The Best Winter Vacations of 2016

The first crisp breeze of fall might have felt divine, but fast-forward two months and we'll be in the depths of winter. When you've forgotten what it feels like to lay on a beach and are struggling with the winter blues (seasonal affect disorder is real), treat yourself to a much-needed escape. 

To avoid a last-minute rush, Conde Nast Traveler has named the best winter vacations of 2016 to book now and enjoy when the thermostat dips. While the magazine's list includes hot spots for sun seekers and snow lovers, we've rounded up the top three must-visits for those looking to escape the chill. Ready your passport—these are the top destinations to jet to this winter. 

Cape Town, South Africa

Where: The capital of South Africa sits on the southwest tip of the continent. Cape Town is known for its restaurant, hotel, and nightlight scenes, "which rival major European and American metropolises," according to Conde Nast Traveler. Thrill seekers should book a marine safari to dive with great white sharks, visit penguins, and explore the landscape. 

Why: December to March is prime to visit Cape Town, thanks to the pleasant weather. It's also wine-growing season at the nearby vineyards like Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, which are just a day trip away. 

Venice, Italy

Where: Perched in Northern Italy, Venice is loved for its cobbled streets, winding canals, singing gondola men, and Byzantine buildings steeped in history. 

Why: Forget summer—winter is the best time to visit the floating city. Crowds swell and pavement sizzles in the heat of peak season in July and August, while the cooler months bring mild weather and quiet canals. If you consider yourself a traveler, not tourist, this is the time to go. 

Patagonia, Chile

Where: Spanning the lower sections of Argentina and Chile, the vast landscape of Patagonia is the ultimate outdoor playground for nature enthusiasts. 

Why: It's summer in Patagonia, which Conde Nast Traveler dubs the best time to see "some of Earth's finest" natural scenery. In December, the temperature sits at a comfortable 72–81 degrees Fahrenheit, making it an ideal month to explore the mountains, fjords, rainforests, and even icebergs.