Culture vulture? History lover? Photography enthusiast? Theme traveller? Hena Das takes inspiration from Lonely Planet’s Ten Best Things To Do in 2012 and chalks up a travel calendar for the year.
A group of penguins on a blue iceberg bay
Where: The South PoleWhat: Sub-Zero expedition trails Forget Siberia, this is the greatest sub-zero adventure ever! January 17, 2012 celebrated the centenary of British explorer Robert Scott Falcon’s arrival at the South Pole. Thanks to this occasion, the South Pole is expected to have a surge of tourists in January and February, wanting to recreate the expedition paths tred by Falcon and other great explorers. Hoping to be the first to reach the South Pole, Falcon’s luck didn’t quite support him—his team reached the Pole only to find that a Norwegian team had beat them to it. Heartbroken, he perished along with his expedition team soon after. But that isn’t going to stop enthusiastic adventure travellers from packing their thermal wear and heading to the Pole. In fact, a number of local tour operators are offering a chance to pop open some bubbly and have a party at the Pole, weather permitting. It’s a bit too late for me to make South Pole-explorer party plans, but hey, this is a dream calendar.
Don’t miss: If trekking through the white snow dessert isn’t really your thing, you can go for one of the many cruises that keep to the coastal camps and are a great way to explore the Antarctic’s ocean life.
Seal colonies all around Sceleton Coast, Namibia
Where: Skeleton Coast, Namibia
What: Wildlife, deserts, protected National Parks and the coast Between the Kalahari Desert and the South Atlantic Sea lies the stunning Namibia. A shutterbug’s paradise, the country’s great, wide deserts and wildlife are perfect for starting that wildlife photograph series you always dreamed of. The coastline, however, is the pick of the month. The Atlantic shore is now one of the largest protected areas, with Sperregebeit National Park, Namib Naukluft Park, the new Dorob National Park and the Skeleton Coast included in the protected areas. Spot some shipwrecks on the infamous Skeleton Coast, but don’t expect to sunbathe—the coast areas mostly experience cool and overcast weather throughout the year.
Don’t miss: Ship wreaks and overcast skies too dreary for you? Head to Swakopmund, Namibia’s adventure destination. Take your pick from sunny camel safaris, riding a dune buggy down the sandy stretches, sliding down the dunes on a snowboard and more adrenaline-pumping action. Cowabunga!
The Art of Video Games exhibition at Gamefest
Where: Washington DC, USA
What: Gamefest If you’ve grown up in the ’90s, chances are you spent a good part of your non-school time helping Mario rescue Princess Peach or chomping the dots in Pacman. The Smithsonian American Art Museum in DC, US, goes behind these and other iconic games of the past four decades. From March 16 to 18, the museum will host GameFest—three days of gaming, movie screenings, costume photo-ops and discussions on games and popular culture. A perfectly legit excuse to indulge in your childhood.
Don’t miss: There’s a lot more at the Smithsonian if you’re not big on video games. Check out any of the other current art and photography exhibitions. Want something more outdoorsy? Explore the city by taking one of their trolley or Tourmobile tours. Some companies also offer guided tours on bikes, for the adventurous sort.
Celebrations around the statue of Joan of Arc on Rue de Rivoli in Paris
What: A Birthday Celebration France’s national heroine, Joan of Arc, celebrates her 600th birthday this year. Being a heroine myself, I’m pretty excited. Who calls me that, you ask? Uh, well, my parents think I’m pretty great. And my cat…well, never mind. The Maid of Orleans as Joan of Arc was also known, led the French army to a number of significant victories during the Hundred Years’ War, claiming divine guidance as her inspiration. She was burnt on a stake at the age of 19 by the English, but an examination by the Inquisitorial court 25 years later pronounced her a martyr and made her one of the patron saints of France. You can join in the celebrations of her birthday by taking a trip to France and following her trail. Beautiful Orleans, the Reims Cathedral, where Charles VII was crowned the king of France thanks to her help with the victories, the Rouen Castle where she was tried and her execution place, Vieux Marche, all make for a rich, cultural route.
Don’t miss: A short drive from Orleans, the Loire Valley or Vallée de la Loire is perfect for a romantic getaway. Located on the Loire river, the valley has a number of scenic vineyards, fruit orchards and chateaux.
Celebrating lent festival in Maribor
Where: Maribor, Slovenia
What: Arts and culture festival Sharing 2012’s European Capital of Culture title with Guimarães in Portugal is Maribor, the second-largest city in Slovenia. Not on the country’s usual tourist track, the city nevertheless has a lot to offer, especially this year, with a lineup of art and cultural festivals, along with theatre, classical music and folklore performances.
Don’t miss: Go for a walk about town and check out the oldest vine in the world, according to the Guinness World Records. Book lovers can enjoy themselves at the Days of Poetry and Wine festival or just sit in the city park with a book in the deckchairs set up especially for this.
Official logotype UEFA EURO 2012 in Kyiv, Ukraine
Where: Poland and Ukraine
What: Football June is dedicated to Poland and Ukraine, hosts of the 2012 European Football Championships. The matches will be at Gdansk, Poznan, Warsaw and Wroclaw in Poland, and Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kyiv and Lviv in Ukraine. If you’re a fan of football (like most of my friend circle seem to be), book your ticket to the Championships well ahead of time. My idea of sport however, is to try and eat some of everything at a multi-cuisine buffet. And while my friends dive headfirst into the games, I plan to dive headfirst into the scenic cities, and hopefully, a vat of Polish vodka, a dish of bigos (cabbage and meat stew) and chicken Kiev!
Don’t miss: While my football-crazy friends dive headfirst into the games, I plan to dive headfirst into the scenic cities, and hopefully, a vat of Polish vodka with a side dish of bigos (cabbage and meat stew) and chicken Kiev.
Where: London, UK
What:London 2012 Festival With London geared up to host the 2012 Olympics, there won’t be a more buzzing destination on the planet. To add to this is the finale of the four-year long Culture Olympiad, the London 2012 Festival. The Culture Olympiad was started to promote creativity in arts and culture amongst the youth. Now in its final year, it’s set to go with a big bang with the Festival, which will be on from 21 June to 9 September. There will be indoor and outdoor art exhibitions, carnivals and performances by musicians and comedians, fashion shows and movies by up-and-coming actors and filmmakers.
Don’t miss: If you’re as crazy about The Beatles as I am, do not forget to visit their famous Abbey Road Studios in London, and click a picture walking on the iconic crossing. You can also shop for some grunge at the nearby Camden Market, or take a trip down to Liverpool to see where the Fab Four lived.
Where: Trivandrum, Kerela
What: Snake Boat Race This one’s been on my list for the longest time, and when a friend invited me to accompany her this year to her home in Trivandrum for Onam, it was like destiny. As I plan my vacation to God’s Own Country, the annual Aranmula Snake Boat race, held during the Onam festival period,is on top of my list of must-dos. Aranmula is about 128 km from Trivandrum, on the banks of river Pampa. The boats used in the races are a whopping 100 feet in length, and tower 20 feet in length at one end, resembling a snake’s hood.
Don’t miss: After working up your appetite cheering on the exotic boats, sit down for onasadya, a special feast prepared for the occasion of Onam. You could also head on to the calm golden sands of the city of Kovalam, a great place to relax after the excitement of the race.
What: The Living Ocean Expo My pick for September t is the Expo 2012, staged at Yeosu, Korea. The Expo is a large public exhibition based on a theme, with a number of countries across the globe presenting their exhibits. The theme this year is The Living Ocean and Coast, fitting, as the venue of the Expo is a beautiful city with a stunning coastline. With more than a 100 countries participating with their thematic stalls, the expo is sure to be an experience to remember.
Don’t miss: Check out the Hyangiram Hermitage, which offers a panoramic view of the sea and islands that make up Yeosu Peninsula. The temple-like hermitage’s symbol is the turtle, which can be seen in the distinctive hexagonal pattern on the walls. You can also check out the popular Manseongri Black Sand Beach.
Sphinx Guarding a Pyramid
What: The Great Pyramids Last year in January, the world watched as Egypt suffered through a turbulent time. Violent clashes between protesters and the police in Cairo and Alexandria had all tourists in a frenzy to catch a flight back home. Tourism in the Middle East is still going through a bad phase, with a number of hotels going empty and even shutting shop. Contribute to the great culture’s economy by planning a trip to the Great Pyramids in the year end. Autumn is the best time to visit, and the people are sure to offer a warm welcome to any new visitors. Experts still advise caution while travelling, so my advice would be to stay informed before you fix your travel plans.
Don’t miss: Yes, Egypt wouldn’t be Egypt without its pyramids, but the pyramids wouldn’t be there but for the lifeblood of the country, the river Nile. Instead of taking the land route, do Egypt in a different way by taking a cruise on the river and watch the ancient temples pass you by. The Aswan to Luxor stretch is the most recommended.
Planning a trip to Egypt? Watch this video to know more -
What: The Solar Eclipse The rains aren’t the best time to be in Australia, but what’s wet feet to the excitement of witnessing a full solar eclipse with the pros? The year’s full solar eclipse on November 13 will pass over the South Pacific. The best place to catch fellow eclipse chasers would be in the remote Palmer River area in Queensland, likely to experience less rainfall than the coastal areas. Don’t forget your parka and eclipse glasses.
Don’t miss: Queensland’s Gold Coast is a must visit for all amusement park junkies. The city is called Australia’s Theme Park Capital, with five major theme parks, and a coast great for surfing.
Game for a holiday down under? Click here to explore -
Re-enactment of the Borodino battle between Russian and French armies in 1812.
Where: Moscow, Russia
What: Battle scenes from 1812 It’s a year of big anniversaries—including the 200th of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. Loved Leo Tolstoy’s epic, War and Peace? Visit Moscow for a stunning 360° panorama of one of the main battles of the 1812 war, the Battle of Borodino, and relive the book. St Peter’s Hermitage and Museum of Artillery, Engineers and Signal Corps, too, have great memorabilia from the war days.
Don’t miss: Go check out the imposing Kremlin and fairytale minarets of St Basil’s church, two of the most iconic buildings in the world. Old Arbat street is a great place to look for little knickknacks to bring home, provided you have good bargaining skills.
Go for a walk about town and check out the oldest vine in the world, according to the Guinness World Records. Book lovers can enjoy themselves at the Days of Poetry and Wine festival or just sit in the city park with a book in the deckchairs set up especially for this.
When she’s not pushing keys, Hena Das is pushing her cat off the keys.
Her repertoire of skills includes elaborate daydreaming, sighing out loud, and off-key singing.
Hena dreams of travelling to all the places she writes about, and being written about in all the places she travels to.
Currently involved in an undercover operation to save the world, Hena's identity is a state secret.
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