Although, not necessarily a big month for travel, you can still strike some great deals. So if you want to know the best places to travel in February, here are our suggestions
February is a month of carnivals in many countries and festivals in others. It’s also a great time to explore some of the planet’s less visited spots, and take advantage of the off-season…
Oh man — Oman
Oman’s winter ends in February, and while you’ll never have to worry about drowning in a sea of tourists at any time of the year, it’s a great time to go. While neighbouring UAE is spending billions promoting itself as an opulent tourist hotspot, Oman is content to let its history and culture do the talking. Waterfront markets and souks, beautiful mosques and centuries-old fortresses mean there’s never any shortage of places to explore.
You still have to be a somewhat adventurous traveller to place it at the top of your must-visit list, but tourism is its fastest-growing economic sector. Adventure and cultural itineraries are the main draws, and the capital, Muscat, was named the Capital of Arab Tourism in 2012. Indeed, from the mountains to the deserts, from the towns to the coast, it’s a great way of seeing Arabian life and culture without the cash-dripped pace and glitz of its near neighbours.
Bath parties — Budapest, Hungary
There’s never a bad time to visit Hungary’s stunning capital, but in February, one of its most famous institutions really gets to let its hair down. Budapest’s thermal baths are open all year round (and it’s a curiously nice feeling to be sitting in the warm thermal pools of Széchenyi baths surrounded by snow), but if you want something a bit more energetic, we’ve just the thing.
The Lukacs Baths — located on the left bank of the Danube, just north of Margit híd — are a place to party in February. Saturday night laser thermal spa parties run from 22.30 to 3.00 in both the indoor and outdoor thermal pools, accompanied by electronic music, beer, cocktails, dancing and a laser show. You have to book tickets early, so get on it!
A flurry of film festivals — Berlin, Germany
From 31 January to 17 February, Berlin hosts three separate festivals focusing on the visual. This most progressively artistic of cities begins its programme with Transmediale (31 Jan — 3 Feb), a festival for media art and digital culture. An exhibition, live performances, and film and video performances are the highlights, but there are practical workshops, panel discussion and the like focussing on “the critical understanding of art, culture and politics in a society shaped by the media”.
Film buffs should stick around for both the world-famous Berlin International Film Festival (7 — 17 Feb), and the smaller — but no less inspiring — Berlin Independent Film Festival (7 — 11 Feb). The bigger festival is screening over 400 films, attracting the largest audience of any film festival in the world; over 330,000 tickets have already been sold for this year’s event.
The Independent Film Festival runs at the Babylon cinema and showcases up-and-coming low-budget filmmakers in categories as diverse as documentaries, animation, sci-fi, horror, LGBT film and music videos. There are also a number of workshops and networking events meaning that Berlin’s indie film festival is one of Europe’s fastest-growing.
Carnival time — Salvador, Brazil
The World’s Largest Party takes place in Salvador from 28 February to 6 March this year, and is a fervent expression of Afro-Brazilian culture, music, dance and folklore. “What about the Rio carnival?” I hear you ask, “Surely that’s bigger?” More famous, maybe, but the Salvador carnival involves a parade over a longer route, and lasts for a few more days in total. It’s also not as well-known to non-Brazilians, meaning fewer tourists and lower prices.
Three carnival circuits pass the city’s best-known landmarks in the centre (Avenida parade), or along the beachfront (Barra parade), or on a smaller route focussing on virtuoso percussion playing over wild partying (Pelourinho unplugged parade).
Having been the first capital of Brazil (and the capital of the state of Bahia today), Salvador is one of the oldest cities in the Americas, and its mixture of Portuguese colonial architecture, 500 years of African, Native American and European immigration, and the Brazilian inclination to make amazing music and party, means that even when the carnival isn’t on, it’s an amazing place to visit.
Hiking and the high life — Tasmania, Australia
A lot cooler in the summer than mainland Australia (it’s a lot further south after all), possibly the country’s least touristy state — Tasmania — has a lot to offer. With temperatures at around 17C — 25C at the end of summer (namely, February), and 45 per cent of its land making up 19 national parks, it’s an utter paradise for hiking and camping.
Mountains, forests, wild coastlines and vast, empty beaches: these are the landscapes that make up the majority of the island, and well-marked trails mean you can go for a one-hour stroll or a multi-day adventure, depending on experience and / or laziness. The prehistoric forests of the Mount Field National Park contain some of the world’s rarest plant species, while, for the more sociable, the town of Coles Bay is a popular hangout for those heading to the beaches of Freycinet National Park.
For those who want walking with a touch of luxury, there are also tour companies who’ll provide you with hiking routes that include private yacht transfers to private islands, as well as menus including the finest local oysters, cheeses and wines, while staying in luxurious log cabins rather than tents. However you want to experience Tasmania, you’ll find something to amaze you.
Laid-back gastronomy — Ibiza, Spain
On an island where virtually the entire tourist economy comes from its party-heavy summer months, Ibiza is a canny choice at less obvious times of year. Restaurant, cafe and bar owners know the value of keeping the trade going in the off season, so the discerning tourist can eat and drink well for relatively little.
Thursday evenings in the winter are known as Gastrojueves, or gastro Thursdays, on which many meals are offered half-price. February is also carnival time on the island. Every small town has its own celebration in the middle of the month, and the clubs use this as an excuse to get in on the act as well, with after-parties and special carnival offers.
Otherwise, just use the time to relax and walk around this island. It is beautiful, and even in February, the climate is nice enough to wander from village to village without a care in the world.