A Bike Day in Stockholm

Today we’re highlighting a bike tour in Stockholm, from the desk of WIT Field Correspondent, Wailana K. There are countless amazing tours available to enrich your travels. Talk to your WIT Agent about organizing a unique day tour right for you and yours in Europe and around the world. Phone 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

On the evening of Wednesday, I received a little message in my inbox:

“City Bike Ride! Join the joyride! We will show you some of our favourite places and bonus information on Swedish culture in general, and the mentality of Swedes in particular.”

Needing to stretch my legs out in the Stockholm summer sun, I was more than eager to jump onboard, so I signed up and the next morning found myself in the lounge of City Backpackers Stockholm.

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corner decorations in the lounge

The lounge (which doubled as a cafe) had comfy leather couches. white walls and arched windows that brought a lot of light in. I chatted with some fellow travel bloggers who were to join me on the tour; they were in town for a conference. They all had name tags and were playing with their gadgets: laptops, go pro, a small handheld camera. I introduced myself to them but had hardly time to socialize when the guide, Michael, hopped to action. Michael was an unassuming 30-something Swede with a newsy cap and a boyish grin. He led us to the back yard, where he pulled out the bikes and announced they would be our trusty steeds for the next two hours. They were all brightly painted in red and (sans gears) relied mostly on back pedals (which, I was to discover, is something pretty common in Swedish bikes).

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ze bikes

With all the bike paths, Stockholm treats its cyclists quite well. For the next few hours, we followed our guide faithfully, winding our way from the ritzy shopping area of Normmalm out to the more hipster neighborhoods of Södermalm. My bike clattered as it went along, protesting against the exercise — but the views of Stockholm’s gorgeous waterways made up for it.

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ze guide + ze bloggers

Michael’s enthusiasm was only matched by his humble way of sharing his hometown. From stop to stop he led us effortlessly. We took a break at the Astrid Lindgren statue in Tegnérlunden Park. We passed the corner of Norrmalmstorgsgatan and Hamngatan, birthplace of the Stockholm Syndrome robbery. At Berzelii park in front of the Royal Dramatic Theatre, our guide passed out little salty licorice cubes, meant to “enliven our tastebuds to Swedish flavors” — but, even after a year of Iceland and its licorice ice cream, these were far too strong for me to handle!

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can you say ssssssalttyyy

On Sveavägen street, we paid our respects to the memory of Olof Palme, former Prime Minister of Sweden who was assassinated in 1986 by an unknown gunman. He was beloved by the city’s inhabitants and the day after the shooting you could barely walk for all the roses on the crossing.

After a picturesque ride through Gamla Stan, we hiked up some craggily cliffs near Södermalm’s Master Michael’s Street, where you can locate some of the oldest buildings in the city. A brief climb revealed a terrific panorama over the waterways. It was a great place for a picnic—which was perfect as Michael busted out some cardamom cookies and tea.

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view from the top

 

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random pedestrian/bike tunnel

Then it was a waterside ride out to Marieberg. We passed kids turning wheelies at the Rålis Skatepark in Rålambshovsparken. Here Michael shared an interesting tidbit about the Swedish Law of Jante. So Jante is the cultural phenomenon of not standing out in a crowd. It is like an unspoken rule that a proper Swede should play it modest and quiet, rather than boast or even mention your individual success and achievements in life. Michael even mentioned it was difficult to talk about himself and his life because of this. Curiously, however, the recent boom in tech startups and freelance businesses led to more Swedes talking about themselves and their companies—you know, just in an effort to foster business-to-business relations. Startups essentially were making Jante obsolete, at least in some circles. 

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outside the hostel

Finally, it was time to head back. Our guides celebrated the tour with a late lunch at Nomad, the hostel’s tasty restaurant. They served all types of potatoes and smoked fish and caviar. We were in for quite a treat when, after some home-infused schnapps, the chefs began to serenade us with some traditional Swedish drinking songs. (Here’s one of them: Helan Går)

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yummmmm

Planning a Trip to Europe? Why not stretch your legs in the meantime? A bike ride is a great way to explore a city—quick, fun, and eye-opening you race through the streets. Plus the tour guides usually do a good job of spoiling you when you’re done! Talk to your WIT Agent about organizing a unique tour for you and yours in Europe.

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points on the route

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Where to Next?

 

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Travel News: Delta Nonstop Portland/London

Delta starts nonstop Portland/London

Delta Airlines is launching a nonstop flight from Portland Intl to London Heathrow starting May 26 and continuing through to October 29. The flight flies 4 times a week and will be seasonal. This adds one more to the small list of airports in Europe that Portland flies direct to: Keflavik Iceland, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. It will be operated on a Boeing 767-300. You can go onto http://www.OregonLive.com/travelfest and sign up to win 2 FREE tickets to London!

Emirates To Charge For Economy Seating Starting October 3, 2016

The airline will start charging non-status passengers that fly on special on saver fares (most pax) for selecting a seat at the time of purchase on October 3, 2016. It is unclear how much this seating selection charge is and how connecting itineraries are affected. Family of four can expect to pay several hundred dollars for selecting their seats for Europe. Emirates has been very quiet about this change and hasn’t released any press information about this “enhancement”.

Cell Phone Battery Catches Fire Aboard Delta Flight To Atlanta

A cell phone battery caused an inflight disruption after catching fire on a Delta Air Lines flight from Norfolk to Atlanta Friday morning. The fire started about 15 minutes after flight 2557’s departure. Retired military personnel aided the flight attendants in extinquishing the fire by using a bottle of water until a fire extinguisher was located. Others helped passengers get out of the cabin area filled with smoke. Though there was some damage to the seats, no one was hurt during the incident and the smoke cleared out of the cabin within a few moments. Flight attendants said the owner has not been identified. The type of phone involved in the cabin fire has not been released but the report comes amid the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s official recall of Samsung’s Note7 phone yesterday after numerous reports of the product overheating and catching fire.

American Queen Steamboat Co. Buys Third Riverboat

American Queen Steamboat Co. has been turning away customers due to lack of capacity, so it has purchased a former casino riverboat that it will rebuild and upgrade into a boutique vessel for Mississippi operations, starting in June. The American Duchess will carry 166 passengers in all-suite accommodations with single, open-seating dining. Standard outside rooms will measure 240 square feet with suites a roomy 550 square feet. In addition to a main dining room that can accommodate all passengers at once, the vessel will have a River Grill that can seat half the passengers. The three-deck vessel has a main deck with high ceilings: 19.5 feet, that’ll enable American Duchess to have loft suites on the second deck and a mezzanine level for the Mark Twain Gallery. The accommodations will be built out from scratch. There will be three owner’s suites of 550 square feet and four loft suites, also 550 square feet. The loft suites will have 300 square feet of space on the main level and 250 square feet on the mezzanine, which will house the sleeping area, and very large windows.

Sales for American Duchess will open in a few weeks; sailings from New Orleans to start June 4. With the new boat, AQSC will add shorter trips focused on the lower Mississippi, including New Orleans round-trips and Nashville round-trips. The latter will feature Nashville overnights and the Grand Ole Opry. The boat also will be able to sail up the Illinois River and turn around in Chicago (Ottawa), and St. Louis-Chicago cruises are planned.

Austrian Airlines To Offer Vienna-Los Angeles From April 10
Austrian Airlines will provide the first ever non-stop service between Central Europe and the US West Coast. Flights will be operated by one of Austrian Airlines’ B777-200s. It will be a five times a week service (daily except Tuesday and Sunday) from April 10 to June 12. From June 13 the service will be upgraded to a daily frequency. The flight duration will be 12 hrs and 30 mins to Los Angeles with the return service to Vienna taking 11 hrs 55 mins.

Virgin Australia To Fly Melbourne to Los Angeles
Virgin Australia will launch five flights a week between Melbourne and Los Angeles on April 4. They will use an Airbus A330-700 aircraft. The flights will be in partnership with Delta Air Lines, and remain the only trans-Pacific alliance to offer Business Class guests lie flat beds with direct aisle access on all services. To enable the introduction of services between Melbourne and Los Angeles, Virgin Australia will cease its three times weekly Sydney-Abu Dhabi flights after 4 February 2017 and will reduce Brisbane-Los Angeles flights from seven per week to six per week from 7 April 2017.

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A Day in Prague

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WIT Global Correspondent Wailana zipped over to Prague for a weekend.

There are few cities as enchanting as storybook Prague, capital of Czech. This city has boomed in the past two decades in terms of tourists, which means there’s a lot to see and do and in even a month you won’t see it all!

But what if you just have barely a day to explore the “City of a Hundred Spires” ? Here is my quick guide for 24 Hours in Prague:

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Breakfast: Tricafe (Anenská 3). The old little cafe is tucked away on a quiet street in the heart of Old Town. It’s a cozy, sweetly decorated coffee shop just a few minutes’ walk from Charles Bridge. Grab a chocolate cheesecake and cafe latte for breakfast—because—why not. If you’re more a meat-and-eggs for breakfast kind of person, there are a lot of traditional Czech places nearby you can pop your head into.

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Morning: Wander Old Town (Stare Mesto). On the right bank of the Vitava river, the Old Town of Prague is where you’ll find souvenir shops galore, quirky design stores and Czech crystal. If you have time, pop into one of the interesting museums here—Torture Museum, Beer Museum, Jewish Museum… there’s even an Apple Museum on Husova street that houses a collection of computers and Apple products from 1976 to 2012. This is also where you’ll find the medieval astronomical clock, installed in 1410 and the oldest clock in operation in the world.

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Lunch: Cross the beautiful Charles Bridge over to Malá Strana, Prague’s “Little Side” of the River. On the bridge you’ll find many musicians (didgeridoo anyone?) and street vendors selling their wares. It’s mostly handcrafted jewelry, paintings and portraits, but look out for the guy selling framed antique clocks. Make your way south following the river to the Art & Food Had Restaurant (Plaská 617/4) for an exquisite lunch. The dishes are absolute gastronomic delights, from the devastatingly delicious octopus to the broiled beef cheeks.

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Afternoon: Go all out tourist in Malá Strana and climb up past shops of puppets and absinthe to the huge castle complex. It’s not in vain that Prague is famous for its architecture. Here is where you’ll find the gothic masterpiece of St. Vitus Cathedral, complete with gargoyles and soot-black exterior. Pay the extra koruna into the highest tower of the cathedral for an great perspective over the city.

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Evening: There are some great museums open up until 10pm in Prague—I dropped by one of the atmospheric, Prague Ghosts and Legends Museum (Mostecká 18). It was like walking through a haunted house, with dolls, life-size skeletons, and clusters of alchemical devices.

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After-Hours: There is no end of pubs in Prague, but if you want something really special, I recommend Hemingway Bar (Karoliny Světlé 279/26), a luxury cocktail bar themed after the author’s life. The cocktails here are like no other—original concoctions served in teapots, in jam jars, in The Hulk cups. And yes, they do serve traditional absinthe.



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Postcard from Prague

This past weekend, WIT Blogger Wailana checked out Prague — stay tuned for her recommendations in this lovely city. For now, just a sneak peek! The square of Charles Bridge:

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Travel News of the Week – Panama Canal Readies for Cruise Season

First UK Plastic Banknotes Enter Circulation In England And Wales
A new polymer five pound note featuring Sir Winston Churchill has just entered circulation in England and Wales. Scotland has had a limited number of its own plastic five pound notes in circulation since March 2015, with mass issuance planned for next month.

RCI Goes Back To Traditional Dining
Royal Caribbean International has made the decided to end Dynamic Dining, which was launched with Quantum of the Seas two years ago. Starting with the Nov. 27 sailing of Anthem of the Seas, the main dining room will operate under the My Time Dining system. Ovation of the Seas will make the change on Nov. 23. Dynamic Dining was conceived as a way of breaking up the main dining room into smaller venues. The Quantum-class ships were built with a quartet of 480-seat rooms that had different menus and themes. Diners could make reservations, and rotate among them. When more tradition-bound guests complained, an option was added for a fixed early or late seating called Dynamic Dining Classic. After Nov. 27, the same menu will be available in all four restaurants: Chic, American Icon, Grande and Silk. As on other ships that have My Time Dining, guests can choose their own dining times and table mates. Alternatively, they can choose the traditional early or late seating at a fixed table.

Ponant Honours French Explorers With Their Names On Its Four Newbuilds
Paying tribute to some of the most famous explorers in French history, Ponant has revealed the names of its four 184-passenger newbuilds ordered with Fincantieri. The company has used the names of four of France’s famous explorers. The four Explorer-class sister ships, Le Lapérouse, Le Champlain, Le Bougainville and Le Kerguelen are set to join the fleet between 2018 and 2019. The cruise operator flies the French flag on its five ship fleet. Among new features, the 131 meter long ships all Ice-Class certified, will boast a retractable marina concept. First ship to be launched is Le Lapérouse in June 2018, followed by Le Champlain in September. Sales will open for the first ship in November 2016 for Iceland sailings and in April 2017 for the Seychelles and Japan itineraries. Le Champlain sales open in April 2017 for the Amazon and Orinoco. The four ships are being built by VARD, the Norwegian subsidiary of the Fincantieri group and will join the Marseille-based company’s Le Ponant and four yachts Le Boréal, L’Austral, Le Soléal and Le Lyrial bringing the fleet to nine vessels by end 2019. The current cruise orderbook stands at 68 ships accounting for 201,160 lower berths and a total cost of around $48.3 billion with deliveries through to 2024.

Bali’s Tourism Is At Risk Of Being Wiped Out By Islamic Law Banning Alcohol
The popular Indonesian resort of Bali may face a draconian alcohol ban that could carry a jail sentence of up to ten years for enjoying cold beers on the beach. A proposed bill to outlaw the production, sale, consumption and possession of alcohol has been tabled in the parliament, 700 miles away in the capital, Jakarta. If passed, it would decimate the tourism sector across the country, industry chiefs have warned. A ban would be felt particularly harshly in Bali, one of Indonesia’s 34 provinces, and a popular holiday destination for four million foreign tourists a year, including over 100,000 Brits. The island’s economy is dependent on these tourists, many of them young backpackers, flocking to the multiple bars and clubs to drink and party in the lively tourist towns of Kuta and Seminyak. Australians, the largest group of holidaymakers, have already expressed disbelief that the local delicacy, Bintang beer, may soon be outlawed. Several have warned that if the new law is enforced they will simply travel elsewhere. The country of 260 million is the world’s most populous Muslim nation but it is also home to several strong religious minorities. The island of Bali is predominantly Hindu. The secular government of President Joko Widodo is coming under increasing pressure from influential Muslim political parties to impose a strict morality code across the entire country.

Panama Canal Readies for Cruise Season
The Coral Princess is the first cruise ship slated to transit the Panama Canal on a voyage from Los Angeles to the US East Coast on October 4, 2016, officially kicking off the canal’s 2016-2017 cruise season, which according to the Panama Canal Authority will see more than 230 cruise ships pass through the Panama Canal. After completing more than 160 successful transits through the new locks, the Panama Canal is now accepting booking requests for Neopanamax passenger vessels for transit dates beginning April 1, 2017. To date, 11 reservations have been made for passenger vessels to transit the Expanded Canal starting October 2017, for the 2017-2018 season.

Slovenia Is Introducing A Multilateral Passenger Transport Ticket
On 1 September, Slovenia introduced a system of integrated public passenger transport (IPPT), which will enable users to use different types of public transport without having to buy separate tickets. A multilateral passenger transport ticket thus provides a modern, efficient, and user-friendly public transport system in Slovenia. A multilateral passenger transport ticket will unify the use of different means of transport, and integrate the use of regular rail and inter-urban bus transport in Slovenia and urban transport in the two largest Slovenian cities in a single system. In practice, this means that in Slovenia, a passenger can choose the mode of public transport, which he shall use on particular route with a single card. In practice, a multilateral passenger transport ticket will be used on buses and trains in inter-urban and urban transport, from 1 September 2016. The first phase will introduce a single subsidised ticket for pupils, students, and adult learners.

Global Passenger Numbers Up 6.4% In 2015
World airport passenger traffic increased by 6.4% in 2015, the strongest growth rate since 2010, ACI said in its annual report. Airports Council International, the trade association for airports worldwide, released its 2015 World Airport Traffic Report which showed an increase in passenger numbers to 7.2 billion for the year.

Hanseatic Completes Northeast Passage
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Hanseatic has completed its second transit of the Northeast Passage, sailing 4,577 nautical miles between Murmansk, Russia, and Cape Dezhnev. The voyage began in Tromsø, Norway, and ended at Nome, Alaska, Sept. 10, for a total of 5,542 nautical miles. The ship sailed Aug. 16 for its first port, Murmansk, where the Northeast Passage transit officially started. After cruising through the Barents Sea/Arctic Ocean, Hanseatic anchored at Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land, before continuing through the Kara Sea to Severnaya Zemlya. Other stops at anchor took place off Siberia, Wrangel Island and Chukchi Island. The Northeast Passage officially ended at 6 a.m. Sept. 7, when the ship rounded Cape Dezhnev. The cruise was fully booked. The crew organized 20 landings and tours using the 14 on-board Zodiacs. During spectacular wildlife observations, passengers saw walruses and polar bears. On one island, 16 polar bears were spotted at the same time, including some mothers with cubs. In total, 86 polar bears were counted from the bridge during the expedition. In 2014, Hanseatic became the first non-Russian cruise ship to navigate this legendary sea route.

New Hurtigruten Ships Will be First Hybrid Cruise Ships
The pair of new 20,000-ton, 600-passenger Hurtigruten ships to be delivered in 2018 and 2019 will be the first cruise ships in the world to utilize hybrid power using a battery system. A statement from the company said the hybrid technology will allow for sailing up to 30 minutes on battery-powered propulsion. “The technology, in combination with the construction of the hull and effective use of electricity onboard, will reduce the fuel consumption and CO2-emissions from the ships by 20,” said a statement. The hybrid solution was developed by Rolls Royce. In addition, Bellona, a non-profit organization working to meet and fight climate challenges, has been involved with the project. The hybrid ships will be built in two phases. The first ship will be equipped with an auxiliary electric engine, which will reduce the CO2 emissions by 20 percent.

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NEW Chocolatine Workshops in France

Bonjour! Chocolatine introduces some fabulous workshops available during your fabulous trip to France! Call your agent at Willamette Intl Travel for more info on these one of a kind tours!

NEW – Chocolate Workshop

  • *Learn the secret of making delicious chocolate candies and confections with Laurent, a talented master chocolatier, in his private workshop in a non-touristy area of Paris.
  • *Taste a variety of chocolates as you learn about the process from cacao bean to chocolate bar.
  • *Participate in hands-on chocolate candy preparation with Laurent and write your name in chocolate on your creations!
  • Duration: 90-minutes
  • When: Monday through Friday
  • Number of Guests: 2-5 people

NEW – Just Croissants Workshop

  • *Spend 4 glorious hours learning how to make croissants—perfect, beautiful, authentic croissants—from scratch with Johanna, a very talented pastry chef in her new atelier!
  • *Discover the secrets of the flaky pastry as you leaven the dough, fold in the butter, shape the croissants, and prepare cream fillings.
  • *Savor your freshly-baked goodness with a beverage, and take away the rest!
  • Duration: 4 hours
  • When: Monday & Tuesdays
  • Number of Guests: 3-6 people (no children under age 10)

Our NEW Chauffeur for you!

  • We have just connected with a fantastic chauffeur, ready to drive you around Paris! Although Paul is not a tour guide, he can showcase the highlights of the city and offer excellent information about the neighborhoods, monuments, and historic sites. If his guests want to enjoy a short coffee break… take photos… make a quick stop for a patisserie… Paul is happy to make it all happen!
  • Paul drives a brand new Nissan Qashqai
  • Number of guests: 3 people maximum – 1 in front, 2 in the back.  

Giverny with Paul!

  • If you enjoyed their city drive with Paul, he would be delighted to bring you to Giverny!
  • Includes: Hotel pick-up and drop-off
  • About 3 hours in Giverny, a visit to Monet’s garden, and time to stroll through the charming village.

REMINDER: Taste of Nice (an exclusive Chocolatine tour!)

Our wonderful Niçoises guide, Monique (locally born and raised!), takes visitors on a fantastic walking tour of Nice. Many summer guests enjoyed it immensely! For September and October travellers visiting the Riviera, this half-day (4-hour) tour provides a chance to discover the real heart and soul of Nice.

Highlights:

  • *Discover the unique architecture of the city.
  • *Meet the locals and discover the traditions of the Niçoises.
  • *Enjoy an introduction to AOC Olive Oil in the Alziari boutique—owned by the same family for five generations.
  • *Discover how a perfumer masters the creation of fragrances, while learning about the history of perfume. Create your own special perfume!
  • *Visit the oldest cellar in Nice (1860) where the owner, Franck, personally welcomes you. Add your name to a guest list that has included Elton John and Brad Pitt, and enjoy a conversation with Franck about his wine passion and his hometown of Nice.

Chocolatine in France. Hailing from France and based in the Pacific Northwest, Chocolatine offers private services in France that are 100% tailored to your needs. We work closely with them to arrange private excursions in Paris and elsewhere in France. Call us at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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A Quick Peek into Fall Festivals

It’s that time of year — autumn foliage, the crisp smell of rain, pumpkin spice and orange! Traveling somewhere this Autumn? Here are some great upcoming Fall Festivals to check out around the world!

Melbourne Festival. October 6-23. Australia! A crazy fest of dance, music, multimedia, theatre, and even circus arts, indoors and out!

Oasis. September 16-18. Morocco. This explosion of an event celebrates music and holistic health over three packed days in Marrakech.

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Oktoberfest. September 17-October 3. Munich, Germany. Of course, who can forget the beer festival to end all beer festivals, Oktoberfest. Starting in a matter of days, this lively German party of brews and brats is world-renowned.

Vegetarian Festival. September 30-October 10, Phuket. Vegetarians will delight in this festival just for them—which kicks off in Phuket Town in Thailand. Devout followers of Tao abstain from meat products.

El Señor de los Milagros. 18, 28 and 29 October. Lima, Peru. This colorful parade is in honor of the 350-year-old mural of Christ, which survived three major earthquakes in its life—hundreds walk in religious procession and decorate the avenues in purple.

Jidai Matsuri. October 22. Kyoto, Japan. Kyoto hosts a breathtaking procession, with period costumes that date all the way back through the city’s history.

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Diwali. October 30. India. If you’re in India in late October this year, you’re truly lucky to encounter the Festival of Lights. For five days, Indians light clay oil lamps, set off fireworks, give gifts, and decorate their homes and streets with flickering lanterns, bonfires, and bright lights. This unusual harvest festival welcomes the goddess Lakshmi for the new year.

Iceland Airwaves. November 2-6. Reykjavik, Iceland. Possibly the biggest festival in Iceland, and certainly one of the more famous in Scandinavia, the Airwaves is a time when all the bars, concert halls, and venues open their doors to musicians, famous and amateur alike. Even if tickets sell out, you can wander the streets to encounter performing artists!

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