1. Bali, Indonesia
Some would argue there’s never a bad time to visit tropical Bali, but if you must play favourites, October is one of the better months. While technically the beginning of monsoon season, the rains don’t usually start this early, so you can enjoy balmy average temperatures of 27C, cheaper rooms and fewer crowds. Surfers can still catch the end of the big winter swells, and if you’re in a festive mood you’re sorted, as the annual anniversaries of the Bali bombings of 12 October, 2002, and 1 October, 2005, have been transformed into a time for celebration.
Conceived to heal the community and boost the economy, the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival (1-5 Oct – ubudwritersfestival.com) has become one of the world’s most respected literary fests; this year more than 150 writers from over 25 countries will attend. Then it’s down to the island’s premier party town from 7-12 Oct for the Kuta Karnival, which coincides conveniently with the Bali Food Festival. Kick back afterwards at the Balinale (Bali International Film Festival – balinale.com) from 12-18 Oct, or simply sit by the pool with an ice-cold Bintang.
Sarah Reid – Destination Editor for Southeast Asia. Follow her tweets @sarahtrvls.
2. South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
The tail end of Zambia’s dry season is a great time to sink your teeth into the ultimate safari experience. Months of unbroken blue skies over South Luangwa National Park – one of Africa’s most wildlife-packed parks – have reduced water sources to a minimum, forcing great numbers of animals to congregate around the Luangwa River.
And there is no better way to observe the ensuing dramas along the dwindling ribbon of the river than on foot. Legendary guide Norman Carr pioneered walking safaris here in the 1950s, and South Luangwa is still renowned for them. Guides now spend years learning the intricacies of every species, large and small, to keep you safe and entertained. Daytime temperatures are at their peak (a degree or two above 30C), but evenings are pleasant.
Matt Phillips – Destination Editor for sub-Saharan Africa. Follow his tweets @Go2MattPhillips.
3. Virginia, USA
North America seems to go through a personality transplant in October, when its forests turn fierce shades of red and yellow. In Virginia, you can experience the splendour of fall on one of the nation’s most spectacular road trips – the Skyline Drive – which runs for 105 jaw-dropping miles along the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The whole route only takes a few hours, but don’t miss out on a chance to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail or spot Whitetail deer and wild turkeys on a pony trek.
After all that fresh air, it’s time for some soul-warming mountain music. Virginia is at the heart of the bluegrass and country music region, and at the newly opened Birthplace of Country Music Museum (birthplaceofcountrymusic.org) in Bristol, you can visit the place where the likes of the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers first recorded their ‘old-time’ music. Next stop, the music bars of Floyd and Galax, for a jig with the locals to the sound of frenetic fiddles and banjo-players. Just don’t forget your tap shoes.
Dora Whitaker – Destination Editor for Eastern USA. Follow her tweets @dorawhit.
4. Istanbul, Turkey
The busy summer season of this perennially popular city has tailed off by October. You’ll still share top sights like the Topkapı Palace and Aya Sofya with other tourists, but queues are shorter and accommodation cheaper. But why not take advantage of the quiet to get to know modern Istanbul, exploring neighbourhoods beyond Sultanahmet?
Head to Beyoğlu, the city’s eating, drinking and entertainment hub, to socialise, see and be seen. For top people-watching, the route from Taksim Meydanı (Taksim Sq) along İstiklal Caddesi is a popular promenade for young İstanbullus, with plenty of eating and drinking options in the surrounding streets. A short walk away, Karaköy, and specifically the streets between the Galata Bridge and Tophane, is undergoing a rapid revitalisation, with hipster hangouts such as Karabatak and Unter at the forefront. Alternatively, Beyoğlu is also home to some of the city’s most adventurous art spaces, including the İstanbul Modern, SALT Beyoğlu and SALT Galata, which is worth visiting just for the fantastic views from its rooftop restaurant.
Jo Cooke – Destination Editor for Iberian Europe and Turkey. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaCooke1.
5. Bagan, Myanmar
Monsoon season in Myanmar (Burma) typically keeps the crowds at bay, but this is one of the best times to be in Bagan. October sees the end of the heaviest rains so, while you’re still likely to get damp, you’ll see more lush greenery and much less dust – perfect for exploring the 3000 plus Buddhist temples scattered across the Bagan plains.
Wander around the 9th-century city wall of Old Bagan, then venture into the surrounding areas by bicycle to marvel at the temples and remains – most dating from between the 11th and 13th centuries. Don’t miss Ananda Pahto and its shimmering 51m-high stupa pinnacle, or beautiful Shwezigon Paya, lit up as daylight fades. Relax on a boat trip down the Ayeyarwady River. Or, for the most unforgettable views without the legwork, take a hot-air balloon ride at sunrise.
Laura Crawford – Destination Editor for Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and the Philippines. Follow her on Twitter @crawfplanet.