While some travelers may consider summer the best season to get out and see the world, we tend to side with autumn. Travel from September through the holiday season has a few strong perks working in its corner: not only are tourist attractions less crowded this time of year, but you also won’t have to pay high-season rates.
Autumn is the ideal travel season for those who like to spend time outdoors. Shortening days give you extra motivation to get outside—while lengthening nights mean you don’t need to feel guilty for staying inside with a drink and a cozy fireplace.
Museums put up new shows, fall harvests make seasonal cuisine particularly yummy and the sun turns everything a beautiful golden. Autumn is the season that turns landmarks their most photogenic.
Whether your ideal fall day includes popping around quaint village streets, hiking up a mountain or exploring a museum, we have vacation ideas that should satisfy your autumn urges. And hey, if you want to ignore the changing of the seasons and linger on a beach with some sunshine, you can do that, too.
Scroll through to discover nine places that will capture beautifully on camera—and will remain even more beautiful in your memory.
Phoenicia, New York
This small town up in the Catskill mountains is almost too picturesque come autumn. The already-charming Main Street gets incredibly vibrant as the leaves change orange and red every year. It’s one of those destinations that’s made for long hikes in the daytime, followed by a quiet night in a cabin with a roaring fire and some (spiked) apple cider.
Glen Coe, Scotland
Glen Coe is considered Scotland’s most famous and scenic peak. (It’s made appearances in James Bond and Harry Potter films.) If you visit come fall, the glen will be particularly dramatic with reds and golds weaved into the landscape. Plan a road trip through the highlands so you can get out of the car whenever you please to snap pictures.
The Altai Republic is located in Western Siberia and it’s one of the country’s least populated areas—making it the perfect outdoorsy, off-the-beaten-path destination for autumn. When the weather starts to cool off, the valleys turn a lovely golden hue and the Altai Mountains turn white. Visit Mount Belukha to climb Siberia’s highest peak.
If you’re going to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece home, try to book an autumn trip. Come that time of year, the warm colors of the house’s bricks are accentuated by the warm colors of the autumnal leaves. The house was built to blend seamlessly into nature and, around this time of year, the house practically disappears into the surrounding foliage. And the hikes around back of the house are particularly stunning come fall.
Torres del Paine, Chile
Because it’s south of the equator, things are just heating up in Chile come September. This is one of the best times of year to visit Patagonia as it experiences less rain, weaker winds, warmer days and fewer crowds. The flora will be particularly green around this time, which should make particularly stunning photos with white mountains in the background.
Autumn in Bavaria is best spent exploring castles, hiking through fields and then topping it all off with a local beer. This time of year is particularly joyful as it’s when a whole bevy of festivals and fairs are held. Try to visit during Almabtrieb, the time when farmers bring their cattle from the countryside into the villages. It’s a spectacle that brings everybody outside to watch.
Rosh Hanikra, Israel
It may seem like everyone along the Meditteranean has become an overpriced tourist trap. But on Israel’s share of the coast, you can still enjoy the sea without battling crowds or your wallet. This picturesque northwestern corner of Israel is famous for its grottoes, which you can explore by foot. Be sure to ride the cable car down the cliffs for the area’s most impressive views.
Great Wall of China
If you can time it right, try to visit the Great Wall of China for the country’s mid-Autumn festival. Also known as the Moon Cake Festival, this holiday may include dragon dances, offerings to the moon and picturesque lantern displays. (Don’t forget to eat as many moon cakes as possible around this time.) Plus, the wall looks especially golden around this time of year.
Chicago belongs to that breed of American cities that gracefully transitions from summer to winter, becoming even more beautiful in the process. At Millennium Park, the city’s famous “Bean” looks spectacular when reflecting red trees. The waterfront is still accessible. And it’s just crisp enough that you’ll feel grateful to duck into one of the city’s restaurants for a warm meal. Or, for a different perspective, take an architecture boat tour along the Chicago River or on Lake Michigan for spectacular autumnal hues.