From the most hair-raising hike in Borneo to an untouched Thai archipelago, we select the best destinations to visit in February 2016.
For city slickers…
Short haul: Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands
Why jet all the way to Rio when you can celebrate Carnival in… Tenerife? Okay, so the Canaries might lack the sultry swagger of bodacious Brazil, but when it comes to Carnival (3-14 February) locals celebrate with as much gusto as their Latino counterparts.
Most of the action takes place in Santa Cruz, Tenerife’s sun-bleached capital, which, for 10 days, is hijacked by live bands, colourful processions and all the usual carousing. There’s just one big difference: a papier-mâché sardine, which is ceremonially buried at the end of the jamboree.
Long haul: Hong Kong
It’s January. New Year’s Eve was a let down, your resolutions are in tatters and 2016 is shaping up to be an absolute stinker. So what do you do? You head to Hong Kong and start afresh with Chinese New Year (8 February).
As the Year of the Monkey begins, go nuts in this megacity, which hosts one of the wildest parties outside mainland China. Sashay between epic firework displays, flotillas of fire-breathing dragons, candlelit temples, energetic night markets and live concerts. If that doesn’t put a spring in your step, we don’t know what will.
For thrill seekers…
Short haul: Lapland, Finland
In short, it sounds like a synopsis for your worst shrieking nightmare: the shrill whirl of a blizzard whips at your jacket, making the sharp -30ºC (-22ºF) temperatures feel far lower, as you claw your way through 900km (559 miles) of icy, snow blindness and dimming Lapland sun.
Sound like your type of adventure? You’ll need 30 days off. With no signed tracks and no checkpoints, the Lapland Extreme Challenge is a race from Rovaniemi and back with just waypoints and a tracking device. How you complete the race is up to you, but support crew and motorised vehicles are not allowed. No pussies either.
Long haul: Borneo, Malaysia
As the monsoon season blows over, February becomes the best time to tackle Mount Kinabalu, but don’t just follow the Berghaus bods up the hiking trail, go via Asia’s first via ferrata instead.
Veiled in lazy hanging mists, the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea offers a wealth of tropical rainforest and some sublime views from its summit.
Mountain Torq can help adventurers with rock climbing, rappelling and mountaineering, but they also maintain two via ferrata routes, a protected climb that allows mountaineers to attached themselves to a cable so they don’t fall off. Warning: you will be taking “Look mum, no hands” photos.
For beach bums…
Short haul: Herm Island, Channel Islands
It’s the same every year, as 1 January approaches you make heartfelt commitments to yourself: you’ll exercise more, drink less and end that suffocating relationship with your smartphone. Then the first weekend of January rolls around and you find yourself drunk, munching pizza and tweeting about it.
But February marks the rebirth of New Year ambitions, and there is nowhere better to set those pledges straight than the tiny tranquil island of Herm.
Peeking above the waters of the English Channel, on Herm people live a wholesome existence, there are no cars and the only hotel has no televisions, no telephones and even no clocks. There are, however, endless miles of idyllic sandy beaches to wander whilst deeply contemplating life and writing impassioned haikus.
Long haul: Trang Islands, Thailand
2016 marks the 20th anniversary since the publication of Alex Garland’s seminal travel text The Beach, the fast-paced novel that inspired a generation of travellers to pack a bag, head to Thailand and dabble with hallucinogenic drugs.
Of course much has changed in the Land of Smiles since Garland’s protagonist dipped his toe in the turquoise waters off Ko Pha Ngan, but paradisiacal shores can still be found away from the hedonistic gap year hordes.
The Trang Islands, a small archipelago off the southwest coast of the country remain largely untouched by the scathing claw of mass tourism, overlooked by the Banana Pancake Trail crowd. Picture shipwreck white sands, dense green forest and rustic canvas accommodation; it’s like 1996 all over again.