After the excitement of Christmas and the champagne-fuelled celebrations of New Year’s Eve, you might be ready to hang up your party shoes, but now is a perfect time to snag a travel bargain. Whether you want to shed your winter woollies at a tropical beach resort or hit the ski slopes in the Swiss Alps, make it your New Year’s resolution to tick off at least one of these destinations this month. Here are the top choices for where to go in January.
With temperatures soaring and many locals escaping to the coast, midsummer can be a good time to score a bargain in Buenos Aires. If you can stand the humidity, this is the time to explore the sights without the crowds or relax in the city’s many parks. Wander around the magnificent Recoleta cemetery, home to Evita’s grave; take a picnic to the Bosques de Palermo; watch the street tango dancers at San Telmo’s Sunday market; or take a day trip to nearby Tigre, where you can take a scenic cruise along the river delta.
Serving up sun, sea and sand all four seasons, there’s no bad time of year to visit Hawaii and there are plenty of festivities to keep you busy in January. Oahu kicks off its three-month long Cherry Blossom Festival, followed by the Chinese New Year on Jan. 31; the Pacific Islands Arts Festival celebrates traditional arts and crafts in Honolulu; and the Maui Whale Festival is held in honor of the annual humpback whale migration, making it the ideal time for whale watching cruises.
Even if you missed out on a white Christmas, it’s not too late to hit the ski slopes and what better place to spend the winter months than Whistler, British Colombia’s snow-blanketed wonderland? Powder junkies can make the most of the winter sport hotspot with plenty of ski and snowboard runs to choose from, but even if you don’t fancy hitting the slopes, you can still get your kicks snowmobiling, tubing, zip lining or dog sledding, or strap on some snowshoes for a hike in the snow. With the Christmas crowds heading home, resorts will also be quieter in January and the lull in business is often reflected in the prices, so keep a look out for special deals at the ski schools and lodges.
As the proud host of the biggest Mardi Gras celebrations in the U.S., New Orleans takes its Fat Tuesday celebrations seriously and preparations will already be underway this month for the big event. If you can’t make it for March 4, you can still soak up the carnival spirit with a visit to Mardi Gras World, where you can tour the workshops and watch as local artisans craft the magnificent floats and flamboyant costumes for the dazzling Mardi Gras parade.
With the weather warm and dry, and plenty of post-holidays deals to be found, January is an ideal time to head south and explore Central America. Burn off those extra Christmas calories with a hike through the famous Mayan ruins of Tikal in Guatemala; a zip-lining adventure in the cloud forests of Costa Rica; or a snorkeling or scuba diving trip through Belize’s famous Shark Ray Alley. If that sounds a bit too active, you could always opt for a cruise around the Bay Islands in Honduras, a spot of sightseeing in Panama City, or just hit the beach and top up your fading summer tan.
Over in Europe, Venice is another city getting geared up for the upcoming Carnevale (this year kicking off on Feb. 15) and the souvenir stores will be crammed with colorful Venetian masks. Visiting Venice in January means you’ll have to wrap up warm, but don’t let the chilly weather stop you from enjoying the sights and making the most of low season prices. Check out the rowing race along the Grand Canal on Jan. 6; get glammed up for a show at the Teatro La Fenice opera house; escape the cold and explore Venice’s many museums and galleries; or huddle up with friends in a waterfront coffee shop.
With endlessly sunny days, balmy nights and the high season crowds keeping the party going well into the New Year, Bangkok is a lively place to spend the first few weeks of 2014. The biggest event of the month is the Chinese New Year on Jan. 31, when the city’s Chinatown comes alive with an enormous dragon parade, a colorful display of paper lanterns, live music and dancing, and a mass of oriental street food stalls. Even you’re not in town for the festivities, you can still take in the sights of Bangkok, bag some bargains at the city’s legendary night markets; or take a day trip to the nearby Khao Yai National Park, where you can trek through the jungle on an elephant.
Winter in Morocco is cooler but still warm enough for sightseeing, so head to Marrakesh where you can get lost in the labyrinth of souks, dig into steaming tagine in the bustling Djemaa el Fna square, or stroll around the opulent Bahia Palace. There’s no reason to only stay in the city though – take a trip through the snowy Atlas mountains, then warm up with a trek through the Sahara desert by camel, or head to the coastal resorts like Tangier and Essaouira, where surfers will be braving the winter waters to catch some of the biggest waves of the year.
Temperatures might not dip as low as they do in northern Europe, but there’s still a chill in the air in Barcelona this month, so layer-up your clothes before you head out sightseeing. Once you’ve strolled around the Barri Gotic, Gaudí’s colorful Park Güell and La Boqueria Market, there are plenty of ways to get warm, like checking out the Picasso Museum and the Joan Miró Museum, wine or cava tasting in the Catalan wine region, or learning to make tapas with a local cooking class. Alternatively, take a day trip to the mountaintop monastery of Montserrat or hop over the border to nearby Andorra, where you can hit the ski slopes, stock up on tax-free goods and add another stamp to your passport.
It’s always summertime in the Caribbean and January is one of the most popular times to visit the Dominican Republic, with the beach and golf resorts of Punta Cana brimming with tourists. There’s more to the sun-soaked country than its pristine beaches though, so take the time to explore the UNESCO-listed Zona Colonial; enjoy a whale watching cruise around Samana Bay; tour a traditional cigar factory; or get active with a speed boat ride, a dune buggy adventure or a scuba diving course.
Few European destinations can compete with Switzerland when it comes to breathtaking winter scenery, and Interlaken’s mix of icy lakes, looming peaks and alpine villages provide a magical backdrop for a January break. Nestled in the foothills of the Bernese Alps, Interlaken is also Switzerland’s adventure sports capital so prepare to get your pulse racing as you hike in the hills, take a horseback ride around the lake, or plummet from the sky on a death-defying bungee jump. Of course, winter brings with it plenty of powder too, and Interlaken is perfectly situated for visiting the nearby ski resorts, as well as offering activities like ice-skating and snowshoeing around the lakelands.
Key West, Florida
As the southernmost point in the U.S. (not counting Hawaii), the small island of Key West is a top retreat for sun-loving travelers and the party mood will be continuing into the New Year with events like the Key West Food and Wine Festival, Key West Race Week and the Florida Keys Seafood Festival all held in January. Once you’ve made the most of the island’s renowned beaches and nightlife, save some time for a visit to the Ernest Hemingway House Museum, where the iconic literary star once lived; spot dolphins on a cruise around the coast; or learn to fish in the Key West backcountry waters.
With the mercury plummeting as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit in some parts of the country, you won’t have to look far to find snow in Norway and skiers will be in their element as they tackle some of Europe’s best cross-country ski routes. Alternatively, brave the world famous Holmenkollen Ski Jump; hurtle through the snow on a dog sled; try your hand at snowmobiling, ski kiting or snowshoeing; or spend a night in an ice hotel. January is also one of the best months for Northern Lights viewing expeditions and catching sight of the dramatic arctic lightshow is sure to be the highlight of your trip.
If you’ve had enough of frosty mornings and thermal jumpers, swap skiing for surfing in Chile, where the South American summer is in full swing and the beaches will be filling up with sunbathers. Viña del Mar, Algarrobo and La Serena are among the most popular coastal resorts, where you can learn to surf or body board, go snorkeling or scuba diving, or relax in traditional fishing villages like Valparaiso. January is also prime time for whale spotting along the Otway Sound or hiking in the Andes.
The rising star of the Middle East makes a popular choice for both cruise visitors and luxury travelers, and with ocean, mountains and desert all in close proximity, there’s truly something for everyone in Oman. Explore the capital’s many sights like the grand Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, with a walking tour of Muscat; take a day trip around the historic forts of Nizwa; or opt for a 4×4 safari through the Hajar Mountains.
It might be the dry season in the Philippines but there is still a plethora of ways to get wet. Choose from snorkeling with whale sharks; diving amidst colorful corals and Japanese WWII wreckages; learning to surf on Siargo Island; or kite surfing along the coast of Boracay. Of course, there’s a lot to do on dry land too, like hiking through the UNESCO-listed rice terraces of the Ifugao province, scaling the Mount Mayon volcano, or hitting the legendary nightclubs and karaoke bars of Manila.
Marooned in the Atlantic between Portugal and Morocco and blessed with year-round sun, Madeira has long been a favored destination of European package tourists, but there’s more to the pint-sized island than its beach resorts. Islanders will be celebrating their unique natural landscapes this month with the annual five-day Madeira Islands Walking Festival, so they’ll be lots of opportunities to explore under the guidance of local experts. A vast network of trails follow the island’s many levadas (historic irrigation channels) through sub-tropical rainforests and traditional villages, along soaring coastal cliffs and rugged mountain peaks, and around the neighboring island of Porto Santo.
The smallest Indian state is also the country’s most popular winter sun destination and tourist hotspots like Agonda, Baga, Calangute and Varca are sure to be teeming with sun-seekers this month. If the white sand beaches, striking colonial architecture and bohemian party scene aren’t enough, January also brings a number of celebrations like the Three Kings Festival, the Makar Sankranti Hindu festival and India’s Republic.
Escape the insufferable heat of Queensland and the Northern Territory, and spend this month on Australia’s west coast instead, where the cosmopolitan state capital of Perth offers a wealth of natural attractions to enjoy. King’s Park will be the focal point of summer fun hosting an outdoor cinema, open-air Shakespeare performances and live music concerts. Alternatively, enjoy snorkeling, surfing or sunbathing at the city beaches; tour the wineries of the Margaret River; cuddle up with koalas and kangaroos at Perth Zoo; or go swimming with wild dolphins.
After the four-day extravaganza of Hogmanay to welcome in the New Year, you might assume January would be quiet month in Scotland, but those hard partying Scots still have a few tricks up their sleeve. Most unique is the Up Helly Aa festival, held on the final Tuesday of January in Lerwick, the capital of the remote Shetland Islands. A riotous celebration of the islands’ ancient Nordic ties, the annual event is Europe’s largest fire festival and culminates in a dramatic parade of costumed Vikings and the ritualistic burning of a replica Viking Longship. Also in January is Burns Night, held in honor of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, and celebrated all around the country with pubs serving up traditional ‘Burns Suppers’ — haggis, neeps and tatties (mashed turnips and potatoes), and cock-a-leekie soup, washed down with plenty of Scotch whisky.