Fall months are always full of amazing experiences, no matter the destination. From the changing oaks of the east coast of the USA to the wine festivals of Germany, autumn is truly one of our favorite seasons for travel. When that first crisp day arrives, thoughts of apples, bonfires, and cozy sweaters float on Autumn breezes. The world waves goodbye to summer and starts painting in bright reds, warm golds, and vibrant yellows. Celebrate the changing of seasons in any one of our top spots for fall colors and enjoy an autumn adventure you won’t soon forget.
Fall Travel in the USA
The northeastern states of the US are magical during the fall. Autumn in New England is a slice of Americana that evokes the paintings of Norman Rockwell. Follow the Mohawk Trail, an early trade route and New England’s first designated scenic drive, into the rolling hillsides of the Berkshires in western Massachusetts. Vermont, the Green Mountain State, becomes the red, yellow, and orange mountain state as the mountaintops transform into a kaleidoscope of color.
Fall Colors in New England, USA
Journey along the Kancamagus Highway, a scenic byway that provides an abundance of panoramic views. Gaze upon Mount Washington, the tallest peak in New England, as it emerges out of the colorful trees of New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. Absorb the picturesque beauty of Maine’s Acadia, the only national park in the region, and journey down the coast past historic lighthouses, covered bridges, fisheries, and quaint seaside villages.
The breathtaking landscape of the Dolomites is always spectacular, but autumn in the area is something out of this world. The fall colors and light truly make it a photographer’s dream.
Fall Colors in The Dolomites, Italy
The larch trees of the region turn honey yellow, and the fall light casts both shadows and buttery hues over crags and rock formations. To walk among the magnificent mountains and distinctive limestone peaks, travel to the Ampezzo Valley and the famous ski resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo.
Is there anything more romantic than Paris during the fall? By September, many tourists have cleared out, and locals have returned from their August holidays, allowing you to enjoy the City of Love in its natural state. Sit on the café terraces, sipping a café au lait and savoring a warm crepe, while enjoying the temperate weather. Visit Versailles and the châteaux of the Loire Valley, where the autumn light adds a golden richness to the stately gardens. Cruise through the countryside and see how the changing seasons turn the landscape into a colorful oil painting. And visit France’s famous vineyards—where grape harvesting season is in full swing in September and October—to observe the beginning of the journey to produce world-class wines.
Fall Colors in Paris, France
Warm fall days in Paris might lead you to apply for ex-pat status; they’re that marvelous. The light in Paris is famous for its hues and shadows; pair the cast of the city’s soft mornings and dreamy sunsets with the vibrant colors of fall and prepare to be in awe. The yellow, umber, sienna, and crimson only add to the city's magic, making autumn one of our favorite seasons to visit.
Imagine sunny and crisp mornings on café terraces, wrapped in a favorite scarf and the scent of espresso and pastries. Spend afternoons soaking up Parisians' autumn atmosphere and local life as you stroll through historic neighborhoods bursting in color.
Fall Colors in the Loire Valley
While Paris is famously considered a wonderful autumn destination, head just two hours southwest of the French capital to the lovely Loire Valley for more spectacular fall scenery. World-renowned for its vineyards and historic chateaux collection, the Loire Valley is also known throughout Europe for its particularly vibrant fall foliage. Autumn visitors will also enjoy fewer crowds, lower prices, and much more agreeable weather than those who visit in summer.
Fall Travel in Germany
Baroque cities, the Bavarian Alps, the mythical Black Forest, and of course the annual celebration of Oktoberfest make Germany an ideal Autumnal destination. Imagine charming cobble-stoned streets, famous beer halls, and local wine festivals all with the backdrop of golden fall days ablaze with bright fall foliage. While off-season travel helps with cost, don’t forget that Oktoberfest is one of the biggest events of the year in Bavaria. If you plan on visiting from mid-September to early October, you’ll be treated to a celebration of Bavarian culture and cuisine. Every fall, over 6 million people travel from every corner of the world to drink beer, eat sausage, and join together in song.
Fall Colors Along the German Wine Route, Germany
The oldest scenic route in the country, the German Wine Route, or Deutsche Weinstrasse, offers travelers an enchanting trip. The route provides quintessential wineland scenery: lush vine-covered hillsides, rambling forests, and picturesque, quaint German villages. Traveling the route is incredible in the fall as the changing of the leaves lends sweeps of warm fall colors to the landscape and local wine festivals abound.
The area is busy with wine and harvest festivals during the autumn months. Each hamlet has its own celebration with local food and wines. While the area is famous for Sket, a white sparkling wine, don’t miss the Federweißer. A sweet, young wine with a rapid fermentation process, Federweißer is only available from September through late October. Enjoy this cloudy and refreshing drink with local chestnuts as you take in the storybook timber-frame buildings and cobbled squares famous in the area.
Fall Travel in Scotland
Scotland is known for its rugged beauty, and the region of Perthshire, just north of Edinburgh, sports some of the most stunning landscapes in the country. Much of Scotland is relatively treeless, but this mountainous region contains the mature woodlands needed to blanket the landscape with bright colors. Don’t miss the area surrounding the charming village of Pitlochry, which has become a popular spot for locals to enjoy the fall colors.
Fall Colors in the Highlands, Scotland
Autumn is an incredible time to visit the Scottish Highlands. The landscape is, if possible, even more magical, with the deep hues of evergreen pines creating a backdrop for the blazing colors of changing trees and grasses. As if the rolling hills caught fire, the color spreads with the deer grass on the moors as it turns a deep russet red. Trees burst into shades of amber and bronze. The dark spires of craggy rocks cast purple shadows across the land as the light turns flaxen with the season.
Japan is famous for its popular cherry blossom season, usually focused around April. However, the Japanese themselves are just as enthusiastic about enjoying the fiery colors that appear for up to two months in the fall. In fact, there is a Japanese word for this activity: “momijigari” which translates to “red leaves hunting”.
Although most of Japan can be blanketed in autumn beauty, the most renowned place to visit is the region surrounding Kyoto in the central part of the main Japanese island of Honshu. Shrines, temples, gardens, and mountain landscapes all erupt in glorious shades of bright red and yellow, attracting millions of people searching for “kōyō” (“leaves changing colors”).
Fall Colors in Arashiyama, Japan
The best place to immerse yourself in the colors of Autumn is on the city’s western fringe, in the historic and scenic district of Arashiyama. Renowned for its dramatically changing seasonal landscapes, fall travelers will find the area’s maples bursting with splashes of scarlet and rose. The district is also celebrated for its walkable bamboo forests. Visitors can stroll among the towering aisles of green stalks as they sway with the fall wind, offering the careful listener a symphony of fluttering leaves that only accentuates the fall landscape.
This charming “Venice of the North” is beloved for its tree-lined streets and canals. There are an estimated 75,000 Dutch Elm trees throughout the city, many of them more than a century old. When the leaves start falling, you’ll find the city’s iconic canals carpeted with bright golden leaves, with canal boats leaving a shimmering trail in their wake. Nothing tops a stroll along Amsterdam's canals as you make your way to the city’s top attractions, including the world-renowned Rijksmuseum in Museum square, with an extensive collection of Flemish masterpieces by artists such as Rembrandt and Van Gogh. If you enjoy art and nature and have yet to visit Europe in the fall, add Amsterdam to your list.
Fall Travel in Morocco
Straddling the Atlantic and Mediterranean in North Africa, Morocco in the fall is rugged and gorgeous, exotic and cozy. The Atlas Mountains offer truly breathtaking scenery that’s been largely untouched by civilization. Oak and juniper trees filled with pops of autumn color make the dramatic landscapes even more beautiful, and the season provides a respite from the summer heat and winter snow. Wander through the markets of Marrakesh and Casablanca, enjoy the spices that fill the air with enticing aromas, and return home with handcrafted artisan goods that make perfect holiday gifts.
Fall Travel in South Africa
Being in the southern hemisphere, September-November is actually Spring in South Africa. Unlike our other destinations, which are preparing to go into winter hibernation, South Africa is bursting into life. Vivid wildflowers are in bloom and baby animals are taking their first steps, which makes this the perfect time of year for a safari or whale watching excursion. Travel to the top of Table Mountain, which offers a 360-degree view of lovely Cape Town, to enjoy a sunset over the ocean. And be sure to visit South Africa’s excellent wineries, which are renowned for their crisp and lively white wines. Consider heading south of the equator this fall!
Planning Your Fall Travel in the USA
There’s nothing like getting out into the countryside on a sunny autumn day and immersing yourself in the brilliant colors of the changing trees. But different areas hit their peak—when the leaves are most vibrant—at different times, depending on their climate and elevation. So, a fall foliage trip does require some planning.
The Rocky Mountain region, stretching from the Canadian border to northern New Mexico, boasts fall foliage that rivals its stunning views. Because of its elevation, this region peaks earlier in the season, typically around the week of October 1st. Whether you hike or drive through, there’s an abundance of autumn beauty waiting for you in the Rockies.
Most people associate fall colors with the New England region, and rightfully so. The Northeast’s rolling green hills transform into a sea of reds, oranges, and yellows. And seeing historic covered bridges, barns, and cabins against this backdrop is a picture of pure Americana that evokes a Norman Rockwell painting.
According to National Weather Service data, the first half of October is ideal for taking a fall vacation in New England. The northern section—Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine—start to peak around October 1st, while the states that lie a bit to the south—New York and Pennsylvania—really hit their stride during the week of October 8th. And the following week, October 15th is typically when Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut burst into full color.
There are a number of other outstanding destinations to consider for autumn trips, too, including California—where you can drive along the coast, visit wineries during harvesting season, and enjoy spectacular national parks. Head down to New Orleans to experience the Big Easy without summer humidity, or check out autumn hues in the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains.
Or, take a trip overseas where you can enjoy fall colors and see the sites without the crowds of the summer season.
Why Do Leaves Change Color?
Before we discuss when leaves change color, let’s examine why they change. Leaves are saturated with chlorophyll cells, which absorb sunlight and convert it into glucose, a vital food source for trees. Chlorophyll is also what provides the green pigment in leaves. When the days are shorter and trees get less sunlight during the fall, chlorophyll production begins to slow down and give way to other compounds present in the leaves.
These compounds are known as Carotenoids, such as Beta-Carotene and Anthocyanins. Beta-Carotene is very common, and it naturally reflects yellow and red light, which produces that signature orange autumn color. Anthocyanin produces red hues in leaves, while Flavonol provides shades of yellow. These compounds are always present in the leaves, but it’s not until chlorophyll decreases that their true colors can shine.
Factors like temperature, precipitation, and soil moisture can affect when leaves shed their summer skin. But the National Weather Service does compile data based on historical trends to predict when specific areas will reach their peak leaf and observation times.