Do you know when you want to travel but just can’t decide where? We’re here to break down the best places to go in each month of the year so you can find the perfect travel experience for you. 

As we look forward to 2024, 366 days of epic adventures, cultural experiences, foodie forays and wondrous wildlife encounters stretch out before us. But it can be hard to know exactly where to kickstart the year of travel. 

Whether you’re looking for inspiration or information, Lonely Planet has done the legwork for you, answering the travelers' perennial question: where to go when? If you want to start the year right, these are some of the top passport-fillers for January to inspire your travels or add to your bucket list. 

Where are the best places to visit in January for wildlife and nature?

A collage picturing penguins in Antarctica, gorillas in Uganda and monkeys in Japan.
Antarctica (top © David Merron Photography/Getty Images) Uganda (bottom left © Jonathon Gregson/Lonely Planet) Japan (bottom right © Tai GinDa/Getty Images) Collage

Antarctica

Why now? Bask in near permanent daylight in this enormous white wilderness at the end of the world.

At the end of the world in Antarctica temperatures "soar" to freezing point (or a little above) and near-permanent daylight means endless, warm days (well, it’s all relative) for catching sight of the sprawling penguin colonies with their newly-hatched chicks, seal pups and whales as well as sailing between gargantuan icebergs. 

Uganda

Why now? Track the world’s biggest primates in the dry(ish) season.

Perhaps a thousand or so endangered mountain gorillas survive worldwide, of which nearly half roam the dense forests of Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It’s an experience you’ll need to earn, tackling steep, muddy trails at altitudes up to 3000m (9483ft). But if you snag one of the limited permits available for each of the park’s 19 habituated families, the rewards are luminous. 

Chūbu, Japan

Why now? Discover a winter wonderland of steaming hot springs, traditional villages and snow sports.

Winter’s a magical time to explore the historic settlements of Japan's central Honshu region, when snow dusts temples, castles and traditional wooden houses. Outside of the ski resorts, crowds thin after the late-December holidays and before cherry-blossom season. In the Japanese Alps, “snow monkeys” (Japanese macaques) soak in hot springs near Yudanaka. 

Where are the best places to visit in January for food and culture?

A collage shows Ligurian pesto, tacos in Austin, and fireworks in Sydney.
Ligurian pesto (top left © Susan Wright/Lonely Planet), Tacos in Austin (bottom left © Getty Images) © Fireworks in Sydney © aiyoshi597/Shutterstock Collage

Sydney, Australia

Why now: For endless cultural experiences in the heat of the summer. 

For an alternative to the seasonal celebrations, head to Australia’s largest city for the Sydney Festival, an eclectic three-week showcase of burlesque acts, circus and dance performances, art installations and family activities. 

Liguria, Italy

Why now? Tramp snowy paths and munch fabulous food in the quietest season.

In winter in the Ligurian Alps, wonderfully crisp air and snowy forest trails lure snowshoers to Aveto and Antola natural regional parks and yet-more-rugged Beigua Geopark, where snowshoe hire is available and marked circular trails offer sea views. All are within touching distance of regional capital Genoa, deliciously quiet in January yet as tasty as ever with regional delicacies. 

Austin, Texas, USA

Why now? Forage and feast from food trucks in the mild Texas January.

Long famed for its barbecue and Tex-Mex, today there’s a world of cuisines to discover in Austin, from American regional classics – Philly cheesesteaks, Cajun jambalaya, fried chicken – to dishes from all corners of the globe: pick up West African jollof rice, Syrian shawarma, Venezuelan arepas, and Thai Tom Kha soup. Mild January, when temperatures hover at around 15°C (59°F), brings fine weather for alfresco eating. 

Where are the best places to visit in January for adventure?

A collage shows a tent in winter, a man surfing and a woman in a car.
Utah (top © Matthew Connolly / Shutterstock) Canary Islands (bottom left © Matthew Connolly / Shutterstock) South Island (bottom right © Getty Images) Collage

Canary Islands

Why now? Escape the winter with a European island break. 

Escape the Northern Hemisphere’s winter climes with a surf break under the sunny skies of the Canary Islands. Kitesurfers and windsurfers are also spoilt for wave-riding hotspots; and land-lovers can simply kick back on the golden shores or hike or cycle one of the region's otherworldly volcanic landscapes.

Arizona and Utah, USA

Why now? Snap snow-dusted canyons, buttes and mesas free from crowds.

The red-rock ravines and outcrops of the region straddling the Utah and Arizona borders look even more delectable with a topping of snow – and in January you’ll share these wonders with far fewer people. Make no mistake, you’ll need to wrap up warm: temperatures dip well below freezing. But don the right clothes and boots (better still, snowshoes), and you’ll discover dramatic landscapes made even more magical in the absence of crowds.

South Island, New Zealand

Why now? To take an epic summer road trip in January. 

Over in New Zealand, lap up some breathtaking scenery on a road trip through some of the South Island’s most iconic coastal landscapes. The long summer days will give you plenty of time to explore. 

Where are the best places to visit in January for relaxation?

A collage shows a boat in Thailand, a woman on a boat in Kerala, a beach in Anguilla and a thermal bath in Hungary.
Southern Thailand (left © Getty Images) Kerala (top middle © SolStock / Getty) Anguilla (top right © Izabela23/Shutterstock) Budapest, Hungary (bottom © Romrodphoto/Shutterstock) Collage

Budapest, Hungary 

Why now? To dip into warm waters to escape the European chill. 

When the climate turns cold in the Northern Hemisphere, Budapest’s hot springs and thermal baths are a great way to escape the chill and give yourself some much needed TLC in one fell swoop.

Anguilla

Why now? Chill in a quieter corner of the Caribbean.

Few travelers heading to the Caribbean find their way to long, skinny little Anguilla, which remains determinedly low-key and relatively undeveloped. But it boasts all the ingredients of the Caribbean dream: friendly folk, an uplifting reggae soundtrack and some of the region’s most beautiful palm-fringed beaches, notably lively Shoal Bay on the north coast and sleepier Rendezvous Bay in the south. 

Kerala, India

Why now? Find your inner glow on a winter sun and yoga break in “God’s own country.”

Over the past couple of decades, the beaches of Varkala and Kovalam have morphed from the peaceful preserves of fishermen and Hindu devotees into backpacker hangouts and on into full blown resorts studded with exclusive hotels. But with serene stretches of sand still to be found here and there in Kerala, you can take your pick of the trance parties, hot hotels and restful homestays and yoga retreats. 

Southern Thailand

Why now? Find peaceful beaches and superb snorkeling and diving in the dry season.

Phuket, Krabi and Ko Phi-Phi have long been popular sun-sea-sand destinations, particularly during the European winter. Head further south, though, to find lesser-known corners. The Trang Islands – Ko Kradan and craggy Ko Muk – have escaped large-scale development, despite their gleaming beaches, pellucid waters and the latter’s beautiful Tham Morakot (Emerald Cave). Keep going to Tarutao National Marine Park, an archipelago of 51 islands just north of the Malay border. 

This article was first published November 2019 and updated November 2023

Explore related stories

Sandy beach with colorful umbrellas in Sint Marteen
1371539543
background, beautiful, seaside

Activities

A first-timer’s guide to Sint Maarten

Apr 17, 2024 • 8 min read