Where to go in December, January and February

Looking to escape the winter blues? From embracing the cold in a cosy Belgian tavern, to escaping it all together on a beach in The Gambia, we’ve got you covered...
February sunset at U Bein bridge across the Taungthaman Lake, Mandalay, Myanmar. Photo: Shutterstock
February sunset at U Bein bridge across the Taungthaman Lake, Mandalay, Myanmar. Photo: Shutterstock
Planning a holiday to cure your winter blues? Join us as we take a look at the best places to visit around the globe during the early months of the year:
Where to go in Europe

1. Spain

Spain is the best bet for guaranteed sunshine in Europe during the early months of the year. The best weather can be found on the Canary Islands, which are 50 miles off the African coast with temperatures averaging between 20 and 25 degrees centigrade during this time of year. However, mainland Spain is also pleasant throughout January, February and March. Cities like Barcelona and Madrid are much quieter compared to the rest of the year, making them ideal for a laid-back city break. Insight Guides’ Cultural Cities of Spain trip includes tours of both these cities, together with Seville, Cordoba and Granada.

2. Belgium

Belgium gains its place on this list because it turns the cold, dark days thrown at us in January, February and March into its strengths. Belgium’s prettiest cities – such as Bruges and Ghent – are best visited when the days are short and the weather is cold. The picturesque gothic architecture provides an atmospheric backdrop for exploring, especially when it's foggy or snowing, and the short days provide ample time for soaking up the atmosphere in bustling cafes, cosy taverns and candlelit restaurants.   

3. Venice, Italy

Venice is another destination that thrives in atmospheric winter weather, especially during February, when the city holds its annual, two-week long carnival. The Venice Carnival has roots as far back as 1162, when residents danced in San Marco Square to celebrate the Serenissima Repubblica defeating the Patriarch of Aquelia. Since then, the Venice Carnival has undergone many changes and was even banned for a period, but today is one of the biggest dates in the Venetian calendar. Expect to see plenty of Venetian masks, medieval sword-fighting re-enactments and locals in their red silk finery. Insight Guides' Romantic Venice trip takes in all the highlights of the floating city.

Grand Canal with gondola in Venice, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

Where to go in the Middle East and Africa

4. Dubai, UAE

A far cry from the unbearable arid summer days, when temperature peaks in the mid-40s, Dubai is a much more attractive proposition during the early months of the year, with average temperatures hanging around the mid-20s. With roughly nine hours of sunlight each day, you’ll have plenty of time to experience all of Dubai’s major sights included on Insight Guides’ Dubai Luxury Stopover trip.

5. South Africa

There are plenty of reasons to visit South Africa no matter what time of year: its stunning national parks and wildlife; its vibrant cities and beautiful beaches; its eclectic cuisine and fine wines. However, in March – just after the rainy season – both the temperature and humidity begin to drop sharply, resulting in fine weather, making it a great time to visit. Cape Town is much less crowded at this time and accommodation rates are often lower. In the game reserves, you’re much more likely to catch a glimpse of one of the big five reappearing in their fresh green surroundings, especially with Insight Guides’ Cape Amazing: Cape Town Explored trip.

6. The Gambia

With an average temperature of 30 degrees centigrade and nine hours of sunshine a day, The Gambia is the perfect place to jet off to in January and escape the winter blues. If you’re flying from the UK, you won’t suffer from jet lag, as The Gambia follows Greenwich Mean Time. What you will get, though, is great value for money, and a quiet, relaxing beach holiday in this exciting and welcoming country.

Cape Town waterfront in February. Photo: Shutterstock

Where to go in Asia and Australasia

7. Rajasthan, India

Often unbearably hot or excessively wet, the early part of the year is the perfect time to visit the state of Rajasthan. During the first months of the year, it is warm, but not hot, and relatively crowd-free, making cities such as Udaipur and Jaipur a lot more pleasant to explore. Although much of the state is consumed by the immense Thar Desert, there are green areas that are immensely revitalised and refreshed during these months of the year. Experience the best this majestic state has to offer with Insight Guides’ Rajasthan: The Land of King's trip.

8. Sri Lanka

Each year Sri Lanka is hit by not one, but two monsoons, which have an effect on its seasons. However, it’s not as bad as you might think: each side of the island is affected by a separate monsoon, during which time the weather on the other side is completely unaffected. The north-eastern monsoon is at its peak during the early months of the year, which puts many people off going. However, stick with Colombo and the south-west side of the island, which are all included in Insight Guides’ Sri Lanka Deluxe trip, and you will completely avoid the monsoon and enjoy pleasant, sunny days. What’s more, you’ll find fewer crowds and cheaper accommodation too.

9. Myanmar

Myanmar is a destination that has been working its way onto more and more people’s bucket lists over the past few years, and with good reason too. Significantly less well known than its hip neighbour Thailand, Myanmar has successfully retained an air of mystery, and boasts many elegant temples and undiscovered exotic beaches and islands; many of which are included in Insight Guides’ The Best of Myanmar trip. January is the best time to visit Myanmar: the country experiences almost no rainfall and pleasant temperatures. February and March also make for good times to go.

10. Thailand

New Year brings with it a renewed sense of calm to Thailand: the adoptive Christmas and New Year festivities are over, and the weather is fantastic in many parts of the country, particularly on the Andaman Coast. Head to the country’s southwest coast with Insight Guides’ Krabi Discovery tour, and visit destinations such as Krabi and Koh Phi Phi, where you will experience a refreshing tranquillity.

11. Vietnam

March is the perfect time to visit Vietnam: the energy-sapping, dense humidity has been replaced by warm, dry, sun-bleached days that are ideal for exploring the best the country has to offer, from hiking to sun-bathing, to exploring the cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. Enjoy all these activities and more with Insight Guides’ Very Vietnam trip. As March technically falls in-between seasons, you should also get cheaper rates at most hotels.

12. Australia

It’s no secret that Australia’s climate is almost completely different to the UK’s: however, that doesn’t guarantee good weather all year round, but February sees eastern Australia’s warmest temperatures and least rainfall. Eastern Australia is home to many of the country’s most popular cities, including Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and Canberra, and of course, the Gold Coast, which are all best visited during February and March. 

Myanmar women in a festival procession during March. Photo: Shutterstock

Where to go in the Americas

13. Mexico

After the indulgence and frenzied activity of the Christmas period, the new year in Mexico ushers in a new era and a feeling of calm and serenity. The holiday crowds have dispersed by this time too, so you will benefit from lower rates and fewer tourists. The New Year also brings with it near perfect weather, as temperatures stabilise and rainfall drops to a minimum, making it the ideal time to visit either the Pacific or Caribbean coasts. Experience the refreshing Mexican New Year for yourself with Insight Guides’ Baja: Pacific Coast Paradise trip

14. Florida

After the storms of hurricane season and the balmy heat of rainy season come the cool and tranquil early months of the year. Temperatures drop to a pleasant average of 25 degrees centigrade and rainfall is at its lowest. Attractions are a lot less busy during this time of year, so take advantage and beat the queues.

15. Cuba

Last but by no mean least: December, January and February are Cuba’s coolest and driest months, arriving just after hurricane season. Cuba is an attractive proposition for most travellers, especially since diplomatic relations with the US were re-established in 2015. The country boasts a fascinating mix of history and culture, along with some great beaches, cities and wildlife. What better place to cure your winter blues? Speak to a local expert today about planning your dream holiday to Cuba!

Perfect Caribbean beach in Tulum Mexico. Photo: Shutterstock

This article was originally published on 22nd November, 2016

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