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The end of summer in the northern hemisphere doesn’t have to mean the end of travel for the year. From vibrant natural displays to beer festivals, wild parties and even unexplained fireballs, there are more than enough reasons for the traveler to be cheerful throughout October and November.
And the next couple of months obviously aren’t just about falling leaves and wintry squalls, as the other half of the planet is spinning merrily towards springtime. Which means there’s always the gathering warmth of the southern hemisphere to enjoy… So it’s basically a win-win situation!
1. Catch the Last of the European Sunshine
With September rolling into October, anyone backpacking in Europe should make for the south coast of Crete. With beaches galore, fewer crowds and good off-peak prices, it’s the ideal place to go to catch those last, elusive rays of sunshine before the winter gloom descends on the continent.
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2. Gaze Dreamily at the Falling Leaves
Fall (or autumn) in Vermont, New England is like nowhere else on earth, as the foliage turns into a kaleidoscope of flaming colors. And high up in the Green Mountains – deep in the heart of Robert Frost country – the small town of Ludlow’s a perfect base from which to take it all in.
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3. Drink Beer and Avoid the Crowds
If you really have to get a fix of good, strong German beer, but couldn’t get to this year’s Oktoberfest, then there’s always the Cannstatt Beer Festival in Stuttgart (which runs until October 12). You might even bump into a few stragglers, fresh from drinking Munich dry, to tell you what you missed out on!
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4. See the Light in Nong Khai
The ‘Naga Fireballs’ are an unexplained phenomenon whereby small balls of fire rise out of the Mekong River and high into the air before vanishing again. The dates are unfixed (around the end of the Buddhist festival of Wan Awk Pansa in mid-October) but one thing’s for certain: any traveler in Thailand should try to catch a glimpse of their ethereal beauty.
5. Pull Out all the Sartorial Stops for Fantasy Fest
Fantasy Fest (October 17-26) is when Key West – one of America’s party capitals – decides to get its glitziest glad rags on and let it all hang out for ten days of revelry. Once one of the country’s biggest gay events, it’s now a more mixed affair – but that doesn’t mean it’s lost any of its glorious campiness!
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6. Make for Melbourne in October
The Melbourne International Arts Festival (October 9-26) leaves all other cultural events in Australia standing. A showcase for some of the very best (and most avant-garde) art, theater, cinema, comedy, dance and music, it’s an absolute must for the culturally-inclined backpacker.
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7. Spend Halloween in a Church Made of Bones
Just outside Prague, the town of Kutna Hora is home to a church that’s, well, a little different, containing as it does decorations made from the bones of 40,000 dead people! The church of Sedlec was built in the 16th century, and still has the power to amaze and horrify in almost equal measure.
In Prague itself, meanwhile, the narrow, cobbled streets make for the perfect creepy Halloween destination. There’s even the chance that you might stumble on one of the movie locations for the horror film, Hostel (they were largely divided between Prague and Cesky Krumlov).
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8. Hike the Nishizawa Keikoku
From late October to mid-November, Japan is ablaze with autumnal color – or ‘koyo’. And there are few better places to see it than the Nishizawa Keikoku Valley (about a 90 minute train journey from Tokyo). If the popular trail gets a bit busy, there’s plenty of magnificent hiking to be had elsewhere in the 1250 square kilometers of Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park.
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9. Do the Danse Macabre in Mexico City
Hot on the heels of Halloween is Mexico’s El Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead (November 1-2). Not nearly as gruesome as it sounds, it’s actually a colorful festival full of vibrant – and iconic – imagery, street parades and partying. The reverential processions of the small town of Mixquic (just outside Mexico City), are a good way to catch the more serious side of things.
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10. Take the Road to Damascus
To celebrate the end of Ramadan (November 1-3) the Syrian capital of Damascus explodes into life with Eid al-fitr. For three days, the streets of the ancient city are filled with fireworks, street stalls, music, dancing and general celebrations, as everyone unwinds after a long month of fasting.
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