As Advent calendar doors are eagerly opened, it can be easy to forget how dull January can be. Yet, thanks to wet weather, long nights, and the seemingly endless eking out of December pay packets, the jolly season can quickly unfold into a month of melancholy.
The good news is, the start of the year is a great value time to get away, as travel providers sell getaways for a song and flights can be snapped up for as little as £30 to some of the UK’s favourite holiday destinations.
These are some of the most cost-effective destinations to book now for a New Year’s pick-you-up…
Earlier this year, Post Office Travel Money ranked Lisbon and the Algarve as two of the best-value holiday destinations in Europe and the pocket-friendliness of both continues into 2024. Flights to the Portuguese capital can be snapped up from £38 return with Ryanair in January and hotel rooms are readily available for less than £100 a night, including Mama Shelter Lisbon, where doubles start at £78.
In the Algarve, return flights start at £35 to Faro in early January. You’ll need to pack a jumper or two, and perhaps a coat and some sturdy shoes, but at this time of year, you could happily stride off on the Rota Vicentina’s network of hiking trails that embroider the region’s quiet west coast into rural Alentejo. Accommodation at guesthouses and rural hotels costs as little as €60 (£52) a night at properties such as Cercas Velhas in Vila do Bispo (rotavicentina.com). UTracks offers a seven-night group walking tour from Porto Covo to Odeceixe, taking in fishing villages and untamed beaches, from £595pp, departing 6 January.
For a bit more luxury, a week at the five-star Pine Cliffs Resort near Albufeira, with its clifftop golf course and spa, costs from £548pp with British Airways Holidays in January, including flights from Gatwick.
A week at Hotel Vasco da Gama, in beachside Monte Gordo, close to the Spanish border, is priced from £359pp with Jet2holidays, based on a 14 January departure from Manchester.
Online travel company Opodo reports that bookings to the capital of Tirana have grown by 78 per cent in the past year and with Tim Hentschel, the CEO of HotelPlanner.com, earmarking the city as one of the most affordable places to take a break in January, it looks set to remain a hot ticket.
Highlights of a visit include cable-car rides into the Dajti Mountains that skirt the city, taking in views of forests, farms and bunkers on the ascent, strolls around the 230-hectare city centre Grand Park, and visits to Bunk’Art museum to discover what city life was like in the Communist era.
Visitors with a little more time on their hands can also take day trips to lesser-known places such as Durrës, one of the world’s oldest cities, with about 2,500 years of recorded history, and Berat, where the Unesco-listed centre is speckled with Ottoman architecture.
In the south-east, there is also good value skiing and boarding in the small resort of Ski Pista Bigëll (facebook.com/SkiPistaBigell).
Stays at five-star hotels in Tirana such as the Mak Albania start at £95 a night, and you can dip into the capital’s inviting markets, such as the old town’s New Bazaar to warm up in the bars, cafés and restaurants (pazariiri.com).
Travel search engine Kayak has named Marrakech as one of the 10 most affordable places to fly to in January, but it is not the only place in Morrocco where you will find good value. On the west coast, in the seaside resort of Taghazout, a seven-night stay at the Timoulay Hotel costs from £635pp with TUI, with flights departing from Glasgow on 23 January.
Half-an-hour north of busy Agadir, Taghazout, is a popular surfing destination, but if the average January daytime temperature of 20°C isn’t enough to tempt you into the water, there is still plenty to do.
Day trips can be taken into the Sahara Desert, to Paradise Valley – an oasis-like valley on the Tamraght River – and the town of Tiznit, with its ancient walls and Berber jewellery souk.
For something a little different, The Adventure People is offering an eight-day touring holiday from Casablanca to Marrakech, which includes time in Fes, with its leather tannery, and the Road of 1000 Kasbahs, which is lined with forts, from £412 excluding flights, in January.
With the pound remaining strong against the Turkish Lira, Turkey is an obvious choice for bargain-hunting holidaymakers in the new year.
Average daytime temperatures settle around 15°C on the popular south-west coast in January which, while not that conducive to sunbathing, makes it more comfortable to explore destinations such as Göcek and Kemer.
Located between the tourist hubs of Fethiye and Marmaris, Göcek is a pretty harbour town that’s backed by forests and scalloped with coves, while a series of walking and biking trails squiggle their way around the resort, passing through olive groves and ocean lookout points as they go. A seven-night all-inclusive stay at the Rixos Premium Göcek costs from £571pp in January.
An hour’s drive south of Antalya, the marina town of Kemer is hemmed in by the Taurus Mountains and visitors can get up into the peaks using the Olympos Cable Car, which ascends to 1,900m. Visits to the ancient Lycian city of Myra are also an option.
A 15-day stay at the Alinda Hotel in Kemer costs from £1,199pp with Just Go! Holidays or, for those who want to get away for longer, four weeks’ all-inclusive at the same hotel starts at £1,749pp, including flights from Gatwick, Luton or Manchester, departing 7 January.
Malta may be just 17 miles long and nine miles wide, but the island crams in the sights, and January, with typical daytime temperatures of 16°C, is an ideal time to tour them.
Work your way through the traditional stopping points of Valletta, Mdina and Sliema, before moving on to visit Birgu, the island’s former capital, the marina town of Bormla, and Senglea, where the Gardjola Gardens serve up views over the Grand Harbour.
Pack your walking boots, and you can hike the Dingli Cliffs on the south side of the island. Rising 253m above the sea, they provide the highest point in Malta and one of the best places to catch the sunset, which takes place around 5pm in January.
While deals are available all over this Mediterranean island this January, Qawra is looking like the nucleus of low-cost breaks. Located on the north-east coast, an hour’s drive from Valletta, Qawra is boxed in by the sea on three sides, giving visitors easy access to rocky beaches and waterside promenades lined with cafes and restaurants that open year-round.
Thomas Cook is offering seven nights at the four-star Ax Odycy from just £195pp including flights, departing 26 January.
Promising average daily temperatures of between 14°C and 18°C, January is a prime time for exploring Cyprus beyond the beaches. Away from the stifling heat that can keep some holidaymakers sun lounger-bound in summer, visitors can discover the island’s historical sites, mountain villages and walking trails in comfort.
From the hill town of Platres, an hour’s drive inland from Paphos, are walking routes that feel their way around the Troodos Mountains to sights such as the Caledonia Waterfalls – a cluster of 12m-high vertical falls – and the Unesco-listed Lampadistis Monastery.
A seven-night stay at the Petit Palais Platres Boutique Hotel costs from £565pp with Olympic Holidays, including flights from Luton, in early January.
Holidays to Tunisia’s north-east coast are a steal in January. Averaging at around 16°C, coastal temperatures are ideal for getting out and about. The fascinating capital Tunis has been ranked as having one of the world’s lowest costs of living by the Economist Intelligence Unit this week.
From beach resorts such as Sousse, Port El Kantaoui and Hammamet, it’s easy to visit historical sites such as the ruins of Carthage, the amphitheatre of El Jem – north Africa’s answer to Rome’s Colosseum – and the Unesco-listed city of Kairouan, as well as the village of Sidi Bou Said, with its white-domed buildings and blue shuttered windows.
EasyJet Holidays is offering a week’s half board at the Iberostar Selection Diar El Andalous in Sousse from £357pp, departing Luton on 27 January.
First Choice has a week’s half-board at the Phenecia Hotel in Hammamet from £292pp, with Birmingham flights on 19 January.
Ras Al Khaimah, UAE
The United Arab Emirates might not be an obvious choice for a budget-friendly holiday, but come January, there are bargains to be had in Ras Al Khaimah.
The most northerly of the seven emirates, it tempts visitors with desert dune adventures, honey-coloured beaches, adrenaline activities that include the world’s longest zipline, and temperatures that settle around 25°C in January.
Located on the west coast, the man-made archipelago of Al Marjan Island is one of Ras Al Khaimah’s fastest-growing holiday destinations. It has 4.8 miles of sandy beaches, a palm-lined corniche and easy access to the emirate’s top adventure spots.
With loveholidays, seven nights at the Mövenpick Resort on Al Marjan Island start at £771pp in January, including flights from Heathrow.
Seven-night stays at the Hampton by Hilton Marjan Island are available from £763pp including flights from Stansted with On The Beach.
Long-haul holiday specialists Flight Centre has revealed that Thailand is one of the most popular destinations among Britons looking for a January escape. Justin Penny, head of aviation at Flight Centre, told i: “With the British pound strong against the Thai baht, spending money goes further and luxury experiences such as guided tours and fine dining can be enjoyed at a lower price than more expensive winter-sun hot spots.”
Phuket is one of its most popular islands. Eight nights at the Sunprime Kamala Beach Phuket on the west coast start at £899pp in January, including flights from London. Two hours north in quieter Khao Lak, a week at the five-star Outrigger Khao Lak Beach Resort starts at £999pp with flights.
Those looking for an alternative to the busy southern holiday destinations should consider heading to the beach resorts that hug the Gulf of Thailand.
Three hours’ drive south from Bangkok, Hua Hin is all white beaches, lively markets, and opportunities to visit temples. Around 15 minutes south of Hua Hin’s five-star resorts, Pak Nam Pran is a historic fishing village at the mouth of the Pran river, with secluded bays and forest to explore.
A short walk from the beach, the Wyndham Hua Hin Pranburi Resort and Villas has doubles from as little as £67 B&B in early January.