From sky-high gondola rides above Canada’s golden treetops to picking grapes in Tuscan vineyards, this is your must-visit list of destinations to see autumn’s flora.
Salty shores and brazen sun are often at the forefront of holidaymakers' minds when planning an upcoming getaway, but there is something magical about falling autumn leaves that could persuade even the most stubborn beach-bum to consider a holiday treechange. From canoe rides through sparkling Canadian lakes to sifting through rivers of foliage in Edinburgh’s antique alleys, autumn's leafy scenery and crisp air has the power to transform the landscapes of these eye-catching destinations.
Denali National Park, Alaska
Picturesque parklands, hundreds of species of wildlife preparing for the deep freeze and six million acres of diverse landscapes that wouldn’t be amiss in a Disney film – this is Denali National Park in autumn. Watch as local moose populate the grounds during the mid-August mating season or come in September-October for the caribou’s southern migration and watch bearberries blanket the tundra floor with vivid red leaves as cold descends. Late autumn might see an aurora borealis before the full chill of winter sets in.
Medieval architecture and Gothic cathedrals take on a new hue when autumn arrives in Edinburgh, the fairytale capital of Scotland. Enjoy long evenings without the summer crowds as you explore the romantic city under a shower of red, gold and yellow foliage. Eat your way through St Andrew Square with breakfast surrounded by seasonal floral arrangements at The Ivy, or spice up your spooky season with Edinburgh’s Cocktail Week festival in October. Need some fresh air? Slip on your hiking boots and head to Arthur’s Seat, where breathtaking city views of the changing leaves await at the peak of this ancient volcano.
Visiting Edinburgh? Stay in this five-star West End escape.
Lake Louise, Canada
Banff National Park has a view so impressive it had to show you twice, with its striking mountains and honeycomb-shaped pines mirrored in the chilly lake below – a mesmerising sight sure to make your friends back home jealous. Glide through the syrup-coloured treetops on a soaring gondola ride, cut through the turquoise water in a canoe for two, or embrace the UNESCO World Heritage-listed vistas on a scenic hike. After all, there’s nothing quite like soaking up a bit of greenery before months of icy white – just ask a Canadian.
When a Tuscan grape farmer sees amber leaves pooling at his feet, he knows the crops are ripe for the picking, and the season’s freshest chestnuts, mushrooms and figs are due to grace plates across the region. Stay for the end of summer and you can participate in the Tuscan Vendemmia – a seasonal grape harvesting tradition – at a local winery. This vibrant and damp time of year is also prime time for a truffle hunt: the finicky fungi may take a trained eye to uncover, but once found can elevate a pasta dish to a level only an Italian mushroom could muster.
Plan your Italy escape here.
Forget the robot cafes and futuristic skylines of Japan's cities and take a glimpse into its historic glory in Nara, the ancient former capital. Watch as the city's thousand deer play in the foreground of the exceptionally manicured Isui-en Garden around mid-November and warm your hands with a traditionally brewed matcha from the Sanshutei Tea House while admiring the changing foliage. Take a trip to Tamukeyama Shrine and see lasting elegance in Japanese architecture and huddle into the nearby Mizuya Chaya, a local restaurant in a charming woodland cottage serving hearty udon soup and sweets.
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Dandenong Ranges, Australia
Experience autumn in the early months between March and May at the Dandenong Ranges, just under an hour from the Melbourne CBD. Take a scenic drive through lush canopies to The Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens in Sherbrooke and you will find scenery straight out of a fairytale: calm ponds, quaint cottages and low bridges, all perfectly complemented by the mellow gradient of falling leaves and ancient trees above. Spend a cosy afternoon at Miss Marple’s Tearoom in Sassafras for a touch of olde-English charm and make sure to try the warm homemade scones.
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For more travel inspiration, read World’s Best Destinations for Solo Travellers.