1. Cape Town, South Africa
With temperatures reaching the high 20s during the day, this port city is the ideal place to spend your January holidays. Start with a stroll along Sea Point Promenade or get wet right away and learn how to surf at Muizenberg, which is also known for its colourful bathing huts. There’s no shortage of good food either – Neighbourgoods Market sells gourmet goodies every Saturday and wind down the day with local craft beer at one of Devil’s Peak taprooms.
2. Lanzarote, Canary Islands
Soak in Lanzarote’s winter sun at Playa Quemada, a stunningly rugged black-sand beach, or if you prefer to work for your views, hike to Charco de los Clicos, an otherworldly green lagoon at the foot of a volcanic crater. The island’s wonders continue with the Jardin de Cactus, a Dr. Seuss-like maze of 1,000 cacti species. And you’ll want to check out the kooky artwork and vegetation at the Cesar Manrique House Museum.
By January, the rainy season is gone and it’s time to bring out the snorkel and fins. It’s common to see hawksbill and leatherback turtles on Barbados’ beaches, even just standing in the water. Try windsurfing in Silver Sands Beach and for a true Caribbean experience, go wreck diving at Pamir, which is a great spot for beginners. Top off your holiday with high tea at the 300-year old Sunbury Plantation House or a glass of rum at the equally impressive St. Nicholas Abbey.
4. Nicaragua, Central America
The start of the year is one of Nicaragua’s driest – and busiest – times so book your January holidays early. While many visitors stop by Granada for its colourful colonial houses, hang ten at San Juan Del Sur’s turquoise waters, or go “volcanic surfing” on Cerro Negro, an active volcano. It takes an hour to hike up and only a few minutes to slide down on a wooden sled. Continue the volcano hunt on the breathtakingly gorgeous Ometepe Island, which was formed by two volcanoes.
5. Riviera Maya, Mexico
We’ve all heard of Cancun but wander further south Riviera Maya and you’ll find quieter pockets. Once a fishing village, Puerto Morelos retains its low-key character and is a less-crowded spot to snorkel or scuba dive the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the world’s second longest reef system. Adventure junkies can ride ATVs at Puerto Morelos and if you’re looking to find your zen, sign up for a yoga class in Tulum or a guided boat tour of the UNESCO-protected Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
6. Porto, Portugal
Portugal’s wine country does not disappoint, whatever the season. Go on guided tours of two of the country’s oldest wine cellars, Ferreira Cellers, which was once a convent, and Graham’s Port Lodge, a stately late 19th-century lodge. Soak up more history at Livraria Lello, an Art Nouveau-style bookstore opened in 1906, and the Belle Époque-inspired Majestic Café, which started as a private club in the 1920s. Modernists will love the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art and its multi-tiered water feature.
7. Silver Lake, Los Angeles
Glow in the winter sun in this hipster east side neighbourhood which has become somewhat a foodie destination. Sample New American fare at Wolfdown, a farm-to-table restaurant, then have a tipple at Cliff’s Edge, a restobar with a giant tree as its centrepiece, or The Friend, a snazzy pink-walled cocktail bar in an old 1950s diner. Walk it all off the next day with a hike up the rainbow-coloured Micheltorena Stairs or around Silver Lake Reservoir.
8. Kerala, India
Literary buffs will enjoy the magical state that inspired Arundhati Roy’s “The God of Small Things”. Distinguished by its lush villages and paddy fields, Kerala also hosts the Kerala Literature Festival, which runs from January 10-13 this year. No time for the festival? Be sure to check out Kochi Books, a tiny independent bookstore. There’s plenty for nature lovers, too, including trekking through sandalwood forests in Marayoor, hiking to the mist-covered Kalamachal and bathing in Athirapally Falls.
9. Koh Lipe, Thailand
One of Thailand’s last frontiers of undiscovered beaches, Koh Lipe is a quick ferry ride from other Thai islands or from Langkawi, Malaysia. While some choose to visit the island as a day trip, for a true getaway, it’s worth staying overnight. There are three main beaches – Pattaya, Sunrise and Sunset – all of which are great for snorkeling, diving and lounging around. Come evening and take a walk along Walking Street, home to numerous restaurants and massage shops.
10. Negril, Jamaica
It’s all about chill vibes in this western Jamaican town which, until the 1970s, was a small fishing community. These days, hotels, bars and restaurants line Negril’s jagged cliffs and jet skis, kayaks and glass bottom boats beckon adventurer seekers, especially at Seven Mile Beach, Negril’s main drag. For something further afield, drive an hour to Mayfield Falls for a dip in one of the many natural pools, then end your night listening to live reggae at Drifters Bar.