Leisure travel usually slows down after Labor Day, as kids go back to school and adults go back to work. But September is a smart month for many places around the world, thanks to fewer tourists and shoulder-season deals. Here is a sampling of the best places to travel in September.
September is the sweet spot for Norway, when it’s still warm enough to spend your days exploring the fjords but the night sky gets dark enough that you have a good chance of catching the Northern Lights.
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Mediterranean coastlines and islands
In September, the Mediterranean region is still sunny (but not too hot) and it’s warm enough to go swimming—and yet the crowds have thinned because kids are back in school. From the Algarve in Portugal to the French Riviera to the Cinque Terre in Italy to Turkey’s Aegean coast, the weather is great for strolling through villages and indulging in the local culinary treats. Don’t forget about islands like Corsica, Sicily, or Malta, either: On the latter, there are village feasts happening in September, with parades, concerts, and even fireworks.
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September and October, when the summer crowds have gone but relatively warm weather remains, is one of the best times to visit. It certainly might rain—this is Ireland, after all—but that just means you’ll have rainbows! In September, which is considered high season, leaves start turning, ushering in fall.
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Come September, the vineyard-covered hills across much of Tuscany come alive for the vendemmia, or grape harvest. The rumble of small tractors rolling along the long rows of vines, the chattering of families and farm hands as they snip off individual clusters by hand, the tinkling of glasses and forks against plates as long tables are set up outdoors for everyone to take a break for lunch al fresco…these are the sights and sounds of autumn in Chianti, Montalcino, Montepulciano, and the rest of Tuscany’s wine country.
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Porto and the Douro River Valley, Portugal
Late September and early October are typically the time for the grape harvest in the Douro. You can participate by picking grapes (more fun than it sounds) or—better yet—stomping the fruit à la I Love Lucy with your own two feet. There are also some amazing hikes just north of Porto, which are at their best in fall when the weather and landscape are starting to change; options range from easy strolls to expert-level routes.
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September hits the sweet spot of pleasant weather and minimal crowds, and there are many charming, open-air harvest festivals taking place. Plus, there’s Oktoberfest, most of which actually falls during September.
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Grand Canyon, Arizona
After Labor Day, the Grand Canyon gets much quieter, prices fall from the highs of summer, and the weather is still pleasant.
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Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park
From mid-September to mid-October, the aspens are golden, the area isn’t crowded, and hotels often discount their rates; plus, the grizzly and black bears are more visible as they stock up prior to hibernation, and the elk are bugling. While the weather can be cooler, it’s a good excuse to take advantage of the fireplace in your room.
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Cruises: Alaska, Eastern Canada, Mediterranean
As the summer winds down, you can often find the lowest pricing on cruises in iconic destinations like Alaska and the Mediterranean. For those seeking a getaway that’s closer to home, many ships sail routes through New England and Eastern Canada, stopping in places like Boston, Nova Scotia, and Quebec City.
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Mexico City and the country’s colonial heartland (San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Puebla, Queretaro, Michoacan) come alive for independence celebrations, which fall on September 15 and 16. Throughout the month of September, cities and plazas in the region transform with patriotic fervor, commemorating the start of the Mexican War for Independence in 1810. Visitors will find a jubilant atmosphere, and the festivals and parades typically bring with them some of Mexico’s most traditional street snacks.
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Humpback whales approach the islands (mostly Rurutu and Moorea) to give birth and feed from August to October. The waters hold a lot of food that fatten up the babies before they head to the Antarctic. If the whales are calm and the weather is good, you can even snorkel with them and listen to the sounds they use to communicate with each other; it’s really quite an amazing experience.
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Kangaroo Island, Australia
Kangaroo Island is Australia’s own Galapagos, a time capsule of the region’s native plants and animals, largely undisturbed by civilization for thousands of years. Kangaroos, wallabies, echidna, koalas, dolphins, sea lions, fur seals, and scores of birds can be seen in their natural habitats all year round; however, antipodal spring is a particularly special time to visit, with clear and warm days returning, wildflowers blooming, and joey kangaroos emerging from their mothers’ pouches. (It’s also before the Australian school holidays hit and families start arriving in October.)
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If you are after peace and quiet, Trancoso’s off-season (i.e., June through September) is pure bliss: Temperatures are still in the high 70s to 80s, and you will often have mile upon mile of palm-tree-backed beaches all to yourself.
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South African Safaris
September is glorious in South Africa. The winter chill has left, and spring is on its way. The grasses that grew high after the rainy season have been chomped down, leaving the animals in full view. Cape Town is warming up, and the rains have more or less gone for good. Whales can be seen off the coast, the vineyards are green, and safaris are spectacular throughout the parks and reserves.
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September is ideal in Northern India: In Delhi, the monsoon rains have given way to clear skies and pleasant temperatures. At the Taj Mahal, you’ll find the fewest people and the best photographic conditions. It’s also a good time for trekking, with fall color in the Himalaya.
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After the summer heat, Uzbekistan’s weather is once again comfortable for touring the ancient cities of Bukhara, Samarkand, and Khiva, and for hiking in the mountains or camel riding in the Kizil Kum Desert. Click here to read about the trip Wendy and her family took to Uzbekistan.
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Other Smart Options This Month
Click on any of the destinations below to find out why September is a good time to go.
Central and South America
Czech Republic: second half of the month
Hungary: second half of the month
Iceland: northern lights
Africa and Middle East
Morocco: second half of the month
Australia and Pacific
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