5 unmissable travel experiences in October

These are the places where you want to be this month.

By Starlight Williams
Published 28 Sept 2019, 08:00 BST
Pilots prepare their balloons to ascend shortly after dawn at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
Pilots prepare their balloons to ascend shortly after dawn at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
Photograph by Starcevic, Getty Images

Pumpkin-flavoured treats, harvest celebrations, and haunted happenings make the month of October the perfect time to explore the world. Whether you’re seeking high-flying adventures in the American Southwest or soaking in the sun on Spain’s Mediterranean coast, here’s what to see and do in October. 

Toronto, Canada

Why go now: Contemporary art takes over the city for one night October 5

After sampling Toronto’s distinctive flavours at the historic St. Lawrence Market and exploring the bustling neighborhoods of Cabbagetown, Kensington Market, and Little Italy via streetcar, watch the “city within a park” transform into a contemporary art playground during Nuit Blanche Toronto. From sunset to sunrise, nearly 90 projects created by more than 300 local, national, and international artists fill the streets for the 14th annual art walk. Though a one-night experience, nine extended art projects will remain on display through October 14.

Tarragona, Spain

Why go now: People climb to new heights at the Concurs de Castells festival October 5–6

Detour from ever-popular Barcelona to Tarragona, a seaside city brimming with UNESCO-listed sites, sweeping views of Spain’s Mediterranean coast, and Catalan heritage. In October, avid fans hold their breath as teams from around the world soar to unfathomable heights creating human towers or castells—a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The festival also features live music and traditional dance performances. 

Members of the Castellers de Barcelona build a human tower during the 27th annual Concurs de Castells.
Photograph by Maja Hitij, Getty Images

Lyon, France

Why go now: The Vogue des Marrons celebrates 150 years October 5–November 11

A smorgasbord of fine dining, historical sites, trendy storefronts, and pulsating nightlife, Lyon—founded more than 2,000 years ago—is an epic adventure waiting to be explored. This fall, the Lyonnais celebrate the 150th anniversary of Vogue des Marrons, a month-long festival celebrating the first hot chestnuts and white wine of the season. Embrace your inner child as you run through haunted houses, snap photos with the Vogue des Marrons mascot, and munch on roasted chestnuts.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Why go now: The world’s largest hot-air balloon festival takes flight October 5–13

As the temperatures begin to drop, October is one of the best times to explore Albuquerque’s rich Native American and Spanish heritage, which influences its Southwestern art and food scene. This is also the time to see the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the world’s largest annual gathering of hot-air balloons. From traditional to alien-shaped, more than 500 balloons sail through the sky, and, as evening falls, eight teams from around the world compete in the America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race to see who has traveled across the longest distance in a helium-filled balloon. Musical performers such as country star Justin Moore provide the soundtrack. 

Namibia, Africa

Why go now: Look to the cosmos for Orionids meteor shower October 21–22

Between trekking through silky sand dunes and spotting drowsy desert animals such as oryx, bat-eared foxes, and Burchell’s zebras, taking a safari into the Namib desert can be an unforgettable experience. But night is when the desert truly comes alive. Before letting the sandman whisk you away, watch as the Orionids meteor shower lights up the sky with remnants of Halley’s Comet around 2 a.m. 

Starlight Williams is an editorial researcher and writer at National Geographic. Follow her on Twitter @star_lightw and Instagram @starlightwilliams

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