Travelling is most rewarding when you discover somewhere new. Or at least new to you. The best way to reap those rewards is by heading off the beaten track. According to global travellers, these are the best places to do just that.*
Visit Funchal’s farmers’ market, Mercado dos Lavradores
The capital of the subtropical island of Madeira, Funchal is blissfully warm in November (even at night, temperatures rarely dip below 17°C). It’s an autonomous region of Portugal, whose influence can be seen on the spotless boulevards (many paved in traditional Portuguese mosaic style), the leafy town squares and, of course, ubiquitous pastéis de nata (custard tarts). It’s a laid-back destination, where locals are eager to chat and welcome you into the Madeiran way of life; start your day visiting the farmers’ market, Mercado dos Lavradores, to sample local produce and photograph the bunches of dried piri piri peppers and overflowing baskets of passion fruit. After wandering Funchal’s winding streets and visiting the beautiful Monte Palace Tropical botanic garden, explore the rest of this volcanic island with its forests, waterfalls, beaches and rugged cliffs. Stay at The Cliff Bay, a pretty 10 minute-walk from the beach.
Leamington Spa, UK
The leafy town of Royal Leamington Spa
A few hours’ drive from London , just outside Birmingham, you’ll find the lesser-known but immensely pretty Royal Leamington Spa. With wide streets, white Regency-era town houses, sweet shops with striped awnings, and well-kept gardens, it’s a historic spa town with a relaxing pace but plenty to do. Go for a walk around the Victorian, formal Jephson Gardens with lakes, fountains, hundreds of different types of trees and vividly-coloured flowerbeds. Then stop off at the Royal Pump Rooms, a regal, Grade II listed building that used to house the town’s famous spa baths but now serves as an art gallery, museum, library and a delightful café. Finally, Wilde’s Bar, tucked in a basement off the Parade (the main street), has a consistently fantastic but unpretentious gourmet menu, great wine, and lots of oddities, antique mirrors and candlelight. This little venue sums up everything that’s great about small town English watering holes. Either treat yourself to a stay at Mallory Court Country House Hotel & Spa just outside Leamington or check into the more central Angel Hotel.
The St.Alexander Nevski cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria
Though it’s the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia often flies under the mainstream tourist radar; all the better for in-the-know travellers, then. Though its history is as long and intricate as the other European cultural capitals, Sofia stands out for being a mesh of Eastern and Western influence. Visit the outstanding Alexander Nevski Cathedral, with gold domes, vast mosaics, frescoes and gold leaf, before stumbling upon Soviet monuments and Roman historical sites, all in one day. November is a wise time to visit, being off-season but scenic, ripe for wrapping up warm and tucking into some banitsa, an irresistible local filo pastry layered with melted cheese. Stay at the St. George Hotel, just a few minutes’ walk from the city centre.
The Vistula River flows past Wawel castle in Kraków
Kraków in November often finds the city cloaked in snow, endowing its medieval architecture, castles, cobbled streets and churches with even more appeal. It’s also a month of celebrations, with All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day, Polish Independence Day and St Andrew’s Day all marked with a mix of festivals, candlelit ceremonies and odd fortune-telling traditions. Take advantage of the budget-friendly food and drink, visiting intimate local bars and restaurants; the Pijalnia Wodki i Piwa bar is one such establishment, and its delicious quince and plum vodka will keep you warm on even the coldest nights. Check into the Hotel Legend, right in the midst of the Old Town.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Enter the old city of Angkor Thom in Siem Reap, Cambodia
The gateway to the magnificent ancient temple complex of Angkor Wat, Siem Reap is relatively hard to get to and therefore doesn’t tend to get the same flicker of recognition as a tourist destination than its neighbouring Southeast Asian capitals, Bangkok and Hanoi. But it’s well-worth the effort. Aside from the mystical glory of Angkor Wat (which is a absolutely a must-see), with its elaborate carvings and lily-pad strewn lakes in the middle of the jungle, the small, laid-back city of Siem Reap is a lovely place to be in November. Endless, cloudless blue skies are the norm, with barely any rain falling at this time of year. It’s also not too hot to go for a cycle ride through tropical scenery just outside the city, or you can while away the days eating as much fantastic Cambodian street food as humanly possible. Relax after a day of navigating hectic Siem Reap at the Golden Temple Retreat, in the long and plant-lined infinity pool.
**These destinations had the highest growth in bookings by Booking.com customers for the month of October.