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The 19 best places to visit in October

With temperatures and tourist numbers dropping, October is a fine month to travel Europe, Asia, North and Latin America and beyond. Here’s how to make the most of the shoulder season…

Lemurs in Madagascar (Shutterstock)

When it comes to top travel experiences, bring on October. Golden leaves, reduced fares, empty trails and some of the world’s most spectacularly colourful festivals beckon.

Whether you’re looking to wrap up warm or jet off in search of the last dregs of summer, we’re sure you’ll find something inspiring in our selection.

If you want to see the full list, keep scrolling. If you know your travel style, click to your chosen section using one of these handy links:

Here are 19 of the best places to visit in October...

The best October destinations for arts and culture

1. Albuquerque, New Mexico

Hot air balloons launching at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (Shutterstock)

Hot air balloons launching at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (Shutterstock)

For nine days in October, part of the Rio Grande Valley is transformed into dreamscape, thanks to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – the largest hot air balloon festival in the world.

From dawn until dusk, balloons of all shapes and colours fill the sky as festival-goers' necks crane in amazement. The most popular event is the Special Shape Rodeo, during which animals, rockets and spacemen (not real ones) take to the sky.

2. Fiji

Fijian women performing a traditional Make dance (Shutterstock)

Fijian women performing a traditional Make dance (Shutterstock)

10 October marks Fiji’s National Day. In the week leading up to it, Fiji celebrates its cessation from the British empire, and the nation's vast ethnic diversity. The run-up is packed with religious and cultural events, and culminates in a large military parade with canon blasts.

On the day itself, Fijians reenact the signing of the Deed of Cessation in period costume from 1874, and hear speeches from the president and others. For a glimpse of the different religions and cultures that make up Fiji’s vibrant tapestry, plan your visit around this week.

This is a good time to visit Fiji for more than the festival. The islands enjoy a nice climate this time of year. Expect mid-20s day and night, and not too much humidity. 

3. Berlin, Germany

Berlin Cathedral illuminated during the festival (Shutterstock)

Berlin Cathedral illuminated during the festival (Shutterstock)

If you’re looking for an excuse to visit Berlin (aren't we all?), then why not go for the Berlin Festival of Lights?

Enjoy a city break in Germany’s chic capital, while its iconic monuments are illuminated throughout the evening and night. The cosmopolitan city becomes a stage, using light to tell touching and emotive stories. 

The festival is one of the largest light art festivals in the world, showcasing some of Germany’s brightest artists, alongside other global stars. 2019's theme is ‘Lights of Freedom’, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

4. Austin, Texas

Austin City Limits Festival in Zilker Metropolitan Park (Shutterstock)

Austin City Limits Festival in Zilker Metropolitan Park (Shutterstock)

Head to Zilker Park in Austin, Texas for one of the world’s legendary music festivals: Austin City Limits.

Every year, over 400,000 people descend on the park to attend this iconic festival, offering a wide variety of musical genres: from blues and rock n’ roll to folk and hip-hop. 2019's line-up includes Guns N’ Roses, The Cure and Billie Eilish.

For many revellers, the food line-up is as eagerly anticipated as the tunes. Austin is a city known for good food, and festival-goers can expect a bounty of Texan classics. Grab a bratwurst from Austin institution Scholz Garten, or some organic Texas meats from Ranch Hand.

5. Dublin, Ireland

Ha Penny Bridge, Dublin (Shutterstock)

Ha Penny Bridge, Dublin (Shutterstock)

The Emerald Isle has long been home to novelists, poets and songwriters. Joyce, Yeats, Wilde and Beckett all called Ireland home, as well as songwriters Van Morrison, Phil Lynott and Bono. Both the Republic’s capital and largest city, Dublin has been a cultural hub for centuries.

The city is alive with activity this October. Between 1 October and 5 October is Ireland Music Week, overlapping that is the Dublin International Short Film and Music Festival, held between 4 and 6 October.

After that, you can catch the end of the Dublin Theatre Festival, which runs from late September to 14 October. If that wasn’t enough, there’s the Bram Stoker Festival, celebrating the spooky and supernatural from 25 to 28 October.

October's the month to get yourself to the city. As James Joyce writes: "Real adventures… do not happen to people who remain at home: they must be sought abroad."

The best October destinations for good weather and natural beauty

6. Hitachinaka, Japan

Kochia flowers in Hitachi Seaside Park, Hitachinaka (Shutterstock)

Kochia flowers in Hitachi Seaside Park, Hitachinaka (Shutterstock)

If you’re willing to embrace autumn, rather than fight it, then travel to Japan’s Kanto region to see some spectacularly colourful leaves. 

Hitachi Seaside Park, a public park in the Ibaraki Prefecture, is famous for two seasons and two flowers. In the springtime, the nemophila flower, also known as ‘baby blue eyes’, is in bloom and paints the hillside a Maya blue. The flowers' petals obscure all grass so that, on a clear day, the hills might be a reflection of the sky.

In the autumn, the magical kochia flower is the star of the show. This spherical plant sprouts in pom poms all over the hills and turns a vivid shade of crimson.

This natural wonder is all natural, but very intentional: the park's planners carved a winding path along the hillside and planted an abundance of Kochia flowers on either side.

7. Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech, Morocco (Shutterstock)

Marrakech, Morocco (Shutterstock)

If you’re after a bit of hustle and bustle, Marrakech is the place to go. If you don’t want to combat ridiculous heat on top of it, then you're on to a winner with October.

You'll benefit from a visit during the shoulder season. Not only are the already-busy streets less blocked with tourists, the oppressive summer heat gives way to a more reasonable climate. 

The temperature drops from the 30s at the beginning of the month to the 20s at the end, so you can plan your trip around your preference. Fares will be lower and the city will take on a slightly more authentic atmosphere due to the lower number of foreign visitors.

8. Mauritius

One of Mauritius' white beaches (Shutterstock)

One of Mauritius' white beaches (Shutterstock)

Clinging desperately to that increasingly distant summer? Located south of the equator, Mauritius in October is both warm and teeming with plantlife.

Mauritius is fairly warm all year round. It’s uncommon for the temperature to vary much, even at night, and while the local summer months (November to April) are a few degrees warmer, they’re known to be a lot wetter. Visiting in October should guarantee you some sun.

October is also prime time for snorkelling and other aquatic activities. Its azure waters are calm and inviting at this time of year. Sea temperatures match, if not exceed, the air temperatures in October and wind speeds don’t typically rise above a light breeze. Combine that with the lack of rainfall and you’re looking at perfect swimming and diving conditions.

Remember that Mauritius is coming into spring. You may be a little early to see the aptly named Flamboyant Tree blossom, depending on when in the month you visit, however the island is still packed full of stunning foliage to gawk at.

9. Sardinia, Italy

Gola Su Gorropu Canyon, Sardinia, Italy (Shutterstock)

Gola Su Gorropu Canyon, Sardinia, Italy (Shutterstock)

For autumn sun a little closer to the UK, try Sardinia. It’s an enviable climate: warm days and cool nights. While it is warm enough to lounge on a beach, the climate lends itself to activities like cycling and walking, too. 

Take this opportunity to explore Sardinia’s wilder side. Try horseriding through its valleys, or hiking its mountainous trails. The island's Gorropu Canyon is a spectacle worth admiring, for the most intrepid travellers among us.

10. Iceland

Northern Lights over a glacial lagoon in Iceland (Shutterstock)

Northern Lights over a glacial lagoon in Iceland (Shutterstock)

Comparative to the population, Iceland receives an awful lot of visitors. With a population of only 338,000 and over 2 million tourists each year, the beautiful Nordic country is swamped with experience-seekers, all searching for something unique. 

Bizarrely, an overwhelming majority of tourists visit during July and August, likely due to school holidays and milder weather. Taking advantage of warmer weather, however, does not make for a complete Icelandic experience.

To see the glorious green Northern Lights sweeping across the sky, it's better to visit later in the year. Night skies are dark from late August to late April in Iceland. October, with an average temperature of 4°C, is a good time to visit as it isn’t too cold and it isn’t too light.

At 65 degrees north, it’s possible to see the Northern Lights almost every night during this season, and while 4°C may seem cold, it’s actually one of the warmest places to see the phenomenon.

The best long-term travel experiences in October

11. Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Pilgrims walking beneath eucalyptus trees on the Camino de Santiago (Shutterstock)

Pilgrims walking beneath eucalyptus trees on the Camino de Santiago (Shutterstock)

The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage to the shrine of apostle Saint James, located in the grand Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain. Pilgrims have been travelling across the region for over 1,000 years, earning certain routes UNESCO World Heritage status.

Today, the pilgrimage is embarked upon by all kinds of travellers. If not for religious reasons, for self-discovery, personal betterment, or simply the joy of walking.

You may choose your own starting point, but to receive a certificate of completion you will need to walk the last 100km of the journey, so distance is a factor. Where you begin the trek will also be influenced by your route choice. There are a number of established routes to pick from, ranging from 100km to 1,000km. The town of Pamplona is a popular starting point.

October is a good month for this adventure. Established routes will see fewer travellers, and the weather is milder this time of year, resulting in pleasant hiking conditions. It's not quite as wise to cross the Pyrenees, though, as temperatures on the mountain range can drop below freezing in autumn.

12. Chilean Patagonia

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile (Shutterstock)

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile (Shutterstock)

With some of the most dramatic national parks in the world, southern Chile is home to snow-capped blue mountains, lunar-like surfaces, yellow grasslands, cyan glaciers, majestic rivers, cascading waterfalls and more.

October marks the middle of Chile’s spring, on the cusp of Patagonia’s tourist season. Torres del Paine is one of the nation’s busiest parks, but with good reason.

The park is a beautiful display of Chilean Patagonia’s landscape, built around the Cordillera Paine mountain range. Brave the spring's colder climate to enjoy this park without the crowds, before moving on to the lesser known parks.

13. Guangxi and Yunnan Provinces, China

A fisherman in Guangxi (Shutterstock)

A fisherman in Guangxi (Shutterstock)

You could spend a lifetime exploring each and every corner of China. So, if you're planning an October visit, take advantage of the dry season in the Guangxi and Yunnan provinces.

South-west China experiences lower temperatures and much less rainfall from October onwards, making it a perfect time to visit these mountainous, rural regions.

Guangxi is known for its expansive caves, winding rivers and surreal karst formations. The Reed Flute Cave near Guilin, an ancient limestone cave famed for its vast quantity of stalactites and stalagmites, is well worth a visit. Yunnan is home to valleys like the Tiger Leaping Gorge, utterly magical to hike and explore.

14. Queensland, Australia

Brisbane, Australia (Shutterstock)

Brisbane, Australia (Shutterstock)

For a longer, more adventurous trip, fly to Brisbane in Queensland, Australia and work your way up the coast to Cairns in the north of the country.

Chase the sun along Queensland’s tropical west coast and enjoy the vibrant cities, diverse wildlife and picturesque beaches. This is not the hot, dusty Australia many of us think of: Queensland encompasses tropical, subtropical and equatorial climate zones.

October is a comfortable month in this part of the country with balmy days and cool nights. The sea is warm and perfect for water sports. As well as diving in the Great Barrier Reef, try kayaking and paddle-boarding – it should be easy to rent equipment up and down the coast.

While shorts and tees are acceptable, pack a light jacket and a pair of trousers. After a long, slow day on a sun-kissed beach, a loose pair of jeans will allow you to explore Queensland’s cities comfortably in the evening breeze.

15. Rajasthan, India

Rajasthan by rail (Shutterstock)

Rajasthan by rail (Shutterstock)

Explore India's largest state and 'the land of kings', Rajasthan, by rail. Ride the route from New Delhi to Jaisalmer, stopping off in Jaipur and Jodhpur. 

As a passenger riding through this subtropical desert, you’ll traverse seemingly never-ending desert vistas, watch herds of camel pass your window, and see rural communities rarely visited by outsiders. Along the way, marvel at Jaipur’s incredible decorative walls. Enter the Pink City (old town) and explore the royal palace.

You'll be relying on your train, so make sure you're riding comfortably - if you can afford it. The Indian Railway sell eight classes of ticket, from unreserved third class to luxurious, air-conditioned private cabins.

Second class AC is a good compromise. While not too expensive by western rail standards, this class allows the ability to book curtained sleeping bunks, complete with sheets and pillows. This is by no means a luxurious option, but it is a semi-authentic one.

Like other arid or semi-arid destinations on this list, Rajasthan benefits from the coolness of the autumn months.

The best October destinations for wildlife watching

16. Madagascar

Lemur Catta in Madagascar (Shutterstock)

Lemur Catta in Madagascar (Shutterstock)

December to March constitutes the rainy season in Madagascar, so your best bet is to visit during the local spring months. October hits the sweet spot, just as the island is warming up. 

Expect a peachy average high of 26°and a sea temperature of 25°C. The coastal waters are bright turquoise and dead calm, perfect for snorkelling.

A large tropical island with a relatively low population density, Madagascar is home to a diverse set of wildlife. To most of the world however, the island is recognised as the home of one creature in particular: the ring-tailed lemur.

Ring-tailed lemurs give birth in September and carry their young for the first few weeks. The pups (yes, pups) cling to the hair on their mother’s backs as they scamper around the forest. If that isn’t worth seeing, we don't know what is.

17. Sweden

A female moose in the Swedish countryside (Shutterstock)

A female moose in the Swedish countryside (Shutterstock)

Trek to central Sweden to spot moose! Mooses? Mice? – The Swedes call them älg.

As a nation Sweden has the highest moose population per kilometer squared, however spotting them in the wild can be exceedingly difficult. So, it's a trip suited best to the experienced animal tracker. 

There are roughly 300,000 to 400,000 moose in Sweden, depending on the time of year. They're extensively hunted in winter, keeping the spring population around the 400,000 mark.

The end of September and beginning of October is mating season. The bulls bellow loudly to attract a mate and if successful, will breed with several cows. This is the best time to see Sweden's national animal as the bulls' ostentatious behaviour make them easier to locate.

If you want to hedge your bets, there’s a moose safari company offering tours, with at least one successful sighting documented every year since 2003. 

18. Cambodia

A Sun Bear (Shutterstock)

A Sun Bear (Shutterstock)

Encompassing the Gulf of Thailand coastline, the Mekong Delta and the Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia is home to an abundance of wildlife.

The nation is currently seeing various large-scale conservation efforts take place, after years of civil war, illegal deforestation and poaching took a significant toll on indigenous animal populations. 

Tragically, the Indochinese Tiger, once native to Cambodia, is believed to be extinct, against a wider trend of tiger population decline on the Asian continent.

While a lot of its animals are endangered or on conservation lists, Cambodia is still home to many fascinating species, including the sun bear, leopard cat, river dolphin and elephant.

Make sure your trip to see them supports sustainable tourism. Koh Kong Wildlife Release Centre (in the province of the same name), for example, is in excellent choice.

The centre offers one to three day experiences, allowing you to see Cambodia's creatures up close and personal. The centre receives rehabilitated animals that have been rescued from traffickers and poachers and release them into the wild.

19. Churchill, Manitoba

A Churchill polar bear (Shutterstock)

A Churchill polar bear (Shutterstock)

Touted as the polar bear capital of the world, Churchill is an extremely remote town situated on the Hudson Bay coast in northern mainland Canada.

There are no roads in or out of the 900-strong community, only a train that departs Winnipeg thrice weekly and takes about 48 hours in total. Luckily for polar bear enthusiasts, you can fly to a nearby airport by plane or helicopter fairly regularly.

The town sees a high amount of polar bear activity thanks to its position beside the bay on the Hudson Plains. The world’s largest land predators migrate through the region when the Hudson’s ice melts in the summer. The bears return to the coast in the autumn and wait for the bay to freeze over again.

Because of the migration, Churchill’s inhabitants frequently find themselves living alongside the mammals. Stories of polar bears roaming the streets and tapping on windows are common, and allegedly, the town enforces a law against locking car doors – in case a passerby needs to escape from a rogue bear.

October is the best time to see polar bears here, as they’ve returned to the coast but are not yet able to pass through onto the ice.

While polar bears are usually solitary animals, they often group together during the wait, presenting the opportunity to see multiple bears at once. Tours operate using large, raised tundra vehicles – although you may not need to leave town to spot one.

Finally, an October cultural event we can't really recommend... in Huacho, Peru

Guinea pigs dressed up during the festival (Shutterstock)

Guinea pigs dressed up during the festival (Shutterstock)

Advance warning: this one is not for the faint of heart. Animal lovers will want to avoid. Especially if you treasured a pet guinea as a child.

Huacho is a quaint city about 100km along the coast from Lima. Every October, residents honour the noble guinea pig with an unusual and lavish one-day festival.

The animals are dressed up in traditional Peruvian outfits: kings, queens, minors, farmers, peasants, ladies and the like. The pigs are primped and pampered, paraded in a kooky fashion show and showered with affection. Judges vote for the biggest, the fattest and the best dressed.

And then… the pigs are fried and eaten. Every year, Peruvians eat over 60 million guinea pigs. Traditionally, they've been eaten as a source of protein for Andean communities.

Read more about these experiences:

What's the deal with Churchill's polar bear jail?

How to walk the Camino de Santiago

Where to stay on your trip to Morocco

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