For the last seven years I have spent New Year’s Eve away from home, it has almost become a sort of tradition for me and my best friend to share. We have spent New Year’s Eve in Bora Bora, Namibia, Marrakesh and Uganda among others. I have never been a big fan of large and crowded celebrations that accompany marked dates, so on several of those 7 special nights I have been in bed well before midnight. In Uganda the night went by just like any other, without any fanfare, we almost forgot it was New Year’s Eve. In Namibia and Bora Bora the lodge and resort organised a formal dinner and celebration but we were done by 10pm and unable to stay up so we just went to bed. But most people are not like me, as large fireworks displays and crowded churches all over the world would testify to.
Why do we celebrate New Year’s Eve?
The obvious answer would be because we love big parties and new beginnings. New Year’s Eve is the closure of a year and the opening of a new chapter and, for most of us, that is always a hopeful day. Be it because the past year was a difficult one or because it was a great one, looking forward to a new blank page fills us with well meaning resolutions and plans for the future.
Countries where New Year’s Eve is not on 31st of December
Historically, the last day of the year being 31 December was only established in Europe by the Pope in 1582 when he decided that the Church would adopt the Gregorian calendar. However, in the UK and US, the Gregorian calendar was only observed since 1752.
The Gregorian calendar, although seemingly followed across the world, is not the norm in Hindu, Chinese, Coptic, Jewish and Islamic parts of the world where that day falls on a different date. In fact, there is a larger part of the world not following it than doing so.
The Lunar New Year, observed by Chinese people across the world and countries like Vietnam or Singapore, changes every year but usually falls either at the end of January or beginning of February. For Jewish people, Rosh Hashanah eve can fall between 5th September and 5th October and marks the end of the Jewish calendar and the beginning of a new year. In Islam, the New Year’s eve date moves 11 days earlier every year as with most other Islamic celebrations like Ramadan or Eid.
Despite large parts of the world not following the Gregorian calendar, New Year’s Eve celebrations on 31st December are popular even in those places. Take Indonesia, Taiwan or even India for example.
Best places to celebrate New Year’s Eve
Whether you celebrate the end of the year by attending a church service, with your family at home, at a restaurant, with a group of friends or by gathering at an iconic landmark, one thing is common to New Year’s Eve celebrations everywhere: we like to be together. So here are a few of the greatest places to celebrate the best New Year’s Eve around the world according to well traveled travel writers and bloggers, because, as I just mentioned, I try to avoid crowds on this night so I would not be the best person to give advice!
1. Berlin, Germany
“Berlin throws one of Europe’s biggest open air parties for New Year’s Eve. The main festival is at Brandenburg Gate, which acts as a unique background to an evening of live music and fireworks. There’s always a mix of different music styles and artists, so there should be something for everyone, but expect some random acts you haven’t heard since the 90s (think David Hasselhoff & co). The party at Brandenburg Gate attracts up to a million people each year, so make sure to get there early, as police will close the entrance once it gets crowded. If standing on a cold German street isn’t your thing, the Kulturbrauerei throws the city’s biggest indoor festival at an old brewery. And at midnight, you can still go outside and watch the club’s own fireworks over the rooftop of the brewery – because no German New Year’s Eve party is complete without fireworks.”
2. Sydney, Australia
“There is no better place in the world to celebrate New Year’s Eve than in Sydney. The city knows how to party a lot and New Year’s Eve is the mother of all pyrotechnic shows and the mother of all parties. The images of the Sydney Harbour Bridge fireworks displays are broadcast all over the world and bring many people to Australia. To be a part of this fantastic night requires very early planning. Hotels book out and charge a fortune for this event, but it is worth the long haul flight for this party of all parties. The city of Sydney is mega crowded on NYE, both on the land and on the water, so be prepared for a lot of people welcoming in the New Year. If you want to sit under the stars and watch this performance across Sydney Harbour, you will need to get up early to secure a spot, and one of the best places is Mrs. Macquarie’s Point. There are limited numbers allowed there. You cannot bring alcohol with you, but you can pay a lot of money to buy a drink. If you don’t want to worry about whether or not you will secure a place, you can head to Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, at the Botanic Gardens, and have a meal under the stars at Midnight at the Oasis event for $415AU per adult, with no drinks included. You can buy drinks there, but expect to pay a premium. The Sydney Opera House is mayhem on a good way, and an excellent vantage point. If you want to watch the biggest show on earth from the water, and who doesn’t, then there are some cruise companies offering this experience. There are many places all over the city to watch the Sydney New Years Eve show. The best thing is to check out the very thorough official website for Sydney New Year’s Eve, for vantage points, costs and transportation.” Paula of Contented Traveller
3. Bangkok, Thailand
“Bangkok is a great city for New Year’s Eve. All of the main intersections along Sukhumvit, the main road running through the middle of Bangkok, get blocked off from traffic and there are also DJs, beer gardens, and parties set up all over. It is absolutely packed with people. We spent most of the night grabbing beers from 7/11s and finding killer free DJs and dancing. When it got close to midnight we made our way to a beer garden and listened to a Thai pop singer until midnight when the entire city was covered in fireworks. I’ve never experienced fireworks going off literally above my head. Thai people definitely know how to celebrate the coming of a New Year!” Megan from Forks and footprints
4. Bali, Indonesia
“Bali is not really an offbeat locale for spending NYE, it’s crowded and commercial, but I still had one of my best New Year’s Eve. Legian street, the famous party street in Kuta where infamous Skygarden and an array of other pubs are, was crowded and the festive spirit was catchy. There were people everywhere from the beach to the streets, to the clubs. As the clock stuck 12, it started drizzling but that didn’t stop everyone gathering on the street, beer in hand and despite the light drizzle, as one friendly, happy street party.” Jo from Wander with Jo
5. Paris, France
“I went on my first ever backpacking trip to Paris during Christmas and New Year’s Eve and it was a fun and joyful time to be in the City of Lights. Everybody congregates around the Eiffel Tower so go there early. The atmosphere in the city is that of a celebration and everyone is in a good mood. At midnight, the tower will be surrounded by fireworks. Don’t miss out on the night Christmas markets all around the city.” Evan from Pretty Wild World
6. Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
“While most travelers in Thailand flock to Koh Phangan for the massive New Years Eve party, you’d actually be foolish to think that the other islands don’t have anything else going on! Koh Phi Phi is one of the main party destinations in South-East Asia, and spending New Years Eve is truly an amazing experience! It’s basically like a mini full-moon party, but without the all madness that comes with going to Koh Phangan. Imagine lots of neon colours, buckets of whiskey, fire jumping, firework shows, and non-stop music. It’s also a lot less expensive than Koh Phangan, as prices tend to skyrocket on that particular island during NYE. Koh Phi Phi is hands down one of the most beautiful places in South-East Asia. You’ll spend your days going on snorkelling tours to pristine beaches, and then partying it up all night with amazing people from all over the world. It would be a NYE you’d never forget!” Dave from Jones around the world
7. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
“New Year’s Eve in Rio de Janeiro is a true classic. The biggest celebration is on Copacabana beach where the party continues the whole night. Copacabana is also the place for an amazing, world-famous fireworks display. It starts at midnight and lasts nearly 20 minutes. Traditionally people wear a full white outfit on New Year’s Eve as this symbolizes renewal and peace. If you want to be really trendy, you can wear colorful underwear beneath your white outfit. The different colors represent different things such as red is for romance and passion, yellow is for money and green is for good health. Grab a caipirinha from the street and dance the night away at the enormous beach party!” Gabriela from Gabriela Here and There
8. Goa, India
“One of our favourite places to celebrate NYE is Anjuna Beach (pictured) in Goa, India. We loved spending days leading up to New Years soaking up the sun and enjoying the laid back atmosphere, but when the big day rolled around, the beach transformed from a laid back paradise to the hub of celebrations in Goa. Amazing beats filled the air shortly after sunset and the partygoers from all over the world filled the beach in anticipation of the celebration. Fireworks erupted, wishing lanterns were lit and the party carried on until wee hours of the morning.” Oksana from Drink Tea Travel
9. Taipei, Taiwan
“New Year Eve in Taipei – that is huge fireworks at Taipei 101, icon of the city. During the countdown, the building lights up floor by floor from the bottom up, which actually makes Taipei 101 the world’s biggest New Year’s Eve countdown clock. The surrounding streets get crowded, but luckily there is enough other spots. A great view is from Elephant and Tiger mountain. When it comes to hotels, Grand Hyatt Taipei, W Taipei and Shangri-La have some amazing views.” Veronika from Veronika’s Adventure
10. Gisborne, New Zealand
“Kiwi’s certainly know how to party, so why not be one of the first to see the sunrise for the new year at the Rhythm & Vines Festival in Gisborne. The majority of New Years festival goers will be camping out, but you can go real kiwi and book a bach on the waterfront (you’ll need to book in advance). New Years Eve at the Rhythm & Vines has plenty of local kiwi musicians, friends to be made and the best chance of nice weather in one of the sunniest cities in New Zealand!” Jub from Tiki Touring Kiwi
11. La Paz, Bolivia
“An unexpected find for us on New Years Eve 2014/2015 was high in the Altiplano mountains of South America. La Paz is a breath-taking city, both literally and figuratively, at over 4,000 metres in altitude breathing becomes a conscious and laborious process, but standing on a rooftop overlooking the time-warped and shabby art deco buildings framed by jagged snow-capped peaks on all sides makes it well worth the effort. Usually quite a reserved city, La Paz seemed to spring into life on New Years Eve, as if the whole city had been conserving energy for this one big night of the year. Every square was filled with people and the streets were lined with performers, magicians, singers and dancers. What struck us most about La Paz on New Years Eve was not just the visual spectacles which surrounded us, but the sense that an entire community had poured out into the cold streets to celebrate another year in one of the harshest environments on the planet. And yes, they have awesome fireworks!” Jon and Kach from Mr and Mrs Howe
12. Huacachina, Peru
“Years ago I spent New Years Eve in a tiny Oasis town called Huacachina in Peru. It was one of the best New Years Eves of my entire life! While the town itself may or may not have had much going on, the hostel I stayed at – Casa de Arena – has a discoteque in which there was a massive party. The hostel was packed and we partied all night – in fact I went to bed at 6am, and was the first in my dorm room of 20 people! It was sheer insanity, and I highly recommend it!” Danielle from Like riding a bicycle
Peru is also the perfect place to learn Spanish. Find out why here.
13. Siem Reap, Cambodia
Ok, so sometimes I do go places where they do celebrate New Year’s Eve and one of them was Siem Reap, near Angkor Wat. In fact, this is the best time of the year to visit this UNESCO listed heritage temple complex. The weather is perfect, in the middle of the dry season, and the tourists have not yet arrived in drones so you will have a quieter time. But on the evening of the last day of the year, Pub Street, where all the bars and restaurants are, will be absolutely crowded with everyone who is in town. Expect to find a spot among the people and then be stuck there until the midnight bells and count down end. Some people will be throwing water from the balconies to the sweating crowds and the air will be filled with music and joy. A great way to share in the welcome to the new year. After midnight, head to any of the bars in the area. The party carries on until the morning and, why not start the day with a sunrise on the temple or with a helicopter ride?
Bonus: If you’re heading to Siem Reap, you’ll definitely want to save this useful guide.
And of course, Singapore puts on a real show only like Singapore can. The fireworks above the Marina are stunning, truly breathtaking, and rehearsed multiple times so they are just perfect. Contrary to other destinations where fantastic fireworks make an appearance, Singapore is not as crowded as Sydney or Times Square, so you will not have to queue up for a good vantage point at sunrise.
15. Boracay, Philippines
“Boracay Island in the Philippines is one of the best places to usher in the New Year. Imagine standing right by the edge of the water, your feet touching the powder white sand as you watch loads of fireworks light up the sky while you sip on a cocktail. It is magical! After that, the island is just one huge party! Everyone dances and parties the night away until you end up in Area 51 Bar in Bulabog Beach watching the sunrise as you welcome the new year.” Anna from Adventure in You