As the weather turns chilly in the Northern Hemisphere, the southern half of the globe is just beginning to heat up. These are our favorite getaways for winter sun in the Southern Hemisphere.
As the northern half of the planet settles down for some winter hibernation, the Southern Hemisphere is gearing up for fun in the summer sun, all just a (direct) flight away from many US cities. So forget short days, polar vortexes and post-New Year slumps, and get booking a trip to the other side of the equator to shake off those winter blues.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
If one destination positively shouts sun-filled celebration it’s Rio de Janeiro. If you time it right (Feb 21-26 in 2020), there’s no bigger party on earth than the city’s carnival, but at any time of year it’s easy to see why cariocas (the locals) love the cidade maravilhosa (marvelous city). Iconic beaches like Ipanema and Copacabana are where you can top up your vitamin D levels before scaling the heights of Rio’s many hills – don’t miss Sugarloaf Mountain and the statue of Christ the Redeemer, both offering sublime views across the city. Finally, it would be rude not to indulge in some samba while you’re here, and the Lapa neighborhood is the country’s capital for some all-night, hip-swaying dancing.
Getting there: non-stop Houston to Rio from $1100 (also direct flights from New York, Miami and Atlanta).
Cape Town, South Africa
Previously only accessible with at least one stop en route, Cape Town can now be reached direct from New York (on United Airlines). It’s a vibrant seaside city, dominated by the natural beauty of its setting – not least impressive is Table Mountain, climbing which is a top experience on any visit. Next stroll multi-colored Bo-Kaap, the city’s oldest neighborhood, followed by a boat trip to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years, or head to Boulders Beach where you can observe some 3000 African penguins. Further afield are the big draws of the Winelands and one of the world’s classic drives, the Garden Route.
Getting there: non-stop New York to Cape Town $800.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
An elegant European-like city dropped in the middle of Latin America, Buenos Aires is a unique destination with an infectious buzz to it. A cemetery might not seem an obvious place to begin your visit, but the beautiful and fascinating Cementerio de la Recoleta is a top sight here, its avenues lined with impressive tombs and statues including that of Eva Perón, better known as Evita. Next fill up on some Argentinian steak, washed down with some local wine, and then find a milonga (dance salon) to indulge in the city’s sensual contribution to the world of dance, the tango.
Getting there: non-stop Miami to Buenos Aires from $900 (also direct flights from New York, Houston, Dallas and Atlanta).
Say g’day to Australia’s largest city where famous architecture brushes up against glamorous beaches next to innovative restaurants. Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge before wandering through the Rocks (the original 18th-century settlement) to the Opera House, its roof billowing like sails along the waterfront, and the beautiful Royal Botanic Garden. Bondi Beach gets all the attention but for quieter spots follow the 4-mile coast path south of it, dotted with smaller stretches of sand. Or take a ferry over to Manly and spread your towel on sheltered Shelly Beach. It’s hard to eat badly anywhere in Sydney, but one of the city’s best areas for dining is Surry Hills, home to top restaurants and bars.
Getting there: non-stop Los Angeles to Sydney from $900 (also direct flights from San Francisco and Dallas).
A jumping off point for trips to places like spectacular Machu Picchu, the Peruvian capital is a worthy destination in its own right, an enticing melting pot of indigenous and external cultures. Start with the Plaza de Armas and the 16th-century cathedral in the oldest part of Spanish Lima, then explore further back in time at the Museo Larco and Museo de la Nación with their extensive collections of pre-Columbian art (the former has an erotica section that is a guaranteed eyebrow raiser). If all that history has made you hungry, you’re in the right place – Lima has a food scene that, true to its character, is a tasty mix of traditional and modern, local and foreign, with ceviche (raw fish marinated in citrus juice) the most famous.
Getting there: non-stop Miami to Lima $500 (also direct flights from New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and Fort Lauderdale).
Auckland, New Zealand
New Zealand’s main entry point and largest city has a stunning setting, great museums and restaurants and an abundance of excellent day (or longer) trips on its doorstep. To understand more about local geology (clue: volcanoes feature a lot) and Māori culture, head to the Auckland Museum, then hike up Mount Eden, the city’s highest (and luckily extinct) volcano for views that take in the built-up area and the two harbors beyond. For a day at the beach, venture west to undeveloped, black-sand Karakare or east across the water to Waiheke Island, almost as famous for its wineries as for its beaches. Back in the city, Ponsonby has a tempting array of food and drink options, along with independent shops and art galleries.
Getting there: non-stop Los Angeles to Auckland from $1100 (also direct flights from San Francisco, Chicago and Houston).