December 10, 2021
New Years is one of the biggest nights of the year around the world. While millions gather in the big cities, squashed like sardines in the crowds, others celebrate with locals gaining a true cultural experience. By heading slightly off the beaten path, you'll experience different traditions for celebrating the end of the year and won't spend the night feeling claustrophobic either.
Here are five unique places to spend New Year’s Eve this year for an alternative celebration.
New Year's Eve is a big deal in Mexico. Locals anticipate this night for both the partying and the traditional rituals. So if you want to experience a celebration with a difference, Mexico city is where you want to be. Many locals will eat a late meal, around 11pm, then head out to one of the plazas or a bar to clink glasses and watch the fireworks.
The most famous ritual in Mexico and across all Spanish-speaking countries is to eat 12 grapes at midnight. Each grape represents one month of the new year, and you’re supposed to make a wish for every grape you eat. However, for your 12 wishes to come true, you have to eat all the grapes in 60-seconds. Another thing you'll notice in Mexico city is locals leaving lentils outside their doors. This is supposed to bring prosperity and abundance for the coming year.
If a tropical island sounds like the dream place to see in the new year, head to Koh Phangan in Thailand. This famous tourist island is ideal for either a low-key celebration or an epic party. For a truly memorable night, Haad Rin is the place to be. Haad Rin is the party capital of the island, featuring multiple bars and clubs along the beach. NYE sees a huge beach party where you can dance with the sand beneath your toes all night long.
Alternatively, if you want to keep things quiet head to one of the lesser-known beaches. Thong Nai Pan is a secluded spot in the north of the island and makes for a peaceful and beautiful midnight countdown. Plus, for a unique cultural experience, head to a local temple during the evening to “make merit”. Many Thais do this on the last day of the year to mark the occasion and receive a blessing of prosperity from the monks.
No one parties like the South Americans, so if you're looking for a wild night, you'll love Cusco in Peru. It's incredible to witness this historic center come alive on NYE with fireworks and street parties. The party starts at the central plaza as soon as the sun sets, with groups of friends coming together to enjoy a few "cervezas." However, by midnight, the streets are full of locals dancing, and the joy is contagious.
A unique NYE tradition in Peru is to wear something yellow. Locals believe wearing yellow as the clock strikes 12 will bring good luck for the new year. So expect to see some funny costumes and accessories. Many Peruvians also follow the "The 12 grapes" tradition, like the Mexicans.
If you prefer a more peaceful NYE experience in Peru, spend the night in Machu Picchu or the Sacred Valley. Here, there will be more of a spiritual vibe rather than a party one. Still, it will undoubtedly be the most memorable New Year's Eve you'll ever have as you lay under the stars listening to the sounds of nature.
Not many people know about the epic New Year's Eve celebration in Zurich called Silvesterzauber (New Year's magic). The party takes place around the lake in the Bellevue and Bürkliplatzannual districts, where you'll find tons of food stalls, pop-up bars, and party tents. As the area fills up, it becomes a huge open-air party. Then at midnight, you'll hear the annual ringing of the Grossmünster bells, followed by a spectacular firework display.
If partying in the city doesn't appeal to you, celebrate the new year on the ski slopes instead. There are several fantastic ski resorts within 90-minutes of the city center. Most put on extravagant NYE dinners and galas.
Iceland is a popular Christmas destination, but many visitors here return home before the new year. What's more, most people opt for a warmer European country to spend NYE because of the sub-zero temperatures here. Even so, Iceland is an incredible place to be as the clock strikes 12 on December 31st.
Reykjavik puts on a unique community firework display where the locals buy their own fireworks as part of the city's fundraising project. Everyone sets them off at midnight, resulting in an incredible scene as the bright lights illuminate the snow-covered streets and buildings. The top of Öskjuhlíð hill is one of the best spots at midnight as it gives an expansive view of the city.
Of course, Iceland is famous for its natural light show, Aurora Borealis. So, if you're not a fan of fireworks, drive a few kilometers out of the city center to Grótta natural reserve. In the dark wilderness here, away from the city's activity, you can see in the new year while watching the spectacular (and silent) Northern Lights.
With so many unique and exciting places to toast to the new year, there's no reason to fight the crowds in London, New York or Sydney. Instead, you can have a unique quirky yet memorable experience in one of these five destinations and learn about some special traditions, too. Cheers!