During the autumn, the days get shorter, temperatures drop and the pace of life goes down a little. Whether you’re looking to prolong the summer, avoid the peak season crowds or you just can’t wait for those golden leaves to start falling, we’ve picked 13 destinations that look dazzling in the glow of autumn.
Come autumn, shades of yellow, red and orange embellish the ancient canals of Utrecht. Dating back to the 12th century, the canals with their wharves and wharf cellars are one of a kind in the world. The wharves were added to create an inner city harbour so that the boats could dock and unload their goods directly into the wharf cellars that were equipped with pedestrian walkways.
Nowadays, the wharf cellars have been transformed into cosy cafes, bars, restaurants and shops. The best way to take in this Dutch wonder is by boat. Rent a boat and paddle your way through the colourful canals. If it gets a bit chilly, stop by for a warm beverage along the way.
Tel Aviv, Israel
If you’re not quite ready to give up your tan when the sunny season starts to dwindle, make a beeline for Tel Aviv – where the summer is far from over. The Riviera-style seashore promenade is alive with carefree joggers, boutique shops and exceptional restaurants serving up fresh Mediterranean fare. A smooth breeze picks up on the 16 beaches stretching along the coastline, making the temperature just perfect – and gone are the crowds of tourists. Gordon-Frishman is the most central, and blissfully empty in the autumn months. Hilton, the gay-friendliest of beaches, is also the surfer favourite. Head to Banana beach for unrivalled sunsets with cocktail-in-hand at its namesake beach cafe, or stop by Dolphinarium on Fridays for a show of drummers and performance artists partying on the sand.
The capital of Siberia may be known for its hostile winters far below freezing, but it celebrates the Indian summer from mid-September to mid-October, holding on the last rays of sun.
Although a common brief stop on a Trans-Siberian excursion, Novosibirsk deserves to be discovered especially in light of the last rays of autumn sun. The golden sunset sublimes the silver dome and massive columns of the Opera and Ballet Theatre, the largest in Russia. It’s hard not to feel humbled besides such massive architecture, guarded by Lenin’s imposing statue on Lenina Square. Brave locals might still bathe in the waters of the Ob River, so join in or grab a blanket and sit on the shore watching the Trans-Siberian train chug across the Novosibirsk Rail Bridge.
With its insular 40°C weather, summer in Seville is best spent at the nearby beaches like Matalascañas – but plan your trip a month or two later and you’ll hit the sweet spot. The streets smell of orange blossom, the shaded plazas are filled with locals drinking chilled beer and snacking on tapas, and the nights are long and balmy.
The city’s compact historical centre and flat landscape are perfect for spending your days walking around soaking in the theatrical culture and Arabic heritage.
If you need to cool down after all the sightseeing, head to the nearest rooftop pool at Hotel Doña Maria or refresh your inner child at the Isla Mágica amusement park.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
The nip of winter shyly shows the tip of its nose behind the maple autumn coloured scenery. Towering over Belfast, hike up Black Mountain for a view that stretches across the city towards the Strangford Lough inlet. A sea safari on the water or a stroll along the orange-hued shore make for a perfect excuse to pop in to the Crown Liquor Saloon and warm up with a spiced gin cocktail.
If you are travelling by car, a worthwhile nearby trip would be a visit to the enchanting archaeological site of Beaghmore Stone Circles. Or on your way to visit Old Bushmills Distillery, a whiskey-making legend in Northern Ireland, walk beneath the Dark Hedges, intertwined beech trees hugging the road.
Embrace the dramatic transformation that autumn brings along throughout Canada’s Ontario province from late September through October.
Not too far from Toronto, the Algonquin Provincial Park is 7,725 square kilometre of dense forest, winding rivers and placid lakes. Paddle along in a canoe for the best views of maple trees and red oaks showing off their fiery tones reflected in the water.
For what Winston Churchill famously dubbed “the prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world”, take on the Impressionist-like landscape of the Niagara Parkway or, if you’d rather explore on foot, hike amongst 1000-year old trees to the edge of cliff-side at the Bruce Peninsula National Park.
Italy takes autumn harvest seriously. The exact dates vary each year depending on the weather but, all over the country, Sagre (harvest festivals) are being held in honour of everything from chestnuts to mushrooms, pumpkins and even polenta.
Mid-September into early October is the ideal time to do a roadtrip in Tuscany – a region at the heart of the Italian gastronomic tradition – when temperatures are milder during the day, pleasantly cool at night, and the landscape is bursting with the colours, sounds and smells of country life. Participate in the time-old tradition of the Vendemmia (grape harvest) and learn about the local wines and how they are made. Go truffle-hunting in the Tuscan forests or pop into a taverna to taste an authentic pasta with porcini mushrooms. Yum.
Mount Fuji, Japan
Autumn is a combination of striking red leaves and overwhelmingly peaceful blue waters around Mount Fuji in Japan. This natural beauty is celebrated during an annual festival, Fujikawaguchiko Autumn Leaves Festival, celebrating the bronzy red hue of the cherry and maple trees covering the area. Late night food stall bites under the brightly lit trees makes for a romantic evening at the foot of the Mount. Escape the haze that floats over Lake Kawaguchiko, passing through yellow karamatsu pines on your way up the slopes of Mount Fuji. Pinch yourself – the postcard-perfect contrast of dark volcanic rock, yellow pines, and snow-capped summit is absolutely real.
One of the advantages of travelling off-season is the lower prices. If you’re looking for a budget option, Portugal’s capital on the Tagus river front, Lisbon, is at its cheapest after the summer tourists have packed up and gone home.
The sun is still high in the sky, the temperature pleasant with highs around 25°C, and hotels and restaurants are offering discount rates.
Stay in the centre and explore the city’s millenary history and architecture – without the masses of tourists cramping your style – or hop on a train at Cais do Sodré station and you can be lying on a beach in less than 30 minutes.
While wandering across the pavement of bright orange leaves in Park Staromiejski, discover the colours of autumn in Lodz. In the cityscape, redbrick factories and Art Nouveau facades hide splashes of street art transforming the city into an open air art gallery. A walk down Piotrkowska Street, with its multi-coloured buildings (brightly lit up at night), often means running into aspiring film students walking in the footsteps of alumnus Roman Polanski.
Lend an ear – Lodz stands up to its reputation for exciting nightlife. In the last months of summer you might still catch a concert at Manufaktura, a complex of converted 19th-century textile factories. Or grab a house lager at the Bierhalle to forget the chilly autumn nights settling in.
If you’d like to bypass winter altogether, bear in mind that September through November is spring time in the Southern Hemisphere.
It is also the time when nature blooms, the shyest animals come out of hiding and whale watching is at its prime in the wild, wind-swept plains and jagged peaks of Argentinian Patagonia.
Horseback riding, kayaking and mountain biking are just a sample of the myriad activities on offer to the adventurous traveller and die-hard nature lover. And the views are spectacular, with purple Lupine in bloom guarding the Mount Tronador.
The easiest access may be to fly to Punta Arenas, Chile and cross the border or find a connecting flight from Buenos Aires.
To welcome nature’s descent into hibernation and fast-forward to snowy days, you’ll find Iceland is all space, fresh air and freedom in the months leading up to winter. With lower prices and fewer crowds, hiring a car is a great way to explore the island.
Pick wild blueberries, spot seals lazing on the black sand beaches of Vik, warm up in natural hot pools or help out with the annual réttir, when farmers and their families hike up the remote valleys to round up their sheep and horses before winter.
Grey skies paint white light across the orange-tinged volcanic plains as you explore the countryside’s waterfalls, volcanoes and glaciers. To seek out the first Northern Lights of the season, hold out until November when the nights are longer and darker.
If you stay in the capital, keep an eye out for Reykjavik’s Iceland Airwaves, a November festival known for its intimate and playful environment that showcases new music by both local talent and international bands.
Markt Hartmannsdorf, Austria
The fields are cropped and the sun hangs low over Markt Hartmannsdorf, in the Austrian state of Styria. Winter is coming, but a few months of pleasant autumn climate still remain before the village gets swallowed by snow. All roads lead to the 36-metre tower of the central church, especially visible as the trees start to lose their leaves. With a population of about 3,000 people, escape the busy cities and enjoy the quiet you can only find in rural villages surrounded in nature. Wake up to a cosy room at a local fruit farm – the early days of autumn are the perfect time for participating in apple and pear harvest, and enjoying the peaceful outdoors.