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The best places to visit in January 2023

Start the year off in the best possible way by hitting up the best places to travel in January, from Africa to Iceland

Written by
Will Jones

New year, new you? Each to their own, but the flipping of the calendar represents a fresh start for many. Why not fill 2023 with exploration and excitement? Come on, you know you want to. Start as you mean to go on by hitting the road in January, and make this a year to remember.

There is more to it than blind excitement, obviously. The winter is hard work for many, a time of darkness and cold, so searching for warmer climes is never a bad idea. The best places to travel in January offer blue skies instead of the blues, and even the grey spots are swathed in beauty. From sunny Africa and Australia to idyllic Iceland and serene Scotland, this is your January travel hit list.


☀️ The world’s best places for winter sun
📍 The best places to visit in February 2023
🗺 Full guide to the best places to travel

Best places to travel in January

Live in the Northern Hemisphere? Cancel winter’s contract and go south to Melbourne, Australia, where it’s summer. Some people say Melbourne is Australia’s coolest city—and those people are entirely correct (soz, Sydney: take solace with that massive bridge and those lovely beaches). In a more literal sense, the Victorian capital is also warm, especially in January. Expect t-shirt weather, and don’t miss the Big Three: coffee, street art and St Kilda.

Discover the best things to do in Melbourne

Basking in the heart of the Caribbean, Cuba makes for an excellent excursion from January’s wintery depths. The whole place feels like it was made for Instagram: the coasts are fringed with talc-like beaches and turquoise waters, while inland mountains lurch up from verdant plains. And then there’s the capital, Havana, with its retro cars (thanks, communism!) and salsa clubs. Your friends at home will hate you. Temperatures are supremely agreeable this time of year, hovering around the 21C/70F mark.

Discover the best things to do in Cuba 



If you’ve ever glanced at a map of the world, you may have noticed Brazil is rather on the large side, meaning the kinds of temperatures you experience will depend on which part you visit. January is generally a safe bet, with an average mercury reading of 27C/78F. Start in absurdly scenic Rio, draped around a mountainous natural harbour and sporting some of the world’s best beaches, before heading inland to the Amazon. Pack bug spray.

Discover the best things to do in Rio de Janeiro


Yellowstone National Park, US
Photograph: Pixabay/CC

4. Yellowstone National Park, US

This world-famous Wyoming national park is always spectacular. It is mainly visited in warmer months, but if you can get there in January, you’ll be in for a real treat, with the whole place transformed into an other-worldly wintery wilderness. Animals are much easier to spot in the snow, with the most notable example being bison, complete with their shaggy winter coats, and the steam from the geysers is far more pronounced.

Mekong Delta, Vietnam
Photograph: Shutterstock

5. Mekong Delta, Vietnam

South East Asia’s answer to Venice, this vast, emerald patchwork of paddies is known as the rice bowl of Vietnam. The region acts as a kind of colander for the Mekong River as it drains into the South China Sea and is webbed with a dense, tropical maze of chocolate-brown waterways, teeming with villages, pagodas and floating markets. January is one of the best times to visit—warm, dry and sunny. You can hop on a 2–3 day tour starting from Ho Chi Minh City, which lies just to the north (if you book in-country, it’ll cost about the same as a 30-minute gondola ride in Venice).

Discover the best things to do in Vietnam


Shetland, Scotland
Photograph: Pixabay/CC

6. Shetland, Scotland

You know at the top how we said something about blue skies? Yeah, well, that doesn’t apply here (your extremities might go blue, though!). If a holiday on a remote, rocky, rain-lashed island 200km north of northern Scotland in the North Sea sounds like your idea of something that would go quickly south, hear us out. There is a Viking Festival in January. A. Viking. Festival. It’s called Up Helly Aa, and while we’re slightly crushed we can’t yet speak from firsthand experience, it looks absolutely incredible.

Discover the best things to do in Scotland



Another one where blue skies aren’t exactly guaranteed—though if you’re lucky, they might turn green once night falls. We are, of course, talking about the ethereal Northern Lights, which flood Iceland’s skies with their bewitching colours in January (and the rest of winter). Even if the clouds prove stubborn, there’s more than enough on the ground to keep you busy: majestic waterfalls, exploding geysers, pristine glaciers, and scenery that looks like a sci-fi movie set.

Discover the best things to do in Iceland 


Zanzibar, Tanzania
Photograph: Shutterstock

8. Zanzibar, Tanzania

Most people who hear of this place in that Tenacious D song think it sounds vaguely exotic (and probably fictional) and then forget about it. But not you. We want Zanzibar to be planted in your mind like one of the giant palm trees that line its white shores. Here’s what you need to know. It IS exotic AND real. It’s an archipelago. It’s in Africa. It’s tropical. It’s stupendously beautiful. It’s affordable. And January is the best month to visit.


Big, bold, brash and mind-bogglingly vertiginous, this glittering forest of skyscrapers sprouting incongruously from the Arabian Desert demands your attention. Get your bearings from the world’s tallest building, browse the souk in the Old Town by Dubai Creek, and do some dune bashing on a desert safari. Dubai’s got about as much time for winter as it does for low-key construction projects, with January temperatures idling around 25C/77F — so you might want to factor in some beach time, too.

Discover the best things to do in Dubai


Penang Island, Malaysia
Photograph: Shutterstock

10. Penang Island, Malaysia

With its colonial-era, mural-adorned capital city and plenty of white sand beaches to plonk yourself down on, you could do much worse than starting off the year on Malaysia’s Penang Island. Not to mention, January’s the perfect time to visit, as George Town becomes even more colourful than usual as Lunar New Year celebrations take over the streets. Wander around the city after dark to see its buildings lit up in a spectacular display, with Kek Lok Si Temple not to be missed. 

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