I used to associate holidays with summers and sunshine – and, as a Brit, that mean May through to September.

Then, a winter getaway to Cuba changed all that. I realised just how great it can be to get away during the colder months.

As much as I love keeping cosy at home during the winter, there’s nothing like starting the year with a big trip.

Not only does it delay the post-Christmas depression, but it’s a great way to kick off the year on a high. Here’s how to do it:

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7 places to visit in January

One of the best things about travelling in January is that you can choose sun or snow – or anything in between.

Whether you prefer visiting sunnier shores or other cold climates, here are seven of the best places to visit in January.

#1 – Hokkaido, Japan

Japan is a popular destination year-round, and it’s certainly somewhere where you won’t be restricted by the climate. There are so many sides of Japan, and each season brings a different into the limelight.

While it’s possible to enjoy all of Japan in winter, there’s one place that was made for the snowy season: Hokkaido.

Japan’s northernmost island knows how to do winter – which is just as well, given that the winter can last well into April there.

During the colder months, Hokkaido makes the most of its snowy surface, with plenty of ski resorts, the Sapporo Snow Festival at the end of the month and other ways to enjoy the white stuff.

I’d even go as far to say that the best time to visit Hokkaido is in the winter time.

If you’re looking for a winter getaway to somewhere a little more unique, book a trip to Hokkaido in January.

You’ll get to see all the quirks and wonders that travellers visit Japan but experience a very different side at the same time.

Make sure you visit an onsen while you’re there and dig in to plenty of delicious Hokkaido ramen – for some reason, it tastes even better up there!

Planning a trip to Hokkaido Japan

#2 – The Canary Islands, Spain

If you think Europe is out of bounds in the depths of winter, think again. The Canary Islands may be part of Spain, but their location just off the western coast of Africa means it rarely gets cold there.

Gran Canaria benefits from year-round sunshine and pretty consistent weather 365 days a year. It might be why it’s such a popular digital nomad destination, and it’s definitely why it’s a popular spot for winter travellers.

While some parts of the island are less predictable, Maspalomas only has around 20 days of rainfall per year. It’s nearly always warm sunny, whatever the month of the year. Plus, it’s just a short 4-hour flight from the UK, making it a great place to visit in January for a new year vitamin D boost.

gran canaria dunes maspalomas nudist beach

#3 – Lesotho + South Africa

I may be biased, but there’s never a bad time to visit South Africa. When you choose to go, then, will really depend on what you plan to do while you’re there.

January is a really popular month for visiting South Africa because the weather is at its best.

As well as making the most of the many beautiful beaches, you’ll also have more hours of sunlight for hiking and exploring. It’s also one of the cheapest times to visit the tiny mountain nation surrounded by South Africa: Lesotho.

Lesotho is one of the most incredible countries I’ve ever been to and I highly recommend setting aside some time to visit if you can.

The people are incredibly friendly and the landscapes are up there with Scotland and the Austrian Alps. Plus, there’s no shortage of things to do.

The Lesotho roads can be tricky to drive on in the best weather, so summer will always be a safer time to visit. And since January falls right in the middle of the summer in Southern Africa, there’s no better time to visit!

Lesotho mother and child places to visit in January

#4 – Vienna, Austria

January is a great time to visit Austria for skiing – but don’t think you have to head to the mountains.

During the winter months, the cities in Austria are much quieter, meaning you can have a much more immersive travel experience.

Vienna in particular is much quieter at this time of year, meaning you can have more local experience than you could at other times of year.

While you may have to miss a few things off your Vienna itinerary because they’ll be closed, there’s still plenty of things to do in Vienna in January.

Best of all, you won’t have to deal with large crowds and long queues!

Cityscape in Vienna Austria

#5 – Arizona, USA

I spent most of January 2018 in Arizona and it was the perfect place to spend the first month of the year. Not only is the Arizona weather pleasantly mild in January, the cooler climate means the National Parks and other main sites are much quieter than the rest of the year.

I’ll let you in on a little secret:

If you want to visit Havasu Falls but are struggling to make a reservation, visit in January. The Havasu Falls reservations are nearly always fully booked, meaning you have to plan really far ahead – and then get lucky!

If you visit in January, however, you won’t have to worry. Reservations are closed during the winter, but the campsite – and the entire area – is still open. Simply pay on arrival and enjoy having the incredible Havasu Falls and surrounding area to yourself!

If you’re interested in visiting Havasu Falls in January, check out my guide on how to get to Havasu Falls for all the information you need. It’ll take a little planning, but it’ll be worth it!

Havasupai Falls hike: Hiking to Havasu Falls Arizona

#6 – Chiapas, Mexico

Another place to visit in January and take advantage of low season is Chiapas. Chiapas isn’t super popular with tourists, but many Mexicans travel there throughout the year.

The winter is low season in Chiapas, meaning there are very few tourists at all. We had at least two massive Mayan ruins sites and temples to ourselves, which made the experience even more magical.

Given the large crowds that visit in the warmer months, it’s well worth making the effort to visit off-season. Plus, it’s not even cold!

Tonina Mayan ruins in Chiapas, Mexico

#7 – Crete, Greece

Although the Greek Islands are usually considered a summer destination, there’s one island that’s great all year round: Crete.

Crete is the southern-most Greek island and it’s also the largest. That makes it a great place to explore – and stay – during the winter months.

Not only is the weather warm enough to leave your coat behind, but there’s enough to keep you busy for however long you stay.

Although there won’t be many lazy days by the pool, Crete has a lot more to offer beyond the beach.

Crete Greece

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where to travel in january