If the thought of another year crawling to a close has left you feeling a little low, November is the perfect time to give yourself a travel-fueled lift, with an array of destinations primed for exploration during the penultimate month of the year.
Whether you want to relax on the beach in Southern Vietnam or hop on your bike in Death Valley, USA, the world is waiting to be explored. Go bird-watching in Panama, take a road trip on New Zealand’s North Island, or eat your way across South Korea – trust us, the year is far from over.
Where are the best places to travel to in November for relaxation?
Why now? It’s excellent weather for everything.
Ghana has a great mix. In this diverse wedge of West Africa, you’ll find lush rainforests, soft-sand beaches, rich history, vibrant villages and parks a-scutter with life. Loitering just above the equator, the temperature here changes little year-round (expect 27–30°C/80–86°F) – but November marks the start of the drier months, when travel is easier and the countryside abundantly green, but the harsh harmattan wind hasn’t yet started blowing from the Sahara.
It’s a good time to visit the Unesco-listed shrines of the great Ashanti civilization, safari in spots such as Mole National Park (where you can walk amid elephants and vervet monkeys) and retrace the coast’s haunting past. Some 40 fortresses were built here, where enslaved people were held before facing the horrors of the Middle Passage; Cape Coast and Elmina castles are especially moving. November is also a good time to meet Ghana’s people: head to the fishing settlements in the south, the animist Lobi villages of the north and the many communities in between.
Why now? Swim, snorkel, sunbathe and explore the Mekong Delta.
Vietnam’s southern tip is a lucky dip of the region’s best bits: the heady rush of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), moving relics of war, the Mekong Delta’s paddies and villages, and beautiful, beach-lined Phu Quoc and Con Dao Islands. Both hosted colonial French prisons – you can visit the haunting remains – but are now better known as chill-out getaways, perfect in November after rain and humidity have eased. Closer to Cambodia than Vietnam, Phu Quoc has varied accommodations, great snorkeling and some lovely, quiet beaches. Con Dao is more remote and rugged, hosting nesting turtles (June to September) and dugongs as well as peaceful resorts on breathtaking beaches.
Where are the best places to travel to in November for wildlife and nature?
Why now? For an abundance of avian action.
Panama boasts some of the best birding in Central America. Almost 1000 species have been recorded on this narrow isthmus – from big-billed toucans and bright-plumed trogons to motmots, manakins, puffbirds and jacamars. And in October/November, the numbers swell, as almost two million broad-winged hawks, Swainson’s hawks and turkey vultures migrate south via Panama’s jungle, joining an assemblage of sloths, howler monkeys and colorful frogs too. Soberíana National Park is a superb place to try to spot them. Easily accessible from Panama City, and sitting astride the Panama Canal, the park has a range of self-guided walking routes. (The 17km/10.5-mile Pipeline trail is renowned for its brilliant bird sightings.) It’s also possible to arrange guided strolls, night excursions and boat trips, and to stay in a lodge perched up in the canopy.
North Island, New Zealand
Why now? Hit the road for less.
Quiet, scenic roads; sleeping in out-of-the-way places; the chance to go wherever the mood takes you... There are few better ways to explore New Zealand than by camper. High summer seems best for a road trip – but it’s also more expensive, whereas hiring a camper outside peak season can be up to 50% cheaper. End-of-spring November is a smart choice: lower prices and fewer tourists, but warming up nicely and rampant with wildflowers. The North Island will be a bit warmer than the South – Auckland highs average 20°C (68°F) this month. It’s also bubbling with geothermal activity, so if it does get a little chilly you can warm up at Rotorua and Lake Taupo’s hot-spring complexes, or find wild-and-free thermal pools such as Kerosene Creek (near Rotorua), which has a hot waterfall. There’s also plenty of warmer-weather fun: blackwater raft through Waitomo’s glowworm caves, shelter amid the Hobbiton film set or walk beneath Waipoua Forest’s towering kauri trees.
Where are the best places to travel to in November for culture?
Why now? To dally with death at its most celebratory.
Día de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead – is celebrated over three nights, from October 31 to November 2. According to Mexican tradition, it’s when the deceased may briefly cross into the world of the living. Families construct graveside altars, adorned with photos, candles, marigolds and sweets; skull masks are worn, marching bands play, and everyone feasts. While celebrations might be experienced all over Mexico, the state of Oaxaca – known for its strong Indigenous culture, unique cuisine and flourishing arts and crafts – is an excellent choice. Oaxaca City is a riot of artisan workshops, baroque plazas, and busy markets (where you can buy sugar skulls and pan de muerto, bread of the dead); the Museum of Oaxacan Cultures is also worth a look. Then explore further afield: visit the weaving town of Teotitlán, the historic Tlacolula market and Soledad Etla’s flamboyant Comparsa Parade. By night, head to the region’s many cemeteries for the festivities.
Why now? Combine city sites with late Med sun.
Little Malta is a big draw this month. The mild, Mediterranean climate means it stays almost summery through November, with temperatures around 21°C (70°F) and the sea still warm enough for a dip. Even if not, there’s plenty of interest away from the beach. Valletta, the harbor-hugging capital, makes for a super off-season city break. European Capital of Culture in 2018, and Unesco-listed in its entirety, it was founded by the Knights of Malta in the 16th century – and hasn’t changed a lot since. Wander its maze of medieval alleyways and piazzas, nose into the baroque palaces and fine churches, trace the well-preserved fortifications and dip into the National Museum of Archaeology and modern MUŻA art museum. To appreciate Valletta from water level, sail across the Grand Harbor in a traditional dghajsa (open boat). Then disembark at Vittoriosa, one of the three cities facing Valletta, and get lost in its sinuous backstreets.
Where are the best places to travel to in November for food and drink?
Seville and Jeréz, Spain
Why now? Mild weather for pub crawling, Spanish style.
Let’s all raise a glass to November in southern Andalucía. While most of Europe begins to chill, it’s still t-shirt weather here (expect highs of 20°C/68°F), perfect for sightseeing without the crowds...and for enjoying a tipple or two. The top choice hereabouts is sherry, particularly in and around the fine city of Jeréz de la Frontera. Many historic bodegas – such as vast González-Byass and the cathedral-like cellars of Bodegas Lustau – offer tours and tastings, while characterful drinking holes pack the old center, serving dry and smoky-sweet sherries accompanied by authentic flamenco (the passionate music is said to originate here). Combine Jeréz with Seville, also jam-packed with tapas bars as well as world-class sights: visit the magnificent Mudéjar-style Real Alcázar palace, enter the world’s largest Gothic cathedral, stroll along the Guadalquivir River and wander the atmospheric Triana district, home of flamenco, bullfighting and exquisite ceramic tiles.
Seoul, South Korea
Why now? For bright lights and communal cookery.
November is peak leaf-peeping time in South Korea, when the country’s trees reach full flaming glory and provide a beautiful natural backdrop to even Seoul’s high-tech-ery. Take a walk along the city’s Cheong-gye-cheon Stream at this time and you’ll find it bright with both autumn color and the illuminations of the Seoul Lantern Festival.
But maybe even more important than autumn, it’s kimjang season, when friends and family gather to make massive batches of kimchi to last through the winter. Seoul holds a Kimchi Festival (usually the first week of November); you might get to make the famed fermented cabbage with hundreds of locals. Still peckish? Go to Gwangjang Market, a great place to try Korean street food such as mayak gimbap (rice rolls), sundae (blood sausage) and bindaetteok (mung-bean pancakes). Then graze the stalls of Namdaemun Market, which dates to the 15th century, and visit Noryangjin Fish Market to sample fresh seafood 24/7.
Where are the best places to travel to in November for adventure?
Death Valley, USA
Why now? Hot(ish) riding.
It’s not unknown for the mercury to top 50°C (122°F) in Death Valley during July. That is emphatically not the time to visit. Better to wait until November, when the average high in this lowest, hottest, driest of national parks is a pleasant 25°C (77°F), all the campgrounds are open (camping season runs mid-October to April) and it’s quieter than spring. Indeed, these conditions are ideal for cycling.
While winter grips many a road across the country, Death Valley’s tarmac and dirt track (of which there is over 1200km/745 miles) is free of both ice and traffic lights, offering a great way of getting in amid the peaks, escarpments, dunes, faults, salt flats and weird rock formations. Top rides include the descent from Daylight Pass into the valley, the fat push from broiling Furnace Creek to Stovepipe Wells, and the climb to Dante’s View for a panorama over the Black Mountains and Badwater Basin. Or plot a 400km(240-mile)-plus through-ride from Las Vegas to Lone Pine via Death Valley.
Why now? To master warm winter waves.
The northernmost, easternmost Canary Island laughs at the idea of hibernating for winter. With November temperatures still reaching 23°C (73.4°F) on land and 22°C (71.6°F) in the ocean, Lanzarote continues to be brilliant for water-based fun. Sailors, surfers, kite surfers and kayakers can keep practicing all year long; it’s a good place to learn new skills, too, as conditions are reliable and many operators offer lessons.
The cooler months (November to March) are especially good for surfing – pros can tackle the legendary left-hand reef break of El Quemao while beginners should head to the beach breaks and surf schools of La Caleta de Famara and Orzola. Lanzarote also has many calm, sheltered lagoons, ideal for paddleboarding – Charco de San Gines in Arrecife, Playa Blanca and Playa Mujeres are all popular. No matter what you do, the island – a Unesco Geopark of volcanic cones, lava fields and lunar-like weirdness – provides a dramatic backdrop.