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Venetian masks ... Cold hearts ... Hippy shakes

6-16 February


If you fancy something a little more sophisticated, Venice should be your destination. The Venice Carnival is a combination of extravaganza and intrigue. Renaissance costumes, Venetian masks and baroque music set the scene, and the carnival reaches its climax on Shrove Tuesday with the burning of the effigy of Carnival in Piazza San Marco.

12-16 February


Rio de Janeiro's carnival is probably the most spectacular and certainly the craziest. On the Friday before Shrove Tuesday, the city's mayor symbolically hands the keys of the city to King Momo, monarch of the carnival, signalling the start of the five-day party. The inescapable Samba School Parade, in the Sambodromo arena, lasts 12 hours - so be prepared for a hip-swaying marathon.

14 February


Today, romantic, sporty people can race down the slopes with their loved ones at the Romantic Couples Ski Race in the Cairngorms. Expertise on skis is not essential, but you must wear your heart on your sleeve. The winning couple will be awarded a romantic dinner in a hotel, while the second-placed love-birds will enjoy a special Valentine's cake.

15-16 February


Carnival in Trinidad begins a couple of days before Ash Wednesday (17 February), but preliminary competitions for the coveted title of Carnival King and Queen get underway in the previous week. Masquerade bands take to the Caribbean island's streets and thousands of revellers join in the parade, shaking their stuff until the sun comes up.

16 February


In New Orleans, Mardi Gras (Shrove Tuesday) is a showy parody of traditional celebrations. Parading groups - known as krewes - mock politicians and compete to be the most outrageous. Major-league consumption of alcohol contributes to make this carnival the most anarchic party held in the US.