Summer may be drawing to a close, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait until 2019 to take your next trip. In many parts of the world autumn is the perfect time to explore, with pleasant temperatures, fewer crowds and, of course, the beautiful colours of fall foliage. Here’s a selection of the best places for an autumn getaway.
Douro Valley, Portugal
With its narrow, twisting river and steep, terraced hillsides, Portugal’s Douro Valley comes alive when its leaves change colour. Most trips through the region are river cruises, and one of its biggest draws is wine. The Douro Valley is most notable for producing the world’s only true port, or fortified wine, and plenty of tasting opportunities are available at the numerous wine estates and vineyards which line the river.
Portugal’s second city, Porto, is considered to be the gateway to the Douro Valley, and its UNESCO-listed historical centre is worth a visit. Admire the beautiful housing and granite monuments which are found throughout the city, take a boat ride through its centre or wander through São Roque Park which has beautiful gardens and a popular hedge maze.
New England, USA
The quintessential fall destination, New England comes to life with an explosion of red, purple and gold each autumn. Starting in the northern states of Maine and New Hampshire in late September, the renowned fall foliage moves south throughout the season to Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Head to Dixville Notch State Park in New Hampshire where the crisp trees retain their leaves until the season’s end. Here you can go hiking on one of many trails to take in the scenery, and break for a picnic under a waterfall. In Vermont you can see the foliage from a different perspective on a hot air balloon ride at either sunrise or sunset, while Rhode Island is the perfect place to sample locally-produced wine at the Greenvale Vineyards in the quaint town of Portsmouth.
September ushers in the start of Northern Lights season in Iceland, which lasts until April, providing the best window of opportunity to catch a glimpse of this incredible phenomenon.
Hotel and car hire prices also fall post-summer and getting your own wheels while the roads are still safe only adds to the possibilities. Head to Saftafell National Park for great hiking and go wild blueberry picking, or head to the north of the country and explore the volcanically active area around Lake Myvatn. It also has its own version of the Blue Lagoon, Myvatn Nature Baths, which is located high up on a hillside so you can enjoy excellent views as you soak.
The colourful autumn leaves of Japan, also known as koyo, are just as much of a draw as the springtime cherry blossom, and the Japanese Alps regions of Takayama and Matsumoto are two of the best places to experience the stunning blend of red, yellow and orange.
Cycle around beautiful Takayama and stop at some of the best foliage sport including Hida no Sato, an open-air museum of traditional Japanese houses, and the Hiashiyama Walkway with its Shinto shrines and beautiful maple trees. Matsumoto is just as breathtaking with its ancient castles, thatch-roofed buildings perfectly framed by crimson leaves and famous bathing monkeys.