Phong Nha-Ke Bang, Vietnam
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A visit to the breathtaking Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is a sure-fire way to forget all your January blues as you’re swept up in the untouched beauty of Vietnam. Designated a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2003, the remarkable Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park contains the oldest karst mountains in Asia, formed approximately 400 million years ago. Riddled with hundreds of cave systems – many of extraordinary scale and length – and spectacular underground rivers, Phong Nha is a speleologists’ heaven on earth. A lot quieter than the city hubs of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), a visit to this little hideout is all about leaving your worries behind and recharging mentally and physically by stepping into a completely new world for a few days.
Unawatuna, Sri Lanka
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If you're considering a beach vacation and haven’t thought about Sri Lanka yet, be prepared to re-organize your travel priorities. The country is home to some of the best palm-lined beaches, turquoise waters and a good selection of guesthouses and restaurants in all of Asia. Unawatuna resort is one of the best places to base yourself as you explore everything this underrated country has to offer. The resort's location is superb, with the historic city of Galle just 6km away and a wooded headland to the west dotted with tiny coves.
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When it comes to vacation hideouts, China may not be the first place that comes to mind – however, Gansu Province in northwestern China features some of the most stunning landscapes you’ve probably never heard of. Gansu is about the same size as California, with a population of about 26 million people. Most of its inhabitants are Han Chinese, with some ethnic Hui and Tibetans. Gansu’s diverse landscapes include parts of the Gobi Desert, the Yellow River, numerous mountain formations, and remnants of the Silk Road and the Great Wall of China. The mostly arid lands range in elevation from about 3,000 feet above sea level to mountains more than 19,000 feet tall. The stunning view of Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park in northwest Gansu surely will leave you in awe.
As Japan’s southernmost prefecture, Okinawa is home to some incredible beaches and very pleasant weather. While the rest of the country is freezing, this pocket of Japan sits between the high teens to low twenties degrees celsius (65-70°F) throughout the winter season. If the weather permits, pay a visit to the popular Ishigaki beach, though if it’s too cold to swim, there’s always the world-famous Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium to explore. Okinawa is also famous for the earliest cherry blossoms in Japan.
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Planning to get ahead of your work over the January break, but want to enjoy a holiday at the same time? Then consider a visit to Bali’s coastal village of Canggu. What was previously a sleepy little village, Canggu has evolved into a major tourist hub. Not quite as popular or well known as other areas in Bali such as Seminyak, Legian or Ubud; Canggu is fast becoming the ‘in’ place to stay. It has everything you could want on your holiday; great beaches such as Echo, Old Man’s, Berawa, Pererenan and Batu Belig, new world-class beach clubs, fun things for the kids to do and a special vibe that is unique to this part of the island.
Luang Prabang Province, Laos
In the north of Laos is Luang Prabang Province, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site overflowing with unique culture and architecture, including the Haw Kham Royal Palace and the watermelon-shaped Wat Wisunarat temple. One of the other great reasons for visiting this undiscovered gem during January is the weather. The country is currently in the midst of the dry season, meaning that there’s very little chance that your travel plans will get washed or snowed out.