In the UK, bleak January may only be brightened by New Year celebrations, but elsewhere the weather is ideal for exploring. This is the peak time to visit Sri Lanka, especially for whale watching, beach retreats, and heritage tours. In South Africa, it’s the dry season, and southern safari reserves offer abundant wildlife sightings, while vibrant Cape Town is awash with seemingly endless sunshine. Vietnam is mostly dry and sunny, ideal for seeing the sights, cruising the waters, and joining the revelry of the Tet festival – held in January or February each year. Meanwhile, an exuberant culture, historic cities and a warm, dry climate await on the Caribbean island of Cuba.
Best destinations to visit in January
January is one of the most popular times to visit Sri Lanka. It is during the Maha – the northeast monsoon which straddles November to March – and as such, the popular Cultural Triangle circuit tends to be wetter than the southern and western regions.
The south’s calm waters and dry, sunny days make January an excellent time to enjoy its golden beaches and to spot migratory whales. The coastal town of Mirissa is a particularly popular base for whale-watching excursions. The west of the island also experiences good weather at this time – ideal for visiting its blissful beaches and the vibrant city of Colombo.
The northern hemisphere’s winter coincides with the dry season in South Africa. Although temperatures can drop quite low at night and on early morning safari drives, January affords some of the best wildlife viewing all year – especially in southern reserves such as Kwandwe and Addo. Animals emerge to gather around waterholes and are easier to spot as there is less vegetation, raising your chances of seeing elephants, rhinos and lions. In the north, Kruger and the wider bushveld typically experience thunderstorms; however, rainfall renders the landscape lush and green, and visitors benefit from significantly smaller crowds and fantastic rates at world-class safari lodges.
Through January, Cape Town is blessed with a daily average of 14 hours of sunshine, and summer carnivals and activities enliven the city streets. History enthusiasts may also find interest in the Anglo-Zulu War re-enactments taking place on the historic battlefields in the east of the country.
Vietnam is a tropical country, with year-round warm temperatures and seasonal monsoons. In January, Vietnam experiences mostly dry and sunny weather, making this an excellent time to visit. The north, home to the lively capital city of Hanoi and karst-strewn Ha Long Bay, is cooler at this time of year. The south is typically warmer, and affords pleasant conditions for touring Ho Chi Minh City, cruising the Mekong Delta, or padding along the powder-soft sands of Nha Trang or Phu Quoc island. Tet, Vietnam’s largest festival, takes place in January or February (depending on the year), and is a chance to revel with the locals as they celebrate the arrival of spring.
The early months of the year are an ideal time to visit Cuba and explore the historic cities, magnificent landscapes and exuberant culture of this island nation. Tour Havana, the beating heart of the country; Santiago, the cradle of the Cuban revolution; and colonial ports that thrived on the sugar trade. Away from the cities, relax amid the green valleys and tobacco plantations of Viñales or spend idle hours on the glorious stretches of white sand that fringe the cayes of Cuba’s enticing coastline.