Where to travel in January

Eloise Barker

Title photography by Luxy

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Why not jet off in January? Start the New Year right with an exciting break. We’ve rounded up some of the best winter sun destinations, whether you want to dine in an underwater restaurant in the Maldives, or swim in an underground pool in Mexico.

Koh Samui

The lowdown

“Oh, I just came back from Koh Samui,” is exactly what you want to say mid-January, when you sweep back into your office with a golden tan. It’s all-so-easy to pop on a plane (via Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore) to Thailand’s magical island, where you can lounge on a beautiful tropical beach all day and eat delicious Thai food all evening. Koh Samui is well-equipped for tourists and particularly busy around New Year, but late January can be very quiet.


Thai cuisine is a delight: it's fresh, healthy and delicious – whether you’re ordering from the finest restaurant in your resort or the humblest beach shack. Look out for simple noodle dishes (Pad Thai is ubiquitous), and lovely inexpensive steamed sea bass. In Chaweng, Stacked, is a popular late-night burger joint with a 10pm happy hour.


Couples, look no further than the Outrigger Koh Samui Beach Resort. In a quiet, secluded spot on Hanuman Bay, the hotel has a great stretch of beach. All rooms have plunge pools or pools – providing you a perfectly private set-up for a romantic break.

Find a holiday in Koh Samui

  • Visit Kukulkan Pyramid at Chichén Itzá in Mexico. © Adam Crowley.

    Step up your holiday

    Take a trip to Chichén Itzá. Two hours' drive from Cancun, this sacred site has a 1,000-year history and has UNESCO World Heritage status.£906 pp

    Cancun holidays
  • You have to try a dish of Pad Thai when you go to Thailand. © Oleh_Slobodeniuk.

    Time for Pad Thai

    Rice noodles, eggs, tofu, tamarind, shrimp, chilli, lime and peanuts come together to create a magically moreish dish. Try it in Koh Samui.£1055 pp

    Koh Samui holidays
  • Aerial view of jetty over a turquoise ocean in the Maldives. © amriphoto.

    Join the jet set

    Most of the resorts in the Maldives come on their own private island, only accessible by speedboat or by private plane. You'll feel like a celebrity swooping in. £1253 pp

    Book a Maldives holiday

The Maldives

The lowdown

Few countries can claim to inhabit 1,200 islands. But few places are like the Maldives – where a mosaic of tiny palm-fringed sandbars are set within coral atolls surrounded by impossibly turquoise waters. There are two seasons here: one from May to October that produces quite a lot of wind and rain, and another from November until April, which is predominantly hot and dry. January is lovely, and offers great visibility for snorkelling and diving, which of course are some of the best reasons for visiting.


As its name suggests, Ithaa Undersea Restaurant at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island allows you to dine five metres below sea level with 180-degree views of the Indian Ocean seascape.


For a new level of laid-back island luxury stay at LUX* South Ari Atoll. This house has a beach-house feel. Stay for alfresco cinema nights, beach yoga, and trips aboard the resort’s traditional dhoni fishing boat with a marine biologist.

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The lowdown

Mexico’s Riviera Maya is wildly popular with tourists. Go and enjoy the coast’s long strip of tropical beachfront – where there’s blisteringly white sand, water as bright as a string of turquoise beads, and jungle on your doorstep. When you’re ready, swap the sea for your perfect cenote (a natural pool formed in a limestone sinkhole) in the jungle – and have a swim under a natural skylight. All your temple and jungle needs can be met with a day trip to the extraordinary archaeological ruins at Chichén Itzá: an ancient Mayan city famous for El Castillo, a towering step pyramid in its midst.


Lorenzillo’s has a founding date of 1683… Whether this is true or not, the restaurant is a bit of a Cancun institution and specialises in lobster. A surf and turf (lobster tail served alongside a juicy steak) is the perfect way to use up your pesos on a blowout, last-night-of-the-holiday meal.


The Yucatan peninsula from Cancun to Riviera Maya is prime real estate for some brilliant All Inclusive hotels. Planted along the shoreline, each hotel is a paradise of palms and pearl-white sand. Adults-only bliss awaits at the newly-opened Haven Riviera Cancun Resort, which has more beachfront rooms than any other property in the area. The beds are all king-sized, and there are six restaurants and nine bars.

Find a holiday in Cancun

  • Lion's Head, sitting just above the city of Cape Town. © Terry Low / EyeEm.

    A roaring good time

    Set out for a morning climb of Lion's Head and you'll be rewarded with panoramic views of the ocean, mountains, and city all at once. It's just one of the perks of a holiday in Cape Town.£976 pp

    Cape Town holidays

Cape Town

The lowdown

South Africa’s most dramatic city lies under the cloud-strung heights of Table Mountain, on a wave-bashed coast. With all the city’s amazing scenery, it’s no surprise that the resident South Africans are outdoorsy folk – join them for a morning hike up Lion’s Head, then a fresh dip in the sea off the beaches at Clifton and Camps Bay. Table Mountain is a fickle place to visit – it’s so often subsumed in cloud that if you see a gap in the weather, hotfoot it to the cable car. Many visitors start at Cape Town and drive out to the winelands, or along the Garden Route to Port Elizabeth. But others find it impossible to tear themselves away from the cape.


Good news for meat lovers: South Africa’s steaks are delicious and great value for visitors. A stroll along the renovated V&A Waterfront will bring you to a host of large, modern restaurants with great menus serving steaks, seafood and more. Elsewhere, Chefs Warehouse is one of Cape Town’s most popular dining experiences. Find it on Bree Street, Cape Town’s new foodie district.


Get a room with a view just 300m from the V&A Waterfront, at the brilliantly-situated One&Only Cape Town. From the lounge bar you can see Table Mountain in all its glory (great for plotting your well-timed ascent).

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