UPDATED: This article was originally published in September 2017
Picking your next destination isn’t easy, but there’s a better way than spinning a big globe, closing your eyes and slamming your finger down (it’ll probably end up in the middle of the Atlantic, and wifi there is patchy, to say the least). Introducing our ultimate month-by-month destination guide: your no-fuss list of places to go, things to see, and good weather to chase around the world.
Here’s looking at January, a month full of exciting travel potential and new optimism. And so it should be, after all, you did survive another year at work, the mayhem of the silly season, and scrape through New Year’s celebrations in (mostly) one piece – and you’re only a couple of days into a brand new year! Pat yourself on the back; that kind of commitment deserves a holiday. From the jungles of Central America to the beaches of South East Asia, here’s your guide to where to travel in January.
Top holiday destinations for January 2024
1. Costa Rica
Any place that manages to combine lush tropical jungles, pristine beaches, abundant wildlife (sloths!), and a thriving eco-tourism and adventure scene is a firm favourite for us! Costa Rica puts on a jaw-dropping show of a natural kind, and you’ll quickly become a pro at spotting toucans in the Monteverde cloud forest or listening out for the call of capuchins as you relax in your hammock.
The mild and dry early months in January and February are considered the best time to go to Costa Rica, but be aware that this is also peak season, so you’ll need to book ahead to get the most out of your time there. Trade the hustle and bustle for something more pura vida and get your year off to the perfect start.
This lush Central American gem is full of natural wonders and boasts a rich cultural history (Mayan archaeological sites, anyone?) – but what many people don’t realise is that it’s also home to the second-largest barrier reef in the world. The UNESCO World Heritage site is brimming with hundreds of sand cays, mangrove forests, coastal lagoons, and many a threatened species (marine turtles and manatees to name a few). Don’t Belize us? Go and see for yourself!
While there’s almost no bad time to visit this tropical paradise, January is when the weather is at its most perfect. Again, it is peak season, but plan ahead and you’ll be fine.
Yes, January is peak season in Thailand, but for good reason: the weather is p-e-r-f-e-c-t. Temperatures will linger between 20-30°C (68-86°F), and you’ll find that sunny days full of clear skies are the order of the day. The beaches to the south west of the country hit their peak between November and April, which means spending your days beach-hopping from the turquoise waters of Krabi to Ao Nang to Phuket and back again is a totally viable option.
For a true island adventure, sail away on your own private yacht; snorkelling and chilling out by day, and sleeping beneath the stars at night.
Tanzania might seem an unusual choice for January: for a start, it’s low season, and being wedged between two wetter months, there’s an increased chance of rain. But with rains come fertile plains, and the Serengeti in particular benefits from both now. To the south, the migration and wildebeest calving season is well underway, and the Ndutu plains thrive with new life – around 8,000 wildebeest are born every day during the peak.
With all this new life comes predators, and in January the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater are also home to the largest concentration of lions, cheetahs, and hyenas in Africa, stalking through the grass and waiting for the perfect time to make a kill. This is an excellent time to see exciting predator action with none of the crowds.
The land of a million elephants, home to cascading milky blue waterfalls, shining temples, gentle smiling Buddhist monks, and picturesque towns: Laos is definitely one of South East Asia’s best. The first thing you’ll notice is how pleasantly chilled it is here, the slower pace feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of Thailand, Vietnam, or Cambodia. From the sleepy capital of Vientiane, to the breathtaking scenery of Vang Vieng and the charm of Heritage Listed Luang Prabang, Laos will leave you a little bit weak at the knees.
In January, average temperatures are a very pleasant 24°C (75°F) in Vientiane and Luang Prabang, while the supremely chilled 4,000 islands in the south can reach highs of 30°C (86°F). For those travelling at the end of the month, locals celebrate the Wat Phou festival (also known as Makhaboucha) at the ruins of Wat Phou. Celebrations include religious chanting, lighting of candles, and music and dance performances.
The best time to visit Ethiopia is during the dry season between October to June, when the skies are clear and dry and temperatures are generally mild. Be warned though: if you’re planning to trek up in the highlands, pack some thermals and a good down jacket to beat the cold. While January is still at the tail end of the cooler weather, it’s worth making the trip to the cradle of humanity now for the annual Timket Festival.
During the three-day Christian festival that commemorates the baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan by John the Baptist, replicas of the Ark of the Covenant are taken to the rivers and baptised. The procession, accompanied by thousands of locals in white traditional dress and priests carrying sequined velvet umbrellas, is a heady mix of incense, prayer, and celebration, and is a once-in-a-lifetime festive experience.
As with most of South East Asia, Vietnam enjoys dry winter weather across the country during the beginning of the year, which makes it perfect for exploring without ending up a muggy, sweaty mess. For sun and sand, head to Hoi An and Nha Trang, or relax into a more gentle pace as you slowly drift along the Mekong Delta. Known as Vietnam’s ‘Rice Bowl’ for its abundant rice paddies, fruit and flower orchards, the Delta provides an authentic glimpse into daily agricultural life.
If you’ve recovered from indulging in too many mince pies during the silly season, how about eating your way through Vietnam’s gourmet scene? From banh xeo to pho, the cuisine here is some of the freshest and most fragrant on the planet.
Not looking to travel in January? No worries. Check out our other monthly destination guides: