Best places to visit in January

Joanne Owen

written by
Joanne Owen

updated 06.06.2024

Hot on the heels of our run-down of the 23 best travel destinations in 2023, we’re thrilled to bring you a series of features covering the best destinations to go in each month.

With recommendations that’ll reward every type of traveller, think of this series as your one-stop travel planner. Not least because we also share top experiences to help you make the most of your trip, and suggestions for the best places to stay. Read on to discover the best places to visit in January. Chances are, there'll also be a Rough Guide to help you make the most of your trip.

1. Antarctica

Best for bucket list adventures

In January, Antarctica — revealed as one of your ultimate wish-list destinations for 2023 in our recent travel trend survey — offers 20+ hours of summer season sunlight.

This means extended wildlife-watching stints during a month that’s also the best time to see penguin chicks at play. They're just beginning to find their happy feet.

January and February are also especially great for cetacean-sightings.

    Make the most of your time in Antarctica

  • You'll most likely board your boat trip to Antarctica from Ushuaia, While you're there, book a guided trip to walk the spectacular Tierra del Fuego nature trails to the Emerald Lagoon.
  • To take the hassle out of planning, explore our customisable Southern Argentina and Antarctica itinerary.

Where to stay

Given that you'll probably board your Antarctica cruise ship from Ushuaia, here are a few options in this End of the World hub —  Ushuaia is the world's most southerly city.

Discover more places to stay in Ushuaia.

Emperor Penguin, Snow Hill, Antarctica © vladsilver/Shutterstock

Emperor penguins, Antarctica — one of the best places to visit to in January © vladsilver/Shutterstock

2. South Sri Lanka

If you're hankering after winter sun, but want more than a simple beach break, south Sri Lanka is super to visit in January.

Offering miles of soft-sand beaches and excellent surfing, it's a place to relax, recharge and take to the waves.

Sri Lanka is also ideal for getting back to nature. For example, the south coast is one of the best places to go whale-watching.

In addition, if you're based in one of the south coast resort areas, the wildlife wonders of Yala National Park are also within reach. Take an unforgettable Sri Lankan safari to see Yala's rich birdlife, along with elephants, crocodiles and — if you get lucky — leopards.

In grand news for culture-lovers, Galle’s architectural allures and cafe culture are second to none.

Top tip: at sunset, head to the clock tower of Galle's UNESCO-designated fort to be well and truly awe-inspired.

Find more places to stay in Galle and Mirissa.

mirissa-sri-lanka-shutterstock_115934626

Looking for sun, sand, wildlife and culture? South Sri Lanka is one of the best places to visit in January © Shutterstock

3. Iceland — one of the best places to visit in January

Best for out-of-this-world nature

Though ruggedly majestic Iceland will be at its coldest and darkest in January, your experience will be mightily brightened by great opportunities to see the northern lights, especially around the Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon.

What's more, January means fewer crowds than December — all the better for romantic breaks, and for enjoying post-adventure soaks in some of our favourite hot springs in Iceland.

Given that this is also the top time to visit for ice-caving, Iceland is one of the best places to visit in January if you're into adventure and nature. Oh, and you also voted Iceland one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

    Where to stay

  • Best for couples: Hali Country Hotel. Rooms offer views of the Vatnajökull Glacier, or the Atlantic.
  • Best for scenic style: Ekra Glacier Lagoon. A chic guesthouse with mountain views.
  • Best for indie travellers: Skyrhusid. A cosy farmhouse with shared bathrooms and kitchenette.

Find more places to stay near Jokulsarlon lagoon.

northern lights, iceland © Pixabay

Iceland is one of the best places to visit in January for nature and adventure © Pixabay

4. Zermatt, Switzerland

Best for skiing, railriding and scenic chilling

While St Moritz might be more glamorous, and Verbier known for being hipper, charming Zermatt has something to outdo these Swiss hotspots.

Located in the Valais canton, Zermatt might be small, but it's massive when it comes to iconic landmarks — namely, the majestic Matterhorn.

Zermatt is also big on welcoming all kinds of travellers, regardless of budget. Expect to see the wealthy glitterati frequent the same bars and restaurants as backpackers and first-time family skiers.

If you're not a hardcore skiier, Zermatt has plenty of great places to eat, drink and shop, and the Matterhorn Museum makes for an immersive, family-friendly afternoon.

To escape the inevitable ski crowds, head to the surrounding wilderness via the Gornergrat railway. It takes you to a breath-taking viewpoint over the Monte Rosa massif. 

    Where to stay

  • Best for Alpine charm: Kulmhotel Gornergrat. Uniquely atmospheric, and the highest hotel in the Alps.
  • Best for glamour: Grand Hotel Zermatterhof. The grandest hotel in the canton, and one of the country's finest.
  • Best for budget travellers: Jugendherberge. A large hostel, with dorms, private rooms, and Matterhorn views.

Explore more places to stay in Zermatt.

Zermatt and Matterhorn in Switzerland © Shutterstock

Zermatt framed by the majestic Matterhorn © Shutterstock

5. Rome, Italy

Best for romance, culture and cuisine without crowds

While few cities exude romance like Rome, it's hard to maintain a mood for amore while navigating packed attractions and piazzas during high season.

As a result, if you're looking for a rewarding break to start your new year as you mean to go on, the Eternal City is one of the best places to visit in January.

Picture yourself exploring this living, open-air museum without having to shimmy past hordes of harried coach-trippers. Imagine ambling those ancient, rambling streets and having the Colosseum, Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain to yourself (well, almost).

Want even more space? Read up on the best places to get off the tourist trail in Rome.

Given that Rome is a great place to shop in style, the post-Christmas sales provide another top reason to visit Rome in January.

Explore more places to stay in Rome.

The Forum Romanum ruins in Rome, Italy

The Forum Romanum ruins in Rome, Italy © Shutterstock

6. St Kitts and Nevis, the Caribbean

Best for blissful beaches and Caribbean culture

If beating the winter blues is top of your January wish-list, St Kitts and Nevis is one of the best places go in January.

This dual-island Caribbean gem delivers laidback beach life, history and all-out luxury in equal measure. All of which means you can plan a trip according to your budget and interests. 

Fringing a 2-mile bay on its southwest coast, Basseterre — St Kitts’ historic capital — is enclosed by mountains and emerald hills. Quite a sight as you pull into you port.  

The port is also home to shops and stalls selling local arts and crafts, with the National Museum of St Kitts and a chocolate factory on site, too.  

Outside of town, St Kitts’ Brimstone Hill Fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the best-preserved forts of its era throughout the Americas. 

To see more of the island, you’ll want to hop aboard the heritage Scenic Railway. Delving deep into lush rainforest, it offers incredible views of Mount Liamuiga and neighbouring islands.

Talking of which, lying two miles south of its bigger sister, Nevis is something of an off-the-beaten-track Caribbean destination.  

Based on St Kitts? The inter-island ferry takes 45-minutes, or zip over on a 10-minute water taxi ride. 

Despite its standing as a destination beloved by celebrities looking for tropical tranquillity, Nevis has a distinctly laidback, understated vibe. 

It’s also home to beautiful beaches that’ll satisfy every mood. Notable highlights include Pinney’s, Oualie and Lover’s Beach.

If you’re feeling more energetic, you could always hike to the top of Nevis Peak.

See more places to stay in St Kitts and Nevis.

volcano-nevis-peak-caribbean-shutterstock_541389004

Want to beat the winter blues? St Kitts and Nevis is one of the best places to visit in January © Shutterstock

Want more seasonal inspiration? Discover the best winter sun destinations around the world.

Looking a little further ahead? Discover the best places to visit in spring around the world, and the best UK places to visit in spring.

And remember, wherever you're thinking of heading, there's likey to be a Rough Guide to enhance every step of your journey from the moment you start planning.

Not fond of planning? Browse our expert-curated tailor-made trips — 100% customisable, so you can create your perfect break.

We may earn commission when you click on links in this article, but this doesn’t influence our editorial standards. We only recommend services we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Header image: Northern lights in Iceland © Shutterstock

Joanne Owen

written by
Joanne Owen

updated 06.06.2024

Joanne is a Pembrokeshire-born writer with a passion for the nature, cultures and histories of the Caribbean region, especially Dominica. Also passionate about inspiring a love of adventure in young people, she’s the author of several books for children and young adults, hosts international writing workshops, and has written articles on the Caribbean and inspirational community initiatives for Rough Guides. Follow her @JoanneOwen on Twitter and @joanneowenwrites on Instagram.

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