Where to travel in February: five of the best destinations

Shake off January moods and get into the livelier vibe of February as the world wakes up and gets ready to party from South America to China.

The rainy season is the best time to glimpse the world’s largest salt pans in their guise as a giant mirror.

Photograph by Getty Images
By Stephanie Cavagnaro
Published 1 Jan 2023, 08:00 GMT

Countries across the world cut loose for Carnival this month. The biggest blowouts include Rio de Janeiro’s samba parades, masquerade balls in Venice, raucous Mardi Gras floats in New Orleans and a centuries-old masked celebration in rural Hungary. Valentine’s Day can up the romance (and prices) mid-month, while Chinese New Year often falls in February, marking the transition between zodiac signs with fireworks, technicolour processions and strings of lucky red lanterns. School half term also means families can explore beyond their backyard — and the options are abundant.

The ski season is in its prime, so The Alps can be packed. Some sleepier alternatives include the eastern slopes in Georgia, Poland, Romania, Montenegro and Albania. Meanwhile, warmer corners of the world can be found in most of Southeast Asia (avoid wet Indonesia), The Caribbean and Central America, where activities include wildlife spotting, sunbathing and cloudless hikes. Vinophiles can visit plump vineyards in Chile, Argentina and South Africa for tours and tastings. The end of high summer has set over Australia and New Zealand, and though some areas can be toasty, this is a great month to head down under for city escapes, beach parties and the turtle-hatching flurry in Queensland.

1. Bolivia

Bring your brolly to Bolivia this month. The rainy season is the best time to glimpse the world’s largest salt pans in their guise as a giant mirror. When Salar de Uyuni’s flats flood, they transform from a quilt of bleached white polygonal patterns to a lake-like surface. Watch as pockets of puffed cloud glide across glossy waters, creating the optical illusion of a vast sky pinned to the ground. At the edge of this remote corner is the world’s first salt hotel, Palacio de Sal, which was joined by Luna Salada Hotel de Sal, which is made almost entirely out of locally-harvested salt and peppered with Andean textiles.

December to March is also the low season, with prices and crowds dropping in response to drippy conditions. But these showers mean rivers like the Río Coroico swell into soaking playgrounds for white-water rafting, tubing and kayaking excursions. A sprinkling of fresh rain also attracts abundant birdlife to Bolivia. In the southwestern corner of the Bolivian altiplano is the blood-red Laguna Colorada, where an island of pink flamingos flock to the plankton-packed waters this month.

Sustainable tip: Bolivia has long been on the budget backpacker’s map, but shoestring prices often mean unfair pay and unsafe employment practices in a country where around 40% of the population lives in extreme poverty. Stay at community-run accommodation and ecolodges to responsibly support local livelihoods. A collection of community-run tourism initiatives are listed on the Bolivian Network of Community and Solidarity Based Tourism (TUSOCO)’s website

The balconied townhouses of the French Quarter in New Orleans.

The balconied townhouses of the French Quarter in New Orleans.

Photograph by Getty Images

2. New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Hedonists head to the streets of New Orleans for the wild Mardi Gras festival. These Carnival celebrations escalate in the days leading up to Fat Tuesday, which often falls in February. Large-scale parades with towering floats and quirky independent processions are run by local ‘krewes’. There’s a Krewe of Barkus dog parade, sci-fi themed Krewe of Chewbacchus and the racy Krewe of Vieux, whose handmade floats squeeze between the French Quarter’s balconied townhouses. Costumes are elaborate, brass bands boom and drinks flow easily.

February in Louisiana often marks the start of warmer weather. So head to the southeastern swamps on boat or kayak tour to catch the first spring sightings of alligators while mosquito populations are still low. Though gators brumate in winter, they can be spotted on warm bayou banks as they emerge from their seasonal repose. The scenery this time of year is plaintively peaceful: dark swamps with moss-slung cypress trees, narrow waterways, marshes enmeshed in sunshine and wildflowers beginning to bloom.

Sustainable tip: Many swamp tours toss hotdogs, chicken and even marshmallows to the resident alligators, encouraging them to rely on humans for food. This practice makes these timid reptiles less fearful of people, increasing the likelihood of attacks. Search for an eco-friendly swamp tour that doesn’t interact with or feed gators. Some responsible operators include Louisiana Tour Company, Cajun Encounters and Last Wilderness Tours.

When in Tanzania, keep close to the action in the southern Serengeti, Ndutu areas and the ...

When in Tanzania, keep close to the action in the southern Serengeti, Ndutu areas and the western Ngorongoro Conservation area.

Photograph by Getty Images

3. Tanzania

Sheltered between two rainy spells, February may mark the low season across the Serengeti’s savannah, but it’s the peak of the Great Migration calving. In a few short weeks, nearly half a million wildebeest are born. This young blood drives predators to patrol the plains in hungry hoards, increasing the chances of spotting hunting cheetah, hyena and lion. Keep close to the action in the southern Serengeti, Ndutu areas and the western Ngorongoro Conservation area, the latter an extinct volcano home to one of the world’s highest densities of animals. This is also high time for twitchers here as many migratory birds have landed.

Once you’ve had enough of the stretching savannah, get vertical on Mount Kilimanjaro. The trekking season runs from January-March and June-October, but the slopes are quieter this month than during the summer season. Though February is drier than other times of year, it can cast a chill in the air and increase the chance of a snow-capped summit. Warm up post-trek on the hot shores of Zanzibar, where the sea is at its clearest for divers and snorkelers to experience pristine aquarium-like conditions.

Sustainable tip: Fight for female rights in a male-dominated industry by staying at revolutionary Dunia Camp. It’s shaking up the status quo as the only all-women staffed safari camp in the Serengeti. Asilia Africa’s eco-friendly eight-room luxury tented camp is also certified by Responsible Tourism Tanzania. Additional responsible operators within Tanzania can be found on the association’s website.

Dartmoor's ancient landscape spans rugged moorland, golden heaths and is plied by wild ponies

Dartmoor's ancient landscape spans rugged moorland, golden heaths and is plied by wild ponies

Photograph by Getty Images

4. Dartmoor National Park, England

This ancient landscape spans deep river valleys, towering granite tors, rugged moorland, golden heaths and is plied by wild ponies. Dartmoor is also home to the isolated Warren House Inn, which crowns a lonely stretch of moorland and claims the flames of England’s longest burning fire, alight since 1845. The park is particularly moody this month, when an atmospheric mist clings to its frozen skin and the Lord of the Rings-esque Wistman’s Wood is worth the hour-long stomp. It is of the country’s oldest dwarf-oak forests, and denuded of foliage in winter, its twisted trunks are more visible as they drip with mosses and lichens.

February also displays the earliest signs of spring as snowdrops stretch their necks from frosty ground. These milky perennials carpet Dartmoor and are celebrated at February’s annual Snowdrop Festival at The Garden House, a 16th-century vicarage tucked into the park’s western edge. Once you’ve marvelled at the collection of over 300 varieties, order an afternoon tea at the cosy cafe.

Sustainable tip: Take to the Dartmoor Artisan Trail, which clomps past a collection of arts and crafts workshops. There are nearly two dozen artisans on the moors, including a traditional signwriter, an ethical shoemaker, a willow weaving artist, a potter and an ecological farmer. Many makers offer mini-workshops and tend to have more availability in winter.

A classic view down the Danube in Budapest.

A classic view down the Danube in Budapest.

Photograph by Getty Images

5. Hungary

Budapest is beguiling in winter: opera performances, ice skating, hearty grub, snow-licked baroque buildings. But perhaps Budapest’s biggest appeal is its bathhouses. These thermal hot springs are capped with steam and provide solace from February’s chill. Take a dip in the golden Széchenyi Baths, the mediaeval Rudas Baths or the airy art nouveau Gellért Baths.

And though Venice may host Europe’s most famed Carnival celebration, Hungary’s Farsang rivals it with colourful masquerades, lavish themed balls and seasonal treats like ribboned doughnuts filled with cream or apricot jam. Come hungry to the capital on ‘Fat Thursday’, when many Budapest restaurants dish up half-priced discounts on meals. One of the country’s most unique Farsang events takes place due south in Mohács. The week-long Busójárás is a UNESCO-recognised tradition in which men dress in sheep’s wool, don demonic horned masks and arrive on rowboats from the Danube to creepily chase bystanders. There are mask-making workshops, food stalls and events: watch as a coffin is tossed onto a roaring bonfire, symbolising winter giving way to spring.

Sustainable tip: Go to Gasztrohős for a comprehensive guide to Hungary’s sustainable restaurants. They champion responsible eating: local and seasonal products, vegetarian and vegan cuisine, and conscious food waste initiatives. Most of the website is in Hungarian, but there’s an accessible digital map that displays over 50 restaurants with a sustainable certification.

Published in the Jan/Feb 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK) 

Follow us on social media  

Twitter | Facebook | Instagram  


Explore Nat Geo

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • History & Culture
  • Science
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Space
  • Adventure
  • Video

About us


  • Magazines
  • Disney+

Follow us

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. Copyright © 2015-2023 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved