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The World's Best Festivals

20th July 2015

Updated August 2017

Introducing the IGLU guide to the best and most interesting festivals and cultural celebrations from around the world. Perfectly organised with date and destination information to help you plan your travels, so that you can witness some of the most magnificent festivals the world has to offer. From Samba dancers in Rio, to dragons parading the streets of Hong Kong, this list has it all. Now is the time to experience life the way it should be lived.

Holi Festival 

When: March Where: India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Worldwide

Why you should go: Holi Festival, or The Festival of Colours, celebrates the end of winter and beginning of spring. It’s fun, safe, and free. It is an ancient Hindu religious festival that is celebrated with enthusiasm, singing, dancing, and a rainbow of colours. Groups carry drums and other musical instruments and go from place to place, while everyone plays, chases, and colours each other with dry powder and coloured water, with some carrying water guns and coloured water-filled balloons.

Snow & Ice Festival 

When: Late December to February Where: Harbin, China

Why you should go: The Harbin festival is the largest snow and ice festival in the world, exhibiting the most exquisite ice and snow sculptures ever made. Experience the magnificent Ice and Snow World - with incredible carvings that tower an amazing 20 feet high. Not to mention the perfectly crafted full-size monuments, that are designed from gigantic blocks of ice and decorated with lights and lasers. This exhibition has a lot to offer, and is definitely worth a visit at least once.


When: Mid September - Early October Where: Munich, Germany

Why you should go: The famous Oktoberfest is the largest Volksfest beer festival and travelling funfair in the world. Held annually in Munich, Germany, Oktoberfest began life as a wedding for the Bavarian crown prince Ludwig to Princess Therese on October 12, 1810. It has since grown into an extremely popular festival running from mid - late September to the first weekend in October - with more than 6 million people from around the world attending the event every year. The event is all about beer, beer, and only beer. Grab a stein and start the celebrations.

Lantern Festival 

When: Mid February to Early March Where: Taiwan

Why you should go: The Lantern Festival was originally celebrated to ward off evil and disease from the town. The Taipei Pingshi Sky Lanterns were released to let others know that the town was safe.

Witness thousands of sky lanterns light up during one of the world’s largest lantern festivals. If you’re looking for a little magic, there is nothing more surreal than a sky ablaze with thousands of floating lanterns. The lanterns are decorated with wishes and images relating to the owner before being released into the night at the same time, magically decorating transforming the sky into a sanctuary of lights. Don’t miss the great street festivals that take place during the day.

Rio Carnival 

When: February Where: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Why you should go: Rio carnival is simply electrifying; the combination of pulsating music, samba dancing, a nonstop party, with the special addition of Brazilian flair. The Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is a world famous 5-day festival held before Lent every year, and is considered to be the biggest carnival in the world - with over 2 million people on the streets of this vibrant city every day. The first festivals of Rio date back to 1823. The typical Rio carnival parade is filled with revellers, dancers, glittering costumes, giant parades, and adornments. This festival is a mind-blowing week of sequin-fuelled fun, in one of the world’s most beautiful destinations.

Chinese New Year Parade 

When: February Where: Hong Kong and Major Cities Worldwide

Why you should go: This ancient festival is an experience like no other; it marks China's New Year - an important traditional Chinese holiday celebrated at the turn of the Chinese calendar. With dragons, fireworks, symbolic clothing, flowers, lanterns, and celebration, China marks their most important and significant day of the year in style. In Hong Kong, the heart pounding action features a fabulous parade of floats, dragons, symbolic clothing, international and local performers, and a stunning fireworks show over the harbour.

Albuquerque International Balloon Festival 

When: October Where: Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Why you should go: The Albuquerque International Balloon Festival hosts the largest gathering of hot air balloons in the world. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a yearly festival of hot air balloons that takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA. The Balloon Fiesta is a nine day event, and has around 750 balloons. Once the balloons are let off, watch as the Skies of Albuquerque become a rainbow of vibrant colours, creating a breath-taking spectacle. You can take part, climb aboard and take flight, or even get married way up in the clouds.

Mardi Gras Festival 

When: February - March Where: New Orleans, USA

Why you should go: In many ways Mardis Gras’ reputation precedes itself — if you want to party like there’s no tomorrow, New Orleans is where you belong. Mardi Gras, meaning “Fat Tuesday” in French, is a festival marked by an endless cyclone of feathers, costumes, beads, and booze that whips through city streets of New Orleans. It’s been called the wildest fete in the U.S and for good reason: Every year, droves of party-goers flock to New Orleans to take in the floats, the festivities, and the food, and to leave their mark on the Big Easy. Don’t miss the throwing of beads - it’s a staple of the festival.

Up Helly Aa Fire Festival 

When: The Last Tuesday in January Where: Lerwick, Scotland

Why you should go: This is Europe’s largest fire festival, complete with the burning of a full-scale Viking ship. Need we say more? This superb spectacle is a celebration of Shetland history, and a triumphant demonstration of the islanders' skills and spirit. Up Helly Aa day involves a Nordic themed series of marches and visitations, and the procession culminates in a torch-lit procession and the burning of a galley. This is followed by hours of performing acts and dancing in halls throughout Lerwick. This northern Mardi Gras lasts just one day (and night). But it takes several thousand people 364 days to organise. Much of the preparation is in strictest secrecy.

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Carnevale di Venezia 

When: Late January to Early February Where: Venice, Italy

Why you should go: Carnevale, or “Carnival,” has been a Venice tradition dating back to the 13th century. The Carnival of Venice is an annual two-week festival that ends with the Christian celebration of Lent, forty days before Easter on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. The carnival is well renowned with visitors flocking from around the world to admire and even participate in the masquerade masked celebrations, arguably making it one of the best and visually stunning shows on Earth.

Do any of these festivals sound intriguing to you? Why not plan your next trip so that you can attend. We can tailor-make your cruise holiday to add additional stays in destinations before or after your cruise. Call us to find out more. 

8 Great Food Markets Around The World

24th February 2015

Whether you hope to try a rare local delicacy for the first time or you’re looking to bag a bargain of delicious fresh produce, you are guaranteed to find what you need and more at a food market. Foodies will be drawn in by the irresistible exotic aromas before being wowed by rows of colourful, vibrant and enticing market stalls. Here is where you will find the heart of any local community busy, bustling and ready for a brand new day. Put your phrase book to good use and practice your new found language skills whilst getting some authentic recipe tips from the local street chefs and stall holders.

Your next favourite dish could be just around the corner, so be adventurous and get a real taste of your surroundings with our handpicked eight great food markets below.


Borough Market – London

Let your nose lead the way as you explore the aromatic alleys and endless rows of tasty delights on offer in London’s famous Borough Market. One of the oldest food markets in London, market traders have held a presence next to Borough high street from as early as the 13th century. Grab a slice of history along with the quality British and international produce including delicious fish, game, cheese, freshly baked goods and much more. With quality and diversity as Borough’s core market values, you know your taste buds are in for a treat. The market is mostly undercover so whatever the weather it’s ideal for a lunchtime stroll. Great for British pork pies and yummy apple sauce.



Rialto Markets – Venice

The food markets of Rialto in Venice have been present since first settlement as far back as the 9th century. Despite some slight relocation due to the noisy and pungent fish market upsetting the local bankers, the trading of local and international produce from this spot remains an important chapter in Venetian history. The stunning stone Rialto Bridge aids traders and locals whilst making an essential viewing and photo spot for tourists. Great for fresh seafood and affordable souvenirs.



La Ciotat – Provence, France

France is renowned for its unmatched regional cuisine and the locals for their habitual trips to the local farmers markets. Food with the French means you will be spoilt for choice with the tempting selections of local cheeses, wines, baked goods and so on. With so many fabulous French markets to choose from it’s almost impossible to rank one above the rest, but a weekend trip to the quaint coastal port of La Ciotat in Provence is guaranteed not to disappoint. Enjoy the Sunday morning fare on offer at the large farmer and artisan market of Vieux Port before relaxing amid the scenic Mediterranean views and lunching on the beach. Great for stuffed vegetables and paella. A 45 minute drive north sees you in Aix-en-Provence where attractive markets are in abundance.


Union Square Greenmarket - New York City

Every Saturday Union Square Park comes to life with up to 140 regional market stalls selling fresh farm produce, delicious fish and tempting baked goods alongside meats, jams, pickles, cider and even fresh cut flowers. Experience the unique buzz of New York City life whilst trying some tasty street food and enjoying several live cooking demonstrations, all whilst perfecting your convincing New Yorker accent. Great for fresh pickled produce and live demos.



La Central de Abasto – Mexico City

La Central de Abasto literally translates to the central supply, and there is probably no better way of describing one of the biggest wholesale markets in the world. A visually arresting array of produce is piled high and categorised by type. Stiff competition between traders results in rows of fantastic displays as they try to out-do each other to grab the punters attention. You may need a local guide to avoid getting swallowed by mountains of fruits, vegetables, potatoes, sugarcane, flowers and much more. Great for everything, they have it all! Note: Taking photos is forbidden without proof of permission which plain clothed security guards will request.


Mercado de San Telmo – Buenos Aires, Argentina

Head here for the great atmosphere and pure insight of day to day local life in Buenos Aires. The market is indoors and housed by a large building supported (inside) by an impressive wrought iron structure. Don’t forget to look up and admire the notable original ceiling which dates back to the late 17th century. Friendly merchants supply locals and tourists with a wealth of fresh fruit, veg, meat and baked goods plus antiques and artisan crafts. Great for coffee, churros (doughnuts) and souvenirs.



Jalan Alor (Food Street) - Kuala Lumpur

Jalan Alor Food Street is the place to be if you are looking for a budget evening meal with a side order of a buzzing and lively local atmosphere. As the sun sets on Food Street, an electric ambience lights the way as cafes, restaurants and market vendors merge into one and claim their spot of real estate in this aromatic foodie fusion. Stroll the length of the street to see the full selection of cheap Chinese, Thai and Malay cuisine before settling on your dinner destination, and stand firm with pushy hawkers trying to tempt you before you’ve seen it all. Great for noodles and value for money.


Kowloon City Wet Market– Hong Kong

Kowloon City is a must for any foodie fans visiting China’s kinetic south coast. Choose from a myriad of fresh meats, vivid vegetables from regional farms and live seafood literally fresh off the boat. An abundance of quality Asian cuisine from stall vendors and speciality stores make this a go-to destination in Hong Kong for a delicious and quick daytime snack, or purchasing fresh ingredients for a home cooked evening meal. Explore three floors of endless tasty Chinese and Thai treats and get your fix at the cooked food centre when hunger strikes. Great for curried dishes of varying spice levels.

Discover more food markets with a world cruise. More information on world cruises

10 Unmissable Natural Wonders

6th February 2015

The changing faces of the world’s landscapes continue to astonish and amaze as they combat impossible obstacles such as erosion, evolution, and climate change. With around 200 natural sites now on the UNESCO World Heritage List and 10% of those already in danger, there is no time like the present to explore and enjoy some of the world’s astounding natural wonders and marvel at their magnificence.

Tour contrasting terrain, sail and swim water flooded wonders, hike high and witness the effects of fire and ice, or gaze skyward for some absolutely awesome solar activity. Make a significant dent on your exploration bucket list with these 10 unmissable natural wonders listed below.



Yosemite National Park – California, USA

Yosemite National Park sits centrally in the impressive Sierra Nevada mountain range in the state of sunny California, just three and a half hours from San Francisco. Yosemite, spanning 3,079 km sq encompasses a wealth of natural beauty from colossal cliffs to running waterfalls (including five of the world’s highest), fresh water streams and giant sequoia woods. Changing over time, effects of the ice-age are evident leaving deeper and wider valleys. The breath-taking backdrop of Yosemite Valley is a favourite spot for most visitors and the park is also home to several species of wildlife including coyotes, wolverines and black bears.



Santa Elena Cloud Forest – Costa Rica (closest port - Puntarenas)

Cloud forests carry an element of enchantment and mystique about them, almost always smothered by vast low hanging cloud cover they are misty in appearance and provide perfect conditions for biodiversity to thrive. The Santa Elena cloud forest in Costa Rica homes a stunning and diverse collection of flora and fauna including over 600 species of Orchids. Now a protected reserve, admission fees collected from tourists contribute to the management and care of the forest. Roughly a two hour drive from port Puntarenas, Santa Elena and neighbouring Monteverde make for a fantastic day trip, just don’t forget your rain mac as rainfall is common in a cloud forest.



Jurassic Coast – Dorset/ Devon, South Coast of England

The Jurassic Coast stretches an astounding 95 miles along the south coast of England from Devon to Dorset, showing evidence of 185 million years of history. The landscape has built up in an unusual way meaning that rocks dating way back to the Triassic period can be seen even now. A history buffs dream, this intriguing natural wonder of the British Isles can be enjoyed by car, on foot or by sea. The stunning cliff faces, bays and coastline make for a breath-taking backdrop when exploring the south coast. Watch the sunset through the arch at Durdle Door and swim at Dancing Ledge.





Haukadalur – Iceland, visit from Reykjavik

Haukadalur is the name given to three valleys found in the south of Iceland which exhibit some truly awesome geothermal activity. Witness the physical effects of the lands volcanic internal heat as you wait patiently for geyser’s to intermittently spout water at impressive heights. Hot springs and bubbling pools of mud are a frequent reminder of Iceland’s volcanic vitality. The Golden Circle tour is a popular route for visitors as it stops by the geysers along with the magnificent Gulfoss waterfall and Thingvellir National Park. Golden Circle Tours depart frequently from Reykjavik.



Piton de la FournaiseReunion Island, Indian Ocean

As one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Reunion Island’s Piton de la Fournaise has a spitting fiery pit of red hot lava that spouts consistently day and night. The last eruption on record to date is as recent as June 2014. Categorised as a shield volcano, Piton de la Fournaise is large and broad with far travelling fluid lava flows. Accustomed to life below the domineering volcano, the locals have embraced their situation by leading hikes and tours up to the crater rim. Those brave enough can camp overnight or take a scenic helicopter tour overhead for brilliant birds-eye views. Small in size and often overlooked, Reunion Island is great in natural attractions and brimming with adventure for those daring enough.



Galapagos Islands – Ecuador, South America

The Galapagos Islands are a fascinating archipelago 906km from the pacific coast of Ecuador. The islands were formed as a result of repeated volcanic activity and developed over millions of years. Now totalling in twenty unique islands, only four are inhabited by humans but almost all are home to a rare selection of intriguing flora and fauna only found in the Galapagos. Charles Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection was massively influenced by his time on the islands and there is now a visitor friendly research centre in his name located on Isla Santa Cruz. The best way to explore the Galapagos Islands is by cruise as you can easily visit multiple islands. Jump right in to snorkel with the welcoming seals, dive with sharks and spot countless bird species. The islands are within a protected park and may not always be accessible to tourism, so time is of the essence.





Antarctic Peninsula Antarctica

Few sites are able to match the overwhelming natural beauty of the Antarctic Peninsula, which is why many travel far and wide to witness its hundreds of unique icy islands first hand. Magnificent glaciers are formed due to the consistent presence of snow falling over several years and condensing to form individual islands of ice. Sailing amongst them can be a remarkable experience and you can also take pleasure in spotting the local wildlife from penguins to seals and seabirds. A magnificent mountainous backdrop links the Andes mountain range of South America through submerged peaks deep below sea level. Climate change affects the Antarctic Peninsula greatly so see it now while you still can.






The Blue HoleBelize, Central America

With worldwide recognition and known simply as “The Blue Hole” you can expect to be in for something special when sailing to this undeniably eye-popping natural wonder in Belize. With a diameter of 300m this great submarine sinkhole displays a dramatic pupil like appearance from above. Those visiting from sea level with a keen interest in diving can be rewarded with excellent deep sea exploration and potential sightings of hammerheads, nurse sharks and giant groupers amongst others. The Blue Hole reaches 124m deep and is a truly fascinating example of natural water wonders on earth.




Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia, Europe

Why make a journey to visit one waterfall when you can see several in one stunning destination. Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the oldest in south eastern Europe and can be found halfway between Zagreb and Zadar, not far from the coast of Croatia. Known affectionately as “the land of the falling lakes” Plitvice boasts 8km of sixteen picturesque lakes connected by countless gushing waterfalls. Flowing for thousands of years over limestone and chalk, the water has naturally created dams and subsequently the pretty lakes that can be seen today. The National Park stretches 300km and contains rich green woodland plus a plethora of local wildlife including bears and wolves.





Star Gazing - Mauna Kea, Hawaii

There are many places on earth that claim to be ideal for star gazing but when one of them is also the home of several official observatories you know you’re on to something good. The dormant volcano, Mauna Kea, marks Hawaii’s highest peak and is a crucial destination for star gazers and scientists. At 4205m above sea level and with clear air from low light pollution, this is one of the best sites in the world to observe the dazzling star spangled night sky. You may feel a twinge of altitude sickness as you ascend but the view is incomparable and definitely worth the journey.



See more of the world's wonders on a world cruise. More information on world cruises

Destination Focus: World Cruises 2014

3rd September 2012

Today marks the beginning of P&O Cruises and Cunard Line's 2014 World Cruises going on sale. The brochures have long been printed, posted and stacked on shelves, and in little over 48 hours we will be able to get our mitts on all the best deals as they trickle open the bookings process.

So, what are we looking forward to with the 2014 World Cruises?

First of all there's the ships.

Cunard are world renowned for circumnavigating the globe. Queen Mary 2, with her vast size, imperial feel and traditional, high-class standards never fail to impress. Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, the twin-like sister ships, are more modern ships, but still offer a traditional, British Empire feel. Cunard offer the ultimate in large ship world cruising luxury, and though this is nothing new, it still excites us.

P&O Cruises have gone with a variety of ships for this years World Cruises. Adonia is the ship that stands out for me. She is much smaller than a the rest of the P&O fleet, but this means access to more intimate ports — that larger ships can't get to — and a more exclusive atmosphere onboard, all wrapped in P&O's traditional, yet modern, British approach to cruising. With Aurora and Arcadia also sailing around the world they are also offering an adult-only mid-sized ship and a family-friendly P&O favourite.

World Cruises aren't limited to a full round the world in 80 days experience, in fact most people tend to book a World Cruise Sector, meaning you get to pick a section of the itinerary with the destinations you would like to visit. So, what's exciting for 2014?

Any sectors departing from or arriving in Southampton are always popular, with San Francisco to Southampton and Southampton to Cape Town the pick of the bunch according to Dave Mills, our renowned Head of Commercial.

There is a fantastic trip from Southampton to Hong Kong which I would love to go on. The adult-only Adonia takes in Cairo, transits along the Suez Canal before visiting diverse and intriguing destinations such as Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Singapore, Manila and Hong Kong — that's more culture in one cruise then many people would come across in a lifetime!

Another trip which really stands out to me is Southampton to Rio onboard Queen Victoria. The opportunity to visit Rio, Montevideo and Buenos Aires in style, before a relaxing cruise home.

These exotic 2014 World Voyages go on sale from:

  • 3rd Sep - for P&O Cruises Peninsular Club Passengers
  • 4th Sep - General Sale for P&O Cruises
  • 5th Sep - General Sale for Cunard

There are some fantastic early booking benefits to entice you, if getting your preferred cabin and dining times aren't enough, which include:

  • Up to £1100/$1800 Onboard spending money
  • Free Airport Parking on many cruises
  • Free Regional flight on many cruises
  • Free 1Nt or 3Nt Hotel City Stay

If cruising around the world or visiting some unique destinations is on the agenda for 2014, then now's the time to take to book a cruise, especially with the new Vantage Fares offering the best value that P&O Cruises and Cunard Line have ever boasted.

Here's the full selection of 2014 World Cruise deals.

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