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.
With a diverse landscape, from the ocean to the Andes to the Amazon; a burgeoning culinary scene; and Machu Picchu, one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, Peru is a huge draw for many travelers. It’s ideal for outdoorsy types, history buffs, cultural explorers... and anyone with a camera.
The fascinating narrative of the Incas—who, despite existing for less than a century, achieved incredible technological advances in architecture, agriculture, even medicine—colors any visit to Peru. But it’s not all about the past: The food scene, for one thing, is a vibrant mix of global influences (South American, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese) that’s garnered accolades around the world.
That said, Peru is a complicated place, with multiple attractions spread around the country. Logistics can be thorny—not only are there the train schedules and entry times to decipher, but it’s important to order your activities carefully to avoid altitude sickness. We strongly urge you to use an experienced travel advisor to plan your journey to Peru. Here’s the basic outline of the itinerary we usually recommend for Skylark clients. If it sounds appealing, get in touch with one of our agents and we can tailor a trip to your exact needs.
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.
At Skylark, even our interns travel well. Our own Alex Swanson, who while not toiling in our New York City HQ is studying for a degree in classics and history at Columbia University, recently returned from an enchanting trip to Athens, the homeland of democracy. He found a city brimming with both history and a colorful contemporary spice, plus a Mediterranean brand of luxury that’s one of Europe’s best steals. Here are his favorite ruins and reminiscences.
Have you seen that photograph of former President Obama, wearing shades, sipping a coconut and looking cool as a cucumber? That shot was taken during O’s summer vacation in Bali, and if he can go to the Island of Gods to chillax, so can you. With a year-round tropical climate, scenic beaches, emerald rice paddies and holistic spa treatments, Bali kind of makes it impossible not to relax—no matter what kind of traveler you are. We’ve broken down some of the top resort options by their overall vibe. All you have to do is choose your spot and crack open a coconut.
Jessica Ware is Skylark’s head of marketing and partnerships and our managing editor, but we know her around the office as the official hat rack (we’re a start-up—we all wear many hats.) We allowed her a quick trip to Paris, and after coming out of her butter and carb-induced coma, she’s ready to give her report.
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).
Red carpets unfurl, beautiful people appear and lights flash. Film festivals aren’t just celebrity parades and previews for the next big hit, they’re celebrations of culture and beautifully crafted storytelling—and well, they’re also awesome opportunities to hop on a flight and spend time in a new city. But, plan ahead—hotels are booked solid by film studios and celebrity personal assistants far in advance—and you don’t want to get there when the credits are rolling. Here are Skylark’s picks for where to stay for the world’s top film festivals.