The Best Places to Travel in February
By winter’s midpoint (i.e., now), you’re pretty clear on where you stand: ready to burn your parka, or intent on squeezing in as many runs down the slopes, twirls around the rink, or cocktails by the fire as possible. But whether you want to embrace what’s left of winter—or escape it—we’ve got you. Check out the six spots below, then pack your bikini, balaclava, or—hey, why not?—ball gown.
The world’s northernmost capital blends Crayola-colored buildings, cutting-edge design, epic nightlife—and, from Feb. 6-9, the Winter Lights Festival. During this quirky, cross-disciplinary celebration, the streets go aflame with dreamy light installations while dozens of museums and galleries host free exhibitions, DJs offer guided electronic music meditation, and an academy of digital entertainment brings local folkloric monsters to life—in other words, not your average variation on a Coachella theme.
February’s also prime time for a light show of a different kind: the Aurora Borealis. Though the celestial pyrotechnics do turn up in the city from time to time (aim for dark, low-density areas), your best bet is an aurora-chasing bus tour to the boonies. Choose from the countless three- or four-hour options that depart from Reykjavik nightly, or—if you’ve got a few days to spare—tack some ice caves and frozen waterfalls onto your Northern Lights tour. Just remember: If you leave Iceland without posting mud-covered selfies from the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa, did you even go at all?
Death Valley, California
Despite the name, Death Valley comes to life mid-February, when the local wildflowers start to bloom—and when you can actually walk among them without wilting (February temperatures hover in the mid-seventies). To see carpets of Primrose, Pincushion, and Desert Globemallow, join a ranger-led wildflower walk at Furnace Creek Visitor Center, then go soak up the local water yourself in the spring-fed pool at The Inn at Death Valley. An old Hollywood hideaway (Gable, Lombard, Brando) newly reopened after a $100 million refurb, the inn is one of two hotels in the shockingly lush Oasis at Death Valley Resort, where you'll also find the lowest golf course on earth.
Exploring Chile’s surreal national parks on your own would be worth the trip, but in February, you’ll have epic company: whales. Tons and tons of them. Literally. An adult can weigh upward of 150 tons, and is powered by a heart the size of small car. Blue whales are, in fact, the world’s largest animal, and between December and March they migrate to the krill-filled waters off the coast of Southern Chile, where you should, too. Take a boat tour of Parque Nacional Chiloé, one of the best national parks for spotting blues. If you’d rather see humpbacks—they show up in February, too—book a kayak tour of Reserva Nacional Pingüino de Humboldt. And while you’re there, visit the nesting area of the park’s namesake penguin, then retreat to a canvas dome at Punta De Domos, a sun-kissed bay where whales and dolphins play this time of year.
18 months out from Irma’s devastation, this Caribbean jewel is back in business. Renovations are complete at some of the most iconic stays on the island: Four Seasons Anguilla, Belmond Cap Juluca and Frangipani Resort. For all the five-star bennies (from private pools to Taino-inspired spa treatments), one of the best experiences you can have here leans more Robinson Crusoe: Hop the daily sea shuttle (or, hey, a private yacht, if that’s your roll) for the 15-minute ride to Sandy Island. There’s only one restaurant and a few palms on this tiny, triangular cay, but the pan-seared grouper, spiced shrimp kebabs and Jo Jo Rum Punch are well worth the trip.
Needless to say, the V Day vibes run strong here in Casanova’s hometown, what with 150-ish canals to get lost on together. But whatever your romantic status, you've got another reason to visit this month: Venice Carnival, a tradition since medieval Venetians decided that elaborate masks, costumed dances and all-night carousing were exactly what this season called for (this year’s festivities kick off Feb. 8). Start with dinner and dancing at the official Venice Carnival Ball at Ca’ Vendramin Calergi, an opulent sixteenth-century palace on the Grand Canal—tickets aren’t cheap, but they’re still available. Then swish over to The Baglioni or The Gritti Palace to keep the party going (both hotels can help you with costume and mask rentals). The street processions are a must-do—and they’re all free. If you catch only one, make it Festa delle Marie on Feb. 15, when 12 Venetian women blinged-out in period jewels and gowns ride atop old-school sedans from Pietro di Castello to St. Mark’s Square. Also in attendance: hundreds of period-costumed escorts from the European Consortium of Historical Reenactments and the Venice Carnival Associations.
Avoid the crowds (and the peak-season prices) with a February ski vacay to Vail. The snow’s looking great this year—187 inches and counting—so those famously wide, well-groomed slopes will be plumped and waiting. Plus, there’s going to be drama: The world’s best Halfpipe and Slopestyle riders will be battling it out at the 2020 Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships, a free and open-to-the-public event that runs from Feb. 18-29. Après awesomeness abounds here, sure; but one of the most dramatic versions takes place at the Four Seasons’ Remedy Bar, where you'll find wide-open mountain views (indoors and out), year-round fire pits, and a signature Old Fashioned (the bourbon's made especially for Remedy).