As Labour Day recedes into the past and tree leaves turn red, amber, and yellow, we realize that fall is truly upon us. Happily, it is one of the most beautiful seasons to explore different regions of the earth on fall getaways. It’s not high season like late spring or summer, but it’s still a popular time to travel. Temperatures are mild, weather is less chaotic than in the summer or winter, and prices are more affordable.
Beyond this, the world is lovely in the fall. While a lot of great destinations in the world don’t have fall – any country near the equator essentially flips between the wet and dry season – anything further north or south is worth heading to when the leaves start losing their green. It’s also important to keep in mind that countries in the Southern Hemisphere have different seasons than those in the Northern Hemisphere, so while Europe enjoys fall from September to November, countries like Australia and Argentina have fall in late March through June.
Below are a list of six great destinations to visit in the fall. Not only do these countries show off their best colours (trust me, seeing Japan burst into shades of red, yellow, and amber is breathtaking), but travelling to these spots can be more convenient than in the summer. Any of these places would make an incredible destination to head to on fall getaways, so keep that in mind when you’re planning future trips.
Celebrate Autumn with Oktoberfest in Bavaria
With its forest-lined hillsides, cobblestoned streets, and gastronomic comforts like dumplings, pretzels, and bratwurst, Germany is the place to be, come fall. In particular, you should set your sights on Bavaria, in Germany’s southeast. With rolling hillsides and a surplus of forest, it’s the ideal spot to travel with your camera and bask in the amber glow of fall. As well, Bavaria is home to Oktoberfest, which is king when it comes to fall festivals.
Oktoberfest is likely the most popular harvest festival in the world. Every year, millions of people travel to Munich in the fall to celebrate the harvest by drinking gallons of beer and reveling in good company. The festival occurs for 16 to 18 days during late September and early October, which coincides perfectly with the height of the season in Bavaria. If you like beer, you’ll be in heaven at Oktoberfest. You can drink out of gallon-sized steins (no, seriously) and try special brews like Marzenbier, an amber lager which is brewed specifically for the festival. If you’re looking to party come fall, you’ll find no better place to do so than Oktoberfest.
However, there’s more to fall in Bavaria than Oktoberfest. If you enjoy wine more than beer, you’re in luck as fall is the best time to sample fresh vintages and tour the country’s vineyards. If you want to appreciate the colours of the season, you should head outside the big cities and make for the countryside, surveying the area near the Austrian border in the foothills of the Alps.
A trip to Neuschwanstein Castle this time of year is captivating as the white stone of the castle pops out from the surrounding bursts of red and yellow. As well, the weather in Bavaria during the fall is downright charming. In November, weather can be unpredictable, leading to early snows and heavy winds, while September and October retain much of the warmth of summer, but with milder evenings and light winds. As well, there are far fewer people in Bavaria this time of year (aside from the crowds in the beer halls of Oktoberfest). As Bavaria is such a popular destination, a bit of breathing room is immensely appreciated.
See a Golden Island Turn Green in Crete
Crete is known for its food and its beaches, two things that might not come to mind when planning fall getaways. However, there is plenty to recommend for a Greece vacation in September or October to the island of Crete. The pristine beaches and golden hues of summer are justifiably famous, but come fall, this famously-dry island comes to life as the rain and mild temperature allow plants to resume growth. In the summer, the extreme heat and lack of rain dries out the island’s vegetation and turns everything a yellow-gold. Since this is the high season for visiting Crete, this is the popular conception of what the island looks like.
But in the fall, all the vegetation that covers the island wakes up and Crete explodes into a verdant garden. In September, days are much the same as they are in the summer: warm and long. As September turns to October, snow begins to dust the mountaintops on the island and evenings become cooler. The daytime temperature sits around 25°C, so if you want to go to the beach, that’s still a viable option heading into October. The sea never changes much all year round on Crete, so if you’re looking for the stunning blue of the Mediterranean, you’ll find it whenever you head on a Greek vacation to this stunning island.
However, while you can still head to the beach in the fall, the season is a great time to head inland and discover the island’s other attractions. Not only does the greenery charm the eye, but the olive harvest also warrants some serious attention. Olives are central to the Cretan way of life, comprising a large portion of the diet and fueling the island’s industry. As such, sampling olive oil and experiencing the harvest first hand lets you tap into the heart of this island. Crete is also scattered with small, quaint villages where you can experience the rhythms of locals, tour olive groves and vineyards, and stroll down the country roads, getting lost in the charms of the countryside. If you want to experience the fall as a season of “rebirth,” a sort-of “second spring” instead of a decline to winter, then head to Crete and witness gold turn green.
Surround Yourself with Toriis and Temples in Kyoto
In terms of pure aesthetics, it’s hard to top Japan in the fall. There’s something utterly captivating about the sight of ochre-coloured wooden temples and toriis and stone lanterns surrounded by an explosion of red, yellow, and amber. Visually, this is a country made for fall getaways! In particular, the medieval capital of Kyoto is the ideal spot to explore Japan this time of year. With its countless temples, large forests, and emphasis on culture and tradition, it’s the city best equipped to show off all the splendour of the season.
While the spring cherry blossom season is the most popular time to head on a trip to Japan, the fall is a close second. The temperature is cooler than in the summer, making excursions and days spent outdoors a lot more comfortable. There are also fewer typhoons, so rain is less common. Of course, it being Japan, there are still plenty of fellow tourists you’ll have to contend with, but busy streets are part-and-parcel with the whole Japanese experience.
While Kyoto has hundreds of temples worth exploring, there are a few spots that are absolute priorities on a fall vacation. The Fushimi Inari Shrine, also known as the Thousand Torii Shrine, is a great spot to experience the beauty of the city in fall. Not only does the orange of the thousands of toriis scaling the mountain fit the mood of autumn, but the shrine is situated on a hill that leads you high above the city. If you manage to scale its heights and pass through all its toriis, you’ll achieve an incredible view of the city unfolding beneath you. It’s the perfect spot to capture the totality of the city’s beauty during the fall, when the trees that define its streets as much as its temples explode into a thousand shades of amber. As well, the Golden Pavilion of Kinkaku-ji is another temple that should be on your must-see list in Kyoto. The gold panels of this Japanese icon are most at home in the slanting light of the fall.
Indulge in Wine in the Margaret River Region
The mild temperature of fall is one of its best attributes. This allows you to enjoy the great outdoors without being overwhelmed by the heat and tempted to retreat inside, where a window shade and air conditioner promise to hide you from the blazing sun. And when you’re able to spend your day outside without worrying about heat exhaustion or an overbearing sun, you can stroll through vineyards and feast on the liquid harvest of the season.
In the wine region of the Margaret River in Western Australia, you can spend your days outdoors, visiting the various wine cellars and vineyards and sampling vintages of Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon that are celebrated the world over. In April and May, the days turn shorter in the Margaret River, but the temperature is still warm and relatively mild, making it perfect for hiking or picnics. You’ll still get the occasional rainy day that’ll slow down your tempo, but for the most part, the mild temperatures, changing colours of the vegetation, and quieter tempo of life will make it ideal to spend outdoors with a glass of wine in hand.
During the fall, the Margaret River is also home to many popular festivals, such as the Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival, which attracts national literary talent. As well, the weather is also warm enough to allow days at the beach and surfing, in particular. The region is known for having larger waves during the season, so if you want to ride a big swell, head to the Margaret River in the fall.
Stroll the Coast in Cape Town
There are few times of year that aren’t ideal to see South Africa, as the summer is perfect for heading on game safaris in Kruger National Park while the winter and its crisp, mild weather brings with it opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking and whale watching on the coast. However, fall is perhaps the best time to head to South Africa and experience its wonders, specifically Cape Town and the surrounding areas.
In fall, the famously verdant Cape Town and nearby Table Mountain National Park transform into the ruddy shades of the season. Leaves turn from green to red and yellow, the unpredictable weather of the area mellows considerably, and the earth turns a rich brown. If you love photographing the great outdoors, you’ll find plenty to occupy your camera lens in and around Cape Town in April and May. Hiking through the Kirstenbosch Gardens and Table Mountain National Park should satisfy your cravings for fall colour.
As with Margaret River in Australia, Cape Town is also a great spot to go on wine tours on fall getaways. Nearby Cape Town, Constantia, and Stellenbosch are home to some of the most famous South African wines, so Pinotage and Cape Riesling will flow freely when you visit. The Cape is also known for its varieties of port, so if you want to try some of this stronger fortified wine, the region will indulge you.
Hike the World’s Best Terrain in Patagonia in Argentina
Patagonia is paradise for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. With its vast expanses of empty terrain, stark mountain peaks, and incredible wildlife, the region at the southern edge of South America attracts people the world over. Although it’s usually recommended to visit Argentine Patagonia in the height of summer between December and February, the fall offers a better experience in many ways.
Not only are the trails quieter in April than they are in January, but the temperature is lower, which makes embarking on day-long hikes a lot easier. The winds also die down in the fall, lowering the resistance you’ll experience when heading up hillsides or traversing the glacial terrain around Lago Argentino.
In particular, head to Lago Argentino and Perito Moreno Glacier, the stunning glacier that defines the region. If you’re especially lucky, you’ll witness the glacier deposit a new iceberg onto the lake, but regardless of the glacier’s activity, you’ll still enjoy the beauty of the season. Whether you’re trying to capture views of Mount Fitz Roy, summiting the face of Perito Moreno Glacier for incredible views of the surrounding area, or cruising across Lago Argentino on a nautical safari, you won’t find more stunning landscape the world over than Patagonia in the fall.
It’s hard to go wrong experiencing fall getaways. Climates are mild, prices are affordable, and natural landscapes are putting on one of the greatest displays of colour imaginable. If you want to experience the natural world at its most beautiful and vibrant, embark on a fall vacation to one of these six stunning destinations. Each season has its appeal, and in the fall, colour is king. Your eyes will never get over the beauty on display.