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10 Best Places to Go in January

By Mark Ellwood

Nov 9, 2021

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Embrace the cozy charm of winter in Quebec City.

Photo by iPIX Stock/Shutterstock

Embrace the cozy charm of winter in Quebec City.

Kick-off the year with a gift to yourself: a well-deserved trip to Italy, Scotland, Québec, the Caribbean, or any of these other brilliant ideas for the best of January travel.

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Make a new New Year’s resolution for 2022: to travel with twice as much gusto and compensate for the skipped trips that defined much of the past two 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. These are the best 10 places to travel this January.

Remember, though, that COVID-19 related regulations remain in place in many states and countries, and are subject to change, so always check updated mandates and requirements before booking any trip.

Québec City, Canada

January is great for: free-spirited skiing and a glimpse of France in North America.

The postcard-pretty Québec City looks like a movie set’s idea of an old French town, with cobbled streets and low-rise buildings; 95 percent of the local population is Francophone. Indeed, its commitment to preserving the character of the 400-year-old town has earned the charming alleys UNESCO World Heritage status.

January, with average highs of 10 degrees Fahrenheit, may not be the prime time to relish Québec City’s sidewalk café culture, but it is the perfect chance to take to the nearby mountains for some of North America’s best skiing. Mont-Sainte-Anne is only about 25 miles from downtown: A massive network of paths through pine and spruce forest make it the continent’s largest spot for cross-country skiing, and 19 of its trails stay lit after dark for night skiing. Better, though, to drive a little further to Le Massif de Charlevoix, an hour outside the city, where lots of fresh natural powder falls on slopes perched right on the St. Lawrence River and a large area is dedicated to backcountry skiing.

Where to stay: Club Med Québec

Book Now: From $160/night; clubmed.us

Opening December 2021, the 302-room Club Med Québec in Le Massif de Charlevoix is an affordable, all-inclusive option for exploring here with its own ski and snowboard workshops.

How to get there

There are one-stop flights to Québec City on Air Canada, Delta, and United from the United States.

The Scottish Highlands

January is great for: adventurous eaters with a fondness for folk dancing.

Think of January 25 as a bonus Christmas for the Scots. The tradition kick-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; reels and other ceilidh-style dancing are also staples. The quirkiest detail: the so-called address to the haggis, in which the Scottish delicacy is venerated with campy, 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: From $484/night; thefifearms.com

Indulge in some retro-luxe glamour at the 46-room Fife Arms, a onetime 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 there

There are direct flights to Edinburgh, two hours from the hotel, from New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington, D.C. on the trio of legacy carriers.

The Kalahari, Botswana

January is great for: anyone keen to score a crowd-free safari.

Botswana’s rainy season makes it harder to spot animals in its best known wilderness zones, Chobe and the Okavango Delta. But in the lesser-visited southern reaches, notably the Kalahari Desert, the rains are less intense, providing just enough water to turn the red sand landscape green for a brief stint each year. This vegetation lures grazing wildlife, as well as the birds and predators who live alongside them, making it an ideal off-season safari destination.

Zebra migrate through the flat Nxai and Makgadikgadi Pans, and it’s also birthing season for antelope, both of which pique predators’ interest, and numbers—notably of the black-maned lions that are an unusual feature of the Kalahari. Birds also return from the Northern Hemisphere, boosting their numbers significantly.

Where to stay: Leroo La Tau

Book Now: From $590/night; go2africa.com

Leroo La Tau—which translates as “lion’s paw“—is a 12-chalet camp on the western bank of the Boteti River, built on cliffs to maximize the views around the plain.

How to get there

Take a direct flight on Kenya Airways from JFK to Nairobi, or one of United’s directs to South Africa. Kenya Airways and South African Airways then offer extensive connections around the continent from those hubs.

Colombia

January is great for: bookworms and beauty queens, and those who love them.

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Colombia’s location just north of the equator guarantees a stable year-round climate, making it an ideal escape from North American winters in January. Take your pick of destinations here this month: The prestigious British Hay literary festival hosts an offshoot in Cartagena every year (in 2022, it’s January 27–30), a fitting location given that it was this city that inspired Gabriel García Márquez and so helped birth the entire literary genre known as magical realism.

Then again, in the first week of the month, you could head to the Andes Mountains near the capital of Bogotá for the Manizales Fair, inspired by the Seville Fair in Spain and first held in 1951. It’s a lively gathering in one of the country’s coffee-farming hubs that includes parades, horseback riding, and even a tango festival. Keep an eye out for the newly crowned Queen of Coffee, too: The retro-minded pageant lures contestants from various caffeinated countries to compete for the title.

Where to stay: Hacienda Venecia

Book Now: From $72/night; expedia.com

Hacienda Venecia is a family-owned working coffee farm 20 minutes outside Manizales. Combine a charming overnight in the country with a chance to learn about one of Colombia’s signature exports on a three-hour tour of the plantation.

How to get there

There are direct flights to Bogotá, Medellin, and Cartagena on various carriers: United between Bogotá and Houston, for example, or JetBlue from JFK to Cartagena.

The Dolomites, Italy

January is great for: slaloming through one of Europe’s most glamorous ski spots, James Bond–style.

In 2026, Italy’s Dolomites will once again host the Winter Olympics, a return to the region that last welcomed medal-chasing skiers to the area in and around Cortina d’Ampezzo in 1956. (Bond also made a memorable visit there during his Sir Roger Moore incarnation in For Your Eyes Only.) The Italian answer to Aspen, Cortina is as glamorous as it is thrilling, with some of the best trails in Europe—and this year, for the first time, anyone holding an Ikon pass can use it to ski for free for up to a week on the Dolimiti Superski slopes, one of the largest interconnected ski systems in the world at almost 30,000 acres, with close to 900 trails and 450 lifts. Don’t miss Sellaronda, a loop that skirts the Sella massif and passes through four separate valleys as it does, forming what’s essentially an unbroken, 17-mile skiing route.

Where to stay: Hotel de Len

Book Now: From $1,222/night; hoteldelen.it

The 22-room Hotel de Len opened in November; its oversized spa will be the best place to soothe après-ski aches and pains.

How to get there

Venice is the best gateway to this region, with service from most major carriers. It’s less than two hours’ drive to the mountains.

Georgia’s ski slopes are under the radar of many snow fans, but just as superb as more famous European spots.

Georgia

January is great for: prolonging the festive season and enjoying bargain-priced winter sports.

If you’re loath to let the festive season slip away, come to Georgia this month to celebrate Orthodox Christmas on January 7, when churches across the country will come to life with processions and celebrations. One of the most impressive is in Timothesubani, a medieval monastic complex in the Borjomi Gorge in the center of the country. Combine that with a chance to sample some superb skiing in the Caucasus Mountains, an area that’s off-radar for many of the keenest powder-chasers in Europe.

Among its several regions, consider the main ski area of Gudauri, which has an English-speaking ski school for beginners and features peaks that can best the Alps. Or try Mestia for rugged, back-country terrain. Goderzi has flat terrain, but is reachable via one road that often closes when it snows too much, almost guaranteeing on-piste solitude for those who’ve made it. Wherever you go, expect a bargain experience, with lift passes costing no more than 20 bucks.

Where to stay: Rooms Kokhta

Book Now: From $170/night; expedia.com

The 95-room Rooms Kokhta is a ski-in, ski-out, alpine-inspired boutique hotel with statement contemporary architecture and superb views across the nearby mountains.

How to get there

The quickest routing is from New York’s JFK, either via Istanbul on Turkish Airlines or Lufthansa with a pit stop in Munich.

Jamaica

January is great for: a weekend of rebellious music.

Every year on January 15, record promoter Tony Rebel doesn’t throw himself a birthday party—instead he hosts an entire festival dedicated to roots and conscious music. The 2022 edition of Rebel Salute at Grizzly’s Plantation Cove in Ocho Rios will likely be one of the most enjoyable since the fest began in 1994: Not only is it returning to an in-person event after a pandemic-induced suspension, but it’s also celebrating Rebel’s 60th birthday.

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The reggae-fusion specialist doesn’t limit programming to dancehall, though there’ll be plenty of that. He also draws performers playing roots tunes from around the world—and attracts tourists for that reason, with almost half of attendees flying in from overseas. The full lineup hasn’t yet been revealed, but expect top-tier performers like past acts that have included Grammy-winner Koffee and the late Toots Hibbert of Toots & the Maytals. Rebel makes strenuous efforts to ensure that families feel welcome: Consumption and sales of alcohol are prohibited, and lyrical content is restricted, too.

Where to stay: GoldenEye

Book Now: From $925/night; expedia.com

Where else but GoldenEye, the former home of Bond scribe Ian Fleming? It’s been rebooted as a luxury hotel owned by Chris Blackwell, the record exec whose track record includes championing Bob Marley.

How to get there

There are nonstops to Jamaica from most major U.S. gateways.

Utah has the most dark sky reserves of anywhere on Earth.

Utah

January is great for: astrotourists (no, not those ones).

Utah is home to the world’s densest concentration of the 90 designated Dark Sky Parks and communities. There are now 21 here, after the organization that monitors them added a trio of new spots last winter: Jordanelle, Kodachrome Basin, and Rockport State Parks. Untainted by light pollution, these are the best places on Earth for constellation spotting, and the winter is the best time to try it. Sure, it’s chilly, but nighttime comes earlier in winter, extending the chance to stargaze.

More importantly, the lower moisture levels in the air tend to make the heavens easier for the human eye to see, which also helps amateur photographers to capture amazing shots. If you’re flying in to Salt Lake City before heading out on a road trip, make sure to stop off at the University of Utah’s South Physics Observatory. If the weather is clear, it hosts free public star parties each Wednesday night; check the observatory’s website for updates.

Where to stay: Compass Rose Lodge

Book Now: From $267/night; expedia.com

Compass Rose Lodge in Huntsville, Utah, isn’t just a plush boutique hotel—it has its own telescopes and an observatory onsite, priming it for astronomers and those who love them.

How to get there

Salt Lake City is one of Delta’s main hubs, from which it offers direct flights to countless cities across the country.

The British Virgin Islands

January is great for: celebrating the rebirth of a storm-ravaged tourist nation.

In early September 2017, the BVIs suffered a direct hit from the most powerful hurricane to form in the Atlantic for four centuries. At 215 mph, Irma destroyed 85 percent of the man-made structures here (it was also hit by Hurricane Maria two weeks later, although the damage was minimal by comparison). The tourism-dependent nation took stock—and years to rebuild—finally readying its raft of resorts to reopen early last year.

The pandemic, of course, scuppered such plans, delaying visitors’ return en masse for almost a year via one of the Caribbean’s strictest lockdowns and border closures. However, the islands are now open again, with a slew of new offerings: The 400-acre Oil Nut Bay, for instance, has added an overwater restaurant and bar plus a suspended pool with hammocks and daybeds. There’s even a new private island resort, the Aerial, a wellness retreat run by Nashville-based real-estate entrepreneur Britnie Turner.

Where to stay: Bitter End Yacht Club

Book Now: From $750/night; beyc.com

French Polynesia–style overwater bungalows continue to pop up in the Caribbean. The newest are at the 64-acre Bitter End Yacht Club, a hotel with docks and ample moorage.

How to get there

American, United, and JetBlue fly to Terrance B. Lettsome (aka Beef Island), BVI’s main airport, usually via Puerto Rico. There are numerous direct flights to St. Thomas in the USVI, which is a short ferry ride to the British counterpart next door.

Palm Springs, CA

January is great for: snowbird cinephiles with a fondness for subtitles.

The weather alone should be enough to make a trip to Palm Springs this month near-mandatory: low humidity, consistent sunshine in the breezy low 70s, and likely no more than two days of rain. If that’s not enough, though, perhaps the chance to see the next Parasite before everyone else is an added incentive? The Palm Springs International Film Festival—returning after a COVID-induced break last year—is renowned for its programming in foreign-language films, a newly re-energized genre in the wake of the Korean thriller’s Oscar win. Thank Sonny Bono for its existence; the late former mayor of the city saw a shindig like this as a chance to lure a younger, cooler crowd to a place synonymous with retirement when he came up with the idea in the 1980s. In 2022, it runs from Janaury 6 to 17, opening with a black-tie gala at the Convention Center, before 10 days of screenings that emphasize international flims. Masks indoors and vaccinations are mandatory, while auditoriums are planned at 75 percent of normal capacity for this edition.

Where to stay: Fleure Noire Hotel

Book Now: From $300/night; fleurnoirehotel.com

The 21-room Fleure Noire hotel reopened in fall 2021 in the Uptown Design District. It’s named after the distinctive, inky black roses the owners brought back from France.

How to get there

Snowbird-season direct flights include Allegiant-operated routes from Indianapolis and Boise, Sun Country from Minneapolis, and Southwest from Dallas Love.

>> Next: The 10 Best Places to Travel in December

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