Where to go in October
Well into northern lights season, take a half-term hop over to Iceland with the kids, or visit the stunning Lofoten Islands in Norway. You might prefer to venture to milder climes of southern Europe on a rail journey, perhaps take an epic voyage to Antarctica as it emerges from winter, or head to Churchill in Canada, dubbed the ‘polar bear capital of the world’.
Half term break in Reykjavik
October half term is the perfect time to squeeze in an action-packed adventure break based in Reykjavik. The Icelandic capital is seriously cool for style-conscious teenagers (think trendy cafés, boutique shops and the new Sky Lagoon) and pretty awesome for younger kids too (Viking sagas, legendary hot dogs, the FlyOver Iceland motion cinema etc). But for all ages – and that includes parents – it’s the adventure potential right on Reykjavik’s doorstep that makes this city break irresistible. We include a full-day 4WD superjeep tour in our Reykjavik Family Adventure itinerary, but optional activities range from whale watching and horse riding to Inside the Volcano – an eye-popping tour where you are lowered into the empty, cathedral-sized magma chamber of an extinct volcano just to the south of the city.
Aurora hunting in the Lofoten Islands
By October, the aurora hunting season is well underway across Nordic Europe. The sky’s the limit when it comes to choosing a northern lights holiday (we offer everything from Icehotel breaks in Swedish Lapland to countryside retreats in Iceland), but this month we’d particularly recommend a self drive through northern Norway’s Lofoten Islands. This dramatic archipelago is a head-turner at any time of year – the jagged mountains and colourful villages with their traditional red-painted fishermen’s cabins are beloved by photographers – but add the northern lights and rich golden hues of late autumn into the equation and you’ll be utterly spellbound. A road weaves through the Lofotens, burrowing into tunnels and spanning whaleback bridges, making touring simple and straightforward – even in winter.
Polar bears gather near Churchill
You can be almost certain to see polar bears in Canada’s Hudson Bay area in October and November. Every year the bears gather near the frontier town of Churchill waiting for the bay to freeze over so that they can hunt seals across the ice. Based in Churchill, you’ll set out to explore the tundra in giant-wheeled polar rovers which often provide close-up encounters with polar bears, as well as a chance to spot other wildlife, including Arctic fox, gyrfalcon and snowy owl.
Start of the Antarctic expedition voyage season
The austral summer offers an exciting window of opportunity to visit Antarctica from October to March. Try to book early as many expedition voyages fill fast and have limited availability. They tend not to start until the latter half of October when the pack ice begins to break down around the Peninsula. At the start of the season, landing sites are at their most snowy and pristine, offering superb conditions for photographers. This is also the start of the courtship and mating season for penguins in South Georgia and the Falklands. A voyage combining these sub-Antarctic islands with the Antarctic Peninsula is highly recommended at this time, while an icebreaker cruise through the Weddell Sea in October or November will give you a chance to visit remote emperor penguin colonies.
Catch the last of the warm days
With winter stretching ahead, catch the last of the warm days in mainland Europe and travel south on a rail journey from London all the way to the Mediterranean. Summer lasts well into October in Sicily where Palermo has an average high of around 22ºC during October, and plenty of sunshine. You might need warmer clothes for the evenings at this time of year, but the sea will still be an inviting 20ºC or so. With the intense heat of summer behind you, it’s an ideal time to explore the cities and archaeological sites, or even take a hike on Mt Etna. The Adriatic is equally appealing. Imagine travelling slowly through the heart of Europe, enjoying Munich, Vienna, Ljubljana, Trieste and Venice without the summer crowds, and perhaps returning to London on the luxurious Venice Simplon Orient Express.
Trips to the light fantastic
What a great month for taking pictures: atmospheric light in Iceland, penguins and other wildlife in South Georgia, fall colours in Canada, vibrant spring landscapes in New Zealand… Whether it’s autumn in the northern hemisphere or spring in the south, photographers will relish the vibrant colours and dynamic light this month. A self drive provides maximum freedom and flexibility, allowing you to stop whenever and wherever you like – to catch a fleeting display of the aurora perhaps, or stake out a viewpoint waiting for sunset to enflame an autumn-gilded forest. Of course, if you’re lucky enough to be visiting Antarctica, then you’ll be embarking on a small-ship expedition. The photographic opportunities will be endless, from intimate portraits of king penguins and elephant seals to iceberg-filled landscapes. The 24hr daylight of the austral summer is yet to come, so expect rich colours at dawn and dusk.