The depths of winter make for the heights of sightseeing in many destinations that are usually overcrowded: Think U.S. national parks and UNESCO World Heritage sites. It’s also a prime time for extreme climates on either end of the spectrum, from the Middle East to Antarctica.
Yellowstone National Park
In February, Yellowstone is a winter wonderland with limited visitors. Take advantage of this excellent opportunity to see wildlife—elk, bison, even wolves—and to cross-country ski, snowshoe, and ride in snowmobiles or heated snow coaches.
Nevis & St. Kitts
Though February is high season in the Caribbean (since it’s sunny and dry there, and often the opposite back home), Nevis sees far fewer crowds than many other islands; in fact, it’s almost like stepping into the Caribbean of 20 years ago, with a couple of stoplights, a laid-back way of life, and a handful of high-end accommodations. While the neighboring island of St. Kitts has a number of mega hotels, the portion of it closest to Nevis—Christophe Harbor—is another crowd-free luxury haven, home to the new Park Hyatt St. Kitts and a stretch of government-protected land.
In the first half of the month, the country is lush and green, there is no rain, and the breezes keep temperatures in the high 80s during the day.
January and February have the best weather, with less humidity and a cool breeze in the mornings and afternoons. The sun goes down a bit earlier, but the sunset is amazing.
In 2019, Carnevale will take place largely in February: Fat Thursday falls on February 17, and festivities wind down on Shrove Tuesday (March 5). All that is sumptuous and extravagant about Venice is kicked up several notches during this period of elaborate celebrations marked by Baroque costumes, masked balls, sinful sweets, and general bacchanalian overindulgence.
February is one of the darkest months of the year in Iceland, bettering your chances of seeing the spectacular display of the Northern Lights. 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 time to visit.
February is the coolest month of the year in this tropical country—and one of the drier ones as well—making it a delightful time to explore Myanmar. Revel in the kaleidoscope of festivals on tap, including the Mahamuni Pagoda Festival in Mandalay, the Pindaya Cave Festival in Pindaya (near Inle), the Kayik Khauk Pagoda Festival across the river from Yangon, as well as others in off-the-beaten-track corners of the country.
We love to visit during the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, held every February, when the city is packed with events, exhibitions, and huge art installations.
Yunnan Province, China
By February many parts of Yunnan are already in spring mode, with camellia and other flowers in bloom; to the east and south of Kunming, fields of yellow rapeseed flowers turn the area into a photographer’s heaven. You’d be wise to come after Chinese New Year (which runs from February 5 to 15 this year), so that you don’t have to deal with so many people on the move and the closures of many shops and restaurants.
In February Israel is virtually empty of tourists, so you have unfettered access to almost all of the sites without waiting in lines. If you are looking for the best rooms in the best hotels and the best tour guides—all at fabulous prices—this is the time to go. Temperatures are mild, in the 50s and 60s for the most part, and although you will have some rain, the scenery makes it feel like springtime in Vermont or Switzerland: green hills, colorful wildflowers, snowcapped peaks, and flowing streams and rivers.
February is one of the cooler months of the year for Abu Dhabi, with highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s; plus, rates are at the lower end of the scale for the emirate.
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 breeding plumage are in residence; their coloring is just exquisite.
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.