September has officially arrived, and depending on which hemisphere you’re in, you’ll either be welcoming the autumnal shades of early fall or crawling out of your winter-blues hibernation to the promise of clear spring skies.
With Asia and Europe cooling off after the height of summer, Africa’s dry season coaxing wildlife onto the plains, and spectacular national parks in South America beckoning lovers of the great outdoors, there are plenty of new and exciting destinations to explore this shoulder-season. Without further delay, here are eight of the best places to travel in September.
South Africa’s predominantly sunny climate makes it a popular year-round destination. But southern Africa’s dry season makes for peak safari conditions between May and September. Daytime temperatures are extremely pleasant in September, meaning there’s no need to huddle beneath a sun canopy while out visiting the reserves. The milder conditions also make for a lower risk of malaria. If a safari tour is indeed at the top of your list, head to Kruger National Park where you can experience world-class wildlife watching. The barren dry season has wildlife flocking to watering holes. This almost guarantees abundant wildlife-viewing, while the sparse vegetation out on the plains makes for clear views of big-game.
While in South Africa, spend time in and around the bustling port city of Cape Town to enjoy sparser crowds and balmy breezes; a trip out to the coast of Hermanus also makes for epic whale watching. The coastline is one of the best spots in the world for it, as pods of Southern right whales migrate from Antarctica to South Africa’s warmer waters to give birth. Finally, witness vibrant carpets of wildflowers in full bloom in Namaqualand, but don’t dilly dally with this one — peak wildflower viewing occurs early September!
Following the brutal heatwaves and humidity of summer, September’s lower temperatures are the ideal conditions for walking the Great Wall of China. You’ll be treated to far-reaching views of the mountains blanketed in autumnal hues thanks to the dissipation of dense cloud cover. Fall in China is one of the driest months of the year and arguably one of the most picturesque.
Explore the busy streets of Beijing without the exhaustive heat or head south to visit pandas in Chengdu. September in China also sees a one-of-its-kind natural phenomenon, the world’s largest tidal bore in Hangzhou — a huge breaking wave caused by incoming spring tides funneled into the Qiantang River. The wave, which can reach heights of up to 30 feet and speeds of up to 25 miles per hour, is known as the Silver Dragon and has attracted surfers and tide-watchers alike for hundreds of years. Concurrent with the tidal bore is China’s second-largest festival. The Mid-Autumn Festival, or Moon Festival, takes place on September 13th this year and brings forth lighting of lanterns and eating of moon cakes.
If you’ve ever considered a trip to the Maldives only for the cost to put you off, booking during September could be the solution. Weather-wise, the best season to visit the Maldives is between November and April, but this also comes with considerable tourism and a hefty price tag. While the month of September sees less consistent weather, for the most part, the days are sunny and clear. It is technically the monsoon season, but downpours are usually brief and at night and temperatures are still around 86°F with an average of seven hours of sunshine each day. Diving in the Maldives is an experience not to be missed (think manta rays, whale sharks and colorful coral reefs), and though the weather could be a little on the unpredictable side, it is possible to enjoy the water in the Maldives all year round. During the monsoon season, the Maldives is also an extremely popular spot for surfers. Due to the cheaper costs of hotels and airfares this month, dreams of staying in a famed overwater villa might just become reality — especially if you don’t mind gambling on the weather.
Keen on a city escape but not so keen on throngs of people? Make your way to Barcelona during September for more manageable temperatures and quieter crowds. Barcelona’s Mediterranean climate ushers in pleasant temperatures this month, with sunny days that aren’t quite as stifling as in the summer (though be prepared for warm days!) Sea temperatures are still mild too, averaging at around 75°F, which makes Barcelona’s urban beaches an appealing escape for the day. Take advantage of the slightly cooler weather and enjoy a range of outdoor activities and festivals in and around the city. You might also want to check out one of the city’s largest street parties, La Mercè, an annual festival celebrating the Patron Saint of Barcelona that marks the end of summer. It includes free music, performances, parades, feasts, and a deluge of other Catalan traditions. Ole!
The heat dies down as Japan’s summer months come to a close, and so do the crowds in its cities and resorts. September is a low travel period for Japan, so along with fewer tourists, you can also find cheaper airfare and accommodation. During this month, the country welcomes the vibrant colors of fall to its national parks — north Japan’s vibrant autumn leaves are almost as iconic as its cherry blossoms. Spend a few days hiking the countryside on the island of Hokkaido, which observes the first explosions of red and gold foliage throughout the country.
You might also want to visit the resorts along the coast of Wakayama, where there are not only charming beaches but an abundance of hot springs in the area. The Higanbana flower fields are an hour from Tokyo, and they burst into a crimson-colored bloom in September. For sports fans, you’ll also be able to catch this year’s Rugby World Cup, which occurs every four years around the globe and has matches set to play in several venues throughout Tokyo, Yokohama, Hokkaido, and the Kyushu region. September also means the beginning of the Sumo tournament season in Tokyo.
The best times to visit Morocco are in the shoulder seasons of spring from March to May, or during fall from September to October. If you’re itching to experience the color, charm, and culture of Morocco without wilting away under the sun, this month is a great time to do so. September means more bearable temperatures in almost all areas of Morocco. Arguably, it’s still too hot for adventures into the Sahara Desert, but it’s a great time to head to the North Atlantic coast where sea breezes can cool you off and traditional towns can intrigue.
Essaouira is a much-loved and laid-back coastal town that lies 3 hours from Marrakech by bus, known for its bustling, windswept harbor and an array of watersports. A few days spent in the Atlas Mountains allow for plenty of hiking opportunities among spell-bounding scenery. For urban sightseeing, hit up the sprawling city of Fez, the abundant markets, souks, and surrounding sand dunes of Marrakech, or the classic beauty of Ouarzazate.
The Argentine spring is considered to be one of the best times to experience the wild and marvelous nature of this South American gem. On the cusp of the off-season, which sees rainy days and few tourists, September welcomes rising temperatures and reasonably-priced hotels. Buenos Aires’ famed Jacaranda trees begin to blossom at this time, lining the streets in dazzling clouds of purple. After a few days spent in the city, head west to Mendoza’s wine country for incredible wine tasting and food tours amid copper-colored vines.
Nature lovers also have a multitude of beautiful places to visit at this time of year. See the spectacular cascades of Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina, head to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Peninsula Valdes to spy whales, seals, and penguins along the coast, or visit the Lake District in northwest Argentine Patagonia to hike among the beautiful wildflowers. While Patagonia doesn’t feel the full force of spring until November, the weather still permits plenty of outdoor activities with longer days, less rainfall, and vividly colorful foliage.
Cooler September days make way for depleting summer crowds and some softer sunshine in Croatia. While this month might be a little wetter than August, the days are still balmy at an average temperature of 68°F. Even though the tourist numbers have declined after the busy summer months, airline, ferry, and bus schedules continue to operate on a high season schedule, which means getting around Croatia this month is a breeze. Experience the most popular attractions with more breathing space and less traffic in major cities. To explore the country to its fullest, consider starting your trip in Croatia’s capital city of Zagreb before making your way down to the glorious aqua waters of Plitvice Lakes National Park, visiting Krka National Park, and continuing on to the historic port city of Split. From here, jump on board a ferry and island-hop your way down the coast, stopping at the likes of Brac, Korcula, and Hvar before ending your tour in the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” Dubrovnik. Seeing Croatia during this time allows for urban exploring, national parks, swimming beneath waterfalls, beach days, and party-going, all the while relishing in cheaper accommodations and mellower crowds. What more could you ask for?
Know of any other ideal places to travel to during fall and spring? Let us know in the comments below! For more inspiration check out our Unexpected Destinations for Every Month of the Year.
Header image by Lina Loos.