When the last red maple leaf has fallen, it's time to brace for the cold winter weather. Winter is one polarizing weather. While half of the world loves braving the snow-covered mountains head-on, the rest is scurrying to move somewhere warmer.
I have asked several travel bloggers where they would usually go to escape from the cold during winter and the response is overwhelming. But before we begin, that beautiful aerial photo of the Moalboal island in Cebu was taken from Ken Suarez' Unsplash profile. You may find more aerial shots of the Philippine Islands on his website, Misty Feathers. And while we're at it, Moalboal in Cebu is one of the many places in the Philippines you would want to visit in January should you decide to move to a warmer place.
Back to our topic, here are the top destinations with great weather in January as shared by travel bloggers.
For those looking for a sunny getaway during the winter, Bali offers beaches, jungles, culture, and a lot of good food.
Make sure to spend some time exploring the temples of Ubud, cycling through the rice terraces, hiking up the volcanic Mount Batur, soak up the sun on a private beach, and eat lots of nasi goreng. The island is dotted with open-air yoga studios as well, so yogis can adequately indulge.
It doesn't have to be expensive either; January is an especially good time to visit. By then, the holiday rush has subsided but the weather is still gorgeous and villas and resorts are offering incredible deals.
Rowena Li, A Nomad on the Loose
We recommend Cartagena, Colombia as a great destination for those looking for a quick getaway from the cold. Cartagena is a vibrant, fun city. You’re constantly surrounded by vivid colors - from the buildings to the street art to the women dressed in colorful clothes selling brilliantly bright fruit - so it’s a great contrast to the grey winter doldrums. You can take walks through the city - much of which is pedestrian-friendly and relaxed - stroll along the ocean promenade, or find shade in its parks. Just keep an eye out for the enormous (but friendly) iguanas! The beach is a taxi ride away, so we would highly recommend accommodations with a pool. Even in January, it gets truly hot. We spent a good amount of time hanging out in our pool and in the free Museum of Gold because it had air conditioning. From ceviche to arepas to the aforementioned fruit, you’ll eat and drink well in Cartagena. It’s a fun, laid back, easy place to spend a few days if you want to get out of the cold this winter, and - as a bonus - it will make you want to see more of Colombia as well.
Sarah and Justin, Travel Breathe Repeat
While most of Europe is pretty cold during the winter, Barcelona remains reasonably temperate. The city of my childhood is decorated with lights and a Christmas market where you can buy the figurines to make the famous nativities and the many quirky items that fill every Catalan home like the pooping log and the pooping shepherd. As the sun sets earlier than usual and the city is less crowded than in the summer, you can enjoy all the secret spots only locals frequent and truly get under the skin of this cosmopolitan city. Winter is a good opportunity to visit the most famous parts of Barcelona like Sagrada Familia and be surrounded by more locals and fewer tourists.
Mar Pages, Once in a Lifetime Journey
While most people flock to islands and sun-kissed sands of beautiful beaches, the sunny state of Arizona is frequently overlooked as a warm, winter getaway destination. Though, with an average temperature of 71° in Phoenix throughout the months of January, February, and March, as well as more than 300+ sunny days in the year, Arizona is the perfect destination to escape the cold weather of winter.
And while there are no beaches to relax out on, there’s no shortage of things to do! Visitors can explore the nearby areas by hiking, experience some magnificent sunsets, learn all about the different varieties of flora, like desert flowers and cacti; wander around the lively cities of Phoenix and Sedona; and slip on those beloved summer clothes. Or just sit out by one of the many pools and soak up those strong sun rays! Just make sure to slather on some sunscreen and toss on those protective shades!
Sophie Justine Anderson, The Wanderful Me
Treasure Coast, Florida, USA
Our favorite winter destination, Florida’s Treasure Coast, is located on the southeastern shores of the state. The region, whose name refers to the Spanish Treasure Fleet lost in a 1715 hurricane, emerged from residents' desire to distinguish themselves from its well-known southern neighbor, Miami. Away from the busy tourist crowds, you can enjoy the Florida sunshine and the area’s natural beauty. Our favorite spot on the Treasure Coast is Blowing Rocks Preserve where you can walk through a tunnel of sea grape trees towards the limestone terrace that stands between sand and sea. At high tide, the turquoise water spills over the remains of ancient coral reefs to fill the small tide pools.
Julie Chickery, Chickery's Travels
Located just north of the equator, the modern city-state of Singapore has tropical weather all year round. While the rest of the Northern Hemisphere is experiencing the harshness of winter, Singapore is experiencing gorgeous days and warm, tropical nights. Beautiful sandy beaches sprinkled with coconuts and hillsides covered in rainforest offer the expected tropical resort activities. But Singapore is not just your typical equatorial destination. Superb shopping opportunities exist along Orchard Road. Chinese, Indian, and Malay food and culture can be experienced throughout the city. Family friendly entertainment abounds on Sentosa Island and inland at the world-famous Singapore Zoo and Night Safari. All of these activities, plus an amazing nightlife at places like Clarke Quay, make Singapore my favorite, get away from the cold, winter destination.
Mary Talbott, Lifelong Adventures
Praslin Island, Seychelles
If you’re looking for somewhere to go to avoid the cold winter weather then look no further than the Praslin Island in the Seychelles. Being close to the equator the weather stays nice and warm year round. On top of that, you have idyllic beaches, UNESCO heritage sites delicious creole food and if you’re lucky you might even get to see turtles in the wild. For some top sights check out Anse Volbert Beach, Vallée De Mai nature reserve (for the world’s heaviest and sexiest seed – yes really!) and take a boat trip out to Curieuse Island.
Ben Reeve, Ben Reeve UK Travel Blog
Last year was my first Winter in Madrid, I didn't know what to expect, but it was wonderful. Spain is often synonymous with hot weather, beaches, and street culture, but for a few months in winter, that is all forgotten. At 667m, Madrid is the highest capital in Europe, and as the days get shorter, the temperature drops quite dramatically, but the sun still shines bright, warming the little skin that locals leave exposed. The streets become quieter as the street side dining moves inside and people gather to enjoy warming up with an iconic local favorite, churros with hot chocolate sauce.
But what adds a bonus twist to this wonderful city, that not many are aware of, is a little over 30 minutes from the city center, snow-capped mountains complete with three ski areas, full hire facilities and accessible by public transport. Perfect for that cheeky extra day to your winter city break.
Matt, The Travel Blogs
Tamil Nadu, India
The Indian state of Tamil Nadu was a perfect escape from my first trip to India.
While my family and friends were shivering in their warm coat, I was enjoying baths in the 25°C water of the Bay of Bengal with the Tamil women draped in their colorful sarees. The coast of Coromandel, stretching from False Divi Point in Andhra Pradesh to Kanyakumari in the extreme south of Tamil Nadu, is dotted with idyllic beaches. Mamallapuram particularly charmed me. I was able to stay in one of the many guesthouses on the beach and enjoy the magical sunsets on the shore temples. The city abounds with monuments listed as World Heritage sites under the name of, Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram: Arjuna's Penance, a 29m x 13m giant double rock depicting the descent of the sacred river Ganges from heaven to earth ; Five Rathas, a series of five chariot-shape temples ; Krishna's Butterball, an enormous granite boulder in equilibrium on a slope.
The highlight of a trip to Tamil Nadu is certainly the atmosphere of the Tamil temples. You should not miss the view of the temple's towers - Gopurams - from Srirangam's terraces in Trichy nor its beautiful horse sculptures. Immerse yourself in the agitation of the temple of Madurai. And plan your trip during Pradosham, the ablutions of the Giant Nandi - Shiva's bull - that takes place every two weeks in Thanjavur or, even better, during Shivratri that hosts a traditional dance festival at the same time.
Stephanie Langlet, Ethno Travels
Fiji is our favorite country to visit during those cold chilly winter months. With warm sunny days, tropical abundant fresh fruit, endless swaying coconut trees, long white sandy beaches and turquoise blue water with temperatures warm as a bath, it's easy to see why we love it so much.
Fiji is famously known as the most friendly country in the world with countless warm Bula greetings, big wide smiles and open hearts welcoming you home. It’s a place where you are not a visitor, but a family member. All cares and worries are left at the airport and all that’s needed is a sarong, swimming costumes, flip flops, a hat and a good book. Defrost those frozen toes, slip into Fiji time and let yourself be immersed in warmth and happiness by the bucket loads.
Sarah Poitras, Blended Family Road Trip
Siquijor is an island in the Philippines known for being mystique. Stories of sorcery and witchcraft surrounds this little island. Because of this stigma, this little island remain one of the most unexplored islands in Visayas. Which means less crowd if you want a quiet Christmas celebration.
Siquijor has nice beaches, waterfalls, forest and amazing dive sites. If you are tired of freezing winter season, sinking your bare feet to the whitesand beaches of Salagdoong or Tubod might be a good alternative. The island is also proud of their several dive sites with sunken island, marine sanctuaries and walls to boot.
Christine Rogador, The Travelling Pinoys
St. Lucia, South Africa
South Africa is a great place to run away from the winter. The weather is warm and it’s their “wet season” so most places are lush and green. It’s also the best time for bird watching and migratory birds. St Lucia in the KwaZulu-Natal province has year-round sunshine, a beautifully mild winter and warm ocean temperatures so any time is a good time.
Right on your doorstep, you have Isimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with over a dozen unique conservation areas ranging from marine reserves to coastal forests. The St Lucia estuary, 60km long and 10km wide, is at the heart of the park, a huge freshwater wetland packed with hippos, crocodiles, and birds. You can go on day and night game drives as well as guided walks and you’ll find South Africa’s best scuba diving where you can spot whale sharks and dolphins. On a safari drive, you will get a chance to see the Big Five and the area is one of the best places in the country to see the endangered rhino.
The small town of St Lucia itself has a variety of accommodation options from the more modern boutique hotels to the less traditional safari-style tents. There are some naughty monkeys scampering around the outskirts and at night time you might be able to spot some hippos coming out of the estuary looking for some yummy grass as a late night munch.
Cristal Dyer, Tofu Traveler
Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is the ideal destination to escape the cold winter blues of the northern hemisphere. Soak up the sun on the beautiful beaches and enjoy the excellent surfing. Or take a hike up Table Mountain (there is a cable car for the less energetic). Drive around the peninsula for stunning views and be sure to stop at Boulder Beach to watch the antics of the penguins. Thirsty? Go wine tasting at one of the wine farms in Constantia. Hungry? Cape Town boasts some of the top restaurants in the world! And be sure to leave plenty of time to wander around the waterfront and perhaps take a sunset cruise on a catamaran!
Meryl van der Merwe, on Standby
As winter takes hold in the northern hemisphere we love nothing more than jetting off to Africa to enjoy the South African summer. Cape Town comes alive as travellers flock from all over the world to experience its perfect beach and city combination. The lush green landscapes make chasing the Big 5 a little harder as the South Africa summer coincides with the wet season but the wildlife still rewards travellers with regular appearances across the safari plains. The Garden Route is spectacular, Johannesburg vibrant and the wine region the perfect winter indulgence. A South African summer will thaw even the coldest winter hearts!
Elaine and David, The Whole World is a Playground
Koh Tao, Thailand
The time that Koh Tao was only popular with divers is long gone. It is hard to find an off the beaten path island in Thailand nowadays, but on Koh Tao tourism is mostly concentrated around Sairee Beach despite the many other idyllic and quiets bays around the island. Therefore it is the perfect island to unwind and find serenity. More and more upscale places are opening their doors and many amazing villas with unbeatable ocean views can be found. Local food can be found on every corner, but lovely eateries like sushi restaurants and wine bars are opening up as well. Exploring Koh Tao on a motorbike and finding those deserted beaches is a must just like you don’t want to miss the great hikes and watch the sunset at one of the spectacular viewpoints. There are so many things to do in Koh Tao besides diving which makes it such a diverse island and the best thing about it is that in December the dry season starts, which makes traveling to Thailand at this time of year fabulous.
Tom Grond, Travel Tomtom
Antigua Guatemala is a Unesco World Heritage city with loads to offer during a winter escape. Offering year-round dry temperate weather, it’s safe and quite an affordable destination to visit. There are options to suit every budget, from street food to gourmet restaurants and from backpacker hostels to 5-star hotels, Antigua has it all.
Spend your day strolling through the beautiful cobblestone streets, enjoy the abundance of Spanish colonial architecture, visit local craft markets or even close by cocoa plantations. Fancy something a bit more adventurous, climb one of its three surrounding volcanoes and roast marshmallows on hot lava. If you've got time to spare, brush up on your Spanish, Antigua is famous for its many Spanish-language schools.
An abundance of choices awaits you, from relaxing options to learning to exhilarating outdoor activities. Don’t wait, make this winter’s destination Antigua, Guatemala.
Nathalie McNabb, Marquestra Travel Blog
New Plymouth, New Zealand
When the Northern Hemisphere is hunkering down for the winter New Zealanders are heading outdoors to enjoy the summer months. Ranked as one of the top places to visit in the world by the Lonely Planet in 2016, New Plymouth, is a vibrant city on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island. Visit between November and March for the best weather. The coastal city gazes onto Mount Taranaki, one of only a few mountains in the world with an almost perfect cone shape. A long boardwalk to walk and the cycle is dotted with coffee shops and alfresco dining The mountain and the national park which surrounds it provides forests, rivers and gushing waterfalls to explore. While miles and miles of black sand beaches beckon holidaymakers to the water.
Kaylie Lewell, Happiness Travels Here
La Pedrera, Uruguay
Uruguay is a fantastic destination in the southern hemisphere, and La Pedrera is one of these rare finds of ultimate relaxation and good vibes. The town lies at the Atlantic coast a three-hour drive from the capital Montevideo. When summer hits in December, the town awakens from its deep sleep and the population swells a little. Many city folks have their summer house here. You can do something active like surfing or kiteboarding on the wavy ocean, or just relax at the beach. The beaches in this province called Rocha are famous for their
aesthetic appeal, so bring a camera on your beach hikes. Definitely visit nearby Cabo Polonio on a day trip and you might spot some very special birds in their habitat. Accommodations in La Pedrera range from budget-minded camping to sandy backpacker hostels, and excellent cabins with beach view and an espresso machine. No matter who you are, a winter escape to Uruguay is never a regrettable choice.
Iris Veldwijk, Mind of a Hitchhiker
Darjeeling nestles against the backdrop of one of the world’s highest mountain peaks, Mt. Kanchenjunga. This picturesque town is lined with rows upon rows of tea plantations that grow its famed black tea. The town which is situated in the state of Bengal, India, used to be a mountain getaway of the elite during the time of the British colonization of India. The fairytale and vintage feel of the town are complete with a heritage railway, fondly known as, “Toy Train”, which dates back to 1881. The place is a great place to escape to during any part of the year, but during winter it assumes an ethereal avatar and the nip in the air ensures a spring in the step as you inhale the intoxicant and tea-tinged fragrant air. The winter temperatures at Darjeeling usually hover around 5 to 7 degrees and snowfall here is rare, but the weather is always pregnant with the possibility of snow.
Sandy & Vyjay, Voyager
A couple of Winters back, we flew to Andalusia, in the sunny South of Spain, to road trip our way around its main highlights: The coast path between Malaga and Cadiz, where windy Tarifa stands out as a must-see destination on its own. Seville, Ronda, the 'Caminito del Rey' hiking trail - once named the most dangerous one in the world - and Granada, as well as its Sierra Nevada snow-capped mountains, were definitely on our list.
Once the crowds are gone, the prices back to normal and the heat ceases, it's time to visit the beautiful, lively and full of history Southern part of Spain. Whether you would like to stick to one place in a nice resort in the coast or go all the way for an Andalucia road trip as we did (head there for lots of budget and destination-specific tips!), this area has everything you need to spend some time.
Places like Malaga, Tarifa, Cadiz, Sevilla, Ronda, and Granada will make your low season holidays some to remember.
Inma Gregorio, A World to Travel
About the Author
Noel Cabacungan was born and raised in the Philippines but is currently working in Saudi Arabia. He suspects the universe often conspires to put him in the unfriendliest of places and believes assimilation is the only way to survive. This belief made him capable of seeing the beauty beyond the most dreary locations. His favourite form of entertainment involves observing people do crazy things in the most mundane situations. Read more about his exploits on his blog, Ten Thousand Strangers, or follow his stormtrooper alter-ego on Instagram @troopertravelsph