In JANUARY… Discover the literature of the Sub-Continent…

Galle Literary Festival
-Voted the ‘No.1 Literary Festival in the world’ by Harpers Bazaar in 2006.
A fantastic four-day event held in the old Dutch buildings and cinnamon warehouses of Galle Fort, Sri Lanka. Previous speakers have included Gore Vidal, Vikram Seth, Candace Bushnell and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

These enthralling talks and discussions are held in the old Dutch buildings and cinnamon warehouses in Galle Fort, giving you the opportunity to attend glamorous literary lunches at the villas in the area. And while you’re in Sri Lanka, why not take the time to enjoy a wildlife safari, relax at a beautiful beach front villa or explore the breathtaking cultural ruins?

Jaipur Literature Festival
“The grandest literary Festival of them all” – Miranda Seymour in The Mail on Sunday.
Discover a blend of Indian and Western performance and music from some of the world’s most talented authors and speakers in the ‘pink city’ of Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan. This rapidly growing festival is described as “intellectual stimulation in a carnival atmosphere” and was started in 2006 with only a hundred attendees. It has since exploded, attracting many famous Indian and international names including: J.M. Coetzee, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan , Geoff Dyer, Henry Louis Gates and hundreds more.

Enjoy the Jaipur Literature festival as a part of a wider tour of Rajasthan, the princely state of Northern India. Ride camels on a desert safari in Jaisalmer, visit stunning forts in Jodhpur and stay in magnificent palaces.

…or go back in time with a cultural festival.

Hampi festival

hampi2 by pradeep kumbhashi

“Brimming with life and colour” – Hello! Magazine.

Experience traditional musicians, dancers and processions in this village set amongst the ruins of a bygone civilisation. A small village in the Indian state of Karnataka, Hampi would be insignificant but for its location in the centre of the ruins of Vijayanagara, the former capital of the vast Vijayanagara Empire of the 13th-17th centuries. The Hampi festival takes place over a three day period and is packed with shows featuring music, dance puppets, fireworks and a procession for its grand finale.

Hampi also provides ample opportunities to take part in more adventurous activities including bouldering, water sports and rural sports in the stunning ancient surroundings.

In FEBRUARY… Meet baby sea turtles, prize camels and Sufi maestros!

“Try to be like the turtle – at ease in your own shell” – Bill Copeland.
February is the best time of year to watch turtles lay their eggs before the babies hatch and crawl towards the surf. The Blue Whale is also found in Sri Lanka’s waters at this time of year, allowing you to observe the majesty of one of the ocean’s most awe-inspiring creatures. A trip out to sea would also let you could also get up close and personal with dolphins, who love to gambol playfully alongside these boats.

Sri Lanka is home to a magnificent natural diversity of sea life. Under the peaceful azure seas live the creatures that make Sri Lanka unique, offering opportunities for diving and snorkelling which will stay with you forever. The country also has plenty to keep you occupied above sea level, with great shopping, and some fine ruins.

…or discover the magic of more Rajasthani festivals

Nagaur Camel Festival
Held every year in the quaint Rajput town of Nagaur, this festival has its origins as a livestock fair for camels, bullocks and horses. Each year, around 40,000 camels are still traded but this old fair has how developed into a festival with fun events and entertainment. Enjoy the tug-of-war, camel and bullock races and revel in the enchanting folk music and dances of Jodhpur echoing across the tranquil desert. For the more adventurous amongst you, the festival also features the largest red-chilly market or “mirchi bazaar” in Asia.

Nagaur & Jodhpur: World Sufi Festival

Singers at the World Sufi Spirit Festival, Nagaur

Normally celebrated in Nagaur’s 800 year old Ahichhatragarh fort, this event provides a rare insight into the Sufi tradition. This year, the festival also travels to Jodhpur’s Mehrengarh fort, featuring an enchanting mix of mystical poetry, song, film and dance.

When the festivities have ended, continue through Rajasthan, the princely state of Northern India, taking in camel rides, and going on a desert safari to find black bucks and peacocks. Relax by the stunning lakeside palaces in Udaipur or maybe go across to Agra in Uttar Pradesh to be inspired by the Taj Mahal.

In MARCH…. Experience colour like no other.

Jaipur Elephant Festival
“The children loved it” – Anita Kaushal, The Guardian (2008).

Celebrating this treasured animal, the festival begins with a beautiful procession of decorated elephants; the most beautiful wins a highly coveted prize so expect colours, anklets and stunning designs. Other headline events include elephant polo, elephant tug of war and a race. Alongside the elephants folk dancers, camels and horses vie for attention.

Holi

Villagers in Rajasthan celebrate the spring festival of Holi

Holi is the festival of colour celebrating the triumph of good over bad. The celebrations start the day before, when bonfires are lit around the city. During the day of Holi, crowds enthusiastically fling coloured powder and water at each other and hold competitions.

Join the celebrations in Jaipur as two of the biggest festivals of the year turn the city into a blaze of colour and excitement. Once the festivities have come to a close, take the time to enjoy a leisurely tour around Rajasthan’s many princely attractions, such as the sandstone-clad forts of Jaipur and Jodhpur, or cruise around Udaipur, the ‘Venice of India’.

In APRIL…. come face to face with a whale shark!

“In horizon of the vast Indian Ocean grow green palms. This is my homeland, this is the Maldives. From the clear blue seas, we grow like pearls” – a traditional folk song from the Maldives.

April is the perfect time to visit the Maldives, providing the greatest variety of species with great visibility in the water; an especially majestic sight in the Southern Atolls at this time of year is the Whale Shark. The biggest fish in the world, these sharks are popular with divers and snorkelers due to their mammoth size (often up to 40ft long) and gentle nature.

The Maldives is regularly listed amongst the best diving loations in the world for both beginners and old hands, due to the absolute tranquility surrounding your dives. There is an abundance of marine wildlife beyond the whale shark; reef sharks, manta rays, moray eels, colourful reef fish, sting rays, reef tipped sharks and many more. The marine flora is similarly beautiful and varied allowing natural habitats for many creatures.

Above ground, the Maldives is famous for relaxed days spent on rolling white beaches, which also allow for the opportunity to take water sports. Nights are spent in luxurious resorts with sumptuous sea food under the stars.

Experience some of the world's most sublime dive spots

In MAY… Soak up the scent of millions of orchids

“The most beautiful orchids grow on the bottom of the gorge, the orchids fragrance fills the forest” – local poem.

The Indian state of Sikkim is nestled right into the Himalayas, and between Nepal, China and Bhutan in the very North of India. From the end of April through to mid-May, the area comes to life with beautiful rare orchids. These delicate and colourful flowers are a photographer’s dream and also make for some dazzling vistas.

Sikkim is also the perfect setting for a number of adventure tourism activities in the mountains. Alternatively, blissful relaxation can be found in a beautiful hilltop spa.

In JUNE… Pack some trunks, grab a board and hit the surf!

Sri Lankan Surf Festival

A surfer

“Top-notch surfing – this is known as a six-star contest – has come to Sri Lanka” – The BBC (2010).

In Arugam Bay in Sri Lanka the surf season runs from May through to August – true enthusiasts come in June for the very best surf conditions and the international surf competitions. If participation is not for you, then pick your spot and watch the action from the beautiful unspoilt beaches.

There is also so much more to observe and be inspired by in Sri Lanka, from the amazing stilt fishermen to the rare wildlife in the nearby National Parks.

In JULY… See the largest gathering of Asian elephants in the world!

“It is the country’s tranquil beauty that draws most visitors” Lionel Beehner, New York Times (2010)

In Sri Lanka’s Minneriya National Park, the largest gathering of Asian elephants in the world takes place in July. Up to 450 elephants come to drink at the man-made lake. Watch and be entertained as they bathe, play, frolic and drink in the cool waters. Around the watering hole at this time of year there is also a wealth of fauna, with thriving birdlife, wild boar and deer. Sri Lanka also has the greatest density of leopard populations of anywhere in the world.

On your return from the jungles, take time to explore the rest of Sri Lanka, visiting the beautiful cities of Galle and Colombo, and basking by the beach for some rest and relaxation.

In AUGUST… it’s festival time in Nepal, Kerala & Sri Lanka!

June – August: Bagmati River Festival, Nepal
The Bagmati River Festival is held every year to raise awareness of environmental pollution and its effects on the river. With its focus on the beauty of nature, this 2.5 month festival has a variety of events designed to let you enjoy the river.. Activities include boat and kayak trips, walks and bird watching in this beautiful region of Nepal.

Onam Festival, Kerala
“Simply put your best foot forward and gyrate to the clapping rhythms of Kaikottikali”
Onam is the biggest festival in the Indian state of Kerala, marking the homecoming of legendary King Mahabali. To celebrate this auspicious occasion, ten days of exciting and exotic carnivals take place, showcasing the best of Keralan cuisine and tradition.

The festival also plays host the annual Nehru Snake Boat race, where hundreds of teams compete for one coveted prize. Visitors can watch, or, if feeling particularly fit, take part in this fun event.

Esala Festival, Kandy

A policeman watches during an Esala procession. Photocredit: StretchyBill

The Esala festival in Kandy is a kaleidoscope of different rituals, customs and colours lasting for over 10 days climaxing on the Nikini full moon. The festival has many processions with bedecked elephants, fire walkers, Kandyan dancers, plate spinners and musicians to wow the crowd. This festival honours the Sacred Tooth of Kandy, an ancient relic of the founder of Buddhism and a very important cultural symbol.

Sri Lanka in August is a very vibrant, colourful venue, with beaches, temples, and jungles all accessible from centrally located luxurious resorts.

In SEPTEMBER… Experience rural India in style…

Solung Festival
Solung is the colourful festival of the Adi Minyong people. The festivities last for up to 7 days and are traditionally held to ensure a successful year for agriculture. Singing and dancing feature heavily, along with special ceremonies such as the construction of bows and arrows – when fixed to the entrances of people’s houses, these ward off evil spirits.

Arunachal Pradesh is the perfect venue for the discerning traveller looking to wander off the beaten track. After the festivities, immerse yourself in its tranquil ways of life, abundant wildlife and lush scenery.

In OCTOBER… Enjoy cultural extravaganzas in Bhutan and Jodhpur!

Thimpu and Wangdi Tsechu
“Close to Heaven” -The Telegraph
Tshechu festivals are celebrated with several days of intense activity. At these festivals you can witness Bhutanese folk dances, religious dances, masked dances known as “Chaam”, and other religious dramas and epics of the greater known saints of Buddhism, normally acted out by monks.

You may also spot some Atsara – clowns with expressive masks and postures, who are an indispensable element in any religious festival. They confront the monks, call out salacious jokes, and distract the crowd with their antics to ensure that the pauses between dances are as enjoyable as the performances themselves.

For the Bhutanese, religious festivals offer an opportunity to become immersed in the meaning of their religion and gain religious merit. They are also an occasions for seeing for being seen whilst flaunting success. People will wear their finest clothes and their most beautiful jewellery, making the whole event a stunning insight into Bhutanese culture. An atmosphere of convivial, slightly ribald good humour prevails.

Once the festivals are over, continue your exploration of this beautiful untouched corner of the world, which has only been open to a select few from the outside world for the past 36 years.

Jodhpur RIFF

Artists at the Jodhpur RIFF; Photocredit: JW Boyd

“It’s hard to beat Jodhpur RIFF for the combination of great location, spectacular performance spaces and some of the wildest and most exciting music on the planet” – The Guardian (2010)

Set around and within the stunning Mehrangarh fort, the festival is a visually stunning, truly unique experience, providing the best possible showcase for local dancing, music and culture. The festival has increasingly also absorbed and incorporated international culture and boasts amongst its patrons Sir Mick Jagger as well as the Maharaja of Jodhpur.

As well as the music, take the time to enjoy its venue, voted by Time magazine as the Best Fort in the World in 2010) and wander around the enchanting blue city of Jodhpur. Venture further out into Rajasthan and you have a host of options, from sampling traditional cuisine to playing a relaxing game of polo.

In NOVEMBER… Gorge on Goan cuisine…

Goan Food & Culture Festival
The small state of Goa has a large range of delicious culinary styles to create mouth-watering seafood dishes.This festival celebrates gastronomy in typical Goan style – with plenty of music and colour! Traditional dancers, poetry, songs and fireworks all ensure that it is not just your stomach that is sated.

Beyond the incredible food, Goa’s ambience is certainly worth soaking in. Once a Portuguese colony, the chilled Goan vibe and pristine beaches provide a very different setting from the rest of India. If lying by the beach is not for you, head to the sea to sample some water sports, try your hand at diving, or head to a small coastal village to relax in style.

…or enjoy the delights of the desert….

Pushkar Festival

Women participate in a tug-of-war contest at Pushkar Festival. Photo by Sumith Meher.L

Live folk music, dancing, hot air balloon rides, colourful processions and camel races make this fete one of the most colourful events of the year, attracting thousands of attendees. The festival culminates in Kartik Purnima where devotees purge their sins by bathing in the holy Pushkar Lake.Your visit to Pushkar can be part of a tour through Rajasthan, India’s princely state. Spend your days marvelling at its many forts and palaces, and your nights in royal splendour at one of its famous resorts.

In DECEMBER… End the year with a bang at an Asian festival!

“Festivals in Asia are an integral part of people’s life”

The Hornbill Festival, Arunachal
The Hornbill festival, named after the native bird of this North Indian state provides a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the local traditions of Arunachal Pradesh. Visiting also gives you time to take in the stunning local flora and fauna.

Chitwan Elephant Festival, Nepal

Elephant; Photocredit: Peter Jones
This Nepali festival lets you glimpse these amazing beasts as you have never seen them before. The tongue-in-cheek sport of elephant football is an ever popular event often picked up upon by international news reports. Alongside football, elephants also compete in races, tug of wars and other contests as well as parades.

Nepal itself has plenty more to showcase, from the bustling city of Kathmandu to the wild splendour of the Himalayas. When you have had your fill of elephants you can head to the mountains for peaceful trekking, or engage in adventure sports.

Sunburn electro-dance festival, Goa
One of the biggest outdoor dance parties to hit India’s beaches, this festival showcases well-known artists and DJs from the global electronic dance music scene. Spread across three days, four stages, and numerous genres of music, the headlining acts last year were Paul Van Dyk, Ferry Corsten and Axwell.

When you’re finished partying, take advantage of Goa’s laid-back atmosphere and gorgeous beaches to unwind in style and ready yourself for the new year ahead.

 
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