Some of the world's most popular cities and countries are at their best in October, with smaller crowds and pleasant weather. Here are the best places to go in October.
Fitz Roy Mountain, Patagonia. Photo: Shutterstock
Why you should go: User-friendly, Latin-inflected and sophisticated, Chile has jaw-dropping scenery, from the world's driest desert in the north to the glacier-carved mountains of Patagonia in the south, the food is astonishingly good and the wines will knock your socks off. You'll be there in spring, when the whole country opens its doors, but ahead of the crowds.
Don't miss: Torres del Paine National Park, a wall of 3000-metre peaks rising almost vertically from the glacier lakes and grasslands of southern Patagonia. See it either from a luxury lodge or, better still, on two feet, treading through meadows sprigged with wildflowers against a backdrop of lakes with floating icebergs and forests bisected by glaciers. See chile.travel/en/, traveller.com.au/chile
Santorini, Greece. Photo: Shutterstock
Why you should go: The Greek Islands belong on every bucket list. Sugar-cube houses curled around a gloss-blue sea, olive groves mounting the dry hills behind, cats, geraniums, whiskery old men on donkeys – and every element of this postcard finds its feet in the Cyclades. In October the hordes have gone, prices have dropped, the locals have returned to the cafes, the sun shines gloriously and the Mediterranean is still warm enough for swimming.
Don't miss: Watching the sunset from Oia on Santorini, the most surreal and majestic of all the Greek islands. Beneath your feet is the crescent-moon shape of the caldera, a hunk of crumbling red volcanic rock, ash and white marble left behind when the island exploded in about 1450BC. The landscape is straight from science fiction and somewhere in the blue-black depths of the sea is legendary Atlantis. See visitgreece.gr, traveller.com.au/greece
Umbria, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock
Why you should go: Nowhere else is so abundantly crammed with treasures that testify to the genius of humanity as Italy. It's also a sensual delight, a feast for all the senses, topped off with inspiration for the mind and spirit at every turn. If you need to be reminded just how great it is to be alive, go to Italy. In October the lack of crowds is a bonus.
Don't miss: Eurochocolate, a celebration of the world's favourite sweet treat, held in the city of Perugia from October 19-28 (See inperugia.com/eurochocolate-chocolate-festival/). The hilltop capital of Umbria is also home of the mouth-pleasing morsels known as Baci Perugina, "kisses from Perugia". Take time to explore Umbria, one of the unsung treasures of Italy. In October markets are ablaze with the rich palette of the harvest and attention focuses on that most Umbrian of all the organs, the stomach. See italia.it, traveller.com.au/italy
See also: Italy's secret hill towns
Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. Photo: Shutterstock
Why you should go: Exotic, energetic, culturally diverse and highly photogenic, Vietnam charms like nowhere else. Long and supermodel skinny, the country packs in enormous variety – hilltribe villages carved from forests in the mountainous north, the erupting limestone islands of Ha Long Bay, jade-green rice fields, beach resorts and the lacework of waterways that filigree the Mekong Delta. Throw in bargain-priced shopping and a dazzling cuisine and you have a destination that works hard to please.
Don't miss: Hanoi. The heat has gone, it's the beginning of the dry season and this is the ideal time to take in the colonial architecture in the French quarter, the pagodas, the tree-lined lakes, the museums – and don't miss the city's unique take on coffee and croissants. Shop for silks, porcelain and lacquerware at unbelievable prices and take an overnight cruise on Ha Long Bay, where the scenery might have sprung from a Chinese watercolour. See vietnam.travel/home, traveller.com.au/vietnam
Why you should go: An evolutionary watershed in the history of humankind, Ethiopia belongs to the far reaches of the imagination. The landscapes are epic and include the Simien Mountains, the domain of the gelada baboon and walia ibex, cresting at the 4550-metre peak of Ras Dashen. Medieval castles, ancient obelisks and the semi-nomadic cattle herders in the Lower Omo Valley whose bodies are a canvas for elaborate artworks bear witness to a culture that dates back to the time of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon.
Don't miss: Carved out from solid, rose-coloured rock, so extraordinary are the 12th century churches of Lalibela that legend says they were created with the help of angels, since mere men were not capable. Delicate and monumental, and every bit as captivating as Jordan's Petra, the churches are still the focus for Ethiopia's Christian pilgrims and worshippers, most of whom come dressed in flowing white robes. See ethiopia.travel, traveller.com.au/ethiopia
Oktoberfest in Munich. Photo: AP
Why you should go: One of the most relaxed and likeable of all the German cities, Munich also boasts throttled-back grandeur and beauty that put it among the front ranks of Europe's great cities, helped along by its alpine backdrop. Check out the Kunstareal, the city's art quarter, the English Garden, find out what's on at the city's theatres and galleries and you don't have to be a car nut to appreciate the futuristic BMW Welt.
Don't miss: Oktoberfest. They like a drink in Bavaria, and when they drink they like to eat. Add beer tents, music – oom-pah-pah to rock – lederhosen and waitresses who can heft three full beer steins in each granite hand and you have Oktoberfest. Held from the last week in September until October 7, the world's biggest beer festival draws in some 6 million people, including a fair contingent of Aussies. See munich.travel, traveller.com.au/munich
Why you should go: Tucked away amid the moist green drapery of the rice terraces, Ubud weaves a special spell with its soaring bamboo forests, open-fronted cafes, book shops and antique sellers – a town made for lounging around in. Sylph-like women emerge in the cool of the morning to freshen the pavements with tiny baskets of flowers and if you drive for two minutes from the bridge at the Tjampuhan River there are farmers herding ducks along the road.
Don't miss: Scheduled for October 24-28, Ubud Writers & Readers Festival ubudwritersfestival.com/about/ is a rich and spicy soup of ideas, literary lunches, performers and artful argument with activists, thinkers, performers and commentators in the mix as well as some of the stars of the literary firmament. Since its inception in 2004, this has evolved to become South-East Asia's major festival of words and thoughts. See balitourismboard.org/, traveller.com.au/bali
See also: Ubud, Bali: The three-minute guide
Why you should go: Deep in Spain's south-west, Seville is fiery, full-blooded and packed with history, atmosphere and extravagant architecture. Along with its illustrious Gothic cathedral, the Museum of Fine Arts and the extraordinary Plaza de Espana, absorbing the character of Seville means midnight excursions to the city's bars, strolling the tangled alleys of the Barrio Santa Cruz, a night in a flamenco club and the spectacle of La Maestranza, one of the country's oldest bullrings.
Don't miss: The Alcazar. Now included on the World Heritage list, the fortress-palace was built by the Moorish conquerors from North Africa who made Seville their capital. Although the Alcazar was extensively remodelled by later Catholic rulers, the open courtyards, patios, fountains, colonnades and formal gardens of the Alcazar remain one of the most breathtaking examples of Moorish architecture in all of Spain, with a starring role in Game of Thrones. See visitasevilla.es/en
NEW YORK CITY
Why you should go: New York City is the ultimate urb, with its creative sparkle, capitalist zeal, chutzpah and sheer lust for life. Encompassing just about every facet of the human experience, it's a repository of high culture, and paying homage to its great institutions is essential. NYC is also a city of a million and one experiences – and they're just as likely to strike when you're riding the subway system than standing in front of a Picasso in the Guggenheim.
Don't miss: Fall in nearby New England. As the chlorophyll in their leaves ceases to function, the maples, oaks, beeches and aspens scattered across New England begin a slow burn that increases with steady tempo until they turn molten red in one of the supreme visions of the natural world. Leaf-peeping season, as it's known, brings thousands of worshippers to New England's backroads to gasp at the tapestry that nature provides. See nycgo.com, traveller.com.au/new-york
Why you should go: Part circus, part grand bazaar, part history lesson but mostly a series of chapters from the book of earthly wonders, Marrakesh is a soul-stealing place. A heady fusion of semi-nomadic Berber, Arab and African cultures, it is also a safe and secure Islamic city that lays down the welcome mat for visitors, and it might even change your mind about a few things.
Don't miss: Jemaa el-Fnaa, the great square at the heart of Marrakech. When shadows lengthen, a human tide seeps into the plaza from the souk behind, forming whirlpools around the snake charmers, Koran readers, acrobats, Gnaoua musicians, fortune tellers, dervishes and trance healers who practise their trades by semi-darkness. Sit down for a meal at one of the open-air stalls and expect colour, noise and a fair degree of chaos. See visitmarrakech.com, traveller.com.au/marrakesh