Carnival revellers in Rio de Janeiro's Sambadrome (plasmastick/Flickr)

Where to go in February

If you’re looking for a knees-up, you’ve come to the right month, when huge swathes of mankind dust off their sequins and shake their tailfeathers…

Yes, it’s carnival time. Almost anywhere in the Catholic world will have a celebration of some sort, ranging from the extravagantly Latino to the quirkily local. Festivities are timed in relation to Easter, but fall sometime in February or early March, often with weeks of fringe events either side.

Events & festivals

CARNIVAL! – The world’s most famous carnival is, of course, Rio – but equally flamboyant and perhaps more enjoyable celebrations also take place in the Brazilian cities of Salvador, Sao Paulo, Recife and Olinda. If you’re not fond of big crowds, head for a small town: Paraty and Ouro Preto are among hundreds of venues for more intimate celebrations.

And of course carnival’s not just for Brazil: you’ll find celebrations all over Latin America and the Caribbean (hotspots include Trinidad & Tobago, Barranquilla in Colombia, and La Diablada festival in Bolivia). In Europe, there are events all over Spain and major shindigs in Malta and at Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands.

In Italy, Venice gets (even more) jammed for its mask-wearing, steet-performing carnival; and in New Orleans and Sydney, world-famous Mardi Gras celebrations bring the cities to a halt.

ALSO PARTYING – On February 2 it’s Groundhog Day (yes, again) in the USA. In Japan, the delicate ice sculptures of the Sapporo Snow Festival draw thousands of visitors, while in Mali, the Festival sur le Niger (15-19 February 2012) is rapidly becoming a major event on the world music calendar.


CATS AND DOGS – Snow on the ground makes it an ideal month to track wolves in Romania, Sweden and Poland. In Nepal it’s a good time for tiger (and other game) spotting: the towering elephant grass in Royal Chitwan National Park is cut, leaving the big cats more exposed. In Ladakh, the elusive snow leopard descends from the high valleys in search of winter prey: you might just get a glimpse…

WHALE WATCHING Orcas start arriving off the Valdes Peninsula, Argentina and can be seen until the end of April. Orcas and minkes are also at their most abundant in Antarctica. Baja California in Mexico is chock-a-block with commuting cetaceans: humpbacks, blues and greys.


BOAT TRIPS – With mild daytime temperatures, it’s a good month for a Nile cruise or to be on the water in the southern Mediterranean. Sailing conditions in the Caribbean are perfect, too – one reason this is still pricey peak season.

WALKING & TREKKING – Southern Europe and north Africa are getting milder: consider Spain, Turkey, the Canaries or Libya. In Peru, the Inca Trail is closed for maintenance this month each year – but Machu Picchu remains open, as do alternative hiking trails. It’s rainy season – which means flooding for the unfortunate, but quiet trails and lush scenery if you’re lucky.

Natural phenomena

FLOCKS – In Mexico, monarch butterflies mass and start to head north for the world’s largest insect migration. In Kenya, up to 2 million flamingos congregate in the Great Rift Valley. Closer to home, flocks of up to 40,000 starlings take to the sky daily in Slimbridge, Gloucester.

ENDLESS WAVE – Surfers head to the mouth of the Amazon to catch the ‘endless wave’ of the pororoca – the 4m-high Atlantic tidal bore which sweeps up the river in February and March.

SUMMER SUN – In the Arctic, the sun rises for the first time in four months.

The weather is nice in...

HAVANA, Cuba 19-27°C

BOMBAY, India 20-29°C

DAKAR, Senegal 18-28°C

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina 18-29°C

TASMANIA, Australia 13-23°C

Weather trends continue on from January, but summer in the south will soon be coming to an end so take advantage of these destinations before the rains arrive. Cuba is perfect for this time of year for sunny days and cool nightsl. This is also the perfect time for a cultural visit to Thailand or India with blissfully warm temperatures up to 30°C.

Summer temperatures in Antarctica of 5°C to 0°C (yes, those are summer temperatures!) will soon begin to plummet, so board a cruise and explore its frozen wilderness.

Conventional wisdom says:

February is merely as long as needed to pass the time until March.

Wanderlust says:

Pass the time by partying at the Festival sur le Niger in Mali.

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