Start your new year off right, spend it in South Africa

Start the new year with a resolution in your head and a passport in your pocket; 2017 will be a better year, so why not kick-start it with a January holiday?

Here's our four prime destinations for the first month of 2017.

One for the beach bums
Cape Town, South Africa

For beautiful beaches, Cape Town in South Africa comes top of the list for any self-respecting beach bum – you can lie back on soft white sand with the beautiful people on Clifton Beach or Camps Bay, go surfing at Muizenberg or chill with the penguins at Boulders Beach. There’s more, though, if you can drag yourself away: as well as awe-inspiring scenery (the city lies at the foot of a mountain), you’ll find urban nightlife with a distinctly African flavour in the city centre, a world-class aquarium and, 45 minutes drive away, a wine region to rival those of France.

Camps Bay in Cape TownCamps Bay in Cape Town
alexeys / Thinkstock

One for the thrill seekers
Monte Verde, Costa Rica

Head to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica for the ultimate adrenaline rush. Extremo Park offer a bungee jump that is the highest in Central America at 143m (469 ft), and those brave enough to go through with the experience leap from a tram suspended by cables between two mountains. Other thrilling activities on offer here include zip-lining and a “Tarzan swing”, where you can jump off a platform in a harness and swing through the air. The reserve features misty fog clinging to the treetops and an incredible diversity of wildlife, from jaguars to rare Quetzal birds, regarded as gods by the Aztecs because of their vivid plumage.

High up in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa RicaHigh up in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica
Simon Dannhauer / Thinkstock

One for the city slickers
Beijing, China

Wake up to the crowing of a rooster in 2017. This year’s Chinese New Year falls on 28 January and the cockerel is the designated animal sign for this coming lunar calendar. Chinese New Year, or Chunjie, is the mother of all festivals in Beijing and arguably the best time to visit the city. Firecrackers, red lanterns and jiaozi, the traditional dumpling, are all integral to the celebrations and dressing in red for the turning of the year is advisable - it’s China's lucky colour and believed to scare away the spirits of bad fortune. The ultimate way to experience the five-day holiday is with a Chinese family. If you don’t know one, speak to the Beijing Greeters and with any luck you'll be paired with a Beijinger willing to show you a new side of their sprawling megapolis.

Spend the Chinese New Year by the Forbidden City in BeijingSpend the Chinese New Year by the Forbidden City in Beijing
lusea / Thinkstock

One for the avid skiers
Hemsedal, Norway

Give the mega-resorts of Chamonix and Val Thorens a wide berth this winter; the wild, untamed mountains of Norway are calling. The land of deep fjords, epic glaciers and vast mountain ranges is a beloved destination for snow-hungry skiers from November right through to May. Hemsedal, deep in the Scandinavian Mountains, or Scandes, is resort number one for its stark vistas and well-groomed but relatively deserted slopes. The 46 pistes, 20 ski lifts and floodlights for the gloomy Norwegian evenings make Hemsedal the antithesis of the pack 'em in and pile 'em high resorts of central Europe. Though it's the off-piste and cross-country skiing in Norway that brings the fanatics, children aren't forgotten either. There are multiple opportunities for families to enjoy non-skiing activities in Hemsedal too - try dog sledding or horse sleigh riding and see for yourself.

The wildland of Hemsedal, NorwayThe wildland of Hemsedal, Norway
Snowserge / Thinkstock

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.