A TRAVELLER'S CALENDAR: FEBRUARY

ALMOND blossom is beginning to appear on the Algarve, and mimosa on the Cote d'Azur this month. Winter's grip is slackening in the northern hemisphere but truly dedicated sun-worshippers must still head further afield. For fun-seekers, Catholic countries offer a last chance for frivolity and frenzy before Lent with a number of lively street carnivals.

In Brazil, the most passionate (and sometimes the most dangerous) free show on earth happens in Rio in February, when the streets become a writhing mass of bronzed bodies swaying to the rhythm of the samba and rumba in one long, frantic 24-hour party.

Meanwhile, in the Caribbean, the biggest street festival takes place in Trinidad, with costumed parades and the hotly contested final of the steel band championship. There are smaller but nevertheless lively West Indian carnivals in Tobago, Grenada and St Vincent.

February is also the month of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, where 50 different carnival clubs (or "krewes") prepare elaborate displays under different themes for their floats. Music and jazz events add further spice to the proceedings.

Closer to home, Carnevale in Venice is well worth a visit this month. In the 17th century it lasted six months, was banned by Napoleon in 1797 and was restarted only in 1979. Now there are a mere 10 days of firework displays, public concerts and private balls which spill out on to the Venetian streets and canals, crammed with masked revellers.

The most petal-strewn Mardi Gras of them all is in Nice, where decorated floats, giant papier-mache heads, banks of flowers and general carnival mayhem herald the start of the spring opera season and the return of the sun to Europe.

For the beach scene at this time of year, it's still necessary to travel much further from home. Thailand is a good bet in February - its sunniest season is from November to March (with the monsoon lasting from June to October in Phuket, and from October to January in Koh Samui). But with February's low rainfall and humidity, even steamy Bangkok is pleasant enough for sightseeing.

The fine beaches and exotic scenery of Krabi were discovered in the 1980s by Western travellers, but are not yet overrun. Package tours have long since reached Phuket, but you can still find simple thatched huts and commune with nature on the powdery-white, palm-fringed sands of Phi Phi island. The island is known for its caves lined with seaswifts' nests, held together by the birds' spit; it is this that is so perilously collected for birds'-nest soup.

Koh Samui, which succeeded Phuket as Thailand's escapist paradise, is catching it up in popularity - especially around the prettiest resort of Chaweng; Boput, Mai Nam and Chong Mon are quieter.

Another place to go in February is the southern United States. For some reason, the British don't really think of Florida as a destination at this time of year; they prefer to go there in high summer, when it is almost guaranteed to be humid and threatened by hurricanes.

If you can avoid the February half-term weeks, there are some excellent cut-price deals to be had on flights and packages. The 78F average temperatures are far preferable to the summer heat for surviving the theme parks of Orlando, avoiding the mosquitoes of the Everglades, and fishing, canoeing and getting lost in the magical back-country lagoons of the Florida Keys.

BOOKING INFORMATION

Rio: revellers need to book well ahead for Carnival, but Journey Latin America (0181-747 3108) could get you there with flights, accommodation and a tour of Manaus, Iguassu and Salvador for pounds 1,750 for two weeks b&b. For independent travellers, return flights in February to Rio cost pounds 548 from STA (number below).

Carnivals: flight-only to Trinidad pounds 582; New Orleans pounds 299; Venice pounds 115; Nice pounds 125 - all from STA Travel (0171-361 6262 worldwide, 0171-361 6161 Europe). These are guide prices and travellers should also try Campus Travel (0171-730 8111 worldwide, 0171-730 3402 Europe, 0171-730 2101 North America) and Trailfinders (0171-938 3939 long-haul flights, 0171-938 3232 transatlantic and European) and other cut-price travel agents.

Thailand: flights-only around pounds 450 return (see STA, Campus and Trailfinders numbers above). Interesting beach and cultural packages, with possible extensions to Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Burma (Myan Mar) from approximately pounds 1,100 per week, flights and room only, from Magic of the Orient (01293 537766).

Florida: 14-night fly-drives (no accommodation) are available from Airfares (0171-707 9000).

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin