Escape to sunny shores in January

Beat the post-Christmas blues with an exciting January getaway. Pick from our choice of January destinations to wander amid the striking winter beauty of St Petersburg in Russia, roam South Africa’s wide spaces or escape it all on one of the Dominican Republic’s secluded beaches.

Best January holidays for… beaches

Short haul: Tenerife

January destinations 2012 - TenerifeFor a far-reaching golden stretch it’s hard to beat Playa de las Teresitas
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Clear skies and long days characterise Tenerife in January. It’s not the beating sun of the summer, but compared with the frost and cloud shrouding much of Europe, Tenerife offers welcome sunshine indeed. Of Tenerife’s 350km (93 miles) of coastline, the south western strip’s heady network of resorts, beaches, restaurants and nightlife receives on average the most sun, with lively Los Cristianos and party hotspot Playa de Las Américas drawing the most admirers. In the rugged north, Puerto de la Cruz offers a more authentic Canary Island experience, with pretty vegetation and typical Canarian houses adorned with wood-trimmed balconies. Dark volcanic sands typify beaches up here, but for a far-reaching golden stretch it’s hard to beat Playa de las Teresitas. Visit before February to avoid the big crowds and rise in accommodation prices during the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Long haul: Dominican Republic

January destinations 2012 - Dominican RepublicThe Dominican Republic's white-sand beaches won't disappoint sunseekers
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On the powdery arc of the Dominican Republic’s Playa Rincón – clear turquoise water lapping at your feet and a burgeoning bevy of palms swaying in the balmy breeze – it seems implausible that cold weather and gloomy days actually exist. This is one of the absolute jewels of the country’s Samaná Peninsula – a beach-fringed arm of the Dominican Republic jutting out into inviting seas. Also here is the formerly peaceful and isolated fishing village Las Galeras, which features a glorious sugar-white cove. As well as global sunseekers, enjoying these waters in January is a formidable population of humpback whales. Whale-watching season kicks off around 14 January, and there are plenty of boat tours plying the waves for a closer view of these impressive creatures. In the north, find watersports aplenty at Puerto Plata, and far-reaching sands and dipping palms at Playa Grande.

Best January holidays for... cities

Short haul: St Petersburg, Russia

January destinations 2012 - St PetersburgSnow-covered St Petersburg is magical
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St Petersburg in the winter is a truly magical picture. Admire the domes and soaring spires of Russia’s most beautiful city blanketed in snow and gilded with ice, the Neva River and canals frozen in time, and the glimmering creations of local ice sculptors dotted around the city. Walk across the ice-capped Neva to the Peter and Paul Fortress on Zayachy Island, and watch in awe as hardened members of local swimming clubs plunge into the waters for a skin-tingling dip. Other highlights of St Petersburg in January include cheap accommodation and queue-free attractions, and the days are certainly a little brighter than in December. There is no getting away from it though: it is cold. Stock up on thermals, padded coats and lined boots, and pop into a bar for that classic Russian winter warmer – neat vodka.

Long haul: Sydney, Australia

January destinations 2012 - SydneyJanuary is high summer in Sydney / Rorem
Sunny Australia is the ultimate tonic for winter blues. January is high summer here, and waterside Sydney is buzzing. After ushering in the New Year with its trademark fireworks, this glamorous city gears up for the vibrant Sydney Festival – a three-week cultural extravaganza of theatre, music, dance, art and cinema. More than 500 artists contribute to this popular event, and the 2012 line-up includes an appearance by award-winning English singer songwriter PJ Harvey. Venues include the iconic Sydney Opera House and historic century-old Capitol Theatre. With the city doused in sunshine, Sydney’s sights are at their most alluring. See Sydney Harbour Bridge (and climb it for the ultimate thrill) and dine out at the Sydney Tower Restaurant for far-flung views toward the Blue Mountains. Delve into the exotic flavours and colourful furore of Chinatown, and kick back with an icy cocktail at Darling Harbour.

Best January holidays for... outdoors

Short haul: Tarentaise Valley, French Alps, France

January destinations 2012 - MeribelPartake in fun non-skiing past times in Méribel
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Clear fuzzy heads and exercise over-indulged bodies with a post-Christmas ski break. The French Alps are a sure fire bet for good powder this time of year, with Val d'Isère and Méribel particularly popular boltholes. Charming Val d'Isère fuses a traditional alpine village with contemporary luxuries and thriving après-ski. Sitting close to the Italian border in the Western Alps, find stone chalets and bags of character. There is plenty to do, with cross-country trails, ice climbing, dog sledding and ice skating – not to mention world-class skiing. Over in Méribel, relish having the vast Trois Vallées (Three Valleys) ski area on your doorstep, and partake in fun non-skiing past times such as snowshoeing, snowmobiling and even paragliding.

Long haul: Cape Town, South Africa

January destinations 2012 - Cape TownConstantia offers more than a dozen wine routes from Cape Town
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Sunny January day after sunny January day makes this cosmopolitan South African city a fabulous place to be. With the departure of festive holidaymakers, January sees the city fill with Cape Town residents once more. Relax on the spotless V & A Waterfront, take in dramatic Table Mountain and visit the world-famous Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens nestled at its foot. A bicycle tour is a lovely way to experience the Cape’s undulating scenery. Book in for a half-day mountain-biking trip to explore surrounding greenery or opt for a more challenging trip around Table Mountain. Driving less than an hour from Cape Town leads to the Constantia Wine Route, weaving through revered estates and fine restaurants. For a taster of South African safaris head to Fairy Glen – an hour from Cape Town – for lions, elephants, leopards, zebra and more.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.