From Lanzarote to the Seychelles: Holiday hotspots for January 2020
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January is the perfect month to travel (and escape the deep, dark depths of post-Christmas winter). Many popular destinations are tourist-free, especially in Europe, which tends to host fewer visitors after the Christmas travel season. You may be able to score excellent hotel deals or award redemptions too — British Airways marks the month of January 2020 as off-peak from 7 January onwards.
From the warm breezes of the Seychelles to the ski slopes of the Austrian Alps to the canals of Amsterdam, here are all the places you should travel to in January from the U.K.
Although high season in the Seychelles is technically April to October, visiting this 115-island archipelago in January still offers warm temperatures, and although it’s one of the rainier months, bad weather usually only comes in short, quick bursts. Travelling during this time may allow you to snap up cheap airfare and an affordable hotel deal, too.
January in Seychelles is the start of turtle hatching season. Visitors can view the eggs (which hawksbill turtles have laid on the beach between September and December) hatch and the baby turtles crawl into the clear, turquoise water.
Three of these 115 islands are the most popular among tourists: Mahé, the largest and home to blissful beaches and the lush Seychelles Botanical Gardens, Praslin, a less developed island and home to the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve UNESCO World Heritage Site, a palm forest with the world’s largest seeds and La Digue, a tranquil island where you can explore the white sand beaches by bike or traditional ox cart. You can also visit many of the other smaller islands on day trips from Praslin.
For an epic splurge, stay at the North Island Resort on the privately owned North Island. Visited by the likes of George Clooney and Prince William and Kate Middleton, the property has recently converted to a Marriott Luxury Collection property. As of now though, the property isn’t available using points so get ready to fork over around £5,000 per night, plus a £700 helicopter transfer from Mahé to the North Island.
With seven different Canary Islands to visit, it may be hard to choose just the right one. But January in Lanzarote is perfection: sunny skies, mild climes and plenty to do beyond just hitting the beach or pool. And choosing to visit some of the other islands like Tenerife and Gran Canaria in February instead is the way to go — the islands’ epic Carnaval celebrations are worth waiting another month for.
Wine aficionados will be wooed by the island’s cultivation process. Since the wine is made from grapes grown in volcanic vineyards, visitors can explore the unique wine terrain (think sunken wine vines growing out of black volcanic sand surrounded by protective stones) and taste the vino too. Surprisingly, the unique volcanic conditions on the island are perfect for the famous Malvasía grapes to thrive — the black sand soaks up the heat and deters insects and pests that usually plague wine vines. When sipping, expect a mineral taste with high acidity. Although a few of the wineries export to the U.K., it may be worth paying Ryanair for that checked bag so you can take a few bottles home.
A January trip to Lanzarote should include art exploration, too. Visiting many of the design creations by Spanish artist César Manrique is a must. One of the quirkiest is the Cactus Garden, where the artist transformed a former quarry into a stunning botanical garden of succulents planted in the dark, volcanic sand. The Jameos del Agua is also a sight to behold, an old lava tube system with caves that Manrique turned into a special cultural center. With its crab lagoon, pool, restaurant, auditorium, museum and gardens, you can spend a day or an evening there.
Even though the four-and-a-half-hour flight is long, you can at least fly nonstop on Jet2, EasyJet or Ryanair or on British Airways to Lanzarote (ACE) one-way for 8,500 Avios off-peak or 10,000 Avios peak in Euro Traveller or 17,000 off-peak or 20,000 peak in Club Europe.
With so many skiing options in various European countries, it can be difficult to decide where to go. But this season, a focus on sustainable growth is clear with the launch of the brand-new 3K K-onnection, the first triple-cable gondola system in Salzburg. You can now ride directly between the town of Kaprun up to the Kitzsteinhorn mountain, creating a ski-in, ski-out experience for visitors. Plus, the glacier has guaranteed snow for the entire season. If you’d prefer to head elsewhere, there are plenty of mountains to ski in the Austrian Alps beyond Kitzsteinhorn — the country has more than 7,124 kilometres of slopes served by over 2,400 different lifts.
While most Austrian ski resorts will have snow in January, some of the country’s glaciers even feature year-round snow, like Hintertux near Tirol. With 57 lifts and around 200 kilometres of powdery downhill ski slopes, both beginners and advanced skiers have options.
The fairy-tale village of Kitzbühel (also in Tirol) is simply gorgeous if you’d like a picturesque experience in addition to skiing. From 24 to 26 January 2020 you can catch the annual Hahnenkamm races in Kitzbühel, where some of the best skiers in the world will take to the slopes. The highlight of the event is what many consider one of the world’s most challenging downhill ski races: the Streif. The race is extremely impressive, as skiers can reach speeds of 100 kilometres per hour and jumps go as far as 80 metres. And getting to Tirol from the U.K. may be a little easier this ski season, too. Jet2 has added a non-stop seasonal winter flight from Birmingham (BXH) to Innsbruck (INN), the capital of the Tirol region through April 2020.
While many European cities’ holiday illuminations will be done by January, Amsterdam is an exception. You can still see lights decorating the city during the Amsterdam Light Festival, which runs until 19 January 2020. The glowing light sculptures can be found in the city’s eastern area in spots like Entrepotdok, Oudeschans, Amstel, Nieuwe Keizersgracht, Plantage Muidergracht and Oosterdok. One of the best ways to enjoy the festival is via boat tour along the canals. Most of the cruises depart from Damrak and will weave their way through all the glimmering installations.
January is also your last chance to catch the Rembrandt-Velázquez exhibition at the Rijksmuseum, which highlights the differences and similarities between the Dutch and Spanish painters. After checking out the artwork, you can also skate at ICE*Amsterdam, which is the rink on Museumplein until 2 February 2020.
If you prefer alcohol to art or athletics, Amsterdam’s annual Whiskey Weekend takes place from 17 to 18 January 2020. The event includes more than 30 stalls to peruse, smell and taste whiskey, with Scottish tunes blaring in the background. You can also sign up for workshops, classes and tastings.
Stay at the brand-new Yotel Amsterdam, in the up-and-coming Buiksloterham neighbourhood on the banks of the Tolhuis Canal. The cabins, which are akin to pod-style rooms, come with tech-inspired offerings like adjustable SmartBeds, mood lighting, plenty of power and USB sockets and heated towel racks. January room rates start around £60 per night.
West Africa is becoming increasingly popular among travellers — and we think countries like Ghana, The Gambia and Senegal will be listed on all the 2020 where to travel hot lists. It’s affordable, fairly close to southern Europe (compared to many other African spots) and many of its most well-known cities are hubs of culture, cuisine and music (hint: Dakar is one of these).
Senegal is one of West Africa’s safest cities. Its capital Dakar is a vibrant, bustling hub with friendly locals and lots to do. You can visit the city’s beaches or wander through the lively, colourful markets. For a reflective experience, visit the Île de Gorée, a UNESCO World Heritage Site just a short boat ride away from Dakar’s city centre with a memorial to the transatlantic slave trade.
But why January? The weather is absolutely perfect — not too hot for tourism but not too cold to spend a day at the beach. Visitors can enjoy Yoff, Dakar’s city beach, or spend a few days further south at the beaches of Saly or Mbour. The newish airport, Blaise Diagne International Airport (DSS), which finally opened in late 2017 after many years of delay, is actually closer to Saly (about a 40-minute drive) than it is to Dakar (just over an hour), making it an easy decision to see more of the country beyond just Dakar. And Air Senegal is expanding its route system just in time for January 2020, with options to fly from European spots like Barcelona, Marseilles, Paris and African cities like Casablanca and Accra, making it easy to combine a trip to Dakar with a European city too (you can’t fly non-stop from London).
Don’t miss the famous Lac Rose, Senegal’s pink lake. The algae and the lake’s high salt content give the water a pink shimmer that absorbs the sunlight. Besides it being a highly Instagrammable spot to snap pictures, you can take a boat ride out into the lake, watch as the locals cultivate the salt, enjoy lunch and shop the markets that border the lake or rent a quad and zip up and down the sand dunes that separate the lake from the ocean.
If you visit this tropical paradise in January, expect blue skies and warm temperatures without the risk of any hurricanes coming your way. Although it’s technically high season, the island will be emptier after the busy Christmas dates. If you make it in time for 6 January, you can celebrate Kings’ Day — Epiphany — with the locals.
2019 broke tourism records in Puerto Rico, with over four million visitors throughout the year. Just over two years after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, it’s clear Puerto Rico has worked immensely hard to re-open its hotels and infrastructure to make it even better than it was before. One of the best examples of this is The St. Regis Bahia Beach, which reopened after a $60 million renovation in early 2019. January prices hover around £500 or 85,000 points per night).
Start your trip with a visit to San Juan, where you can mix beach time with walks along cobblestoned streets lined with colourful homes and a visit to the massive Castillo San Felipe del Morro at sunset. Don’t miss checking out the San Sebastián Street Festival in Old San Juan which runs from 15 to 20 January 2020. The festival has craft and food markets, parades and evening outdoor parties with live music where you can drink and dance until midnight.
Surf season runs until February and while some of the best waves are found along Puerto Rico’s northwest coast, there is some surfing around San Juan, like at La 8 and Escambron Beach. The east side of the island has quiet beaches and some of the most popular nature spots like El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest that’s part of the U.S. National Forest system, and Humacao Nature Preserve, where you can spot many bird species and giant lizards.
Don’t let January get you down — instead start planning a cheeky start-of-year trip. It doesn’t have to break the bank either. With some smart planning and the willingness to go off the beaten track a bit, you’ll be sipping a cocktail in the sun or whizzing down a slope before you know it.
Featured photo of the Seychelles by Frédéric Collin/Getty Images.
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