Where to go on holiday in January
* Best time of year for bargain winter sun breaks
* Canary Islands and The Gambia offer low 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 so many cut-price deals to be found. This is the time of year when most 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 or Madeira (now served by new direct flights with British Airways). Both are just four hours flying time from the UK.
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 Abu Dhabi where best places to stay include the five-star Jumeirah at Etihad Towers and the great-value Park Inn. Check out the latest special offers.
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. Last January I stayed at the Kombo Beach Hotel, which I can highly recommend. 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.
Another destination for good-value tropical beaches in January is Mexico, particularly if you’re looking for an all-inclusive option. If you like an all-singing, all-dancing resort, head to Cancun, while Puerto Vallarta has more local character.
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 beaches in January, which is rainy season. Phuket and Krabi and the surrounding islands such as Ko Phi Phi are perfect. It’s also a great time of year to tour Thailand and the temperatures and humidity are not too high. Check out Experience Travel Group which has a great selection of private tours focussing on jungle, temples and cuisine.
If you’re ready to splash out on a tropical island, the Indian Ocean is a great choice in January – perhaps a luxury hotel in Mauritius, an overwater villa in the Maldives or a gorgeous beach hideaway in the Seychelles.
For something less expensive, head to Goa in India where white-sand beaches, great food and world-class sunsets can be had at bargain prices. Expect 9 hours of daily sunshine and 28ºC temperatures. Choose between a beachfront hotel or a comfortable homestay such as Sol de Goa or Casa Anjuna. Check out the latest special offers.
Luxury tours in January
Experienced travellers should consider 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 the dry season in Costa Rica, a thrilling and safe country with Caribbean and Pacific beaches, volcanoes, cloud forests, jungle and wildlife reserves. Check out this 12-day Essential Highlights self-drive tour which starts at less than £1,200 per person including flights.
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 run by expat Brits. They know 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 encounter 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 is looking amazing after its $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 displays than in recent years. Find a great selection of Northern Lights trips here.
Every year in Sweden the Ice Hotel is rebuilt from huge slabs 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 at the ice bar.
Check out this selection of winter breaks in the snow which include cross-country skiing in Austria and snowshoeing in Switzerland. Or take a New Year foodie break in a gastro centre such as Bologna, Turin or Salamanca.
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.
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 in style or grab a cheap deal in Orlando. If you want combine theme parks and beaches, I recommend Fort Lauderdale which is just an hour’s drive from Miami and less than three hours from Orlando.
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.
For a burst of winter sunshine, head to the desert and take in the bright lights of Las Vegas.
Caribbean luxury 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 dip a little. I particularly recommend Barbados if you like glitzy restaurants and social buzz. 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.
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 vessel that can enter small harbours off bounds to larger 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.
You can also visit our sister sites for honeymoons in January.
Last updated: 20 December 2016
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