Thomas Hobbes once described the human condition as "nasty, brutish and short," but he may as well have been talking about the month of February. Winter is still howling, but the holiday glow has faded, as has your New Year's resolution resolve. (Still getting up at 5:30 every morning for SoulCycle, hmmmm??) The solution? Book a trip! The shortest month has it perks for travelers, being the sweet spot between the peak of high season and spring break. Beach lovers can head to the sun-kissed tropics, while those of us who aren't ready to give up the mulled wine and fig-laden brie can book a ski trip in a winter playground. Of course, this month also brings Valentine's Day, which means you're allowed to travel for romance without feeling corny about it. Here are a few places with the ideal February combination of good conditions and great deals.
Not to deny Barcelona’s many cosmopolitan charms (or pounce on its recent political turmoil), but I’ve always found Madrid to be the more alluring Spanish city. With its beaches, its sinuous Gaudí buildings, its cafés tucked away in the Gothic Quarter’s cobblestoned labyrinth, Barcelona seems too easy to fawn over—just note the roaming packs of visitors on Las Ramblas. On the other hand, Madrid, while hardly immune to tourism, somehow feels populated less by foreigners and more by Madrileños. These lucky souls live their everyday lives in a city filled monumental architecture, casually superb restaurants and a veritable trove of art. My partner and I recently spent a week moving among them.
If you want to experience all the eye-widening intellectual havoc of culture shock, with none of the physical discomfort, visit Japan. A trip here delivers plenty of topsy-turvy difference, from the food to the etiquette to the way residents shop and consume—but in an atmosphere that’s hyper-civilized. Everything in Japan is spotlessly clean. The cuisine is exquisite (and not just the sushi; they do everything well). Crime is pretty much unheard of. Personal interactions can be baffling, but the Japanese are ultimately friendly and eager to show you their country. Their culture seems like our own in many ways, but beneath the surface you’ll realize it’s very, very different—in ways that are a joy to discover.
The itinerary here is one we typically use for clients on their first trip to Japan. It includes the main highlights, but it’s also infinitely adaptable, and there are plenty of add-ons not shown here. Use it as an inspiration and foundation for your own trip. As always, our advisors are happy to help you plan your exploration!
Fall: The time of year when we remember that “culture” can mean more than swatting bugs at an outdoor concert or sitting through yet another superhero reboot (although: Wonder Woman? Not bad!). Yes, autumn means art, and our calendars are already filling up with exhibitions, gallery shows and opportunities to glimpse rarely seen masterpieces. Here are a few of the highlights we’re looking forward to in six cultural capitals (and our recommendations of where to stay for each).
Deserted white beaches, charming Mediterranean architecture, cuisine and wine to rival Italy’s—but with fewer crowds and lower prices. Croatia’s appeals are many, and recently we’re seeing a lot of interest from our clients. (It might also have to do with some little show called Game of Thrones that’s filmed there).
But with its attractions spread along a rugged coastline and countless islands, it can be a tricky vacation to plan. We usually recommend exploring the country in a luxury chartered gulet—a traditional wooden sailing yacht—but those need to be reserved well in advance and can be pricey. Here’s an alternative that takes in the highlights and also gets you off the beaten path.
Rome is one of our favorite cities, but the high “touristy” quotient can make it tricky to navigate. Luckily, Skylark’s lead travel advisor Marley Gibbons shared her intelligence from a recent scouting trip.
Rome’s ancient roots make it fascinating and beautiful, wherever you look. But it’s also surprisingly accessible—I felt like I knew my way around after just three days. And Romans are very friendly, clearly loving their city as much as I did.