10 awe-inspiring January escapes to banish the winter blues
Facing a post-Christmas crash? It's time to fly away...
If you’re only going to go away once this year, there’s no better time than January.
After all, it’s freezing cold and we’re in a post-Christmas slump – and what better way to do the whole New Year new you thing than with a new you that’s gained a tan, brushed up on your skiing skills, or detoxed on a tropical beach.
If anyone needs us in January, we’ll be in our desert island office…
Marrakech/Atlas mountains, Morocco
Head to the bustling Moroccan city in peak summer and the heat’s so intense you’ll wish you’d gone skiing instead, but visit in the winter months and you get all the history, culture and atmosphere – minus the oven-like temperatures and tourists. Stay in the Medina, with its maze-like layout and crazy souks, and check into a riad – a beautiful house built around central open courtyards, usually hidden away behind a plain door on a tiny, narrow street. Good luck finding it in the dark, though…
If it’s January chill you’re looking for – the relaxation kind rather than the -10ºC wind threatening to whip off your nose – end the search now. No place on earth knows how to mix good times with good downtime like Barbados, where you can be kicking back on a white-sand beach one minute, kicking back with locals in a rum shop the next, and kicking back watching a game of cricket the next. You get the idea.
The ultimate love-it-or-hate-it destination it may be, but you can’t argue with temperatures in the mid-20s and a bigger-is-better culture that’ll rouse you from that mid-winter slump. This man-made city has soaring architecture, unbridled luxury, and just about every attraction you could ever imagine – bigger and ballsier than anywhere else, naturally. If it all gets a bit much, retreat to the desert and hoon a buggy around the dunes in a cloud of sand – it’ll make you forget the British winter ever existed.
Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
There’s not much variation in temperature throughout the year in Tenerife, which means it goes from warm in the summer to pretty warm in the winter. That also means that, unlike many other European resorts, which shut down throughout the colder months, the whole island’s in full-on holiday mode all year round. If you’re a cyclist, head for the hills (or, rather, volcanoes) and you might spot some pros getting in some pre-Tour de France training.
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New York, USA
The first thing you need to know is this – if you go to New York in January it’s going to be cold. Like, really cold. So why are we telling you to go there? Well, if you wrap up against the chill you’ll find fewer tourists, better-value room rates and flights and a city that’s even more beautiful on a crisp, clear winter’s day than in the baking-hot summer. And if it’s too cold to stay out for long, you’re in luck – no city in the world has a better array of museums, shows, restaurants and shops. Maybe buy yourself an extra scarf, just in case.
Cape Town and the Garden Route, South Africa
Imagine being able to fly away for blazing sunshine, out-of-this-world scenery and beautiful beaches – minus the jet lag. That’s what you’ll find in Cape Town, a city that’s not only one of the most beautiful in the world, but has a time difference to the UK of two hours in January. If you can bear to leave the buzzing city and big-breaking waves behind, head out for a road trip on the famous Garden Route and takes in the wilds and wildlife of the Cape. Oh, and there are masses of vineyards nearby if your idea of ‘wild’ is a little boozier.
With a dramatic mountain backdrop and glassy, greeny-blue seas, the Omani capital is a historic port city that’s held on to its charm while the luxury hotels have moved in – which means you get the best of both worlds. Just in case you can’t squeeze enough fun out of white-sand beaches, vast pools and bustling ancient souks, why not go scuba diving, get out on a sailing boat or explore the sultanate’s lush wadis (valleys) in a 4×4 or on foot. One small step for Oman…
Tulum and the Mayan Riviera, Mexico
If you like your picture-postcard Caribbean beaches served up with a side of history and culture (not to mention great food and a bit of adventure), Mexico’s Riviera Maya is for you. Playa del Carmen is the unabashed party town, full of resorts, clubs and shops, while laid-back Tulum offers tropical R&R to go with its impressive Mayan ruins and lush coastal jungle. You don’t get that in Bournemouth or Scarborough.
Why should you go to Sölden for your next ski trip rather than any other snow-covered mountain resorts on the planet? Because that’s where James Bond skis – that’s why. Admittedly, Daniel Craig/007 spent more time hanging out in the super-modern Ice Q restaurant, shooting stuff and driving cars too fast than putting in parallel turns, but he should have done – the epic scenery in this quiet Tirolean town is matched by on and off-piste action that’s got a licence to thrill. (Not sorry.)
Ko Samui, Thailand
Whether you’re planning on hanging out on the beach or want to get out and about, there’s no better time to hit Thailand than January. Wherever you are in the country, the rainy season will be done and dusted and the temperatures won’t yet have reached their peak, which is good news for your travels (and your skin). Head to the island of Ko Samui for a new-year-new-you wellness break – we won’t tell anyone those super-fruit and spirulina smoothies you’ve been necking on the beach have got gin in them.
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