Ring In The New

From Sydney Harbour in Australia to the little village of Llanwrtyd in Wales, Ian McCurrach rounds up his top 10 places around the world to see in the New Year

If the prospect of spending yet another New Year's Eve swaying along to "Auld Lang Syne" in your local pub gives you a heavy-hearted feeling, bear in mind that it's not too late to consider greeting 2003 in more interesting or exotic surroundings. As always, the best places book up fast, but as you will see there are still some pretty good options available. And even if you do miss out this year, what better incentive do you need to start planning ahead for 2004?

If the prospect of spending yet another New Year's Eve swaying along to "Auld Lang Syne" in your local pub gives you a heavy-hearted feeling, bear in mind that it's not too late to consider greeting 2003 in more interesting or exotic surroundings. As always, the best places book up fast, but as you will see there are still some pretty good options available. And even if you do miss out this year, what better incentive do you need to start planning ahead for 2004?

Benaulim

Escape to sun-drenched Goa and see in 2003 on the beach.

Bring in the new: Dance the night away under the stars on this 8km, palm-fringed beach. Feel warm and smug while quaffing champagne and feasting on a barbecue by candlelight. Savour fresh seafood, look out over the Arabian Sea and think of your friends back home in freezing Britain.

New Year's Day: Soak up the rays and get an enviable winter tan, or head for the spa and clear your head after a night of revelry. You will be massaged back to life (choose from aromatherapy, ayurvedic and shiatsu), then wash away the excesses with a biomarine salt scrub.

Getting there: Abercrombie & Kent (0845 0700616; www.abercrombiekent.co.uk) offers a seven-night b&b break over New Year at the Taj Exotic Goa from £1,995 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights and transfers.

Bideford

Dash down to Devon's northern coast in your best fancy dress.

Bring in the new: Every New Year's Eve, Bideford draws 8,000 revellers – most in fancy dress – to its restaurants, nightclubs and roadshow on the historic quay. This year there will be a huge fireworks display, close to the Kathleen and May, a recently restored three-masted schooner which is moored here. Gather on the ancient Long Bridge where you can also listen to the town clock chiming midnight.

New Year's Day: Seek hangover damage-limitation in the form of a special cooked breakfast provided by one of the many pubs to be granted all-night licences. Refresh your head with a coastal walk to Westward Ho! via Appledore, or survey the Kathleen and May by daylight.

Getting there: Bideford can be reached by road via J27 of the M5, taking the A361 to Barnstaple and then the A39. Train services go to Barnstaple from where it's a half-hour bus ride to Bideford. For details on the area and accommodation contact Bideford Tourist Information Centre (01237 477676; bidefordtic@visit.org.uk).

Edinburgh

Head off for a four-day Hogmanay extravaganza, which includes processions, music, dance, carnivals and fireworks.

Bring in the new: The big event is The Royal Bank Street Party, featuring the Concert in Princes Street Gardens (headline acts are Culture Club and Ms Dynamite). Celebrations kick off with the Torchlight Procession on 29 December, a spectacle of music and fireworks. There is also an impressive array of international street theatre, and – if you really want to immerse yourself in celtic tradition – the Guinness World Record Breaking Scottish Country Dancing at the Night Afore Fiesta. New venues for this year include the Ocean Terminal in the newly trendy Leith district, where Boy George and DJ Betty Ford will spin the discs at The Big Splash.

New Year's Day: New Year, New You is a vast programme of have-a-go activities for all the family in Holyrood Park, designed to refresh mind, body and soul. Tai chi chuan, outdoor aerobics, orienteering, climbing and skateboarding are just a few of the activities on offer.

Getting there: GNER (08457 225 225; www.gner.co.uk) offers return rail travel from London King's Cross via York and Newcastle. The lowest fare for this route is £36 return, but Scotland is an extremely popular New Year destination so you will probably pay considerably more at short notice. British Airways (0845 773 3377; www.britishairways.com) offers return flights from Heathrow from £58. Accommodation in Edinburgh is booking up fast. See www.edinburgh.org, or call Scotland's new accommodation, information and booking line (0845 2255 121).

Fefor

Snow is guaranteed in the heart of highland Norway.

Bring in the new: Captain Scott put this place on the map in 1891, when he stayed at the historic, family run Fefor Hotel. The high jinks get off to a flying start here at 11am on New Year's Eve with the international slalom competition, which has taken place annually since 1911. Spend the afternoon twirling around at the tea dance, then sip cocktails and savour a five-course dinner before walking or snowmobiling to the top of the Alpine Hill for a wonderful view of the fireworks at midnight.

New Year's Day: Swim in the pool, chill out in the sauna, go skating on the outdoor rink or cross-country ski across the frozen lake and snowy moorland hills.

Getting there: Inntravel (01653 629010; www.inntravel.co.uk) offers a week's half board at the Fefor Hotel from £786 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, train and private transfers. Depart 29 December.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong's seasonal highlights include a giant, computerised Christmas Wishing Tree, a traditional Chinese good-luck icon and a sensational street carnival – with winter sales, for new year bargains.

Bring in the new: A four-hour New Year's Eve Countdown Carnival takes place in Victoria Park from 8.30pm, where world-class performers lead the build-up to 2003. Admission is free by coupon, which can be obtained at the park from 20 December. Public transport runs through the night. For clubs, see listings on www.bcmagazine.net, published on 7 December.

New Year's Day: Work off your hangover in a tai chi class, then kick-start 2003 with a flutter on the horses at Sha Tain racecourse. Stores and restaurants are open all day, so spend your winnings then enjoy some dim sum for lunch.

Getting there: Current availability is restricted to business-class flights only. Austravel (0870 166 2070; www.austravel.com) offers a six-night luxury break at the Mandarin Oriental from £2,899 per person, based on two sharing, including return business-class flights with Cathay Pacific, transfers and room-only accommodation.

Llanwrtyd

For a very different New Year celebration, join in some jousting and revelling in the wonderful Welsh countryside.

Bring in the new: The main event is the historic Mari Llwyd procession, which involves a torchlit walk, fireworks, poetry, and jousting. Revellers roam the village wearing white robes with a horse's skull on a stick (the Mari Llwyd) poking out of the top. They prance from house to house, singing rhymes. Turn up at the town square around 10.30pm, armed with a torch, first-aid kit, spare clothing, food, waterproofs and a hip flask – or two.

New Year's Day: Popular activities include putting your best foot forward on one of the area's many circular walks, which range between six and 12 miles, along with mountain biking and holing up in the pub.

Getting there: Llanwrtyd is in Powys, mid-Wales, on the A483, which runs between Swansea and Chester. It is served by the Heart of Wales Railway (01597 822053; www.heart-of-wales.co.uk), which runs four trains daily between Swansea and Shrewsbury. Lake Country House Hotel (01591 620202; www.lakecountryhouse.co.uk) offers a two-night break from £260 per person, including full board and celebration dinner. For more accommodation contact the tourist centre (01591 610666; tic@celt.ruralwales.org).

Los Angeles

Party with the stars and enjoy top bars, restaurants, clubs and warm sunshine.

Bring in the new: Celebrate aboard the Queen Mary (00 1 310 562 3511; www.queenmary.com) with a gala dinner and fireworks, then decide which one of the eight on-board parties you are going to attend. Tickets cost $79 (£53) per person. Catalina Island's 30th Annual New Year's Eve party is another smart event, 22 miles off the California coast. Tickets cost $150 (£100) per person and include gala dinner and live music. Call for reservations (00 1 310 510 1520). Island Express (00 1 310 510 2525) helicopters depart from Long Beach and take 14 minutes to get there. Or simply hang out at LA's biggest street party on Long Beach promenade to watch the laser and firework show. Call for details (00 1 562 413 1814).

New Year's Day: Go celeb-spotting in exclusive Malibu, then lunch or dine at up-market Nobu Malibu, 3835 Cross Creek Road. Soak up the sun on Santa Monica's golden beach or rollerskate along the boardwalk. Hire skates on the pier.

Getting there: Thomas Cook Signature (0870 443 4446; www.thomascook.com) offers a five-night, room-only break at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel from £529 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights from Heathrow.

Reykjavik

See the locals illuminate their capital with a billion watts of festive lights and explosive pyrotechnics.

Bring in the new: Join the throng at the Pearl tower on Oskjuhio Hill to see spectacular fireworks over the Reykjavik skyline. Most households spend a fortune on fireworks, which they set off in unison on the stroke of midnight. There are parties galore in the bars and clubs, all of which keep going until morning.

New Year's Day: Chill out and go swimming in one of Reykjavik's seven thermal pools, or cleanse body and soul at the Blue Lagoon, open from 9am to 6pm.

Getting there: Bridge Travel (0870 010 2456; www.bridgetravel.co.uk) offers a three-night b&b break from £477 per person, based on two sharing, including return scheduled flights, departing 29 December. Icelandair (020 7874 1000; www.icelandair.co.uk) offers a four-night b&b break from £1,075 per person, based on two sharing, including New Year Gala dinner, tours, a visit to the Blue Lagoon plus one lunch and two dinners.

Sydney

With celebrations and street parties all over the city, a down-under New Year promises to be a memorable event.

Bring in the new: Fireworks at 9pm on the famous Harbour Bridge herald the beginning of the celebrations, culminating in a fabulous firework finale at midnight which lights up the whole harbour. The party continues all night with concerts and entertainers in the streets and parks along Circular Quay and outside the Opera House. Carnaval is an outdoor festival and the place to be in Hyde Park, because you can party all night until 5am.

New Year's Day: Charter a yacht and sail round the harbour, chill out in the parks or gear up for the Sydney Summer Festival, which starts on 3 January.

Getting there: Flight availability is now very limited (booking at least six months ahead is advisable). There are no city hotel rooms left for this period, so you will need a friend to put you up. All Ways Pacific (01494 432747; www.all-ways.co.uk) still has flights with Singapore Airlines from £825 per person. Australian Affair (020-7616 9191; www.australian-affair.com) offers business-class fares starting from £2,857 per person, on Cathay Pacific.

Nelson

The sunshine capital of New Zealand in the South Island is New Year nirvana and the top Kiwi holiday spot.

Bring in the new: Savour a Nelson Sauvignon Blanc in one of the many cafés and bars before spilling out into the streets for one of Nelson's big outdoor dance parties. The 24-hour Stardust New Year Cosmic Rave starts at 6pm. Count down to midnight on the cathedral steps.

New Year's Day: Stretch out on the seemingly endless Tahunanui beach or join in the Jazz in the Park spectacular. Beyond, in wine-and-crafts country, you can visit the many boutique wineries, galleries and artists' studios, which will be open.

Getting there: Quest Travel (0870 442 3513) offers a two-week b&b break from £1,613 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, car hire and ferry crossings. Book by March to ensure a flight for 19 December departure, 2003.

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