Yes, we love making New Year’s resolutions, too—only to fail to follow through before the month is out. Why not make yourself a promise that you’ll find easy to keep? Let’s travel more in 2023, compensating with gusto for the skipped trips of the last few years. We’ve got some suggestions to ignite your wanderlust, whether it’s the chance to celebrate a unique Scottish tradition or a canny way to head out on safari and sidestep the usual crowds.
Here are the 10 best places to travel in January.
January is great for: an outdoorsy vacation in an unexpected locale.
Think of Oman as an alternative to the glitzy newness of the nearby UAE, which includes Dubai and Abu Dhabi. This independent sultanate has spectacular natural countryside, particularly along its coast. Consider a trip here to camp and hike, especially this month when the weather is hovering mostly in the upper 70s. Come prepped, though—avoid the wadi or riverbeds because of the risk of flash floods—and don’t set up a tent near villages; the best option is one of the beaches, like the cliff-rimmed Fin’s.
Make sure, too, to book a boat tour up to Musandam on the Strait of Hormuz, a stand-alone territory that’s part of Oman but cut off from the rest of the country by the UAE’s borders. Its coastline is ragged and jagged, more resembling Norwegian fjords than sandy beaches, and the views from the water are superb.
Where to stay: Six Senses Zighy Bay
Book now: Six Senses Zighy Bay
If you need a little luxury after roughing it in the countryside, head to Six Senses Zighy Bay and book one of its 82 stone villas to decompress (and shower).
How to get to Oman
There are no direct flights to Oman from the United States. The best option is to catch a long haul on one of the Gulf-based carriers like Qatar or Emirates, which operate from most of the major U.S. cities and connect in either Doha or Dubai on to Muscat.
2. Toblach, Alto Adige, Italy
January is great for: high flying over the mountains.
Most visitors flock to the impressively craggy Dolomite mountains in winter to ski, but come in the second week of January—from the 7th to 15th, this year—to take to the skies, too. It’s when the Dolomiti Balloon Festival happens in the town of Toblach, with flocks of brightly colored balloons standing out starkly against the blue sky and white landscape.
It starts with the Nightglow of model balloons on the evening of January 7 in the center of the village, before the races start—teams come here from all over Europe, with more than 30 battling to be champion each year. You don’t have to compete, though: every morning, weather permitting, you can sign up for a pleasure ride amid the mountains, which will cost around 290 euros per person for an hour.
Where to stay: Forestis
Book now: Forestis
The aptly named 62-room Forestis is a minimalist ski-in, ski-out hotel powered by 100 percent renewably sourced energy. Don’t miss the outdoor sauna in the forest, housed in a wooden shack that’s traditional in this German-accented Italian region.
How to get to Toblach
Toblach sits on Italy’s northern border, so its closest airport is Bolzano. Connect to this via Zurich, which is served from several U.S. gateways by national carrier Swiss—but it’s also worth flying to Innsbruck in Austria and then driving for two hours. Innsbruck, a ski hub, is connected during winter to most major European cities with long-haul flights stateside.
3. Valparaíso, Chile
January is great for: a breezy city break in the Southern Hemisphere.
Valparaíso—call it Valpo, as the locals do—is an appealing beachfront city, and a visit here this month is an ideal way to squeeze a jolt of summer into the depths of the Northern Hemisphere’s winter.
Valpo is often likened to San Francisco, and for good reason: Pack comfy shoes if you plan on walking around, as it sits on more than 40 hills. It has a similarly vibrant street art scene, too: Head to the Museo a Cielo Abierto (via a charming old-school funicular) to see a swirl of murals created in a frenzy over four years in the early 1970s. The houses here are as exuberant as the candy-colored Victorians in the Bay Area—only these are often made from repurposed corrugated metal shipping containers and were painted like this for identification. (The city boomed so quickly in the 19th century that street numbers and names could not keep up.) All that plus the chance to make a pilgrimage to La Sebastiana, the home of perhaps the best-known Chilean writer, Pablo Neruda—it’s now a museum.
Where to stay: Palacio Astoreca
Book now: Palacio Astoreca
The 23-room Palacio Astoreca was originally built as a stucco and red-brick mansion for a wealthy Croatian businessman in the 1920s; it was rebooted as a boutique hotel 10 years ago.
How to get to Valparaíso
It’s about a 75-minute drive to Valparaíso from Chile’s capital, Santiago. LATAM, United, American, and Delta offer direct nonstops from the United States to Santiago, from cities including Atlanta and Houston.
January is great for: adventurous eaters with a fondness for folk dancing.
Think of January 25 as a bonus Christmas for the Scots, also known as Burns Night. The tradition started in 1801, when a rowdy group first convened to celebrate the poet Robert (call him Rabbie) Burns five years after his death. The Romantic balladeer is considered the country’s national poet and his pals’ impromptu confab quickly morphed into an annual event.
Expect a long night of dancing, poetry recitals, and plenty of whisky; ceilidh-style dancing is also a staple. The quirkiest detail: the so-called address to the haggis, where the Scottish delicacy is venerated with bagpipe-soaked pomp before it’s consumed. If that offal-packed sausage substitute doesn’t appeal, save room for dessert: cranachan, a moreish mix of honey, whipped cream, oatmeal, and raspberries—all spiked with a slug of whisky, of course.
Where to stay: Fife Arms
Book now: Fife Arms
Indulge in some retro-luxe glamour at the 46-room Fife Arms, a one-time Victorian coaching inn amid the Scottish Highlands. It’s received a splashy makeover courtesy of its new co-owners, gallerists Manuela and Iwan Wirth.
How to get to Scotland
Delta and United both run direct flights from JFK and EWR to EDI, respectively.
January is great for: a quick weekend away for the first time.
Anguilla is an ideal Caribbean spot—white-sand beaches and Insta-ready deep blue waters, a place where a weekend of R&R is all but guaranteed. The vibe harsher, though, has always been the hassle of getting there because there were no nonstop direct flights from the United States. That all changed last winter when American Airlines introduced a three-hour flight from Miami, which has proven so successful that it’s ramping up that service this winter: There’s an extra daily flight plus additional service over the festive season until January 8.
Once you’re there, kick off your shoes and spend days exploring different beaches: The mile-long Maunday’s Bay is a favorite, while Long Bay is much quieter than nearby Meads Bay—look for the tide pools on its western reaches.
Where to stay: The Quintessence Hotel
Book now: The Quintessence Hotel
The Quintessence Hotel on Long Bay Beach is an appealing nine-room property with private beach access, butler service, and even its own pickleball courts.
How to get to Anguilla
Taking American from MIA is the best option. However, you can also take a flight to St. Maarten’s SXM and hop a 30-minute ferry over to the brand-new Blowing Point terminal (which opened last month).
6. French Polynesia
January is great for: cruising ‘round hard-to-reach atolls.
French Polynesia’s islands are scattered confetti-style across more than 1,200 miles of sea in the south Pacific; the distances between them make sailing the best (and most enjoyable) way to see most of them. Variety Cruises launched itineraries for Tahiti Island in May that unlocked many of the hardest-to-reach spots thanks to their size. Small boats like those run by Variety can moor at secluded beaches on empty atolls that larger commercial vessels can’t reach due to the shallowness of the water.
The new itineraries take in islands like Raiatea—a sacred island and one of the first to be colonized, where you can pick up superb locally grown vanilla—as well as diving hot spot Rangiroa. The highlight, though, is Makatea, which will be accessible to travelers on a regular basis with Variety Cruises’ year-round itineraries starting in January. The coral atoll was once aggressively mined for phosphates, leaving its surface pock-marked with hand-dug holes. Now, its straight white cliffs draw climbers where barely 100 people live full-time.
Where to stay: Variety’s Panorama II
Book now: Panorama II
Variety‘s two-masted, 49-person motor sailer Panorama II is only 164 feet long but incorporates an outdoor sundeck, lounge, and a library.
How to get to French Polynesia
For Californians, the eight-or-so-hour flight is surprisingly handy. There’s service from LAX to the main island on both Air France and Air Tahiti Nui; United offers a direct nonstop from SFO.
January is great for: celebrating culture—and the New Year.
Singapore Art Week returns January 6–15, 2023, celebrating a decade since the culture fest began here. It’s almost tripled in size over the years and incorporates such events as specially curated exhibits at institutions like the National Gallery and art walks around neighborhoods like Little India. Art Week brings more than 600 artists from around the globe to participate—and yes, you can pick up a work or two as a souvenir at one of the participating commercial galleries.
Linger longer until the end of the month to celebrate Lunar New Year here, which is a little earlier than usual on January 22 (for the Year of the Water Rabbit). Look for the thousands of red lanterns strung up along the river Hong Bao—intended to evoke good fortune—and the Lion Dance, where dancers perform in fantastical costumes in an attempt to ensure the year will be filled with luck.
Where to stay: Ritz-Carlton Millenia
Book now: Ritz-Carlton Millenia
Make your crash pad an art-centric option by staying at the Ritz-Carlton Millenia property on Marina Bay, with its own, 4,200-strong art collection, including pieces by Andy Warhol.
How to get to Singapore
Singapore Airlines offers nonstop service from both San Francisco and Los Angeles in California, as well as from New York–JFK—which, at just over 18 hours, is the longest nonstop commercial flight currently on any schedule.
8. Southern Serengeti, Tanzania
January is great for: the joys of green season and lots of baby animals.
It’s birthing season in southern Serengeti for the first three months of the year: About 8,000 wildebeest and antelope calves are born from January to March every year. That herd-boosting is a response to the start of green (aka wet) season, when the landscape bursts into life as rain deluges the parched earth. Food is plentiful, and so the babies arrive—not just those calves, though, but also lion and cheetah cubs and baby elephants, too. Squint to spot the newborn zebra foals: their legs reach adult length soon after birth, allowing them to lurk unobserved behind an adult.
The lushness of the landscape might make it a little harder to spot animals than the depths of winter when the plants have died back, but there are other unexpected upsides. The smells are more intense, as plants bloom, and the nightly rains wash paths clear, making it easier for guides—if they see a lion pawprint or two, they know the tracks are fresh.
Where to stay in the southern Serengeti
Book now: Bushtops Safari Camps
Bushtops Safari Camps is the epitome of glamping, operating its own custom-designed rovers (which are more like super-yachts on wheels that can move around the Serengeti on a whim). This month, they’ll be in the southern reaches, alongside most of the animals.
How to get to the southern Serengeti
Try Turkish Airlines via Istanbul, which operates from more than a dozen U.S. cities, including Miami and Boston, to connect to Kilimanjaro International Airport. From there, you’ll take a puddle jumper into the Southern Serengeti airstrip.
9. Enumclaw, Washington
January is great for: 2,600 acres of skiable adventure.
Powder lovers rejoice: Crystal Mountain, southeast of Seattle, averages more than 480 inches of snowfall each year. It’s also the state’s largest ski resort, with 2,600 acres of skiable land plus more than 80 named runs. The location overlooks Mount Rainier—take the scenic gondola to the summit for the best views of that volcano and four other volcanic peaks. Book lunch at the top, too: The Summit House is one of the best dining options nearby; make sure to reserve during the weekends.
Even nonskiers can hit the trails here on guided snowshoe walks through the likes of Bullion Basin, at 6,300 feet; on January 27, you can follow that route on a special hike-and-dine program, with drinks at the top and dinner back at the base area.
Where to stay in Enumclaw
Book now: Alta Crystal Resort
Alta Crystal Resort is just 15 minutes’ drive from the ski area—there’s a free shuttle—and has both a heated pool and hot tub so you can relax après-ski no matter how cold the weather is.
How to get to Enumclaw
Fly into Seattle, which has service from more than 30 airlines, and drive two hours to reach the mountains.
10. Montgomery, Alabama
January is great for: marking MLK day in a meaningful way.
There’s no better place to spend MLK weekend than Montgomery, where King lived and worked for five years, and which now has some of the most impressive civil rights memorials anywhere in the nation.
That’s mostly thanks to the tireless efforts of Bryan Stevenson and his nonprofit, the Equal Justice Initiative, which operates two major sites here. The six-acre National Memorial for Peace and Justice sits on a hill just outside town and is a hypnotic, sobering experience: Visitors snake through a forest of abstract slabs hanging like bodies from gibbets, intended to both evoke and memorialize those lost to lynching in the country.
EJI also runs the Legacy Museum, a more conventional showcase that’s filled with artifacts and documents that unpack the everyday history of slavery. Just over a year ago, it moved from a small site downtown to a much larger location that allows it to tell more first-person accounts of enslaved people, as well as the full story of the Montgomery bus boycott.
Where to stay: Staybridge Suites
Book now: Staybridge Suites
Montgomery is surprisingly lacking in funky, independent hotels, so opt for an affordable, reliable staple like the 100-room Staybridge Suites in the heart of downtown.
How to get to Montgomery
There are nonstop flights to MGM, the local airport, from Atlanta, Charlotte, D.C., and Dallas. Otherwise, fly to Birmingham and drive—it’s about 90 minutes away.