Sure, the next few months promise to bring heaps of frigid fun. The winter also makes Jack Frost a permanent resident. It won’t be long before the thermometer in your neck of the woods dances around 32°F and sharp, piercing gusts penetrate the umpteen layers you carefully put on before leaving the house. Between December and February, it’s not so much a cold snap as a long, extended freeze with a solid chance of precipitation. Why should you grin and bear it while the wind is chilling you to the bone and you’ve lost feeling in all extremities? Don’t you deserve a reprieve from arctic temperatures and icy roads? We think so!
Ready to fly the frozen coop? Pack your bags for these sun-drenched spots across the globe.
1. Sri Lanka
Jetsetters looking for something off the beaten tourist path should consider Sri Lanka. An overlooked gem, this exotic island in the Indian Ocean seduces everyone who steps foot with its stunning unspoiled wilderness, colorful history, and flavorful cuisine. Due to the proximity and a lack of crowds, it’s possible to pack a lot into a trip to Sri Lanka. Kick things off by climbing the steep staircase to the top of Sigiriya. Other highlights include the Golden Temple of Dambulla and biking through the tea plantations.
2. Galápagos Islands
For wildlife enthusiasts and adventure seekers, nothing even comes close to the Galápagos Islands. Winter is truly a special time, marked by warm temperatures, plentiful sunshine and calm waters. It’s also breeding season for many animals – thus increasing your chances of encountering giant tortoise eggs hatching and flamingos nesting. Fancy a snorkeling excursion? The tides around Gardner Bay brim with parrotfish, whitetip sharks, and stingrays. Following an action-packed day spent discovering the Galápagos Islands, recharge your batteries at Pikaia Lodge.
3. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Over the past three decades, Dubai has exploded into an international hub of business and tourism. It’s no accident that glitterati from across the globe journey to this opulent, desert paradise. Known for its jaw-dropping modern landmarks – most famously the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building – and ultra-glamorous scene, the “City of Gold” certainly lives up to its extravagant nickname. Add to that, award-winning restaurants, glitzy mega-malls as well as luxurious resorts ( the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah) and high-end business-oriented hotels like The Oberoi Dubai.
4. Hanoi, Vietnam
Ancient architecture, rich culture and proximity to Ha Long Bay (it’s a 60-minute seaplane ride from Vietnam’s capital) are just a few of the reasons Hanoi is a strong contender for where to go this winter. Upping the appeal? Hoàn Kiếm Lake and street food! Head to Lý Văn Phức to sample phở and com binh dan (“commoner’s rice”). Wallet-friendly prices certainly don’t hurt either. That’s right: a trip Hanoi won’t drain your bank account, but it will yield photos and memories to last a lifetime.
5. Buenos Aires, Argentina
An irresistible blend of European and Latin influences, Argentina’s cosmopolitan capital is one of the most sizzling cities on the planet. When the thermometer spikes and the humidity rises in the winter, it gets even hotter. Expect generous cuts of steak, endless red wine, sultry late-night groove sessions at the milongas (tango halls) and an influx of tourists. You’ll also find a variety of enticing events. December heralds in festive fun, fireworks illuminate the sky on New Year’s Eve and Carnaval Porteño kicks off in February.
6. Saint Lucia
The winter woes simply don’t exist in Saint Lucia – not with sunny skies, blue waters, volcanic beaches, and stiff rum cocktails. Volcanic beaches, posh spas, and hot springs beckon relaxation seekers, while adrenaline-pumping ziplines and dive sites attract more active types. Pack your hiking boots because the UNESCO-listed Pitons, shown here, are not to be missed. As you’ve probably gathered, Saint Lucia is pretty darn romantic. Looking to turn up the heat? Reserve a room at Marigot Bay or Jade Mountain Resort.
7. Ko Samui, Thailand
In the realm of tried-and-true vacation destinations, few compare to Ko Samui. Thailand’s second-largest island and reigning holiday hotspot serves up an intoxicating mix of sandy stretches, coconut groves, dense jungle, mesmerizing temples, and welcoming locals. There are fantastic places to stay – namely the Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui – along with pampering spas, hip bars to watch the sunset, and wonderful restaurants. Speaking of food, we’d be foolish not to spotlight the flavorful fare. True to its fishing roots, dishes run the gamut from Thai-style crab curry to tom yum goong (hot-and-sour seafood soup).
8. Lima, Peru
World-class museums, UNESCO sites, vibrant nightlife, and a top-notch culinary scene make Lima an alluring city break. First up, we need to talk about the food. The gastronomical capital of Latin America boasts a bevy of fine dining restaurants, plus no-frills cevicherias and bustling markets. In between meals, check out pre-Columbian ceramics at Museo Larco. Be sure to hit up a few of the independent galleries and contemporary art venues, too. It’s worth noting that you can do all this while wearing a T-shirt in December, January, and February.
9. St. Kitts
Guaranteed excellent weather and a wealth of outdoor pursuits await in St. Kitts. The Caribbean nation enjoys a balmy climate with average temperatures hovering around 82°F. Translation: perfect conditions for rainforest treks, 4×4 expeditions and touring old sugar cane plantations. Even better, a winter jaunt to St. Kitts doesn’t have to break the bank thanks to a slew of affordable beach bars, restaurants and hotels. On the flip side, if you’re in a position to splurge, we recommend shacking up at the Park Hyatt St. Kitts.
10. Ambergris Caye, Belize
If value, weather and underwater exploration factor heavily into your vacation decisions, let us introduce you to Ambergris Caye. Beloved by beach bums and retirees on a budget, this Belizean island also has a lively side with nightlife centered around San Pedro and enough aquatic activities to banish any thoughts of boredom. On that note, you can’t talk about Ambergris Caye without mentioning the Belize Barrier Reef. Off the eastern coast lies unparalleled dive sites – most famously the Blue Hole.
11. Bali, Indonesia
Most people venture to Bali from April to October. Budget-conscious wanderers who don’t mind rain and humidity will score major deals during the wet season. We’ll admit the downpours are certainly a drawback, but it’s a tradeoff for reduced rates and less foot traffic at popular sites. In addition to experiencing crowd-free temples and terraced rice paddies, treat yourself to traditional Balinese dishes. During those precious moments of reprieve from precipitation, travelers can chill out on the shores of Seminyak or go surfing in Canggu.
12. Trancoso, Brazil
Care to venture a guess as to which Brazilian locale landed on our latest must-visit list? If you assumed Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo, think again. This year, we’ve got our Hopper alerts set for Trancoso (well, technically Porto Seguro International Airport). Located in the state of Bahia, this former fishing village tempts vacationers with its golden shores, swaying coconut palms, and bohemian vibe. It’s the place Brazilian celebrities go to sip caipirinhas and snooze in soulful casitas at Uxua Casa Hotel.
13. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Say “goodbye” to the polar vortex and “hello” to the warm, dry weather in Puerto Vallarta. Anticipate temperatures in the high 70s and little chance of precipitation. No surprise this in-demand resort town buzzes with sun-seekers all winter long. December ushers in prime whale-watching season and festive holiday traditions, including Feast of the Virgen de Guadalupe (Dec. 12). The tourism spike extends well into February, so prepare for increase rates. Softening the blow of budget-busting prices? The Historic Center Art Walk, legendary nightlife, El Malecón, and Playa Los Muertos.
14. Key West, Florida
Craving a bikini-clad getaway that doesn’t involve leaving the country? One of the steamiest places in the continental U.S., poised 103 miles north of Cuba, Key West consistently reaches temps in the 70s – yes, even in the winter. It also delivers abundant sunshine and temperate waters. That means ample opportunities to snorkel with colorful reef fish, snap photos of the famous pastel-hued houses, and lounge on some of the most beautiful beaches in all of South Florida. Three final words: no passport required.
15. Siem Reap, Cambodia
Best known as the gateway to Angkor Wat, Siem Reap is a pilgrimage-worthy destination in its own right. From contemporary art galleries to the Cambodian circus, the list of drawcards doesn’t start and end with awe-inspiring ancient temples. Thinking about visiting this winter? December to February represents the peak travel period. Even with the uptick in tourists, prices remain quite reasonable. So snagging a reservation at a fabulous hotel such as Le Méridien Angkor shouldn’t be a problem (provided you book in advance).
16. Auckland, New Zealand
A dynamic capital with a pleasant climate, Auckland does a stellar job at providing an urban escape that feels like a true vacation. It’s loaded with cool sites, notably the emblematic Sky Tower and Waitematā Harbour. Savor the glorious weather with a trip to Auckland Domain, a historic 200-acre park or hop on a ferry to Waiheke Island. Need a caffeine pick-me-up? Get your java fix courtesy of a creamy flat white at one of Auckland’s top-ranked coffee shops.
17. Santiago, Chile
Curious what Santiago is like when it’s slushy and snowy in the vast majority of the U.S.? From December to February, temperatures often rise into the 80s. Because many Santiaguinos flee the city (remember, it’s summer for them), travelers can reap the benefits of less traffic and congestion. On the itinerary? Play a game of chess in Plaza de Armas, shop till you drop along the fashionable Avenida Alonso de Córdova, and soak in the panoramas from Cerro San Cristobal.
18. Stellenbosch, South Africa
Situated 31 miles east of Cape Town, Stellenbosch is the second oldest and (arguably) most well-known town in South Africa. Nestled in the heart of wine country, it’s full of sprawling vineyards, tasting rooms, and photogenic estates. Beyond world-class vino, folks flock to Stellenbosch to eat incredible field-to-fork dishes, walking the tree-lined streets and admire the Cape Dutch architecture. Another reason to stay over in the Stellenbosch area? Babylonstoren, a charming hotel on an 8-acre farm dating back to 1692.
19. Sydney, Australia
There’s no bad month to visit Sydney. That said, if you want to take advantage of the opposite seasons, why not jet off in December, January or February? Summer in the capital of New South Wales is distinguished by warm weather, farmers’ markets, and a range of exciting live performances. Average daytime temperatures in the 70s encourage locals and visitors alike to relish the many outdoor attractions – whether that’s climbing the iconic Harbour Bridge, shown here, or meandering through the Royal Botanic Garden.
Jamaica is a popular destination for families, honeymooners and college students. That’s because the third-largest Caribbean island really has something for everyone. A playground of adventure, it’s blessed with spectacular scenery – lush rainforests, banana groves, volcanic cliffs, gorgeous beaches, and the Blue Mountains. Besides its natural attributes, Jamaica oozes authentic culture. The birthplace of reggae and Bob Marley, native rhythms echo in the balmy breeze. Couple that with a carefree attitude and bold, Caribbean flavors. You must try jerk chicken! To wash it down? Red Stripe beer.