Whether you want to escape the snow or take advantage of fewer crowds, January is a great time to travel! But where to go? Below, we’ve listed 20 great places to travel just after the New Year. We searched for places where crowds are slightly smaller in January, but which offer something a bit special, whether ski slopes, warm beaches, or even baby penguins.
You may not find warm temperatures or sandy beaches in Antarctica in January, but believe it or not, January is actually one of the warmest times to visit the bottom of the earth. These slightly higher temperatures cause ice areas to recede and make the Polar Circle accessible for a short time, providing more stunning views on which to feast your eyes. January is also the time of year for hatching penguins and other newborn wildlife. If you’re really lucky, you might even spot the first whales of the upcoming migration season.
Though Bahia is home to a string of tiny fishing villages and no major cities, Condé Nast calls it “Brazil’s Coolest Coast” — and we have to say, we agree! The beaches here are long stretches of golden sand, and there are so many great places to enjoy the surf that some beaches aren’t even included on local maps. We suggest heading to the 70s-style surfing village of Trancoso, a favorite getaway place for Brazilians. Here, you’ll find plenty of luxurious resorts and chic eco-lodges in which to stay and enjoy everything this beautiful region has to offer.
Bali’s massive holiday crowds may disperse after New Year’s Day, but fortunately the great weather and stunning scenery stick around. While some travelers choose to stay in one spot, such as the popular Ubud, Bali is a great place to go island hopping. Visiting the temple Pura Ulun Danu Beratan — the most photographed spot in Indonesia — is a must-do, while divers won’t want to miss Tulamben with its big fish and shipwreck site. For some inland adventures, catching the sunrise from the top of Mount Batur is worth the early morning start, while exploring the many rice terraces offers a beautiful glimpse into one of the region’s most important industries.
Charming Bariloche, Argentina is South America’s answer to the Swiss ski village. Though this Patagonia-located town becomes a delightful winter wonderland come August (winter in the Southern Hemisphere), in January it’s quite pleasant. Head to Bariloche for all that you would expect from a mountain resort town: hiking nearby Mount Tronador; horseback riding and cycling along the mountainside; swimming in the lake, or even taking a boat to nearby Chile.
Winter travel destinations do not have to include beaches and umbrella drinks, and Bruges is proof. This charming Belgian capital is postcard-perfect in the winter! Take a canal cruise for the best views of the city’s old-style architecture all lit up for the holidays, or head back to your hotel on a snowy evening in a horse-drawn carriage. When things get a little chilly, pop into the chocolate museum, one of the many breweries, or the impressive Belfry of Bruges located on the main market square.
Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is situated in the Southern Hemisphere, so it’s an ideal place to escape the Northern Hemisphere winter come January. Though the city itself is a little far from any traditional African safari spots, visiting the penguins at Boulder Beach and diving with Great White sharks off the coast of nearby Gaansbai provide the typical visitor with plenty of wild. Hiking picturesque Table Mountain and wine tasting one’s way through the surrounding valley also make for a thrilling experience. And of course, there are always the beaches.
Colombia is rapidly leaving in the dust its reputation as a gritty drug haven. Recent years have seen Colombia — and especially the coastal town of Cartagena — become one of the trendiest destinations for international travelers. January happens to be the best weather month during which to visit. It rarely rains in January, and the days are sunny and warm with only slight temperature drops in the evening. Though we suggest skipping the first week of the month (when flights and hotels are still high), visitors to Cartagena in January can easily find four-star water-view hotels for around $100 per night.
The rainforests of Costa Rica are slightly drier in January — reason enough to book your trip for this time of the year. But the possibility of traipsing through the Monteverde Cloud Forest or the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge without a torrential downpour isn’t the only reason to visit Costa Rica in January. The small country also enjoys a number of cultural festivals this time of year, including the must-experience Palmares Fiestas, with its outdoor concerts, mouthwatering food stalls, and traditional bullfights.
Djibouti! No, it’s not a schoolyard joke, but an amazing travel destination! Situated in Africa between Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia, Djibouti has become one of the trendiest go-to places in recent years thanks to its welcoming culture, stable political environment, and myriad environments suitable for all kinds of adventures. January happens to be the best time of year for a trip to Djibouti, as beaches are warm enough for a lazy day of sunbathing and the coral reefs are perfectly clear for diving. But best of all, January is the time of year when the whale sharks find themselves just off Djibouti’s coast, and when people in search of an awesome experience come to swim with them.
The relatively mild weather in January makes Dubai an ideal destination for winter travelers. The weather remains warm enough to spend time on the golden beaches or at swanky amusement parks such as Atlantis. Spend more time outdoors and go shopping at a traditional souk or join a desert safari. Should the temperature climb a little higher than comfortable, cool down with a trip to the Underwater Zoo.
With a max temperature of 85 degrees Fahrenheit, January is the perfect time of year to visit the beautiful Galapagos Islands. The water in January is warm enough to swim in, while the unique birds and other species tend to be more active this time of year. Scuba divers looking for a January dive destination will be happy to know that dive conditions are usually excellent this time of year, while those who prefer to stay on the dry side have plenty of options for kayaking, hiking, horseback riding, and cycling, among other adventures.
Jasper National Park, Canada
Canada in the midst of winter? Hear us out. Jasper National Park, located in the wild Canadian Rockies, is one place that goes from incredible to absolutely awe inspiring come January, when snow on the surrounding mountains and treetops create an image straight out of Winter Wonderland. During the day, put on your skis or snowshoes and hit the trails. Then, at nighttime, curl up on your hotel balcony with a cup of hot chocolate and admire the second-biggest dark sky preserve on earth.
If escaping the cold is your motivation for January travel, then look no further than the Malvides. This stunning group of islands located in the Indian Ocean is well-known for its postcard-perfect bungalows, clear blue water, and pristine beaches. It’s also a scuba diver’s paradise thanks to its rich coral reefs. If diving isn’t for you, book a spot on a submarine ride or island-hopping cruise, and don’t leave the islands without at least one meal at the Ithaa underwater aquarium restaurant.
There’s a reason so many snowbirds head to Florida in the cold winter months — it’s absolutely beautiful! January in Miami happens to be especially pleasant, with most of Florida’s characteristic humidity completely nonexistent. This makes it an ideal time to enjoy Miami’s outdoor attractions, including Zoo Miami, Jungle Island, and the stylish Lincoln Road. Of course, there are also some of the most pristine beaches in the world to enjoy.
If the idea is to find warmth in the Southern Hemisphere come January, then Namibia may just be the perfect destination. Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, both located on the west coast, boast traditional beach town features — though be aware that the water here isn’t quite as swimmer-friendly as that of neighbor South Africa. Still, if the idea of peering out at the ocean from atop a golden sand dune sounds exciting, then Swakop is worth a few days at the very least. Namibia is also one of Africa’s best safari destinations. Etosha National Park is far less crowded than some of Africa’s more famous parks, practically ensuring sightings of Namibia’s most elusive wildlife. To get around this vast country easily, consider joining a trip with Wild Dog Safaris, a top-rated company offering a variety of tours throughout Namibia.
Nicaragua may be the most underrated destination in Central America, and the perfect January travel destination for the person who has already visited Costa Rica (or just wants to avoid the bigger crowds). Book a stay at one of Nicaragua’s chic eco-lodges (we like Morgan’s Rock, Mukul, or Aqua), then enjoy comfortable days lazing on the pristine beaches or island hopping on an organized tour. Need a little more activity? Hike among volcanic cliffs, go out windsurfing, or trek through tropical forests.
Arguably, just about any time of the year is a great time to visit Phuket and the nearby surrounding islands. While area resorts and local beaches get a bit more crowded come January (Phuket is a favorite among the Brits), there’s a good reason for this. The weather is absolutely superb, with less humidity than what is likely later in the year. Book a stay at a resort near Patong Beach or the family-friendly Mai Khao, then spend your days lazing on the golden beaches, wandering charming Old Phuket Town, and snorkeling in the pristine waters in the Phi Phi Islands.
Rajasthan, India’s largest state, is absolutely splendid in January. Located in the northwestern part of the country, Rajasthan is home to colorful cities like Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Udaipur, all of which are worth some time exploring. When you’re done exploring the cities, escape the crowds by heading to the “lost city” of Bhangarh or taking a desert safari on camelback. If exploring such a large region seems overwhelming, consider joining an organized tour of the region, such as the one offered by Natural World Safaris during which you can track leopards.
San Diego, California
San Diego’s mild winter weather makes it an ideal destination for January travel. Though the water itself may be a tad chilly this time of year, the beaches in San Diego are never empty (and plenty of brave souls simply don wetsuits before diving in!). Otherwise, use your visit to enjoy all that San Diego and its surroundings have to offer. The list of attractions is a massive one, and includes the world famous San Diego Zoo and its corresponding Safari Park, LegoLand, SeaWorld, and downtown San Diego.
January is still the wet season in Tanzania, but that simply means a better opportunity to spot wildlife! The humidity is much lower in the wildlife-rich Ngorongoro Crater — a great place to see rhinos, giraffes, and more of the African Big Five. And if things get too hot, simply make your way to Zanzibar, the country’s stunning beach destination.