2011 travel planner: Where to be, when to go, what to do

2011 travel planner: Where to be, when to go, what to do

Make 2011 your greatest travel year ever with this compilation of the world's biggest events, splashiest parties and most outrageous festivals

So much to see, so many dervishes to whirl, so many bulls to outrun.

Here's your essential travel planner for 2011. Get booking.

January 5 to mid February: Harbin Ice Lantern Festival (China)

Harbin Ice FestivalHarbin Ice Festival. Cold, but spectacular.
At this annual freeze fest held in China’s northernmost province (-40°F temperatures and Siberian winds), the 2,000 plus intricate icicles carved in honor of the Lunar New Year include ephemeral masterpieces like the Great Wall toboggan ride and a 10-story high Arc de Triomphe.

The most colorful ones are lit from within, making night the ideal time to tour, for those unafraid of a little frostbite.
More information: Harbin guide.

 

February 3: Lunar New Year (China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam)

Shanghai is Longhua temple Chinese New YearsCelebrating Chinese New Year in Shanghai's Longhua temple.Chinese people across Asia recognize the Chinese New Year at beginning of the first month of the lunar calendar, in late January or early February.

Their ancestors believed a fierce creature called the Nian would otherwise come down from the mountains to hunt villagers around this time of year. Even now they beat drums or gongs and set off fireworks to symbolically conquer the legendary monster.

Celebrations include festive street parades and illuminated displays of large sculptures of mythical characters like the God of Fortune and Chinese zodiac animals plus a nightly explosion of fireworks to scare off any Nian.
More information: Traveling in China? Be advised it can be tough.

March 5-6: Rio Carnival (Brazil)

Rio Carnival babe 2010No one does carnival better than the Brazilians. Hard to believe but this profusion of sound, lights and skin actually started out simply to lighten the mood before the more somber observation of Lent.

Carnivals are held around the world, but none outshines Rio’s with its jam-packed parade of outrageously frocked hot bodies and over the top floats, each from a different school of samba, a sexy, rhythmic African dance originally brought to the New World by slaves.

Percussion music only enhances this madness, encouraging barely clad hips to swing and sway among the ultra-energized masses.
More information: Rio Carnival

March 5: Nyepi (Indonesia)

Nyepi (Indonesia) Strange red guy rides again.On Balinese New Year’s Eve, in late March or early April, families parade with a giant monster doll known as Ogoh-Ogoh to the village temple where they symbolically burn it to exorcise evil spirits for the year to come.

Then the island itself must be purified, an excuse for everyone to run amok through the villages all night, smashing effigies and clanging the kulkul, a traditional bamboo bell.

The next day, Bali is completely silent to ‘trick’ the malicious spirits into believing the Hindu isle is now uninhabited so they will leave for another year.
More information: Balifriend.net

March 20: Holi (India)

holiHoli water.India’s caste system gets cast aside as everyone jumps into the multi-hued melee during Holi, this spring festival of romance and merrymaking held according to the Hindu calendar.

Though the origins of this madness can be traced back to several centuries before Christ and is associated with the Lord Krishna, these days it’s all about letting loose.

Even the usually buttoned up drip in a rainbow of paint, throw water balloons and sip “bhang lassi” made with cannabis.
More information: holifestival.org

 

Click "NEXT" for 20 more travel plans for 2011.

April 23: Rouketopolemos (Greece)

RouketopolemosIts time to Rouketopolemos!All around the Greek archipelago Easter is celebrated by priests chanting ‘Christos anesti’ or Christ has risen, followed by fireworks, red painted eggs and everyone kissing one another.

Except on the Aegean island of Chios in the town of Vrontados which lays claim as the birthplace of Homer, where two rival churches, Saint Mark and Panagia Erithiani, throw thousands of homemade rockets and fire-spears at each other’s church bell tower even as the service takes place down below.

The team that creates the most damage gets declared this year’s winner.
More information: Rocketwar.gr

June 3-11: Fes Festival of World Sacred Music (Morocco)

Fes FestivalDancers perform at the Fes Festival.High in the Atlas Mountain, musicians and dancers from traditions as diverse as the Royal Ballet of Cambodia to the Blind Boys of Alabama gather to perform each evening in this ancient city for an audience of serious culture vultures.

Concerts take place in riads and madrasa around the walled medina. Open-minded arts aficionados may take in Mongolian songs from the Steppe Nomads, followed by the Baghdad-Jerusalem Ensemble playing Sephardic music and wind up the evening with Sufi sacred rhythms.
More information: fesfestival.com

July 7-14: Fiesta San Fermin (Spain)

Running of the bullsThe thrill of the chase. Romanticized by Ernest Hemingway in "The Sun Also Rises," the annual encierro, or 'running of the bulls' lures fast or lucky revelers from around the world as well as more cautious bystanders to this festival honoring Saint Fermin, a patron saint of the Navarre region.

Celebrations involving the bulls date back to the 14th century here. Current festivities kick off with an afternoon of eye-popping pyrotechnics while every day’s main event involves hundreds of people running in front of six bulls plus six steers down a half-mile narrow stretch of old town Pamplona.

Everyone gathers on the last night at the town hall square, candles in hand, to sing farewell to the fiesta and breathe a collective sigh for their survival.
More information: sanfermin.com

July 11-13: Naadam (Mongolia)

Naadam MongoliaWatch some of the most skilled horsemen in the world in Mongolia.Global nomads join the real ones, fresh from the Mongolian Steppes, in Ulaanbaatar at the same time each year for this ornamental festival of Mongolian wrestling, archery and horse racing.

Though the Mongolian's most popular festival officially commemorates Mongolian independence in 1921, the games date to centuries earlier. Despite the colorful pageantry, competition is fierce with Mongolian wrestlers eliminated just for touching the ground.

By far the most popular to watch is the horse racing but curious tourists seek out the more intimate shagai games, played with real sheep knuckles.
More information: discovermongolia.mn

July 24: Tour de France Final Stage (France)

Tour De FranceThe world's top pedalers hit Paris for one last circuit.After cycling 3,471 kilometers in 21 stages over as many days, up and down the French Alps, past plenty of chateaux and through otherwise charming villages, the world’s top male cyclists wheel into the City of Lights for a final whip through the French capital.

This victory lap for one is a tight race for everyone as the neon-clad riders cram onto Paris’ ancient streets and down the Champs-Elysées, flanked by merry crowds of normally too-chic-to-shout Parisians.
More information: letour.fr

For 15 more places to plan for click "NEXT" below.

July 31-August 14: Kandy Perahera (Sri Lanka)

Kandy PeraheraKandy Perahera.
The highlight of Sri Lanka's holiday packed calendar, Kandy’s annual Buddhist festival kicks off with the blowing of conch shells then combines fire and whip dancing, ancient drumming and rubber band-like acrobats with a procession of lavishly adorned elephants.

Behind the gaudy but delightful pomp is the event’s true mission, to pray for rain to nurture the coming season’s crops, a serious ritual performed by carrying what adherents claim is the Buddha’s sacred tooth through the streets amidst the festivities.
More information: srilankainstyle.com

August 23-26: Red Sea Jazz Festival (Eilat, Israel)

Red Sea Jazz FestivalRed Sea Jazz Festival.The sea itself stays intact but the evenings are packed with jazz musicians from around the world.

Tito Puente played when the festival first launched in 1987. These days listen for Rickie-Lee Jones, Garry Barton, Stephan Harris and Danilo Perez alongside homegrown Israeli talents including Shem-Tov Levi and others. 

Thirty plus concerts are held over these four nights at nearby venues making it possible for serious fans to catch five performances nightly.
More information: redseajazzeilat.com

August 29-September 5: Burning Man (United States)

Burning ManSelf expression rules at the Burning Man. Nobody at Burning Man is a spectator, and that becomes clear to anyone who stocks up on all essentials, loads the car or RV then heads deep into Black Rock Desert, 120 miles north of Reno, Nevada for this must-see-to-fully-believe, hot-as-hell gathering of grand art installations, live music and trance dancing on an ancient lake bed.

At this annual experiment in temporary community of nearly 50,000 people dedicated to radical self-expression, one can still ride a bike into the cacti speckled void for self reflection, then come back for a grilled cheese sandwich at Bianca’s Smut Shack, a festival mainstay.

The mass congregation of good vibrations culminates on Saturday night when everyone gathers to burn da man.
More information: burningman.com

September 9-October 23: Rugby World Cup (New Zealand)

NZ World Rugby CupWill the All Blacks take home rugby's biggest prize?Invented when Rugby school pupil William Webb Ellis picked up the football, this most physical game draws serious fans and wildly embellished fanatics to the international championship event held every four years since 1987.

Twenty nations compete over one month at venues around the host country, this year from Auckland to Whangarei.

When not shouting down the other team, supporters can taste the local flavors at The REAL New Zealand Festival of Kiwi arts, culture, food and wine simultaneously held around NZ.
More information: rugbyworldcup.com and nz2011.govt.nz/realnzfestival

September 17–October 3: Oktoberfest (Germany)

Oktoberfest MunichOktoberfest in Munich can get a wee bit rowdy.Munich hosts Oktoberfest -- the world’s biggest beer festival -- with six million plus parched souls descending upon Theresienweise Square every year to get drunk and be merry.

A veritable ale theme park across 14 must-visit beer tents and 17 days of spills and thrills, the square showcases various attractions, such as a 3D space museum and cable car rides for those not too wasted to stomach them.
More information: oktoberfest.de

For 10 more places to plan for in 2011 click "NEXT" below.

September 23-25: Singapore Formula 1 (Singapore)

Singapore F1 2010Singapore turns to speed for the F1 weekend. Asia’s first night race took to the streets of the Lion City last year, revving up locals and international race fans alike.

The urban route takes drivers past some of Singapore’s most historic landmarks including the 100-year-old Anderson Bridge, through the War Memorial and along Raffles Boulevard, but watch for some new twists and turns in this year’s race.

Those without a prime spot in the grandstands can get the bird’s eye view from 71 flights up at New Asia Bar where only the awesome speed will distinguish the race cars from child’s play.

More information: formula1.com

October 7-15: Pusan International Film Festival (South Korea)

Pusan International Film Festival 2010A scene from the Pusan International Film Festival 2010.Pusan, Asia’s largest film festival, attracts hot homegrown stars like Jang Donggun and Won Bin as well as an international roster of cinematic talents like Zhang Yimou here to Busan (as renamed by the government after the festival’s founding in 1996), a city of 3 million on the southwestern tip of the Korean peninsula.

Film buffs hopscotch around three dozen theaters that show over 300 flicks from around 70 countries over the festival period.

This year, the hottest tickets will be for movies shown in the Dureraum, the city’s soon to open 840-seat shiny metallic cultural complex.
More information: piff.org

November 2-10: Pushkar Festival (India)

PushkarCamel trader showing off his humps.Over 200,000 people with 50,000 cattle flock once each year to the Pushkar Festival in an otherwise sleepy town in the Rajasthani desert.

Devotees believe their gods visit the town’s lake where the Hindu god Brahma dropped a lotus from heaven and water sprung.

No less sacred is the surrounding cattle fair, one of the largest in India which also draws camel traders who come to show off their hump-backed charges, painted and adorned for the occasion with silver bells and bangles around their ankles that add jingling acoustics to the Technicolor melee.
More information: pushkarfestival.com

November 10: Loi Kratong (Thailand)

Loi KrathongLoi Krathong.On the full moon of the 12th lunar month, hundreds of thousands of ornately decorated krathong or traditional banana leaf floats often shaped like lotus flowers are set adrift in rivers and waterways across Thailand for this festival of lights evolved from ancient royal rituals along Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River.

By setting the krathong adrift, one symbolically casts away all grief. At dusk, krathong are decorated with fresh flowers, candles and incense sticks before being sent downstream with candlelight flickering in the wind. In north Thailand, tubular lanterns, resembling hot air balloons, are lit and released into the night sky as an offering the Lord Buddha.
More information: 3 Sweet Loi Kratong escapes

November 10-13: Mani Rimdu Festival (Nepal)

Mani Rimdu FestivalMani Rimdu Festival.Mount Everest provides the backdrop to this annual three-day public gathering at Tengboche Monastery in the white-capped Himalayas.

Buddhist monks prepare a sand mandala to symbolize beauty and impermanence while lamas chant and lead meditations dedicated to the good of the world.

These holy moments get interspersed with humorous plays and copious feasts leading up to a day of elaborately costumed masked dances that culminate in a full night of Sherpa song and dance.
More information: wildearthjourneys.com

Click "NEXT" below to see five more places to plan for in 2011.

November 15: Shichi-Go-San (Japan)

Shichi-Go-SanCute, colorful and lucky.
Cuteness rules throughout the country during Shichi-Go-San, literally “seven, five and three,” a colorful festival to bless children at those ages considered lucky in Japanese numerology.

Hundreds of seven year old girls gather at Tokyo’s Otori-jinja Shrine dressed up in kimonos tied for the first time with an obi while boys age five wear their new hakama pants and haori jackets.

During the festival, which dates back to noble traditions of the 8th century, parents indulge their progeny with chitose-ame, “thousand years” candy canes in a bag illustrated with cranes and turtles to symbolize longevity.
More information: japan-guide.com

Late November: Angkor Photography Festival (Cambodia)

Angkor Photography Festival (Cambodia)Angkor Photography Festival.During these six days, the official dates of which are yet to be decided, Asian and international photographers from Magnum and the Associated Press offer free workshops for Khmer street children and disabled adults in Siem Reap against the backdrop of Angkor Wat.

Art lovers and others are invited to view original works and slideshows by these professionals and students in the evenings at the McDermott Gallery, the Arts Lounge at Hotel de la Paix and in the garden surrounding the Foreign Correspondents Club.
More information: angkor-photo.com

December 10: Giant Lantern Festival San Fernando Pampanga (Philippines)

Giant Lantern Festival San Fernando PampangaGiant Lantern Festival San Fernando Pampanga.From the second Saturday of December every year the country’s Christmas capital gets illuminated by six-meter lanterns called parol, each illuminated by hundreds of blinking bulbs.

Here in the Philippines these massive lanterns represents the star of Bethlehem that guided the Three Wise Men to the newly born Jesus Christ.

Celebrants parade these artful creations around the crowd-filled streets of San Fernando accompanied by marching bands to welcome the festive season.
More information: cityofsanfernando.gov.ph

December 10-17: Whirling Dhervishes Festival (Turkey)

Whirling Dervishes of TurkeyThe spinning of the Dervishes is done in remembrance of God.Followers and fans of all religious persuasions congregate in the snowy village of Konya to commemorate the death of Jelaladin Rumi whose poetry popularized the Sufi branch of Islam and its human spinning tops.

In the otherwise utilitarian sports stadium, dozens of traditionally costumed adherents dance to the sound of reed flutes, to honor this 13th century mystical figure who many Muslims consider a saint.
More information: hellotravel.com

December 13–20: Fiesta de Santo Tomas (Guatemala)

Fiesta de Santo TomasTime to Fiesta de Santo Tomas.Visitors outnumber the locals in Chichicastenango, a small town deep in the mountains of western Guatemala during this week-long religious festival that mixes Mayan and Christian traditions to celebrate its patron saint.

After days of the usual smattering of parades, indigenous dances and fireworks, comes a peculiar traditional dance called the Palo Volador.

Look up to see two men hang themselves by ropes from each of several 30-meter wooden poles, as if ‘dancing’ by leaping, swinging and spinning through the air.
More information: visitguatemala.com

This born gypsy began writing for Conde Nast Traveler in early September 2001, three days before it seemed no one would get on a plane for pleasure ever again.
Read more about Cynthia Rosenfeld