The best January travel experiences

For all other months, go here: The Best Travel Experiences

The height of Summer in the southern hemisphere is the perfect time to explore the far south, with Patagonia thawing nicely to create some of the most carefree and picturesque trekking imaginable, you can drink water straight out of streams and everything is edible.  New Zealand bursts with the greenery and snow-capped peaks reminiscent of middle earth in ‘The Lord of the Rings.’  At the same time, the winter has descended upon the north with people escaping their homes to attend winter festivals and snowsports. Step into Spring in East Africa and Western South America, where they enjoy the best weather of the year.

Airfare begins to plummet this time of year in Europe and North America which creates a real opportunity for the flexible budget traveler.  There’s no excuse, so why not get out of the house and discover a little more of this wonderful world this January?


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Epic Competitions

  • Staffordshire, England – Tough Guy Competition: Looking for the ultimate challenge? This is billed as the world’s most demanding one-day survival competition
  • Antarctica – Ice Marathon: Are you looking for an ultra-exclusive marathon?  Try this one in Antarctica in the warm season where the sun is always up and the temperature hovers around freezing.
  • Costa Rica – The Coastal Challenge: take part in this 155-mile run across jungle, beaches and mountains
  • Durban, South Africa – Dusi Marathon: Dodge crocodiles as you paddle 25 miles through the valley of 1000 hills
  • Patagonia, Argentina and Chile – Desafio de Los Volcanes: Undertake a 400-mile great expedition race where you trek, bike, run, kayak and climb across Patagonia in 7 days.
  • Leadville, Colorado – Turquoise Lake Snowshoe Run: Compete in a grueling 20-Mile Snowshoe Race
  • Cairo to Cape Town – Tour d’Afrique: Bicycle race from the top to the bottom of the Dark Continent.

 

Buddha Head Tree at Wat Phra Mahthat

Buddha Head Tree at Wat Phra Mahthat. Photo by: Chris Weseloh

The Peak of The Season

  • Patagonia, Argentina – Perito Moreno Glagier: See the world’s most active accessible glacier break off chunks of ice the size of skyscrapers every few minutes before your eyes.  January is peak activity for this amazing glacier.  See the Incredible Perito Moreno Glacier.
  • Rotorua, New Zealand – Surf the Kaituna River: Surf Class 5 Glacial Melt Rivers on a foam boogie board during the warmest month.  One of the few places on earth this is possible. New Zealand Extreme Sports
  • British Colombia, Canada – Ski Whistler: North America’s best ski resort and highest bars per capita.  WinterPRIDE is toward the end of January.
  • Quebec, Canada – Hôtel de Glace: The hotel made entirely out of ice gets completely rebuilt every January.  See the latest in functional ice architecture.
  • Uyuni, Bolivia – Salar de Uyuni: If you are dreaming of a picture standing in the clouds, this is the time the shallow water over the world’s largest salt flat creates a perfect mirror.  It’s also the warmest time to go.  Stay in a hotel made completely out of salt.

 

The Danakil Depression is one of the hottest and most inhospitable places on earth.  January is the best month to travel here.  Photo by:

The Danakil Depression is one of the hottest and most inhospitable places on earth. January is the best month to travel here. Photo by: Chris Weseloh

The Perfect Weather

  • Kirra, Australia – Surf the Superbank: Beginners and experts alike can surf the world’s longest wave at the peak of the Australian Summer.
  • Ethiopia – The Danakil Depression: Get up close to active lava flows and fluorescent sulphur pools in this cauldron of volcanic activity. The Danakil Depression: Decent Into Hell
  • Zanzibar, Tanzania – Discover Historic African Stone Towns: Long before the colonization of Africa, Islamic traders built the richest cities in the world on the most beautiful beaches of East Africa. Meander through labyrinth of stone alleyways to discover the riches of this ancient culture. Zanzibar’s Lost Village
  • Vang Vieng, Laos – Laos by Hot Air Balloon: Float majestically over the craggy peaks and iridescent rice paddies for US$70. Hot Air Ballooning Over Vang Vieng
  • Cuba – Road trip Cuba: Discover the hidden culture of the “Pearl of the Caribbean” during the driest and coolest month. Ditch the resorts and ride a bicycle or rent a car for a road trip across the Caribbean’s largest island.
  • Uruguay – Beaches of Uruguay: South American moviestars flock to these trendy beaches to escape the heat of the big cities.  Be prepared for the latest partying on the planet: sleep till sunset, backyard barbecues starting at 2am and clubs that don’t open until sunrise.  Uruguayan meats are the best in the world.
  • Palau – Snorkel the Jellyfish Lake: Have you dreamed of swimming in a sea of stinger-free pink jellyfish?  January is the dry season in Palau
  • Leon, Nicaragua – Volcano Boarding: You have to be slightly insane to strap a plywood board to your feet and sand board down an active, smoking volcano.  Wait to see what happens at the end.  Volcano Boarding Nicaragua
  • Tasmania, Australia – Kayak 300 km to Tasmania: take this grueling trip to the exotic island of Tasmania, home to Tasmanian Devils
  • Railay, Thailand – Rock Climb: Ascend the vertical spires that surround this low-budget destination.  January brings the best weather and the clearest water. The Best Thailand Islands to Explore
  • Impenetrable National Park, Uganda – Track the mountain Gorillas in the dry season: you will never forget standing a few feet from a fully-grown silverback gorilla, which can punch 6 times harder than a heavyweight boxer.
  • Cape Town, South Africa – Penguins and Great White Cage Diving: See penguins and explore this charming city at the warmest time of year.  Wonderful beaches and outdoor activities surround you in all directions.  Nearby adventures include great white shark cage diving and ostrich racing. Top Highlights Around Cape Town

 

East Africa enjoys clear weather in January.  Photo from: Best Budget African Safari

East Africa enjoys clear weather in January. Photo from: Best Budget African Safari by: Chris Weseloh

Great Animal Encounters and Harvests

  • Crystal River, Florida, USA – Swim With Manatees: Winter brings these gentle creatures fleeing to this clear river in search of warmer water. January is the peak month when kayakers can get up close to herds of manatees. Swimming with Manatees on the Crystal River
  • Parc National du Banc d’Arguin, Mauritania – Bird Migration: Watch 2 million birds migrate through the core of the Atlantic flyway
  • Baja California, Mexico – Snorkel with Grey Whales: January is the time these gentel creatures are breeding off the coast of Mexico. Snorkel With Whale Sharks in La Paz.
  • South France – Journée de la Truffe: Join the food-fanatic French during the celebrated harvest season for truffles
  • Lake Ndutu, Tanzania – The Great Birthing: A massive synchronized birthing of Wildebeests that rivals the Great Migration in its raw glory
  • Harar, Ethiopia – Feed Wild Hyenas: Go with locals to give offerings to wild hyenas so they don’t ravage the city.  If you dare, you can give them food out of your mouth like Jonny.  Feed Wild Hyenas in Ethiopia

 

You have to be slightly insane to sand board down an active, smoking volcano.  From:

You have to be slightly insane to sand board down an active, smoking volcano. From: Volcano Boarding Nicaragua

Over-the-top Festivals

  • Timbuktu, Mali – Festival au Desert  Timbuctu: park your camel alongside Beduins for a music concert at the coolest time of year
  • Hong Kong, China – Chinese New Year: Celebrate amongst elated locals for the wildest of Asian street parades
  • Nara, Japan – Wakakusa Yamayaki: An entire mountain is set ablaze by Buddhist monks on the 4th Saturday in January
  • Harbin, China – The Harbin Ice and Snow Festival: Take in the largest festival of its kind in the world where entire full-size buildings are created with illuminated clear blocks of ice
  • Shetland Islands, Scotland – Up Helly Aa Viking Festival: At the largest fire festival in Europe, a Viking warship is set ablaze by an army of drunken torchbearers. Up Helly Aa
  • Punjab, India – Lohri Bonfire Festival: A festival of dancing and throwing popcorn into bonfires for a productive harvest

 

Cape Town, South Africa: Cage Diving With Great White Sharks.  It is bot frightening and humbling to get in the cage with these huge creatures circling you.  This one slammed into the cage in front of me.

Cape Town, South Africa: Cage Diving With Great White Sharks. It is bot frightening and humbling to get in the cage with these huge creatures circling you. This one slammed into the cage in front of me.

Quirky World Championships

  • Selçuk, Turkey – Camel Wrestling Championship: male camels are worked into a frenzy by a sexy female camel, and wrestle in the arena to gain her favor.
  • Christchurch, New Zealand – World Buskers Festival: essentially the world championship of street performers
  • Brisbane, Australia – Cockroach Racing World Championship: thoroughbred cockroaches race for a lifetime supply of twinkies
  • Tokyo, Japan – The Grand Sumo Tournament: where the best and the biggest sumo wrestlers come to compete on the world stage

 

Ethiopia has some of the deepest religious traditions including this rock-hewn church at Lalibela

Ethiopia has some of the deepest religious traditions including this rock-hewn church at Lalibela Chris Weseloh

Religious Ceremonies

  • Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Thaipusam: One of the more bizarre religious festivals, this Hindu festival held on the full moon of the Tamil month on the Thai calendar includes flamboyant displays of body manipulation
  • Lalibela, Ethiopia – Leddet: A celebration of Christmas amid rock-hewn churches
  • Gujarat, India – Sankranti: Hindu celebration of bathing in the polluted Ganges and mass kite flying
  • Gonder, Ethiopia – Timkat: A celebration of Christ’s baptism at the home of the arc of the covenant

 

January is the best time to visit these Countries and Regions:

 

The myWanderlist Best Travel Experiences for Other Months

Want to read my best travel stories? Here are some good ones:

  • Madain Saleh Saudi Arabia: Hitchhiking to Petra’s twin city
  • Dancing with Corpses: Famadihana- Turning of the Bones in Madagascar: The hidden meaning behind one of the most bizarre ceremonies will surprise you
  • The Secret Lives of Sea Gypsies: My personal experience living with the world’s best divers on the fringes of civilization
  • Volcano Boarding Nicaragua: The extreme sport for the slightly insane?
  • Bagan Temples: Little-known Temples, hidden passageways and secret keys to Photographing the Sunrise at Bagan blissfully devoid of tourists

Do you know of any great blogs covering these experiences? If so, I’d love to add links. Anything to add? Drop me a comment or note.

Salar de Uyuni pic ; Kayak Antarctica ;

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About the author: Brad Bernard

 

Brad Bernard has traveled through 92 countries to find off-the-map experiences and authentic adventure travel. He pushes his own personal boundaries by travelling experimentally. Brad’s personal quest to find the most extreme and unique in travel has bred misadventures and moments of enlightenment alike. You can read his craziest stories on his adventure travel blog

Website: https://plus.google.com/+BradBernard340/