Whether you're searching for some unique wildlife encounters, the biggest party on Earth or the most thrilling landscapes on the planet, we’ve rounded up the best places to visit in February...
February might be when most of us are still reeling from the extravagances of the festive season, but for adventurous travellers it means something more.
This is when you can catch the tail-end of summer in the Southern Hemisphere, ice skate across a city, witness the world’s largest wildlife migrations or lose your inhibitions in the rhythms of carnival season.
Whether you're searching for some unique wildlife encounters, the biggest party on Earth or a chance to explore the most thrilling landscapes on the planet, we’ve rounded up the best places to visit this February.
Skip ahead to your chosen travel type by clicking on one of the below, or keep scrolling for the full list:
The chances of seeing a snow leopard in your lifetime are not high. Fewer than 7,000 are thought to exist in the wild. But if you’re ever going to spot one, the mountains of Ladakh in February offer the best opportunity.
This is when mating season (January to March) is in full flow and when treks to the high-altitude steppe of Hemis National Park offer the best chance of sightings. The big cats live here in greater numbers than anywhere else on the planet.
It’s still not easy, though. Tours pit-stop in mountain villages and remote camps, with plenty of walking and waiting in between. Altitudes top 3,000m, which takes some getting used to, and trips usually last around two weeks, meaning sightings require patience and strong thighs.
February is peak mating season for the red-crowned cranes of the Kushiro marshlands. These rare birds can be seen on kayaking trips year-round, but it’s only in late winter (February to March) that you can witness their mating dance.
Known locally as ‘tancho’, it was here that a group of 20 birds were found in 1924, long after they were thought to have been hunted to extinction. Now, around 1,000 live in reserves across the island’s north-east, with feeding time at Akan International Crane Centre an easy way to see them up close.
For those who’d rather bag a picture in the wild, the forests around Tsurui see photographers staking out bridges early in the morning with long lens cameras. If you arrive early enough in the month, you may also catch the end of Sapporo’s Snow Festival, with its dazzling ice and snow carvings.
February is a unique time to spot grey whales in Mexico. These creatures undertake one of the longest migrations by a mammal on Earth, travelling 15,000km of the North American coast from the summer feeding areas of the Arctic to the warm winter breeding grounds of the Sea of Cortez.
It’s here, in the shallow bays off Baja California, that these barnacled giants arrive en masse to give birth, typically doing so between January and March. This is also the best time to see them up close.
Visitors travel out by traditional panga boats into the subtropical waters of Magdalena Bay and San Ignacio Lagoon for encounters, where friendly whales often rub up against the hulls, feeling for the hands of visitors to encourage a welcome scratch. Unforgettable.
Whale sharks arrive in St Helena’s warm waters, far off the tip of South Africa, as early as December. But it’s not until February that their numbers peak. It’s then that travellers in groups of up to 16 get a chance to clamber into the water and swim alongside these remarkable creatures for up to 45 minutes.
In previous years, as many as 30 whale sharks have been tagged in these waters yet few could witness it until recently. Thanks to the beginning of regular flights from Johannesburg in 2018, what was once among the world’s most hard-to-reach outposts is now easy to access.
It’s not just whale sharks, either. The chances of spotting devil rays, turtles and pantropical dolphins while in the water is high. The coral reefs here are also something special.
There’s no fixed date for when Ottawa’s ice is thick enough to venture on, but the world’s largest naturally frozen ice rink is usually ready by February, by which time its 7.8km of locks and canals become a thrilling skateway.
It’s a great alternative way to explore Canada’s capital, sliding through one neighbourhood after another. February also coincides with Winterlude (the first three weekends of the month), which sees snow sculptures, ice carving and even an ‘ice dragon boat race’ skid down the canal.
Then, once you’re done with the crowds, make for the scenic quiet of Gatineau National Park, lying on the capital’s doorstep. Here, 61km of snowshoeing trails offer a gateway into the true Canadian wilderness.
February sees the return of the Geilo Ice Music Festival, held deep in the snow-blanketed forests of southern Norway, midway between Oslo and Bergen. It’s undeniably one of Europe’s most unique festivals.
Concerts take place in spectacular frozen caves, while all instruments are carved from the ice itself. The effort that goes into creating, shaping and tuning them – drums, guitars, harps, even saxophones – is remarkable.
Everywhere, technicians can be seen chainsawing huge ice blocks into shape, carving them with the delicacy of artists. The highlight is the midnight concert, complete with a dazzling lightshow against the Hardangerjokulen Glacier. Magical.
It might seem contrary to visit Yellowstone National Park in winter, when many of its facilities and roads are closed, but February is a special month.
The park is another world in winter, when visitors are at their scarcest. Facilities may be reduced but miles of snowshoe and cross-country skiing routes are still serviced by ‘warming huts’, where you can rest up.
Wildlife watchers in particular know that the thick snows of January and February offer a unique opportunity. The park’s famous wolves are far easier to spot and photograph against a white background. Winter tours of the Lamar Valley put the life-and-death antics of the pack on full view, with plenty of elk, bison and bighorn sheep to be seen.
February is the perfect time for a dog-sledding safari in Finnish Lapland’s frigid north. The deep snows of midwinter haven’t disappeared yet while the days are just starting to lengthen as spring stirs.
Wilderness hotels in Muotka and Nellim make great bases for dog-sledding tours, set deep in the wild. Here, you can learn to harness your dogs before mushing into the dense forests of the surrounding parkland during the day, feeling the snow rush beneath your skids.
Then, come the evening, snowmobile-pulled sleighs take travellers out to camps, where they can spend the night under a glass roof, watching aurora-ripped skies cavort from the warmth of a cosy bed.
February in Italy’s busy Dolomites is among the region’s busiest periods. This is when the ski slopes are at their fullest, so it’s the perfect excuse to discover a different way of exploring the region’s UNESCO-listed mountains.
Snowshoeing trips reveal the region in all its solitude. Fanes-Sennes Natural Park in particular has a number of trails that double as winter escapes. Pit-stop in rifugios along the Alta Via 1, teetering across rock walls, clambering down into valleys and discovering relics of the First World War when this area belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
When not on the slopes, explore elegant old towns like Bolzano or maybe glimpse your first ‘snow polo’ match. An annual food festival even runs throughout winter, with wine tastings in ski huts and al fresco breakfasts on the slopes.
Or just rest up for your next snowshoe adventure, such as padding past old trenches and bunkers under the magnificent ‘towers’ of Cinque Torri.
Forget Rio. During February the party never stops in Uruguay’s capital, with Montevideo making a colourful base for experiencing the longest carnival season in the world (late January to early March).
Uruguay’s celebrations are a bit different to the rest of South America’s more flamboyant street festivities. Yes, there are parades, but here the evenings are mostly dominated by small stages (tablados) where carnival groups compete nightly as you sit back with a cup of mate.
The ‘murga’ category – a kind of choral musical theatre with a satirical edge – is the star. Few topics are off-limits for these troupes, and while many references may go over the head of even Spanish-speaking visitors, for sheer spectacle and wild costumes, they’re the highlight of the carnival.
February sees the return of the USA’s biggest party to New Orleans: Mardi Gras. These days it’s best known for its street parades, but its roots actually lie in the society balls thrown by Louisiana’s French governor centuries ago.
By the late 1800s, however, the carnival had fallen into a more familiar pattern, with colourful parades and floats marshalled by ‘krewes’ of revellers hurling ‘throws’ of necklaces and trinkets into the crowds.
It’s worth knowing that while Mardi Gras (‘Fat Tuesday’) itself falls on the day before Ash Wednesday, this marks the crowning day of weeks of festivities in New Orleans, during which it’s far easier to bag a room and a spot to stand along the busiest parade routes.
Crowds always peak during the extended weekend before the big day, so you’ll need to book a stay months in advance if you want to be there.
Like most carnivals in February, the festivities of Belgium’s Binche Carnival, in the Wallonia region, are tied to Easter, taking place on Shrove Sunday.
It’s then that this small Belgian town is invaded by armies of harlequins, pierrot clowns and, of course, gilles – costumed figures known for their wax masks and ostrich-plumed hats. They carry sticks to ward off evil spirits and often pass out oranges, which are considered rude to turn down.
The UNESCO-listed festival’s origins are unknown yet it is still one of the oldest in Europe. Dancers jiggle to the strums of traditional folk music and the finale sees thousands of gilles waggle their plumes in the main square under the crack of the evening fireworks.
By then it’s typically a lively affair, so watch out for the odd flying orange!
February is party time in the Caribbean. Held on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the ‘world’s biggest street party’ is a century-old pre-Lent bender that began with the arrival of French settlers to the islands.
After emancipation, the festival was adopted by the freed slaves and Africanised. It has survived despite many colonial attempts to ban it. Today, thousands pour onto the streets for the centrepiece ‘mas’ parades, stirred by the rhythms of the steelpan and soca.
One annual highlight is the ‘Kings and Queens’ competition, which sees contestants don incredible costumes, some weighing nearly 100kg, while brass bands, calypso competitions and an apocalypse-worth of fireworks light up the night.
February’s ten-day Carnaval de Oruro in western Bolivia is an experience like no other, and for those happy to brave the thin air of the altiplano, it’s a cultural encounter with a long history.
By the 1800s, what was once a raucous celebration of indigenous gods had been papered over by Christian imagery following the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors.
In its place rose something unique: parades of 28,000 devils and dancers hot-footing it down the high street of Oruro, merging Old and New World beliefs in a small city wrapped by mountains.
Buses take around four hours to reach Oruro from capital La Paz. Catching your breath isn’t easy at 3,700m, much less when a wave of pagan and Catholic imagery rolls towards you.
Indeed, for those attending, it pays to arrive days earlier – getting used to this altitude is no easy thing – but the head-swimming mix of music, dance and costumes are invigorating.
The four-km Saturday parade route in particular sees devils surrounded by dance groups and trailed by cars bejewelled in shining crockery, with the ‘dance of the devils’ the most famous of the performances.
Tasmania is as famed for its notoriously fickle weather as its scenery. February, however, sees the tail-end of the Australian summer (December to February).
The island state is at its best, with artsy capital Hobart making a great base for trips to the coves and beaches of Freycinet National Park or hikes up nearby Mount Wellington. The long warm days make it ideal for exploring Tasmania’s wilds on foot, with wild multi-day trails in abundance.
Overland Track (65km) is perhaps the most famous, winding the bush, falls and buttongrass moorlands of the UNESCO-listed Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. If you’d prefer a more laid-back day out, grab a ferry from Kettering to Bruny Island instead.
The narrow isthmus of the ‘neck’ lets you scan for penguins, while the Sheepwash Bay Track is littered with the remnants of early settlers.
Iceland in February is a special time for aurora hunters. The season runs from October to late March, after which it becomes too bright to see the phenomenon. However, February is the last of the really dark months.
Iceland is well located for skygazers. It sits slap bang in the ‘aurora oval’, an area encircling the Magnetic North Pole where sightings are strongest.
The other big plus is that it’s very sparsely populated, with long stretches of wilderness and few towns, so there’s little light pollution. Stays like the remote Hotel Ranga even boast their own observatory out in the wilds.
Then there’s the new Arctic Coast Way, a driving route that opened in 2019. It spans 900km some of the most far-flung spots in Iceland’s north, between Hvammstangi and Bakkafjörður, meaning you can pit-stop at dazzling fjords, sweltering hot springs and quiet fishing villages during the day then find your own solitary viewing spot at night.
February is a dream time to explore Chilean Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park. By then, the flood of summer-holidaying locals has dissipated, the nights are still warm and there’s 14 good hours of daylight to play with.
The conditions and long days make it perfect for taking on one of its most iconic challenges. The ‘W’ trail (71km) zigzags the wild north of Torres del Paine and takes five or six days to traverse. It’s also easy to reach, with most hikers starting from Refugio Las Torres, a bus ride from Puerto Natales.
Along the way you’ll encounter the region’s most famous valleys (Grey, Ascensio and Francés) and stroll under the multi-coloured spires of Los Cuernos (The Horns) and through the ice fields of Grey Glacier on a route packed with incredible scenery.
February affords a chance to see what few have witnessed: Antarctica’s adventurous east.
There’s a narrow window (late January to early March) in which ships can make the journey to the Ross Sea from New Zealand and Australia.
The journey can be rough, and most trips take around 25 days, but it’s worth it. Some routes even circle west to the Antarctic Peninsula, finishing in Ushuaia, Argentina, over a month after setting off.
It’s not all staring out of a port hole, though. Stops at the subantarctic birding islands south of New Zealand are unforgettable. Macquarie Island alone is home to some four million penguins and rare colonies of albatross.
But the real goal here is the Ross Sea, home to the world’s largest ice shelf. This is where Antarctic explorers of the Heroic Age made history. The wooden huts of Scott (Hut Point and Cape Evans) and Shackleton (Cape Royds) can even be visited by helicopter transfer. A chance to touch history.
February sees the last of the mild weather on the windswept Falklands, making it a great time to visit – not least for the wildlife you’ll find among some of the remotest scenery on Earth.
This month signals the last gasps of summer (highs of 13ºC), and its long days are handy for sightings. Gypsy Cove, just 6.5km from colourful capital Port Stanley, is a particularly easy-to-reach spot to spy Magellanic penguins, whose chicks first emerge from their burrows late in the month.
In fact, the Falklands themselves are far more reachable than you’d imagine. They are now a common stop on Antarctic cruises, while direct UK flights go twice-weekly from Brize Norton, Oxfordshire.
Once there, island hopping trips put the archipelago’s full majesty on show, with vast beaches filled with suckling sea lions and young penguins as well as sei, fin and blue whales crashing in the waters offshore.
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