Pageantry and revelry are the twin faces of November. As the post-monsoon skies clear in the Himalaya, Sherpa monks gather in Nepal for their year’s biggest festival - an explosion of colour, dancing and ceremonial pill-popping; in Mexico, on the other side of the globe, families and friends come together for a far more sombre but no less fascinating celebration to mark the Day of the Dead.
The stakes are high for the camel races in Dubai at this time of year, while oenophiles fly down to France to sample the season’s first bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau; foodies, meanwhile, head for the gourmet delights and equally fine wines of Australia’s Margaret River region. The red-hot summer finally cools off in the Lone Star State, making November a great time to remember the Alamo; and the Balkan beauty that is Macedonia is all the more alluring for the absence of other visitors.
Whether you want to be at the heart of the action, or just crave a quiet corner of the planet all for yourself, Lonely Planet’s destination experts are here to help.
Watch the camel races, Dubai
Most of Dubai’s attractions - from the chilled waterparks to air-conditioned mega-malls - are designed to be enjoyed whatever the weather (that is, warm, hot or scorching). But one event that does depend on cooler temperatures is the time-honoured tradition of camel racing.
These raucous races take place during the winter months at the Dubai Camel Race Track, a 45-minute drive inland from central Dubai. The atmosphere is often electric as stakes are high – this is a moneyed industry and top racing camels are worth up to $1million.
If you’ve never seen a camel run before you’re in for a treat. They reach speeds of 65km/h, which seems almost impossible with their off-kilter gait, and are ridden by robot jockeys with remote-controlled whips – it’s a surreal sight. Roads run right alongside the racetrack, so do like the Emiratis do, and follow the camels in a four-wheeled drive to get the best view of the action.
Helen Elfer – Destination Editor for the Middle East and North Africa. Follow her tweets @helen_elfer.
Join the Sherpas for Mani Rimdu, Nepal
With the end of the monsoon, clear skies return to the Himalaya, creating prime conditions for trekking in the world’s highest mountains. As an added bonus, this is also the season for Mani Rimdu, the biggest Sherpa festival in Nepal.
For three days - from 6 to 9 November in 2014 - the monastery of Tengboche (tengboche.org) comes alive with masked dances, fire ceremonies, sand mandalas and the popping of ceremonial ‘pills’. Sherpas gather from across Solukhumbu to pay their respects to the resident monks and line up for sacred pills, believed to guarantee long life and Buddhist merit.
For non-Sherpas, the key reason to visit is to see the legendary chaam dances, performed in an almost hallucinatory collection of costumes and masks depicting terrifying protector deities and the four ghings (supernatural beings) who protect the Buddhist religion. Tickets for the ceremony are in short supply so most people make arrangements through a trekking agency - if you fail to secure a place, similar ceremonies take place at Chiwong monastery (chiwongmonastery.com) near Phaplu, several days’ walk downhill...
Joe Bindloss - Destination Editor for the Indian Subcontinent. Follow him at @joe_planet.
Experience the Day of the Dead, Mexico
One of the biggest celebrations in the already impressive Mexican calendar is Día de Muertos. Day of the Dead, as it’s known in English, is actually a multi-day, fairly sombre remembrance of lost family and friends, starting on 31 October and culminating on 2 November.
Cemeteries are full of people tidying up graves. Homes have pop-up altars. Shops sell sugar skulls and toy skeletons. Commemorated across the whole country, Day of the Dead is particularly celebrated in the capital Mexico City, the Yucatán’s cultural epicentre Mérida, and Oaxaca City, where locals hold concerts and exhibitions, create sand drawings and sculptures, and parade through the streets in satirical costumes. Oaxaca’s main cemetery, the Panteón General, is the venue for concerts and all-night vigils, following traditions that began in pre-Hispanic times.
Clifton Wilkinson – Destination Editor for Mexico. Follow him at @Cliff_Wilkinson.
Combine fine wine, food and beaches at Margaret River, Western Australia
Known for its beaches and award-winning wines, Margaret River in Western Australia also has a buzzing food scene to match. With a similar terroir to Bordeaux, you can expect to find world-class chardonnays and cabernet sauvignons from over 200 wineries here, so drop in for a tasting, gourmet lunch or a behind-the-scenes tour of the vineyards. There are also artisan cheese, olive oil and chocolate producers in Margaret River, along with micro-breweries and restaurants which make great use of the local seafood.
November is the best time to visit, and not just because the weather is warm but not yet what Australian's call hot. In late November, the annual Margaret River Gourmet Escape festival (www.gourmetescape.com.au) brings 30 of the world’s best food and wine experts to town. Add these dates to your calendar now for the beach BBQ run by Rick Stein, a collaboration dinner from Michelin-starred greats like Heston Blumenthal, Sat Bains and Clare Smyth, and wine tasting with Australian wine critic James Halliday.
Tasmin Waby – Destination Editor for Australia, New Zealand & the Pacific. Follow her tweets @tasminwaby.
Remember the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, USA
By November, the boiling Texas summer temperatures have retreated, and the cool-but-not-cold weather makes this month a great time to check out San Antonio’s historic and walkable sights.
Right in the heart of the city, the Alamo is the site of a pivotal 1836 battle in which Mexican troops launched an assault on Texas revolutionaries, killing all of the defending force, but providing the rallying cry that buoyed the rest of the Texas Revolution – ‘Remember the Alamo!’ Walk a little over 10 minutes west and you’ll find the San Fernando Cathedral, the spot from which Mexican general Santa Anna planned his attack.
In between are equally pedestrian-friendly things to do. All along the San Antonio River, the city’s Riverwalk has a network of cypress-lined paths flanked by bars, shops and restaurants. On your way, make sure to check out the Buckhorn Saloon & Museum (buckhornmuseum.com) for that only-in-Texas blend of taxidermy specimens and love for the Lone Star State.
Alexander Howard - Destination Editor for Western US (except California) & Canada. Follow him at @alexmhoward.
Be dazzled by Lake Ohrid, Macedonia
November is a good time to visit Macedonia and see why this Balkan beauty made it into Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2014. Start by checking out the controversial revamp of the capital – the ‘Skopje 2014’ project. Then, with the harvest month just over, wine-taste your way through the famous Tikveš region en route to Ohrid.
World Heritage–listed Ohrid is known as the ‘Jerusalem of the Balkans’, and with the summer crowds gone you can truly enjoy exploring the old town’s treasures: from the ancient amphitheatre and medieval hilltop fortress to the stunning Sveti Jovan at Kaneo church perched on a cliff overlooking the pristine lake. The weather may be a bit chilly but a hike in Galičica National Park is recommended for magnificent views and a huge number of endemic plants.
A dreamy boat ride to the southern side of the three-million-year-old lake takes you to another gem: the peacock-protected Sv Naum Monastery, with a fabulous raft-equipped restaurant on the springs of Crni Drim river. Ohrid trout is an endangered species, so perhaps pick another tasty variety from the menu – but don’t leave without some elaborate jewellery made from unique Ohrid pearls.
Brana Vladisavljevic – Destination Editor for Southeastern and Eastern Europe. Follow her tweets @branavl.
Sip your way through Beaujolais, France
As November precedes the winter party season, the best place to enter the festive spirit and wind (or wine) down must be Beaujolais, France – a region best known for its fruity red wines. Cycle or drive the wine routes that weave through a patchwork of vineyards, rolling hills and quaint villages, taste-testing your way around (responsibly, bien sûr).
And don’t miss midnight on the third Thursday of November, when the first bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau (drunk at the age of six weeks) is ‘tapped’ open and celebrated in the most obvious of ways. Take to the streets and join the massive party that takes over the town of Beaujeu, 64km northwest of Lyon, with music, dancing, food and - you guessed it - plenty of flowing wine.
Kate Morgan - Destination Editor for Western Europe. Follow her at @kate_ann_morgan.
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