January is supposed to be the time of revival, fresh faces and a new year filled with promise. For most of us, it's actually the time when the shadow of Christmas is still cast across us, and we lack the energy to stand up to the year to follow. But those holiday blues can be dispelled and our spirits regenerated with some well-earned sun at rock bottom prices- here are some top spots to find it.
Morocco is one of those places that marks the boundary between Europe and Africa. The difference between the two, although only being stone's throw farther from the UK than Spain, is remarkable. Morocco's mixed geography produces a varied climate, but the sun shines all year round. Marrakesh borders on the largest hot desert in the world, the Sahara, and stays warm without a break throughout the year. When I tell you that Marrakesh sees roughly 5 days with rain in January, you'll clearly see the difference between here and there. While January is amongst the coldest months for Marrakesh, you'll still be looking at temperatures up to 19°C during the day.
If you're the sort looking some real heat, you might enjoy a desert trek- by camel, 4x4 or quad bike. While across the Mediterranean they'll be skiing, you can try your hand at some dune surfing and slide upon the sands. Those especially eager to escape the sensation of the holidays can enjoy some perfect isolation in a desert tent, silent, calm and warm. If you're after serenity without sand, there's the famous Majorelle Gardens, 12 acres of beautifully maintained garden crafted as a single gigantic work of art coloured with the signature Majorelle blue that is named for its creator, Jacques Majorelle, and his 40 years of passion spent creating it. Overall a conveniently close way to feel like you're on the other side of the world.
Year after year, Barbados is the most popular Caribbean destination for UK travellers and January is near-universally considered the best time to visit. Like entering some sort of mirror dimension, it's hot, sunny and dry in January- making it an ideal getaway from the gloom we're forced to sit through at home. Bridgetown, on the west coast of Barbados, is an outstanding place for the three supreme Ss- Sun, sand and sea.
The average sea temperature is 28°C, which makes for an ocean of options. Diving to swim with sea turtles or exploring sunken wrecks, sports fishing, surfing- regular, wind or kite. If you can do it on the water, you can do it here (except for ice fishing, of course). Some tours go around the entire island, giving you the chance to enjoy a bit of everything in one day. If getting wet sounds too much like January in the UK, you can try one of the Caribbean specialities with a Rum Tour. Learning how it's made, and of course, sampling the results. Barbados is thoroughly covered in nature reserves, parks and gardens to appreciate the natural beauty of and thanks to its relatively small size, you can get around and experience the best quite easily. It's not hard to see why so many Brits love Barbados.
You may be wondering, given the topic of this blog, why I'd send you somewhere called the Snowy Mountains. Simple. In January it's summer, and thanks to their reputation for being a winter destination, the crowds are thin and the locals are very eager to please summer visitors. Prices are cut, and they offer many activities to make up for the lack of skiing. In January temperatures average 19°C but can reach as high as 30°C during the day. This relatively mild temperature for Australia is a terrific time for experiencing the region- in particular, it's considered the best time to climb Australia's tallest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko.
All that snow has to go somewhere, so the lakes and streams of the region are in prime condition for fishing, paddle-boarding, sailing, rafting, kayaking, water-skiing, wind-surfing and swimming. It's also the time of year the region comes into full bloom, and the charms of the wilderness are most spectacular. Perhaps the best way to experience this would be one of the many horseback tours offered- the district is very proud of its horse carried legacy thanks to the famous poem The Man from Snowy River, the tale of a lost horse capture by feats of daring do that only a man from the snowy mountains could pull off. A beautiful place for escaping crowds and bringing home stories to tell.
The best part of the dry season in Cuba starts in January and the month holds special meaning to its residents, as this was when the world-shaking revolution that has shaped so much of their history succeeded- poetically enough, right on New Year's Day. These days Cuba is no longer a pariah on the political stage, and thousands flock there every year to enjoy everything it has to offer.
The jewel of Cuba is its capital, Havana. Although you may be tempted to laze away every day on the beautiful beaches, the sand so white and the sun so bright they seem to glow, there's a great deal to see and do in Havana. The fascinating modern history that shaped the world, showing how one small island could impact so profoundly on the global stage, is well documented in the many museums but the impact of its history is all around- most obviously by the classic cars that cover the city, as newer models could not be imported.
Famously friendly towards tourists, private taxis owned by citizens give you the chance to ride in those classics with them and really get into the Havana spirit. You can visit their legendary cigar factories to witness how the world-renowned items are made. Or indulge in their other famous export, Salsa dancing. Cuban society holds artists in high regard, meaning there's a wide variety of art galleries to visit and numerous tours designed to take in the best of them in one day. Many Cubans will agree the best way to see artistry is to watch one of their baseball games and witness the Havana Industriales, often regarded as amongst the best in the world. No wonder even during the Cold War Cubans could be found in international baseball leagues. There's still a touch of mystery to Cuba- why not dive in and see it for yourself?
Averaging a comfy 26°C in January, Miami is a touch of the tropics. But early in the year, it avoids the typical tropical torrential downpour that comes with the hotter summer months. The unique environment of Miami comes with many other unusual opportunities. For example, Zoo Miami is the only sub-tropical zoo in the USA which allows it to showcase creatures of a greater variety than any other.
The zoo contains over 3000 animals of more than 500 species, exhibiting animals that can co-exist peacefully together, giving a more engaging experience as they do all they can to replicate the natural world. There's plenty of ways to get in on the action, with feeding opportunities and chances to have Q&A sessions with the keepers- you can even take home a bucket of what they politely call Zoo Doo (that's special manure from exotic critters). If that doesn't sound like a good souvenir, Miami is famous for its nightlife and has an endless supply of clubs- an excellent option considering the weather keeps warm even into the nights.
On top of that, if you liked the sound of Cuba in the above section, Miami is often praised for its very authentic Little Cuba that captures the feeling of the country. If partying is not your expertise, try the 250,000-square-foot Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science. If you'd rather turn your brain off, there are the many beautiful beaches or perhaps the Venetian Pool, the only pool on the National Historic Register- though that's for its astounding beauty, it's still a perfect place to kick back and relax.