The short month of February creates mixed feelings. Many are tiring of cold weather, while others are still enjoying winter sports and looking for new places to wear their down parkas and fleece. Don’t worry — we have the best places to travel in February for both kinds of people so you can plan your perfect winter getaway. This year’s list of the best vacation spots spans the globe, from exciting southern hemisphere cities like Santiago, Chile, and Brisbane, Australia, to harder-to-reach regions like Langkawi, Malaysia and the Danish Riviera. There are the new capitals of culture — Nairobi, Kenya, home to a emergent design scene, or Panama City, with a deluge of forward-thinking restaurants and bars — and the tourism destinations that are back in fighting form after natural disasters or human conflict, including Puerto Rico, the Turquoise Coast of Turkey, Egypt, and Montecito, California. And, of course, there are the destinations that we haven’t heard much about, but certainly will soon — places like India’s remote Andaman Islands, or the art and history-filled emirate of Sharjah, in the U.A.E., or the under-the-radar wine scene in Etyek, Hungary. Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, Travel + Leisure asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated cities on their sights and landmarks, culture, cuisine, friendliness, shopping, and overall value. Of course, Mexico doesn’t entirely steal the show. Our readers love a wide range of cities — and for a variety of reasons. Chiang Mai won accolades — and the No. 3 slot — for its elephant sanctuary and the shopping, which offers an abundance of “incredible arts and crafts at good prices.” From Michelangelo’s David to the Ponte Vecchio, Florence is perennially popular. “Being able to walk around the whole city by foot is a traveler’s dream,” wrote one voter.
In February, Rio de Janeiro has sunny beaches and the excitement of Carnival, one of the world’s most extravagant festivals. Madrid also recognizes the festival season with parades and balls, but the weather is chilly there, making indoor activities more desirable — visiting the city’s museums without the crowds of summer is an ideal way to warm up from the chill. Island escapes to Puerto Rico and Saint Lucia will also get you away from the cold weather for tropical relaxation.
For winter sports fans, we have Lake Placid in New York’s Adirondacks and Telluride in Colorado, both quaint towns with stunning mountains. Perth, Australia is in the midst of summer in February, so the beaches are warm and ready for visitors. On the other side of the world, Kuala Lumpur is balmy and exciting, with plenty to offer foodies looking for something a little different. Palm Springs attracts visitors in February with Modernism Week, warm weather, spas, and a variety of interesting places to stay. For the ultimate wellness experience in luxury surroundings, Lanai’s new all-inclusive retreat will help you get your New Year’s resolutions back on track.