Best Places to Enjoy the Sun in January

  • Unawatuna beach
    January is an excellent time to enjoy Sri Lanka’s alluring southern and western beaches.
Tanja’s has several excellent suggestions for places to visit in January:

Who says the holiday spirit should end once the firecrackers have died down on December 31st? In my humble opinion, the best way to begin a New Year is with a relaxing vacation under the tropical sun. (I dare your boss to disagree with me.) Be like me, and do not be afraid to extend the New Year’s Eve vacation into January 2016. Trust me, it will jump start a great year for you.

While the weather in the northern hemisphere continues to be unbearably cold, many parts of South and Southeast Asia enjoy sunny and rain free weather for travelers to enjoy. So here goes my roundup of best places to enjoy the sun, and maybe even some extended festivities, in January:

  • Goa, India

Goa’s New Year’s Eve beach parties don’t end on December 31st. The spirit of letting go continues well into mid-January. The big music bashes might be over, but the many bars and restaurants in the area continue to throw in-house parties in January. So if you are the type who does not mind beach crowds and loud music, enjoy a memorable January getaway in Goa.

goa beach

Party-ready beach at Goa.

Because this is the peak season for Goa, hotel prices will be rather exorbitant, especially in places like Baga and Calangute. However, you can find family-run guesthouses on beaches like Vagator and Anjuna that are quite cheap in comparison.

  • Boracay, Philippines

Go to Boracay for blindingly white beaches with azure water overlooking lush mountains in the distance. This famous beach destination has more hotels, restaurants and bars than the sky has stars. You can find good accommodation, great food and have a blast in Boracay no matter what your budget is. Just remember that it’s the peak season, and while the weather remains largely dry, it’s cooler than in March or May, the sunniest months for Boracay. However, visiting is January is amazingly worth it especially for the wonderful Ati-Atihan festival, an indigenous celebration with tribal attire, drumming and dancing in honor of Santo Niño (baby Jesus). Christmas celebrations in the Philippines don’t end until late January!

boracay philippines

Paradise at Boracay.

  • Four Thousand Islands, Laos

Fear no rain in Laos this dry season. It’s an excellent time to travel anywhere in the country. But, if you would like to escape the beach crowds and enjoy some tranquility, head over to the Four Thousand Islands in southern Laos. The islands are located on the Mekong River, which has hundreds of wide web-like branches flowing through landlocked Laos. Okay, there aren’t actually four thousands of islands here, only three utterly captivating ones called Don Det, Don Khon and Don Khong. With scenic paddy fields, rural villages and vast areas of undisturbed wilderness, these somnolent islands are perfect to lie in a hammock and enjoy the days in peace and quiet. There are cycling, trekking, hiking, swimming and kayaking excursions available for adventure lovers. If you are patient, you can go on spotting tours to see freshwater dolphins in the Mekong.

mekong sunset

Tranquility in Laos.

  • Down South Beaches, Sri Lanka

January is an excellent time to enjoy the enthralling golden beaches on Sri Lanka’s southern and western coasts. The west coast—with beaches like Bentota, Hikkaduwa, Wadduwa and Balapitiya—is well developed and perfect for those who want to enjoy fine hotels and excellent restaurants. The down south beaches—like Unawatuna, Mirissa, Thalpe and Galle—are the best to enjoy time under the sun coupled with heritage and foodie stops. Even if it’s the peak season, it’s not hard to find a charming guesthouse with a stretch of golden sand unoccupied by a horde of tourists. The best chance of finding a relatively isolated beach is at the Kalpitiya Peninsula. The Alankuda beach there, with rarely a soul in sight, is one of my favorite places in Sri Lanka.

Unawatuna beach

Captivating Unawatuna beach.

  • Southeastern Myanmar

Head away from the tourist circuit of Bagan and Mandalay and head east of Yangon to discover the unexplored gems of Myanmar. The only well-known attraction in the area is the golden boulder temple in Kyaiktiyo that perilously verges on a steep cliff. Due to years of being off limits to the rest of the world, southeastern Myanmar remains pristinely undisturbed. It’s also quite hot and sunny during this time of the year. Head over to the breathtaking Hpa-An to explore deep underground caves and go hiking at karst mountains covered in lush greenery. Serious mountaineers will love climbing Mount Zwegabin, which has an exhausting and difficult uphill trail with broken steps. After enjoying the rural charm and scenery of Hpa-An, you can enjoy a slice of Myanmar’s history and culture at the coastal town of Mawlamyine. Take a tuk tuk ride around the city to discover museums, pagodas, colonial buildings and WWII-era monuments. Enjoy simple yet delicious Burmese cuisine at local markets, and discover the quaint rice farming villages in the area on an open-bed pickup.

kyaiktiyo pagoda in Yangon golden rock

The iconic Golden Rock temple.

  • Langkawi, Malaysia

Paradise beach lovers rejoice; January is the driest month in Langkawi! Here you can ride cable cars over jungle, cross the world’s longest curved bridge, parasail or get knee-deep in muddy water in a paddy field and search for freshwater mussels (a favorite!).  But, of course, we all would rather just laze away at an overwater villa, sunbathe at the stunning beaches or stuff ourselves with seafood pasta. If you have kids, you’ll love Langkawi even more. There are great family friendly hotels and attractions geared towards kids like duck boat tours, underwater world aquarium, boat rides through mangrove forests and ATV adventures!

beach malaysia langkawi

A paradise beach at Langkawi.

Well, where do you want to go next?