September is one of the best months to travel for myriad reasons: great weather, off-season prices and a host of exciting wildlife watching experiences. Here are the best places to explore in September...
September is one of our favourite months to travel. The school holiday rush is over, so sunny destination flight prices start to come down. Temperatures in Europe dip enough to make heat more comfortable and undiscovered Europe is in its element. The 'stans come to life. Safari season is in full swing, if drawing to a close.
Whether you're after a long weekend with a difference, a life-changing wildlife experience or a long-term adventure to tick off the bucket list, September's a great month to get on the road.
Skip ahead to your chosen travel type by clicking on one of the below, or keep scrolling for the full list of recommendations:
Like many popular European hot spots, Sicily is still warm in September, yet less oppressively hot, cooler in the evenings and less busy thanks to the summer holidays drawing to a close.
In the capital, Palermo, opera season begins again this month. It's also typically an ideal temperature to take on the hike up Mount Etna, or to explore the volcanic Aoelian Islands.
Finally, there's never been a better time to day trip to the towns of Taormina and Castelmola, ending your break by parking yourself outside a classic Sicilian eatery, to enjoy the hazy late summer evening.
Japan's sunny season (July to August) can be awfully humid, and rainy season (June to July) is predictably wet. Things start to simmer in September.
Expect breezier mornings and evenings – and likely less fellow visitors on the streets, as Nara's peak season comes into play in October and November.
The country's known for its pale pink springtime blooms, but the autumnal colours starting to sweep across Nara's majestic parks and temple grounds as September blurs into October are just as pretty.
June to October is the best time to visit the wine region of Sonoma Valley, and the city itself. Go in the first half of the season, though, and you can expect hotel prices to be sky-high.
September still reaches highs of 30°C, so you can expect to feel the Californian heat as you tour vineyards, explore Sonoma's plazas and – if you're lucky – experience the weekly farmers' market.
We've selected Lebanon as a top pick before, for its especially brilliant weather. We've chosen it again this month, particularly for its hiking opportunities.
Don't miss Beirut, the capital, but do head deeper into the country's picturesque – and often lesser-visited – valleys and national parks. Kadisha Valley, in particular, has yet to be discovered by the masses. One of our readers, Nandini, wrote about her hiking experience.
The capital, Tbilisi, may make an excellent long weekend destination, but there's far more of the country to explore.
Batumi and Mtskheta cities are also well worth your time, both offering historical landmarks, monasteries and sensational views. The botanical garden in Batumi is a natural spectacle, too, especially as autumn's oranges and yellows begin to take over the country.
Head to western Georgia and experience Kutaisi, or delve into Prometheus Cave. Experience local life in the Svaneti region among the Caucasus Mountains, and end your trip with all the Georgian food and drink you can manage, with a relaxing few days by the Black Sea.
Argentina's winter draws to a close in August and early September, so mid to late September brings with it spring temperatures. They do vary, but you can hope for easygoing temperatures of around 15°C to 20°C.
Spring blooms bring lush greenery to Argentina's national parks, and overall, this vast South American country is certainly less crowded than in summer. Northern Argentina in particular is best visited during this season.
Take your time in the capital, Buenos Aires. Enjoy the wineries of Mendoza, and then kick the adventure up a notch by visiting the Jujuy province in the north-west. Marvel in particular at the naturally impressive mountain city of Salta.
We've covered Nepal's life-affirming treks in some detail on Wanderlust, and have to say that there's few better times than September to take on a challenge.
This is because the weather is prime for easy trekking conditions. Rainy season has petered out, the skies are clear and temperatures are on the cooler side, from 15°C to 24°. Time to get walking...
Portugal lands on our long-term list for the sheer volume of places to visit, because typically, it's a classic short break destination. We admit: it's far too easy to fly to Lisbon or Porto for a few days, or enjoy a wine tasting tour of Douro Valley, and then fly back home.
If you've weeks – maybe even a month or two – to spare, it's well worth slowing down and soaking up Portugal. Spend time seeking out Lisbon and Porto's up-and-coming neighbourhoods.
Go off-the-beaten-track to the majestic historical city of Coimbra, and explore the underrated Tavira and more of the eastern Algarve's quieter coast. Finally, give the fairytale town of Sintra what it deserves: a few days more than a day trip.
You can take your time enjoying the fruits of Portugal's vineyards, too, and don't forget the island of Madeira. It has more than just wine to enjoy, but you'll still soak up Funchal's world-class wineries at a slower pace.
With September highs climbing to 27ºC, Portugal may still be a tad too warm for travellers better equipped to dealing with cooler temps. However, it's good to know that things tend to simmer down in the evenings, making strolls to local bars for drinks and petiscos (the snackier version of Spanish tapas) extremely pleasant.
Both September and October are popular times to visit China. Not least because the spectacular Mid-Autumn Festival takes place during this period, celebrating the end of the harvest. Dates vary, but the special day usually occurs between mid-September and the beginning of October.
Weather-wise, the northern regions are particularly fine to visit anytime in September, though humidity in the south can remain high until later on in the month.
Use this weather pattern to help guide your trip. Begin in Beijing, the electrifying 3,000-year-old capital. The Great Wall, a travel classic, is about an hour and 30 minutes by car. You'll want several days to walk and explore this sheer wonder.
Then make your way south, perhaps inverting our suggested Hong Kong to Beijing route – stopping by all the must-sees: Chengdu (for giant pandas), Xi’an (one of China's eldest cities, home to the Terracotta Army) and the Three Gorges mountain range on the Yangtze River.
This itinerary is ideal, especially if you have just a few weeks for exploration. If your trip is even longer, lucky you. The possibilities are endless...
Geographically (and sensibly), it would be impossible and near-criminal to see the 'stans and sack off the blue-tiled marvels of Uzbekistan. But since we've featured Uzbekistan as a highlight for several different months, why not use September to dig deeper into neighbouring Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, too?
Tajikistan, a landlocked country surrounded by mountains, is a hiker's untouched dream. The capital, Dushanbe, is absolutely fascinating. Admire its unique architecture and monuments in Rudaki Park, then spend time acquainting yourself with the nation's Soviet history in Tajikistan National Museum.
Turkmenistan's jewel is its marble-dense capital, Ashgabat, reportedly one of the most expensive cities in the world for foreigners to live. Fortunately, you're just visiting, so spend your time marvelling at its tombs, towers and mosques, or shopping in the city's unusual bazaars.
It's easy to go beyond the city, though. The white-sand coast spreads out before the Caspian Sea, and the Gates To Hell (the perpetually-burning Darvaza Gas Crater) lies in wait in the middle of the desert.
The state of Transnistria declared (and fought for) its independence from Moldova in 1990. Now, it celebrates Independence Day on 2 September... despite the fact that Moldova, most other countries and the United Nations don't recognise its independence.
Still, that doesn't stop Transnistria's capital, Tiraspol, from going big with the festivities: a Soviet-style military parade, street barbecues and parties late into the night. It's certainly a unique travel experience.
Politics aside, Transnistria's close proximity to Moldova (and Ukraine) makes it an ideal destination for travellers hoping to discover the last undiscovered territories of Europe.
Moldova's capital, Chisinau, is well worth a few days of your time, especially if you're interested in the country's Soviet past. Go further into the countryside to discover Moldova's many monasteries – the Old Orhei is a must-see.
Oktoberfest has October right there in the title, but Bavaria's beer-based merriment actually begins around the third week of September. So, why not get there early?
Over the two-week festival, you can expect endless opportunities for eating German pretzels, wurstl (sausage) and knodel (potato pancakes), hop from tent to tent tasting the best in German beer, dress up in traditional dirndl dresses or lederhose, enjoy a carnival ride, toast your new-found drunken friends (it's a friendly festival) and simply dance the night away.
A little more niche than Oktoberfest, Slovenia's Bohinj region offers more than scenic beauty in September. It also offers the chance to witness the long-running, traditional 'cow festival', known as the 'Cow Ball'.
It's exactly as it sounds. Through a cloud of folk music, locals watch a parade of garland-wearing cows pass the gloriously blue Lake Bohinj. The event signifies the return of the cows from the hills in summer, where they've been munching and filling their four stomachs with green, green grass.
The UK enjoys its max temperatures in July and August, but September is right at the end of Scotland's peak season (starting in May). It's still seasonable, but far less busy than in summer. You won't exactly have the Highlands to yourself, but you'll certainly have an easier time finding somewhere to sleep.
Now's the perfect time to hike mountains, go birdwatching, experience the Highlands' abundant nature and practice your travel photography in one of the UK's most dramatic and impressive landscapes.
Venice is famous as a bustling tourist hot spot, for its rainbow-coloured sister islands and the ebb and flow of lazy (also: expensive) gondola rides along its azure waterways.
In early September, the city roars into a different kind of action: rowers surround the island and rowing fans gather in the city to watch the annual races and enjoy the bright introductory parade along the canals.
September is traditionally the end of game viewing season in KwaZulu-Natal, making it the ideal month to visit if you want to avoid the safari crowds, but still see the Big Five and more.
Expect the opportunity to see lions, elephants, rhinos and giraffes, as well as rare bird species. Hluhluwe-IMfolozi Game Reserve is a must for any wildlife fan, said to be the oldest reserve in Africa. Elephant lovers must head to the north-east to see the creatures roaming Tembe Elephant Park, which is close by to Ndumo Game Reserve.
Birders rejoice at uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, which is protected for its significant population of endangered or rare species, including the wattled crane, vultures (bearded and cape) and the yellow breasted pipit. Over 164 birds have been spotted in the region. It's also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as it's the home of San Rock Art, a large collection of rock paintings dating back to the 1800s.
East Africa also offers ample wildlife opportunities in September. Of course, the earlier you visit in September, the better, so you've missed the August rush, but you're also not risking early rains washing the animals out of the park and into the outskirts of the reserves.
Tanzania has two national parks you simply must visit, if you love animals. Tarangire National Park provides wildlife watchers with an excellent chance of enjoying an elephant sighting in the wild, as they group together around the Tarangire River. The Serengeti can still be busy in September and you won't have much luck with the wildebeest migration (June to July) across the Grumeti River, but you will have better luck with the overall wildlife population. Leopards, lions and more of the Big Five await.
With highs of 15°C to 17°C in Canada's eastern province during September, and lows of 8°C or 9°C, chances are you'll want to take a warm jacket with you on a wildlife excursion.
Here, you'll say goodbye to safari-style wildlife watching and instead admire whales by boat. Take your birding binoculars too as it's prime time for puffin sightings along the coast.
You can see native black bears in Newfoundland, too. The season lasts until November, so you'll be there at the right time. There are approximately 6,000 to 10,000 in the region – which is a pretty high concentration. Then move along to Bella Coola in British Columbia for the chance to see wild grizzlies in their natural habitat – September is prime time.
For something a bit different, embrace the beautiful spring season in Mozambique's premier national park, the so-called 'Serengeti of the south'.
In spring (September and October), the park's diverse array of flora and fauna blossom into a lovely shade of green. This month is also peak season for seeing the elephants, wildebeest, warthogs, hippos, lions and buffalo that call the park home – as they all flock to watering holes to quench their thirst.
Birders won't be disappointed either, and you may spot a Nile crocodile or two around Lake Urema and its varying lagoons. Fourteen African wild dogs were also re-introduced to Gorongosa in 2018, so keep your eyes peeled. One creature you may not spot? A zebra. They're rare – apparently, there are just a few roaming the park.
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