With a new year looming, the question on many travellers’ lips is: where shall I go... and when? And what better way to kick off the year than with a healthy dose of adventure? From bargain ski breaks in some of the world’s best powder to surfing under the new year’s sun and road-tripping through some of Mother Nature’s finest – here are our recommendations for travel in January.
Head to southeast British Columbia for powder, powder, powder
Sure, Whistler has the nightlife and the glamour, but there’s more to skiing BC. In January, the southeast of the province revels in huge dumps of powder – over 8m in some spots – and with a range of resorts from quaint old-style towns to big family-friendly affairs, there are dozens of great reasons to explore the area. Rather than basing yourself in one resort, try a mobile ski safari. Head to Rossland, an old mining village, for a day or so on Red Mountain for challenging terrain. Nearby Nelson is the base for Whitewater, a small resort with similarly skimpy crowds. Then haul east for a day or two at Fernie, an attractive town framed by mountains on four sides, and with well over 100 runs plus varied terrain including good tree skiing. Then there’s Revelstoke and Big White to the northwest… How long have you got?
- Trip plan: A loop through the ski areas could start at Spokane over the border in Washington State (stop off at Schweitzer en route) or possibly Kelowna, near the huge, family-friendly Big White Resort.
- Need to know: Crossing the mountains in snowstorms can be challenging – be sure to use winter tyres and carry chains.
- Other months: Dec-Mar – winter; Apr-Oct – good hiking, snow lingers at altitude until Jun; Nov – cold.
Ride the waves under the sun in the Canary Islands
The dramatic volcanic landscapes, sweeps of sand and rolling waves of the easternmost Canary Islands are at their most appealing in January, when the temperature is warm but not scorching (and when the rest of Europe shivers). Fuerteventura and Lanzarote are both playgrounds for surfers of all varieties: experienced waveriders head to El Quemao (La Santa) and San Juan (Caleta de Famara) in Lanzarote’s northwest, or Los Lobos on Fuerteventura, while kitesurfers and windsurfers are also spoiled for choice. Hiking and cycling opportunities across Fuerteventura’s friable black lava fields and among Lanzarote’s 300 rugged volcanic cones abound, too. There are beaches galore, naturally – choose from gold- or black-sand shores on Fuerteventura, or the chilled little islet of La Graciosa off Lanzarote’s northern tip. Lanzarote also boasts wineries in La Geria region, and the innovative architecture of César Manrique.
- Trip plan: It’s easy to combine both islands – regular ferries make the crossing between Playa Blanca on Lanzarote with Corralejo on Fuerteventura in about 30 minutes.
- Need to know: Wind and surf tend to be stronger on the west coasts than the east.
- Other months: Jan-Jun & Sep-Dec fine weather; Jul-Aug – hot, crowded.
Enjoy bang-for-buck ski action for beginners in the Balkans
For a budget ski break it’s hard to beat Bulgaria, when reliable snow combines with low costs. Accommodation is great value, food and drink are cheap, and a lift pass could set you back less than half the price of one in an Alps resort. Of course, that’s not a like-for-like comparison as Bulgaria’s three main ski areas – Borovets in the Rila Mountains south of capital Sofia, Bansko further south in the Pirin Mountains, and Pamporovo to the east near Plovdiv – have fewer runs; the largest, Bansko, has only 47 miles (75 km) of piste. Yet you get more than you pay for in this friendly country: affordable lessons, and fine red Mavrud wines and food combine for good aprés-ski. The churches and museums of Bansko’s old quarter are worth exploring, and the perky capital, Sofia, demands a day or two to discover its Roman remains and Ottoman relics.
- Trip plan: Borovets is just an hour’s drive from Sofia Airport, Bansko two hours. Pamporovo is best reached from Plovdiv.
- Need to know: With few black runs, Bulgaria is less exciting for advanced skiers.
- Other months: Jan-Mar – ski season; Apr-Sep – good for hiking and exploring cities; Oct-Dec – cold, wetter.
Explore New Zealand’s wildest coastline and island
New Zealand’s not short of dramatic vistas – but the Catlins Coast is something else: a wild stretch of cliffs, temperate rainforest and the South Island’s southernmost point. A midsummer road trip is the ideal way to discover its delights. Fill the tank and head off on the snaking Southern Scenic Route between Balclutha and Waipapa Point, pausing to watch for fur and elephant seals, whales, dolphins and yellow-eyed penguins en route. Just across the Foveaux Strait lies Stewart Island, known to Maori as Rakiura – ‘Land of Glowing Skies’. Explore this luminous island, now 85% protected as national park, hiking the many trails and empty beaches, delving into lofty rimu forest and spotting day-dwelling kiwis and other birdlife. This is New Zealand at its more remote and unpopulated.
- Trip plan: Allow at least two days for the road trip from Nugget Point – about 62 miles (100 km) south of Dunedin – to Waiapapa Point, plus a few days on Stewart Island/Rakiura.
- Need to know: Reaching Stewart Island/Rakiura involves a short (but often bumpy) flight from Invercargill or an hour-long (and also frequently rough) boat crossing from Bluff to Oban.
- Other months: Dec-Apr – summer, dry weather for touring; May-Nov – cooler.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out our new book Where To Go When for 360 ultimate escapes from family-friendly adventures to animal encounters and relaxing retreats.