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 providing abundant panoramic views. Take in the grandeur of Mount Washington, the tallest peak in New England, as it emerges from the colorful trees of New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. See Vermont's impressive capital building in Montpelier and visit the Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks to taste the uniquely delicious treat known as “sugar on snow."
The Dolomites, located in northern Italy, offer a breathtaking display of fall colors. During the autumn season, typically from late September to early November, the landscapes of the Dolomites transform into a vivid palette of reds, oranges, and yellows. Exploring the Dolomites during fall allows you to witness the vibrant foliage, enjoy the crisp mountain air, and indulge in the beauty of one of Italy's most captivating natural wonders.
Fall Colors in The Dolomites, Italy
The breathtaking landscape of the Dolomites is always spectacular, but autumn in the area is something out of this world. The larch trees of the region turn honey-yellow, and the fall light casts both shadows and buttery hues over crags and rock formations. The fall colors and light truly make it a photographer’s dream. The forests, alpine meadows, and majestic peaks of this UNESCO World Heritage Site create a stunning backdrop for nature enthusiasts and photographers. To view the magnificent mountains and distinctive limestone peaks in full display, we suggest traveling to the Ampezzo Valley.
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.
With its mature woodlands and mountainous terrain, Perthshire offers a picturesque setting that comes alive with a kaleidoscope of autumn hues. The charming village of Pitlochry, in particular, is a popular destination for both locals and tourists seeking to immerse themselves in the beauty of the fall season. Exploring the surrounding area and taking in the breathtaking fall foliage is an experience not to be missed when visiting Scotland.
Fall Colors in the Highlands, Scotland
Fall in the Highlands of Scotland, typically from late September to November, brings a stunning display of autumn colors across the region. As the trees and foliage transform, the landscapes are adorned with vibrant red, orange, and gold hues. From the iconic Scottish Highlands to the picturesque lochs and glens, this time of year offers breathtaking vistas, scenic drives, and photography opportunities. Enjoy spectacular scenery en route to the Valley of Glencoe, in the Lochaber Geopark on the banks of Loch Leven, at the mouth of the famous Glen. Whether exploring the rugged mountains or strolling through quaint villages, experiencing the fall colors in the Highlands is a truly magical and immersive experience.
Fall (September - November) in France is a delightful time to travel, as the weather is generally mild and the tourist crowds begin to dwindle. The countryside and vineyards showcase stunning autumn colors, offering picturesque landscapes. It's also a great season to explore charming towns, visit cultural sites, and indulge in the country's renowned culinary delights. You can sit at a Parisian street-side table, 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.
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 known throughout Europe for its vibrant fall foliage. You can 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. Additionally, Autumn visitors will enjoy fewer crowds and much more agreeable weather than those who visit in summer.
Fall Colors in Paris, France
Warm fall days in Paris might lead you to apply for ex-pat status; they’re that marvelous. Pair 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 add to the city's magical hues, making autumn one of our favorite seasons to visit. We suggest taking a private street trolley car back in time to the colorful hillside 'village' of Montmartre, home to the picturesque Sacré-Cœur. Tread in the footsteps of Picasso, Dali, and Van Gogh to discover the hidden squares, artists' haunts, and romantic hideaways.
Fall in Germany typically spans from September to November. Mild and pleasant temperatures often characterize the beginning of fall in Germany. October is usually the peak of fall foliage in Germany. The landscapes become a stunning tapestry of autumn colors, and temperatures gradually cool. Baroque cities, the Bavarian Alps, the mythical Black Forest, and 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.
Fall Travel & Oktoberfest in Bavaria
Oktoberfest is one of Bavaria's most significant events of the year, and the area is busy with wine and harvest festivals during the autumn months. Every fall, over 6 million people travel from around the world to drink beer, eat sausage, and join together in song. If you plan on visiting from mid-September to early October, you'll be treated to a celebration of Bavarian culture and cuisine.
Japan is famous for its cherry blossom season, usually around April. However, the Japanese are just as enthusiastic about enjoying the fiery colors of foliage that appear for up to two months in the fall. There is even a Japanese word for this activity, “momijigari,” which translates to “red leaves hunting.”
Although you'll find gorgeous foliage almost everywhere you visit, the region surrounding Kyoto is the most renowned place to go for autumn colors. Arashiyama, located on the outskirts of Kyoto, is famous for its picturesque bamboo forest, traditional temples, and scenic landscapes. The fall foliage in Arashiyama typically begins in mid to late November and lasts until early December, although exact dates can vary from year to year.
Fall Colors in Arashiyama, Japan
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”). 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.
Fall (September - November) in the Netherlands is a wonderful time to travel and experience the country's unique charm. During the Autumn months, the weather unhurriedly transitions from summer to winter. The picturesque canals of Amsterdam and other Dutch cities are adorned with autumn colors, creating a stunning backdrop for leisurely walks and boat rides.
Fall Travel in Amsterdam
This charming “Venice of the North” is beloved for its tree-lined streets and canals. An estimated 75,000 Dutch Elm trees are many more than a century old throughout the city. 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. 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.
In Morocco, Fall (September - November) is characterized by milder temperatures compared to the heat of summer or the colder winter months. The weather is generally comfortable, making it an ideal time to explore outdoor attractions without feeling too hot or cold. Morocco is known for its diverse landscapes; you can witness stunning scenery during the fall season. From the Atlas Mountains to the Sahara Desert and coastal areas, the landscapes showcase their natural beauty with mild temperatures, clear skies, and lush vegetation. Oak and juniper trees filled with pops of autumn color make the dramatic landscapes even more beautiful.
Fall in Marrakesh & Casablanca
Marrakesh and Casablanca in Morocco offer their unique charm during the fall season. While these cities are not traditionally associated with fall foliage, there are still elements to appreciate. In Marrakesh, the fall weather brings milder temperatures, making it an ideal time to explore the city's bustling markets, such as the famous Jemaa el-Fnaa square, and visit historic sites like the Bahia Palace. On the other hand, Casablanca showcases its beauty through its coastal charm and cultural attractions, such as the Hassan II Mosque. Wander through the markets, enjoy the spices that fill the air with enticing aromas, and return home with handcrafted artisan goods that make perfect holiday gifts.
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.
Fall Travel in Cape Town
Whether you're interested in exploring the city's cultural attractions, indulging in its diverse culinary scene, or embarking on outdoor adventures, fall in Cape Town offers a delightful blend of pleasant weather, stunning scenery, and a more relaxed atmosphere for your travel experience. 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 the nearby Winelands, renowned for their crisp and lively white wines. Consider heading south of the equator this fall!
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 first week of October.
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 the first of October, while the states that lie a bit to the south—New York and Pennsylvania—really hit their stride during the second week. And the third week is typically when Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut burst into full color.
There are several outstanding destinations to consider for autumn trips. California is gorgeous that time of year along the coast. Travelers like to visit wineries during harvesting season, and enjoy spectacular national parks. Or, head down to New Orleans to experience the Big Easy without summer humidity, or check out autumn hues in the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains.
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.
If you can, go for as long as possible. Though, we recommend at least five days to experience any region to the fullest. However, if you’re traveling for less than a week, our trips are designed so that you will still experience the very best of the places you visit.
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