best january destinations

The best destinations to visit in January

These far-flung destinations promise to banish your winter blues...

Let’s be frank, there couldn’t be a worse month to kick start the calendar year with than January. A 31-day-strong struggle through grey days, back-to-work blues, and unattainable resolutions — there’s a reason they call it the Blue Month.

With this in mind, we can’t think of a better time to hop on a plane bound for warmer climes, and escape the company of newly-committed fitness fanatics until February (by which time their best intentions will have been safely laid to waste).

Now, in our quest to make January the month of unapologetic anti-abstinence, GJ can present a curated list of the destinations that will have you looking at January in a whole new light. With a little help from the experts at luxury travel agents Abercrombie & Kent and Black Tomato, we present our top choices for unusual winter destinations to set your sights and flights on this January…

For spectacular wildlife: Zimbabwe

The best destinations to visit in January
Photo courtesy of Abercrombie & Kent

Why go now?

According to our friends at A&K, there’s never been a better time to visit Zimbabwe. A changing political landscape has inspired a new spirit of optimism among the country, and attracted new infrastructure for tourists.

Home to no less five different UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Zimbabwe also plays host to an array of established hotels and safaris, where you can spot every one of the Big Five (leopard, lion, rhino, elephant and buffalo).

Where to stay: Bumi Hills Safari Lodge in Lake Kariba recently completed a £2.3 million renovation. The lake-view rooms ensure wonderful views over Kariba, and include lake cruise boats and pontoons. Stay here for exceptional game viewing, sunset cruises, and a chance to forget the looming deadlines and rainy streets of London.

For a rum-soaked adventure: Cuba

The best destinations to visit in January
Photo courtesy of Black Tomato

Why go now?

For the team over at Black Tomato, Cuba offers the perfect chance to swap the January Blues for pastel hues, with a perfect confluence of Latin and Caribbean culture thrown in for good measure. From diving into local jazz haunts to learning the art of rolling your own cigar, a trip to this colourful country offers the perfect start to the New Year.

Where to stay:

After years of virtual inaccessibility, Cuba is only just getting into the swing of high-end tourism but there are a few five stars to choose from. We recommend El Candil Boutique Hotel in Havana’s Verdado neighbourhood. Converted from a traditional Cuban home, it offers the perfect balance of luxury and authenticity.

Also highly recommended: jumping in a vintage Cadillac and going on a tour of the areas of Havana that inspired Ernest Hemingway and his works.

For guaranteed sunshine: Grenada

The best destinations to visit in January
Photo courtesy of Abercrombie & Kent

Why go now?

Known as the ‘Spice Isle’, Grenada is an outdoor haven sitting in the south east of the Caribbean Sea. Perfect for the traveller looking to cure their winter S.A.D, daily high temperatures average around 83°F, and rarely fall below 81°F. January is also the perfect time to visit for sporting fans, since 2020 will see Grenada will host the 51st Annual Spice Island Billfish Tournament — a premier four-day competitive sports fishing event.

Where to stay:

Silversands Resort is the place to be seen in Grenada – it opened in 2019 as the first major hotel project on the island in over 25 years. Suites are designed to seamlessly fit in with the spectacular surroundings and offer an intimate, boutique experience with all the luxury you could desire.

For life on the open road: Californian road trip

The best destinations to visit in January
Photo courtesy of Black Tomato

Why go now?

Nothing brings in the New Year like a classic road-trip and few are more iconic the the coastal highways of California. Of course, we suggest you do it in style. Start in San Francisco and stop to take in all of Cali’s glittering beauty, bouncing from luxury hotel to luxury hotel and punctuating your cruise with stops for wine tasting in Napa Valley, exploring in Yosemite, sight-seeing in Santa Barbara and ending with celebrity-spotting in LA. We’ll raise a glass to that.

Where to stay:

The Post Ranch Inn nestled in a secluded spot in Big Sur, flanked by the Pacific on one side and the Ventana mountains on the other. We challenge you to find a more romantic spot to herald the New Year.

For the tough-mudder: Peru

The best destinations to visit in January
Photo courtesy of Abercrombie & Kent

Why go now?

Known for its ancient ruins, spectacular scenery, incomparable hiking and Colonial architecture, Peru also has world-class cuisine to add to its international appeal. The city’s vibrant restaurant scene is home to some of the world’s most influential chefs, including Virgilio Martinez and Mitsuharu Tsumura, whose establishments in Lima and Cusco are a must for visiting foodies. Tourists visiting in January should also head to Trujillo for the Fiesta de la Marinera – a traditional week-long festival of dance.

Where to stay:

Amantica Lodge is an exclusive lodge sitting on the shores of the vast high-altitude Lake Titicaca, on the small island of Amantani. Composed of just two suites, it has been designed around the spectacular panoramas allowing guests to gaze over the calm surface to the Peruvian mountains beyond.

For some serious indulgence: South Australia

The best destinations to visit in January
Photo courtesy of Black Tomato

Why go now?

Forget dry January. In the first month of 2020, take to South Australia and indulge in the fruits of this fertile land. The experiences on our wish list? Sipping our way through the wineries of Barossa Valley and meeting with Maggie Beers, Australia’s most celebrated chef to learn the secrets of Australian culinary heritage.

Where to stay:

Where better to stay than in the midst of the natural beauty of Freycinet Peninsula, with a backdrop of the pink tinted Hazard Mountains and Wineglass Bay within reach. At Saffire Freycinet, the modern but minimalist rooms with floor to ceiling windows will take your breath away. With 20 rooms to choose from, each is perfectly designed for your relaxation.

For a White (post-)Christmas: Antarctica

The best destinations to visit in January
Photo courtesy of Abercrombie & Kent

Why go now?

While you might have been looking to escape the sleet of a grey UK, we can assure you that a wintry day in Antarctica looks a little different. Much of the sea ice has receded by January but, while you may not see as many of the spectacular ice formations the landscape is famous for, a brief window of opportunity allows lucky visitors the chance to see the historic sites of Scott and Shackleton’s expedition huts.

Where to stay:

It might not come as a surprise that Antarctica isn’t exactly bursting with luxury hotels. However, as an increasingly popular destination for tourists looking for adventure, you won’t be hard pressed to fin a travel company willing to whisk you to the wintry landscape on a well-appointed vessel. Abercrombie & Kent, Audley Travel, Scott Dunn and Kuoni are just a few.

For the nature lover: India

The best destinations to visit in January
Photo courtesy of Black Tomato

Why go now?

It may be less popular than its African counterparts, but there’s plenty in the way of wildlife watching to be had in India’s Aravalli Hills. Channel your inner conservationist and come face to face with the elusive Indian Leopard at this lesser known spot in Rajasthan. Buffalo, jackals, peacocks, egrets and kingfishers also roam free in this paradise for nature lovers.

Where to stay:

From luxury tented camping to traditional five-star hotels, there’s plenty on offer in perfect proximity to northern India’s wild heart. We’re rather taken with Rawla Narlai, a 32-room boutique hotels boasting opulent interiors, a pool, spa and lush gardens all within easy reach of the best of Rajasthan.

For some fresh mountain air: Rwanda

The best destinations to visit in January
Photo courtesy of Abercrombie & Kent

Why go now?

Despite having an extremely sad history, luxury travel has arrived in Rwanda. Known as the Land of a Thousand Hills, the country is home to more than a third of the world’s remaining mountain gorilla in the bamboo- covered slopes of the Virunga Mountains in Volcanoes National Park. Environmentally, this is one of the cleanest countries in the world.

Where to stay: 

One&Only Nyungwe House, located on the edge of the Nyungwe Forest in the mountainous south west, sits within the lush green expanse of a working tea plantation and alongside an ancient rainforest.

For a winter wonderland: Iceland

The best destinations to visit in January
Photo courtesy of Black Tomato

Why go now?

If winter in the UK left something to be desired, a trip to Iceland offers the perfect chance to immerse yourself in a snowy wonderland. Cozy up in a luxury lodge, with the Northern Lights providing your backdrop — and, if you’re feeling extreme, go scuba diving between the tectonic plates of Europe and North America.

Where to stay:

Hotel Rangá, just a couple of hours from Reykjavik airport, is set among the southern landscapes of this dramatic country – the perfect location for the best sightings of the elusive and spectacular Northern lights.

For some winter sun: Morocco

The best destinations to visit in January
Photo courtesy of Black Tomato

Why go now?

Bringing a fresh look at winter sun, spend January routing through Marrakesh in a motorbike sidecar, race quad bikes through the desert and sleep under the stars at a luxurious desert camp in the heart of the wilderness.

Where to stay:

Terre des Etoiles in the Agafay Desert was inspired by the tents of the nomads of the Atlas mountains and Sahara desert. Its luxury lodges are built in simple materials to combine charm and comfort.

For a party atmosphere: Brazil

The best destinations to visit in January
Photo courtesy of Abercrombie & Kent

Why go now?

2016 and 2017 were tough on Brazil. The Olympics brought both positive and negative interest, while the Zika scare stories, an economic downturn and far-reaching government turmoil put some tourists off. But Brazil is on the up again and is abuzz with new luxury hotel openings. From the bustling streets of São Paulo to the white-sand beaches of Rio de Janeiro, discover the best this Latin American country has to offer with a multi-centre tour.

Where to stay:

The Four Seasons Hotel São Paulo at Nações Unidas is relatively newly opened and is the first Four Seasons property in Brazil. Guest rooms and suites here are contemporary yet intimate, with stunning views of the city and the opportunity to take advantage of the hotel’s lush outdoor areas.

For the whole family: Turkey

The best destinations to visit in January
Photo courtesy of Abercrombie & Kent

Why go now?

A richly historic land with great cuisine and stunning scenery, from mountains to the beaches of Bodrum, Turkey is a cultural marvel where the east meets west. New hotel openings have brought it back to the top of the agenda from a recent downturn. Not to mention your money going further with a strong pound.

Where to stay:

Aman’s Amanruya is the ideal place to hunker down in secluded spot on the scalloped Aegean coastline. The isolated resort, a scenic 30-minute drive from the bustling town of Bodrum, rests on 24 hectares of forested hillside, overlooking its own private bay – a rare privilege on the Bodrum Peninsula.

For a world wonder: Cambodia

The best destinations to visit in January
Photo courtesy of Black Tomato

Why go now?

Cambodia’s history, people and cuisine are enough to travel for, but it’s the architecture that has us returning time and time again. Visit Cambodia’s greatest temples, take a helicopter ride over the most celebrated, Angkor Wat, during the Global Naatya Festival and delve into the country’s troubled history during Victory over Genocide Day – a national holiday commemorating the end of Pol Pot’s regime.

Where to stay:

Belmond La Residence D’Angkor Hotel in Siem Reap prides itself on the intimacy and beauty of the retreat. Nestled on the banks of a tree-lined river, the views capture Cambodia’s rich history and culture. The hotel offers a modern take on the past yet still manages to maintain traditional Khmer architecture.

For a taste of the good life: Colombia

The best destinations to visit in January
Photo courtesy of Black Tomato

Why go now?

A Latino twist on January promises to start your year with enough colour and character to last the entire year, and there’s nowhere better to get your fill than Colombia. After soaking in the culture of the mainland, board a yacht and cruise to Tierra Bomba Island, a true picture of paradise where the Caribbean good-life is guaranteed.

Where to stay:

Villa Playa Tayrona, the chicest and most modern launching point for visiting the famous Tayrona National Park. Sitting in a secluded bay with private beach access, this beautiful six-bedroom villa hotel on the Caribbean Sea is the ideal place to disconnect after exploring Colombia’s vibrant cities or trekking its abundant rainforests.

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