23 best places to visit in October

When it comes to top travel experiences, bring on October. Golden leaves, reduced fares, empty trails and some of the world’s most spectacularly colourful festivals beckon.

Whether you’re looking to add on an extra layer or jet off in search of the last dregs of summer, we’re sure you’ll find something inspiring in our selection.

If you want to see the full list, keep scrolling. If you know your travel style, click to your chosen section using one of these handy links:

Here are 23 of the best places to visit in October…

The best October destinations for arts and culture

1. Albuquerque, New Mexico

Hot air balloons launching at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (Shutterstock)

For nine days in October, part of the Rio Grande Valley is transformed into dreamscape, thanks to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – the largest hot air balloon festival in the world.

From dawn until dusk, balloons of all shapes and colours fill the sky as festival-goers’ necks crane in amazement. The most popular event is the Special Shape Rodeo, during which animals, rockets and spacemen (not real ones) take to the sky.

2. Fiji

Fijian women performing a traditional Make dance (Shutterstock)

Fiji’s National Day is 10 October. In the week leading up to it, Fiji celebrates its cessation from the British empire, and the nation’s vast ethnic diversity. The run-up is packed with religious and cultural events, and culminates in a large military parade with canon blasts.

On the day itself, Fijians reenact the signing of the Deed of Cessation in period costume from 1874, and hear speeches from the president and others. For a glimpse of the different religions and cultures that make up Fiji’s vibrant tapestry, plan your visit around this week.

This is a good time to visit Fiji for more than the festival. The islands enjoy a nice climate this time of year.

3. Berlin, Germany

Berlin Cathedral illuminated during the festival (Shutterstock)

If you’re looking for an excuse to visit Berlin (aren’t we all?), then why not go for the Berlin Festival of Lights?

Enjoy a city break in Germany’s chic capital, while its iconic monuments in its historic streets are illuminated throughout the evening and night. The cosmopolitan city becomes a stage, using light to tell touching and emotive stories.

The festival is one of the largest light art festivals in the world, showcasing some of Germany’s brightest artists, alongside other global stars.

4. Austin, Texas

Austin City Limits Festival in Zilker Metropolitan Park (Shutterstock)

Head to Zilker Park in Austin, Texas for one of the world’s legendary music festivals: Austin City Limits.

Every year, over 400,000 people descend on the park to attend this iconic festival, offering a wide variety of musical genres: from blues and rock n’ roll to folk and hip-hop.

For many revellers, the food line-up is as eagerly anticipated as the tunes. Austin is a city known for good food, and festival-goers can expect a bounty of Texan classics. Grab a bratwurst from Austin institution Scholz Garten, or some organic Texas meats from Ranch Hand.

5. Dublin, Ireland

Ha Penny Bridge, Dublin (Shutterstock)

The Emerald Isle has long been home to novelists, poets and songwriters. Joyce, Yeats, Wilde and Beckett all called Ireland home, as well as songwriters Van Morrison, Phil Lynott and Bono. Both the Republic’s capital and largest city, Dublin has been a cultural hub for centuries.

The city is alive with activity in October. Kicking things off is Ireland Music Week, a music festival and conference dedicated to new Irish music.

After that, you can catch the end of the Dublin Theatre Festival, which runs from late September into October. If that wasn’t enough, there’s the Bram Stoker Festival, celebrating the spooky and supernatural at the end of the month.

October’s the month to get this city to yourself. As James Joyce writes: “Real adventures… do not happen to people who remain at home: they must be sought abroad.”

6. Alberta, Canada

Jasper Dark Sky Festival (Parks Canada & Ryan Bray/Alberta Tourism)

As the months begin to get darker in the Southern Hemisphere, the night skies get brighter. Jasper National Park in the Canadian province of Alberta takes advantage of this with its spectacular Dark Sky Festival.

The world’s second largest Dark Sky Reserve is extremely accessible thanks to a town located within it. However, little artificial light can be found within the park, making it perfect for stargazing and even spotting the aurora borealis.

Events during the festival involve drone light shows, musical performances from orchestras, science demonstrations and a selection of space experts and speakers to answer your burning questions.

The exciting event also has a strong focus on the indigenous communities who once lived here, with fireside chats with Warrior Women, a sunset ceremony and guided plant walks.

7. The Florida Keys, Florida

All dressed up for Fantasy Fest (Carol Tedesco, Florida Keys News)

The US island city of Key West bursts to life with revellers during its annual Fantasy Fest. Held every October, the festival takes on a different theme every year.

The 10-day celebration invites people to connect with their creative side by dressing up in dazzling costumes and joining in with the many events in this jam-packed festival schedule, including masquerade parties, costume competitions, live music and theatre productions.

The climax of the festival takes places on its final weekend, when thousands gather to watch Fantasy Fest’s lavish grand parade on Whitehead Street and Duval Street. Expect spectacular giant floats, exotic marching bands and plenty of colour.

The best October destinations for good weather and natural beauty

8. Armenia

The ancient Haghartsin monastery is located near the town of Dilijan (Shutterstock)

Armenia’s ‘Golden Autumn’ (as it’s known) stretches from late September until the end of November. It’s a time of incredible colours, with the Tavush region, in particular, erupting in wild splashes of reds and yellows. Be sure to head to Dilijan National Park, where tiny Lake Parz is encircled by a ruff of trees and trails that slink orange-tinged forests to a hilltop medieval monastery. The walk affords the perfect opportunity to soak it all in.

October is also harvest season. This means not only a bounty of fresh food to sample, but a busy time in the vineyards of one of the world

9. Hitachinaka, Japan

Kochia flowers in Hitachi Seaside Park, Hitachinaka (Shutterstock)

If you’re willing to embrace autumn, rather than fight it, then travel to Japan’s Kanto region to see some spectacularly colourful leaves.

Hitachi Seaside Park, a public park in the Ibaraki Prefecture, is famous for two seasons and two flowers. In the springtime, the nemophila flower, also known as ‘baby blue eyes’, is in bloom and paints the hillside a Maya blue. The flowers’ petals obscure all grass so that, on a clear day, the hills might be a reflection of the sky.

In the autumn, the magical kochia flower is the star of the show. This spherical plant sprouts in pom poms all over the hills and turns a vivid shade of crimson.

This natural wonder is all natural, but very intentional: the park’s planners carved a winding path along the hillside and planted an abundance of Kochia flowers on either side.

10. Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech, Morocco (Shutterstock)

If you’re after a bit of hustle and bustle, Marrakech is the place to go. If you don’t want to combat ridiculous heat on top of it, then you’re on to a winner with October.

You’ll benefit from a visit during the shoulder season. Not only are the already-busy streets less blocked with tourists, the oppressive summer heat gives way to a more reasonable climate,

The city also makes a great jumping off point for exploring Morocco’s more natural landscapes. A couple hours’ drive will take you into the Atlas Mountains, where you can enjoy autumnal hikes surrounding the town of Imlil, nestled within Tubkal Valley. Alternatively, Agafay Desert is also easy to reach and offers a variety of unique glamping experiences.

11. Finland

Experience ruska in Finland (Shutterstock)

Up in Finland, they use the word ‘ruska’ to describe the period when the trees start to turn and autumnal colours paint the forests. It’s the Finnish take on the Japanese hanami, as locals escape into the outdoors for that brief period between the long days of summer and the endless night of winter, before the snows come and temperatures plummet.

As a general rule, ruska spreads north to south, with the forests of the Arctic turning in mid-September, while those further south change weeks later, at the start of October. The red maples and golden birch make for bracing companions on a ruskaretki (autumnal walk), with Lapland’s fells around the Saami village of Kilpisjärvi proving particularly popular. To the south, try exploring the Tiilijärvi Lakes Trail in Hollola, which loops around three lakes, some marshes and a hazelnut grove.

12. Ethiopia

The rock-cut churches of Lalibela (Shutterstock)

The rains of Ethiopia’s monsoon season can continue into September, but by the following month they should all have filtered away, leaving the highlands and northern circuit a mass of pristine green baize broken only by broad flourishes of yellow meskel flowers. It’s a great time to go exploring.

Up in the north, the rock-cut churches of Lalibela need little introduction. These medieval pilgrim sites are incredible creations (an attempt to recreate Jerusalem in Ethiopia), but just as interesting are the lush and lesser-seen islands of Lake Tana, where boat trips reveal richly painted, centuries-old monasteries that are still used for worship.

When it comes to walking, treks among the Simien Mountains, home to grazing gelada baboons, are spectacular. Or head south to the central Bale Mountains, where verdant slopes wrapped by low-hanging mists hide rare sightings of the Ethiopian wolf.

The best long-term travel experiences in October

13. Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Pilgrims walking beneath eucalyptus trees on the Camino de Santiago (Shutterstock)

The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage to the shrine of apostle Saint James, located in the grand Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain. Pilgrims have been travelling across the region for over 1,000 years, earning certain routes UNESCO World Heritage status.

Today, the pilgrimage is embarked upon by all kinds of travellers. If not for religious reasons, for self-discovery, personal betterment, or simply the joy of walking.

You may choose your own starting point, but to receive a certificate of completion you will need to walk the last 100km of the journey, so distance is a factor. Where you begin the trek will also be influenced by your route choice. There are a number of established routes to pick from, ranging from 100km to 1,000km. The town of Pamplona is a popular starting point.

October is a good month for this adventure. Established routes will see fewer travellers, and the weather is milder this time of year, resulting in pleasant hiking conditions. It’s not quite as wise to cross the Pyrenees, though, as temperatures on the mountain range can drop below freezing in autumn.

14. Rajasthan, India

Rajasthan by rail (Shutterstock)

Explore India’s largest state and ‘the land of kings’, Rajasthan, by rail. Ride the route from New Delhi to Jaisalmer, stopping off in Jaipur and Jodhpur.

As a passenger riding through this subtropical desert, you’ll traverse seemingly never-ending desert vistas, watch herds of camel pass your window, and see rural communities rarely visited by outsiders. Along the way, marvel at Jaipur’s incredible decorative walls. Enter the Pink City (old town) and explore the royal palace.

You’ll be relying on your train, so make sure you’re riding comfortably – if you can afford it. The Indian Railway sell eight classes of ticket, from unreserved third class to luxurious, air-conditioned private cabins.

Second class AC is a good compromise. While not too expensive by western rail standards, this class allows the ability to book curtained sleeping bunks, complete with sheets and pillows. This is by no means a luxurious option, but it is a semi-authentic one.

Like other arid or semi-arid destinations on this list, Rajasthan benefits from the coolness of the autumn months.

15. Chilean Patagonia

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile (Shutterstock)

With some of the most dramatic national parks in the world, southern Chile is home to snow-capped blue mountains, lunar-like surfaces, yellow grasslands, cyan glaciers, majestic rivers, cascading waterfalls and more.

October marks the middle of Chile’s spring, on the cusp of Patagonia’s tourist season. Torres del Paine is one of the nation’s busiest parks, but with good reason.

The park is a beautiful display of Chilean Patagonia’s landscape, built around the Cordillera Paine mountain range. Brave the spring’s colder climate to enjoy this park without the crowds, before moving on to the lesser known parks.

16. Guangxi and Yunnan Provinces, China

A fisherman in Guangxi (Shutterstock)

You could spend a lifetime exploring each and every corner of China. So, if you’re planning an October visit, take advantage of the dry season in the Guangxi and Yunnan provinces.

South-west China experiences lower temperatures and much less rainfall from October onwards, making it a perfect time to visit these mountainous, rural regions.

Guangxi is known for its expansive caves, winding rivers and surreal karst formations. The Reed Flute Cave near Guilin, an ancient limestone cave famed for its vast quantity of stalactites and stalagmites, is well worth a visit. Yunnan is home to valleys like the Tiger Leaping Gorge, utterly magical to hike and explore.

17. Queensland, Australia

Brisbane, Australia (Shutterstock)

For a longer, more adventurous trip, fly to Brisbane in Queensland, Australia and work your way up the coast to Cairns in the north of the country.

Chase the sun along Queensland’s tropical west coast and enjoy the vibrant cities, diverse wildlife and picturesque beaches. This is not the hot, dusty Australia many of us think of: Queensland encompasses tropical, subtropical and equatorial climate zones.

October is a comfortable month in this part of the country with balmy days and cool nights. The sea is warm and perfect for water sports. As well as diving in the Great Barrier Reef, try kayaking and paddle-boarding – it should be easy to rent equipment up and down the coast.

While shorts and tees are acceptable, pack a light jacket and a pair of trousers. After a long, slow day on a sun-kissed beach, a loose pair of jeans will allow you to explore Queensland’s cities comfortably in the evening breeze.

The best October destinations for wildlife watching

18. Madagascar

Lemur Catta in Madagascar (Shutterstock)

December to March constitutes the rainy season in Madagascar, so your best bet is to visit during the local spring months. October hits the sweet spot, just as the island is warming up.

Expect a peachy average high of 26°C and a sea temperature of 25°C. The coastal waters are bright turquoise and dead calm, perfect for snorkelling.

A large tropical island with a relatively low population density, Madagascar is home to a diverse set of wildlife. To most of the world however, the island is recognised as the home of one creature in particular: the ring-tailed lemur.

Ring-tailed lemurs give birth in September and carry their young for the first few weeks. The pups (yes, pups) cling to the hair on their mother’s backs as they scamper around the forest. If that isn’t worth seeing, we don’t know what is.

19. Sweden

A female moose in the Swedish countryside (Shutterstock)

Trek to central Sweden to spot moose! Mooses? Mice? – The Swedes call them älg.

As a nation Sweden has the highest moose population per kilometer squared, however spotting them in the wild can be exceedingly difficult. So, it’s a trip suited best to the experienced animal tracker.

There are roughly 300,000 to 400,000 moose in Sweden, depending on the time of year. They’re extensively hunted in winter, keeping the spring population around the 400,000 mark.

The end of September and beginning of October is mating season. The bulls bellow loudly to attract a mate and if successful, will breed with several cows. This is the best time to see Sweden’s national animal as the bulls’ ostentatious behaviour make them easier to locate.

If you want to hedge your bets, there’s a moose safari company offering tours, with at least one successful sighting documented every year since 2003.

20. Madhya Pradesh, India

Spot tigers at Satpura National Park (Alamy Stock Photo)

With the monsoon rains consigned to yet another year, wildlife parks all across India reopen in October, having been closed for much of the summer season (Jul–Sep). A handful typically throw open their gates in the first week, but you usually have to wait until the middle of the month for the rest to follow.

There are pros and cons to this time of year. While the fresh greenery can make wildlife sightings harder (since the tall grasses and bushes haven’t yet burnt off), the lush scenery makes for better pictures when you do spot something. With that in mind, make the most of the new growth in Madhya Pradesh’s Satpura National Park on a walking safari – the only one in India.

Even if the bigger animals (tiger, leopard, sloth bear, etc) likely prove elusive, you will still have nature to draw upon as you stroll the dense sal and teak jungles, wander riverside meadows and learn the names of flowers and trees as you explore on foot with a naturalist guide.

21. Cambodia

A Sun Bear (Shutterstock)

Encompassing the Gulf of Thailand coastline, the Mekong Delta and the Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia is home to an abundance of wildlife.

The nation is currently seeing various large-scale conservation efforts take place, after years of civil war, illegal deforestation and poaching took a significant toll on indigenous animal populations.

Tragically, the Indochinese Tiger, once native to Cambodia, is believed to be extinct, against a wider trend of tiger population decline on the Asian continent.

While a lot of its animals are endangered or on conservation lists, Cambodia is still home to many fascinating species, including the sun bear, leopard cat, river dolphin and elephant.

Make sure your trip to see them supports sustainable tourism. Koh Kong Wildlife Release Centre (in the province of the same name), for example, is in excellent choice.

The centre offers one to three day experiences, allowing you to see Cambodia’s creatures up close and personal. The centre receives rehabilitated animals that have been rescued from traffickers and poachers and release them into the wild.

22. Churchill, Manitoba

A Churchill polar bear (Shutterstock)

Touted as the polar bear capital of the world, Churchill is an extremely remote town situated on the Hudson Bay coast in northern mainland Canada.

There are no roads in or out of the 900-strong community, only a train that departs Winnipeg thrice weekly and takes about 48 hours in total. Luckily for polar bear enthusiasts, you can fly to a nearby airport by plane or helicopter fairly regularly.

The town sees a high amount of polar bear activity thanks to its position beside the bay on the Hudson Plains. The world’s largest land predators migrate through the region when the Hudson’s ice melts in the summer. The bears return to the coast in the autumn and wait for the bay to freeze over again.

Because of the migration, Churchill’s inhabitants frequently find themselves living alongside the mammals. Stories of polar bears roaming the streets and tapping on windows are common, and allegedly, the town enforces a law against locking car doors – in case a passerby needs to escape from a rogue bear.

October is the best time to see polar bears here, as they’ve returned to the coast but are not yet able to pass through onto the ice.

While polar bears are usually solitary animals, they often group together during the wait, presenting the opportunity to see multiple bears at once. Tours operate using large, raised tundra vehicles – although you may not need to leave town to spot one.

23. Zambia

Hippos in Busanga Plains (Alamy Stock Photo)

During the wet season, heavy downpours turn the Busanga Plains, in the north of Kafue National Park, into a giant wetland that is only accessible as the floodwaters begin to recede in June.

For five months only, it offers up wild safari encounters. It’s possible to spot red lechwe bounding among the dambos (shallow wetlands), spy over 500 species of bird, catch incredible lion sightings and catch rare glimpses of cheetah in this part of Africa. It’s not dubbed the mini Serengeti for nothing.

October is the last month that the rains hold off and the camps stay open, with wildlife easier to spot among the drier bush. There aren’t an abundance of stays, but look out in particular for the nest-like pods of Chisa Busanga Camp, which are unlike anything else. You can also take hot air balloon tours over the plains just as the dawn mists are evaporating.

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1. Go wild in Argentina

Iguazu Falls seen from the Argentinian National Park (Shutterstock)

Tango the night away in Buenos Aires, tuck into an enormous steak and encounter rare wildlife in Argentina’s little-visited north-east, on this South American adventure with Wildlife Worldwide.

After a whistle-stop tour of Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, you’ll travel to the beautiful open spaces of the vast Iberá wetland to explore the wetlands and savannah by boat and on foot (or on horseback, should you wish).

You’ll visit the thundering waters of Iguazu Falls before continuing to the dense, pristine rainforest of Yacutinga, where guided nature walks and boat trips will show you some of the area’s resident wildlife which includes the rarely seen jaguar and ocelot.

Type: Tailor-made

When: Mar to Apr & Sep to Dec

How long: 12 days

How much: From £3,045 (exc. flights)

2. Trek the High Caucasus in Georgia

The trek from Omalo to Shatili through the Atsunta Pass (Shutterstock)

Venture deep into the heart of Georgia on this classic trek through the mountains and villages of the remote Caucasus Mountains, with KE Adventure Travels.

From the capital Tbilisi, you’ll head north to Mount Kazbek, the starting pointfor a trek that will see you walk across the Abudelauri, Tsubrovana and Borbalo passes and deep into the remote Khevsureti range. Crossing open ridges, with far-reaching views, you’ll descend through flower-filled mountain pastures into steep-sided and forested valleys, to the fortified medieval villages Mutso and Shatili.

This is Georgia’s most traditional region, so expect animist shrines, friendly villages, hidden churches and impressive stone-built defensive towers. You’ll quickly see why Georgia is one of the most exciting trekking destinations in Europe.

Type: Small group

When: Jul & Aug

How long: Nine days

How much: £1,175 (exc. flights)

3. Walk amongst the wildlife in South Luangwa

Walking with elephants in South Luangwa (Exodus)

Stay in exclusive luxury bush camps and encounter Africa’s wild life at eye level, on this extraordinary walking safari in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park with Exodus.

South Luangwaboasts over 9,000 sq km of untouched wilderness, oxbow lagoons and riverine vegetation. Led by expert guides, you’ll enjoy a variety of walking safaris, encountering elephants, buffalos, hippos, zebras and giraffes, as well as lion and hyena.

If you’re lucky, you may even spot the park’s most famous resident: the leopard. And because your money goes further in Zambia, you’ll spend each evening relaxing in some of the most luxurious bush camps in Africa.

Who: Exodus

Type: Small group

When: Oct

How long: 10 days

How much: From £4,669 (exc. flights)

4. Enjoy the best of Turkey

Fairy chimneys near Çavuşin Town in Cappadocia (Shutterstock)

From glittery azure seas to ancient ruins and the otherworldly landscape of Cappadocia, Turkey is the affordable destination that offers it all. You’ll get to enjoy all the best bits of this nine-day Turkish adventure with Peregrine.

It’s an action-packed journey that will see you travel from bustling Istanbul to the clear coastal waters and ancient cities of the Bodrum Peninsula and then on to the lunar landscapes of Cappadocia.

Along the way, you’ll explore ancient Roman cities with knowledgeable guides, catch the night train from Izmir to Konya, relax aboard a traditional gulet, swim in ridiculously blue seas, try your hand at making Manti (Turkish ravioli), and learn how to play backgammon like a local.

Type: Small group

When: Apr to Jun & Aug to Nov

How long: Nine days

How much: From £975 (exc. flights)

5. Welcome to budget-friendly Iceland

Seljalandsfoss waterfall as the sun sets (Shutterstock)

Iceland is not a cheap country to visit, but with the pound actually getting stronger against the Icelandic krona, there hasn’t been a better time to visit. This affordable five-day tour with Tucan Travel will ensure you see the best bits, without breaking the bank.

After enjoying the many attractions of Reykjavik, you’ll head into Iceland’s ethereal countryside, experiencing the magic of the Blue Lagoon, marvelling at the mesmerising beauty of the Seljalandsfoss waterfall and encountering the wide, wild spaces that Iceland is famous for.

Type: Group

When: Regular departures throughout the year

How long: Five days

How much: From £689 (exc. flights)

6. Discover the wonders of Uruguay

The cobbled streets of Colonia (Shutterstock)

Often overlooked in favour of its more famous neighbours, Uruguay is an undiscovered Latin American treat. And on this incredibly affordable six-day tour with Evaneos, led by a knowledgeable and passionate local guide, you’ll discover the best of its beautiful beaches, hills, farmlands and an authentic gaucho culture.

You’ll explore the charming UNESCO-listed village of Colonia, famous for both its Spanish and Portuguese architecture, discover both old and new Montevideo and kick back on the famous beaches of Punta Del Este.

Along the way you’ll encounter incredible hospitality, extraordinary food and wine and the unique landscapes of South America’s best kept – and most affordable – secret.

Who: Evaneos

Type: Tailor-made

When: Flexible departures throughout the year

How long: Six days

How much: From £480 (exc. flights)

7. Get to know Ghana

Sunset on a Ghanaian beach (Shutterstock)

Ghana is one of the most budget-friendly places in Africa for Brits. This eight-day tour with TravelLocal is designed to introduce you to its incredible people and culture.

Over the course of a week, you’ll get a real feel for rural village life in the coastal savannah, gain insight into the important history of the Ashanti Kingdom and learn about the thought-provoking history of the transatlantic slave trade.

You’ll visit the craft villages around Kumasi, and witnessing wood carving, the production of glass beads and a variety of cloth making, before ending your trip relaxing on a palm-fringed beach, regarded as one of the most beautiful in Africa.

Type: Tailor-made

When: Flexible departures throughout the year

How long: Eight days

How much: From £940 (exc. flights)

8. Cycle Colombia

Cocora Valley near Salento, Colombia (Shutterstock)

Having put its troubled past behind it, Colombia is emerging as one of the most exciting – and affordable – destinations in Latin America. On this cycling adventure with Intrepid, you’ll get to see the country up close and at a pace in tune with the Colombian lifestyle.

It’s a journey that will see you cycling through steamy jungle scenery, coffee plantations and colonial towns nestled in verdant hills.

You’ll have plenty of time out of the saddle, too, learning how to roast the perfect blend during a tour of a working coffee plantation, trying your hand at tejo (an explosive local pastime), and hiking through the Cocora Valley, home to hummingbirds and the world’s tallest palm trees.

Type: Small group

When: Jun to Sep & Nov to Feb

How long: Eight days

How much: From £1,350 (exc. flights)

9. Lemurs on a budget

A ring-tailed Lemur in Madagascar (Shutterstock)

Join World Expeditions on this action-and-value packed adventure through the national parks of Madagascar.

Separated from Africa millions of years ago, Madagascar has its own unique cargo of endemic plants and animals. Lemurs are probably the country’s most fabled creatures, but it’s range of spectacular chameleons are iconic, too.

You’ll take in the full diversity of Madagascar’s landscapes and animals explore a spectacular collection of the island’s national parks, including the Isalo, Andringitra and Ranomafana National Parks.

And after your daily wildlife adventures, you’ll sleep incomfortable hotels and tented accommodation, combining the best of local style and French colonial charm.

Type: Small group

When: Mar to Oct

How long: 11 days

How much: From £1,286 (exc. flights)

More budget-friendly tours:

9 incredible things you must do in Madagascar

1. Look out for lemurs

A lemur hanging from a tree in Andasibe-Mantadia National Park (Shutterstock)

Chances are, the main reason you’re going to Madagascar is to see lemurs in the wild. These charismatic, intelligent animals are endemic to the island and nearly 100 different species and sub-species of lemur can be found.

The island’s national parks offer your best chance, with many of them criss-crossed with trails and guides to help you see a lemur or two. Andasibe-Mantadia National Park is closest to the capital and has a large population of indri, the largest lemur.

You’ll hear their distinctive call from miles away.Ranomafana is another popular park, offering rich and diverse wildlife as well as rare sightings of greater bamboo lemur and golden bamboo lemur.

Head to Berenty Reserve for guaranteed sightings of brown lemurs, ring-tails and sifakas. It’s where all the TV documentaries film. The community-run Anja Reserve is home to several troops of cheeky ring-tailed lemurs.

2. Drive through the Avenue of Baobabs

A zebu wagon makes its way through the Avenue of Baobabs (Shutterstock)

Madagascar is home to six types of endemic baobab trees, the largest of which grow 30m high and 14m in diameter.

They’re an intrinsic part of the country’s landscape, particularly in the drier south, and in the past local people relied on them for food and water. Locals call baobabs the ‘tree of life’, and even today these strange bulbous trees remain in Malagasy folklore and beliefs.

The most impressive and photogenic stand of baobabs lines the rutted red dirt road between Morondava and Belon’i Tsiribihina in western Madagascar.

Known as the ‘Avenue of Baobabs’, it is lined either side with giant baobabs, some believed to be over 800 years old. It is a striking sight, especially at sunrise and sunset, and as iconic to the country as lemurs. Indeed, plans are underway for the avenue to become Madagascar’s first official natural monument.

3. Find your perfect Indian Ocean beach

A beach in north east Madagascar (Shuttertstock)

As you’d expect of an island anchored in the azure waters of the Indian Ocean, Madagascar is blessed with its fair share of beautiful beaches.

Being a rather large island, with over 5,000km of coastline, it offers beaches of all different kinds: some deserted and remote, others better suited for aquatic activities like surfing and kite-surfing.

The north-east coast around Île Sainte-Marie offers palm-fringed stretches of white sand, secluded coves and turquoise, clear waters. Nosy Be, in the north west, is just as beautiful and offers a more tropical vibe, particularly in the idyllic beaches of Ambatoloaka and Ambondrona. The Mitsio Archipelago is known as the ‘Maldives of Madagascar.’ Take your pick.

For something a bit more authentic try Anakao, a fishing village, complete with colourful boats. It has a stunning white sandy beach and crystal clear waters perfect for snorkelling. Or Manafiafy, on the south coast, with tree-lined bays many tourists don’t go to. Tôlanaro, also in the south, offers reliable swells for surfing and kite-surfing.

4. Walk through a stone forest in Tsingy de Bemaraha

Crossing a suspension bridge in Tsingy de Bemaraha (Shutterstock)

Created 200 million years ago when the limestone seabed was pushed upwards, Tsingy de Bemaraha is an otherworldly landscape of jagged karsts, sharpened by erosion and time.

In Malagasy, tsingy means the ‘place where one cannot walk’. Looking across the spiky forest of stone, you can immediately see what they mean.

Getting to Tsingy de Bemaraha is not easy. Access is by a dirt road that turns into an impassable quagmire during the wet season. But when you do, the rewards are immense.

A comprehensive set of aerial suspension bridges, steel cables, pegs and ladders take you deep into the ‘forest’ – with a trained guide and all the proper safety equipment, of course. The surrounding reserve is home to a plethora of truly unique reptiles, birds and plants, as well as 11 lemur species exclusive to the park.

5. Explore the hills of Tana

Haute-Ville in Antananarivo (Shutterstock)

When you first arrive in the capital, Antananarivo, you could be forgiven for thinking it is another dusty and chaotic African city. The transport hub is centred in the lower part of the city, next to Analakely: a sprawling, chaotic market where everything you can imagine is bought and sold.

But Tana, as the locals call it, is a city built on hills. And like the Malagasy royalty and French colonialists before you, you should take to them – particular the district of Haute-Ville.

Here the noise abates, air seems clearer and the streets are lined with beautiful colonial buildings built by the French. It is here you’ll find the city’s art galleries and museums, as well as its best cafes and restaurants.

6. Ride the rails from Fianarantsoa to the coast

Buying bananas on the journey to Manakara (Shutterstock)

The years since independence have not been kind to Madagascar’s railways. Most have fallen into disrepair and abandoned as economic hardship hit.

One line, however, continues to rattle on, a rickety track from Fianarantsoa in the highlands to Manakara on the coast. Riding it is one of the most thrillingly authentic things you can do on Madagascar.

Cobbled together with whatever rolling stock is working at the moment, the train ride is not particularly comfortable, even in first class. It’s not that fast either. It can take between 12 to 24 hours to cover the 163km to the coast.

But along the way you pass through some of Madagascar’s most beautiful scenery and get a rare insight into communities where the train is the only link to the outside world. There are 18 stops along the way, each one theatrical, as goods are loaded and unloaded and hawkers offer you all kinds of local treats to eat and drink.

If you’re feeling brave, the driver allows a handful of passengers to sit at the front of the engine for an exhilarating, theme park style rollercoaster ride through the Madagascan forest.

7. Enjoy a world of flavours in every meal

A Malagasy woman preparing vanilla (Shutterstock)

Madagascar has been a cultural and trading crossroads for centuries and that can be seen in its food. Every dish hints of far-flung flavours, whether than be French, Indonesian, Indian, African or Middle Eastern. Whether you eat from a roadside stall, a small hotel or restaurant, your tastebuds are in for a treat.

Breakfast in Haute-Ville, for example, could see you enjoying French coffee and pastries. For a mid-morning snack, try koba, a popular street food consisting of banana, peanut and rice paste wrapped in a banana leaf casing.

Kabaro, made from curried lima beans and coconut, is a light and tasty lunch. Keep plenty of space for romazava, a traditional beef stew with green vegetables, onions and an array of spices, served with rice. It’s regarded as Madagascar’s national dish.

On the coast, fresh seafood dominates the menu. And every meal should be accompanied with the local Three Horses Beer, or if you’re feeling brave, a shot of the local firewater made from burnt rice water called ranonapango.

8. Dive Madagascar’s beautiful seas

A humpback breaching in Madagascar (Shutterstock)

Madagascar is a fantastic place to dive, whether you’re an experienced diver or just starting out. The south west boasts the world’s third largest coral reef system, home to over 6,000 marine species, and the waters around Nosy Be and other islands in the north offer good visibility, perfect for snorkelling.

It’s Madagascar’s aquatic visitors that make it a truly remarkable underwater destination. Whale sharks visit Madagascar between September to December, gathering to feed on blooming plankton off the islands of the north west. They can easily be spotted from the surface.

From July to September, you’ll spot humpbacks, gathering in numbers off north-eastern island Île Sainte-Marie. They gather here to mate and give birth before returning to Antarctica. An incredible underwater experience.

9. Hike Isalo National Park

Sunset at La Fenetre in Isalo National Park (Shutterstock)

Located in the south-central part of the country, Isalo National Park is a wild land of cliffs, ravines, gorges, and canyons that is perfect for hiking.

Considered scared by the Malagasy Bara people, who bury their dead in the caves high in the gorges, the park is also teeming with endemic flora and fauna. It’s not unusual to come across a troop of lemurs grazing here, too. They remain relatively unafraid of humans.

The park offers hikes of varying difficulty.Exploring the Canyon des Makis is a relatively flat and easy walk.

The trek to the beautiful Piscine Naturelle involves a hike up the massif wall, making a walk in the cool water all the more refreshing. Only fit hikers should consider the walk across the massif from the Piscine Naturelle to the Cascade des Nymphes.

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