10. Trinidad and Tobago Carnival
The party doesn’t stop at the Trinidad and Tobago carnival. It’s held two days before Ash Wednesday, with celebrations kicking off at 4am Monday morning, and not stopping for a full two days. You definitely need to have stamina to keep up with the locals, but seeing all of the spectacular costumes makes it all worth it. Competitions, including limbo dancing, also abound, and all the craziness eventually dies down ahead of the somber weeks of Lent commencing.
9. New Orleans Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is synonymous with New Orleans – it began to be celebrated in the city just a few years after its founding in 1718. Take in the elaborate floats that parade through town, and visit the French Quarter for yet more parades that take place only on foot. Be warned – the crowds can get rowdy – but Mardi Gras is still billed as a family celebration. If you’re turned off by hedonistic behavior, just stay out of the French Quarter after the parades finish!
8. Chinese New Year in Hong Kong
Chinese New Year is celebrated around the world by nearly 1.5 billion people, which is a staggering amount, but arguably the best place in the world to experience it is Hong Kong. Colorful floats centered around the animals of the Chinese Zodiac can be seen everywhere, fireworks go off at a relentless rate, and ethnic Chinese people flock to temples in their thousands. There are also flower markets, horse races and even a 15-day-long Lunar New Year festival to enjoy.
7. Carnival in Venice
Yet another world-famous pre-Lenten celebration is the Venetian carnival, which is largely associated with the elaborate masks that revelers have hidden behind during the celebration ever since the 12th Century. At one point in time, the mask-wearers behaved so disreputably that they were banned for a couple of centuries. The tradition was allowed to continue in the 20th Century, and nowadays they even fly in an international team of fashion and costume designers to pick the most beautiful mask of the year.
If you’re looking to just escape the cold rather than enjoy some wild celebration, February is the perfect time to visit Thailand. The crowds from the peak season thin out at this time, and the weather is just right for an enjoyable vacation. Granted, there might be slightly more rain, but not enough to put a dampener on your rest and relaxation.
5. Donsol Bay Whale Sharks
Donsol Bay in the Philippines is perfect for the more adventurous type in February. This is because you’ll be able to see whale sharks migrating into the tropical waters, with peak numbers being present in the bay between February and May. In fact, the bay is often called the “whale shark capital of the world”. These magnificent creatures, which can grow to over 30 feet long, don’t tend to shy away from boats, with some of them even carrying scars from skirmishes with propellers.
4. Oruro Carnival
One of the most important folkloric and cultural events in all of South America takes place just before Ash Wednesday in the Bolivian city of Oruro. It features no less than 28,000 dancers that perform a variety of ethnic dances, as well as a further 10,000 musicians that accompany them. This carnival is particularly important because it retains most of the artistic expression that emanates from pre-Columbian America.
3. Serengeti National Park
More than half a million wildebeest congregate on the short grass plains of the southern Serengeti every year in mid-February. They go there to give birth, and over 400,000 calves are then born in the space of three weeks. In addition to the wildebeest, the plains are also bustling with young animals of all kinds – from young zebras to fearsome predators keeping a watchful eye on the herds. From here, the animals move on to into Kenya’s Masai Mara, in what’s known as the great migration.
2. Pingxi Lantern Festival
Another place where Chinese New Year is celebrated in a big way is the island of Taiwan. The Pingxi Lantern Festival has lanterns in abundance, as well as firecrackers going off in every direction. The best part is when all the lanterns are released into the sky. The tradition started back in the 19th Century, when the Taiwanese would say a prayer for the coming year, then release their lanterns.
1. Rio Carnival
More than 2 million people flock to the streets of Rio de Janeiro for the annual carnival, making it the world’s biggest celebration and probably the best place in the world to be in February. The event is marked with parades, floats, and costumed revelers. In addition, the samba schools that take part compete fiercely with one another in a bid to be the most visible and glamorous group of dancers of all. Each samba school, or group, can consist of up to 4,000 dancers, as well as six or eight floats.