The best places to visit in February

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5 places in 4 countries
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When February comes off the calendar, you can’t blame everyone for wanting to go all-in on some of the most exotic travel experiences on offer anywhere in the world.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, steams with samba and less so with Carnival; the city’s inborn gift for fun throws millions into the street and into the samba schools for a show that the world can’t match. And when does New Orleans? A truly unusual blend of French, African, and American cultures makes a cuisine, music, and a set of traditions all their own during the world’s most famous Mardi Gras.

Bardonecchia in Europe is always popular with ski resorts.

Meanwhile, in The Maldives, Malé is a universe of island life in the Indian Ocean. There is a turquoise sea and brilliant coral reefs. February is when it all comes together, and everything stays in—including the miserably cold tourists.

But forget the islands for now. Instead, head into — Yellowstone National Park, for bleak winter gives way to awe-striking geysers, hot springs, and still the best wilderness wildlife experience to be found anywhere.

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Rio de Janeiro

City in🇧🇷 Brazilrated
4.1

We all know about the lively culture and stunning landscapes of Rio de Janeiro, but there’s nothing quite like it in February. Rio is the home to the biggest and best party under the sun—Carnival.

Rio’s Carnival is the biggest Carnival in the world. It is a 5-day celebration of samba music, dance, and over-the-top costumes that have taken over Rio and its streets.

The Carnival takes place at different date each year. It starts on Friday and ends on Fat Tuesday, the day before the start of lent which kicks off on Ash Wednesday. This dates back to 1723 as a food festival, where people would eat as much rich, fatty food as possible in preparation for the following period of fasting, Lent, it is now a massive celebration that draws millions from around the world.

The streets become an open theater throughout the city as samba schools compete in parading beautifully decorated floats with thousands of dancers past the throngs of people through the Sambadrome.

The parades tell different stories, show off spectacularly themed costumes and strive for the best choreography. Each neighborhood also holds its own street party or ‘bloco’ where locals and tourists alike join in for food, music, dancing and fun.

A little-known fact is that samba music is a song and dance form with roots in Africa. And the samba song itself is also judged during Carnival and each samba school has a samba song especially created for that year's parade.

February is hot hot hot in Rio so popular Brazilian foods to fill up on during Carnival include feijoada, a black bean stew with pork, and pastéis, the deep-fried pastry pockets filled with meat, cheese, or tuna (among other fillings).

Be warned though—you’ll be dealing with massive crowds and jacked up prices during this time.

Explore Rio de Janeiro

New Orleans

City in🇺🇸 United Statesrated
4.4

February is a time of great excitement in New Orleans; while all the world broadcasts festivals, the festival broadcasts itself in New Orleans.

Unlike Rio's Carnival, renowned for its samba parade, where samba schools compete in a highly choreographed and visually stunning procession, Mardi Gras puts its focus on community engagement, involving elaborate floats, marching bands, and participants throwing beads, trinkets, and other items to the crowd.

The event, celebrated on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, paints the town in hues of purple, gold and green. Tourists and locals alike gather on the streets to witness the grand parades, donning vibrant masks and tossing beads. The "throws", as they're locally known, are a distinctive part of Mardi Gras and can range from beads to doubloons and even coconuts by social clubs called “Krewes.”

For when you’ve had your fill of beads, Doubloons and coconuts, New Orleans offers still more. On Frenchmen Street, just steps outside the French Quarter, the city’s finest join the extraordinary New Orleans live jazz tradition to create the perfect end to a New Orleans evening.

The street also has excellent contemporary Nola dining at the Marigny Brasserie, where the chefs prepare a delicious and seasonally changing menu that includes local dishes like jambalaya and crawfish étouffée.

Explore New Orleans

Yellowstone National Park

National park in🇺🇸 United Statesrated
4.7

Most consider Yellowstone a summer destination. However, come February, plowing through feet of snow affords the park a unique, otherworldly feel.

The park's most popular geyser, Old Faithful, is a spectacle against the crisp February skyline as it sends steam streaming into the frigid air.

The park's winter wildlife—bison, elk, and the like—is a much more stunning and majestic sight against winter's snowy blanket; indeed, for those partial to wildlife sightings, Yellowstone becomes a winter wonderland.

But that's not all. Snowshoeing and/or cross-country skiing — for every skill level — are possible in several parts of the park.

It's beauty in the way it's meant to be—in its rawest, most natural state—in February. Remember that. The park is home to wild animals, and while its beauty cannot be denied, it may also command a healthy respect. It is a park... but also a sanctuary where nature still exists much the way it did hundreds of years ago.

Explore Yellowstone National Park

Bardonecchia

Village in🇮🇹 Italyrated
4

In February, in Bardonecchia, there’s invariably a good coating of deep, squeaky snow that is easier and safer on the body and a joy to ski on. The terrain is laced with runs suiting all skill levels, from beginner to whizz, with plenty left over for snowboarders, who have a dedicated snow park full of jumps and rails to try.

When it’s time to come off the slopes, Bardonecchia has plenty of snug restaurants and cafes to choose from. Don’t pass by the gnocchi alla bava, fat little potato gnocchi smothered in a cheese, butter, and milk sauce. Polenta concia is the go-to if you’re trying to save some room. It's a variation on polenta, abundant in these parts, dished up with the area’s top cheeses.

Beyond the snow and the food, the town itself deserves a gaze. A ways from the snow-brushed mountainsides, Bardonecchia doesn’t seem like it’s trying hard to look anything but itself, with its small-town buildings in pleasingly subtle tones.

Explore Bardonecchia

Malé

City in🇲🇻 Maldivesrated
3.7

Mále, capital of the Maldives, bucks the assumptions of most who think of the archipelago nation. The weather in Mále is near-perfect in February – comfortably warm, with little chance of rain, so it’s perfect sky-gazing weather. The 17th-century Hukuru Miskiy mosque, with its beautifully carved coral stone, is a testament to the island’s rich history and cultural heritage, while the local fish market offers a glimpse into local life more genuinely interesting than almost anything else in the Maldives — and an opportunity to taste the fruits of the sea that are such a key element of Maldivian cuisine.

It’s even less known that Mále is home to an artificial beach — a longer stretch of swimming area for locals and tourists — and a hidden gem in the Maldives National Museum, which features a comprehensive collection of artefacts tracing the country’s tangled history.

Be aware, of course, that it’s easy to get lost among the tangle of streets, and an island just a little over 2km long and only a little more than 1km wide makes for some very crowded streets and occasionally clogged traffic. As a Muslim city, tourists might also want to carefully observe local customs (check yourself that you have removed your shoes when necessary, and dress modestly — especially if you’re a woman).

Explore Malé

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