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. Mont Blanc itself is the highest peak in all of Western Europe and 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 and during the winter season there is always live music to be found and a young crowd ready to party.
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, so if you can manage a break of at least ten days, it’s worth every penny of the flight. The roughly 120-kilometre-long coast takes in everything from hedonistic party beaches, package resorts, sedate stretches of sand and hippie enclaves. Avoid Christmas and the New Year and there are still tranquil, idyllic spots to be found, especially if you head towards the generally less developed south, or you could beat the crowds and explore the former Portuguese capital of Old Goa and the green hinterland of this tiny state.
Skate the world’s largest rink, Ontario
Canada’s capital city boasts the largest naturally frozen rink in the world. Each winter the 4.8-mile-long Rideau Canal running through Ottawa is frozen solid and the skate-way becomes a playground for locals and tourists alike – some intrepid locals even strap on skates and commute to work. The temperature dictates 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.
Witness Up Helly Aa in the Shetland Islands, Scotland
Off the north coast of mainland Scotland in January might not seem like an ideal destination, but every year on the last Tuesday of 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” and spend months designing costumes, shields and weapons for the one-day fire festival. Bundle up in your warmest clothes to join the crowds lining the streets for the day’s main event: a torch-lit procession and the blazing glory of a Viking galley going up in flames. The evening’s festivities continue into the wee hours at local halls… 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.
Go down under to celebrate Australia Day
Swap the cold and dark of winter in the Northern hemisphere for January in sunny Oz. Now a public holiday with a proud tradition of families and friends coming together to celebrate everything about being Australian, 26 January 1788 is when Captain Arthur Phillip first raised the British flag at Sydney Cove. Today Australia Day is celebrated in towns and cities across the country, with the biggest and brightest festivities in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. Free family-friendly activities and entertainment is laid on all day in the parks, and the evening sees huge firework displays, the most famous being the spectacular explosion of colour over Sydney Harbour.
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 is frequently mixed, check ahead on carasana.de/ for details of opening times and prices.