Sometimes the holiday season can be stressful. The answer to this is to plan a January vacation to get away to one of the best places to visit in Europe.
January is a great time to plan a vacation, especially after a busy holiday season. You will find quiet beaches, tourist attractions and the locals might even be a little friendlier outside the stressful seasons. Europe has some of the best places to visit in January, some even warmer than you would think.
#1 Madeira Portugal
The Madeira archipelago consists of 2 islands, Porto Santo and Madeira. It is located on the northwest coast of Africa and belongs to Portugal. It is sometimes referred to as the Portuguese islands and was first settled in the 1400s. The islands have a subtropical climate which means that even during winter and fall, the islands are warm. Madeira is a popular vacation destination and during peak months can get very busy. One of the best things about travelling here in January is that it is quieter and therefore tours and beaches can be better enjoyed. Just make sure to pre-book your tours as some of them may not be active during the fall and winter. Flights and hotels are also cheaper during January.
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January is a great time to enjoy some great trekking, hiking and trail running. As the weather is temperate and the seasonal rains create a beautiful background of green foliage. It is the perfect hike to explore the many hiking trails, which is always a plus in my book as the island is magnificent. And if your a lover of solitude, then this is perfect because you’ll have the trails almost to yourself. Make sure to check your forecast since January does see more rain than some other months.
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If you’re a water lover then make sure to get some surfing in. January sees some great waves which are perfect for the avid surfer and you won’t have the same crowds that you would find in warmer months. And the water is a great 19 degrees during the day. You will also spot some great marine life such as short-finned Pilot whale, common bottlenose dolphin and short-beaked common dolphins which are commonly found during winter and fall. Madeira is one of the best places to visit in January in Europe, especially if you’re looking for some great outdoor adventures. You should also consider Madeira as a New Year destination as the firework displays are one of the best in the world.
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Where to Stay in Madeira
There are plenty of great places to stay, depending on what your preferences are. You can find them here.
Tours in Madeira
Go scuba diving in Madeira with a 3-hour guided tour.
Discover the beautiful lakes of Madeira on the Levada walking tour.
Climb to the highest point of the island and Portugal on the Pico mountain climbing tour.
Enjoy a 4×4 tour of northeast Madeira from Funchal and discover the hidden beauty of the island.
Enjoy some epic whale and dolphin watching on a wonderful boat tour on the coast of Madeira.
#2 The Canary Islands, Spain
The Canary Islands are a great place to escape the grey cold of the mainland. And the best part is… you have options! The Canary Islands are made up of a few islands, the most popular of which are Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, La Gomera, and La Palma. The Canary Islands are found on the northwest coast of Africa, which means some great winter sun and warm temperatures in January. Gran Canaria and Tenerife South have the warmest weather with an average high between 21 and 22 degrees. All the islands will offer you an average of 6 hours of sunlight a day and just a few days of rain can be expected.
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Hiking is a favourite activity in the Canary Islands because the temperatures are cooler than summer. There are many different hikes available, with different intensity levels. Each of the islands has something great to discover and are all beautiful in their own ways, choosing is the right one depends on your own preferences. Personally I have hiked in La Gomera and Tenerife and have loved both experiences and would highly recommend both. Make sure to check the weather though as you don’t want to be caught in an unexpected shower, especially in the mountains. Besides hiking, you can also enjoy mountain biking, a perfect activity for the cooler months such as January.
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Another perk of travelling to the Canary Islands in January, one of the best places to visit Europe during this time, is that it is quieter. You can take in the quiet beaches and other attractions and can enjoy things at your leisure. You can also enjoy a classical music festival which happens during January and February each year. There is stunning scenery to take in including the many volcanoes, beaches, natural swimming pools, ancient forests, national parks, clear waters, and the best part is the clear skies which are perfect for stargazing. You can also spend time exploring some of the beautiful fishing villages that are scattered around the islands, where you can discover the rich culture of the Canary Islands.
One of my favourite things about visiting in January is scuba diving. It is quieter which makes it perfect to explore the marine life which includes Angel sharks and rays and the water temperatures are 18-20 degrees on average. You can also get in some really great night diving which is a massive plus.
Where to Stay in the Canary Islands
The Canary Islands have some really great options for accommodation. Depending on what your preferences are, you can find accommodation on any of the islands.
Tours in the Canary Islands
Enjoy a great guided tour of Anaga Rural Park Full-Day in Tenerife.
Try out a 3-Hour Private Yacht with Whale & Dolphin Watching in Tenerife.
If your feeling adventures try out a PADI DSD Diving Experience in La Palma.
To see the best of Fuerteventura, try a E-Bike Tour From Corralejo.
#3 Sicily, Italy
Sicily is the largest Mediterranean Island and can be found just under Italy’s “boot”. It is a beautiful island that sports a rich culture and some of the best food you will find in Europe. Although Sicily belongs to Italy, many would say that it is “its own man” with many of its own cultures and traditions that make a visit here a unique experience. It is also home to Europe’s highest volcano and one of the world’s most active.
Sicily is one of those great places in Europe that you can visit all-year-round and it just has something better to offer each time. It is also one of the best places to visit in January if you ask me. Let me start by telling you about the weather. Well, it is different in each part of the island, with colder and rainier at the coast and warmer in places like Messina, which has it’s own mind when it comes to climate.
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When I say cold on the coast I mean between 13 and 20 degrees, which if you’re from a cold country is summer. If you venture further inland to the hillsides you will find snow, and where there’s snow there’s skiing of course. A popular activity with many of the locals and a great choice if you’re looking for a quieter ski resort. There are even ski resorts on Mount Etna.
After the Christmas season, which does see an increase in tourism and prices, everything gets cheaper making this a good option. Just be sure to pre-book as some of the beach resorts may close during the winter as it is quiet. One of the best things about visiting Sicily in January, it will give you an opportunity to get in some of the best cycling and hiking. The roads and trails are much quieter and the weather, in my opinion, is perfect, especially since summer can be a scorcher here. If you can’t get out then there are plenty of great museums to explore. Including the Documentary Centre of Mafia in Corleone. Especially if you’re a Godfather fan.
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Sicily is also home to a diverse selection of archaeological sites that are perfect to visit when the crowds are less as you get a much better experience. Just make sure the ones you want to visit are open, some of them do close for maintenance in winter, but not always. You can also take part in a great cooking class. Sicilian food is famous for being scrumptious. And you’ll probably go home with some good winter insulation if you know what I mean. If eating is more your thing, then there are loads of traditional restaurants where you can spend some good quality time. Be sure to remember Siesta time daily between 1:30 pm & 4.30 pm.
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Where to Stay in Sicily
Sicily is a big island with many really great accommodation options depending on your preferences. You can check them all out here.
Tours in Sicily
Discover Palermo in a 2-hour sightseeing tour with a private guide
Experience the craters of the 2002 Mount Etna eruption with a trekking experience.
Take a Sicilian cooking class and tour the markets of Taormina.
Cyprus is a popular summer destination but is also a perfect destination in winter. In fact, it is one of the best places to visit in Europe in January. The most popular places to visit in Cyprus are Larnaca, Limassol, Paphos, and Nicosia. Most of the coastal resorts are closed during this time but there you can still enjoy walking the beaches and you may find a few brave souls swimming, although the water is pretty cold at this time. You can expect to find temperatures between 16 to 22 degrees, depending on whether there is rain. January does get rainy but you will still get some good sun during the days. The mountainous areas of Cyprus can see snow and lower temperatures and in years where the snowfall is enough, you can enjoy some great skiing in the Troodos Mountains.
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If you really want to discover Cyprus during this quieter time, the best thing to do is to hire a car and road trip through the island. It is an excellent way to discover the many villages that are hidden away. They offer some great local cuisine and culture. Another amazing part of visiting Cyprus in January is taking in the many historical sites such as the Khirokitia, Salamis and the Tombs of the Kings. Where you will find fewer crowds and can truly appreciate it. It is a perfect time to try out one of the hundreds of amazing hiking trails as well as enjoy some great cycling as the roads are quieter. The weather is perfect for outdoor activities.
What I love is that you will find more locals around than tourists. Which makes the experience one of a kind and something you won’t find in the busier seasons. The city of Nicosia has a beautiful culture to explore. And it is the only city in the world that is partitioned into two territories. One part of the city is occupied by Turkish troops whereas the other side belongs to Cyprus. It brings a unique mix to the city. And January is a great time to explore and enjoy some great cuisine.
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One of the most spectacular things about Cyprus in January is the fact that you will find plenty of migrating birds. The biggest and probably the most popular of these birds is the Greater Flamingo. Around 20 000 of them stop in Cyprus, first in Limassol and then they move on to Larnaca. It’s all about pretty in pink at that time and its a truly spectacular thing to see.
Where to Stay in Cyprus
Cyprus has some great options for accommodation in January which you can find here.
Tours in Cyprus
Enjoy a full-day jeep safari from Protaras to Troodos that includes lunch.
Take a 6 hour Cyprus rural tour of the villages and wineries.
Explore a half-day tour of St. Hilarion Castle & Bellapais from Nicosia.
Discover Cyprus Through the Ages: From Paphos and Limassol.