UPDATED: This article was originally published in July 2018
You’ve decided you want to travel more this year (good on you), but you’re struggling to choose your next destination. Surely there’s an easier way than trawling through endless travel mags and guidebooks for the answers, right? That’s where our ultimate month-by-month travel guide comes in: your easily digestible list of places to visit, things to experience, and amazing weather to chase around the world.
Onto October! Autumn is arriving in the northern hemisphere and spring has well and truly sprung in the south, with festivals popping up the world over. Whether you’ve always wanted to celebrate Halloween in the States, keep an eye out for caimans in the Amazon, tuck into Asian street food in Taiwan, or stand at the ‘Door to Hell’ in Turkmenistan. Here’s your guide for where to travel in October.
Nowhere does Halloween quite like the USA. Costumed trick or treaters take to the streets in their droves, houses are dressed up to the nines and pumpkins are carved to perfection. Spooky celebrations crop up all over the country, including New York’s month-long Sleepy Hollow Halloween and Salem’s Haunted Happenings Festival. So, if you happen to be stateside this October, do your utmost to stick around and get involved in these frightful festivities.
Not keen on Halloween? No worries, as autumn in America is a real sight to behold. With iconic cities like San Francisco, Boston and Chicago turning the most astonishing shades of red, yellow and amber. That’s before even getting to the national parks! As one of the greener spots, views over Yosemite are really special at this time of year. Plus, the thinning crowds and cooler temperatures are fantastic for exploring.
Despite its diverse architecture, intriguing history, impressive scenery, delectable cuisine and charming locals, Armenia remains one of the Caucasus’ best-kept secrets. It has the potential to be bitterly cold in winter and stiflingly hot in summer here, making October a great time to travel. The weather’s dry and whilst the landscape is looking a little weather-beaten after too much sun, the colours created by the autumn leaves make for a stunning spectacle.
Enjoy gawping at wondrous vistas of snow-capped Mount Ararat, a dormant volcano over the border in neighbouring Turkey. Visit the Geghard Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site and possibly the most beautiful religious building in the country. Sample the delicious foods of the Southern Caucasus including stuffed vine leaves and sticky sweet baklava. Plus, don’t miss a chance to sit at the top of the Cascade, a giant stairwell in Yerevan, and watch life in the capital go by.
Often overshadowed by the world-famous Galapagos Islands, mainland Ecuador also has an awful lot going for it. Get your adrenaline coursing in Banos, with plenty of thrill-filled activities to occupy you – from white water rafting to driving a quad buggy to the Devil’s Cauldron waterfall. Spend the day perusing hundreds of stalls at Otavalo Market and haggling for souvenirs with the locals. Or, be enchanted by the Spanish colonial architecture that dominates the quaint city of Cuenca.
Given that Ecuador is located right on the equator (Ecuador actually literally translates as equator), the climate here is pretty reliable year-round. Having said that, October is a good month to stop by if you want to avoid the school holidaymakers. It’s also nice and dry at this time of year, which helps make the Amazon more easily accessible and wildlife less tricky to spot.
Regularly referred to as Asia’s most enticing up-and-coming destination, Taiwan boasts an eclectic mix of cosmopolitan cities, tranquil temples, lush landscapes and more. By October the seasons are changing again, and Autumn is getting underway, bringing with it cooler average temperatures (22-26°C or 71-79°F) after the sizzling summer months. It’s also worth saying that whilst the southwest monsoon has now subsided, the monsoon in the northeast will soon arrive.
Taiwan really does spoil you for choice when it comes to things to see, eat and do. Go biking or kayaking at breath-taking Sun Moon Lake. Follow the Shakadang Trail, a striking 4.4km hike through the Taroko Gorge. Learn about the culture and customs of the indigenous tribes living here. Stuff your face with some of the world’s best street food at one of Taipei’s many bustling night markets, and sip Yuchi black tea at a picturesque plantation.
As the least explored of all the ‘Stans, Turkmenistan persists in being a mystery to many travellers. Its fascinating history spans millennia; from the Bronze Age to the birth of the Silk Road, to recent years spent under the bizarre dictatorship of Saparmyrat Niyazov. Current president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, is slowly opening up the country to welcome interested wanderers but prepare to stray well away from the beaten track here.
Begin your exploration in the nation’s futuristic capital of Ashgabat. You won’t be able to miss the ornate, white marble buildings and golden statues of the president. Aim to visit the Sunday Market too if possible, it’s famous along the Silk Road and stretches far into the desert. Other must-sees include the flaming Darvaza Gas Crater, or Door to Hell, and the ancient ruined city of Kunye Urgech, once one of the prettiest in all Central Asia.
Home to several of the most naturally beautiful places on the planet, Chile is a real landscape lover’s paradise. And October is a brilliant time to see the scenery in all its glory. During the springtime shoulder season, the entire country is beginning to blossom. By booking in October, you’ll also manage to successfully miss the summer holiday masses as well as those damp and drizzly winter days.
If you can bear wrapping up warm, spring in Chilean Patagonia is gorgeous with blue skies and brightly coloured flowers adding to the ambience. It’s also an ideal period for visiting the mind-blowing Atacama Desert, one of the oldest and driest deserts on Earth. Temperatures here are agreeable and the night skies are clear, providing amazing opportunities for stargazing without the crowds.
How can a country that values Gross National Happiness over boring old GDP not make you smile? Answer – it can’t! Bhutan is a mystical and magical place, where 60% of the land is covered in protected national forest and people in white gloves direct traffic. It also adopts a sustainable approach to tourism (a country after our own Intrepid hearts), by actively restricting the number of travellers who visit each year.
October is a fantastic time to drop into Bhutan with crisp, clear, sunny days in abundance. Head to the capital, Thimphu, to wander around the massive Buddhist monastery of Tashichho Dzong. Make your way to Punakha, a Himalayan town, to amble through the Punakha Dzong, a 17th century riverside palace. Before tackling the climb to the world-renowned Tiger’s Nest Monastery, perched high on a cliffside overlooking the Paro Valley.
If it’s a smattering of October sunshine you’re after, look no further than Greece and its idyllic islands. By now the summer crowds have dwindled, the temperatures are moderate, the sun’s still out and there is little chance of rain. Plus, if you’re a real water baby you’ll be pleased to hear that the surrounding Aegean Sea will have reached a balmy 23°C (or 73°F) – no bracing yourself required.
Visit Santorini for stonking sunsets, the historic site of Akrotiri, wineries and remarkable views of the caldera. Mosy around Mykonos for the vibrant nightlife and paradisiacal beaches. Saunter about Sifnos for local pottery workshops, the medieval village of Kastro and the striking white Chrysopigi Monastery. Amble across Amorgos for the cliffside Hozoviotissa monastery and to escape the usual tourist trail. And don’t forget that these are just a small handful of the Greek Islands waiting to be explored.
Right, so there’s one serious reason you should consider going to Germany in October and that’s Oktoberfest! The 16 to 18-day folk festival originated in Munich back in 1811 and is now celebrated with copycat events across the nation. Apart from eating, dancing and drinking beer until your heart’s content, revellers can also enjoy the colourful parades, stomach-churning fairground rides and dressing up in traditional lederhosen.
As you’re here already, be sure to experience several other highlights around the Bavarian capital. Feel regal at the 18th century Nymphenburg Palace, soak up the vibes in Marienplatz and get back to beer at Hofbräuhaus am Platzl, the legendary state-owned beer hall. Don’t miss out on the culture and history of Berlin either, with trips to the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, Alexanderplatz, the graffiti-covered Berlin Wall and more.
Rack your brain for fiction’s scariest character and chances are that images of Bram Stoker’s Dracula will quickly spring to mind. As his “birthplace”, Romania and Transylvania, in particular, know how to do spooky. Peppered with ghost riddled castles, towering gothic churches and isolated medieval towns – there really are few places more atmospheric to spend the Halloween holiday.
It’s probably worth mentioning that temperatures in Romania throughout October can be a little brisker than expected, especially at higher altitudes. But, the autumnal colours will do well to distract you. As the leaves begin to change, they totally transform the look of charming spots like Sighişoara, Viscri, Brasov and Sibiu. Even the tree-lined tramlines in Bucharest get a fiery-coloured makeover.