Where to go on holiday in January
* Best time of year for bargain winter sun breaks
* Canary Islands, Gambia, Egypt offer lowest prices
January is one of the best months to go on holiday – not just because the weather is so grim in the UK, but because there are cut-price deals to be found. This is the time of year when people are paying off their Christmas credit card bills and tightening their belts. So for those with cash to spend there are great bargains on holidays in the sun. Here, I explain where to go on holiday in January. If you are travelling alone, see our guide to the best singles holidays in January.
Note: all the travel companies featured are personally recommended by our editors.
Mid haul sunshine
If your priority is just to escape the grim weather at home and find a hot holiday in January, I recommend Tenerife and Egypt’s Red Sea resorts. Both are between 4 and 5 hours flying time from the UK and offer near-guaranteed sunshine, even in January, with temperatures of around 20°C. Check the latest travel advice on Egypt from the Foreign Office.
It’s only 7 hours to fly to the Arabian Gulf where you’ll find temperatures of around 29°C – plus great beaches, buckets of sunshine and a dazzling array of attractions. For glitzy hotels, fine dining and amazing shopping, head to Dubai, while neighbouring Oman is the place to go for cultural treats, desert adventures, visits to forts, mosques, remote beaches and mountains. See the offers from Western & Oriental.
Beach holidays in January
I recommend The Gambia for a cheap holiday in January. This charming, friendly low-cost beach destination on the West African coast has much-improved hotels and great weather: about 31°C and 9 hours of daily sunshine in January. Check out the January holiday deals.
Another good-value option is the Cape Verde Islands, a diverse archipelago between West Africa and South America, but easily accessible by direct flights from the UK (in less than 6 hours). With temperatures of 24°C in January, superb beaches and excellent choice of hotels, this is a real up-and-coming destination. View the latest special offers here.
Bali is a great destination for winter sun, with stunning beaches and fascinating colourful local culture. Beyond Bali, the fascinating archipelago of Indonesia offers some of the world’s most beautiful marine parks, along with breathtaking temples, forest and wildlife from Orang-Utans to Komodo dragons. Try this Essential Java and Bali tour.
Thailand is a perennial favourite and remains great value, although you should avoid the east coast in January, which is rainy season. Phuket and Krabi and the surrounding islands such as Ko Phi Phi are perfect.
If you’re ready to splash out on a tropical island, the Indian Ocean is a great choice in January – perhaps a spa hotel in Mauritius, an overwater villa in the Maldives or a gorgeous beach hideaway in the Seychelles.
Luxury tours in January
Experienced travellers should considering going the extra mile for a bespoke tour of Burma, one of my favourite countries and a beguiling country packed with hidden gems.
India offers almost endless possibilities. In the North, where temperatures are a very comfortable 25°C, I would opt for a private tour with TransIndus, taking in Delhi, Jaipur and the Taj Mahal in Agra. Or you could track tigers on a wildlife safari with Audley Travel.
You’ll find plenty of wildlife in Africa. Head to Kenya to see the Big Five on safari, or get up close and personal with the wildlife on a walking safari. Details here. See our tips on the best other holiday ideas in Africa.
It’s middle of the summer in South America where Brazil and Argentina are two of the world’s most exciting and diverse nations. We recommend Dehouche, a locally-based tour company, which knows all the best places to stay and can put together an itinerary to fit your personal needs.
For sensational wildlife encounters, you could take a small-ship cruise through the pristine waters of the Galapagos islands. Or discover natural wonders – volcanoes, deserts, lakes, fjords and glaciers – in Chile, where you can also explore the mythical statues on Easter Island.
Many people in January want to shrug off the excesses of the Christmas period and take a healthy break. If so, we can recommend some excellent specialist companies. We love in:spa‘s health and fitness retreats in Marrakech, or you could take a ski fitness break in the Italian Dolomites.
Head to the Caribbean where The Bodyholiday, LeSPORT recently reopened after a $20 million refurbishment. It offers an all-inclusive beach holiday with a programme of healthy activities and rejuvenating treatments included in the price.
Cool winter holidays
Holidays in January are not just about sun seeking. You could go north to discover natural wonders and wilderness. One of the most exciting winter trips is to see the Northern Lights. This winter is providing more spectacular – and reliable – displays than in recent years. Find a great selection of Northern Lights trips here.
Every year in Sweden the Ice Hotel is built from huge chunks of ice. It’s a special place to stay and includes one night wrapped in reindeer skins on an ice bed (an amazing experience!). You can fortify yourself with vodka shots first in the ice bar.
The city of St Petersburg in Russia is never more beautiful than when snow is piled high on the pavements and there is skating on frozen rivers. A romantic gem.
This is also the best time of year to head south to Antarctica. If you enjoyed the BBC’s Frozen Planet TV series how about a 9-day classic cruise to get close to penguins, seals and whales – and be wowed by the gorgeous silent icy wilderness.
For a different kind of adventure, you could track wolves in the wilds of Yellowstone National Park.
January holidays in America
This is a good time of year to grab some Florida sunshine. Stay in a luxury hotel in Miami, drive down the Keys or discover the best of the state on a two-week fly-drive. You’ll also find cheap deals in Orlando if you want to experience the world’s best theme parks.
January is a smart time of year to visit New York as hotel rates are low and the shops are full of sales bargains. You may also see a crisp dusting of snow. Stay at a stylish boutique hotel. Or head to friendly Chicago for a chilly-but-fun short break.
America has amazing skiing, particularly in Colorado and Wyoming where the snow is unusually dry, resulting in deep powder that stays fresh for days on end. Best resorts include good-value Breckenridge and, for a Wild West feel, Crested Butte.
For a burst of winter sunshine, head to the desert and take in the bright lights of Las Vegas.
Caribbean holidays in January
The Caribbean is one of the best holiday destinations in January, particularly if you love beaches: the weather is sublime and after the peak season of Christmas and New Year, prices are reasonable. I particularly recommend Barbados if you like glitzy restaurants and social buzz. Best hotels include the adult-only The House. If you want a pure beach experience, check out Anguilla.
The Cayman Islands, Tobago and Jamaica all offer interesting things to do, as well as stunning beaches. The Cayman Islands are particularly good for diving. Jamaica has an abundance of cultural and natural sights, while Tobago has a lovely small-town laid back atmosphere. Grenada is also charming, under-rated island: I like the Calabash Hotel and Laluna.
St Lucia is one of the most scenic – and friendly islands of the Caribbean, with lush countryside, volcanic peaks and charming fishing villages. Best hotels include Smugglers Cove Resort & Spa and the couples-only Rendezvous.
Cuba is great value and offers a unique combination of world-class beaches and a fascinating culture and history. It’s a perfect multi-centre destination – you should stay for a few days in the capital, Havana, combined with the sleepy colonial city of Trinidad and the stunning beaches of Cayo Ensenachos.
Couples in search of pampering should look at Sandals Royal Plantation in Jamaica (see their latest special offers). Or how about setting sail on a tall ship cruise of the Caribbean with Star Clippers. You’ll get your winter sun in January, and you’ll visit a selection of islands on an intimate ship that can enter small harbours off bounds to most cruise ships.
No article about holidays in January would be complete with a mention of skiing. For a great-value break on the slopes, choose a chalet holiday with Ski Total – and check here for January deals. You can also save up to 20% on budget accommodation in France with Pierre & Vacances.
For a family ski trip, I can personally recommend Esprit Ski for their exceptional childcare (I’ve travelled with them several times with my own kids), while Peak Retreats is an award-winning operator that specialises in budget ski holidays in top French resorts.
Luxury skiing can be found in Verbier at The Lodge, Verbier, while parents with young kids looking for a stylish resort with great childcare should head for San Cassiano in Italy. If you’re short of time, you can opt for a luxury ski weekend with Powder Byrne where everything is taken care of.
You can also visit our sister sites for honeymoons in January.
Last updated: 16 December 2014
Try our holiday quiz
If you’re still stuck for ideas, why not try our fun holiday quiz. Answer 10 easy questions to find out what kind of holidaymaker you are, and get personalised travel recommendations. Try the quiz now.