Tenerife, Canary Islands
If you’re looking for a European beach getaway in the dead of winter, the Canary Islands are pretty much your best bet (though, technically, they’re flirting with the coast of West Africa). While the southernmost islands are warm year-round, February is the best time to visit Tenerife, when temperatures hit the low 70s and chances of rain are almost nonexistent. The beach selection is diverse-- some have golden sand, others have black; there are beaches for nudists, and beaches for water sport lovers. But the best part is, you’ll avoid the crowds that usually appear during the summer months or over Christmas break, and you’ll bear witness to the blossoming of the almond trees. This stunning natural spectacle is celebrated with festivals in Santiago del Teide and neighboring islands.
But if you time your trip for the end of the month, you’ll be able to experience the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival (February 19 through March 1) -- considered the second-most popular carnival after the one held in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. There is a competition among the murgas, who perform satire, and a final “burial of the sardine,” which involves a funeral procession for a giant papier-mache fish. All in all, expect vibrant parades, masquerade balls, and non-stop revelry.