defends her kill from vultures, hyenas and jackals Masai Mara, Kenya TPOTY Nicolas LotsosBy Nicolas Lotsos | www.tpoty.com

 Phuket, Thailand

Twila True's home, Phuket, Thailand TPOTY Justin MottBy Justin Mott | www.tpoty.com

Cheetah cub and mother, Masai Mara, Kenya

Leopard cub and mother, Masai Mara, Kenya. TPOTY Marco UrsoBy Marco Urso | www.tpoty.com

Altai Mountains, Mongolia

Altai Mountains. Bayan-Olgii Aimag, Mongolia TPOTY Tariq SawyerBy Tariq Sawyer | www.tpoty.com

Kumbh Mela, Allahabad, India

Kumbh Mela, one of the world’s biggest religious gatherings, Allahabad, India. TPOTY Roberto NistriBy Roberto Nistri | www.tpoty.com

Lionesses hunting, Chief’s Island, Botswana

Lionesses hunting, Chief's Island - Okavango Delta, Botswana. TPOTY Ed /HetheringtonBy Ed Hetherington | www.tpoty.com

A spear gypsy spear-fishing in the Andaman Sea

A sea gypsy spear fishing on the Andaman Sea. TPOTY Cat Vinton By Cat Vinton | www.tpoty.com

Amazon rainforest, Brazil

Amazon rainforest, Amazonas, Brazil TPOTY David LazarBy David Lazar | www.tpoty.com

Camel racing, north of Wahiba Sands, Oman

Camel racing, north of Wahiba Sands, Oman TPOTY Jason Edwards By Jason Edwards | www.tpoty.com

Kolkata Skateboarding Club, Kolkata, India

Kolkata Skateboarding Club, Kolkata, West Bengal, India TPOTY Gavin GoughBy Gavin Gough | www.tpoty.com

A grain seller, Jaipur, India

A grain seller, Jaipur, India. TPOTY Merissa Quek By Merissa Quek | www.tpoty.com

Pokot tribe, Amaya village, East Pokot, Kenya

Pokot tribe, Amaya village, East Pokot, Kenya. TPOTY Roberto Nistri By Roberto Nistri | www.tpoty.com

The Flatiron building, New York City, USA

The Flatiron building, New York City, USA TPOTY Tom Pepper By Tom Pepper | www.tpoty.com

Masai Mara, Kenya

Masai Mara, Kenya TPOTY David Lazar By David Lazar | www.tpoty.com

Pop stars, travelling from coach to bar and from plane to arena, are notoriously oblivious about the city they happen to be performing in. There are countless stories of frontmen bellowing “Hello, Detroit!” when they’re actually in Toronto. But some places have a genuine buzz about them. London is fine, but all too often its crowds sit back and wait to be impressed. If you want real passion, vibrant venues and bands who really play out of their skin, Glasgow is where it’s at.

Scotland’s biggest city has an alternative rock pedigree that few can match. Primal Scream, Franz Ferdinand, the Jesus & Mary Chain, Simple Minds, Snow Patrol and Belle & Sebastian have all sprung from a city that Time magazine has described as Europe’s “secret capital” of rock music. Its gig scene, which stretches from gritty pubs to arty student haunts, marvellous church halls to cavernous arenas, is enthusiastic, vociferous and utterly magnetic. Nice ’N’ Sleazy and King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut (where Alan McGee first spotted Oasis) are legendary in their own right, but if one venue really defines the city, it’s the Barrowland.

Opened in the 1930s as a ballroom (which explains the fine acoustics), it was the hunting ground of the killer known as “Bible John” in the late sixties. It’s still a fairly rough-and-ready place – the Barras market is just outside, and its location in the Celtic heartland of Glasgow’s East End makes it a favoured venue for rambunctious traditional bands. Shane McGowan’s been there, drinking lurid cocktails, his slurred vocals drowned out by a roaring crowd. So have Keane, flushed at the success of their piano-pop debut, and looking bemused at the small fights that broke out near the front at their performance.

Of course, most gigs finish without the drama getting violent. With a 2000-person capacity that’s atmospheric but intimate, and without any seats or barriers to get in the way of the music or the pogoing, the Barrowland is a wonderful place to see a live performance, full of energy and expectation. I’ve seen PJ Harvey transfix the crowd, the Streets provoke wall-to-wall grins, the Mars Volta prompt walkouts, Leftfield play spine-shaking bass and Echo and the Bunnymen cement their return with dark majesty. Go get some memories of your own.

The Barrowland is at 244 Gallowgate, Glasgow (www.glasgow-barrowland.com).


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Throughout Scotland, not just in the Highlands, summer signals the onset of the Highland Games, from the smallest village get-togethers to the Giant Cowal Highland Gathering in Dunoon, which draws a crowd of 10,000. Urbanites might blanch at the idea of al fresco Scottish country dancing, but with dog trials, tractors, fudge stalls and more cute animals than you could toss a caber at, the Highland Games are a guaranteed paradise for kids.

It’s thought that the games originated in the eleventh century as a means of selecting soldiers through trials of strength and endurance. These events were formalized in the nineteenth century, partly as a result of Queen Victoria’s romantic attachment to Highland culture: a culture that had in reality been brutally extinguished following the defeat of the Jacobites at Culloden.

The military origins of the games are recalled in displays of muscle-power by bulky bekilted local men, from tossing the caber (ie tree trunk) to hurling hammers and stones, and pitching bales of straw over a raised pole. Music and dance are also integral to the games, with pipe bands and small girls – kitted out in waistcoats, kilts and long woolly socks – performing reels and sword dances. You might also see showjumping, as well as sheepdogs being put through their paces, while the agricultural shows feature prize animals, from sleek ponies with intricate bows tied in their manes and tails to curly-horned rams.

Highland Games are held from May to September – the big gatherings include Braemar (www.braemargathering.org) and Cowal (www.cowalgathering.com).


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Imagine spending all day sightseeing, taking a shower and a nap, and then looking out of the window to see the sky as bright as midday. Your body kicks into overdrive, and the whole day seems to lie ahead of you. The streets throng with people toting guitars and bottles of champagne or vodka; naval cadets and their girlfriends walking arm in arm, and pensioners performing impromptu tea-dances on the riverbank. The smell of black tobacco mingles with the perfume of lilac in parks full of sunbathers. It’s eight o’clock in the evening, and St Petersburg is gearing up for another of its White Nights.

Freezing cold and dark for three months of the year, St Petersburg enjoys six weeks of sweltering heat when the sun barely dips below the horizon – its famous Byele Nochy, or White Nights. Children are banished to dachas in the countryside with grandparents, leaving parents free to enjoy themselves. Life becomes a sequence of tsusovki (gatherings), as people encounter long-lost friends strolling on Nevsky prospekt or feasting in the Summer Garden at midnight.

To avoid disrupting the daytime flow of traffic, the city’s bridges are raised from 2am onwards to allow a stream of ships to sail upriver into Russia’s vast interior. Although normally not a spectacle, during White Nights everyone converges on the River Neva embankments to watch, while bottles are passed from person to person, and strangers join impromptu singsongs around anyone with a guitar or harmonium – chorusing folk ballads or “thieves’ songs” from the Gulag. Those with money often hire a boat to cruise the canals that wend through the heart of the city.

The bridges are briefly lowered during the middle of the night, allowing queues of traffic fifteen minutes to race across. Keeping in lane is entirely ignored, with drivers jockeying for position as if it was a chariot race. By this time, people are stripping off and jumping into the Neva – those too prodigiously drunk to realize go swimming fully clothed.

The White Nights last from June 11 to July 2.


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On Lisbon’s Rua do Arsenal, whole window displays are lined with what looks like crinkly grey cardboard. The smell is far from alluring, but from these humble slabs of cod the Portuguese are able to conjure up an alleged 365 different recipes for bacalhau, one for each day of the year. Reassuringly, none of this mummified fish dates back to when it first became popular in the 1500s, when the Corte Real brothers sailed as far as Newfoundland for its rich cod banks. To preserve the fish for the journey back, the brothers salted and dried it – the result was an instant hit both with Portuguese landlubbers and navigators, who could safely store it for their long explorations of the new world.

Nowadays, bacalhau is the national dish, served in just about every restaurant in the country and every family home on Christmas Day. Even in Setúbal – where harbour restaurants are stacked with the fresh variety – salted cod appears on most menus, bathed in water for up to two days, and then its skin and bones pulled away from the swelled and softened flesh, before being boiled and strained into a fishy goo.

Some bacalhau dishes can be an acquired taste. My first experience was in a restaurant on the mosaic-paved old town of Cascais, where my stolid bacalhau com grau (boiled with chick peas) nearly put me off for life. But start with
rissóis de bacalhau (cod rissoles), commonly served as a bar snack, and you’ll soon be hooked. Then move on to bacalhau com natas (baked with cream) or bacalhau a brás (with fried potatos, olives and egg) and there’s no looking

With fourteen bacalhau options on its menu, Sabores a Bacalhau, in Lisbon’s Parque das Nações, is a good place to start. In a restaurant swathed in decorative azulejos tiles appropriately showing sea creatures, a waiter tells me, “Bacalhau is like the Kama Sutra. There may be hundreds of different variations, but you get to know the two or three types that are enjoyable!”. Only the Portuguese could compare bacalhau with sex, but you can’t argue that it is

Sabores a Bacalhau, Rua da Pimenta 47, Parque das Nações (+351 218 957 290; closed Tues).


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Twenty thousand revellers each year come to Boom, Europe’s greatest outdoor dance-music festival, which takes place for a week over the August full moon on a lakeside ranch about 60km from Lisbon. In true summer-of-love fashion it combines non-stop dance music with eco-idealism: here you’ll find sustainability workshops, recycling and composting bins, a permaculture garden and generators powered on vegetable oil and solar power. In the meantime dancing goes on throughout the days and nights – on a beach, in a forest where an ambient music stage is set, or in the world music area based around a huge campfire.

For people wilting under the heat, the shallow hilltop lake provides the perfect place to cool off (and acts as a glistening mirror when the full moon rises). By late morning it’s dotted with people lolling on inflatables or sitting half-submerged on deckchairs that they have sunk into the lake’s bed. Further relaxation is on offer at various tents and stalls selling a range of massage, yoga and other alternative therapies to restore tired bodies and minds.

And when the week-long party is finally over, there’s still the option of more to come – a three-day afterparty in the surrounding forested hills, where you can hike wooded paths or just lie back in the shade and wind down to ambient beats.

You won’t see many wellies at this festival, however. There’s little chance of it raining in Portugal in August, and even if it did people would be more likely to run out for a cool shower than hide in their tents. This is a party in the sun – and in this scorched part of Europe, that’s about as guaranteed as it gets.

For further info see www.boomfestival.org; +351 277 208 138. Ticket prices vary depending upon when you buy, how long you come for and where you live. Shuttle buses to the festival run from Madrid, Lisbon and Porto; see website for details.


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January doesn’t have to be that depressing, post-holiday letdown month we’re all used to. There’s so much going on across the world, so whether it’s celebrating Australia Day in the sunshine or bagging bargains at the January sales in London, there are plenty of ways to banish those post-holiday blues. Here are our top places to go in January:

See in the New Year on Rio’s Copacabana Beach

See in 2015 with a spectacular bang as a huge firework display lights up the night sky over iconic Copacabana Beach. Cariocas (as residents of Rio de Janeiro are known) celebrate “Ano Novo” with typical exuberant Brazilian style: two million revellers crowd onto the beach and the party goes on until the sun comes up. In South America it’s the middle of summer and the humid night is filled with people wearing white for luck; mingle with the masses or people watch from one of the beachfront hotels along Avenida Atlântica. The best after parties take place in the chic bars and clubs of Ipanema, another neighbourhood just a short stroll away.

Hit the January sales on London’s Oxford Street

Those seeking massively discounted designer and luxury labels bravely join the mob that descends on Oxford Street each Boxing Day. If you don’t fancy pitching up tent and joining the all night queues, you’ll be please to know that the sales continue throughout January (and the jostling definitely lessens). Big name department stores Selfridges (no. 400), Debenhams (no. 334–338) and House of Fraser (no. 318) are on Oxford Street, and a slightly less frenzied atmosphere to grab a bargain can be found around the corner at Liberty (entrance on Great Marlborough Street).

Mont Blanc Chamonix, France

Head for the slopes in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France

The Mont Blanc Massif is the stunning backdrop to the bustling ski resort town of Chamonix. The setting for the first winter Olympic Games in 1924, today the area boasts 152km of downhill pistes, suitable for every level. Mont Blanc itself is the highest peak in all of Western Europe and if you fancy an off-piste challenge you can tackle the Vallée Blanche all the way down to the valley floor and notch up 10,000 vertical feet. The après-ski is not to sniff at either; the two main streets and lively square pack in restaurants and bars and during the winter season there is always live music to be found and a young crowd ready to party.

Go in search of warmer climes in Goa, India

Although travel prices are relatively high at this time of year, Goa is a cheap destination once you’re there, so if you can manage a break of at least ten days, it’s worth every penny of the flight. The roughly 120-kilometre-long coast takes in everything from hedonistic party beaches, package resorts, sedate stretches of sand and hippie enclaves. Avoid Christmas and the New Year and there are still tranquil, idyllic spots to be found, especially if you head towards the generally less developed south, or you could beat the crowds and explore the former Portuguese capital of Old Goa and the green hinterland of this tiny state.

Skate the world’s largest rink, Ontario

Canada’s capital city boasts the largest naturally frozen rink in the world. Each winter the 4.8-mile-long Rideau Canal running through Ottawa is frozen solid and the skate-way becomes a playground for locals and tourists alike – some intrepid locals even strap on skates and commute to work. The temperature dictates the length of time the canal remains open to ice skaters, but the average cold snap over the last ten years has been 45 days – so there’s plenty of time to catch it.

Helly Aa, Shetland Islands, Scotland

Witness Up Helly Aa in the Shetland Islands, Scotland

Off the north coast of mainland Scotland in January might not seem like an ideal destination, but every year on the last Tuesday of January, an extraordinary spectacle takes place in the Shetland’s capital, Lerwick. Proud of their Viking roots, local men (no women allowed!) form squads led by the chief “Guizer Jarl” and spend months designing costumes, shields and weapons for the one-day fire festival. Bundle up in your warmest clothes to join the crowds lining the streets for the day’s main event: a torch-lit procession and the blazing glory of a Viking galley going up in flames. The evening’s festivities continue into the wee hours at local halls… music, dancing, drinking and fancy dress mean a lot of fun and a lot of sore heads the next day. Good thing it’s a public holiday.

Go down under to celebrate Australia Day

Swap the cold and dark of winter in the Northern hemisphere for January in sunny Oz. Now a public holiday with a proud tradition of families and friends coming together to celebrate everything about being Australian, 26 January 1788 is when Captain Arthur Phillip first raised the British flag at Sydney Cove. Today Australia Day is celebrated in towns and cities across the country, with the biggest and brightest festivities in PerthSydneyMelbourne and Canberra. Free family-friendly activities and entertainment is laid on all day in the parks, and the evening sees huge firework displays, the most famous being the spectacular explosion of colour over Sydney Harbour.

Recuperate body and soul in Baden-Baden, Germany

The smart German spa town of Baden-Baden (literally, the “baths of Baden”) has been known for its healing thermal waters for more than 2000 years. The Roman-Irish mineral baths of Friedrichsbad are the perfect place to de-stress after the festive period; immerse yourself in the full seventeen-step programme and drift prune-like and dozy between mineral water baths, showers, scrubs and saunas.  Bathing nude is mandatory and is frequently mixed, check ahead on carasana.de/ for details of opening times and prices.

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