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While just about everyone associates fall in Europe with Germany’s Oktoberfest, there are an array of other great fall destinations to visit through the continent where you’re unlikely to bump elbows with too many other tourists this season. You can enjoy gorgeous autumn colors as well as discounts on airfare, accommodation and more. These lesser-known spots, in particular, are places you really need to consider visiting this fall.
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Galicia lies along the northern coast of Spain, known for its dramatic seaside cliffs and hilly landscape that enjoys a backdrop of lush soaring mountains. While it’s a less-visited place as it is, in autumn, you’ll be able to enjoy it practically all to yourself, often with wonderful weather for enjoying the outdoors. Look forward to indulging in plenty of fresh seafood, strolling practically empty beaches and wonderfully tranquil mountain trails surrounded by fall color.
Plastira Lake, Neochori, Greece
Often referred to as “Little Switzerland,” stunning Lake Plastiras in the northern part of the Taygetus Mountains, is one of the largest manmade lakes in Greece, though it’s relatively unknown outside of Europe. It’s surrounded by glorious peaks that are a vibrant green in summer, and come fall are transformed into brilliant oranges and yellows. There are charming villages to explore around the shoreline, along with rushing streams and narrow inlets of water that flow between the cliffs creating gorgeous fjord-like scenes that are mirrored in the lake’s calm emerald waters.
Upstaged by its more famous neighbors, the Cinque Terre and the city of Florence, Collodi receives relatively few tourists in comparison. Lying in between, this 12th-century Tuscan village offers the idyllic off-the-beaten-path destination for a fall visit, with its ancient fortress and medieval buildings spilling down the mountainside highlighted with autumn foliage. Enjoy visiting Pinocchio Park where the author of Pinocchio himself was said to have dreamed up his storied, complete with sculptures of his creations, including the gigantic whale that swallowed the boy.
Visiting in the Azores’ lovely shoulder season means avoiding the crowds and cruises ships of summer while enjoying mild temperatures, often right around the low to mid-70s in October with frequent blue skies. Though the archipelago belongs to Portugal, it sits about 850 miles west, offering a hiker’s paradise on islands like San Miguel, with lagoons, volcano craters, streams and waterfalls that can only be accessed on foot. Explore underground caves, watch for whales and birds, with more than 300 endemic and migratory species found here.
While Kotor, Montenegro has become a bucket list destination, Perast remains a hidden gem, a seaside town along the coast that offers breathtaking beauty without the crowds at a budget-friendly price. UNESCO protected, this tiny traditional village is filled with gorgeously preserved Venetian Gothic waterfront buildings. Two of its highlights are St. George’s Island which houses a 12th-century monastery surrounded by stone walls, and Our Lady of the Rocks, a manmade islet in the bay that hosts a beautiful church and museum.
Velika Planina, Kamnik Alps, Slovenia
Slovenia is a more affordable less-visited destination that packs a punch when it comes to beauty. Enjoy the glorious autumn colors in the Kamnik Alps with a visit to the spectacular Velika Planina uplands, just an hour from Ljubljana and its magnificent Old Town. You can travel by scenic cable car from Kamniska Bistrica followed by a 30-minute hike or chairlift ride to the top where the landscape is dotted with historic wooden shepherd’s huts, ideal for overnight stays or simply for great photos.
Pag Island, Croatia
Croatia has become one of the hottest destinations for travelers in the world, but there are still some less-visited places to enjoy in this country that may be even more delightful in the fall, including Pag Island. One of the most unique isles off the Croatian coast, it has a moon-like landscape and is renowned for it’s salt, lace and cheese production while being surrounded by dazzling turquoise waters. The mild weather makes early autumn the perfect time for exploring the sights in Old Town Pag, ancient ruins, museums and more.
Polignano a Mare, Italy
The streets and beaches of beautiful Polignano a Mare in the Puglia region of southern Italy are jam-packed with tourists in the summer, but in early autumn there is typically plenty of sunshine with far fewer visitors. The sea will still be warm enough for a dip, while restaurants serving delectable fresh seafood, shops and attractions are still open. There is plenty to see and do nearby too, with Puglia offering lots of unique character and charm along with incredibly friendly and welcoming locals, a glistening azure sea, soft golden sands and endless olive groves.
Lake Blausee, Kandersteg, Switzerland
Lake Blausee is simply breathtaking, surrounded by a dramatic mountain massif covered with dense forest that’s transformed from dark green to golds and yellows in autumn. The contrast against the lake’s incredible aquamarine-hued water is a sight to behold and it’s all just an hour from the city of Bern. Take a glass-bottom boat tour and watch for the myriad of fish as the lake also serves as an organic trout farm.
Thorshavn, Faroe Islands
In the Faroe Islands, tourism slows by the time fall rolls around, and if you can get here in early autumn the weather is likely to be pleasant enough for hiking in spectacular solitude. The views are truly magical now and ideal for capturing the rich light of the season. While some attractions close around mid-September, others like the Kallurin Lighthouse, Slave Rock and Mulafossur can be accessed year-round. Fossa, one of the highest waterfalls in the Faroe Islands, is best-visited in autumn and spring. If it gets too chilly out, it’s the perfect excuse to duck into one of the cozy eateries and enjoy a delicious meal by the warmth of a roaring fire.