Mahakumbhmela - the Festival of Elixir
7th January to 22nd February in Allahabad, India

Mahakumbhmela is a sacred Hindu festival that celebrates the victory of the gods over the demons in ancient times. It takes place every 12 years and is considered to be the biggest religious festival on earth. Millions of pilgrims journey to the convergence of the sacred rivers Ganges and Yamuna to dip in the holy waters to cleanse themselves of their sins. In 1989, the festival was attended by an estimated 15 million pilgrims, taking it into the Guiness Book of Records as the 'greatest recorded number of human beings assembled with a common purpose' in history.
For further details check out website.

Sundance Film Festival
18th to 28th January in Park City, Utah, USA

One of the most celebrated film festivals in the world and part of the Sundance Institute, founded by Robert Redford in 1981 to support independent film-makers. The festival provides an opportunity for new film-makers to make it within the business and is an ideal chance for film-buffs to see alternative cinema.
For further details visit the official website
Contact details:
Sundance Institute, PO Box 16450, Salt Lake City, Utah 84116, USA
Tel: +1 801 328 3456

Ati Atihan Festival
19th to 21st January in Kalibo, Phillipines

Held in the paradise island of Panay, this festival is held to honour Jesus Christ. Although a Christian festival, its origin lies in the thirteenth century when the island was inhabited by the Atis tribe who sold a plot of land to Datu refugees from Borneo. The relationship developed over the centuries and the Datu would give food to the native inhabitants in times of meagre harvests, resulting in thanks on behalf of the Atis with singing and dancing. The tradition has blended with the Catholic faith and the festival is now a bizarre mix of religious celebration and frenzied dancing and drinking.
For further information contact:
Western Visayas Tourism Centre, Capitol Ground,
Bonifacio Drive, Iloilo City, Phillipines
Tel: +63 33 337 5411

Lerwick 'Up Helly Aa'
30th January 2001 in Lerwick, Scotland, UK

A British fire festival that includes the burning of a Viking ship, a torch-lit parade and a Scottish dancing party. The origin of this festival is unclear, but proceedings begin at Hillhead, in the centre of Lerwick in the early evening with a procession of over 800 people lead by the 'jaral' dressed as a Viking warrior and followed by the 'guizers' in a variety of costumes and dragging the Viking long-ship to its burning site. Set pieces are then performed throughout the town, together with dancing and general joviality. For further information on the festival visit:
Contact details:
Lerwick Tourist Information Centre
Tel: +44 1595 693434

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival
9th February to 3rd March in Sydney, Australia

This month-long, world-famous gay festival includes exhibitions, musical events and plays showcasing the diversity and range of talent that exists within the gay community of Sydney. The main highlight of the festival is the parade - packed with hundreds of colourful floats, exotic dancers and stunningly beautiful drag queens. As it marches through the city centre it's a sight not to be missed. The final night party takes place in five different venues across the city and needless to say is a night of 'gay abandon'.

Further information:
Sydney Mardi Gras
21 -23 Erskenville Road
2024 New South Wales, Australia
Tel: +61 2 9557 4332
Fax: +61 2 9516 4446

Abu Simbel Festival, Egypt
22nd February

The great temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel was deliberately angled so that the inner sanctum would light up twice a year, once on 22nd February (the anniversary of Ramses II's rise to the throne) and once on his birthday. Crowds flock to the temple to witness sunrise and watch the first rays of the morning sun filter through the stone illuminating the back wall of the innermost shrine and the statues of Ramses, Ra and Amon. The statue of Ptah (the God of darkness) remains in the shadows.
For further information contact:
Egyptian Tourist Office
Abbassia Square
Tel: +20 2 2853576
Fax: +20 2 2854363

Rio de Janeiro Carnival, Brazil, South America
24th to 28th February

Rio's main event of the year is arguably 'the world's greatest party'. The culmination of months of preparation results in a magnificent spectacle that everyone should experience at some point in life. Numerous samba schools participate in the Samba School Parade, at the Sambadrome, all competing to impress both judges and onlookers with their stunning costumes and impressive dancing. The schools make up a continuous stream of colour and rhythm whose boundless energy and infectious revelry enraptures the crowd. The street carnival, unlike the parade, is free of charge and throughout the city Bandas or Blocos, orchestras that march through the streets, are followed by hordes of enthusiastic costumed samba dancers. The Gala Ball, held at the legendary Copacabana Palace Hotel, is the epitome of glamour and sophistication.
Contact details:
Avenida Marques de Sapucai
Rio de Janeiro

Brazilian Tourist Office
SCO Quadra 02
BLG 2/A, CEP 70710-500 Brasília
DF, Brazil
Tel: +55 61 429 7777

Carnival website:

New Orleans Mardi Gras, USA
6th January to 27th February

This legendary New Orleans' party offers something for everyone. Traditionally a city of partying, New Orleans' Mardi Gras celebrations range from vibrant, street festivities to formal stately balls. Clubs, known as krewes, parade through the city's streets, acting out scenes featuring well-known people. The largest of the parades actually takes place about two weeks prior to Mardi Gras with numerous marching bands, floats and dancers, culminating in Mardi Gras Day which is 27th February. Taking part in the celebrations is not only great fun, but an ideal opportunity to dress up. On Mardi Gras Day, the Kings of the Carnival host the two major parades, both of which start early in the morning and last all day, followed by a costumed party in the evening.

Event details: New Orleans Convention Centre, junction of Bourbon Street and Anne Street, New Orleans.

Contact details:
New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau
1520 Sugar Bowl Drive, New Orleans, Louisiana 70112-1259, USA
Tel: +1 514 566 5011
Fax: +1 514 566 5021
Official Mardi Gras website:

FIS Alpine Skiing World Championships, Vorarlberg, Austria
28th January to 10th February

Held this year in the Austrian resort of St Anton, the Alpine Skiing World Championships is the world's biggest skiing tournament next to the Winter Olympics. The tournament covers Downhill, Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super G and Combined, in both Men's and Women's competitions.
Contact details:
OK Austria Ski Veranstaltungs-GmbH, Postfach 100, A-6850, St Anton, Austria
Tel: +43 5446 22690
Official website:

Venice Carnival, Italy
16th to 27th February

This has to be the best time to visit Venice when this two-week cavalcade of traditional ceremonies, processions, music and masquerades takes place throughout the piazzas, canals and palaces of this ancient city. The tradition of wearing masks can be traced back to the thirteenth century and was used to maintain anonymity in a variety of dubious situations. Today the Carnival hosts performances by musicians, jugglers, storytellers, fire-eaters (organized by Circuito Venezia da Vivere) that take place in Campo San Barnaba, Campo Santa Margherita, Campo San Luca, Campo del Ghetto, Campo San Giovanni e Paolo, Corte dei Pali, and Strada Nuova.
Contact details:
Azienda di Promozione Turistica di Venezia, Calle del Rimedio 4421 Castello 30100, Venezia, Italy
Tel: +39 041 529 8711
Fax: +39 041 523 0399
Official website in English:

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