January doesn’t have to be the depressing, post-holiday letdown month we’re all used to. There’s so much going on across the world, so whether it's hitting the slopes in the sunny French Alps or chilling out in Goa, there are plenty of ways to banish those post-holiday blues. Remember, our tailor-made trips service can set you up with a local expert to plan a winter-busting holiday. Here's our list of the best places to visit in January:
1. Head for the slopes in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France
The Mont Blanc Massif is the stunning backdrop to the bustling ski resort town of Chamonix. The setting for the first winter Olympic Games in 1924, today the area boasts 152km of downhill pistes, suitable for every level of skier. Mont Blanc itself is the highest peak in all of Western Europe. If you fancy an off-piste challenge you can tackle the Vallée Blanche all the way down to the valley floor and notch up 10,000 vertical feet. The après-ski is not to sniff at either; the two main streets and lively square pack in restaurants and bars. During the winter season (which lasts until Easter) there is always live music to be found and a crowd ready to party.
Skiing at Vallée Blanche, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc © Gorillaimages/Shutterstock
2. Go in search of warmer climes in Goa, India
Although travel prices are relatively high at this time of year, Goa is a cheap destination once you’re there. The roughly 120-kilometre-long coast takes in everything from hedonistic party beaches, package resorts, sedate stretches of sand and hippie enclaves. After the Christmas and the New Year rush there are plenty of tranquil, idyllic spots to be found, especially if you head towards the generally less developed south. Make time to explore the former Portuguese capital of Old Goa and the green hinterland of this tiny state.
South Goa boasts some beautiful beaches © Vikram W/Shutterstock
3. Skate the world’s largest rink, Ottawa, Ontario
Canada’s capital city Ottawa boasts the largest naturally frozen rink in the world. Each winter the 4.8-mile-long Rideau Canal running through the city freezes solid. The skate-way becomes a playground for locals and tourists alike – some intrepid locals even strap on skates and commute to work! Weather conditions dictate the length of time the canal remains open to ice skaters, but the average cold snap over the last ten years has been 45 days – so there’s plenty of time to catch it.
Rideau Canal skating rink in winter, Ottawa, Canada © Vlad G/Shutterstock
4. Witness Up Helly Aa in the Shetland Islands, Scotland
The north coast of Scotland in January might not seem like an ideal destination, but every year on the last Tuesday in January, an extraordinary spectacle takes place in the Shetland’s capital, Lerwick. Proud of their Viking roots, local men (no women allowed!) form squads led by the chief “Guizer Jarl” for the one-day fire festival. Squads spend months designing costumes, shields and weapons for the event. Bundle up in your warmest clothes and join the crowds lining the streets for the day’s main event: a torch-lit procession and the blazing glory of a Viking galley ship going up in flames. The evening’s festivities continue into the wee hours… music, dancing, drinking and fancy dress mean a lot of fun and a lot of sore heads the next day. Good thing it’s a public holiday.
Viking festival Up Helly Aa, Shetland Islands © Zdenka Mlynarikova/Shutterstock
5. Recuperate body and soul in Baden-Baden, Germany
The smart German spa town of Baden-Baden (literally, the “baths of Baden”) has been known for its healing thermal waters for more than 2000 years. The Roman-Irish mineral baths of Friedrichsbad are the perfect place to de-stress after the festive period. Immerse yourself in the full seventeen-step programme and drift prune-like and dozy between mineral water baths, showers, scrubs and saunas. Bathing nude is mandatory and in many establishments, men and women mix together. Check ahead for details of opening times and prices.
Panoramic view of Baden-Baden, Germany © Vivvi Smak/Shutterstock
6. Island hopping in the Philippines
From November to April the Philippines welcomes glorious weather, with typhoon season out of the way and warm, usually dry days. Head to the islands around El Nido in Palawan for turquoise waters ideal for diving and snorkelling.
The more accessible islands can be visited on day-long bangka boat trips. Or, you can venture into more remote areas on multi-day adventures. These will almost certainly feature freshly caught seafood as you spend your days snorkelling through hidden coves and sunbathing on deserted beaches. A trip to remoter corners also offers the chance to see how local fishing communities live in these isolated destinations.
Top image and above: Boats at El Nido, Palawan, Philippines © Iuliia Shcherbakova/Shutterstock