The depths of winter make for the heights of sightseeing in many destinations that are usually overcrowded; it’s also a prime time for extreme climates on either end of the spectrum, from the desert to Antarctica.
Nonstop flights to Belize take off from several U.S. cities that are only about three hours away. Once you’re there you can explore world-class coral reefs, visit uncrowded Mayan ruins, learn to scuba dive (as Wendy’s son did), fish for 100-pound tarpon (which kept her husband busy), and laze beside sparkling Caribbean waters—or you can charter your own private yacht, enjoying fabulous snorkeling, sunbathing, and kayaking.
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Chile and Argentina
It’s summertime in the Southern Hemisphere: That means ideal weather just about everywhere in Chile and Argentina, from Chile’s Lakes District to Mendoza’s wine region to Patagonia. (But be warned: Temperatures in Buenos Aires can reach the high 90s.) If you’re headed to the Atacama Desert, time your trip for early in the month, when the lack of moonlight makes the night skies even more impressive than usual.
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February is the best time to see the monarch butterfly migration in the Oyamel forests of Michoacan. After a 3,000-mile journey from the U.S. and Canada, millions of butterflies start to arrive at their wintering grounds in mid-November. They stay until late March, but February is ideal because the butterflies flutter more in the sun as temperatures rise.
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February is the height of Nicaragua’s dry season, and the last month before temperatures get uncomfortably hot. The best-quality properties are small and intimate: comfy colonial restorations in cities like León and Granada, and ecolodges along the San Juan River, on an island in Lake Nicaragua, and on the Caribbean and southern Pacific coasts. Despite its reputation from decades past, Nicaragua is one of the safest countries in the Americas, with a very low crime rate. It’s not a democracy, but the only danger is for those in active political opposition to the government.
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Skiing in the Alps
February is the sweet spot for European skiing: It’s late enough in the season that you can count on fabulous, well-manicured snow, and the longer days give you more time on the slopes (or strolling a charming Alpine village nearby). Whether your desired homebase is a ski-in/ski-out hotel or a staffed chalet with room for the whole family, we can connect you to the right expert.
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February falls in the middle of Costa Rica’s dry season. Fill your days with hikes through the jungle, birdwatching in the cloud forest, visits to small sugar-cane and coffee plantations—and of course, plenty of time relaxing along the country’s storied coastlines.
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January and February see the best weather of the year in Panama, with less humidity and a cool breeze in the mornings and afternoons. The sun goes down a bit earlier, but the sunsets are amazing.
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Lake Titicaca, Peru
Every February, a mix of Catholicism and Andean traditions are brought together in the Fiesta de la Candelaria, which takes place in Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca. This is one of the largest festivals in the country, celebrated by dancers who come from all over Peru and Bolivia for several days of performances, processions, and competitions.
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February is one of the darkest months of the year in Iceland, bettering your chances of seeing the spectacular display of the northern lights. It’s also when the Winter Lights Festival takes place, with beautiful art installations and cultural events happening all around Reykjavik. Winters can be harsh and unpredictable, and some activities will be unavailable, but the dramatic snowy scenery—not to mention the extra time that locals have available for visitors—can make this a particularly satisfying month to visit and enjoy glacier hiking, horseback riding, snowmobiling, and heli-skiing, topped off with a dip in a natural hot spring (which you may well have to yourself at this time of year) to rest your weary muscles.
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By February the sea ice has melted, allowing for longer voyages and prime whale-watching when the humpbacks surface and feed. These shorter autumn days also allow glimpses of the Aurora Australis, or southern lights. What’s more, the icebergs have been beautifully sculpted by summer winds—reflecting the sun’s rays like giant crystal chandeliers—and special offers often come available for these late-season departures.
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Southern Thailand is ideal in February, when the oceans are still relatively calm after the crowded peak season, and sunny skies and cooler temperatures prevail before the heat returns in April.
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In early February, the worst of the hot and steamy weather has not yet arrived—but the huge crowds that descend on Angkor Wat in January have already departed (just make sure to arrive after February 10 in 2024, to avoid the crowds that Chinese New Year brings).
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Prices are as much as 40 percent cheaper in February than during peak season, and the vegetation is lush and green from the rains. The periodic thunderstorms that roll through often provide beautiful rainbows, which form a great backdrop for your photos. Plus, many of the wildlife have babies—zebra, wildebeest, antelope—and the predators tend to be more prolific with the greater availability of prey. This is also a time when migratory birds in full, exquisitely colored breeding plumage are in residence.
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United Arab Emirates and Oman
February is one of the cooler months of the year for Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Oman, with highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s. This makes it a great time to camp out in Oman’s Empty Quarter, where the sand dunes seem endless; visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi (a good portion of which is outside); or stroll among Dubai’s towering skyscrapers.
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Other Smart Options This Month
Click on any of the destinations below to find out why February is a good time to go.
British Columbia: snow sports & northern lights
Jackson Hole & the Grand Tetons: skiing
The Rocky Mountains: skiing (first half of the month)
Galapagos Islands: swimming and snorkeling
Norway: winter activities
Paris: winter sales
Switzerland: skiing and winter fun
Vietnam: central coast
Africa and Middle East
Australia and Pacific
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