Snow sculptures in China, cowboy poets in Nevada, and Fatboy Slim on the high seas – here’s what to look forward to in January.

Harbin Ice And Snow Sculpture Festival

Harbin, China
5 January – 25 February
China’s designated winter wonderland gears up for another jaw-dropping season of sculptural art. Thousands of ice carvings – sculpted out of ice from the Songhua River – are joined by impressive ice architecture, all spread over four parks and amusement zones. The nightly illuminated ice sculptures are the undisputed showpiece of the festival, but Harbin city itself, with its Russian influences and Beaux Arts buildings, is worth a peek. And for those with a gleeful destructive streak, be sure to visit as the festival ends, when visitors get to help tear down the decorations. Literally. With ice picks.
[Photo: icefestivalharbin.com]

Holy Ship!

Port Canaveral, Florida, USA
6-10, 10-14 January
All aboard for the booty-shakin’-est voyage you landlubbers will ever take. Artists like DJ Snake, Tchami, Fatboy Slim and Maya Jane Coles will be rocking the boat on two 5-day sailings from Port Canaveral to Great Stirrup Cay and Nassau, in addition to a host of established and emerging names in electronic dance music. Party on the boat, party on the beach, party in Miami before you leave – just don’t expect to get much sleep.

The BPM Festival

Playa del Carmen, Mexico
6-15 January
Want the party atmosphere and tropical vibes, but prefer dry land? Try Playa del Carmen during the annual BPM festival. When you’re not dancing by night and soaking up the sun on powdery beaches by day, you can check out the Mayan ruins of Tulum, take a snorkelling or diving trip, and explore the famous cenotes of the Yucatán Peninsula. Tip: Book into an all-inclusive hotel room to party hardy without pulling out your wallet every five seconds.
[Photo: aLIVE Coverage for TheBPMFestival.com]

Cartagena International Music Festival

Cartagena, Colombia
6-16 January
Classical music fans from far and wide will be enchanted by the live performances held in this magical city’s most charming colonial venues, from churches to theatres and open-air plazas. It’s generally a fancy affair, but for those who are more boho than bowtie, free concerts are held in the outdoor spaces on several days of the festival.

Dolomiti Balloon Festival

Dobbiaco, Italy
7-15 January
The only thing better than watching dozens of vibrant hot air balloons take flight above the magnificent snow-capped peaks of the Dolomites is, perhaps, being a part of the spectacle. Combine this magical experience with a heart-pumping ski and snowboard vacation in one of the world’s largest ski resorts.

London International Mime Festival

London, UK
9 January – 4 February
Europe’s most unbelievable masters of mime head to London for a show-stopping lineup of theatrics, from slapstick to melodrama, circus and aerial acrobatics, with workshops, discussions, meet-and-greets and film screenings mixed in.
[Photo © Pierre-Borrasci]

Voodoo Festival

Ouidah, Benin
10 January
Toss aside clichés of superstitious curses and witch doctors – voodoo is an expression of spirituality that’s been practiced by West African tribes for centuries. For devotees and curious bystanders alike, the annual Voodoo Festival held in Ouidah, the historic heart of voodoo worship, is a one-of-a-kind experience full of singing, dancing, chanting, gin-drinking and blessings from the city’s voodoo chief.

Sun Peaks Winter Okanagan Wine Festival

Sun Peaks, Canada
13-22 January
Wining, dining and slope-riding combine at this wine festival hosted by Sun Peaks ski resort in the Canadian Rockies. The stars of the celebration are, of course, homegrown British Columbian vintages, which make appearances at events like blind tastings, mulled wine snowshoe treks, wine brunches, dance parties and pairings of everything imaginable – from chocolate to grilled cheese sandwiches.

Banff SnowDays

Banff, Canada
13 January – 5 February
Pack your warmest coat and get ready for some frost-kissed entertainment – SnowDays is all about outdoor winter fun, from ice skating to dog sledding, snowshoeing and sleigh riding, then warming up by crackling fires or in Banff’s natural hot springs. There’s a 34-hour long ice carving competition, a race to climb a sheer ice wall, and a chance for snowboard pros to show off their coolest new tricks. And then there’s the skiing…
[Photo: Kelly MacDonald]

World Buskers Festival

Christchurch, New Zealand
19-29 January
Catch all the sidewalk legends in action, including Pants Down Circus: Rock!, Buskers Burlesque, Seven Deadly(ish) Stunts and Nina Conti: In Your Face. From funny-haha! to funny-huh?, it’s a gathering of the world’s most engaging street performers, along with delicious street treats for foodies and Busker Market goodies for the shopping set.

La Tamborrada

San Sebastián, Spain
19-20 January
The loudest festival in a country known for its rowdy events? Don’t say we didn’t warn you! Thousands of costumed chefs, milk maidens and soldiers march through the city beating away at wooden barrel drums, backed by brass bands, all playing on for a solid 24 hours. At midnight on the 19th, everyone gathers at the Plaza de la Constitución for the raising of the city’s flag and a hearty round of the San Sebastián March. The cacophony is supposed to be loud enough to wake the martyred Saint Sebastian himself.
[Photo: Gure Esku dago/Flickr]

Jaipur Literature Festival

Jaipur, India
19-23 January
Bring your autograph books: Man Booker Prize winners and Nobel laureates will be among the guests of honour at the largest free literary festival in the world. Seminars, workshops, live music sessions and book signings are just some of the events that await.


Iloilo City, Philippines
22-24 January
Kalibo’s Ati-Atihan usually gets all the attention this time of year, but Dinagyang is its younger festival twin. Like Ati-Atihan, Dinagyang celebrates the Santo Niño (Holy Child) – as well as the arrival of early settlers – with dancing, dancing and more dancing, but does so in the more charming small-town setting of Iloilo City. Tribes compete to outdo each other at the Ati Ati Grand Parade with Carnival-esque elaborate costumes, impressive choreography and vibrant floats, while spectators are encouraged to jive along on the sidelines. Such is the energy of the festival that, instead of ending, the parade devolves into a massive street party which both locals and visitors are encouraged to enjoy with abandon.
[Photo: Eisen Jiao/Flickr]

Mozart Week

Salzburg, Austria
26 January – 5 February
Indeed, the hills are alive with the sound of music. Classical music fans will recognise Salzburg as the birthplace of one of the world’s greatest composers, who gets his own festival for a week each year. Two concert halls in this charming Austrian town ring out with the melodies of Mozart’s most famous works, performed by celebrated soloists and ensembles from far and wide.

Rainbow Serpent Festival

Lexton, Australia
27-30 January
Peace, love and performance art. Though not an aboriginal festival, Rainbow Serpent draws inspiration from aboriginal spiritual traditions in its performances, music, art, healing and relaxation exercises, all in the name of its eponymous creation figure: the protector of earth and the source of all living things. The biggest draw is the electronic music scene, but festival-goers will encounter many other types of art, from instrumental performances to comedians, magicians, burlesque and circus acts. It’s a camping festival in middle-of-nowhere Australia, so pack a tent and a sturdy constitution.
[Photo: Francisco Vicenzi]

Wakakusa Yamayaki

Nara, Japan
28 January
It’s all about interfaith dialogue – and setting a mountain on fire. For a reason lost to time (explanations range from land disputes to pest eradication), two Buddhist temples and a Shinto shrine band together to set Mount Wakakusa ablaze – but not before enjoying a parade, a giant rice cracker tossing competition, some interfaith exchange and a grand fireworks display.
[Photo: Rocky T/Flickr]

National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Elko, Nevada, USA
30 January – 4 February
If you thought cowboys and poetry go together like city folk and a hard day’s work, you’re in for a surprise. A life of roaming the range and telling stories over open fires often lends itself to reflection and the spinning of marvelous tales, and that’s just what these cowboys gather to do. Readings, open mic nights and musical performances are joined by a programme of daily workshops in everything from yodelling to barbecuing and two-step dancing. It’s a lively, friendly crowd, so get ready to make some new friends.

Up Helly Aa

Lerwick, Scotland
31 January
Like many great festivals, this celebration of Viking heritage began as an annual running-amok of rowdy townsmen, generally soldiers and sailors fuelled with ale and bearing torches. In the 19th century, the holiday was given a date and a bit more order, producing the part decorous, part disorderly event we see today. The highlight is the torch procession of more than 1,000 men in intricate Viking garb, at the end of which they toss their torches into a 9-metre Viking longboat built and painted specifically for Up Helly Aa. After the bonfire, everyone retires to various beer halls for a night of revelry.

Before we can even contemplate the fascinating events in early 2017, we have to survive the epic party to end all parties that is New Year. Are you prepared?

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