Aerial view of the Death Valley National Park from Dante’s View peak, one of the best places to visit in January

21 Best Places to Visit in January 2024 (in USA & World)

👉 Jump to: Places to Visit in January in USA | International Places to Visit in January | FAQ

I’ve extensively traveled across the USA and abroad, and my guide will point you to the best places to visit in January! 

This epic round-up features warm weather retreats, winter sports resorts, uncrowded getaways, and seasonal festivals. I cover several popular destinations, as well as hidden gems you won’t want to miss. Plus, I share resources and travel tips to make it easy to plan your January vacation!

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11 Best Places to Visit in January in the USA

Death Valley National Park, California

Dodge high temperatures and admire the desert beauty of America’s lowest point.

View of the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and the blue sky in the bakcground
The serenity of the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes…
View of the Zabriskie Point on a sunny day
and the surrealness of Zabriskie Point

✈️ Flights to Las Vegas | 🛎️ Hotels near Death Valley

Death Valley National Park is infamous for its arid heat. But average January temperatures range from the 60s (F) in the day to around 40 in the evenings. You may, ironically, want to bring warm clothes to Death Valley!

Stroll up the sand dunes at Mesquite Flat. Wander the wavy rock formations near Zabriskie Point. Take in the epic vistas from Dante’s View. These are just a few of the fascinating places awaiting you in this California national park.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Enjoy the best of the Appalachian alpine in this Tennessee town.

View of the fog covering the city skyline of Gatlinburg
A blanket of fog covers Gatlinburg

✈️ Flights to Knoxville | 🛎️ Hotels in Gatlinburg

This mountain town in Tennessee is one of the best places to take a winter getaway. A visit in January avoids the large crowds around the Gatlinburg Winter Magic Festival in November and the holiday season. Still, there will be millions of lights up everywhere.   

Gatlinburg is also the gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Nothing is quite so charming as the frosty stillness of the Appalachian alpine forests. The colder temperatures also make retiring to a rustic log cabin at the end of the day that much cozier!

San Diego, California

Bask in the sun and surf the waves in So Cal’s southernmost city.

View of the people chilling at the beach in San Diego
You might just have the beach to yourself in the winter months

✈️ Flights to San Diego | 🛎️ Hotels in San Diego | Where to Stay | Things to Do | Restaurants 

San Diego is great any time of the year, but January is one of my favorite times to visit. Winters here see warm weather, and who wouldn’t love the bragging rights of surfing on a January vacation? The crowds are also at their lowest during this time of year.

There’s something for everyone in San Diego, too. History buffs will love visiting the USS Midway Museum. Families will want to add trips to SeaWorld and Legoland. The smaller beach towns around San Diego are fantastic places for seaside attractions — Oceanside is my favorite.

Back in town, there’s the sophisticated Gaslamp Quarter, a downtown neighborhood with plenty of entertainment. There’s also no shortage of fantastic restaurants and breweries in the greater San Diego area.

Lake Tahoe, California, and Nevada

Carve through powder on the slopes above America’s favorite alpine lake.

View of the skiers with an overlooking view of the Lake Tahoe
Epic views and epic powder abound at Lake Tahoe!

✈️ Flights to Reno | 🛎️ Hotels in Lake Tahoe | Where to Stay | Things to Do 

Lake Tahoe is another of California’s many charming winter destinations. The Golden State does, however, share this stunning sapphire lake with the Silver State, Nevada.  It’s one of the best places to visit if you love ski resorts, winter hikes, and alpine ambiance. January is the snowiest month of the year, seeing 43 to 46 inches on average!

The lake doesn’t freeze in winter, but there are some great spots for ice skating around town such as Heavenly Village and Edgewood on Ice.

There are also a ton of great restaurants, bars, and breweries. Boutique hotels and ski lodges abound. Basecamp Tahoe South is a favorite of mine. It offers super cozy rooms, as well as an on-site restaurant and a gift shop with awesome swag.

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

See stately saguaro cacti at this national park near Tucson, Arizona.

View of the cacti at the classic Old West landscape in Saguaro National Park
A classic Old West landscape at Saguaro National Park

✈️ Flights to Tucson | 🛎️ Hotels near Saguaro National Park 

Arizona’s Saguaro National Park is a great destination to visit in the winter. Temperatures are tolerable and it’s not too crowded, either. The park bears the name of the towering saguaro cactus, but there are also several other species of this prickly plant here.

The park near Tucson has two separate districts. Most of the cacti lie in the western Tucson Mountain District. The eastern Rincon District is closer to town but has a more remote feeling. It’s also the only place in Saguaro National Park where camping is allowed. You’ll need to pack in everything, though, because there are no camping facilities. 

Key West, Florida

Unlock the door to summer fun even in January in Key West.

A boat sailing in Key West at sunset
Nothing says “escape from winter’ like a sailing tour!

✈️ Flights to Key West | 🛎️ Hotels in Key West

Key West is one of the best places in Florida and with good reason. It’s one of the few tropical regions in America and the perfect place for aquatic activities such as sailing, snorkeling, and parasailing. These activities continue even in the dead of winter. 

There’s plenty to do back on land, too. Key West also hosts several festivals in late January. The Key West Food & Wine Fest is a great place for foodies. The Mile 0 music festival provides foot-stomping country and Americana tunes to while the evening away. Sometimes, though, just sitting in the Florida sun on the beach is better than anything!

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana

Spend a few days of the first month of the year in America’s first national park.

A herd of bison walking on the snow covered landscape at Yellowstone National Park
There will be fewer tourists, but not necessarily fewer “locals”

✈️ Flights to Yellowstone National Park | 🛎️ Hotels near Yellowstone

Yellowstone is one of the best US national parks and is worth visiting any time of the year. Most people choose summer, but January shows a different side of life here. It’s a great time for wildlife viewing because snow in the mountains drives many of the area’s most famous four-footed residents to lower altitudes. 

Yellowstone’s famous thermal pools are off-limits for bathing, but there are still some great ways to drive off the cold weather. Hot springs in the surrounding areas, for one, are often available year-round. There are also several cozy cabin-style lodgings to settle down for the night.

👉 Heads Up: Most roads through Yellowstone are closed during winter. Access the park from Montana or plan to book a private snowcoach tour.

Salt Lake City, Utah

Explore Northern Utah’s winter wonderland which has a little something for everyone.

Panoramic view of the Salt Lake City at sunset
As the sun sets, outdoor activities give way to the city’s thriving nightlife

✈️ Flights to Salt Lake City | 🛎️ Hotels in Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City, Utah is one of the best places to visit in January if you love winter sports. Nearby Park City is famous for its ski resorts, including Deer Valley and Park City Mountain. Plus, Sundance Film Festival starts in mid-January. What could be more fun than a day of skiing topped off with a movie and a steaming cup of hot chocolate? 

Salt Lake City itself has plenty to do and see. Tons of trendy restaurants and breweries offer great food, drinks, and company. SLC also has more budget-friendly accommodations if Park City prices and five-star ski resorts are beyond your means. 

Zion National Park, Utah

Wander amidst the stunning beauty of southern Utah’s most famous canyons.

Picturesque view of a waterfalls in Zion National Park
Zion has everything from cozy, shaded nooks…
View of the trail leading to the magnificent canyon in Zion National Park
to epic, towering cliffs!

✈️ Flights to St. George | 🛎️ Hotels near Zion National Park

Zion National Park is a paradise of rugged natural beauty. It’s a popular summer destination, but also one of the best places to visit in January. The occasional light dusting of snow makes the already beautiful landscapes here even more enchanting!

Fewer crowds also mean lower prices on accommodations, which book up well in advance during the peak season. You can also park your own car at popular trailheads during the winter, giving you a level of freedom impossible any other time of the year. 

The nearby city of St. George is a great jumping-off point for exploring Zion (and other nearby national parks in Utah). There are a number of hotels, restaurants, and bars, and the park is just an hour away.

Leavenworth, Washington

Get a taste of the Bavarian Alps in the coziest town in Washington’s Cascade Mountains.

View of the holiday decors on the buildings in Leavenworth
The holiday season lasts well into January in Leavenworth

✈️ Flights to Seattle | 🛎️ Hotels in Leavenworth | Where to Stay | Things to Do 

Leavenworth is one of the best towns in Washington and is the perfect place to get a last taste of Christmas. Holiday crowds have come and gone, but the festive lights remain up throughout the month. The Washington town’s distinctive Bavarian aesthetics only add to the charm, transporting you to the German Alps.

Holiday cheer isn’t the only thing to taste in Leavenworth, though. Beer gardens and restaurants serve up hearty German cuisine. Local watering holes brew up the best of old and new beer styles, as well as ciders and wine. Some restaurants even have live oompah music, although this is, for many people, more of an acquired taste. 

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Hawai’i

Experience a tropical winter amidst active volcanoes and lush vegetation.

View of the tourists taking a photo of the lava at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
A lava flow is sure to melt away the winter blues

✈️ Flights to Hilo | 🛎️ Hotels near Volcanoes National Park

Summer is peak season at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, like many places in the state. But coming here in January is a great way to beat the big crowds that descend on the Big Island later in the year. 

Several scenic overlooks offer stunning views of the Halema’uma’u Crater lava lake. Sunset is the best time to see it! Hiking trails here make for great day hikes. This park also offers free entry on Martin Luther King Day (January 16), as do the other national parks on this list! 

10 Best Places to Visit in January (International)

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

 Discover the diverse and vibrant capital city of Vietnam.

Scenic sunset view over the Ho Chi Minh City skyline
Sunset view of the Ho Chi Minh City skyline (photo: Le Minh Ty / Shutterstock)

✈️ Flights to Ho Chi Minh City | 🛎️ Hotels in Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnam’s capital city is another awesome place to visit in January. It’s the driest month of the year and the temperatures hover in the high 70s (F). The city has a unique collection of architecture, from Buddhist temples to Catholic cathedrals and modern skyscrapers.

Traditional markets offer a fantastic variety of fruits, vegetables, and more. Street food here is delicious and diverse. Vietnam is also the home of pho, so how could you pass up a bowl or two while here?

Athens, Greece

Experience the city where ancient history is an everyday part of life.

People wandering around the Acropolis of Athens
Looking back on the way up to the Acropolis
Exterior view of The University of Athens
The University of Athens has a heritage like few other institutions in the world!

✈️ Flights to Athens | 🛎️ Hotels in Athens

Athens, Greece often has warm weather during its winters, like many entries on this list. Take a tour of the Acropolis, then explore the city’s many museums.

There’s an entire galaxy of Greek food awaiting you in Athens. Souvlaki, the ever-present street food, is a satisfying standby. Delectable desserts like baklava and galaktoboureko (a custard pie) are the perfect end to any meal. It’s impossible to go hungry when you go to Athens!

Day cruises to nearby islands (such as the stunning Aegina) are a great way to see some of the lesser-known Greek Isles. Expect to hear bells and the haunting majesty of Byzantine chant from the local Orthodox churches, especially on Saturday evenings.

📚 Related Reading: Greece Travel Insurance | 5 Best Sites to Search [in 2023]

Reykjavik, Iceland

Brave the winter weather for unbeatable northern lights experiences!

The statue of Leif Erikson outside the Hallgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik
A statue of Leif Erikson keeps watch outside the famous Hallgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik

✈️ Flights to Reykjavik | 🛎️ Hotels in Reykjavik

Reykjavik, Iceland is one of the best places to visit in January for northern lights viewing. The island’s northerly latitude gives it a distinctive advantage for seeing this spectral sight. The Blue Lagoon, a little further from town, is a great place to pass the daylight hours while waiting for night to fall.

Reykjavik itself is a charming city that feels more like a giant small town. Brightly colored buildings house local businesses and cafes. Pick up an authentic wool sweater, then spend some time in a coffee shop before braving the elements again. 

Iceland Air also offers a stopover program, so you can easily add Iceland to a longer winter journey. See our guide on how to get cheap international flights for more insights!

Zurich, Switzerland

Wander the winter wonderland streets of this Swiss city.

Exterior view of Grossmünster church at night
Take a nighttime stroll to landmarks like the Grossmünster church
View of the bicycles covered with snow on the side of the street in Zurich
But bikes may not be the best option during this time of year…

✈️ Flights to Zurich | 🛎️ Hotels in Zurich

Zurich is one of the best places to visit in January for a classic European winter experience.  The surrounding countryside often lays asleep, blanketed in snow. The mountains offer an endless array of skiing opportunities.

Lake Zurich may not freeze over, but ice-skating rinks in town more than makeup for it. A walk through the city streets is also undeniably charming. And, what could be better after a few hours out in the cold than a steaming cup of authentic Swiss hot chocolate?

Gudauri, Georgia

Hit the slopes at one of the best ski resorts you’ve probably never heard of.

View of the mural on The Gudauri Friendship Monument in Georgia
The Gudauri Friendship Monument — your best source for memorabilia and vintage Soviet vibes

✈️ Flights to Tbilisi | 🛎️ Hotels in Gudauri

Everyone knows about winter sports in the Alps, but the Caucasus Mountains have their share of epic slopes, too. Gudauri is one of the premier ski resorts in the Republic of Georgia and has incredible views and excellent accommodations. It’s popular with locals but hasn’t gotten much recognition outside the country.

The famous Gergeti Church and Kazbegi Mountain are a short drive away. This lofty duo of man-made and natural edifices is one of the nation’s most photographed sites. A blanket of snow only adds to the grandeur. 

The nearby village of Pasanauri is also reputed to have the most delicious khinkali in the country. You will know that this claim is well worth a personal investigation once you try these savory dumplings anywhere! 

Dublin, Ireland

Explore the great indoors of Ireland with live music and warm company.

View of the people at the pub in Dublin
Chase away the chills with some chit-chat and a piping hot Irish Coffee!

✈️ Flights to Dublin | 🛎️ Hotels in Dublin | Where to Stay | Things to Do | Pubs

Dublin, Ireland may not be most people’s first choice for midwinter vacations, but that’s part of why it’s worth visiting at this time of year. You can skip the often long lines of popular attractions such as Trinity College’s Book of Kells display. 

Late January is also a great time to visit Dublin if you love Irish music. TradFest at Temple Bar drives away the winter gloom with lively tunes and good times. The Irish are known for their wit and warmth, and few places in Dublin are better for experiencing this than a local pub. The beer is always cold, but an Irish coffee is another welcome way to warm up a little.

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Switch out winter for summer with a safari on the Serengeti.

A herd of zebras at Serengeti National Park
Zebras grazing at Serengeti National Park

✈️ Flights to Tanzania | 🛎️ Hotels in Serengeti National Park

The Serengeti is one of the more remote entries on this list, but well worth the extra effort. Herds of wildebeest, pride of lions, and flocks of migratory birds await visitors here. Leopards, cheetahs, and other creatures are also out and about, though more elusive than some animals.

Tanzania’s location in the Southern Hemisphere means that what we call the “winter months” are actually summer. January falls in the brief dry season between the longer rainy seasons. Average temperatures range from 59° F at night to 81° F.

Costa Rica

Uncover a world of tropical beaches and jungles, charming cities, and highland coffee plantations.

Overlooking view of the smoking crater of Poás Volcano in Costa Rica
Poás Volcano is but one of the country’s many natural treasures

✈️ Flights to Costa Rica | 🛎️ Hotels in Costa Rica | Places to Visit

Costa Rica experiences its peak season in January, but it is well worth it to brave the crowds. It’s one of the safest countries in Central America, if not the safest. The country also has a variety of natural treasures, from sunny beaches to stunning national parks. Coffee plantation tours are a highlight of the highlands.

There are numerous fiestas and festivals around the country. Arrive in early January for the Fiestas de Palmares in Palmares de Alajuela. Move on to the Fiesta Patronal de San Cristo in Santa Cruz in mid-January. Finish up the month with the Festival de las Kobe near Jacó. You don’t have to do all three, of course, but there’s never a dull moment in January in Costa Rica.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Explore the streets (and the skies!) of Dubai during the “coldest” month of the year.

A hot air balloon over the sand dunes in Dubai at sunset
What could be more enchanting than a hot air balloon ride at sunset?

✈️ Flights to Dubai | 🛎️ Hotels in Dubai

Dubai is one of the most popular destinations in the world. The soaring summer temperatures, though, are far from accommodating. But January temperatures plunge into the balmy 70s (F) during the day and even below 60 at night. 

Thrill seekers will want to check out skydiving opportunities. Conditions are best for this activity in January. A more relaxing airborne alternative awaits aboard hot air balloon tours that hover over the dunes around sunset. There are also shopping festivals to peruse, as well as desert safaris for those content to stay on the ground.

Dubai has a reputation for prices almost as high as its skyscrapers, but there are budget options for lodgings and attractions as well. A simple stroll to take in the lofty cityscapes is one of the best things to do in Dubai for free! 

Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland

Light up the night Viking-style at this fiery festival in Scotland’s scenic Shetland Islands.

View of the torch-lit procession during the Up Helly Aa Festival in Scotland
If this doesn’t drive away the winter cold, nothing will (photo: konstantin belovtov / Shutterstock) 

✈️ Flights to Scotland | 🛎️ Hotels in Lerwick

Scotland’s Shetland Islands have a heritage that is more Scandinavian than Scottish. The town of Lerwick’s Up Helly Aa festival is one of the most flamboyant reminders of that heritage. Festivities include a torchlit procession with a replica longboat and participants dressed to the teeth like Viking warriors. Recent years have also seen a variety of thematic costumes.

The procession ends with the torching of the boat, followed by an evening of festivities at the various specially prepared halls. The next night, known as Hop Night, sees more drinking and dancing to drive away the winter cold.

Up Helly Aa is a rollicking good time, but be sure to inquire and make reservations well in advance. Lerwick is a tiny town and facilities are limited. The festival’s website will help you get everything arranged before you set sail.

FAQs About Where to Travel in January

Where should I travel in the USA in January?

Places you should travel to in the USA in January include Death Valley, San Diego, and Key West. All are stellar destinations to escape the cold. Alternatively, head to Leavenworth to extend the holiday season vibes, or visit Lake Tahoe or Salt Lake City for winter sports. 

Where should I travel internationally in January?

Places you should travel internationally in January include Costa Rica for cultural festivals, Dubai and Serengeti National Park for warmer weather, and Reykjavik for northern lights viewing. 

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