Experience diverse Istanbul

There are plenty of reasons to get away this November, with stretches of pink-tinged beaches in Grenada, sizzling adventures on Nicaragua’s active volcanoes and bargain shopping in Istanbul among the options awaiting travellers.

For beach bums…

Long haul: Ko Lanta, Thailand

Ko Lanta sunsetEnjoy romantic sunsets in Ko Lanta
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November marks the start of the dry season on Ko Lanta Yai, the official name for this Andaman Sea gem, part of a necklace of over 50 mainly uninhabited islands off the west coast of Thailand. Far less commercialised than neighbouring Ko Phi Phi, this relatively unspoilt isle is popular with holidaymakers who want to escape the hordes.

The best beaches straddle its west coast: head to Klong Dao for long, glorious stretches of golden sand and shallow waters, a range of unobtrusive accommodation options and romantic sunsets; or 5km-long (3 miles) Phrae Ae (Long Beach) for superb swimming. For ultimate seclusion, head to the south where few people venture; Kantiang Bay is framed by mountains, pearly white sands and little else.

Long haul: Grenada

Morne Rouge beachChill out on secluded Morne Rouge Beach
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The hurricane-free Spice Isle of Grenada is festooned with over 40 soft white sand beaches, the best of which is the 3km-long (2 miles) Grand Anse, lapped by green seas and fringed by many of the island’s top resort hotels. If you want more privacy, head to Morne Rouge Beach or La Sagesse Beach; or, for something unique, try Pink Gin Beach named after the pretty hue of its sands. If you’re after that Robinson Crusoe feel, hop on the ferry for the 90-minute trip to Petit Carriacou where the offshore Sandy Island beckons. This deserted spit of sun-baked, dazzling sands is ringed by coral reefs providing natural saltwater pools – be sure to take a hat and plenty of sunscreen as there is no shade on the island.

For adventure lovers…

Long haul: Nicaragua

Nicaragua volcano boardAttempt volcano boarding
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Usually overlooked in favour of its Central American neighbours, Nicaragua has tons to offer for tourists seeking an offbeat adventure. Heard of volcano boarding? No? Well, it exists; and this is the one place in the world you can do it. Invented by an Aussie tourist in 2005, in the small town of Leon, it’s exactly what you think it is: tourists strap into plywood boards reinforced with metal and try to slip and slide (standing optional) their way down the gravelly surface of the active Cerro Negro volcano. Reaching speeds of up to 92km/h (57mph) it’s definitely one for the photo album.

For those who prefer trekking, the Masaya Volcano National Park is another option. Here, visitors can hike right up to the craters edge of the Masaya Volcano and see molten lava inside. Alternatively, head north to Somoto, where the energetic can hike, swim and cliff jump their way around an unspoilt canyon that was only discovered in 2004.

Mid haul: Oman

Whale sharkCome face to face with whale sharks in Oman
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The Musandam Peninsula in northernmost Oman is a veritable adventure playground for thrill-seekers. Only discovered by tourists in recent years, the area is popular for sedate dhow cruises; but if you want a holiday that’ll make your heart race, you’re in the right place.

Activities range from fun-but-gruelling mountain bike rides through the steep Hajar Mountains to close encounters of the marine kind whilst snorkelling with whale sharks in the bay – October and November is the best time to these glorious beasts feeding in the area. The Musandam coral reef is also abundant in marine life, so there’s plenty to see underwater even if you miss the sharks.

Another popular option is paragliding; this is one of the only spots in Oman where it’s possible. Enjoy graceful (albeit stomach-flipping) swoops over mountainous terrain and desert landscape. Just don’t look down.

For city slickers...

Short haul: Istanbul

Istanbul Grand Bazaar lightsPick up some unique gifts at the Grand Bazaar
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If you fancy a short break this November, Istanbul is the perfect destination to soak up some history and culture, and bag some early Christmas shopping bargains while you're at it.

Visit mosques and palaces; explore historic bazaars and markets; and experience the city's atmospheric Turkish cafés, cosmopolitan rooftop bars and colourful culinary heritage. To pick up some unique Christmas gifts, shop in the world's largest covered market, Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, then head uptown to browse for cut-price fashion goods and clothing in the department stores along İstiklâl Caddesi or upmarket Nişantaşı.

For some relaxing time after all that shopping, head to one of the several cafés offering traditional nargileh (sheesha) in a variety of flavours, along with indulging in a game of backgammon like the locals. If hunger pangs strike later on, grab what locals call Istanbul’s best burger from the 24-hour Kızılkayalar (Sıraselviler Caddesi 6, Taksim Square).

Long haul: Havana

Havana carExplore the character-filled streets of Old Havana
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Even the most worldly of travellers can suffer from culture shock in Havana, where Al Capone-era cars cruise alongside late-model Audis and children in pressed uniforms skip to school. Contradictions are rife but trumped by a live-for-the-moment attitude embodied in Cuba’s ubiquitous rhythms.

The exquisite architecture of Habana Vieja (Old Havana) makes it the Americas' best-preserved colonial centre and a top destination for photographers, artists and musicians looking for inspiration. Take a stroll through shady plazas to the world-famous Malecón, Havana’s scenic seafront promenade lined with colourful neo-classical buildings.

In the evenings, soak up the party atmosphere and head to Casa de la Música (Avenida de Italia 155) for world-class salsa, El Floridita (Calle Obispo 557) for Hemingway’s favourite daiquiris, or Opus Bar (corner of Calzada and D) for delicious cocktails and heart-wrenching boleros in a retro, 1970s lounge bar.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.