Autumn is arguably the very best time of year to go abroad. Not only have the crowds thinned and the prices dropped, allowing you to have a more peaceful, less expensive break, but it also allows you to enjoy a final dose of sunshine before winter draws in.
Plus, staying in the UK for summer and going away in autumn means you can take advantage of the warmest months at home.
If that weren’t enough reason to push back your summer break by a few months, many beautiful destinations are actually best enjoyed in autumn – whether that’s due to the arrival of fiery leaves or the lowering of previously-scorching temperatures.
So, to give you some inspiration, here are eight gorgeous holiday destinations to visit this autumn.
Finland may not get as much attention as its neighbours Norway, Iceland, and Sweden, but it has just as much to offer visitors. Finland may be large (it’s the eighth-biggest country in Europe!), but it has a very small population, so if you’re looking for peace and solitude, you’re in the right place.
Finland is especially known for its vast expanses of wildernesses, from fairytale forests to gleaming lakes – as well as its northern lights. Despite popular belief, it doesn’t need to be winter to see the aurora borealis and, in Finland, the lights are visible from August to April.
Visiting in autumn doesn’t just mean you have a good chance of catching this magnificent natural light show – it also means you don’t have to endure freezing temperatures. While there may be some snow on the ground, the lakes won’t be frozen yet, which means you can admire dazzling reflections of the lights on the surface of the water.
Plus, in autumn the temperatures are mild enough to do lots of exploring – so it’s a great time to visit the capital Helsinki. Located in southern Finland, it boasts impressive architecture, a lively arts scene, and excellent restaurants, so you can take advantage of these without getting too cold!
Embrace the freedom of Finland
Autumn has long been seen as one of the best seasons to visit parts of Asia, as it’s the time when both rains and humidity ease up.
Cambodia is one of the most beautiful, intoxicating, and compelling countries in Southeast Asia, and if you’re interested in visiting, October is the ideal time to go.
By the second half of the month, the six-month rainy season has drawn to an end, and the landscape is at its most spectacular: the lush rice fields blaze a vibrant emerald green, and the vast lake of Tonlé Sap, home to the popular floating villages, is at its fullest.
Cambodia’s legendary temples of Angkor also attract millions of visitors each year, and while spectacular, they can feel overcrowded in high season. Visiting in October means you can avoid the site when it’s at its busiest, allowing you to give these 72 temples both the time and reflection they deserve.
Plus, prices are lower then too – and considering you already get a good bang for your buck here, this means you can treat yourself to more luxurious accommodation without breaking the bank. Prices start to creep up in November, so if you can find a window in October, it’s definitely worth it.
To find out more, you might want to read our quick guide to the perfect Cambodia getaway.
Be captivated by Cambodia
3. The Canary Islands, Spain
If you’re looking for a beach break but you don’t want to travel far, then Spain’s Canary Islands are the perfect destination.
Located off the coast of North Africa, these islands enjoy year-round sun, but because the sea takes longer to warm up, autumn actually sees the warmest waters of the year.
The temperature on land is still balmy yet cooler than in summer, which can be a relief, and the strong north-easterly trade winds have dropped too. Plus, aside from the half-term holidays, the islands are much quieter in autumn than in summer, which means peaceful towns and beaches and slashed prices.
The beauty of the Canaries is that there’s an island for everyone. If you’re looking for dramatic, volcanic scenery and lunar landscapes, Tenerife and Lanzarote are your best bet, whereas if you’re drawn to lush forests and precipitous ravines – and exciting flora and fauna – head to La Gomera.
As the most central of the Canaries, Gran Canaria is the most geographically diverse, and it has its own range of microclimates, from vast sand dunes to towering mountains and high-altitude forests.
However, all the islands have buzzing towns and sleepy villages, so you won’t be short of things to do.
Discover the diversity of the Canaries
4. New York, USA
If you’ve always wanted to visit the Big Apple, then autumn is absolutely the best time to go. While spring can be rainy, and summer sweltering, September, October, and November are usually sunny and bright, with mild temperatures that may sometimes warrant a jacket, but almost never a coat.
At this time of year, the crowds have also thinned out and the kids have gone back to school, which makes exploring this magnificent metropolis far more enjoyable. And, while New York City is always expensive, prices are much lower in autumn than in either summer or December, which sees an influx of festive tourism.
The skyscrapers, museums, shops, and attractions of NYC need no explanation, and you’ll see a whole other side of this astonishingly diverse city in autumn (or ‘fall’). Central Park comes alive in a blaze of colour, and you can admire the leaves during laidback strolls – perhaps sipping a seasonal pumpkin latte!
But there’s more to New York than NYC. Upstate, you’ll find majestic mountains, pristine lakes, and charming small towns, which are a joy to explore. Whether you want to hike through red and ochre-hued forests, explore quaint villages, or admire thundering waterfalls, New York State has it all.
Experience the energy of New York
While cherry blossom enthusiasts might insist that spring is the best time to visit, we think that autumn is actually Japan’s most exciting season. September to December sees the arrival of koyo (the changing of the colours), and few sites are as dazzling as whole mountain ranges turning red and gold.
If you enjoy hiking, there’s no better time to visit Japan, and while the hiking trails can get busy, the breathtaking vistas and vibrant autumn colours are well worth it. Scarlet and yellow leaves take over whole forests, and the reflections in the gleaming jade rivers and lakes just make it more impressive.
Climbing the iconic Mount Fuji is always an unforgettable experience, but scaling this picture-perfect volcano is even more special in autumn when the land unfolds beneath you in fiery colours. If you don’t want to climb Fuji, the autumnal views from Lake Ashi or Lake Kawaguchiko are sensational.
Many other Japanese destinations are at their peak in autumn. Kiso Valley is home to some of the country’s most picturesque mountain villages where, after a long day hiking, you can stay in ryokans – traditional Japanese inns – relax in hot springs, and enjoy delicious kaiseki multi-course dinners.
Discover the majesty of Japan
6. Sardinia, Italy
Sardinia’s charms are no secret – which is why this gorgeous Italian island gets rather crowded during the summer months. Visiting in autumn means you can enjoy a far quieter holiday while still basking in warm weather; temperatures reach highs of 26°C in September and 22°C in October.
But there’s another reason why visiting in autumn is a smart idea – and we’re not just talking about the lower prices. From September to December, the island plays host to Autunno in Barbagia, an autumn festival that takes place across 27 mountain villages in the rural region of Barbagia.
During this fun festival, sleepy streets are transformed into bustling markets, local craftspeople hold open workshops, and hikes are held through the rolling hills. Residents also fling open their doors – and kitchens – to visitors, giving you the chance to sample hearty and authentic home cooking.
Of course, there’s plenty to do beyond Barbagia too. Boasting immaculate beaches, romantic towns, and fascinating Bronze Age remains, Sardinia is wonderfully diverse. If you’re a foodie, you’ll be spoilt for choice, as the island is known for its mouthwatering cuisine, from stuffed pasta to sweet pastries.
Soak up the splendour of Sardinia
7. Los Cabos, Mexico
If you’re happy to travel a further distance, then Mexico’s Los Cabos is an excellent choice for an autumn break. Located on the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula, Los Cabos is made up of two towns – Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo – and it’s at its best in the autumn months.
Summer here is usually rainy, while spring brings hoards of American students celebrating spring break. In autumn, however, temperatures are high, while occupancy and costs remain low. By the time winter rolls around, the tourists flood in again, and prices skyrocket. So, autumn is the ideal window to visit this beautiful yet popular region!
If you’re looking for a quiet holiday, away from the hustle and bustle, then the town of San José del Cabo is for you. With a relaxed atmosphere and flourishing arts scene, it makes a lovely and laidback base. Meanwhile, the city of Cabo San Lucas is livelier, so if you’re looking for an action-packed break, this is the place to go.
Wherever you base yourself, there’s much to keep you occupied. The Baja Peninsula is known for its blissful beaches and tropical waters, but there’s lots of culture around too. You can admire colonial art and architecture, walk through cacti-covered hills, and feast upon tantalisingly tasty tacos.
Discover the magic of Mexico
Another destination that you might want to consider if you’re up for a long-haul holiday – particularly if you’re looking for adventure – is Botswana.
Arguably the world’s top safari destination, Botswana is home to some of the most fascinating wildlife on earth, and autumn is a great time to visit.
Unlike other African safari destinations, Botswana has a ‘low impact, high experience’ mandate, which means safaris are far more intimate experiences. This is a land of dusty deserts and wetland wildernesses, and this diverse landscape means there’s a wonderfully unique range of wildlife here.
Due to the rising heat, tourism tails off in October, which means lower prices and fewer people – but it’s not as hot as the winter months (which is summer in Botswana). Plus, the lack of vegetation – eaten by animals over the dry winter – means you have a much better chance of spotting wildlife.
If it gets too hot, you can head to the water-cooled Okavango Delta, where countless animals seek respite from the heat. And, the stark Kalahari Desert is just as mesmerising, with endless salt pans, islands of baobab trees, curious meerkat colonies, and ancient Neolithic sites.
Be beguiled by Botswana
There are many perks to going on holiday in autumn – and the financial savings are just one of them!
If you’re looking for a short-haul holiday, there are plenty of European destinations that are fabulous to explore in autumn, from the beaches of Sardinia and the Canaries to the wilderness of Finland.
For those looking for a longer holiday, you have so many options that there really is something for everyone…admire the autumn foliage in Japan and New York, visit Cambodia’s iconic temples and rice fields, enjoy an African adventure in Botswana, or head to Mexico for a dreamy beach break.
With fewer crowds and lower prices, you can explore these destinations at a far more leisurely pace – and get some last-minute vitamin D before winter comes!
For more inspiration on off-peak holiday destinations, you might want to read our article; Travel secrets – 10 glorious destinations to visit during shoulder season.