Six Nations rugby
February 6-March 1
After the World Cup, English rugby fans know all about heartbreak. Can their new coach, Eddie Jones, make them feel the love again? Take a Valentine’s weekend trip to Rome, to watch England take on Italy at the Stadio Olimpico, and even if the result disappoints, the city won’t. A package including match tickets, two nights in the Star Hotel Metropole, a Q&A with the coaches and travel to the game, but not flights, starts at £579pp (englandrugbytravel.com). Fly to Rome with Vueling.
Perth Writers Festival
Australia, February 18-21
The literary arm of the longest-running arts festival in the southern hemisphere packs a hefty punch. Richard Dawkins has sold out, and though the rest of the line-up is yet to be announced, last year saw Hilary Mantel, Elizabeth Gilbert and DBC Pierre draw more than 40,000 to the outdoor readings and debates. And after the erudition, you can hit the beach. Event prices vary (perthfestival.com.au). Austravel has three nights in Perth for the festival, followed by a six-day self-drive tour taking in Margaret River, Pemberton and Albany, from £1,269pp, including flights and car hire (austravel.com).
Twenty20 cricket World Cup
India, March 8-April 3
The cricket-crazy nation gets its chance again to host the big-hitting tournament, spreading the madness across eight cities including Mumbai, Calcutta and New Delhi. India’s new streamlined visa system makes last-minute trips more straightforward. Sign up with ICC Travel or Thomson Sport for first refusal on their ticket-inclusive travel packages (icctravel.net; thomsonsport.com).
Worshippers gather for the Shwedagon Pagoda Festiva (Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty)Rousseau at the Musee d’Orsay
Paris, March 22-July 17
Best known for vibrant jungle scenes such as Tiger in a Tropical Storm (1891), Henri Rousseau gets a big show in the spring. In Archaic Candour, works by “Le Douanier” will hang alongside the paintings that inspired him, as well as works by Seurat, Delaunay, Kandinsky and Picasso. Not bad for a toll collector with no formal training (£8; musee-orsay. fr). Stay at the plush Hôtel Da Vinci, a 10-minute walk from the gallery (doubles from £153; hoteldavinciparis.com).
Shwedagon Pagoda Festival
Burma, March 23 and 24
This Rangoon festival was banned until 2012; this year will be the first time it’s taken place under the newly elected democratic government, and it should be spectacular. Enjoy drama, dancing, music and street food under a full moon. InsideBurma has a 13-night tour taking in the festival from £2,675pp, B&B, including flights (insideburmatours.com).
BaliSpirit Festival of Yoga
Ubud, Bali, March 29-April 3
This is one festival where you’ll feel fresher at the end of it. By day, attend workshops on sound healing, meditation, vedic astrology and all types of yoga. By night, gather around one of two stages for transoriental performances, chanting and satsang spiritual gatherings. Materialism comes in the form of stalls selling handmade clothing and jewellery (tickets from £105; balispiritfestival.com). Ampersand Travel has seven nights at Uma Ubud by Como during the festival from £1,850pp, including flights and transfers (ampersandtravel.com).
Mayrhofen, Austria, April 4-9
The world’s biggest music-festival-near-some-ski-lifts has come up trumps again. The Prodigy top a bill that includes Bastille, Slaves, Jamie Jones, Andy C and Fat Boy Slim. Venues include an enchanted forest clearing and a mountaintop igloo. Five nights’ accommodation and entry to the festival start at £339pp; take a coach from Dover or London from £134 return (snowbombing.com).
Star turns: boarders put on a show at Snowbombing, in Austria (Andrew Whitton)Songkran water festival
Thailand, April 13-15
The only new-year festival that requires you to buy a huge neon waterpistol and take to the streets drenching everyone in sight, Songkran is a whole lot of fun. The biggest celebrations take place in Chiang Mai, where statues are taken from the temples and paraded around the streets. Explore has a 10-day trip to Chiang Mai, the River Pai and Ko Samet from £1,945pp, B&B, including flights, guided excursions and transfers (explore.co.uk).
South Africa, April 25-May 1
While the original Burning Man festival, in Nevada, has been swallowed by the mainstream, AfrikaBurn sticks to its roots in nomadism and community, with a temporary town of burning sculptures, music, dance and costume in the Tankwa Karoo National Park. No money is allowed on site, so pack small gifts or food to trade with. Tickets start at £49; camping is free (afrikaburn.com). Cox & Kings has seven days in South Africa from £1,160pp, including two nights’ B&B in Cape Town, flights, transfers and car hire (coxandkings.co.uk).
World Championship Barbecue Cooking contest
Memphis, tennessee, May 12-14
Three days, 250 teams, 10 categories: that’s an awful lot of meat. Get your chops around ribs, slow-cooked shoulder, hot wings and melt-in-your-mouth brisket at the 39th instalment of America’s premier barbecue festival. As well as the protein and the inevitable meat sweats, there’ll be live bluegrass, country and R&B, Elvis impersonators and free guided tours explaining the cooking process (from £7; memphisinmay.org). American Affair has seven nights at the Peabody hotel from £1,352pp, including flights and car hire (americanaffair.com).
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art reopens
With triple the gallery space, SFMoMA will have plenty of room to show off its modern masters such as Ellsworth Kelly, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, as well as a selection of the 3,000 works that have been given to the gallery. Its Pritzker Center for Photography is the largest space devoted to the medium at any American art museum. Virgin Holidays has four nights at the Clift design hotel from £1,584pp, including flights and car hire (virginholidays.co.uk).
Making an entrance at AfrikaBurn, in South Africa (Gallo Images/REX/Shutterstock)Organ festival
Budapest, May 21 and 22
With 6,712 pipes, 92 stops and five keyboards, the organ at the Mupa cultural centre is a beast, second in size in Europe only to the one in St Paul’s Cathedral. But you’re unlikely to hear Frank Zappa being played in St Paul’s. A Zappa recital is just one item on a programme celebrating the instrument’s 10th birthday. You can also catch organists from Notre Dame de Paris and hear Liszt’s four-handed Les Préludes played at the venue for the first time. Fly to Budapest with Wizz Air and stay at Brody House (doubles from £51; brodyhouse.com).
Lascaux IV cave
Montignac, France, June
They did it with Chauvet, in the Ardèche, last year, and the French are opening another replica prehistoric cave in 2016. This time it’s a new version of the Lascaux caves, in the Dordogne, copying almost the entire space of the originals — the 1980s replica, Lascaux II, re-creates only two halls. The real thing was closed in the 1960s, after deterioration caused by tourists, but from June you’ll be able to study exact copies of the prehistoric paintings alongside interactive exhibitions featuring scale models of cave art around the world (projet-lascaux. com). Brittany Ferries has a week for two at Le Moulin de Mitou from £1,094, B&B, including return ferry crossings (brittanyferries. com).
Utah, June 1-4
There are few things on this earth as startling as the vividness of the Milky Way above Bryce Canyon. Examine it in detail at the annual Astronomy Festival: four days and nights packed with stargazing workshops, constellation tours and expert tuition from the park’s astronomy rangers. Then head out into the mountains for more starry skies — in late 2015, Utah added three new International Dark Sky Parks to its collection, making it the best place in the world for starscapes (visitutah.com). Seven nights in Utah, including four at Bryce Canyon National Park to coincide with the festival, start at £1,419pp (americaasyoulikeit.com).
Modern Nemean Games
Greece, June 10 and 11
If you want to take part in your own Olympics this summer, bypass Rio and jog on to Greece. The Nemean Games are a remake of the Panhellenic Games of the 6th century BC, and are open to all comers. Pick from the 100-metre stadion race or the 7.5km Footsteps of Herakles event. Participants wear a white cotton tunic and run barefoot; the prizes are palm fronds and wild celery crowns. Entry is free. Sunvil has seven nights, self-catering, in Tolon, a nearby seaside resort, from £749pp (sunvil.co.uk).
Bright outlook: a worshipper prays at the Festival of the Sun (John Miles)Tate Modern expanded
London, June 17
Tate Modern gains 60% more gallery space, thanks to Herzog and de Meuron’s 10-storey Switch House extension. It will have a panoramic roof terrace and room to display new acquisitions, including an installation of human hair and car bumpers by the Indian artist Sheela Gowda. The existing galleries in the Boiler House are also getting a rehang. Stay almost next door, in the Mondrian at Sea Containers (doubles from £194; morganshotelgroup.com)
Festival of the Sun
Cuzco, Peru, June 24
This re-enactment of the Inca Inti Raymi festival on the winter solstice features parades of colourful warriors, gold-crowned priests making sacrifices and tribal dancers in full regalia roaming through ancient ruins and historic town squares. New direct flights to Lima with British Airways mean it just got a lot easier to get to. A nine-day trip to Peru over Inti Raymi starts at £2,091pp, B&B, including flights, excursions and transfers (journeylatinamerica.co.uk).
Verona Opera Festival
Italy, June 24-August 26
This summer, take your pick from Aida — the crumbling amphitheatre of the Arena di Verona does a great impression of ancient Nubia — Carmen, La traviata, Turandot and Il trovatore. There’s also modern dance from Roberto Bolle, a principal dancer at La Scala, Milan. Seats on the steps start at £14 (arena.it), or book a package with Inghams: three nights at the Hotel Firenze start at £469pp, B&B, including flights and transfers. It can arrange show tickets (inghams.co.uk).
Tisno, Croatia, June 29-July 6
Love International is set to become the spiritual successor to Croatia’s Garden Festival, which called it a day last summer. It promises a heady mix of sun, sea, sand and the best underground electronic DJs and producers, including Motor City Drum Ensemble, Ben UFO and Dixon (£120 for seven days; loveinternationalfestival.com). Fly to Zadar with Ryanair.
The Nemean Games (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images)Somme Centenary
France, July 1
A century on from the single day in which 19,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers were killed in one of the fiercest and most costly battles of the First World War, a commemoration ceremony will take place at the magnificently restored Memorial to the Missing, in Thiepval. If you don’t get one of the 10,000 tickets in the ballot, you can watch it on big screens in Amiens, Albert and Arras, and visit the new museum (somme2016.org). Leger Holidays has a four-day Somme battlefield walking tour from £369pp, including coach travel and a specialist guide (leger.co.uk).
Montreux Jazz Festival
Switzerland, July 1-16
Last year, the Chemical Brothers, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga made it to the shores of Lake Geneva. This year, Montreux celebrates its 50th year, so expect even bigger jazz, hip-hop and blues and soul acts, performing cosy nightclub sessions and stadium gigs. The programme is announced in April and usually includes lots of freebies (montreux jazzfestival.com). Stay at La Cigogne (doubles from £239, cigogne.ch). Fly to Geneva with EasyJet.
Bishop Auckland, Co Durham, July 2-September 17
The closest comparison we can think of to Kynren is the London Olympics opening ceremony. Telling the story of 2,000 years of British history in 90 minutes, it’ll be performed by 1,000 volunteer cast and crew, including cavalry, in a 7½-acre amphitheatre with a lake, in the shadow of Auckland Castle (from £22.50;kynren.co.uk). Stay at the Lord Crewe Arms, in Blanchland (doubles from £164;lordcrewearmsblanchland.co.uk).
David Hockney at the Royal Academy
London, July 2-October 2
Following his 2012 landscapes show, Hockney has turned to portraiture. His new series, 79 Portraits and 2 Still Lifes, is a snapshot of the LA art world and the people he’s met in the past two years. Each work is the same size, painted in three days, with the subject in the same chair against the same background (from £10;royalacademy.org.uk). Stay at Z Hotel, in Victoria, a quick Tube ride away (doubles from £70; thezhotels.com).
Inaugural Nitro world games
Utah, july 16
Salt Lake City is hosting dangerous and brilliant sports in the first Nitro World Games this summer. Stars of freestyle motocross (FMX), BMX, skateboarding and scootering will gather to compete for gold in events such as FMX biggest trick and BMX triple jump. Tickets start at £13 (nitrocircus.com). Delta has flights to Salt Lake City from Heathrow (one stop) from £523; car hire for July 15-17 starts at about £55 with Hertz (hertz.co.uk).
Bregenz Opera Festival
Austria, July 20-August 21
If films, more than opera, are your thing, you’ll still be familiar with Bregenz: it’s the city on Lake Constance with the floating stage that appeared in Quantum of Solace. Bond saw Tosca. It’s Puccini’s Turandot this year, and it’s hard to imagine a more dramatic backdrop: the set features a dragon-shaped replica Great Wall of China and 200 terracotta warriors. On dry land, Franco Faccio’s Hamlet opera will be playing in the Festspielhaus. Tickets for Turandot start at £22 (bregenzerfestspiele.com); JMB Travel has three nights from £595pp, including flights to Zurich, the train to Bregenz and tickets (jmb-travel.co.uk).
Portsmouth, July 21-24
This is the regatta event of the year: the world’s best sailors on the world’s fastest boats, battling it out at speeds of up to 45mph. When Ben Ainslie and co aren’t out on the water, you can explore the new-look race village, which will have a tech zone and team hubs where you can meet the sailors (from £25 a day; lvacwsportsmouth. com). Stay at Somerset House, a boutique hotel five minutes’ walk from Southsea (doubles from £70;somersethousehotel.co.uk).
An early hot ticket at the International Festival is Cecilia Bartoli singing Bellini’s Norma (£30-£140; eif.co.uk). But for Europe’s edgiest mother-in-law jokes, as well as immersive theatre and bonkers performance art, save your money for the Fringe. Pick a few big names you really want to see, then take a gamble on something with a silly title. The first tickets go on sale on January 28, but the full programme won’t be published until June. Airbnb is your friend in Edinburgh — though you’ll be competing with impoverished artistes for the best-value rooms (edfringe.com).
Bright lights: Croatia is the place for dance-music fans in summer (Khris Cowley)Annular eclipse
Mozambique, September 1
This ring of fire will be a phenomenal spectacle to witness from your sunlounger on Ibo Island, in the Quirimbas archipelago. It’ll be one of the best spots on earth from which to see the moon almost entirely cover the sun, leaving just a boiling orange border at its edges. Keep yourself occupied either side with snorkelling, beachcombing and a dhow safari. Expert Africa has a package from August 30, including six nights, full-board, at the Ibo Island Lodge and domestic transfers, but not international flights, from £2,045pp (expertafrica. com). Flights from London to Pemba via Nairobi start at £785 with Qatar Airways and LAN.
New York Fashion Week
The word from Claudia Croft, Style magazine’s head of fashion, is that unless you’re a model, a designer or Anna Wintour, you shouldn’t bother with Milan or Paris. The friendliest fashion week for the general public (London aside) is in New York. There’s a February edition, but for fewer blizzards, save yourself for September. Don’t expect to get into the runway shows — although Givenchy gave away 1,200 tickets for its show last autumn — but look out for talks, parties and city boutiques hosting their own events (nyfw.com). The Hilton New York Fashion District, in Chelsea, has doubles from £133 (hilton.com). Fly to New York with British Airways; from £370.
Seurat and Signac in Vienna
September 16-January 8, 2017
Go dotty over the masters of pointillism at the Albertina museum. Georges Seurat and Paul Signac were the form’s main practitioners, but this exhibition, From End to Beginning, shows that Van Gogh was also a key dabbler, while Picasso and Matisse took inspiration from the technique (albertina.at). Just as colourful are the interiors at the circus-themed 25Hours hotel (doubles from £75; 25hours-hotels.com). Fly to Vienna with Eurowings.
Ryder Cup golf
Minnesota, September 27-October 2
With Tiger Woods set to be vice-captain of the American team, and Europe keen to defend their title, the Ryder Cup at the Hazeltine National Golf Club should be another classic. Ryder Cup Travel Services has five nights’ B&B at the InterContinental Hotel Saint Paul, and tickets for the opening ceremony and all three days’ play, from £2,110pp (rcts.co.uk ). Fly to Minneapolis with Virgin Atlantic; from £430 return.
A rehearsal of Puccini’s Turandot for the Bregenz Opera Festival (Jan Hetfleisch/Getty Images)Cheltenham Literature Festival
This year’s line-up for the Times- and Sunday Times-sponsored event is yet to be confirmed, but it has big boots to fill. The stars of 2015, who took part in more than 500 readings, signings, talks and interviews, included Salman Rushdie, Jonathan Franzen, Mary Beard, Nigella Lawson, Ranulph Fiennes and Nick Frost. Travel’s Jon Holmes, Susan d’Arcy and Stephen Bleach were there, too. As it’s the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, expect lots of Bard-related events (see panel, page 21). Find out more at cheltenhamfestivals.com. Stay at No 131 (doubles from £150; no131.com).
Alba White Truffle Fair
Piedmont, Italy, October 8-November 20
Think black truffles are posh? The white ones are in another league, selling for £1,500 a kilo. They’re best eaten fresh out of the ground, grated over buttery tagliatelle, where they grow, in peaty soil beneath the woodlands of Alba. Between rich meals at the town’s annual festival, entertainment includes truffle auctions, cooking demos, markets, wine tastings, live music, a donkey Palio and the truffle-dog championships (prices vary; fieradeltartufo.org). Stay at La Villa, a family-run hotel in Casalotto (doubles from £144, B&B, lavillahotel.net). Fly to Milan with Ryanair. A week’s car hire starts at £100 with Carrentals.co.uk.
Day of the dead
Oaxaca, Mexico, October 31-November 2
Everyone who saw Spectre last year will recall its opening scene featuring the ghoulish costumes, frenetic parades and inebriated dancing that distinguish this Mexican festival celebrating the memory of dead family and friends. Don’t let Daniel Craig have all the fun: get the full sensory assault in the village of Soledad Etla, in the southern state of Oaxaca, where you’ll witness a late-night wake, nibble sugar skulls and fall in alongside stilt walkers and marching bands. The nine-day Day of the Dead Culture & History trip starts at £2,795pp, B&B, including flights, with Rainbow Tours (rainbowtours.co.uk).
Margaret River Gourmet Food Escape Festival
Western Australia, November 18-20
This tiny food festival set between vineyards and white-sand beach, just south of Perth, attracts some of our biggest culinary names. Between tasting workshops, you might bump into Heston surfing the waves, pass Sat Bains on your way to the battle of the microbreweries, or find yourself comparing notes with Rick Stein while sampling artisanal cheeses. Marco Pierre White will be cooking the gala meal
(basic tickets from £20; gourmetescape.com.au). Wexas has a 12-day Margaret River & West Coast trip from £2,170pp, B&B, including flights, transfers and car hire (wexas.com).
The America’s Cup comes to Portsmouth in July (Kos Picture Source/Getty Images)Gaudi’s first house
Gaudi’s first house design, Casa Vicens, is privately owned, so tourists have hitherto had to make do with peering at its brightly tiled facade and imagining the oriental exoticism within. No more. At the tail end of 2016, it will open as a museum, leaving us free to unearth the architectural surprises Gaudi left behind in the late 19th century. Stay at the Hotel Omm (doubles from £160; hotelomm.com). Fly to Barcelona with easyJet.
Louvre Abu Dhabi
This much-delayed $1bn outpost of the Paris museum, designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel, should open in late 2016 in Abu Dhabi’s cultural district, on Saadiyat Island. The building is set directly over the water, and will hold both its own collections and pieces loaned from the French capital’s most prestigious institutions, including the Musée
d’Orsay and the Centre Pompidou as well as the Louvre itself. Travelbag has five nights at the Shangri-La Qaryat al Beri from £869pp, including flights (travelbag.co.uk).
Two events jump out from this year’s sporting calendar: the Euro 2016 football championships in France (June 10-July 10) and the Olympic Games in Rio (August 5-21). And you can still get to both.
England, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Wales have all made it to the Euros (sorry, Scotland). The first two rounds for ticket ballots have been and gone, but a new batch of seats will become available in March, when Uefa opens its resale portal (uefa.com/uefaeuro).
With fixtures scattered around France, most fans will probably make a day trip or spend a night for each game. Book your cross-Channel ferry, train or flight — and accommodation, if you need it — the moment you’ve secured your ticket.
Rory McIlroy is set to star in the Ryder Cup (Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)For the Olympics, Britain’s official ticket outlet, CoSport, is putting more tickets on sale on Thursday. Prices start at £7 for hockey, sailing or rowing, but you’ll be looking at more than £200 for a top seat for athletics finals in the Olympic stadium (cosport. com). Other ticket resellers include Sportsworld (sportsworld.co.uk), Eventeam (eventeam2016.com) and DER Touristik Frankfurt (dertour.de) — though beware DER’s £42 postage charge.
CoSport is also selling ticket-plus-hotel bundles that start at £1,913pp, rising to £7,890pp for five nights at the Windsor Martinique, in Copacabana, and tickets for six events of your choice.
Don’t overlook the Paralympics (September 7-18), with Rio hoping to replicate the fervour of the London 2012 version. Tickets are available for as little as £1.60; even for popular sports such as wheelchair basketball, prices start at about £10 (travelplaces. co.uk).
To keep costs down, you could rent a flat in Rio through Airbnb, an official “supplier” for the Games. Prices start at £7 a night (airbnb. com/events/
rio-2016). Direct flights to Rio during the main Games already cost more than £1,000 with British Airways; for Paralympics dates, they’re less than £600.
Celebrate the Bard
It’s 400 years since William Shakespeare shuffled off this mortal coil, and a host of events across the country will mark the occasion.
First, the plays. The big one is the Royal Shakespeare Company’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation, in which Bottom and the Mechanicals will be played by am-dram actors and Titania’s fairy train by children. It kicks off in Stratford-upon-Avon on February 17, then tours until June 4 (www.dream2016.org.uk). In London, Rosalie Craig is currently playing Rosalind in As You Like It at the National Theatre, and at the Garrick Theatre in May, Richard Madden, Lily James and Derek Jacobi will star in Romeo and Juliet. At the end of this month, Anna Maxwell Martin is playing Lady Macbeth at Birmingham Rep.
Stratford, unsurprisingly, has a lot going on. On April 23, when the playwright was born and died, the RSC is laying on a fireworks display, a 1,000-strong grand procession and entertainment from the acrobatic theatre outfit Mimbre (free). Also in April, the RSC’s studio theatre, the Other Place, reopens after 10 years. Tours cost £8.50 and include a look at the 30,000 outfits in the costume store. In June, the Swan Theatre will be exhibiting rarely seen props and original set designs (£8.50; rsc.org.uk).
Still in Stratford in April, Shakespeare’s schoolroom and guildhall will be open to the public for the first time, with interactive displays and the chance to write with a quill and ink (shakespearesschoolroom.org). Later this year, an exhibition space opens at New Place, his family home (shakespeare.org.uk).
In London on April 23, the Globe is showing short films about Shakespeare’s plays on 37 giant screens between Westminster and Tower bridges (shakespearesglobe.com). That evening, a gala concert at the RFH sees the London Philharmonic Orchestra playing Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, Verdi’s Otello and Walton’s Henry V Suite, with readings by Simon Callow (from £12; southbankcentre.co.uk).
Glasgow will host an immersive dance, music and drama production, New Dreams. Inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and featuring the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Glasgow School of Art, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the University of Glasgow, it will be staged in the university’s Bute Hall and cloisters (April 23; rcs.ac.uk).
In Oxford, an exhibition called Shakespeare’s Dead comes to the Bodleian Libraries from April 23, exploring the theme of death in the playwright’s work (free;bodleian.ox.ac.uk). Finally, for opera fans, Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream returns to Glyndebourne, East Sussex, for its first revival in 10 years (August 11-28; glyndebourne.com).