10 Best Places to Travel in January

Begin your year of adventure on the right foot—be it on the road, seas, or on skis.

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 2024, compensating with gusto for the skipped trips of the past few years. We’ve got some suggestions to ignite your wanderlust, whether it’s an alfresco rave in subzero temperatures or a canny way to head out on safari and sidestep the usual crowds.

Here are the 10 best places to travel in January.

See-through Biosphere illuminated at night in the winter

Parc Jean-Drapeau once hosted the World’s Fair in 1967—hence the futuristic, EPCOT-like Biosphere dome, which is its hallmark.

Photo by Pinkcandy/Shutterstock

1. Montreal, Canada

January is great for: subzero roller-discos

Are you ready to rave? Come with an open mind and a couple of puffer jackets to celebrate Igloofest. The 16th edition of the party runs from January 18 to February 10 in the Old Port of Montreal, celebrating electronic music of all kinds from around the world. This year the organizers are expanding their offshoot Igloofête from one Saturday afternoon to four, with a free concert from 1 to 6 p.m. and programming that stretches beyond dance music; it’s intended to be family friendly, too.

If you need a little downtime from the DJs, head to the free-to-access Fête des Neiges de Montréal in Parc Jean-Drapeau. It takes place on winter weekends and includes classic activities like ice skating and ice carving, as well as skiing and snowboarding lessons for beginners.

Where to stay

This 177-room property, part of Hyatt’s funky, affordable Centric brand, is right on the St. Lawrence river in the heart of Old Town; ask for a room on one of the higher floors for superb views out across the city.

How to get to Montreal

Air Canada connects YUL with several U.S. cities, including Denver, Chicago, and New Orleans, while Canadian low-cost carrier Lynx has service to Las Vegas. The legacy U.S. carriers all operate flights there from their major hubs.

Sign for the Sundance Film Festival on the Egyptian Movie Theater at night

Festival winners in 2023 includedThe Stroll, a documentary about trans sex workers in Manhattan, and A Thousand and One, which took the top prize and was the debut project from female writer-director A.V. Rockwell.

Photo by PureRadiancePhoto/Shutterstock

2. Park City, Utah

January is great for: bragging rights that you saw the first screening of a future Oscar winner

The Sundance Film Festival remains the ultimate endorsement for indie outfits, a place which can turn a movie into a phenomenon. This year’s fest kicks off on January 18 and is the 40th edition since its founding by heartthrob turned entrepreneur Robert Redford; it’s also the first under new director Eugene Hernandez, best known before as the cofounder of Indiewire and a prominent LGBTQ journalist in the entertainment field.

The lineup, which will include almost 100 feature films plus 60 or more shorts, will be shown at various venues around town; the event climaxes with the awards show, this year held on January 26.

Where to stay

Hotel capacity downtown is notoriously tight during the fest, so instead opt for a ski resort nearby like the Westgate Park City, a 10-minute drive or so. It has four-bedroom loft rooms, which sleep 16 and so can keep costs manageable for group trips.

How to get to Park City

The best option is flying into Salt Lake City, 30 miles away. It’s one of Delta’s main hubs, the carrier offers direct flights to countless cities across the country.

Snow-covered mountains and pine trees in the daytime.

If you’d like to ski down the Dolomites as part of the International Dolomites Run, it’ll cost 100 euros to enter.

Photo by Pawel Szadkowski/Shutterstock

3. The Dolomites

January is great for: testing your ski mettle in a series of ferocious races

This month, come to the mountains to try your hand at the International Dolomites Run, which has taken place here for more than five decades just over the border from Italy in Lienz, Austria. It’s open to both pro and amateur skiers, and there are six different races on the three days from January 19.

Last year, it introduced a new EasyRace for beginner skiers and those with physical challenges as a gesture of inclusiveness, but the focus here is really on elite sportsmanship: The event’s anchor is the marathon on Sunday morning known as the Dolomitenlauf. It’s run over two distances, 20 km and 42 km—last year, the latter was won by Italian Mario Brigadoi (whose day job is as a chimney sweep) with a time of just over two hours.

Where to stay

The aptly named Forestis is a four-year-old, 62-room resort in the heart of the Italian Dolomites. The ski-in, ski-out property has panoramic views of the mountains, plus a rooftop bar that, at 5,900 feet above sea level, is one of the highest in the world.

How to get to the Dolomites

The smartest service to Milan is on Emirates from JFK, which is usually far cheaper than any rivals because it’s a Fifth Freedom flight. From there, one of Italy’s surprisingly efficient trains will quickly whisk you to the Dolomites from the Italian side.

Tide coming in on an empty beach, with verdant hill in background

Costa Rica has become a shorthand for sustainable tourism in Central America, but it’s not the only destination that outdoorsy enthusiasts should consider in the region.

Photo by Stacy Funderburke/Shutterstock

4. Emerald Coast, Nicaragua

January is great for: an eco-adventure without the crowds

Nicaragua is quietly emerging as a less trafficked alternative with equally impressive natural wonders but far fewer crowds. And in January, which averages just one day of rain and consistently sees temperature in the 80s, it’s even more appealing to visit.

The country’s standout is the Emerald Coast, a 30-mile stretch of Pacific shoreline and dry tropical forest. There are more than 300 days of offshore winds here year-round, and sites like Popoyo Beach have become a haven for extreme wave-chasers. They were the only tourists until a decade or so ago, when new upscale accommodations started luring barefoot luxe types to the region.

Come now for horseback riding on the beach, and hike through the forest; look for the darting brilliance of the guardabarranco, Nicaragua’s national bird.

Where to stay

After a six-year closure, the Mukul Resort reopens this month under the guidance of Don Carlos Pellas, the founder of Flor de Caña rum (hence the tasting experiences you can book, too). The 12 villas here each have their own private pools and are decorated with carved teak tables and seashell chandeliers made by local craftspeople.

How to get to the Emerald Coast

Managua is connected to Miami, Houston, and Fort Lauderdale with nonstop flights on United and American. From there, it’s a short flight down to ECI, the airport servicing the Emerald Coast, or about a two-hour drive.

Aerial view of Odzala-Kokoua National Park, Cuvette-Ouest Region, with river in center

Elephant spotting is one of Odzala-Kokoua National Park’s top activities.

Photo by Roger de la Harpe/Shutterstock

5. Republic of the Congo

January is great for: trekking in a near virgin forest

In 1935, Odzala-Kokoua National Park was created; it was one of Africa’s first and now stretches over more than 5,200 miles of rainforest in the central African country of the Congo. It’s an overlooked gem, which usually attracts a few hundred visitors each year at most—in part, likely because the country is often confused with its more conflict-riddled neighbor, the DRC. Congo is only ranked at level 2, or exercise increased caution, on the four-stage travel advisories issued by the U.S. State Department, which makes it a viable, largely safe destination for adventurous travelers, particularly those keen to see mountain gorillas.

The only private operator in the park is Kamba, run by a wealthy German philanthropist, Sabine Plattner, and it’s smartest to visit under its auspices. Activities here include trekking for western lowland primates, which are smaller and lighter in color than the better known mountain gorilla. (There are almost 60 groups of them nearby). The vegetation here is at its lushest now amid the downpours of the rainy season.

Where to stay

Kamba’s lodges, which first opened in 2012, sit in spectacular rainforest locations inside the Odzala-Kokoua National Park. The pick of the bunch is the six-bungalow Nagaga Lodge, set deep in a nearly inaccessible green space, which allows visits to gorillas in near-undisturbed habitats.

How to get to the Republic of the Congo

Maya-Maya Airport, or BZV, in the capital, Brazzaville, has no direct nonstop service from the USA. The best connecting options are Air France, via Paris, which flies from cities including Detroit and Denver, or Ethiopian via Addis Ababa, which serves Atlanta, Chicago, and New York–JFK among others. It’s a 90-minute puddle jumper flight from BZV to the park.

Cerulean water beside a town, green mountains in the background

St. Croix’s celebrations are a chance to highlight the cultural heritage of St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix, which were sold to the United States for $25 million in 1917.

Photo by Nancy Pauwels/Shutterstock

6. St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

January is great for: squeezing a few extra days out of Christmas

Epiphany marks the climax of the month-long Crucian Christmas Festival, when a parade of masqueraders will snake through the streets of Christiansted and Frederiksted on St. Croix, the largest island in the USVI cluster. Before that, there’s also the J’Ouvert food fair and Village Nights, when local and international music acts will perform; this year’s headliner is Afrobeats artist Davido from Nigeria, though expect the programming to be heavy on soca and local acts.

Come to St. Croix now and it retains a less frenzied feel than other hustle-driven U.S. Virgin Islands, which can feel thronged with cruise ship passengers. And if your passport has been mired in bureaucracy as you’ve tried to renew it, don’t fret—remember you can use a state-issued ID for a visit.

Where to stay

This huge resort, spread over 340 acres and overlooking Christiansted harbor, is owned and operated by an island family; it has a vast roster of never-need-to-leave amenities, including eight tennis courts, two pools, and its own 18-hole golf course.

How to get to U.S. Virgin Islands

American Airlines is usually the easiest way to reach the Caribbean, and St. Croix is no exception—there’s nonstop service from both MIA and CLT. But you can also get direct service from FLL on Spirit and a Delta plane from ATL.

Row of white trees in front of evergreens in the snow

In January, Fargo’s average high is around 16 degrees Fahrenheit.

Photo by Sunil GC/Unsplash

7. Fargo, North Dakota

January is great for: realizing it isn’t cold—it’s cool

For six weeks starting on January 13, locals make the most of their maximum winter via the Frostival, a wittily named bash that its organizers hope will make everyone think “cold is cool.”

The programming stretches to more than 40 events, but over the first two weeks it includes everything from cardboard sled races down Mickelson Sledding Hill (bring your own box) to family-friendly s’mores evenings at local ice rinks and a weekend of 10-minute plays. Beyond the Wonderland is a particular highlight: Teams come to build snow forts and then test their strength via a subsequent snowball fight, with a celebratory DJ-driven after-party. There’s a snow sculpture contest at Viking Ship Park and even a candlelit trail walk at night—bundle up especially warm—to go star spotting and gorge on hot dogs and chocolate.

Where to stay

This 40-room boutique hotel, which opened in the summer, is a kitschy joy, with each of its rooms themed around a different beer from the Drekker Brewing Company, which has an event space below. Expect warehouse chic–style rooms, each with graffiti splattered walls and neon signage.

How to get to Fargo

Delta offers service from Minneapolis, while Allegiant connects with the sunbelt, including Orlando and Tampa, as well as Las Vegas.

8. New Orleans, Louisiana

January is great for: previewing the Mardi Gras mayhem at a leisurely pace

Sneak into the Big Easy this month for a chance to sample the frenzied glamour of Mardi Gras without the crowds. Epiphany, or January 6, is when locals switch their excuse to party from Christmas to Easter, and Mardi Gras begins. The king cakes will appear drizzled in Day-Glo frosting and with one charm inside; if you snare the figurine, said to represent Jesus, you’re sure of good luck for the year.

There’s a parade to celebrate Epiphany here, of course, kicking off Carnival season at 7 p.m. in the French Quarter. It’s a relatively new tradition, barely 15 years old, but well attended nonetheless. The city rolls out a series of smaller bashes throughout the month, too, so you can enjoy the Mardi Gras vibe without the madness that will descend later (this year, it’s February 13). Take your pick per your interests: January 20 is the date for the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus nerd parade, while the female-skewing Krewe Boheme lets the bon temps rouler on January 26.

Where to stay

The 83-room building opened three years ago in what was once a sugar refining warehouse in the French Quarter (hence it doesn’t offer suites, but “sweets”). Come for a drink on the rooftop to avoid the crowds in the streets nearby.

How to get to New Orleans

MSY underwent a $1.3 billion overhaul four years ago that made it a joy to use—and it’s connected with direct flights to most major metro hubs, including Philadelphia and Las Vegas.

Half a dozen small boats on Fatu Hiva Bay, Marquesas island, surrounded by green mountains

Small boats can moor at places that larger commercial vessels can’t reach.

Courtesy of Monica & Michael Swee / age fotostock

9. 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 Cruise itineraries unlock many of the hardest-to-reach spots thanks to the small boats it operates.

The new itineraries take in islands like Raiatea—where you can pick up superb locally grown vanilla—as well as diving hot spot Rangiroa. The highlight, though, is Makatea. 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 two-masted, 49-person motor sailer Panorama II is only 164 feet long but incorporates an outdoor sundeck, a 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 Delta, Air France, and Air Tahiti Nui; United and Gallic low-cost carrier French Bee operate nonstop from SFO. Air Tahiti Nui also runs to Seattle.

Winding coastal road, with no cars, curving into hilly land

January is a glorious time to explore, when the roads will be quieter and the weather more dramatic—expect a chance to really embrace the wilderness in Ireland.

Photo by shawnwil23/Shutterstock

10. Western Ireland

January is great for: roaming around the entire coast

The Wild Atlantic Way brings together more than 1,600 miles of scenic roads and trails around Ireland’s ruggedly gorgeous west coast. It runs from the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal until it terminates in County Cork in the charming town of Kinsale.

More than 150 locations along the way are signposted as noteworthy or worthwhile, but only 15 are marked as Signature Discovery Points. These are the unmissables en route; they include the UNESCO-endorsed Cliffs of Moher and the 700-plus-foot tranches of rock that tumble into the Atlantic in County Clare.

Traveling the entire route at a leisurely pace would likely take around four weeks, but you can easily carve out a section to enjoy for a few days.

Where to stay

Indulge your inner aristocrat with a night or two at one of Ireland’s top luxury hotels that’s now owned by racehorse magnate J.P. McManus. He sunk a chunk of his fortune into upgrading the 1832 building into a 103-room hideaway that’s anchored by its own Michelin-starred restaurant, the Oak Room.

How to get to Western Ireland

Shannon Airport is the international hub for the west coast, with direct nonstop flights from there on Aer Lingus to both Boston and NYC–JFK.

British-born, New York–based Mark Ellwood has lived out of a suitcase for most of his life. He is editor-at-large for luxury bible Robb Report and columnist for Bloomberg Luxury. Recent stories have led him to hang out with China’s trendsetters in Chengdu and learn fireside raps from cowboy poets in Wyoming.
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