Fall foliage and beyond: 15 best places to visit in September
September. It’s back-to-school month for some, but for others it’s the optimal time to squeeze in one last adventure. Think about it. The weather’s perfect for outdoor activities. Hotel rates are easier on your wallet because peak tourist season is in decline. Autumnal Europe is a haven for cultural events and colourful leaves. September in North America is prime time for catching the Northern Lights. And many music festivals take place at this time too, like Epizode (Albania) and Rock in Rio (Brazil).
Of all the magnificent places you could visit, here are the best places to visit in September to get your travel clock a-ticking.
1. Munich, Germany
Your first September offering is Oktoberfest – Munich’s misleadingly named but oh-so amazing festival of beer. Sometimes the simplest things are the best. Like drinking stine after stine of traditional German beer – that supposedly doesn’t give you a hangover – suited and booted in your best dirndl or lederhosen, and dancing on the tables arm in arm like one humongous family (of drunkards).
If you can drag yourself away from the shenanigans long enough, Munich’s other highlights include the English Garden, the Nymphenburg Palace and Marienplatz.
2. Cozumel, Mexico
With friendly locals, a myriad of marine life, and clear-as-glass waters to wade through, this Mexican island is a diver’s paradise – and September is the perfect time to visit. Cozumel is just off the coast of Yucatan state, which is home to popular party city Cancún and Chichén Itzá, one of the seven wonders of the world, so you can get the perfect mixture of party and culture all while chilling on some sandy beaches under world class sunsets.
3. Northern Territory, Australia
September is early fall in Europe and the US but for Australia, its the first month of spring. In the Northern Territory, it’s still dry but too early for the dizzying heat of summer.
National park fiend? The outback is one of the best places to visit in September when you’re Down Under. Just imagine yourself exploring Uluru and Alice Springs in a gentle climate, worrying about how to get the perfect red rock snap instead of worrying about dehydration.
4. Rome, Italy
Imagine Rome’s summery vibe without the overwhelming summer heat or peak season crowds. Too good to be true? Well, it isn’t. This is Rome in September, baby.
The Colosseum, the Vatican ceiling, the art galleries. The pasta, the Aperols, the gelato. It’s just as good in the summer as it is in September, with the added bonus of more personal space and just as many flecks of sunshine on your face.
5. Galway, Ireland
Ah Galway, no wonder Ed Sheeran sings about you now. This harbour city is big on the small town vibes with rugged coastal cottages and winding lanes. Even better, September marks the popular International Oyster Festival so you can slurp and sample super-fresh seafood, plus a whole range of organic cooking.
If you’re into outdoor adventure and dramatic scenes, then you’ve come to the right place. Take a stroll along the cliffs, run against the wind with it dancing in your hair, this is your main character starter pack for the end to a beautiful summer and the start of a dazzling fall.
6. Lisbon, Portugal
September is a great month to visit Lisbon. The masses are back at school and the weather cruises at a balmy 26°C average. Don’t miss your chance to climb Lisbon’s seven hills, seeking out pastel houses and vibrant Azulejo tiles. There’ll be pastel de nata waiting for you at the bottom as a reward. And now that it’s less busy, get to visiting some historic sites without having to wait in any annoying queues!
7. Atacama Desert, Chile
Desolate and dramatic, this desert is one of the driest in the world and is often compared to Mars! Have you ever been to Mars? You can tell your friends you’ve basically been there after a trip here…
With mild temps and minimal tourists, ‘shoulder season’ is the best time to soak up the stillness, check out the geysers and dabble in a little stargazing. Adventure time? Head onwards to Patagonia, where at this time of year the ice is melting and temperatures are rising.
8. Istanbul, Turkey
The Turkish capital is a major European cultural hotspot and one of the best places to visit in September. Art and architecture reign supreme and every September, Istanbul proves its artistic worth with Contemporary Istanbul – a show-stopping art fair exhibiting everything from sculptures to canvases.
Avoid the summer crowds and let yourself roam free during these sunny Turkish days. It’ll feel like peak season without any of the hassle.
Image source:Anna / Unsplash
9. Fairbanks, Alaska
After the rainiest month of the year, early autumn is the time to visit this bucket-list mainstay and all its natural beauty. The mountains are glacier-capped, icebergs float off the coast, and explorers are spoilt for choice.
The jewel of Alaska’s many national parks is Denali, with its hiking trails, wildlife (including grizzly bears and caribou) and even the chance to see the Northern Lights. Why wouldn’t you book this? It’s the dreamiest of United States stays.
10. Utah, USA
Sure, the russet leaves are lovely in New York this time of year but how about the stunning ochre-rust landscape and rock formations in lesser-known Utah? There’s colourful foliage along the scenic drives but the best way to get around is hiking. Follow the trails in Bryce Canyon National Park or go in search of the Potash Evaporation Ponds – shimmering, azure salt pools in the middle of the red desert, no wonder this is one of the best places to visit in September.
Image source:Jasper van der Meij / Unsplash
11. Reykjavik, Iceland
Kick off your hibernation right, and get in a cosy mood with Iceland. From the sprawling fjords to the countless waterfalls and the chance to catch the northern lights, Iceland is a stunning destination you cannot miss.
And September is a great time to visit! It’s warm enough that you won’t have to pack your thickest thermals, but it’s cool enough that you get the perfect early autumn vibes for those who love a bit of cosy weather. The fishing town of Reykjavik has a lot of comfort to offer, as well as museums and Viking history for those interested in the old ways of the North.
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12. Barcelona, Spain
Weather is still warm, sun is still out, beaches are still sandy and mellow, but the crowds have died down and you get to capture this iconic city on a more personal level. If you’re considering travel in September, Barcelona just HAS to be on your list.
Tapas and bars, amazing night life, sweet cafes and restaurants serving local foods – this is just the start to your Spanish adventure. Visit the gothic quarter for some interesting architecture, and marvel at La Sagrada Familia which towers over the entire city with it’s majestic presence.
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13. New England, USA
Ever heard of leaf peeping? It’s the colloquial term used by New Englanders for when tourists visit the East Coast in hopes of capturing the gorgeous array of fall colours on the trees.
Stunning, cosy, and warm, there’s nothing quite like a New England September, so why not take a road trip? Drive down Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts for a city stop in Boston. Sample the best of seafood (lobster galore) as well as some of the US’s most underrated country scenes. Sparkling lakes and vermillion forests? How can you resist.
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14. Split, Croatia
Got distracted while chasing those last summer rays, and you’ve found yourself in Split? What a happy surprise. While we also recommend visiting Dubrovnik and Zagreb while in Croatia, Split is a special little gem.
Located on the Dalmatian Coast, Split is a gorgeous sea-side town that has views on the rolling teal waves and the classic tiled roofs. Feels like walking through a fairytale village where all your summer wishes will come true. Come for the sights and stay for the rich heritage and history, as well as the friendly locals and amazing food.
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15. Kyoto, Japan
You may associate travel to Japan with the spring because of the famously breathtaking cherry blossom season. And yes, Japan IS gorgeous during that period of the year, but in autumn you get a different natural phenomenon.
Gingko leaves, native to both Japan and China, turn a brilliant bright yellow and fall to the ground giving the illusion that the streets are adorned in gold. Visit some of Kyoto’s public gardens for the full effect of this September magic. Coupled with the deep history of Shinto Mythology, temples, and Torii gates, travel to Kyoto in September is sure to be unforgettable in more ways than one.
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