Fall is one of the best times to travel. With the kids back in school, you can often enjoy popular destinations without the big crowds. In most places, the weather is mild, and as it’s outside of the peak season, and destinations are often cheaper in fall too. Of course, with many travelers catching on to the benefits of traveling in autumn, you’ll want to book some of the most unforgettable destinations ASAP to avoid disappointment.
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The Dolomites, Italy
The Dolomites are a stunning mountain region in northern Italy, where craggy peaks serve as the backdrop for charming villages. Look forward to attending harvest festivals, wine tasting and touring picturesque vineyards, scenic drives and hiking miles and miles of trails to enjoy the surroundings that will be highlighted with vibrant autumn foliage.
Fall is one of the best times of the year to visit Ireland. While the weather is never guaranteed, from mid-September to mid-October, blue skies are frequent and you’re likely to enjoy plenty of autumn color too, from the Wicklow Mountains just south of Dublin to the stunning Connemara region in the west. Get outdoors and hike the trails in Connemara National Park, and tour Kylemore Abbey, a breathtaking 19th-century castle turned abbey with a Neo-Gothic church, pottery studio, craft shop, cafe and more. If rain arrives, a cozy pub with a roaring fire and a tasty pint are always just around the corner.
Greece in early fall is especially magical, with the thickest crowds of the year thinning and temperatures often warm but not sizzling. The water will still be warm enough to swim on islands like Naxos, famous for its beautiful white sandy beaches, but it’s also an ideal time for hiking and visiting places like Meteora and its monasteries, set high atop rocky cliffs rising over 1,200 feet into the sky overlooking the picturesque villages of Kastraki and Kalambaka. Dating back to the 14th-century, they were built by monks who sought freedom from religious persecution. The six that still remain today are open to the public and in autumn, they’ll be framed by an array of brilliant color.
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
San Miguel de Allende is often named among Mexico’s prettiest towns, and it’s even prettier this time of the year when the marigolds will be covering the narrow cobbled streets with gold. The historic center is filled with well-preserved buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries and alluring, leafy courtyards. Daytime temperatures are ideal while nights crisp and cool, and if you’re here in late October/early November, you can attend Day of the Dead festivities too.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
Lake Bled is a fairytale destination in Europe, a magical sight in every season looking as it came from the pages of a fairy-tale. But it may be even more extraordinary in autumn when the emerald waters of the lake are framed by golden foliage set against the snow-capped Karavanke Alps. In the middle is a little island that’s just big enough to hold a historic white church. By hiking to medieval Bled Castle, you’ll be able to enjoy a breathtaking view of the entire scene.
The landscapes of Bavaria which cross the Danube between the Alps and the hills of Southern Germany are at their most beautiful in the fall. The endless Alpine forests will be popping with color, especially striking against snow-dusted mountains. Come in late September for Oktoberfest and enjoy plenty of wine festivals along with opportunities for sampling local wines at Bavarian wineries. This region is also famous for Neuschwanstein Castle, which becomes even more impressive when surrounded by autumn hues.
Frequently named among the world’s most beautiful villages, Hallstatt is surrounded by soaring mountains and lots of elaborately decorated, colorful homes. If you visit in early to mid-autumn you’ll see Hallstatt Lake framed by breathtaking gold and orange hues. Take a boat tour or rent a pedal boat to explore the shoreline and enjoy walking or biking the path that circles the banks.
Yosemite National Park, California
The majority of visitors head to Yosemite Valley in the summer, which can make it look more like Disneyland than a national park. But in autumn, you’re unlikely to have to battle hordes of other visitors to take in those incredible views, from Half Dome to Yosemite Falls. While many of the trees here are evergreen, there are gorgeous big-leaf maples, black oaks and lots of deciduous trees that turn brilliant shades of red and yellow around mid-October, framing those jaw-dropping sights.
White Mountains, New Hampshire
The White Mountains are one of the top fall travel destinations, which means you’ll definitely need to book now if you hope to enjoy this area. North Conway is especially popular for its train, but you can avoid the biggest crowds by staying in the small town of Jackson where you’ll find those quintessential New England covered bridges and plenty of pastoral, colorful scenery. Look forward to hiking, biking, fishing and other outdoor adventures, along with some of the best antiquing in the state.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park is another one of America’s top spots for leaf-peeping, with some of the most impressive found along the 40-mile stretch of the Acadia Byway. Explore the endless breathtaking wild coastlines and a wide array of color. On Mount Desert Island, the leaves begin to turn in September, although the peak time for foliage is mid-October. One of the best ways to experience it is to it the trails on foot or two wheels. Whatever you do, be sure to head to the summit of Cadillac Mountain by hiking or by car. Visitors can also ride the fare-free Island Explorer bus around the Park Loop Road or to any of the other destinations throughout the park and on Mount Desert Island.