In the northern hemisphere, leaves are on the turn, busy painting landscapes in fiery shades of red and gold. This annual phenomenon makes autumn high season and you’ll likely be competing with locals too, especially on the weekends. Book now to get the best deals.
Meanwhile, in the southern hemisphere, our autumn heralds the start of their spring. Considered a “shoulder season”, travelling now is calmer and more affordable.
New England, USA
New England claims to have the best ‘fall’ colours in the world. It’s a bold claim from the six constituent states, but they’re telling the truth. Thanks to the unique mix of soil and tree type, their landscapes blaze with vivid colour every year. The leaves start changing in the north from mid-September and the colours sweep south until around late October. This is prime time for travellers, or “leaf peepers” – as the locals call them – to arrive in their swarms. The most beautiful spots change yearly, but each state has a dedicated website and hotline (yes, really) with daily updates to help you track down Mother Nature’s finest.
Autumn is hands-down the most popular season for visitors, so advance booking is key. Hotels fill up quickly, and smaller inns might ask for a two- or three-night minimum stay. Boston is considered the gateway to New England: most major airlines fly direct and it’s a good starting point to hire a car.Flights to Boston from £183 Hotels in Boston
Think of the best time to visit Japan and cherry blossom season will probably spring to mind. But the autumn foliage – or koyo – is equally beautiful, just in a more modest way. (They’re much easier to catch than the fleeting floral displays too.) You’ll find famous spots all over the country, but Kyoto is a great base. Take in the views from the Tahoto Pagoda at Eikando Temple before wandering through the ruddy gardens. Or visit the famous golden pavilion, Kinkakuji Temple, and frame that iconic photo with russet leaves. Arrived late? No worries. Catch a train south to Nara for richly coloured maple trees and wandering deer.
Japanese tourists love autumn leaves as much as their blossoms, so book well in advance. Kyoto doesn’t have an airport, and there are no direct flights from the UK to nearby Osaka, but you can take the two-and-a-half hour shinkansen (included in a Japan Rail Pass) to and from Tokyo.Flights to Tokyo from £405 Hotels in Kyoto
Why visit Iceland in autumn? Number one: from September the crowds tend to disappear. Which leads us nicely to number two: flights, car hire and hotel prices drop. The third reason is unique autumnal scenery: you’ll find deep purples and magentas alongside the traditional reds and yellows. Thingvellir National Park is particularly impressive this time of year, so make the most of that affordable car hire and take a day trip east of Reykjavík.
We know what you’re thinking: fewer crowds and amazing scenery, for less money – what’s the catch? The only downside is that in autumn you’ll rapidly lose daylight hours. Many visitors come in summer to experience the midnight sun (where it’s light 24/7), but by November, daylight hours are limited to 9am to 5:30pm. The silver lining – or, should we say, the many-coloured lining – is that you’re far more likely to catch a glimpse of the elusive Northern Lights when it’s dark.Flights to Reykjavik from £42 Hotels in Reykjavik
Rugged landscapes, mountains and glaciers are all characteristic of Patagonia’s wild beauty. From September onwards, the snow begins to melt and the national parks that were closed for their winter finally reopen, which means you can be one of the first footsteps on popular trails like the Paine Circuit in Torres del Paine. The flora and fauna are also at their best. Mountain landscapes swap blankets of snow for a spread of pretty alpine flowers, and you’re more likely to spot shy pumas and huemul deer, who disappear at the first signs of crowds come their summer.
Not only does Patagonia feel more serene and remote at this time of year, but with fewer tourists about, you’ll get more bang for your buck on flights, hotels and tours. Flights from London to Santiago will usually involve a stopover in the US, and then you’ll need a further flight south (to Punta Arenas if you’re heading for Torres del Paine). It can work out cheaper to book each leg of the journey separately.Flights to Santiago from £481 Hotels in Santiago
This landlocked state of mountains and fairy-tale castles is best experienced in autumn. Don’t miss Neuschwanstein Castle, a turreted wonder set on a lake, made all the more magical by its surrounding patchwork of autumnal forest. The castle is a doable day trip from Munich, but if you’re pushed for time, you can also experience the autumn colours in the city’s English Garden.
Time your stay right, and not only will you catch nature’s finest, but you can also experience the traditional beer, music and Bavarian clothing of Oktoberfest. The annual 16-18 day folk festival was first held in Munich, and is now celebrated all around the world. Getting here is pretty easy, there are plenty of flights to Munich, but it’s often cheaper to fly into alternative Bavarian airports like Memmingen or Nuremberg.Flights to Munich from £60 Hotels in Munich
Ready to start planning your autumn getaway? Search flights below:
Flight prices were correct based on a search at time of writing (4 Sep 2018) and are subject to change.