Few months spark a yearning for somewhere brighter and hotter than December. And with the UK in the midst of a wintry spell, it is once again time to start dreaming of swaying palm trees and whooshing waves to ring in the new year.
Enter the Caribbean, clad in its best high-season apparel, and offering great hotels, sugary beaches and cloudless skies. Elsewhere, the Maldives offers classic fly-and-flop escapism, while Los Angeles and Buenos Aires are on hand to provide sunny city breaks.
Dust off those passports and prepare for warmer climes. Here is our round-up of where to go for January sun.
For temperatures between 19ºC to 24ºC
While America’s biggest city (New York) battles winter at its fiercest, its second largest is soaking up temperatures in the low 20s Celsius. In truth, it should be no shock that Los Angeles is so sun-kissed in January – this, after all, is a metropolis of year-round golden climate. But this lack of mystery does nothing to diminish the possibilities for relaxation on LA’s shore – on Venice Beach, in Santa Monica, or further afield in Malibu.
How to do it: A seven-night escape to the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills (unsurprisingly, a five-star retreat), flying directly from Heathrow on January 13, costs from £3,629 per person, with Virgin Holidays (0344 472 9646; virginholidays.co.uk). Find more places to stay in our guide to the best hotels in Los Angeles.
“Lanza-grotty” was the dismissive moniker that was attached, in the Eighties, to the fourth biggest of the Canary Islands. It was always an unreasonable slur – because, even if this sunny outcrop deals in unfussy breaks in resort areas such as Playa Blanca and Costa Teguise, it can also claim a growing range of luxury properties, alluring Spanish culture in the capital Arrecife, and volcanic majesty in Timanfaya National Park.
How to do it: A seven-night all-inclusive getaway to the five-star Paradisus Salinas Lanzarote, flying from Birmingham on January 20, costs from £1,395 per person, via Jet2Holidays (0800 408 0778; jet2holidays.com). Find more places to stay in our guide to the best hotels in Lanzarote.
It can be easy to sneer at Dubai – to claim that its skyscrapers are ridiculously big, to suggest that its enormous malls are a substitute for any element of culture, to say that its artificial-island construction projects are overreaching and silly. But the glitziest of the United Arab Emirates does not care a jot – and nor do the thousands of UK tourists who flock to its beaches knowing that the sun will have its hat on.
How to do it: A seven-night half-board getaway to the five-star Anantara The Palm Dubai, flying from Cardiff on January 20, costs from £1,611 per person, through Destinology (01204 208 891; destinology.co.uk). Find more places to stay in our guide to the best hotels in Dubai.
A country that boasts warm weather and soft beaches will always be alluring. One of the jigsaw pieces that make up Central America, Costa Rica is lapped by both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. You can gaze at both bodies of water simultaneously from the top of the Irazú volcano – but also enjoy cosmopolitan afternoons in the national capital San José.
How to do it: Last Frontiers (01296 653 000; lastfrontiers.com) offers a 13-day “Classic Costa Rica” itinerary which charts the country in detail. From £4,770 per person, including flights. Find more places to stay in our guide to the best hotels in Costa Rica.
For temperatures between 25ºC to 29ºC
With its mountainous middle and lush interior, Grenada suits those who want a dose of adventure to offset their seaside lounging. It is also on the southern limits of the Atlantic hurricane belt, which makes it less likely to experience tumultuous weather than some other Caribbean islands.
How to do it: Audley Travel (01993 460 174; audleytravel.com) offers a 15-day “Highlights of Grenada and St Lucia” itinerary which, as its name suggests, splits its time between two Caribbean countries. It spends its first week on Grenada, venturing to the less-seen north of the island at Petite Anse – and sailing across to the even less-seen neighbouring islet of Carriacou. From £6,100 per person, including (all) flights. Find more places to stay in our guide to the best hotels in Grenada.
So tied to the UK in terms of history and flight connections that, at times, a holiday there can feel like a trip to the British seaside – albeit with temperatures that occupy the upper 20s Celsius throughout the year – Barbados is a stalwart of Caribbean tourism. For many, it revolves around the luxury resorts on the west coast, but venture to the capital Bridgetown for heritage and excellent food.
How to do it: A seven-night all-inclusive getaway to The House, a boutique five-star on the Bajan west coast at Durants, costs from £2,399 per person, including flights, via Tropical Sky (01342 395 315; tropicalsky.co.uk). Find more places to stay in our guide to the best hotels in Barbados.
The country which makes up two thirds of the second biggest island in the Caribbean (Hispaniola) has sometimes been overlooked as a holiday option. But it is coming into focus thanks to the luxury resorts that dot its south-east corner, around the settlement of Punta Cana. The temperature generally clips the high 20s Celsius at all times. The European winter also largely avoids the hurricane season (June-November).
How to do it: A seven-night all-inclusive break to the four-star Grand Sirenis Punta Cana Resort, flying from Gatwick on January 20, costs from £1,777 per person, through First Choice (020 3451 2688; firstchoice.co.uk). Find more places to stay in our guide to the best hotels in the Dominican Republic.
For temperatures 30ºC+
The Indian Ocean’s most celebrated cluster of islands has its nominal rainy season in May-November, so is in full sunny fettle by January. In truth, the time of year makes little difference to the experience in a vast archipelago which sits in the equatorial zone. Visitors can bank on temperatures of 30C whenever they travel.
How to do it: Why pick one luxurious resort when you can offer two? Scott Dunn (020 3733 9378; scottdunn.com) offers a 10-night Maldivian twin-centre holiday which splits its time between a pair of properties, Gili Lankanfushi and Six Senses Laamu. From £6,400 per person (from £9,400 a head in January), including flights. Find more places to stay in our guide to the best hotels in the Maldives.
This piece of East Africa is an essential destination for those who love safari breaks, whether for the incredible spectacle of the Great Migration of wildebeest into the Serengeti – or the lesser-known wildlife experiences to be had in Ruaha National Park. Then there is the scenery – the volcanic caldera of the Ngorongoro Crater, the snowy might of Mount Kilimanjaro, the soft beaches of Zanzibar.
How to do it: Expert Africa (020 3405 6666; expertafrica.com) offers a 12-night “Dik Dik Safari” which gazes at big beasts in Tangarire National Park and the Serengeti, peers into the Ngorongoro Crater, and finishes on the beach in Zanzibar. From £9,620 per person in January, including international flights.
It is rare to think of Argentina in terms of pure sunshine. This, after all, is a country which stretches (almost) to the glacier-laden foot of South America (Chile owns the tip of the continent). But Buenos Aires basks in the glow of the upper 20s Celsius during January – casting the evocative streets of La Boca, the steak eateries of San Telmo, the bright resurrection of the Puerto Madero docks and the hip bars of Palermo in a fine light.
How to do it: Journey Latin America (020 3131 2661; journeylatinamerica.co.uk) offers a “Vintage Argentina” holiday that, over the course of 12 days, calls on Buenos Aires, Salta, Mendoza (and the vineyards around it) and Iguacu Falls. From £3,484 per person (flights extra). Find more places to stay in our guide to the best hotels in Argentina.