The end of the bustling summer tourist season kicks off one of the best times of the year to travel. Whether you’re up for adventure, relaxation, or something in between, check out our editors’ list of 10 best fall trips for inspired ideas. —Maryellen Kennedy Duckett
Enchanted Circle Scenic Drive, Taos, New Mexico
Photograph by Terry Thompson, Alamy
From late September through early October, north-central New Mexico’s Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway is a best-of-fall highlight reel. For those beginning and ending the drive in Taos (basically circling the state’s highest point, 13,162-foot Wheeler Peak), the 83-mile loop offers spectacular natural features: golden-hued aspens, thick evergreen forests, and abundant wildlife, including Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. “An early snow can make the spectacle even more amazing,” says Fritz Davis, a local musician and editor of the Red River Miner. “The fall palette of red, orange, and gold beneath distant snowy peaks and around the high mountain lake is breathtaking.” It’s possible to make the drive in a couple of hours, but Davis recommends taking time to explore side roads. One of his favorites is the Route 578 fork off Main Street (Highway 38) in Red River, where the vibrant aspen leaves take on a butterfly shape each fall. “You’ll see either a single butterfly with wings spread wide or, if you’re romantically inclined, two butterflies kissing,” says Davis.
How to Get Around: Begin in Taos and drive clockwise around the loop. From downtown Taos, head north on NM 64/68 to NM 522. Continue north on NM 522 for about 24 miles to Questa and turn right (east) on NM 38. Continue east and then south on NM 38 about 30 miles to Eagle’s Nest. Here, you’ll rejoin NM 64 to complete the circle back to Taos.
Where to Stay: The recently renovated Palacio de Marquesa (formerly Casa de las Chimeneas) is a romantic, pueblo-style retreat. Surrounded by cottonwood trees in a quiet neighborhood, the 1912 adobe estate is within easy walking distance (about ten minutes) of shops, restaurants, and galleries at Taos Plaza. The inn’s eight guest rooms (two of which are suites) are individually appointed to reflect the spirit of a legendary Taos woman artist such as Georgia O’Keeffe and Millicent Rogers. Each room has a fireplace and courtyard access, some have beamed ceilings and skylights, and all include complimentary breakfast, which can be delivered directly to your door.
Where to Eat: At family-owned Hatcha’s Grill of Angel Fire, order an authentic New Mexican dish such as sopaipillas (fried pastries) stuffed with carne adovada (cubed pork in red chile sauce) or a steak and papitas (fried potato) burrito. Eat like a local by asking for it “smothered with Xmas.” Christmas, or Xmas, is a spicy, red-green New Mexico concoction made by blending mild (red) and hot (green) chile sauces.
What to Buy: Find genuine turquoise and sterling silver pendants, rings, cuff bracelets, earrings, and other pieces designed by Native American and other New Mexico artists at the Jewelry Lady Red River in Frye’s Old Town.
What to Read Before You Go: D.H. Lawrence penned parts of his 1927 travel essay collection Mornings in Mexico (Tauris Park Paperbacks, 2009) during the 11 months he lived on his ranch northwest of Taos. Owned by the University of New Mexico (and open to the public through October), the D.H. Lawrence Ranch is located on the Enchanted Circle roughly midway between Taos and Questa.
Helpful Tip: Take it slow and stay alert for changing weather conditions and wildlife on or near the road. Before making the drive, check the weather forecast for the entire route and plan accordingly. Curves on the two-lane route can become slick in wet or snowy conditions, and some sections of the road have little or no shoulders.
Fun Fact: One must-see Enchanted Circle detour is the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, located 12 miles northwest of Taos on U.S. 64 (8 miles west of the NM 522 and NM 150 junction). Completed in 1965 and restored in 2012, the steel bridge is the second highest suspension bridge in the U.S., towering 650 feet above the Rio Grande River. For the most dramatic gorge views, park in the lot at the west end of the bridge and walk (staying on the walkways) out to the center.
White Peacocks and Grand Palazzos: Island-Hopping in Lake Maggiore, Italy
Photograph by Guy Christian, Alamy
September and October
Less than 40 miles separates Lake Maggiore from its glitterati-favorite eastern neighbor, Lake Como. Yet Maggiore and its three main Borromean Islands manage to remain blissfully out of the spotlight. “Lago Maggiore is the real deal,” says Kathy McCabe, editor and publisher of the Dream of Italy travel newsletter. “With lovely coastlines, lush Mediterranean vegetation, and the Alps proudly watching all, the lake doesn't disappoint with its beauty. But it can also be delightfully quirky, no more so than on Isola Bella, where Count Vitaliano Borromeo designed his fanciful palace to resemble a ship.” The lake is a popular summer boating playground, but by early fall the tourist traffic dwindles. A slower pace invites quiet walks along the promenade in the lakeside town of Stresa; strolls through the Isola Bella and Isola Madre gardens, where white peacocks roam; and meandering along the cobblestone alleys of tiny Isola dei Pescatori (Fishermen’s Island), the only Borromean Island with full-time residents. At last count, there were 32.
How to Get Around: The closest airport, Milano Malpensa, is about 30 miles southeast of Stresa, which is on the southwestern shore of Lake Maggiore. From the airport, take the Malpensa Express to Buston Arsizio and transfer to the Domodossola-Milan line to Stresa, where you can use water taxis, private boats, and public ferries to island hop. Purchase a Rover Ticket (available at official ticket agencies such as Tomassucci Travel) for unlimited (single-day) ferry rides between Stresa and the Borromean Islands.
Where to Stay: While it’s not the Isola Bella palazzo, the Grand Hotel Des Iles Borromées in Stresa comes pretty close. Opened on the shores of Lake Maggiore in 1863 and renovated in 2010, the opulent, six-floor hotel has 179 rooms (ask for a lake view), an indoor heated pool, and a fine-dining restaurant (gluten-free menu available). Spend at least one night on Isola dei Pescatori. Albergo Verbano, a cheery coral-and-white hotel with 12 simple rooms, stays open through October. Ask for a room with a balcony facing the lake.
Where to Eat: At La Pescheria on Isola Pescatori, ask for a table on the leafy outdoor terrace. Sip wine, watch the boats, and linger over a leisurely seafood lunch, such as gnocchi with shrimp and Genovese pesto or risotto with lake-caught perch.
What to Buy: Paolo Fumagalli collects and restores the wood armoires, chairs, tables, chests, and other furniture he sells in Epoque, his multilevel antique store and workshop in Stresa. However, it's Fumagalli’s smaller, quirkier finds—cast-iron keys and tools, a suit of armor, coffee grinders, and brass spyglass telescopes—that entice curious passersby to step inside and treasure hunt.
What to Read Before You Go: Ernest Hemingway’s World War I classic A Farewell to Arms includes fictionalized versions of Stresa’s Grand Hotel Des Iles Borromées, Isola Pescatori, and other Lake Maggiore locations the author visited at age 19 while recovering from a battlefield injury.
Helpful Tip: Get a bird’s-eye view of Lake Maggiore, the Borromean Islands, the Po Valley, and the Alps by riding the Stresa-Mottarone Cable Car from the Piazzale Lido station up the side of Mount Mottarone. The ride takes 20 minutes (one-way). From the station at the top, walk another 15 minutes or so up to the 4,895-foot summit.
Fun Fact: The Borromeo family, for which Lake Maggiore’s Borromean Islands are named, has owned Isola Madre and Isola Bella since the 16th century. Family members continue to spend summers on Isola Bella, staying on the private (and unheated) floors of the 17th-century baroque palace built by their ancestor Count Vitaliano Borromeo.
Staff Tip: After touring the grand Isola Bella palazzo's interior, spend some time strolling through the gardens, where white peacocks roam freely, thousands of roses bloom, and ornate fountains decorate the landscape. It’s a picture-perfect spot for capturing the beauty of the Borromean Islands with the Alps in the background. For a truly local experience, ask Monograms for a local host to show you around the area, and take a water taxi to the quaint fishing village of Isola Pescatori for dinner. —Andrea Leitch, producer, Travel Digital
Nation’s Largest Oktoberfest Celebration, Cincinnati
Photograph courtesy Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber
Follow the lederhosen-clad locals to Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, the largest festival of its kind in the United States. First staged as a block party in 1976, the free, family-friendly event now attracts more than 500,000 people and celebrates the city’s deep German roots (German immigrants built Cincinnati’s Over-the‐Rhine, or OTR, neighborhood in the 1800s). “Oktoberfest here is like being in 20 beer gardens,” says veteran restaurateur Mick Noll, who’s cooked his German specialties (bratwurst, potato pancakes, Bavarian smoked skinless sausage) at every Oktoberfest Zinzinnati. “Grab a beer, share a table with someone you’ve never met, and get into the spirit. There’s nothing like it outside of Munich.” Beyond the beer (the equivalent of some 18,000 12-packs are consumed each year), there’s continuous live German music, the “World’s Largest” Chicken Dance, and boisterous competitions, including stein hoisting, beer barrel rolling, and the Running of the Wieners.
How to Get Around: Cincinnati is located in southwestern Ohio at the junction of I-75, I-74, and I-71, about a hundred miles northwest of Louisville, Kentucky. The greater Cincinnati area extends south across the Ohio River to northern Kentucky, where the airport is located. Take the TANK (Transportation Authority of Northern Kentucky) public bus (operates 5 a.m. to midnight) from the airport to downtown, where the festival is staged on six blocks of Fifth Street, from Vine Street to Sentinel.
Where to Stay: Located in the 983-building OTR National Historic District, the city’s original German enclave, the Symphony Hotel is a restored 1871 mansion with nine rooms, each named for different composers. The third-floor Beethoven and Shubert rooms have the only shared bath. An on-site gourmet restaurant is open Friday and Saturday evenings (five-course prix-fixe menu) and Sundays for brunch. Reservations suggested. The hotel is next door to the 1878 Music Hall, home of the Cincinnati Symphony (and included on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's June 2014 list of 11 most endangered historic places).
Where to Eat: Meet Mick Noll at his Covington Haus Oktoberfest booth to try a Cincinnati German-American specialty: goetta (“get-uh”). The breakfast sausage is made from a slow-cooked blend of pork, beef, onions, spices, and steel-cut oats. Noll’s all-meat version is goetta balls, which he describes as “meatball in shape but like nothing you’ve ever tasted.” While not traditionally German, another Cincinnati culinary classic is a beanless, sauce-like ground beef chili (try Price Hill Chili in Cincinnati and Dixie Chili & Deli in northern Kentucky). Variations exist, but the traditional chili parlor menu has six options: bowl (plain), two-way (plain over spaghetti), three-way (two-way plus cheese), four-way (three-way plus onion), four-way beans (three-way plus beans), and five-way (four-way beans plus onion).
What to Buy: During festival weekend, visit historic Findlay Market in OTR (about a half-mile walk from the Symphony Hotel). Opened in 1855, Findlay is Ohio’s oldest surviving city market house and the longest continuously operating public market in Cincinnati. Visit more than 80 permanent and weekend vendors, plus the additional open market and farm shed booths, to shop for teas, herbs, and spices; fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, and meats; imported and domestic cheeses and wines; and local baked goods. Through mid-October, there’s also an on-site beer garden hosted by the local Christian Moerlein Brewing Company and the OTR Brewery District.
What to Read Before You Go: Over the Rhine: When Beer Was King (The History Press, 2010) tells the story of the German Americans whose neighborhood, breweries, and customs helped shaped Cincinnati’s architecture and cultural identity.
Helpful Tip: Download the free Oktoberfest Zinzinnati app (available in September on iTunes or GooglePlay), the interactive festival guide for iPhone or Android.
Fun Fact: The beer may get top billing, but Oktoberfest Zinzinnati is an all-out German food fest. According to the Cincinnati Regional USA Chamber survey of food vendors, the hungry herren and frauen at a recent Oktoberfest Zinzinnati consumed 80,500 bratwurst, 64,000 sauerkraut balls, and 1,875 pounds of German potato salad alone.
Myanmar’s Biggest Hot Air Balloon Festival, Taunggyi, Shan State, Myanmar
Photograph by Felix Hug, Corbis
Tens of thousands of people converge on Taunggyi, a former British colonial hill station in east-central Myanmar, for the Taunggyi Tazaungdaing Festival, or Festival of Lights. The main event is on November 6 (the full moon day of Tazaungmone), but the high-flying, hot air balloon action begins five days earlier. Daily and nightly balloon competitions, parades, and fireworks displays serve as the dazzling opening act for the full moon grand finale. Locals craft the (sometimes briefly) soaring works of art from paper, and prizes are awarded to the top balloons. By day, the skies are filled with whimsical floating shapes such as ducks, dragons, pigs, and elephants. At night, the raucous crowd swarms around the launch site to cheer the smoky liftoff of the glowing, often painted, balloons. Some balloons precariously tow racks of burning candles. Others carry a pyrotechnic-packed basket that unleashes a sizzling barrage of fireworks. The spectacle is best viewed from a distance, safely out of range of errant explosions or flaming debris showers.
How to Get Around: From Yangon International Airport or Mandalay International Airport, fly to Heho. From here, it’s about a 45-minute taxi ride to Taunggyi. A more convenient option may be a custom or small-group tour (including a stop at the festival) with an English-speaking, Myanmar-based guide such as Gandawun Shwe Bagan Travel and Tours or MT & K Tourism Company.
Where to Stay: Lodging is limited in Taunggyi during the festival. Nearby (about 18 miles south) Inle Lake has more options, including the Inle Princess Resort. Accessible via a short boat ride from the eastern edge of the lake, the secluded resort has 45 private, thatched-roof chalets (request a lake view) and one Princess chalet. Inle Lake is also the only place to see Myanmar’s famous leg-rowers, who deftly propel their teak boats in a modified stand-up paddleboard motion, with one leg wrapped around the single, long oar.
Where to Eat: During the festival, local Taunggyi restaurants and vendors typically offer some traditional dishes of the region’s indigenous Shan people, such as Shan pickle pork rice (rice wrapped in a banana leaf) and Shan khaukswe (sweet-and-sour noodles). At Inle Lake, have lunch at Inthar Heritage House, a two-story, stilted house with wraparound verandas built in 2009 (mainly with reclaimed wood). Traditional vegetarian dishes of the indigenous Intha people (steamed banana flowers, fried spring onions, noodles) are served upstairs. Downstairs there’s a Burmese cat sanctuary that’s generally open between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
What to Buy: In Taunggyi and at Inle Lake’s bustling lakeshore and floating markets, shop for brightly colored textiles hand-woven by the region’s Intha, Pa-O, and Shan people. Items typically for sale include bags, scarves, turbans, and iconic Myanmar longyis (wraparound skirts).
What to Read Before You Go: First published in a Japanese newspaper in the early 1990s, the 52 short essays in Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi’s Letters From Burma (Penguin, 1995) paint a vivid portrait of Myanmar culture, traditions, and scenery, while offering the author’s personal insights into daily life under totalitarian military rule (1962-2011).
Cultural Tip: Before your trip, read the Myanmar Ministry of Hotels and Tourism’s Dos & Don’ts for tourists.
Helpful Links: Myanmar Ministry of Hotels and Tourism
Fun Fact: Unlike modern hot air balloons commonly built from nylon or polyester, the balloons competing in the Taunggyi festival are crafted with traditional Shan paper. The thin paper, which can be folded like cloth, is handmade locally using mulberry bark. Shan paper also is used to make the umbrellas sold in markets throughout Shan state.
India’s Biggest Hindu Festival: Diwali, Agra, India
Photograph by eStock Photo
Diwali, or Deepavali, outshines all other Hindu celebrations with a dizzying array of elaborate rituals and dazzling light displays. Various legends and traditions are attributed to the five-day (October 23-27) Festival of Lights, so where you choose to celebrate will shape your personal Diwali experience. In Agra, home to three iconic World Heritage sites—the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, and Fatehpur Sikri—Diwali is a joyous occasion commemorating the triumph of good (Lord Rama) over evil (the demon king Ravana). Each night, the ancient city is bathed in the glow of the thousands of candles and small clay diyas (oil lamps) illuminating doorsteps, walkways, buildings, and homes. Lamps are artfully arranged on geometric rangoli (traditional Indian folk art) designs, such as flowers, leaves, and bells, painted on the ground with brightly colored powder or sand. The elaborate patterns serve as welcome mats of sorts for Lakshmi, the goddess of material and spiritual wealth and prosperity.
How to Get Around: Agra is in northern India, about 129 miles south of New Delhi. The closest airport is New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. From the New Delhi train station it’s about a two-hour ride to Agra via the high-speed Bhopal Shatabdi express train.
Where to Stay: In celebration of Diwali, diyas and strings of light illuminate the Oberoi Amarvilas, a palatial Mughal-style hotel with terraced garden, swimming pools, and unobstructed views of the Taj Mahal from all 102 guest rooms. Admire the elaborate floral rangolis created for the festival at the hotel entrance, in the lobby and restaurants, and beside the pool.
Where to Eat: The sharing, receiving, and eating of traditional Indian sweets is an essential element of Diwali. Agra’s signature sweet is Agra ka petha, which is made from young (whitish green) winter melons, or ash gourds. These large, cucumber-shaped fruits grow on vines throughout northern India. The candies look like pineapple chunks and can be hard and chewy or soft and covered with sugary syrup.
What to Buy: Pre-Diwali shopping can be a full-contact sport. Markets are packed with people buying Indian sweets, new clothes, jewelry, electronics, diyas and candles, and cleaning supplies to prepare their homes for the arrival of Lakshmi. A traditional Diwali decoration to look for in markets are the beaded, embroidered, and artificial-flower Diwali torans (door garlands), which are strung across entryways to welcome prosperity.
What to Read Before You Go: Agra was the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1556 to 1658, and the Mughal architectural legacy is imprinted on the city’s iconic sites, including the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. William Dalrymple’sThe Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi, 1857 (Vintage, 2008) recreates the culturally diverse society that existed under Mughal rule in the 1850s.
Cultural Tip: Leave expensive jewelry and electronics at home. Agra is a relatively safe city, but it's also a crowded tourist hub where pickpockets are common. Keep wallets in front pockets, and hold handbags and knapsacks in front of you, particularly on trains, buses, and in markets or other places where people are closely packed together.
Helpful Links: Incredible India
Fun Fact: Gift giving remains an important Diwali tradition in India, but there’s nothing traditional about many of today’s most popular presents. Among the top selling Diwali gifts purchased in 2013 were high-end smartphones, 3-D and plasma TVs, and washing machines and refrigerators.
Staff Tip: Diwali, a five-day autumn Hindu festival, creates a melee in the streets of India. And I made the mistake of assuming I could taxi through the hordes en route to the Taj Mahal in Agra. Indian roads are always an obstacle course of cows, monkeys, beggars, food carts, itinerant vendors, put-put drivers, and buses too big to pass. Diwali takes the melee to a whole new level of frenzy—it took me an hour to go the last half-mile to the Taj. The best access strategy? Taxi to the back of the crowd, then walk. You experience an eye-filling display of human revelry with the option of stepping aside or sitting down. And you get there faster and cheaper. —Keith Bellows, editor in chief and senior vice president, Travel Media
Travel With Us: Discover the wonders of India with National Geographic. >>
Pirates Week National Festival,
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Photograph by Hemis, Alamy
Although the name may evoke images of swashbuckling debauchery, Pirates Week has evolved over its 37-year history into a national celebration of Caymanian culture, history, music, and craft. There’s still plenty of partying and pirate-themed fun, including raucous land and sea pirate invasions. No tickets are required for most major events, such as the Pan in de City steel drum band parade, pirate landings, float parade, and district Heritage Days. “Pirates Week fulfills any traveler’s desire for adventure, mystery, and history,” says Caymanian clothing designer Luigi Moxam. “You can learn about Caribbean pirate heritage where an actual pirate presence from hundreds of years ago remains in caves, graves, and strategic lookout posts.” Grand Cayman (largest of the three western Caribbean Cayman Islands) hosts the main festival’s 30-plus events. Arrive early or extend your stay to celebrate bonus Pirates Week activities on Little Cayman (October 31-November 2) and Cayman Brac (November 21-23).
How to Get Around: From Miami, take a direct flight (about 90 minutes) to Grand Cayman. Both the airport and most Pirates Week main events are held in or around George Town, the Cayman Islands’ capital and largest city. Use taxis (readily available at the airport and all resorts) or public buses to travel around the island, or rent a car at the airport (drive on the left side of the road). Moped, scooter, and bike rentals also are available in George Town and at many hotels. Cayman Airways offers daily inter-island flights.
Where to Stay: Leave the crowds at the festival and recharge in your own plantation-style cottage at seaside Cotton Tree in West Bay, located ten minutes north of tourist-popular Seven Mile Beach. Cotton Tree is a secluded, four-cottage compound designed and operated by native Caymanian Heather Lockington. The two-bedroom cottages have full kitchens, or ask (with 48-hour notice) the in-house chef to prepare a Cayman-style barbecue or meal (such as wahoo fish with plantain chips, poached lobster tail with coconut sauce, or Caribbean-style curry shrimp). The lushly landscaped compound includes cotton, mango, lime, and avocado trees; a small gym; and an outdoor pool and Jacuzzi.
Where to Eat: The 2014 Pirates Week theme, Melting Pot, celebrates the diverse cultures that shape Caymanian identity. Sample several flavors of this multiethnic mélange—such as roti (Indian griddle bread stuffed with meat stew), rum cake, fresh snapper, pepper jelly, and plantains—on a Taste of George Town Tour. The three-hour walking tour is led by a native Caymanian guide and includes ten food- and drink-tasting stops, cultural site visits, and a local’s perspective on Caymanian life.
What to Buy: The tough, broad leaves of the silver thatch palm, voted national tree of the Cayman Islands in 1995, have been used on the islands since the 1700s to thatch roofs and to make shoes, fans, rope, and accessories. Silver thatch plaiting (weaving dried strings of palm leaves) is a treasured Caymanian craft tradition. Watch the thatch-plaiting artisans at work and purchase hand-plaited baskets, hats, and bags at the open-air Cayman Craft Market in downtown George Town.
What to Watch Before You Go: Arguably the most famous novel set in the Caymans is John Grisham’s 1991 legal thriller The Firm. While the book’s unfavorable portrayal of the islands’ financial industry didn’t sit well with locals, the 1993 movie adaptation starring Tom Cruise featured multiple scenes (filmed on location in Grand Cayman) showcasing the Caymans’ white-sand beaches and translucent turquoise water.
Cultural Tip: Each of Grand Cayman’s five districts—Bodden Town, East End, George Town, North Side, and West Bay—hosts a designated “heritage day” during Pirates Week. Attending all five is the best way to learn about the Caymans’ diverse cultures and traditions, meet local residents and artists, and visit areas typically off the tourist radar.
Fun Fact: Since Columbus first spotted modern-day Cayman Brac and Little Cayman in 1503, the names explorers have bestowed upon this three-island archipelago have been inspired by its reptiles: Las Tortugas (turtles), 1503; Lagartos (alligators or large lizards), 1523; and Caymanas or Caymans (derived from the Carib Indian word for marine crocodile), 1530.
Blooming Buenos Aires Walking Tour, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Photograph by Bernardo Galmarini, Alamy
Spring in Argentina’s capital city is an enchanting time to wander around the leafy streets of Palermo, Buenos Aires’s largest barrio. For about three weeks (usually in November) the city’s ubiquitous jacaranda trees blossom, carpeting the ground with lavender-hued petals. “Strolling through Palermo under blooming jacaranda trees is a mesmerizing experience,” says Buenos Aires resident Quincy Long. “Many parks have small jacaranda alcoves that appear to be ringed by a magical layer of purple snow. Step into the middle of the trees, stare up at the black branches coated in purple flowers, and watch the blossoms slowly alight around you.” Palermo’s extensive park system, much of which was designed by French architect Carlos Thays, includes the Botanical and Zoological Gardens, plus artificial lakes (rent a paddleboat) and walking trails. Juxtaposed with the blooming jacarandas are the young, vivid green leaves of the rosewood tipa tree, best known for having damp spores that “rain” on passersby in spring.
How to Get Around: Palermo’s major parks (including the Botanical Gardens, Zoological Gardens, Japanese Gardens, and Parque Tres de Febrero) are located in the area closest to the Plaza Italia metro stop. Explore on your own, or book a private walking tour of Palermo with an English-speaking guide at BuenosTours (half day, $55 per person; full day, $110 per person; two-person minimum).
Where to Stay: Native flowers, leafy ferns, and fragrant jasmine shrubs surround the solar-heated outdoor pool (open October-April) at Home. Offering 20 rooms, including four suites, the hotel is located in the hip Palermo Hollywood district (home to several TV, radio, and film production studios). Home is the brainchild of British record producer Tom Rixton and his wife, Patricia O’Shea, who grew up in Palermo. Nature-inspired indoor elements include vintage French floral wallpaper, fresh flowers, and brightly colored shag rugs. Spring for the Garden Suite with private rooftop terrace and plunge pool.
Where to Eat: Palermo is home to some of the city’s top parrillas, or steakhouses. Two classics located in the neighborhood’s trendy Palermo Soho district are Don Julio and La Cabrera (reservations recommended). For a more laid-back vibe (red wooden tables, paper tablecloths), try the asado de tira (braised short-cut ribs) or house specialty entraña (skirt steak) at open-air Las Cabras in Palermo Hollywood. Porteños (Buenos Aires residents) typically eat around 9 p.m., so show up early to avoid a long wait.
What to Buy: On weekends in Palermo local artisans hawk their wares at two open-air markets. The one in Plaza Serrano (now called Plazoleta Julio de Cortazar but better known by its original name) primarily sells women’s clothing and accessories. The Plaza Armenia market is the place to shop for the metal and wood cups and traditional carved squash gourds (embellished with intricate designs) used to drink maté, the earthy Argentine elixir made by steeping the ground leaves and stems of the yerba maté plant.
What to Read Before You Go: Argentine essayist, short story writer, and poet Jorge Luis Borges grew up in Palermo and wandered the barrio's streets seeking inspiration for his craft. The most recent English translation of Borges’s 1962 acclaimed short story collection Labyrinths (New Directions Paperback, 2007) includes fantastical imagery based on actual Buenos Aires locations.
Cultural Tip: “Shorts, sneakers, and a T-shirt are a touch too casual for sleek porteños. Bring comfortable walking shoes but dress smartly.” —Quincy Long, Buenos Aires resident
Fun Fact: Palermo gardens and parks are home to several different species of colorful parakeets. One of the most common is the lime green monk parakeet, which is easy to spot (and hear) as it hops and chatters among the branches of the jacaranda trees.
Staff Tip: If you happen to be in Buenos Aires on a Sunday, make sure your two feet lead you to the San Telmo market. The weekly festival takes over the cobblestone streets of the San Telmo neighborhood, and has some of the best souvenir shopping in the city. Go hungry and enjoy a chorripan from one of the many food stalls—it won't disappoint. —Megan Heltzel, associate producer, Travel Digital
Cenote Snorkeling in the World’s Longest Known Underwater Cave Systems, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Photograph by Emmanuel LATTES, Alamy
Ancient Maya associated the god Chaak with the cenotes, or cavern openings, that serve as gateways to the watery underworld beneath Quintana Roo on the Yucatán Peninsula’s eastern coast. Multiple underwater cave systems are found here, including the world’s two longest known: Sac Actun-Dos Ojos (205 miles) and Sistema Ox Bel Ha (160 miles). Although cenote diving requires recreational scuba certification, anyone who can swim can snorkel among the limestone formations near the surface of the cool (77ºF year-round) water. “Cenote snorkelers see the same immense columns and stalactites that scuba divers do,” says Nathalie Lefort, co-owner of Dive Academy Mexico and a certified cenote cavern and cave guide. “The Dos Ojos (Two Eyes) cave system [named for its two large, neighboring cenotes], in particular, has incredible light rays. Snorkelers can look from one cenote to the other and see the deep-blue light in the distance. The water is so crystal clear that it’s almost like swimming in air.”
How to Get Around: Cancun is Quintana Roo’s main international airport. From here, rent a car or take a taxi, bus, or one of the ubiquitous colectivos (shared mini buses) to resort communities to the south, such as Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, and Tulum. Many hotels offer airport transfers. Cenote snorkeling day trips with qualified outfitters typically include round-trip transportation from area resorts.
Where to Stay: Wake up to 180-degree sea views from one of the four luxurious beachfront rooms at Encantada, an eight-room, family-owned hotel in Tulum. Maya craftsmen used locally sourced stone and hardwoods to build the two-story, thatched-roof hotel and private, palapa-style (thatched-roof) beach cabanas. Rates include breakfast, which features items such as homemade banana or coconut bread, a fresh fruit platter, or chilaquiles (a nacho-like egg, cheese, and fried tortilla dish).
Where to Eat: Buckets of cold beer are the specialties at La Tarraya, a bare-bones Playa del Carmen beach bar and restaurant owned by local businessmen. After snorkeling, stop at the Taqueria el Arbolito roadside stand south of Playa for fresh fish tacos.
What to Buy: Mixik in Tulum is a fun and funky thatched-roof shop showcasing authentic folk art (handblown glass vases, colorful statuettes, papier-mâché Day of the Dead skulls) from across Mexico. Each piece is one of a kind and prices are clearly marked.
What to Read Before You Go: Cenote (CreateSpace, 2014), the first title in novelist Carleton Prince’s AA McCay series, is a crime thriller set in the Yucatán’s mysterious underwater world and other exotic Maya locales.
Cultural Tip: U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere, but you’ll get a better price if you pay in pesos. For safety’s sake, use only the ATMs located at banks to withdraw cash.
Fun Fact: On Dive Academy Mexico’s Dos Ojos tours, guides lead snorkelers through a passageway and into the Bat Cave, a large air-filled underground cavern. The cavern gets its name from the resident bats, which roost among the stalactites on the high ceiling.
Roaring and Rutting Ramble, Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland
Photograph by Jim Brandenburg, Corbis
October 16, 23, and 30
Herds of red deer, Scotland’s largest surviving native land mammal, live throughout the idyllic Outer Hebrides archipelago. While the donkey-size deer can be spotted year-round, viewing the autumn rut (the kickoff to breeding season) is a particularly “enchanting spectacle,” says North Harris Trust ranger Matt Watts. North Harris—the wild and mountainous northern part of the chain's Isle of Harris—is home to a herd of more than 1,100 red deer. Three Thursdays in October Watts leads free Roaring and Rutting guided walks into the glens, where the herd’s stags (males) posture, roar, and battle. “The glens we walk through are like natural amphitheaters, amplifying the roars of the stags and bouncing the echoes around the countryside,” Watts explains. “If we’re lucky, we get to witness the stags confront each other in competition for control over groups of hinds [female red deer]. For me, it’s the most amazing time of year to take a walk through the glens of North Harris.”
How to Get Around: Limited daily flights connect the Scottish mainland to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis (linked by land bridge with Harris). Ferries run year-round between Ullapool (on Scotland’s western coast) and Stornoway. Book a rental car in advance for pick up at the airport or ferry terminal. When you arrive, ask a local or call the North Harris Trust for specific directions to the three Roaring and Rutting walk locations.
Where to Stay: Ardhasaig House, a small hotel overlooking West Loch Tarbert on the western coast of Harris, has six guest rooms and a private wood-beamed stone cottage called the Barn that’s a two-minute walk away. Proprietor Katie Macaskill’s family built the house (which has been extensively remodeled and expanded) in 1904, and the original purple-tiled fireplace and main staircase remain.
Where to Eat: Tourist traffic dwindles by October, so smaller restaurants may be closed or have limited hours. Always call ahead. One year-round option is The Isle of Harris Inn bar and restaurant in Tarbert. The winter menu typically includes British and Scottish specialties such as beer-battered haddock, black pudding, homemade chips, and sticky toffee pudding. If you’re visiting Harris the last week in October, pick up homemade items such as bread, scones, marmalade, and chutney, as well as fresh eggs and daily lunch specials at the Croft36 Croft Shop, an honor-system takeout shack in Northton. (The owners return from vacation October 27). Step inside the unmanned shop, make your selections, and drop your money in the box. Or call ahead to order a full meal for pick up or delivery. Open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. until dark.
What to Buy: By law only tweed cloth that is “handwoven by the islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides, finished in the Outer Hebrides, and made from pure virgin wool dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides” can be stamped with the iconic Harris Tweed Orb Mark certifying authenticity. Shop for luxurious Harris Tweed cloth, shoes, clothing, and accessories (such as tablet covers, bags, and hats) on the Isle of Harris at the Harris Tweed Company Grosebay and the Harris Tweed Isle of Harris store and warehouse in Tarbert. Closed Sundays.
What to Read Before You Go: Through striking photography and personal interviews with weavers and other artisans, Harris Tweed: From Land to Street (Frances Lincoln, 2014) celebrates the Isle of Harris tradition of fine craftsmanship.
Helpful Tip: The Roaring and Rutting walks range from 6 to 8.5 miles on rough trails with some hilly terrain, so a reasonable fitness level is required. If you don’t want to join a guided walk, you can visit the glens on your own to witness the rut. Either way, wear sturdy, waterproof hiking boots and come prepared for potentially wet and windy conditions.
Cultural Tip: North Harris has many single-track (one-lane) roads with designated “passing places” that allow for two-way traffic. In addition to remembering the driving rules of the single-track road, remember to give a friendly wave (like all the locals do) any time you pass another driver.
Fun Fact: All of North Harris is a community-owned estate. The North Harris Trust, which sponsors the Roaring and Rutting walks, is the charitable organization that manages the estate on behalf of community members and works to protect, enhance, and promote North Harris’s cultural and natural heritage.
Staff Tip: Try a homey lunch at the Temple Cafe on the Isle of Harris; or a neighborly dinner at the nonprofit, community-owned Scalpey Community Cafe on nearby Scalpey Island, just over a bridge from Harris. —Norie Quintos, executive editor, Traveler magazine
Harvest Festival on the Eastern Edge of North America, Fogo Island, Newfoundland, Canada
Photograph by Jacques Laurent, Getty Images
Rocky and windswept Fogo Island may look like nowhere you’ve ever been before, but spend a day on this far eastern edge of Newfoundland, and you’ll “feel like you’ve come home,” says Pauline Brown, director of the island’s Partridgeberry Harvest Festival, held annually on Canadian Thanksgiving weekend (October 11-12 this year) at the Fogo Island Iceberg Arena. “What I love about Fogo Island is the peaceful serenity, the smell of the salt air, and, above all, the kindness of the people who live here,” she adds. Meet the people—artisans, boatbuilders, musicians, chefs, fishermen, and innkeepers—who are working to preserve Fogo’s cultural traditions at the community celebration named for the island’s wild, tart red berries. Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland-born architect Todd Saunder’s minimalist masterpiece, which opened in 2013, is offering a Go Wild on Fogo Island berry-picking package through October 15. Or simply ask an islander for tips on where to pick. Adds Brown, “Talk to the locals about whatever you want to do here. Helping is what we do best.”
How to Get Around: Fly to Gander (Newfoundland) International Airport and rent a car for the 60-mile drive to the ferry terminal on Route 235 in Farewell. There are five daily ferry crossings to Fogo Island Monday to Saturday and four on Sundays (through October 15). The main ferry holds about 55 to 60 vehicles, plus passengers. Direct crossings are 45 minutes, and combined crossings (stopping first at Change Islands) are 75 minutes. The Partridgeberry Harvest Festival and the Fogo Island Inn are both located in Joe Batt’s Arm, about a 20-minute drive east of the ferry landing in Man of War Cove.
Where to Stay: All 29 suites at the iceberg-white Fogo Island Inn have floor-to-ceiling, North Atlantic-facing windows. The most coveted rooms are at the east and west edges of the third and fourth floors (suites 9, 22, and 29). These corner suites have walls of windows providing both land and sea views. The inn’s Chefs Come to the Edge package (October 11-12) includes a gala supper prepared by some of Canada’s leading chefs.
Where to Eat: All manner of homemade baked and partridgeberry goods (tarts, breads, jams, jellies) will be sold at the festival. Stop by the Growlers Ice Cream shop’s booth for a fresh molasses partridgeberry jam tart and a scoop of homemade partridgeberry ice cream.
What to Buy: Original Fogo Island-themed paintings, miniature wood saltbox houses, and handmade quilts are among the islander-produced arts and crafts typically available at the festival. Members of the Wind & Waves Artisans' Guild created all of the rugs, quilts, and other textiles found in the Fogo Island Inn and sell their creations at the guild shop in Joe Batt’s Arm.
What to Watch Before You Go: Canadian director Colin Low’s 1967 Fogo Island short documentary series, including The Children of Fogo Island, showcases the culture and traditions that harvest festival organizers and the Shorefast Foundation (which developed the Fogo Island Inn) are working to sustain.
Helpful Tip: Fall is an ideal time to hike the island’s trails, as long as you're equipped with the right gear: sturdy hiking boots, layers of clothing (including waterproof jacket), a walking stick, and a warm winter hat.
Cultural Tip: “On Fogo Island, it is common to be invited into someone's home for a cup of tea or a meal,” says Paddy Barry, ambassador of the Fogo Island Inn. “If you are quick with a song, story, or recitation, you will immediately be welcomed into the hearts and minds of locals.”
Fun Fact: The Flat Earth Society claims that rocky Brimstone Head on Fogo Island is one of the four corners of the Earth. The tongue-in-cheek warning sign posted along the stairs leading up to the top of Brimstone Head reads: “You are nearing the edge of the flat Earth. One false step could be your last. Number of people lost to date '0.'”
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