Ring in the New Year at home, then get on a plane: Though prices are high through New Year’s, there are deals to be found starting later that first week in January. The skiing is prime closer to home, while tropical and Southern Hemisphere destinations work well for those needing a dose of sunshine. These are the best places to travel in January.
(Don’t miss the rest of our “Where to Go When” series on the best destinations for every month of the year. If you’re wondering when’s the best time to book your destination to get the best value for your dollar, see our “Where to Book Now” series.)
There are plenty of reasons to fall in love with Rome in January. Temperatures will typically be in the high 40s and 50s during the day, but plan on bundling up to fit in with the locals. Perhaps a new pair of leather gloves to complete your Italian look? They’ll be on sale. Italy generally has only two times during the year when they extend sconti (discounts) in retail shops: January and July. In Rome you can find deal at both boutique shops and international-brand stores after the holiday craziness. While you’re strolling the famous shopping streets of Via Condotti, Via del Corso, and Via dei Coronari, you’ll also breathe a sigh of relief for not having to fight the crowds so common at other times of the year; you can even stop into the Capitoline Museums or Palazzo Pamphilj on a whim, without reserving tickets in advance. Enjoy Rome’s decadently rich hot chocolate as an afternoon treat, or post up next to a funghi (the mushroom-shaped outdoor heaters) and dine al fresco in one of the beautifully lit piazzas.
Sydney’s summer months (December to February) bring beach weather, as well as festivals and harborside celebrations: After the world-renowned New Year’s Eve celebrations comes the Sydney Festival, a three-week celebration of the arts culminating with Australia Day on January 26. It’s also the right time to take a surfing lesson at Bondi Beach, go sailing in Sydney Harbour, hike waterside trails, picnic on city parklands, catch an outdoor movie screening or concert, or attend one of the city’s many professional surfing, tennis, cricket, and rugby competitions. (Remember that prices are also at their peak in summer, so book accommodations and tickets early, before they sell out.)
The weather in January is delightful—spring-like temperatures and blue skies—and the holiday crowds have dispersed by January 10. It’s also when the Galle Literary Festival takes place, with luminaries such as Richard Dawkins and William Dalrymple in attendance. Things get busy again in February, when Chinese New Year and mid-term school breaks draw visitors from Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Dubai, and other parts of Asia.
January and February have the most reliable snowfall, making it ideal for not just skiing, but also ice-fishing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. You also have a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights. Those looking for an extra dose of adventure can even mush their own dogsled team from lodge to lodge—led by an expert guide, of course.
January is one of the nicest times of the year weatherwise for a winter escape, right in the middle of the Costa Rican dry season. It is often the only time in the high season that you can plan a last-minute trip and still have your first choice of the top properties.
January to early February is the hands-down best time to ski in the Rocky Mountains. Especially between New Year’s and Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend, you’ll get excellent snow, great value, and smaller crowds. Yes, it’s the coldest time of year, but that means the snow is dry enough for locals to call it “Champagne powder.”
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
January is the best time to visit Rio—assuming you don’t mind temperatures that regularly hit 105 degrees. It’s the height of summer, Cariocas (Rio residents) are at their most relaxed, and the nightlife is at its peak.
In January, the country is lush and green, there is no rain, and the breezes keep temperatures in the high 80s during the day on the coast—perfect for chilling out by the ocean—and in the 70s in the mountains—ideal for hikes in the cloud forest.
January is the cooler season—which in this part of the world means temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s. Designers descend upon the city for the Shopping Festival, when shops and boutiques offer discounts all month long.
Other Good Options This Month
Click on any of the destinations below to find out why January is a good time to go.
North America and Caribbean
Florida: Disney World, Orlando
Montana and Wyoming: Yellowstone National Park: winter activities and Jackson Hole & the Grand Tetons: winter activities
Central and South America
Africa and Middle East
Australia and Pacific
Be a smarter traveler: Read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.