The best place to be today

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

 We need to face facts: summer is  (sadly)  over. But if you’re not yet ready to embrace autumn and all that it entails  – read chunky knits and thermals – don’t despair. In their new book, The Best Place To Be Today, our friends at Lonely Planet have the low-down on where we should be escaping to in early October

1 October: Raise a stein at Oktoberfest (Germany)
Why now: join 6 million other beer imbibers
Where: Theresienwiese, Munich
Dates: runs for 16 days, from late September to early October
In 1810, a horse race was held to celebrate Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig’s wedding. The jamboree was such a rip-roaring success that it became an annual event and morphed into today’s ribald party: Oktoberfest.
The amber nectar is quaffed by more than 6 million Lowenbräu-lovers. Sitting at long tables in huge tents, beer monsters work through more than 6.5 million L. The festival’s diet also includes some 500,000 chicken, 104 oxen and more than 50,000 pork knuckle servings. The only beer available is the specially brewed Oktoberfest-Bier; you pay using tokens and must be seated to be served. Rules get trickier as drinkers become Bierlichen (beer corpses).
There’s also a carnival and a few nostalgic faves: Germany’s last remaining flea circus has been a fixture here since the 19th century.


2  October – Behold courting Albatross (Falkland Islands)
Why now:
it’s the beginning of the albatross mating season
Where: Falklands Islands, South Atlantic Ocean
Dates: October to March
These remarkable islands 645km off the coast of South America were visited by Charles Darwin in the 19th century. Only 2500 people live here, 80% of them in the capital city, Stanley, leaving a lot of open space for wildlife.
The islands, at the confluence of Antarctic and sub-Antarctic waters, are rich in endemic birds and large seal and seabird colonies. This is the most important breeding site in the world for rockhopper penguins, the second most important for gentoo penguins, and the easiest place in the world to see king penguins. But the islands are most famous for their black-browed albatross colonies, a total of 800,000 birds – 80% of the world’s population.
The albatross arrive in October, with mated pairs from the year before greeting each other after a year-long absence. Their subsequent courtship displays are loud and elaborate, as they face each other, spread their 2.5m-wide wings, point their bills skyward and moo and bray. The largest of the 12 albatross colonies is on uninhabited Steeple Jason Island, but they can be observed on other islands too.
October is also an excellent month for seeing new-born southern elephant seals; over 5000 pups are born on the islands each year. Two other seal species and a dozen species of whale are regularly observed in these waters.


3 October – have a balloon ball (USA)
Why now: take flight at the Balloon fiesta
Where: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Dates: early October (3–11 Oct 2015, 1–9 Oct 2016, 7–15 Oct 2017, 6–14 Oct 2018)
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a lot of hot air. Simply, it’s the biggest hot-air balloon event on the planet, which sees around 600 of the fantastic flying machines amass on a vast launch field in New Mexico, forming the centrepiece of a great, family-friendly fiesta.
It’s a magical sight: balloons of myriad shapes and sizes, a rainbow of colour, billowing silk and roaring Áames, plus food stalls and entertainment. There are various launch events too. Dawn Patrols see selected balloons rise up before sunrise; at Night Glows, grounded balloons fire their burners after dark to create magical illuminations; at Mass Ascensions, you can witness all 600-odd baskets taking off at once.


4 October – Find your match (Ireland)
Why now: find the man/woman of your dreams
Where: Lisdoonvarna, County Clare
Dates:  from the last friday in august to first Sunday in October
With its population of about 1000, tiny Lisdoonvarna was famed for two things: its spas, which made it a popular Victorian resort, and its basadóiri (matchmakers). For a fee, these Guinness-swilling Cupids would help singletons find a partner.
Most of the hopefuls (mostly men) would bumble into town in September, when the crops were in and they had made enough hay to buy a lady a glass of porter. The Matchmaking Festival provided social events for these lonely-hearted pilgrims, and allowed local personages to keep undesirables away from their daughters. The festival still features a basadóiri, local horse dealer Willie Daly, as well as amateur horse racing and traditional Irish craic by the pub-load.


5 October – Trek the Snowman (Bhutan)
Why now:
there’s only a narrow window of opportunity to attempt the Snowman Trek
where: Bhutan
Dates: late September to mid-October
Bhutan is a country of rolling hills, towering crags and abundant forest. Virtually the entire place is mountainous, and to see the best of it you should spend a week or more on foot, trekking through the great forested wilderness that covers most of the country. A trek provides the best opportunity to experience the real heart of Bhutan and to get an insight into the rural culture of the kingdom. The mother of all treks here is the Snowman. Fewer than half the people who attempt it actually finish it, either because of problems with altitude (it reaches over 5300m) or heavy snowfall. Its season is short – late September to mid-October – and its commitment is long: it takes around 25 days. But it is utterly spectacular.


6 October – See 200,000 turtles (Costa Rica)
Why now: the rainy season is your best bet for seeing la arribada
Where: Fauna Silvestre Ostional refuge
Dates: September to October
There is no predicting la arribada, ‘the arrival’ of mass numbers of olive ridley turtles on the Pacific coast beaches of Mexico and Central America. After a year at sea, these sea turtles lumber ashore over the course of several days to lay their eggs. It starts slowly, a few skittish turtles coming ashore one night; on successive nights dozens show up, then hundreds of thousands suddenly arrive. The peak period is around September and October, and is most likely to occur around the first and the last quarter of the moon. The best turtle beach may be Costa Rica’s Ostional, where as many as 500,000 turtles have been counted. It’s hard to know why so many come ashore at once, but they’ve been doing it for 190 million years.


Extract from Lonely Planet’s The Best Place to be Today


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