September is one of our favourite months to travel in. The summer heat has died down (as have the crowds) and various parts of the world spring to life. From immersing yourself in the unique cultural traditions across the globe to spotting an array of enchanting wildlife, scroll through to discover our top ten destinations that make for a perfect September escape. And if you feel inspired, check out our top itineraries below or get in touch to start planning your trip.
CANADA: FOR THE FALL COLOURS & INCREDIBLE LANDSCAPES
Why you should go: September brings a kaleidoscope of colours to Canada, as autumn paints the vast forests and mountain trails in dazzling shades of gold and crimson. The summer crowds all but disappear after Labour Day (the first weekend in September), so this is the perfect time to visit and enjoy some peace in the National Parks, where the maples and evergreens are looking their majestic best. ‘Leaf peeping’ is a popular pastime at this time of year, particular in the eastern territories, where the foliage is simply phenomenal. Temperatures are comfortable, making for ideal hiking conditions.
Take a road trip on the Niagara Parkway or ‘River Road’; hugging the Niagara River between Lake Eerie and Lake Ontario, it was described as the “prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world” by none other than Sir Winston Churchill. And who are we to argue?
ITALY: FOR A EUROPEAN ESCAPE MINUS THE CROWDS
Why you should go: September is a great time to visit Italy, most of the madding crowds have thinned out, and it’s back to business as usual for the locals, who tend to take the entire month of August off for their summer holidays. The weather remains summer-like through September, though without hitting the heights of August. Pleasant days and cooler nights make for ideal conditions for outdoor activities, such as trekking in the Dolomites, exploring Roman ruins or hitting the beach – picturesque Positano on the Amalfi coast is one of our top Italian spots for this time of year.
As the beginning of the harvest season, September also sees a number of food-related festivals spring up across Italy, celebrating regional and local delicacies – the perfect excuse to head inland. Venice also hosts the famous Regata Storica in September: the colourful pageantry provides a spectacular backdrop to these exciting boat races through the city’s landmark canals.
MONGOLIA: FOR UNIQUE FESTIVALS
Why you should go: September plays host to two of Mongolia’s most famous and fascinating festivals, celebrating customs and traditions entirely unique to this part of the world. Over 80% of the world’s eagle hunters live in Mongolia; every year, roughly 40 hunters and their majestic birds of prey take part in the Altai-Kazakh Festival in mid-September to show off their considerable skill, honed over years of intense dedication to this ancient art. As well as hunting-style challenges, camel rides, archery and horseback tug-of-war are on the agenda.
Nomad’s Day Festival celebrates the nomadic way of life of the Mongolian people, with challenges and games involving music and dance, cooking and costumes. Mongolia has proudly preserved much of its history and heritage, and September is a great time to celebrate this with the locals – like a local.
TANZANIA: FOR THE GREAT MIGRATION
Why you should go: The Great Migration is sometimes referred to as the “Greatest Show on Earth” and it’s difficult to disagree; over two million wildebeest, zebra and gazelle herd and stampede across the great African plains in a continuous cycle, moving with the rains and seeking fresh pastures to graze.
The migration can be followed year-round, but September is a particularly good time to track the herds as they spread across the northern Serengeti, where they are faced with the mighty Mara River, the biggest obstacle on the entire journey. Watching the herds as they desperately cross the crocodile-infested waters is one of the most tense yet memorable scenes of the entire journey.
ICELAND: FOR EPIC LANDSCAPES & THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
Why you should go: The Northern Lights are best seen from September to mid-March, as the days grow ever shorter and darker over the winter. Autumn is a brief but beautiful window in Iceland, and usually the only time of year where you can see two Auroras for the price of one: the days are darkening, and the rivers and lakes remain unfrozen, so you can see the lights illuminating the sky above and reflected on the open water below, painting a mesmerising picture before the waters freeze over in winter.
This time of year is also best for exploring the rugged, unspoilt interior of the island; keen horse-riders can head out to the dramatic back-country and take part in the réttir, Iceland’s annual sheep round-up and one of the country’s oldest traditions.
BHUTAN: FOR TREKKING
Why you should go: Bhutan has some of the best trekking in the world, and September is one of the best times to visit. The climate is cool and comfortable, with crisp blue skies providing a stunning backdrop to towering mountains and turquoise lakes. It’s a great time of year to visit the famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery, perched 900m above the rugged Paro Valley. Don’t forget your camera: the dazzling autumnal colours that blanket Bhutan are postcard-perfect.
We recommend the Druk Path trek – it is one of the more popular walking routes in the country (and for good reason), but visiting in September should see you beating the bulk of the crowds, and there is no better way to explore one of the most remote kingdoms on earth.
MADAGASCAR: FOR WHALE WATCHING
Why you should go: In September, the seas surrounding Madagascar play host to one of nature’s most awe-inspiring spectacles, as hundreds of humpback whales gather in the tropical waters to breed. Males vie for attention with dramatic displays of aquatic acrobatics: watching a 45-ton giant breach clear of the surface is quite unforgettable.
As September marks the end of the migration and mating season, it is a good time to spot new-born calves, making their first journey back to colder waters with their mothers. Ile Saint Marie is the island’s whale-watching hot spot – warm and sunny weather throughout the month also makes this an ideal September beach getaway.
BORNEO: FOR SPOTTING RARE WILDLIFE
Why you should go: Borneo is celebrated for its incredible biodiversity, and September is a prime time for wildlife watching both inland and offshore. It’s considered the best time to see orangutans in the wild, which should be at the top of any nature-lover’s bucket list. The Kinabatangan River should follow closely behind, where an amazing array of animals can be spotted along its banks and under the water: from monitor lizards to macaques, proboscis monkeys to pygmy elephants, not to mention crocodiles, clouded leopards, even the rare Sumatran rhino. Borneo is also a birdwatcher’s bliss, boasting a huge variety of species, including hornbills and kingfishers.
Equally, conditions off the coast are considered perfect for diving: several shark species, barracuda, and countless rate tropical fish species call the turquoise waters home. To top it off, September is the best time to spot endangered turtles on Lankayan Island – also home to some of Borneo’s best beaches.
CALIFORNIA: FOR A CULTURE ROAD TRIP
Why you should go: September falls right in the middle of “the crush” – California’s grape harvest season – making it a perfect time to point the nose of your car north up to Napa Valley, where farmers markets and tasting tours are in full swing. The south coast isn’t short of cultural highlights either – the Shakespeare Festival in San Diego is our pick for September. And in the middle, the Monterey Jazz Festival, one of the world’s longest-running, is a must-visit for any music fan.
Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival, featuring celebrity chefs and master sommeliers, is fast becoming a key fixture on the elite foodie calendar. Many of the summer crowds go home after Labour Day, giving you infinitely more freedom on the winding coastal road – a pleasure to drive at this time of year.
NAMBIA: FOR A SAFARI WITH A TWIST
Why you should go: September is perfect safari season in Namibia: the long dry months have taken their toll on the landscape, so more desert-adapted animals gather around fewer watering holes, making for ideal game viewing conditions. Zebra and springbok rub shoulders with Oryx and elephants; some camps boast floodlit watering holes where lions and rhinos congregate making for prime night time game viewing.
Etosha National Park, home to four of the Big Five, is particularly worth a visit to see the healthy resident population of black rhinoceros, as well as lion, leopard, giraffe, wildebeest, cheetah … the list goes on. Migrant birds arrive in late September to complete the spectacle.