Best places to go for a holiday in January

COUNTRIES

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES 

Why you should go: With mild temperatures, you can enjoy the great outdoors as well as indoor pleasures such as the annual Dubai Shopping Festival (from late December to late January). Although there are seven emirates, Australians mostly explore just two: the capital of Abu Dhabi and its glitzier neighbour, Dubai

Don't miss: The Louvre Abu Dhabi (louvreabudhabi.ae ) illuminates connections between cultures and epochs – Jean Nouvel's domed building is also a work of art. For a tangential insight into falconry, tour the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital (www.falconhospital.com). In Dubai, head into the Arabian desert for an overnight safari, admire the epic floral creations at Dubai Miracle Garden (November-May) or catch the eye-popping view from the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building. See visitabudhabi.ae, visitdubai.com   

NORWAY 

Northern Lights above waters edge
BREAKOUT SatSep15norway - Norway Cruise - Brian Johnston
Credit: Shutterstock

Northern Lights above waters edge. Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should go: Experience Norway as a winter wonderland. With fewer tourists around, you won't have to queue for attractions and accommodation prices are lower in what is normally an eye-wateringly expensive country. Combine snow-based day adventures – such as mushing a pack of sled dogs or tobogganing the two-kilometre Korktrekkeren run near Oslo – with hunting for the magical shimmer of the Northern Lights at night. 

Don't miss: Stay in an igloo – Sorrisniva (sorrisniva.no) in Alta bills itself as the world's northernmost ice hotel. In Tromso, rent a floating home fashioned from a 1962 ferry (voldahome.no). Oslo offers a floating sauna boat (kokoslo.no) where you can alternate between heating up and diving into an icy fiord. See visitnorway.com 

See also: The secret behind the world's most successful society

THE PHILIPPINES 

El Nido, Palawan, Philippines Shutterstock 608177702 tra10-Asia-coverstory

El Nido, Palawan, Philippines. Photo: Shutterstock.com

Why you should go: The 7000-plus islands of the Philippines are particularly pleasant during dry-season January.  The nation also offers memorable taste sensations: seek out lechon (roast suckling pig) and halo-halo (a technicolour ice-cream sundae). Trek the World Heritage-listed Banaue​ Rice Terraces north of Manila or head to Bohol near Cebu to see the bizarre bumps known as the Chocolate Hills.  

Don't miss: Dive into the extraordinary emerald waters of the Palawan archipelago. Go swimming, snorkelling or island-hopping for the day from one of the El Nido resorts (elnidoresorts.com) or take a boat trip along an underground river at Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.  See tourism.gov.ph 

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See also: The Philippines: Asia's most overlooked paradise

JAPAN  

Mount Fuji and Shizuoka town from Nihondaira hill.
Shizuoka Prefecture satdec1japan - Japan cover - text Ben Groundwater
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Mount Fuji and Shizuoka town from Nihondaira hill. Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should go: Everyone will think you're in Japan to ski – Australians flock to Hokkaido's Niseko resorts, in particular – but powder isn't the country's only winter drawcard. Stay in Kyoto for a bargain price (finding a room in spring and autumn can be difficult thanks to flower and foliage tourists) and soak in an outdoor onsen (hot spring) while snowflakes swirl around you. 

Don't miss: Visit Gifu Prefecture's Shirakawa-go – its World Heritage-listed oversized gassho houses exude charm when dusted with snow. Kanazawa's Kenrokuen Garden is transformed in winter with artfully arranged ropes that support the pines' snow-laden branches.  In Kinosaki Onsen, dress in full winter regalia to clip-clop between the town's seven public onsen. See www.jnto.org.au 

See also: Twenty things that will surprise first-time visitors to Japan

HUNGARY  

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - MAY 02,2016: Courtyard of Szechenyi Baths, Hungarian thermal bath complex and spa treatments.
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cities - BUDAPEST

Courtyard of Szechenyi Baths, Hungarian thermal bath complex and spa treatments. Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should go: Hardy souls who brave Hungary's dreary January weather will be amply rewarded. Pull on warm layers to join the locals skating Budapest's City Park Ice Rink. Afterwards, soak in the grand Széchenyi Thermal Bath in the same park or head to the Art Nouveau wonder of the Gellert Baths. It's also worth driving two hours to Lake Heviz to take a dip in its thermally warmed waters (the mud is also considered medicinal). 

Don't miss: Tour the Hospital in the Rock Nuclear Bunker Museum beneath Buda Castle that was used as a secret emergency hospital during World War II. Order a glass of the country's famous Tokaji wine at Szimpla Kert – the best known of Budapest's intriguing ruin pubs. Stay at the music-themed Aria Hotel – the in-house music director can point you to great gigs and venues around town.

See also: Budapest's most popular drinking spots

CITIES 

MELBOURNE  

April 2013. Photographer: Amanda Fordyce. Available for high end tourism purposes, Tourism Victoria and Tourism Victoria partners. Transit cocktail lounge, melbourne. Photo: Tourism Victoria/Amanda Fordyce.

Enjoy the Melbourne summer at one of the city's many rooftop bars. Photo: Tourism Victoria/Amanda Fordyce

Why you should go: Most of Australia is in holiday mode this month, including Melbourne where residents shuck their layers to revel in the sunshine and a packed sporting calendar. Head to Melbourne Park for the Australian Open. Buy a ticket or catch the action of the year's first Grand Slam tennis tournament on one of the big screens for free.  See a game of cricket at the neighbouring MCG, fondly known as the G. After-dark options include NGV Friday Nights, a fusion of art and electronica.

Don't miss: Head to Brighton Beach to admire the cute-as-a-button bathing boxes or take the plunge into Port Phillip Bay. If you don't care about maintaining the beach bod, order a cake or three from the European-style patisseries lining St Kilda's Acland Street.  Work off the calories by seeing the city's laneway street art or hiring a rowboat from Kew's Studley Park Boathouse to explore a scenic stretch of the Yarra. See visitmelbourne.com  

See also: Melbourne's new and coolest neighbourhoods 

ADELAIDE 

Why you should go: Can't make it to Adelaide's Mad March festival season? The same sense of excitement permeates the city in January when it hosts the Santos Tour Down Under, which attracts the world's top cyclists. Follow the stages in the city and surrounding regions to cheer on riders from the sidelines or at the finish lines. The weather might be thirst-inducing – lucky Adelaide is encircled by three world-class wine regions. 

Don't miss: McLaren Vale, south of Adelaide, houses Australia's most avant-garde cellar door – the d'Arenberg Cube resembles a half-solved Rubik's Cube. Wine aficionados can find Penfolds, maker of the iconic Grange, in Adelaide's east. Art lovers should make a beeline for the Cedars, Hans Heysen's house and studio in the Adelaide Hills while foodies will adore the fragrant dishes served at Parwana Afghan Kitchen in Adelaide's suburbs.  See southaustralia.com   

See also: Eight great things in Adelaide that most visitors miss

HOBART   

Why you should go: Tasmania's capital oozes cachet thanks to the drawcard Museum of Old and New Art or MONA (mona.net.au). Each January, Brian Ritchie of the Violent Femmes curates the museum's boundary-leaping Mona Foma (aka Mofo) arts festival (mofo.net.au). In 2019, the unpredictable beast headed north from Hobart to Launceston. Chow down at Hobart's Templo (templo.com.au), Dier Makr (diermakr.com) or Fico (ficofico.net), or slurp your way around whisky (www.taswhiskytrail.com) and cider trails (tascidertrail.com).  

Don't miss: Enjoy warm(ish) temperatures atop Mount Wellington while gazing over Hobart. Embrace the colour purple with a jaunt to Bridestowe Lavender Estate (bridestowelavender.com.au) in the compact state's north-east. The fields are ablaze until late January.  Add a lavender ice-cream for the perfect holiday snap. See discovertasmania.com.au 

See also: Twenty reasons to visit Hobart

LOS ANGELES  

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 1, 2016: Traffic and pedestrians on Hollywood Boulevard at dusk. The theater district is famous tourist attraction. Shutterstock

Hollywood Boulevard at dusk. The theatre district is famous tourist attraction. Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should go: The weather's cooler, there's no May Grey/June Gloom fogging up views and, with crowds down, you can afford to stay in landmark hotels such as the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood. It's also awards season – the Golden Globes ceremony takes place in early January at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. After the mid-month Martin Luther King Jnr Day long weekend, Disneyland is also a little quieter. 

Don't miss: Head to the Griffith Observatory (griffithobservatory.org) at night for a spectacular view over the City of Angels; by day the Getty (getty.edu) offers an unbeatable perch – admission to both is free. For a hilarious take on showbiz culture, hop aboard TMZ's celebrity tour. See discoverlosangeles.com 

See also: Twenty things that will surprise first-time visitors to Los Angeles

LISBON  

Summertime sunshine day cityscape in the Alfama - historic old district Alfama in Lisbon, Portugal.
 SunSep23covercities - Capital cities - Ben Groundwater
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Old district Alfama in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should go: Lisbon's winters are mild, which means you can traipse up to the viewpoints topping its seven hills without working up too much of a sweat. It's also a great time to shop with winter sales all over town, including along the elegant Avenida da Liberdade. If your hands feel chilly, slip on a pair of handmade leather gloves from Luvaria Ulisses (luvariaulisses.com), a notable boutique in the Chiado neighbourhood that's been around since 1925.

Don't miss: Try a Portuguese custard tart from Pasteis de Belem (pasteisdebelem.pt), which has been baking these tiny sweet treats since 1837.  The bakery cafe also sells bolo-rei, a fruity cake served from Christmas until Epiphany, or Three Kings' Day, in January. For something non-traditional, try an updated codfish cake stuffed with the famed Serra da Estrela sheep's milk cheese at Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau​ (en.pasteisdebacalhau.com). See visitportugal.com 

See also: Best places to go in December

See also: Best destinations to visit in November

See also: Best places to visit in October

See also: Best destinations to visit in September

See also: Best destinations to visit in August

See also: Best places to visit in July

See also: Best places to go for a holiday in June

See also: Best destinations to visit in May

See also: Best places to go in April

See also: Best places to go for a holiday in March

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