Don’t Miss: Las Parrandas de Remedios
Across the Caribbean, Christmas is celebrated with lights, music, food, and family. In the Cuban city of Remedios, a hundred miles east of Havana, it’s also celebrated with noise — lots of noise. The seasonal festival of Las Parrandas de Remedios, running from 16 to 26 December, supposedly began when the local priest asked a bunch of children to make as much noise as possible to wake parishioners for mass. What started then as a clamour of pots, pans, and tins full of pebbles has evolved over the centuries into a massive display of fireworks, accompanied by conga bands and illuminated floats, and ending in a blazing competition between two neighbourhoods.
How to get there? Caribbean Airlines operates two flights each week to Havana’s José Martí International Airport from Trinidad, with connections to other Caribbean destinations
Must Try: New Year celebrations
In New York City, the iconic ball drop over Times Square welcomes the New Year. Over in Hong Kong, the transition is marked by a dazzling display of fireworks. Popping Champagne, counting down, or reflecting and giving thanks at church services are other popular traditions around the world. As 2018 comes to a close, and the ink on your resolution list begins to dry, here are three exciting ways to see in 2019 across the Caribbean.
On the morning of the last day of the year, downtown Paramaribo is closed off to traffic. Bleachers and platforms line the streets, drink and food vendors fit into even the smallest crevice, and live bands and sound systems fill the air with music. In the midst of it all, small red firecrackers woven into a huge garland run for almost a mile through the main streets. As noon approaches, police officers clear the way and people automatically reach for their earplugs. The loudest pyrotechnic display in the Caribbean ignites. Confetti fills the air, music pumps, and the jubilant crowds cheer. The spectacle finally winds down as midnight approaches.
Foxy’s Old Year’s Party
Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands
There’s hardly any standing room. Great Harbour is packed with boats and dinghies. The catalyst is one little beach bar on the island known for throwing the Caribbean’s best Old Year’s party. Musicians from around the Caribbean perform while guests dine and dance barefoot in the sand. Foxy himself mingles with the crowd, many of whom are return visitors. He quickly learns and remembers your name, and sometimes weaves you into the lyrics of a song, making you the centre of attention. Libations of Pain Killers, Dread Foxes, and Sly Foxes — his legendary cocktails — are highly recommended as you usher in the New Year with friends and fireworks.
Nassau, the Bahamas
Vibrant handmade costumes and floats prepared with thousands of strips of colourful crêpe paper, cardboard, feathers, and glitter come alive on Bay Street for Nassau’s New Year’s Day Junkanoo parade. The sweet sounds of brass bands invite cheerful onlookers to move to their melodies. Beginning just after midnight, the parade is in full swing for hours. Bells, cow horns, and whistles accompany the masqueraders as they “rush” along the parade route, breaking out in choreographed dances. What better way to start a thrilling 2019?
Top Three: Rupununi adventures
Guyana’s Rupununi Savannah is a five-thousand-square-mile region of vast rolling vistas, packed with flora, fauna, wetlands, and forest. It’s the Wild West, but the Guyanese version. Here are three places to experience the Rupununi’s remote grandeur.
Once the world’s largest cattle ranch, still home to traditional vaqueiros, and now also a base for intrepid eco-tourists, who can join the action in parting the herds, or shepherding the cattle into the corral. On your safari, look out for jaguars, anacondas, and giant anteaters. At night, the clear sky yields to the Milky Way, providing tranquillity and an ideal opportunity for photographers.
Makatau Petroglyph Trail
Three kilometres outside the Wapishana village of Aishalton, Makatau is one of Guyana’s best archaeological sites for petroglyphs (ancient rock carvings) — or timehri, as they’re locally known. This rock art is estimated to date back to 3,000 to 5,000 BC, with over six hundred representations of humans, animals, geometric arrangements, and plants etched in stone around the site (above right).
The Rupununi is a birders’ paradise: harpy eagles, storks, ibises, herons, and dozens more are eager to show off their beauty in your binocular viewfinder. Almost any location in the savannahs will offer new species for your life list, but the village of Karasabai is special: here is one of the most accessible remaining populations of the endangered and brilliantly plumed Sun Parakeet (at right).
Camping in the open, grappling with rough terrain, and toiling up undulating hills are part of the Guyana savannah experience. From 20 to 25 November, the South Rupununi Safari will take adventurers on a trek through the region and across the border to Boa Vista, the capital of the Brazilian state of Roraima. The safari passes through several indigenous villages, encouraging participants to explore different cultures in new environments. Prepare to explore little-known places within the Rupununi while meeting the indigenous peoples who’ve lived here for generations.