We were super psyched to have chilly weather over the holidays, even though we don’t actually need a reason to embrace the Danish hygge trend and cozy up with some steamy hot drinks. But you can only have so many hot-buttered rums before you’re double-tapping every single warm weather vacation pic on Insta. So, from amazing international festivals to sunny beach weather, we’ve chosen seven unmissable warm destinations in January. Bon voyage!
1. Rajasthan, India: The northwest Indian state’s name literally means “Land of Kings.” Today, that translates into rich traditions, glittering and bright turbans and saris, palpable pride and gorgeous forts (AKA palaces). Bustling Jaipur, the traditional craftsman epicenter, hosts the free Jaipur Literary Festival in January, and Udaipur, the White City, with its charming alleys, relaxed pace and alluring lake palace, is a must-see. A side trip to the smaller town of Bikaner for their annual camel festival, held in mid-January, should also be non-negotiable. Camels are given intricate, buzzed haircuts and decorated to the nines for a two-day celebration, where you’re sure to experience Rajasthan in all its colorful glory.
2. Cape Town, South Africa: If you love sequins, satin and face painting as much as we do, head to Cape Town in January for the Cape Minstrel Carnival, or Kaapse Klopse. Musical minstrel troops march through the streets in incredible, gaudy outfits (yes, there are hats and parasols) for an annual parade and continue the celebration with minstrel musical battles every weekend. Soak up the intoxicating energy and culture of the carnival, and fill extra time with other spectacular Cape Town activities like taking a cable car to the summit of Table Mountain, touring Kirstenbosch Gardens and eating and shopping your heart out at the Food Market and Watershed artisan design center at the V&A Waterfront.
3. Sri Lanka: January is one of the best times (read: no monsoons) to visit Sri Lanka’s hill country and west and south coasts. Those regions are connected by the rail system, so you can conveniently travel by slow train, taking in the view of the lush countryside on one of the most famous train routes in the world through Nuwara Eliya. The route runs from the high tea plantations of Ella (Halpewatte Tea Factory is worth a visit), where you’ll see women in vibrant saris scattered in the fields, to the interior hill city of Kandy. Kandy is home to the Temple of the Tooth, where there’s a soulful evening puja, or ceremonial worship, every night.
South of the capital Colombo, visit the beach at Hikkaduwa for budget hotels and yoga, as well as Galle, a beautiful Dutch-colonial town. Aim to stay at one guesthouse during your stay in order to get to know the hospitable Sinhalese, and soak up the food culture by perfecting the art of eating string hoppers, thin noodles piled with coconut curry and spicy sambal, with your hands.
4. Cartagena, Colombia: It seems like Colombia’s been on everyone’s hot list for the last five years, but picturesque Cartagena is especially vibrant in January, when over 20,000 tourists descend on the city for the Cartagena International Music Festival. Founded eight years ago, the eight-day celebration brings some of the best classical musicians in the world to this charming colonial Caribbean city. Try to snag a ticket for a concert, all held in spectacular historical venues around the city, from plazas to churches and theaters. Free concerts are held in the San Pedro Claver Plaza in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Getsemani, right outside the old walled city. We recommend you grab a pre-concert mojito at Demente, then continue the dancing and music after the performance at Cafe Havana. (Photo via Cartagena International Music Festival)
5. Southern Vietnam: The combination of dry season and a very slight reprieve from the heat make January the perfect month to visit Southern Vietnam. Start in the dizzying city of Ho Chi Minh (formerly known as Saigon), where you’ll learn the terrifying art of crossing a street as motorbikes zip around you, spot gorgeous French architecture (stay at The Alcove or Ma Maison if you love the colonial style) and pagodas among skyscrapers and have the best pho of your life for a few bucks from street stalls with tiny plastic stools.
Recover from the buzz of the city by sitting on a white sand beach on Phu Quoc island. Take a night squid fishing tour, visit a pepper farm (the island exports some of the best in the world) and zip up to Chez Carole Resort on a motorbike for excellent seafood with a view.
6. Death Valley National Park, California: The cooler, dry winter months are actually the best time to visit Death Valley, since summer temps can get as high as 134 degrees Fahrenheit (the hottest temp ever recorded on Earth. We’re sweating just thinking about it). From the bold colors of the sand dunes (there’s one set you can sandboard — the Mesquite Flat Dunes) to the multi-colored clay formations of Artist’s Palette and the salt flats of Badwater Basin, the desert landscape is breathtaking and, for those taking their first trip to a desert, pretty surreal. If you’re staying at the Furnace Creek Resort, one of the only hotels in the park, pack your swimsuit, tennis racket and golf clubs. Otherwise, hiking boots and sunscreen will do.
7. Antigua: You may hear the capital city’s name — St. John’s — and picture a yacht vacation that’s definitely outside your budget. But over the last few years, local owners of small hotels and activity companies have opened up the dazzling Caribbean island to the 99 percent. In fact, 2016 was the first year EVER that 100,000 Americans visited the island. Even though the island has some of the best beaches for swimming, body surfing and windsurfing in the world, isolated stretches of white sand are still plentiful. Antigua is also becoming a popular culinary tourism destination, so fit in some good eats at Hemingway’s Caribbean Cafe, Dennis Cocktail Bar and Restaurant and local spot Roti King.
Are you escaping the winter weather? Tag us in your vacay pics on Insta @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)