January minute vacations
If you just want to embrace winter, then January has interesting options such as Japan, which – if you can find last minute spaces to go skiing or winter walking – is very de rigeur. Closer to home, Europe's mountains (including the Alps, the Cairngorms, Carpathian, Dolomites, Pyrenees and Sierra Nevada) also have plenty of snow for winter activities. Places like Scotland, Slovakia and Romania are not always the most obvious ones to book, but just as stunning and with much more tranquil pistes than some of the more traditional snow destinations. For more winter wanderlust, head to Sweden, Finland or Norway for snowshoeing, igloos, husky sledding, skating and, of course, seeing the Northern Lights.
For sunshine, it’s southeast Asia that you want, where it is dry and warm but not too hot. Other popular destinations at this time of year, but still with availability popping up as schools are back, are the Galapagos Islands, where there are calmer seas and warm weather, although you might still get spots of rain. As you will also in Costa Rica, as it is mostly rainforest after all, but in general, January brings warm sun. You might get a bargain in the Patagonia sale when it comes to the shop , but unlikely in the destination where summer warmth, long days and access to the whole region make it peak season. But if availability does pop, it is magical at this time of year, and will get your new year off to the most inspiring start. Kerala in southern India is another great destination for some winter sun in contrast with the Himalayas, Delhi and the Golden Triangle regions which are best avoided though - they're freezing! However, this is one of the best times for tiger watching, if you bring your layers for those morning safaris. You won’t need layers in southwestern Sri Lanka, however, where the sun will shine, but avoid traveling to the northeast, where the monsoon has started.
Don’t write off Europe for sunshine off the pistes; parts of Andalucia can top 20 degrees in January and rainfall is rare. This is actually a much more pleasant time to take a walking or cycling vacation than midsummer – when 40°C heat makes any activity unfeasible. And if you head up into the mountains, you'll find plenty of the white stuff to keep you busy too.