Choose to travel in November and you’re in for a treat – this penultimate month is packed with quirky festivals, sporting events and wondrous wildlife-spotting opportunities.
Don your cowboy boots and indulge in a little gaucho culture in Argentina; stand in awe of nature’s marvels in autumnal Japan and eastern Zambia; be dazzled by distinctive but equally colourful cultures in Rajasthan and Thessaloniki; or tackle Taiwan on two wheels.
Need a little help making up your mind? Our destination experts are here to lend a hand.
Spot baby lions in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
Bound by the Muchinga Escarpment and the Luangwa River, this 9050-sq km national park is one of Africa's finest wildlife destinations. Its floodplains teem with herds of antelopes, elephants, wild dogs, lions and other mammals, and its mopane woodlands and hardwood forests are home to a healthy population of leopards.
Most visitors flood into South Luangwa between the months of May and October, when the park is driest and the wildlife is most concentrated, but the 'Emerald Season' (November to April) offers an entirely new (and rewarding) perspective on the park. The sharp rain showers clear the dusty air – making conditions perfect for photography – and transform the parched landscape of brownish hues into a verdant world of lush greens. This is also the time when animals drop their young, so there are cute versions of Africa's largest beasts at every turn. Throw in the arrival of masses of migratory birds and price discounts at the lodges, and it is clearly a great time to visit.
Matt Phillips – Destination Editor for sub-Saharan Africa. Follow him on Twitter @Go2MattPhillips.
Go leaf peeping in Japan
Spring in Japan gets a lot of international attention, with its impossibly pretty cherry blossoms drawing admiring masses every year. While autumn in Japan is less well known, it is just as photogenic. A wave of colour advances across the country – leaving brilliant reds, oranges and yellows in its wake – and November is one of the best months to experience it.
For leaf viewing around Tokyo, head to Nikkō or Kamakura, where the foliage frames ancient temples. Among Tokyo city’s parks and gardens, Rikugi-en is one of the best, famous for its maple leaves. In Kyoto, don’t miss the crimson views from the temple veranda of Kiyomizu-dera (arrive early to avoid the worst of the crowds), and the mountainside neighbourhood of Arashiyama. Autumn-colour highlights elsewhere in the country include the island of Miyajima, and the Japan Alps. To help perfectly time your visit, keep an eye on the local kōyō (autumn leaf) forecasts (see japan-guide.com/e/e2014_when.html for an idea of timings, and real time updates).
Laura Crawford – Destination Editor for Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and the Philippines. Follow her on Twitter @crawfplanet.
Indulge your inner culture vulture in Thessaloniki, Greece
With the island life losing its buzz, Greece’s cosmopolitan second city steals the limelight in autumn. Thessaloniki’s renowned International Film Festival (filmfestival.gr; 6 - 15 Nov 2015) – southeastern Europe’s top silver-screen event – focuses on independent cinema ranging from experimental and obscure to famous directors’ works. But this hip metropolis has much more to lure cinemagoers.
Thessaloniki’s impressive Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and Jewish heritage will keep you immersed for days. Learn the bloody story behind the waterfront White Tower (now an interactive museum), get lost in the enchanting alleyways of Ano Poli (Upper Town), admire the ancient churches’ frescoes and mosaics or take in contemporary art exhibitions in restored hammams.
Packed with tavernas and cafes, Thessaloniki builds on the souvlaki-and-seafood scene with innovative cuisine, while its Turkish legacy is evident in legendary patisseries like the century-old Hatzis. Ladadika and Valaoritou neighbourhoods are the nightlife hotspots, with plenty of wine and cocktail bars and live-music venues.
Brana Vladisavljevic – Destination Editor for Eastern and Southeastern Europe. Follow her on Twitter @branavl.
Get active in Taiwan
November is a stellar month for sporting enthusiasts to visit Taiwan. The hot summer months and typhoon season simmer down to a temperate 25°C, and the island hosts a number of outdoor events. The Taiwan Cycling Festival (30 Oct - 22 Nov, taiwanbike.tw/default.aspx?lang=2) nods to the island’s growing reputation as a cycling destination, with a series of bike-based events, from village tours to coastal excursions and road biking through Taipei. The first half of November sees surfers take to Taiwan’s high waves for the Taiwan Open of Surfing (facebook.com/taiwanopenofsurfing), while the Sun Moon Lake Marathon (22 Nov) and the Taroko Gorge Marathon (7 Nov) allow distance runners (and their supporters) to take in the autumn air at two of Taiwan’s most stunning natural landmarks.
Non-sporting types and those with aching muscles should make for Maolin Recreation Area for a dip in outdoor hot springs with views of autumn foliage. Also keep your eyes peeled for Purple Crow butterflies (one of only two species of migrating butterfly) who winter in the cosy valleys of this area starting in November.
Megan Eaves – Destination Editor, North and Central Asia. Follow her on Twitter @megoizzy.
Pick a winning camel in Pushkar, India
India’s Rajasthan region is famed for its vibrant colors and rich cultural heritage – and November is by far the best time to visit. Pushkar Fair or Pushkar ka Mela, the world’s largest camel fair (19 - 25 Nov), will see more than 50,000 animals and 300,000 people gather on the banks of Pushkar Lake. A camel race starts off the festival, followed by a string of music performances, competitions and exhibitions.
Amidst the buzzing atmosphere, you’ll also experience a spiritual side of Rajasthan. This colourful annual event concludes on Kartik Poornima, a Hindu festival day celebrated on the full moon, and honours Brahma, a Hindu god who is said to have created Pushkar Lake. Pilgrims from all over India come to swim in its sacred waters during this time and visit the nearby temple.
Party with the cowboys in San Antonio de Areco, Argentina
Celebrate gaucho culture just as summer starts in Argentina. The annual El Dia de Tradicion (The Day of Tradition) festival starts the weekend closest to 10 November and celebrates the birth of José Hernández, a writer and poet famous for his works about the daily life of the gaucho. El Dia de Tradicion is celebrated all over Argentina, but San Antonio de Areco is the centre of Argentina’s cowboy culture and the perfect place to get your gaucho fix.
The 10-day event kicks off with boys and men from around Argentina, clad in gaucho garb, parading perfectly groomed horses around Areco’s town square. The procession continues with solo riders wielding an assembly of wild horses through the streets, followed by ornate chariots carrying girls in traditional dress and a marching band trailing behind them. Post-parade activities in Parque Criollo include horse races, games, folk dances, craft exhibitions, and delicious traditional food. Feast on asado (barbecue) – mouth-watering grilled steaks, chorizo and other Argentine delicacies are in abundance at this heritage-rich festival.
MaSovaida Morgan – South America Destination Editor. Follow her on Twitter @MaSovaida.