Where to Go in October: Our Top Travel Picks for the Month

Music festivals, wildlife getaways, and wilder garba nights.

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In May every year, the group of 20 students that graduate from Ninasam’s ten-month diploma course, in Heggodu, perform at a seven-day festival. Photo: Auditya Venkatesh


Heggodu, Karnataka

In the hamlet of Heggodu in Karnataka, everybody cares deeply about classical literature. The village is the base of Ninasam, a theatre group that has helped Kannada-speaking farmers, government employees, and shop owners acquire a passion for the works of writers like Bertolt Brecht, Kalidasa, Molière, and Leo Tolstoy. To observe the school in action, visit the school during the five-day Culture Course (October 8-12) when theatre performers from around India put on shows. Travellers can visit the Ninasam complex throughout the year, with prior permission. More here.

Mumbai Film Festival, Maharashtra

the land of the enlightened

The Jio Mami Mumbai Film Festival is a chance to glimpse life around the world, such as in “The Land of the Enlightened”, set in Afghanistan. Photo: Savage Film Production/Youtube

For one week every October, film enthusiasts dress in their comfiest clothes, arm themselves with multiplex-cinema samosas and large cups of coffee, and get in line for the Jio Mami Mumbai Film Festival. The Mumbai festival is a rare chance to watch cutting-edge movies that may never otherwise get a release in the country. It’s also a chance to soak in panoramic views of landscapes and communities that are often hard to access. This edition, which runs from Thur October 20-Thur Oct 27, 2016, has a host of films where the destination is as much a star as the story. To begin with, there are travelling tent cinemas in rural Maharashtra in Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya’s documentary The Cinema Travellers, the vast steppes of central Turkey in Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s drama Winter Sleep (winner of the Cannes’ Palme d’Or in 2014), and armed bands of children on Afghanistan’s snowy peaks in Pieter-Jan De Pue’s docu-fiction The Land of the Enlightened (winner of a cinematography prize at the Sundance Film Festival 2016). More here.

The Northern Lights

spirits of the sky

The Northern Lights are on nearly every traveller’s bucket list. Photo: Emmanuel Milou/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

Northern Lights season kicked off late September, filling night skies in the northern hemisphere with dramatic performances of the aurora borealis. The show continues until late March 2017, which means it isn’t too late to start planning. Use our handy guide to figure out where, when, and how to catch the spirits of the sky. We’ve also listed the hotels and lodges in Iceland, Greenland, Norway, and Canada with the best views.

Keoladeo National Park, Rajasthan

Preserving for Maharaja Suraj Mal,

The Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary ironically came into existence as a shooting preserve for Maharaja Suraj Mal, who founded the town of Bharatpur. Hunting was banned here in 1964. Photo: Sudhir Shivaram

Keoladeo National Park (formerly called Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary) is always a good spot for birding. Every winter however, the sanctuary becomes even more biologically diverse, when thousands of migratory birds make their annual pilgrimage here. Keep your eyes peeled for the Asian open-billed stork, tufted duck, Brahminy mynahs, and black-necked cranes. Keoladeo can be explored on bicycle or by foot. Hire a park guide to make the most of the visit. More here.

Rajasthan International Folk Festival, Jodhpur

Jodhpur RIFF

Set in and around Mehrangarh Fort, performances at the Rajasthan International Folk Festival often have scenic views of Jodhpur city. Photo: Jodhpur RIFF/OIJO

Jodhpur’s historic Mehrangarh Fort comes to life during the Rajasthan International Folk Festival (RIFF), a five-day celebration of traditional and modern folk music. Venues are scattered across the palatial sandstone fort—amidst fruit trees in the garden, in the grand darbar, or by ramparts with breathtaking views of the blue city—and attended by musicians, erstwhile royal families, and travellers from across the world. This year’s edition will take place between October 13 and 17, 2016. The morning shows, especially those at dawn, are particularly special. More here.

Kumaon Literary Fest, Uttarakhand

Listen to renowned writers discuss their work and other literary matters at the Kumaon Literary Fest's picturesque venues in Uttarakhand. Photo courtesy Kumaon Literary Fest.

Listen to renowned writers discuss their work and other literary matters at the Kumaon Literary Fest’s picturesque venues in Uttarakhand. Photo courtesy Kumaon Literary Fest.

The five-day Kumaon Literary Fest (KLF) takes place in two venues: Jim’s Jungle Retreat on the outskirts of Jim Corbett National Park, and Te Aroha, a boutique hotel in Kumaon, giving visitors a chance to meet acclaimed authors, but also explore two different sides of Uttarakhand. Speakers at the festival, include Amish Tripathi, author of the Immortals of Meluha series, journalists Rana Ayyub and Josy Joseph, and award-winning author, poet, and children’s book writer, Jerry Pinto. From October 11-15. More here.

NH7 Weekender, Shillong, Pondicherry, and Mysore

NH7 Weekender

Throw your hands in the air like you just don’t care at the NH7 Weekender music festival. Photo: Bacardi NH7 Weekender/Facebook

Arguably India’s most popular music festival, Bacardi NH7 Weekender kickstarted late September and has gigs scheduled until early December. The multi-city festival has two new venues this year: the French-accented Tamil town of Pondicherry and Mysore in Karnataka, famous for its exquisite silks and palaces. The day-long concert in Pondicherry is on October 15, followed by the Shillong edition from October 21-22. The party moves to Mysore on October 29. More here.


Rhinoceros Chitwan National Park Elephant

Chitwan National Park, Nepal. Photo: Amos Chapple/Getty Images

October signals clear skies and high season in Nepal with travellers, especially trekkers, pouring in from across the world. The Himalayan country is home to eight of the planet’s 14 tallest peaks, and offers trekking routes with exquisite views. For a cultural holiday, explore Kathmandu Valley, home to the ancient cities of Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur; it has numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites squeezed into less than 60 square kilometres. Alternatively, check into a lodge at the Chitwan National Park, home to the endangered one-horned rhino.

Navratri, Gujarat

Garba in Gujarat

Garba nights are one of the biggest events on Gujarat’s cultural calendar. Photo: Mayur Bhatt

Gujarat is at its athletic and colourful best during Navratri, between October 1-10. To feel the buzz, plan a trip to AhmedabadBaroda, Surat, Bhavnagar, or Rajkot, where residents dance the night away at dandiya and garba events attended by hundreds. Dress nice—but don’t forget to pack a pair of loose pants: Gujarati thalis are large, rich, and packed with deep-fried goodness. More here.


Fort Tiracol, Goa, has seven rooms, and a terrace restaurant with views that mesmerise, by day and night. Photo courtesy Fort Tiracol

Fort Tiracol, Goa, has seven rooms, and a terrace restaurant with views that mesmerise, by day and night. Photo courtesy Fort Tiracol

Every October, Goa shakes off its monsoon stupor and readies itself for three months of non-stop partying. Join the revellers at beaches like Arambol, Palolem, and Morjim, where travellers spend their days swimming and reading, and their nights dancing and drinking at shacks on the beach. For a gentler holiday, check into a charming homestay in Old Goa, exploring neighbourhoods where sausages are handmade and stores shut down daily for an afternoon siesta. Click here for stay recommendations: our list covers chic resorts, beach shacks, homestays and forest lodges. More here.

National Parks

Tiger Camouflage Corbett

Corbett’s tall grass provides great camouflage for tigers, making them hard to spot. Photo: Dhritimian Mukherjee

As the monsoons retreat, national parks such as Ranthambore, Pench, Corbett, and Tadoba reopen their gates to welcome wildlife enthusiasts. Spotting big cats is slightly harder at this time of year, but the forests are at their liveliest and greenest just after the rains. Watch noisy langur colonies, grazing sambar, and birds dart in and out of lakes on jeep safaris. You might even spot a tiger, or a herd of elephants.

Jibhi, Himachal Pradesh

Jalori Pass forests

The woods around Jalori Pass are like an enchanted forest, with oak trees and a carpet of wild flowers. Photo: Neelima Vallangi

Jibhi in Himachal Pradesh is blessedly quiet, unspoiled by tourists, and surrounded by pine and cedar forests that are ideal for long walks, especially in October, when evenings are cool and there is a slight nip in the air in the day. An hour away from the Great Himalayan National Park, and a short drive from picturesque Jalori Pass, Jibhi is a good base for hiking, birding, and fishing. More on this ideal nature break here.

Durga Pujo, Kolkata

Durga Pandal, Kolkata

Kolkata sees a host of elaborate pandals that host Durga for five days. Photo: Srijan Kundu/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

Kolkata takes Durga Pujo very seriously. For five days, from October 7-11, nearly every corner of the city hosts imaginative pandals dedicated to the feisty Hindu goddess Durga. Pandal-hopping is a heady (and chaotic) way to experience the festivities and sample pujo-specific food like khichuri, a simple, savoury preparation of rice and dal, served as prasad. More here.

Plan Ahead:

Catch a wave off India's long coastline. Photo: techbreeze/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

Catch a wave off India’s long coastline. Photo: techbreeze/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

Rann Utsav, Dhordo, Gujarat

The Rann Utsav celebrates the Kutch’s blanched salt land and vibrant culture. The four-month festival is clustered around Dhordo, a village in the Great Rann of Kutch, 81km/1hr20min by road from Bhuj, where luxury and standard tents are put up every year to accommodate visitors. There are tours to heritage sites, wildlife excursions, folk music performances, and stalls selling traditional Kutchi handicrafts and textiles, like handmade leather jootis. It’s a good time to plan a cultural excursion to the state, and to explore the Great Rann of Kutch, spread over 7,505sqkm and the largest salt marsh in the world. This year’s edition will take place from 1 November 2016-20 February 2017. More here.

Pushkar Camel Fair, Pushkar, Rajasthan

Between November 8-19 this year, the lakeside town of Pushkar will host the world’s largest camel fair, drawing both traders and tourists. It’s ripe for photo ops: camels are elaborately dressed up, and there are moustache competitions. Spend the day exploring the crowded fair grounds, and the evenings sipping chai at one of Pushkar’s many cafes, with views of the holy town’s ghats and temples. Visiting hippies and Hindu devotees give the town a quirky charm. More here.

Surf Season

India’s surf culture is picking up more every year, with surf schools now open in a number of places including Pondicherry, Kerala, and Karnataka. If you’re considering taking the plunge, the west coast states of Goa, Karnataka, and Kerala are prime spots for beginners from November until March. The waves aren’t too harsh, and it’s a good time to get acquainted with a surfboard in the water. More on surfing basics and where to sign up for lessons here.






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