Where to go in Autumn

Experience the riches of autumn around the world

Autumn might mean clouds, rain and longer nights in the UK, but elsewhere throughout the world this season is coming into its own. Whether you're chasing the sun in South Africa or at a ghoulish carnival in Mexico, here are the best places to visit this autumn.

Harvest time in Italy

This is the moment of the year that foodies around the world wait for. What better season to take a culinary tour of northern Italy than during the grape-picking season? Combine rustic gastronomy with days in the cities to make the most of this uncrowded window, when you'll have more space to linger over the best sights without feeling like a sardine. 

September and October offers the perfect chance to learn about Italy's seasonal ingredients, with earthy delicacies such as porcini mushrooms, pumpkins and aubergines at their peak. Why not take a cookery class and discover how to cook them with homemade pasta, pairing your meals with a well-rounded red wine? Taste a few at local vineyards, where you can see it being made and buy a bottle to pair with your homemade efforts back home.

Take a culinary tour of Lake Garda and northern Italy

New England in the fall

If you love autumn in Europe, New England in the fall should be up there with your travel ambitions. Its blazing showcase of scarlets, gold, bronze, purple and orange leaves put the UK's trusty yellows, browns and copper in the shade. It's the kind of idealised autumn you see in children's books.

New England's arboreal splendour is centred around lakes, fields and mountains. Not far from here, New York City's autumn colour is concentrated in Central Park. An oasis in a cityscape of grey high-rise blocks, the park gives New Yorkers somewhere to meet, wander and kick up leaves - a romantic backdrop in films such as Breakfast at Tiffany's and Annie Hall. Any visit to the eastern states of the USA is only complete with a trip to the city - and there's no better time than during fall.

Kick up leaves in New England in the fall

Diwali in India

Diwali is a magical time to be in India. The biggest celebration in the Indian calendar, the 'Festival of Light' lasts for five days and symbolises the triumph of light over darkness. Hindus, Sikhs and Jains throughout the country decorate their houses with candles and colourful lights, and exchange gifts, prayers and homemade sweets. Spectacular firework displays fill the skies, and ornate rangoli motifs (Hindu folk art) made with dyed rice and candles fill the floors of many homes and temples. The festival ends on the fifth day with much feasting.

This year, Diwali takes place between 17 and 21 October, with the main day of celebrations on the 19th when the candles are lit and decorations go up. In Kerala, the festival has a lower profile than in the rest of the country.

Celebrate Diwali in India


Whale season in South Africa

October is the ideal time to visit South Africa, with temperatures pleasantly rising but the northern rains yet to arrive. Hermanus, on the south coast, offers the best land-based whale watching in the world now, as the Southern Right Whale population peaks during this month. Playful and curious, these remarkable creatures number just 3,000 due to overhunting - however, thanks to hunting bans and conservation efforts, numbers are slowly on the rise.

This month is also the start of hatching season for South Africa's native ostriches. You may well see the birds in the wild, but to get up close and personal, visit one of Oudtshoorn's many ostrich farms.

Go whale-watching in South Africa

Mexican Day of the Dead

Some cultures bury the dead, mourn and remember the deceased with quiet, personal reverence. Not in Mexico, where locals believe that their loved ones can return to visit them for three magical days from 31 October until 2 November. On the Dia de los Muertos, the streets fill with flowers, little shrines, flags and decorations. Locals and tourists dress up, paint their faces and parade from the town's graveyard through the streets, a riot of colour and noise. And every skeleton comes out of the closet.

Experience the Mexican Day of the Dead

Japanese maple leaf season

Old Japan may have been and gone, but in Kyoto, you can be transported back to the time of the empire. This beautifully preserved city escaped the bombs of World War II, and is characterised by its exquisite gardens, calm temples, red-lipped geishas, and 2,000 vivid Buddhist and Shinto shrines.

It's pretty at any time of year, but Kyoto really comes into its own during cherry-blossom season at the start of April, and maple leaf season between October and November, when the foliage of its parks, temples and gardens turns many shades of crimson.

Taking part in a tea ceremony is a wonderful way to experience living Japanese tradition. With its origins in Zen Buddhism, its elaborate preparation and presentation can only be properly done by a master of tea. Whenever you visit Kyoto, it's worth participating in this historical ritual in a calm setting to match.

Experience Kyoto on a journey through Japan

Aurora Borealis season begins

Aurora Borealis is one of the most vivid and extraordinary natural phenomena on the planet. Caused by the earth's magnetic field making contact with charged particles from the sun, the Northern Lights appear to streak across the night sky, creating luminous flashes of colour.

The best time to see this magnificent event is between September and March, when the skies are at their darkest. You'll need to be far north - Iceland, Arctic Scandinavia, Canada and the Yukon are all great places to try.

See the Northern Lights