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Where to go on holiday in January

Go on holiday in January to DubaiBeach holidays in January

* Best time of year for bargain winter sun breaks

* Canary Islands and The Gambia offer low prices

By Mark Hodson, Sunday Times Travel Writer and Editor of 101 Holidays

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.

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Mid haulBeach holidaysToursHealthy holidaysWinter cool – CaribbeanSki

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. You can expect about six hours of daily sun, and 20ºC.

It’s six hours flying time to The Gambia but this is a great option for a cheap holiday in January. A small friendly country on the West African coast, it has much-improved hotels and great weather: about 31°C and 9 hours of daily sun. I’ve stayed with my family in January at the Kombo Beach Hotel, which I highly recommend. Check out the January 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 (also six hours). With temperatures of 24°C in January, superb beaches and excellent hotels, this is a real up-and-coming destination. View the latest special offers here.

Gambia beach holiday in January

Beach holidays in January

It’s a seven-hour flight to the Arabian Gulf which offers 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 the best places to stay include the five-star Fairmont Bab Al Bahr. Check out the latest special offers.

You’ll find similar weather in Dubai – which has even more to see and do – and neighbouring Oman where you’ll find 5,000 years of Middle Eastern history.

If you want Caribbean beaches at low prices in January take a look at Mexico, particularly if you want to go all-inclusive. If you like an all-singing, all-dancing resort head to Cancun, while Puerto Vallarta has more local character.

Bali has stunning beaches and a fascinating and colourful Hindu culture, and is excellent value. Beyond Bali, the islands of Indonesia offer some of the world’s most beautiful marine parks, along with breathtaking temples, forest and wildlife from Orang-Utans to Komodo Dragons. Try this 14-day Essential Java and Bali tour.

Thailand is a perennial favourite with low prices, although in January you should avoid the east coast beaches, such as Ko Samui, where it is rainy season. Phuket and Krabi will be hot and sunny. 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 selection of tailor-made private tours focussing on junglestemples and Thai cuisine.

If you’ve explored the main sights of South East Asia, how about venturing to the Philippines for island hopping, idyllic beaches and some of the world’s best diving and snorkelling. Highlights include the islands of BoholPalawan and Cebu.

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 for bargain prices. Expect nine hours of daily sunshine and 28ºC temperatures. Choose between a beachfront hotel or a comfortable homestay such as Panjim Inn. Check out the latest special offers.

South Africa holidays in January

Touring holidays in January

January is an excellent month to explore Southeast Asia. Immerse yourself in the history, culture and culinary delights of Malaysia or Vietnam. Or explore the ancient temples of Angkor (and beaches) in Cambodia.

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.

For wildlife encounters, it has to be Africa. Head to Kenya to see the Big Five on game drives and walking safaris. It’s the middle of summer in the sunny Western Cape of South Africa where this two-week self drive holiday will take you to Cape Town, the Winelands and the Garden Route.

It’s 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 Costa Rica Highlights private tour.

Summer is at its peak in the mountains, fjords and vineyards of New Zealand. The most popular way for Brits to visit is now on a fly-drive holiday. Ramp up the adventure levels by renting a motorhome.

It’s also mid-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.

It’s also the dry season in Colombia which has thrown off its negative image to emerge as one of South America’s most popular destinations. This two-week Classic Colombia tour includes mountains, beaches, nature reserves, colonial treasures and coffee plantations.

For the sort of unique wildlife encounters that make you stop in your tracks, take a small-ship cruise through the pristine waters of the Galapagos Islands.

For mind-blowing beaches, pristine reefs and lagoon resorts, how about the South Pacific.

Massage-by-the-oceanBeach or poolSunset in the Lotus position

Healthy holidays

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 Europe and Morocco, or you could take a fitness training break or go hiking in the Atlas Mountains.

It’s a great time to be in the Caribbean where The Bodyholiday, LeSPORT is looking amazing after its $20million refurbishment. It offers an all-inclusive beach holiday with a programme of healthy activities and rejuvenating treatments included in the price.

Dresden

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. 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. Or watch the Northern Lights from one of these Glass Igloos in Finnish Lapland.

If downhill skiing isn’t your thing, check out this selection of winter breaks in the snow which includes 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.

If you want sunshine at any cost and don’t want to fly long haul, see our guide to where’s hot in Europe in January.

Caribbean beach holiday in JanuaryThe Caribbean is one of the best holiday destinations in January

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 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 and Jamaica both offer interesting things to do, as well as stunning beaches. The Cayman Islands are particularly good for diving while Jamaica has an abundance of cultural and natural sights.

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 Windjammer Landing and the couples-only Rendezvous.

Cuba is very good value and offers a unique combination of world-class beaches and 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 Leviso.

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 that re off bounds to larger cruise ships.

If you’re looking for a discount cruise around the Caribbean, check out these latest deals. Or see our full selection of the best Caribbean holidays.

Ski holidays

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.

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 at top French resorts.

Luxury skiing can be found at The Lodge, Verbier owned by Sir Richard Branson.

* See more winter sun holidays. Not sure about the weather? Find out where is hot in January.

You can also visit our sister site for honeymoon ideas in January.

Last updated: 14 October 2018

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