Where to go on holiday in January

The far north of the world is frosty and dark – suitable for intrepid snowshoers and husky-sledders who don’t mind spending most of their days in the twilight zone, warming up around a campfire with reindeer herders. At the other end of the earth, the Antarctic Peninsula is under some of its longest (and busiest) days, while the wildlife emerges in Central India. January is the quietest month for Europe, so it’s a good time to look out for yoga retreats. There are a few places to avoid: Brazil is hot and busy during its holiday season, the Inca Trail is wet and muddy, and Northern China dips down to some impossibly cold temperatures.
Antarctic Peninsula

1. Antarctic Peninsula

January is right in the middle of Antarctica’s brief expedition season, when there are 20 hours of sunshine a day, bringing up temperatures and defrosting the pack ice. The wildlife wakes up as just-above-freezing conditions tempt penguins, seal pups and whales into the open. It’s one of the only times you can sail smoothly in from New Zealand’s subantarctic islands, too.
Central India

2. Central India

India is filled with festivals this month. Republic Day (26 January) is an extravaganza, trusty camels are celebrated in Rajasthan, kites flutter high at Kite Festival in Gujarat, and you’ll be tripping over Hindu harvest festivals. Kerala is sunny, dry and warm – although busier – in January and it’s one of the best times of year for tracking tigers.
Cuba

3. Cuba

You’re well away from the hurricane season in January, when Cuba has similar climes to December (read: straight-out sunshine with marginally cooling evening temperatures). Plus, the Christmas crowds will be long gone by the third week of January, leaving the beaches and mountains empty of groups.
Ethiopia

4. Ethiopia

Ethiopia in January means one thing: Timkat Festival. It’s no secret: travellers have been pilgrimaging to this spectacular Christian celebration for years, so you won’t be the only ones there. Experience the celebrations in sunny, dry temperatures – although you’ll soon realise why the robed priests are sheltered by grand bejewelled parasols.
Finland

5. Finland

Some of the coldest temperatures occur in January, so it could be the worst time to visit Finland. Or it could be the best – long, dark days crank up your chance of seeing the Northern Lights. And you can always defrost under heaps of blankets on a sled or at a camp dinner with a Sami reindeer herding family.
Tasmania

6. Tasmania

Tasmania hangs out off the southeast corner of mainland Australia, where January is summertime: think highs of 21°C and a peak season that never really gets busy outside the capital Hobart. That leaves the mountainous wilderness and forest-cupped beaches peacefully yours.

Our top Best places to go in January Holiday

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January holiday advice

We’ve spoken to our expert travel partners to find out where they recommend travelling in January. Here’s what they say…

Paul Goldstein, from our adventure holiday specialists Exodus Travel, says that it’s a good time for tiger watching in India – if you don’t mind the chill: “In the colder months of December and January, the tigers are active for longer, but the days are shorter, it is very cold in the morning, and there can be frost. You will need hats and gloves, as you are in an open vehicle.”

Sophie Hartman from our Central India specialists Chinkara Journeys also warns of the cold: “People often underestimate how very cold it can get in rural Central India in December and January: literally woolly hats and gloves and hot-water bottles for nights and early mornings, then gloriously sunny days.”

Martin Royle, director of our wildlife tour experts Royle Safaris, has tips for those seeking wolves: “I would recommend January to February for wolf watching in the USA... After the annual rut of the bison and elk, the males are very tired and so they are easy pickings. The wolves are also dominant in the ecosystem during this period, as the grizzlies and black bears are hibernating. It is also the main breeding season for the wolves, so they are more active in trying to find mates and establish new packs.”

Emma Mason, from our Pyrenees specialists Mountainbug, recommends January for fresh powder: “Modern ‘free touring’ all-mountain skis are great in powder, so you can slap on your skins in January or February to make first tracks in fresh powder snow.”
Photo credits: [Page banner: Jakob Owens] [Antarctic Peninsula: Liam Quinn] [Central India: Antonio Milena] [Cuba: Dorothea OLDANI] [Ethiopia: pxhere] [Finland: Finnish Tourist Board] [Tasmania: David Clode] [January holiday advice: Anantht84]
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