Samoa beach.
Samoa beach.
Image: Vidi/Unsplash

New Year’s Eve is a divisive topic. Either you embrace it with gusto, all sparklers and sequinned tops, or you roll your eyes and grumble about the traffic. I won’t lie, you’re more likely to find me in the latter camp.

But after a year like 2021 has thrown at us (didn’t we say this about 2020, too?) the chance for a reboot and a fresh start feels more urgent than ever. Though travel bans are keeping us closer to home once again, that can’t stop us dreaming or planning. So even if you’re in Muldersdrift not Manhattan this year, Edenvale rather than Edinburgh, consider this your boarding pass for vicarious visit to the world’s best New Year’s Eve shindigs.

Be the first

New Year’s Eve connoisseurs should add Samoa and Kiribati to their bucket list for the future. Cast adrift in the Pacific, just to the west of the international date line, these island archipelagos are the first countries in the world to welcome the new year. Strict clock-watchers will head for the beaches of Lalomanu on the eastern edge of Upolu Island, or visit the capital city of Apia, where fireworks erupt from the summit of Mount Vaea.

Dive into a new year in Samoa.
Dive into a new year in Samoa.
Image: Ethan Elisara/Unsplash

Got the postcard

Manhattan always knows how to throw a good party, whether it’s Pride Week or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. And that rings especially true on December 31, when crowds flock (masked up, we hope) to Times Square to watch the crystal ball fall and mark the start of a new year. If you don’t want to jostle with the crowds, tables at the R Lounge in the Renaissance Hotel offer superb views of the Square. Or, make like a local and catch the Q train to Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for free live music and fireworks.

NYC Times Square.
NYC Times Square.
Image: Luo Lei/Unsplash

Starry nights

Iceland is something of a sleeper hit when it comes to celebrating the new year, but here you’ll find truly unforgettable fireworks displays. Of course there’s no set time, but the Northern Lights are best enjoyed in the dark days of December, and tour operators across the island will take you out into the wilderness to gaze in awe at the heavens.

Iceland - northern lights.
Iceland - northern lights.
Image: Joshua Earle/Unsplash

Or, in the capital of Reykjavik, watch man-made fireworks light up the skyline as enthusiastic locals let off their own pyrotechnics. The large square in front of the Hallgrímskirkja church is a local favourite, with its location on Skólavörðuholt hill offering superb city views.

Iceland church.
Iceland church.
Image: Ferdinand Stohr/Unsplash

Sláinte to 2022

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations attract tens of thousands of people to the city centre, turning Scotland’s New Year’s countdown into a two-day festival of fireworks, flames and music. The torchlight procession wends its way through the city’s medieval Old Town, ending in Holyrood park, while New Year’s Eve itself sees revellers descend on Princes Street and the gardens for street theatre and music, before Edinburgh Castle erupts in fireworks at midnight. Wash away your hangover at the “Loony Dook”, a fancy-dress parade followed by a swim in the freezing Firth of Forth.

Edinburgh Castle fireworks.
Edinburgh Castle fireworks.
Image: Alan Harris/Unsplash
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