As a continuation of my “Where To Go And When” series, here are a few great places to visit during the winter months of December, January and February. See where to go in Fall here: Where To Go And When: Fall.
All the suggestions below are referenced from a great book by Joseph Rosendo called Where To Go When, laying out some of the best places to go during each month of the year based on weather, high/low tourist traffic, seasonal festivals, and travel costs.
Here’s your quick guide to a few awesome winter escapes!
Red Sea, Egypt. If you live in an area that’s cold during the month of December, the Red Sea is a great place to do it. The undersea world here is vastly different than any other sea in the world, harboring more than 1,000 species of marine life not found anywhere else in the world. Scuba diving and snorkeling here is incredible, so be sure to check out the Red Sea Reef accessible by the beaches at Sharm el-Sheikh, Naama Bay, and Dahab. You can also join a camel-trekking expedition to Sinai to see the ancient St. Catherine’s Monastery, the mountain where Moses received the Ten Commandments.
Sydney, Australia. You won’t regret bringing in the New Year in Sydney. The firework display over the harbor and Opera House is a magical site, making it one of the best places to celebrate. Sydney is full of culture with an abundance of places to see and do – take a harbor cruise, join a walking tour of The Rocks, visit a few of the MANY museums and galleries, stop by Bondi Beach and take surf lessons, join a trip to the Hunter Valley and tour wineries Australia is known for, and be sure to see the Sydney Aquarium, the Opera House, Chinatown, the Royal Botanical Gardens, Darling Harbor, and take the ferry to the Taronga Zoo.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio is another excellent choice to spend the New Year’s party. With nearly 2 million people from all around the world coming here for it, you can expect it to be insane with everyone partying on Copacabana Beach. While you’re there, take advantage of this beautiful place by visiting the downtown area around Praça XV (the city’s original sqaure), Praça Floriano, and the Fine Arts Museum. Take a cable car to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain for amazing views of the city and landscape. Be sure to the the funicular up Corcovado to see the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer – the spot also offers 360° views of the city, ocean and mountains.
Bangkok, Thailand. With its beautiful temples, historic palaces, bustling markets and abundant traditional restaurants, Bangkok completely immerses you in Thai culture. Check out Rattanakosin, the historic city center, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and the Chatuchak Weekend Market (Bangkok is famous for its shopping, so don’t miss this one!). You can even rent boats and take them through the canals to truly experience traditional Bangkok life. If you have time, take the trip to see the infamous bridge on the River Kwai near Kanchanaburi.
Jamaica. This Caribbean island offers white sand beaches, perfect turquoise water, lush forests, rich culture and a unique history. Some activities you can consider are sailing, rafting, snorkeling or diving, going to a live concert or go dancing in one of the many reggae nightclubs. Take a boat trip up the Black River to spot crocodiles and various tropical birds. Hike the tiered cascades of Dunn’s River Falls and swim with the dolphins at Dolphin Cove. Take a bamboo raft trip on the Martha Brae River or try horseback riding at Chukka Cove and explore the botanical gardens. Tons of options!
Costa Rica. Costa Rica is a haven for nature lovers, boasting dozens of national parks, lush rainforests, diverse and unique wildlife (home to 5% of the world’s identified living species), and beautiful beaches. Visit La Fortuna, the small town at the base of Arenal volcano for rafting and hiking. Head to Monteverde to go canopy zip lining and explore the famous cloud forest. Check out either Manuel Antonio or Tamarindo to relax on the beach and enjoy various sea life tours. For more details suggestions on what to do there, see Top 10 Things to do in Costa Rica.
Angkor, Cambodia. This place has been on the top of my list for a while. February is a great time to go because it’s right before the hot and humid start of the rainy season. The mystical ruins of Angkor Wat were built in the 12th Century and the site is the largest religious monument in the world. Completely engulfed by the jungle, you can marvel at the lotus-shaped towers, galleries, courtyards and moat of this magical site.
North Island, New Zealand. North Island is called the “Island of Plenty” due to how much it has to offer: gorgeous beaches, dense forests, rolling farmlands, sparkling rivers, majestic mountains, amazing wine, a great culinary scene, and volcanos that are reminiscent of the island’s violent past. Cruise the Waitemata Harbor in Auckland, visit the Bay of Islands for gorgeous beaches, snorkel in Mercury Bay, or check out a thermal pool at Hot Water Beach. You can learn about Maori culture in Rotorua and take the Skyline Gondola luge ride for awesome views.
Florida Keys, USA. You can drive through the Florida Keys along a 112-mile stretch of highway that connects each island to the next. The Keys are sunny and warm during the month of February, making it a nice winter getaway if you live in North America. Enjoy scuba diving at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, swim with dolphins, hike trails through tropical forests, kayak through mangrove forests, or visit one of the area’s many museums.