14 Favorite Fall Destinations

The world turns and seasons change—summer has passed and led us into gentler autumn with its changing leaves and more rigid schedule. The kids are back in school, and work is revving back up again, but there is no such thing as a bad time to go wandering.

Next month, National Geographic will release their beautiful (and big!) book celebrating all Four Seasons of Travel. Back in June, I listed Sixteen Summer Destinations I Love, but now that September is here, I present to you Fourteen Favorite Fall Destinations. Once again, my autumn highlights reveal my own northern hemisphere perspective and these recommendations only include destinations where I have personally traveled in the fall.

Talbot County, Maryland
An hour’s drive from my home in Washington, DC, Maryland’s Eastern Shore is a non-fussy fix for my bucolic whims. Every year, come fall, I head out to this jigsaw piece of Chesapeake shoreline to taste the autumn fullness. The painted town of St. Michael’s deserves all its accolades (eat or stay at The Inn at Perry Cabin), but for real flavor, I prefer Tilghman Island—home to the world’s best crab cakes. To see birds, I go thirty minutes south to the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County.

Flúðir, Iceland
Of all my trips to Iceland, my favorite took place in late September, during the “round up” or Réttir, when Icelanders return to their family farms out in the country. Following ancient tradition, they ride their horses up into the mountains and then drive down the sheep from their summer pasture. The process takes about a week and ends with a day of fun work where everyone chips in to separate out the individual herds. Visitors are expected to share in the work and then dish up a bowl of the fresh lamb stew.

Parc National du Mont Mégantic, Québec
A few miles from the Maine border, the forests of the Canadian Appalachians just burn up with beautiful autumn colors. By night, the park turns into one of the best (protected) spots for night sky viewing. By day, the surrounding Eastern Townships epitomize the charm of New England (in New France) with antique shops, one-room schoolhouses and church-steepled towns. I can’t wait to get back here.

Isle of Mull, Scotland
Once upon a September long ago, I hitchhiked the length of Scotland and ended up in the back of a pickup truck filled with firewood, soaring up the long hills on the Isle of Mull. I walked through miles of thick forest, along seaweed-strewn beaches and over some high crags before settling into the pastel village of Tobermory. My next lift was a rowboat to Iona, which might be the most sacred site in Scotland. Go there.

Rhône Valley, France
While Burgundy gets all the attention (and the tourists), my heart lies in Lyon and the surrounding valleys of the Rhône. I once lived about two hours away, and come fall, this is where Beaujolais happens. My favorite village is Fleurie, where folks still buy their wine in oak barrels to bottle up at home. Come hungry—the Rhône is where picky French diners come to dine, either at any random corner bistro or at world-standard gourmets like Trois Gros in Roanne or at the Institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon.

Kyoto, Japan
Nowhere else in Asia do the individual seasons shine like they do in Kyoto, but of the four, the Japanese fall is my favorite. I love the brilliant red maples and the autumn stillness found among the quiet Zen gardens in dozens of different temples. I dream of returning one day and spending the whole of October here.

Okavango Delta, Botswana
I love Botswana for the people and for the amazing animals in the Moremi Game Reserve. Come October, the Okavango gets very warm (over 100º F) and very dry, which forces all the wildlife to congregate around a few sparkling water holes. That’s precisely why I like to visit now, because there is so much more to see right before the rains come—huge herds of elephants, and hundreds of hippos and giraffe and so many terrific African birds. It’s also a great time to see lions since the long summer grass has faded and died back.

Mayaro Bay, Trinidad
Trinidad is the exception to the rest of the Caribbean—a big island with a big culture, Trinidad avoids much of the grey and rainy hurricane season and from September to mid-October, they experience Petit Carême (“Little Lent”)—a natural break in the rainy season filled with aimless sunny days. Mayaro Bay is the longest stretch of sandy beach in the country and it’s pleasantly wild and un-manicured. I also love the island cities—if you’re in Arima or Port-of-Spain, be sure to eat Doubles from a street vendor.

Buenos Aires, Argentina
BA is fine any time of year, but the locals love October best—and so do I. The air is warm and clear and the jacaranda trees paint the city purple. I never have any agenda when I’m in BA—I just do what everyone does down there: eat great food, stay up all night, dance, and enjoy the art and architecture.

Rangali Island, Maldives
I am the first to admit that I am spoiled by so much travel, and the place that spoiled me most was the Maldives—specifically the outstanding resort on Rangali Island. October is a blissful time on this equatorial outpost and the scuba diving is otherworldly (which is why I went). If you dream of glossy magazine beaches, this is the place.

Transylvania, Romania
What better place to enjoy Halloween than Transylvania? Aside from the Dracula rigmarole, central Romania turns into a kind of warm and rustic painting in autumn, with tall haystacks and full barns and tiny Balkan towns that breathe a heavy gothic air. All around, it’s a beautiful and mysterious land with convivial locals who won’t suck your blood, but will try and get you drunk on Țuică (plum liquor).

Western Kentucky 
I once vacationed on Lake Cumberland and discovered the heavenly slice of America from Louisville to Owensboro. Down here, the local accent sounds like melted butter, and on any fall weekend you’ll catch live bluegrass music at some kind of festival that typically involves pumpkins, cider, red hot barbecue, and a corn maze (or all of the above).

New Iberia, Louisiana
There’s a reason I nominated New Iberia for one of Forbes’ 15 Prettiest Towns in America—this is true Cajun Country, with bayous and gators and beautiful old plantation homes. Visit the Tabasco factory and the Rip Van Winkle Gardens, still heavy with Spanish moss—and be sure to grab at bite at Victor’s Cafeteria.

September is spring in Tassie and the flowers explode across Australia’s island state. Even better, all the crazy parrots and cockatoos start screeching for the coming summer and it’s a happy noise. Though it’s still cooler and wetter than you’d imagine the rest of Australia to be, its beauty is staggering. If you’re outdoorsy, don’t miss a multi-day hike in Maria Island National Park.

So there they are–my fourteen favorite fall destinations. Now please share yours with me! Where do you like to travel in the fall? Please write it in the comments or tweet it to @WheresAndrew. Happy Autumn!


  1. Alexandra Revollar Coronado
    September 12, 2013, 11:44 pm

    You are right.The season of autuumn is beautiful.
    The weather in autuumn is great.
    In this season, there isn’t very cold so I love this season
    Your video about this article is interesting.
    I would like to follow reading your articles of your blog

  2. Miruna
    September 14, 2013, 4:03 am

    I don’t know about the others, but Transylvania is certainly a fairytale-like place during fall.

  3. Majida/Hanel Travels
    September 14, 2013, 8:33 am

    The Swiss Alps- to hike or bike! It is just beautiful out there!

  4. Ellie
    September 14, 2013, 8:20 pm

    Heading to Buenos Aires this fall woohooo! I am looking at beautiful boutique hotels in Buenos Aires on WorldTop7 and cannot make my mind up about which romantic hotel is best for me and my partner. Thank you!

  5. […] Transilvania este recomandată de expertul National Geographic alături de alte 13 destinații excelente pentru a fi vizitată toamna, printre care Tasmania, Valea Rhône-ului sau orașele Kyoto și Buenos Aires. Textul integral îl găsiți aici. […]

  6. Shawn Anderson
    United Kingdom
    September 16, 2013, 8:48 am

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  7. […] generaţia Facebook. Şi tot astăzi, în această toamnă, Transilvania este una dintre cele 14 destinaţii de vacanţă recomandate de unul dintre călătorii profesionişti ai revistei National Geographic: „Ce loc […]

  8. Alexandra Z
    September 17, 2013, 5:31 pm

    Thank you for adding Transylvania to the list – it is truly beautiful.

    But it is endangered at the moment. We are at one step from losing it as we now know it. If the continuos protests happening in Romania at the moment (and all over the world) would stop they would just vote the law – cyanid mining at Rosia Montana.

    It is all about Rosia Montana (Apuseni Mountains in Transylvania). 13000 tons of cyanid in 14 years in a 8km lake – crater visible from space, levelling of 4 mountains. This would change for forever what Transylvania is. Not in the good way.

  9. sylvain
    September 18, 2013, 8:03 am

    Hi, I saw that you put Transylvania on the favourite fall destinations, and as a Transylvanian I thank you from my heart.

  10. Tim Washer
    September 25, 2013, 5:59 am

    Thanks for this list. I’d add Burlington, Vermont

  11. Jack33
    October 6, 2013, 7:37 pm

    The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is easily one of the most beautiful places on earth in Autumn.

  12. Manzil Paudarco Poudar
    United Kingdo
    October 6, 2013, 7:39 pm

    World’s highest Peak Mount Everest, Peak X ,Nepal

  13. sharon
    Bucks Co Pa
    October 6, 2013, 7:57 pm

    Here in Bucks County PA we have lots of scenic views, but the best are up in the Endless Mtns.

  14. Marta
    October 6, 2013, 7:59 pm

    You missed one VERY important: Vääksy, Finland. The most beautiful place during autumn.

  15. anca
    United States
    October 6, 2013, 8:02 pm

    Yes, I totally agree with Transylvania. It’s simply beautiful this time of year!

  16. ALEX
    October 6, 2013, 10:50 pm

    I see a lot of romanians here, proud with their country. I respect you all for that! Have a nice autumn, regards!

  17. Kait
    October 7, 2013, 12:45 am

    CAPE BRETON! Not only are the colours amazing but there is a fantastic Celtic music festival there at the same time, Celtic Colours.


  18. Elton
    October 7, 2013, 2:18 am

    Albania can be pretty magic at fall… And not expencive neither… The sea is still warm enough to swim in… The archeological sites are all opened and with almost none around to disturb your visit. Food is great and there’s plenty of fruits, vegetables and it’s about time to taste the new raki…

  19. Adrian
    October 7, 2013, 4:39 am

    Dear NG, Transylvania is NOT in the Balkans.

  20. Jane
    October 8, 2013, 3:42 am

    The Scottish highlands between Oban and Fort William. At the end of October, the air is crisp and cold on a fine day, and is ideal for hiking, with spectacular views from the heights. Even if the weather conditions are not conducive to hiking there is plenty to see, from the Slate islands or ruined castles, to craft villages or the distillery in Oban.

  21. […] Until now, I’ve always associated fall with the northeast and the foliage brilliance of New England, but traveling through Utah in early October showed me the other side of autumn–one with red mountains and green spruce trees interspersed with some of the most colorful trees I have ever seen on the planet. This really is a beautiful state, and after driving the entire length of Utah, I think I need to to add it to my list of  14 Favorite Fall Destinations. […]

  22. Hadi
    October 11, 2013, 6:54 am

    Fall in Iran is so beautiful, i suggest to all travel to iran and have a memorized moment

  23. Four Seasons of Travel – Digital Nomad
    October 21, 2013, 7:57 pm

    […] Each of us has our own idea of what constitutes a great destination and a great time. Indeed, it’s the beauty of changing seasons is how each one caters to our personal fancies, be it Paris in the spring or Alaska in winter. I’ve already covered this theme in two recent posts, listing 16 Summer Destinations I love and 14 Favorite Fall Destinations. […]

  24. […] Globalizarea culturală a determinat ca Halloweenul să se naturalizeze și în spaţiul românesc, deși unii încă resping tradiția, fie pentru că este de import, fie din raţiuni de ordin religios. Cu toate acestea, România a devenit un punct de atracție tot mai important pentru amatorii de evenimente macabre. National Geographic recomandă publicului din întreaga lume 14 destinații pentru această toamnă, printre care una dintre ele este o regiune din România.  „Ce loc mai bun pentru a te bucura de Halloween decât Transilvania? (…) Lăsând la o parte tradiţia lui Dracula, România… este o ţară frumoasă şi misterioasă, cu localnici joviali, care nu vor să sugă sângele, dar vor încerca să vă îmbete cu ţuică”, scrie Andrew Evans pe site-ul National Geographic. […]

  25. […] same name. Back in June, I listed 16 Summer Destinations I Love, and in September, I presented my 14 Favorite Fall Destinations. Now that it’s December, I give you these 12 Wonderful Winter Destinations, some with snow—some […]

  26. […] Internet connection and a digital nomad-friendly community. National Geographic has published an overview of some interesting destinations for digital […]

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