Where to go in '97

Cycle through Morocco, eat Welsh cakes in Patagonia, see the Northern Lights, and walk in the Wye valley

January

Britain: If you need a break after the pressures of Christmas, take yourself off to one of the three British Center Parcs (0990 200300). Here you can pamper yourself with a health treatment and burn up the calories. A typical three-night break this month would cost between pounds 164-pounds 205 for two and this includes accommodation and use of the pool (but all other facilities are charged separately). If you're over 50, the cheapest way to get there is with National Express (0990 010104) who are offering a "go anywhere in Britain for pounds 9.99 return" fare between 6 and 13 February.

Europe: Thessaloniki, Cultural Capital of Europe 1997, is featured in the Independent Magazine next Saturday. Visit the Greek birthplace of Ataturk, the father of the Turks, and start your year on a cultural footing. For details of events throughout the year contact the Greek National Tourism Organisation on 0171-734 5997.

Worldwide: Celebrate Ramadan on 10 on a Jasmin Tours (01628 531121) holiday. Between 10 and 9 February the company is offering special trips to see the lights in various Middle Eastern cities. If you haven't had your fill over the Christmas period they will even provide you with festive food, including Iftar - a special breakfast. Feast yourself after sunset and spend the next day working it all back off again. Prices start at pounds 349 for six nights' B&B (not including airport taxes and visas) at Aqaba on the shores of the Red Sea.

Other dates for your diary:

20 President Clinton inaugurated in Washington

31 Jan-2 Feb The Snowboard World Cup in Quebec

31 Schubert's 200th anniversary in Austria

FEBRUARY

Britain: Go to work on an egg, with an egg-decorating holiday from HF Holidays (0181-905 9558). A four-night holiday in Malhamdale in the Lake District costs pounds 179 per person including full board, instruction and your basic egg kit. After a morning spent learning how to transform a humble egg into a "fine and beautiful ornament" you are free to stride out and explore the local area.

Europe: Take advantage of the cool weather and cycle through the Draa Valley in Morocco with The Imaginative Traveller (0181-742 8612). This off-road cycling tour is new for 1997 and only operates between and April. For pounds 525 you get accommodation (some of it camping), most meals, bicycle hire, transportation of luggage while you cycle, and the services of a cook. What it doesn't include is the flight out, but if you're really keen you could always cycle down through Europe and take the ferry across from Spain.

Worldwide: Between 2 and 5 February Copacabana is the focus for a huge festival - the Fiesta de la Virgen de Candelaria. This isn't the Copacabana where Barry Manilow fell in love, but a small, bright town on the Bolivian shore of Lake Titicaca. Pilgrims and dancers from all over Bolivia and Peru fill its streets, climb up the 14 stations of the cross overlooking the lake, drink, eat and are merry chasing bulls round a stone corral.

Other dates for your diary:

6 Chinese New Year

11 Shrove Tuesday (and Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Rio)

The Aberystwyth Indian Food Festival (01970 617995) all month.

MARCH

Britain: If you don't fancy the coast at this time of year, head for London instead. The 28 March sees the opening of the London Aquarium (0171- 401 3433) at the old County Hall on the South Bank. Stroke a stingray, peer at a piranha or stare at a shark as you pass through the aquatic landscape constructed around the 30,000 exhibits. Prices will be pounds 4.50 for children and pounds 6.50 for adults with family tickets for pounds 20.

Europe: Alton Towers' Spanish sister, Port Aventura (00 34 77 77 9090) on the north-east Spanish coast, opens a new white-knuckle ride, Stampida, on 17 March. This will be the first twin-track wooden rollercoaster in the world, and the 80ft drops should all add to that "out of control" feeling the promoters are aiming for. The park is based around five different areas from the Mediterranean to Imperial China. Entrance is around pounds 21 for adults and pounds 16.40 for children, and the park is open between 17 March and 26 October from 10am to 8pm (midnight between June and September).

Worldwide: Go for the alternative Welsh experience and spend the first day of the month, St David's Day, eating Welsh cakes in Patagonia. This is the best time of year to visit the wilder parts of southern South America, but if you're expecting summer to be hot you'll be underdressed. The Chubut valley in Argentina is perilously hanging on to its Welsh roots. In Gaiman they still produce a Welsh language newspaper and traditional Welsh teas are served in the shops but the Williams' are becoming prefixed by Miguels and Juans rather than Dais and Ifors. There is plenty to see but if it all seems just too adventurous you could always sit back in St David's, Pembrokeshire, with a copy of Hank Wangford's Lost Cowboys and imagine yourself on the gaucho trail instead.

Other dates for your diary:

8 International Women's Day

17 St Patrick's Day

26 Independence Day Bangladesh

28-8 Dec William Wallace 700th Anniversary Exhibition in Stirling

29 Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race

30 Easter Sunday and the start of British Summer Time

APRIL

Britain: Lancashire is where the action is in April because that's where the Southport Clowns Festival is being held. Between 24 and 27 April there will be a gaggle of clowns running up and down Southport's pier (the first to be built purely for pleasure in Britain) and around the grand villas of Lord Street. Details from Clowns International on 0181-444 8406.

Europe: According to Eurostar (0345 303030), you will by now be able to travel direct from Preston to Paris or from Birmingham to Brussels. They have promised us this for almost as long as the service has been up and running, so we are not holding our breath. Those travelling from destinations in the east of the country will have to wait until the summer if all goes to plan.

Worldwide: April 25 is Anzac Day so commemorate it by taking advantage of Austravel's (0171-734 7755) discount fares to Sydney between 16 April and 30 June. For pounds 623 including departure taxes and the pounds 2 Sydney noise levy you can travel to Sydney and back on BA or Qantas and stop over twice along the way. You can choose from Rome, Bali, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Frankfurt and Kuala Lumpur and for an extra pounds 55 you can increase the number of stopovers to four. The climate isn't at its best at this time of year but the attractions will be less busy and, if it's a tan you're after, you can top it up in Bali on the way home.

Other dates for your diary:

27 Greek Orthodox Easter

18 Opening of Millennium Celebration in Gdansk

MAY

Britain: Tease those green fingers down in the Garden of England by visiting Christies Garden Festival (01580 211702) in Kent. Between 24 May and 1 June a number of privately owned gardens will be opened to the public. The 26 May is also St Augustine's Day and, as 1997 is the 1400th anniversary of the arrival of St Augustine in Canterbury, this is the year to stay in Kent and enjoy some of the special events being offered. Try Pat-a- Lamb at Mount Ephraim Gardens (01227 751496) or visit the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale Orchard near Faversham (01795 535286). Visit on the 10th or 11th and you'll catch the Blossom and Flower Festival.

Europe: The Penichette, a barge-lover's favourite, is 20 years old this year, so climb aboard one and celebrate with a boating trip down one of France's rivers with French Country Cruises (01572 821330). A week in a Penichette in May would cost pounds 889 for four people including all equipment and bedding but not fuel. Alternatively head further south to the Camargue. At Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, the annual festival on 24-25 May swamps the town.

Worldwide: Taking place only on odd-numbered years, Kanda Mitsuri happens in Tokyo in mid-May, on the Saturday and Sunday closest to the 15 May. It's a traditional Shinto festival, where 200 portable mikoshi - or shrines - are heaved through the streets by sake swigging crowds. And there are other celebrations - archery contests, horse riding and dancing to name but a few. For information on Japan, contact the Japan National Tourist Office on 0171-734 9638 and for flights (this is generally a good time to travel) try Quest Worldwide (0181-5473322). It has a flight on BA or Quantas for pounds 640 return, including taxes, to Australia. It allows you a stopover in Bangkok or Singapore on the way out and a stopover in Tokyo on the way back. This is much cheaper than a ticket just to Tokyo and back.

Other dates for your diary:

7-19 Cannes Film Festival

20-23 Chelsea Flower Show

JUNE

Britain: Visit Glasgow in 1997 to see how it's preparing for the role of 1999 UK City of Architecture and Design. Go between 27 June and 6 July and catch the International Jazz Festival (0141-552 3552) or just browse around the city's museums and art galleries, not forgetting the Rennie Mackintosh designs. Glasgow Tourist Information is on 0141-204 4400.

Europe: 12 June is Russian Independence Day and a national holiday but if you stay in St Petersburg until the summer solstice on 21 June, through to 11 July, the city lets loose for the White Nights celebrations - the main festive period of the year. With permanent daylight, people work themselves into a frenzy, especially on the Neva embankment. Here people crowd the banks to watch the nearby bridges opening up in the middle of the night, and you'll probably have to dodge flying champagne corks as they do so. It's also a big cultural event with ballets, concerts and plays happening all over the city. The two main festivals during this time are the rock festival and the classical Stars of the White Nights. Contact the Russian Tourist Agency on 0171-486 0586.

Worldwide: Be in Hong Kong at midnight on 30 June to witness its handing back to Chinese rule. If you have time to stay for a while, book early and arrive by the 14 June to see the Dragon Boat Races in the harbour. This commemorates Chu Yuan, a third-century BC poet who threw himself into a river in Hunan Province in protest at the corruption of the government. Onlookers raced to save him in their boats but they were too slow. These days the onlookers throw dumplings into the water to keep the fish from eating him. The Hong Kong Tourist Association (0171-930 4775) will have more details.

Other dates for your diary:

17-20 Royal Ascot

23-6 July Wimbledon

JULY

Britain: The Lady Lever Art Gallery at Port Sunlight (0151-478 4136), about an hour's drive from Manchester, is worth a visit at any time of year, but especially in the summer. Lord Leverhulme built the gallery in memory of his wife following the construction of his model community around his famous soap factory. The gallery houses an impressive collection of Pre-Raphaelite works alongside a collection of Wedgwood.

Europe: Why not head out to New England from Manchester stopping off to see the Northern Lights on the way? Icelandair (through the Airline Network on 0800 727747) has return flights from Manchester to Boston for pounds 396 including tax (plus pounds 10 if you travel at a weekend) in July. With this ticket you can stay in Reykjavik for up to three nights, which will give you just enough time to stare at a geyser, slip on a glacier, plunge into a hot spring and grab a glance at the famous lights - if the sky is clear while you're there.

Worldwide: Get to New England for American Independence Day on 4 July. The Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival (413 243 0745) has been going ever since a man called Ted founded it in his barn in 1932, and it's now become one of the most important dance events in the States. It runs between mid-June and early September in the village of Becket in Massachusetts. Nearby, the Boston Symphony Orchestra has a summer concert series at Tanglewood. Alternatively you could keep cool with an ice-cream from the home of Ben & Jerry's at Waterbury in Vermont. The story goes that Ben and Jerry were childhood friends who sent off for a booklet telling them how to make ice-cream. They found they had a flair for introducing the locals to wacky flavours and have since been filling people's freezers across the Atlantic.

Other dates for your diary:

2 Palio in Siena

2-6 Henley Royal Regatta

5-27 Tour de France

AUGUST

Britain: Pretend you're the outdoor type, but do it the easy way with the new Wye Valley Walk which Acorn Activities (01432 830083) is organising for 1997. You can stride out during the day and enjoy the views free from the weight of baggage (which is transported along the route for you) and safe in the knowledge of a good bed for the night (at either a hotel or a B&B). To cover the whole walk would take 14 days but shorter sections or taking days out along the way can be arranged. A typical three-night package costs pounds 270 per person. Time your walk around the 17-22 of the month and you can combine it with the Three Choirs Festival taking place in Hereford.

Europe: Even though Munich's Oktoberfest begins in September, go to Bavaria in August and aspire to higher things with a stein or two of beer in Kulmbach, which is credited with both brewing the most beer in Bavaria, and drinking it. Up until the 15th century, citizens of this beer-drinkers' paradise were able to brew their own beer and, as you might expect, they know a thing or two about production. The main beer festival is the nine-day long Beer Week between July and August but go easy on the Kulminator 28 - not a Schwarzenegger film, but probably the strongest beer in the world. To find out the exact dates contact the local tourist information centre nearer the time (00 49 9221 95880) or the German Tourist Office (0891 600100).

Worldwide: One of the best bargains in air travel has just become several degrees better. The unlimited travel airpasses offered by Canadian Regional Airlines (through AirPass Sales, 01737 555300) now offer a preposterous range of destinations. The one-week East Pass (pounds 145) gives you unlimited standby flights from Boston, USA to Gander in Newfoundland, and from Halifax across to Winnipeg. Here you can pick up the parallel West Pass, and continue to Seattle, Vancouver and Calgary. Best value of all is the pounds 299, three- week national pass that entitles you to cover the entire country.

Other dates for your diary:

1-10 World Athletics Championships in Athens

10-30 Edinburgh Festival

14 Independence Day in Pakistan

15 Indian Independence Day

16 Palio, Siena

24, 25 August, Notting Hill Carnival

SEPTEMBER

Britain: On the 8 and 9 September, Oxford shuts off one of its main streets for two days to hold its traditional St Giles Fair. These days there are just as many gut-wrenching, neon-coloured rides as there are hoop-la stalls, but it's all great fun, anyway. The best time to go is in the evening, so you can spend the day taking in the architecture, cringing at the shrunken heads in the Pitt Rivers Museum or sitting in one of the pubs enjoying a pint. Oxford Tourist Information is on 01865 726871.

Europe: Go to Futuroscope (0171-499 8049 for information) in September when it's less suffocated by rampaging schoolchildren, and enjoy its geometric buildings, feats of aquatic sculpture and array of celluloid options without the hassle of the queues. Easily reached from Poitiers, this cinematic and scientific theme park is definitely worth a visit in 1997.

Worldwide: Visit South Africa in springtime. Flower lovers should head for Namaqualand in the north-east corner of the Northern Cape. The valley floor gets submerged beneath a covering of huge orange daisies, and the mountainsides are a mass of pinks, scarlets, blues and yellows. To find out where the blooms are nearer the time, call the Flower Hotline (00 27 21 4183705).

Other dates for your diary:

27-5 October, Oktoberfest, Munich

OCTOBER

Britain: Avoid the crowds and visit the island of Iona during the autumn. This year marks the 1,400th anniversary of the death of St Columba here, so during the summer months the place will probably be heaving with people. For details of special St Columba eventscontact Oban Tourist Information Centre 01631 563122.

Europe: Gdansk celebrates its 1,000th birthday this year. If you go to Poland between April and November you can go along to one of the special arts, sports or philosophical events the town is planning. Alternatively, wait for the half-term break and go across for the official closing on 31 October. This year LOT, the Polish airline (0171-580 5037), is introducing direct flights from Gatwick to Krakw five times a week, and from Manchester to Warsaw three times a week. For connecting flights to Gdansk it will save you around pounds 50 each way if you buy your ticket when you arrive in Poland. Polish Tourist Information is on 0171-580 8811.

Worldwide: If you venture across to Nepal in October, try to time this with Tihaar (known as Diwali in India) towards the end of the month - dates have yet to be fully fixed. The "festival of lights" lasts for five days, the third of which sees houses decked out with hundreds of candles and oil lamps in the hope of attracting Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. The rest of the time animals are strewn with garlands and the children race round throwing firecrackers and giving tika, or blessings, to their siblings. If you've got the time, trek up in the Annapurnas, get your fill of dhal baat in Bhaktapur, jump in the river at Bhiretanti and raft down the Sun Kosi before heading back to live it up for a while in Kathmandu.

Other dates for your diary:

2 Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) 5758

26 British Summer Time ends

NOVEMBER

Britain: If you enjoyed Port Sunlight in July go for Saltaire, near Bradford, in November, another model village but this time based around Salt's Mill. These days the mill (01274 774993) houses three art galleries, including a permanent exhibition of works by David Hockney. On the way home, find out whether Huddersfield really is set to take off as the new clubbing capital of the UK, with a night out at Babalonia in Beyond Beach Babylon, or go along to The Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (01484 425082) between 19 and 30 November.

Europe: Autumn is a good time to visit Tuscany and Umbria. On 11 November in Sigillo, near Perugia, take part in the San Martino Festival where the events centre around drinking lots of wine and eating chestnuts. The legend goes that Martino was travelling happily along on his horse when he galloped past a shivering beggar. Not one to turn away from the needy, the saint promptly gave the beggar his enormous cloak and since then the countryside has been shrouded in warmth for a few days each November. The festival is celebrated all over Italy but Sigillo is the place to do it in style. While you're there don't miss the frescoes by a local painter, Matteo da Gualdo, in the village church. The Italian Tourist Office is on 0171-408 1254.

Worldwide: It is worth missing the 50th anniversary celebrations for Indian independence (see August) and waiting until now. The climate is at its mildest at this time of year. Try a romantic camel trek through the deserts of Rajasthan and plod out to the camel fair at Pushkar where traders race, parade and sell dromedaries in their chaotic thousands. Alternatively, go spotting kingfishers as you float downstream on a boat through Kuttanad in Kerala or spend a week imitating India's maharajas on a luxury train journey to the palaces, cities and monuments of Rajasthan. Invest in a copy of the Rough Guide to India and start planning a trip now or call the Indian Government Tourist Office (0171 437 3677) for advice.

Other dates for your diary:

27 Thanksgiving (USA)

5 For Guy Fawkes night par excellence, head for Lewes, East Sussex

DECEMBER

Britain: Have a day out at the races on St Stephen's Day (Boxing Day to the rest of Britain) at the Down Royal Racecourse, seven miles south of Belfast. This is also a big social event. The track has good facilities so if the weather's bad you can watch the racing from behind the comfort of the bar's windows. Tie it in with a trip to Dublin and go on a literary pub crawl. The Irish Tourist Board is on 0171-493 3201.

Europe: December is a good time to indulge in a trip to the Continent, especially when it involves sharing the journey with a crowd of Norwegian merrymakers. Color Line (0191-296 1313) is running its usual festive offer of a Newcastle-Bergen mini-cruise at pounds 70 per person (for four travelling). This includes B&B for three nights.

Worldwide: Maximise your daylight quota for the year and make for the South Island of New Zealand on Midsummer's Day, 21 December. As you will see from a new adventure travel series, Walker's World, which begins on Sky One on 4 , the latest craze in New Zealand is "zorbing". This is nothing to do with Greeks, but involves rolling down hills inside an inflatable plastic ball. For more details contact New Zealand Tourism Board, New Zealand House, Haymarket, London SW1Y 4TQ (0839 300900, a premium- rate number; fax 0171-839 8929).

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