October is an opportune time to travel: fewer crowds and moderate temperatures make for perfect conditions in many regions around the globe.
Throw in a multitude of weird and wonderful festivals, bizarre sporting events and an alpaca or two and you have yourself a true adventure. Our destination experts are here to help you choose your October expedition.
Watch the world’s longest river raft race in Peru
Smack in the middle of austral spring, October is a great time to visit Peru. Shoulder season sees smaller crowds at the famed Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, allowing visitors to bask in its dizzying grandeur (and snap that iconic pic of Wayna Picchu) with a bit more elbow room. Drier weather during this time of year also makes for good rainforest trekking and wildlife-watching in the Amazon Basin.
In early October, the longest raft race in the world flows between Nauta and Iquitos. The Great Amazon River Raft Race (GRARR) began in 1999 as a one-day, 19-km event that drew only locals. In 2006 the course was extended to encompass a 180-km stretch of the Amazon River, granting the now three-day affair Guinness World Record status.
Teams of up to four rafters come from all corners of the globe to compete in the annual event. Each team must construct their own craft from eight balsa wood logs and other supplied materials before taking to the rushing waters in hopes of beating the current record finishing time of 12 hours and 19 minutes, set in 2008 by a team from the USA.
MaSovaida Morgan – Destination Editor for South America. Follow her tweets @MaSovaida.
Enjoy feasts and festivities in Cork, Ireland
Cork is Ireland’s second city and a thoroughly enjoyable place to visit at any time of year, its energy and enthusiasm for life’s finer things balanced by a fascinating history. Great food (especially beef, lamb, seafood and cheese) and lively pubs are a big part of any visit, and you can spend many contented hours browsing the famous English Market and ambling between bars – Murphy’s and Beamish originated here, and the Franciscan Well Brewery offers fine craft beer.
Cork likes a party, and autumn sees its folk (29 September-2 October) and jazz (28-31 October) festivals take over concert halls, back rooms and bar stools across town. The jazz festival offers big rock and dance acts as well as more purist fare, while folk music’s sense of history and loss keys into this part of the country’s role as a place of departure. Millions of Irish men and women left for new lives from the nearby ports of Kinsale and Cobh, and Cobh was Titanic’s last stop before it set off into the North Atlantic.
Cork, Cobh and Kinsale are all great to explore on foot, offering river walks, forts and stunning views out to sea, where you can gaze and ponder the passing of so many people, a feeling of wonder mixed with melancholy that seems utterly autumnal.
James Smart is Destination Editor for Britain, Ireland & Iceland. Follow his tweets @smartbadger.
Have fall festival fun in New Orleans, USA
With the intense heat and humidity of summer starting to recede, October is the perfect time to visit New Orleans. The city is less crowded than in the summer months but the cultural offerings still abound for locals and visitors alike. The month begins with the second annual Treme Fall Fest (tremefest.com), a celebration of this historic community, the nation’s oldest African American neighborhood. The festival includes local music and food offerings, as well as a children’s festival.
12-20 October sees the New Orleans Film Festival (neworleansfilmfestival.org), in its 27th year, showcasing films from local, regional and international filmmakers. The end of October is a particularly fun time to visit New Orleans, when the Halloween vibe really amps up the gothic charm of the city. The premier event is the LGBT community’s Halloween New Orleans (halloweenneworleans.com), a four day extravaganza that benefits Project Lazarus, a nonprofit residential home for men and women with AIDs in the city. All proceeds from the festival go to funding the work that Project Lazarus does throughout the year. The event includes club nights, a costumed parade (this year’s theme is pirates!), and a second line parade and jazz brunch.
The Voodoo Music and Arts Experience (voodoofestival.com) is the last big music event of the year, and probably the most comfortable one to attend, weather-wise. This year’s headliners include Tool, Arcade Fire, Band of Horses and Foals, all taking place in City Park. Food from some of New Orleans’ best chefs and large scale art installations are dotted around the park for the duration of the festival.
Rebecca Warren is Destination Editor for Eastern USA. Follow her tweets @RebeccaGWarren.
Go boho in Bulgaria’s southwestern mountains
With cool but pleasant days, October is a great time to explore the southwestern mountains of Bulgaria.
Start in Plovdiv, the ancient city on seven hills that’s packed with art galleries, bohemian cafes and impressive 19th-century architecture, and offers an engrossing stroll through history. Head west to revered Rila Monastery, tucked in a valley in the eponymous mountains. Ponder spiritual matters as you admire the colourful frescoes and take a tranquil walk through a 1000-year-old birch forest to nearby St Ivan Rilski’s cave.
For epicurean highs, move south to Melnik, a tiny village of grand National Revival-style houses overlooked by imposing sandstone pyramids – hike the cliffs for serene sunset views. This is the centre of Bulgaria’s wine production: try its signature strong red (and Winston Churchill’s favourite), Shiroka Melnishka Loza, and check out the enormous cellar of Kordopulov House, a former wine merchant’s home.
Take the cool route back north and meet some authentic local characters on the narrow-gauge railway ride from Bansko to Septemvri through striking mountain scenery.
Brana Vladisavljevic is Destination Editor for Southeastern and Eastern Europe. Follow her tweets @branavl.
Experience Dussehra in Kullu, India
For most of the year, the Indian mountain town of Kullu snoozes quietly in the foothills of the Himalaya, visited mainly as a waypoint en route to Manali and the desert valleys of Ladakh. In October, however, the town bursts into life for one of India’s most high spirited Dussehra celebrations, celebrating the victory of good over evil.
Pilgrims gather from across Himachal Pradesh and India to commemorate the victory of the Hindu god Rama over the demon king Ravana with a week of fairs, parades and honking temple horns. More than 200 temple deities from temples around the Kullu and Parvati valleys are mounted into palanquins and paraded around the city, accompanied by hordes of enthusiastic devotees.
Huge marquees are set up, full of food stalls, market traders and religious displays. The fair also features a huge funfair, with some high-octane, but slightly precarious-looking rides, including an old-fashioned wall of death. Accommodation is thin on the ground and many people day trip in from Manali or the Parvati valley.
Other riotous Dussehra celebrations take place all over India, with many marked by the burning of huge effigies of Ravana, the demon king of Sri Lanka in the Ramayana scripture. October is also the month for India’s famous festival of lights, Diwali.
Joe Bindloss is Destination Editor for the Indian subcontinent. Follow his tweets @joe_planet.