The shortest month of the year is also the sweetest – if you know where to travel.
Spend February up to your eyeballs in sugar-laced pancakes at Russia’s version of Mardi Gras; sip cocktails at a Modernist poolside setting in Palm Springs; or opt for something a little more tart, like Menton’s Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival).
Whatever your tastes, Lonely Planet’s destination experts have a treat in store for you.
Skiing in the Dolomites, Italy
February is the peak of the European ski season, with the year’s best chances of great snow conditions (though obviously there are no guarantees when it comes to the weather!). Awarded World Heritage Site status by UNESCO for the exceptional natural beauty of its sheer rock faces and jagged pinnacles, the Dolomites mountain range in northern Italy provides the perfect backdrop for a spectacular ski holiday.
There are two main ski areas here: Dolomiti Superski (dolomitisuperski.com) is the largest, with 1200km of ski runs that connect up 12 valleys, and Skirama Dolomiti (skirama.it) in the western Brenta Dolomites, with 360km of pistes reaching up to 3000m altitude. Highlights include the famous Sella Ronda ski touring route, where skiers can spend a whole day circling the towering Sella massif.
And it’s not just the scenery and skiing that are outstanding – the area has a cluster of excellent Michelin-starred restaurants, so you can sate your appetite in style after a full day out on the slopes.
Anna Tyler – Destination Editor for Southern Europe. Follow her on Twitter @go_AnnaT
Russian Mardi Gras in Moscow, Russia
Pancake bingeing, horse-drawn sleighs and ice-skating – there’s lots of fun to be had at Maslenitsa (Butter Week), the Russian version of Mardi Gras. Although a country-wide celebration, this festival in late February (the last week before Lent) is best experienced in Moscow – just make sure you bring warm clothing.
Sending winter off Russian-style is a wonderful excuse to experience Moscow’s exciting transformation of recent years. Discover the city’s hipster side in contemporary art and design centres – Red October, Vinzavod, or Flakon – occupying abandoned factories and housing galleries, boutiques, cafes and clubs. Indulge in the blossoming ‘author cuisine’ scene at places such as Delicatessen, Lavka-Lavka or Ragout, where innovative menus reflect creative use of ingredients, flavours and techniques.
For a taste of timeless Moscow, take in some ballet at the Bolshoi to send the spirit soaring, and steam the cold away at Sanduny Baths, the city’s oldest and most luxurious.
Brana Vladisavljevic – Destination Editor for Eastern and Southeastern Europe. Follow her on Twitter @branavl
Some retro glamour in Palm Springs, California
Fans of architecture and winter sun should make a beeline for Palm Springs in February. Not only can you relax by a pool in the warm desert temperatures, but you can also explore the local architecture via Modernism Week.
Back in the mid-20th century when Rat Pack singers like Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra and Hollywood celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable rolled into town on a regular basis, Palm Springs became a playground for Modernist designers, who created homes and hotels for the famous guests. Though the style fell out of favour, in recent years its retro appeal has been rediscovered and Modernism Week capitalises on its renewed popularity with dozens of tours, talks, parties and live music events.
While you’re in town don’t miss the Palm Springs Art Museum with its surprisingly good collection of paintings and sculptures, and the chance to soar up into the nearby San Jacinto mountains on the rotating Aerial Tramway.
Clifton Wilkinson – Destination Editor for California. Follow him on Twitter @Cliff_Wilkinson
While the temperatures might not invite frollicking in the Mediterranean, the clear blue skies and crisp February air is ripe for discovering the quieter side of the French Riviera with thinner crowds.
Menton, once known for its abundance of lemons, has a microclimate making it warmer than its surrounds, and while it may be less glamorous than its showy neighbours – Cannes, Nice and Monaco – it’s still got a lot to offer. The stark, futuristic Musée Jean Cocteau Collection Séverin Wunderman opened recently, showing around 1500 of the artist’s works; the beautiful old town is crammed with pastel-coloured shuttered buildings and there’s even a Michelin-starred restaurant among its burgeoning dining scene.
February is the best time to visit for the quirky Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival), with sculptures and floats made from tonnes of lemons and oranges that make their way along the seafront. The festival runs from 13 February to 2 March.
Kate Morgan – Destination Editor for Western Europe. Follow her on Twitter @kate_ann_morgan
Celebrate Bhutanese New Year in Western Bhutan
February is prime time to visit Bhutan; the snows of winter are in retreat, trekking trails are starting to open and the whole country gets into the festive mood for Losar, the Tibetan Buddhist New Year.
The hallmarks of Losar are enthusiastic archery contests, feasts of weird and wonderful mountain delicacies and the consumption of vast quantities of home-brewed ara (rice or maize liquor). Western Bhutan is the focus for celebrations, with Losar fairs taking place on different days from town to town and village to village.
Punakha, the setting for the first Losar celebrations ever held in Bhutan in the 1630s, is a good place to take in the sights, tastes and twangs of bowstring. The festivities continue through the month at Punakha Dzong, with a legendary tsechu (dance festival) and the annual dromchoe, a fair celebrating the victory of Bhutanese warriors over invaders from Tibet.
Another red letter day in February is the 21st, the birthday of the fifth king, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the current monarch of Bhutan, with more high-spirited celebrations around the capital, Thimphu.
Joe Bindloss – Destination Editor for the Indian Subcontinent. Follow him on Twitter @joe_planet