The world's best places to see autumn colours

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The dog days of summer are over. But despite the chill in the air, there’s no need to be downhearted. Autumn is the most spectacular season, a last hurrah before the bitter winds of winter take hold.

Pull on your walking boots and head to one of these stunning destinations to witness glorious autumn colour. We promise that as you crunch through the fallen leaves, the dazzling views won't fail to impress.

Nara, Japan

Autumn in Japan is every bit as stunning as the short-lived haname cherry blossom season in spring. Kouyou, or autumn leaves, can be seen across the country, starting in the northern island of Hokkaidō and spreading quickly south from the end of September. The ancient capital of Nara, a short train ride from Kyoto, makes a wonderful viewing spot. Its vast park is awash with colour, with sensational views of red, gold and yellow leaves along the paths up to Tamukeyama shrine in its northeast corner.

Tanzan shrine in autumn, by Hiroaki Kaneko. CC BY-SA 2.0Tanzan shrine in autumn, by Hiroaki Kaneko. CC BY-SA 2.0.

Agawa Canyon, Canada

Hop on board the Agawa Canyon Tour Train this autumn and you’ll be treated to some of the most beautiful fall foliage on the planet. The ride sets off from Sault Ste Marie on the CanadaUSA border, covering 114 miles of unspoilt country that looks at its best as the days begin to close in. The views here inspired Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, Canada’s most prominent landscape artists, throughout the early 20th century. You’ll need to be quick though, as the leaves peak for a brief period around the end of September and beginning of October.

Forest of Dean, England

This ancient woodland in Gloucestershire was once used as a royal hunting ground; its trees were also used to make Tudor warships. Today, it’s the perfect spot for the more prosaic sport of ‘leaf peeping’. The mix of oak, beech and sweet chestnut provides a rusty riot of yellow and gold. The Forest of Dean can be easily covered on foot or bike. Just keep an eye out for the wild boar that have called this place home since 2006.

A gnarled beech tree in England's Forest of Dean. Image by David Lloyd / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images.A gnarled beech tree in England's Forest of Dean. Image by David Lloyd / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images.

White Mountains, New Hampshire, USA

New England is synonymous with ‘fall’ and picking one must-see spot isn’t easy. But New Hampshire’s White Mountains are surely one of the best places to see autumn at its most colourful, not just in New England, but the world. Hike through the hills at the start of October and you’ll be treated to brilliant red maple leaves. Or drive to Silver Cascade Falls in Carroll County to see the trees glow next to the 250ft waterfall.

Fall foliage trip to New Hampshire 2011, by Anthony Quintano. CC BY 2.0Fall foliage trip to New Hampshire 2011, by Anthony Quintano. CC BY 2.0

Loire Valley, France

With the leaves on the vines turning and the summer hordes heading home, there’s never a better time to visit France’s Loire Valley. The rolling vineyards look radiant as they shed the greens of warmer months for the yellows, browns and burnt oranges of autumn. It’s also harvest time, so you can see the grapes being picked in the fields, before retiring to a cosy spot to take in the view with a glass of the local tipple.

Image by Craig Drollett. CC BY-SA 2.0French vineyards glowing with autumn colours. Image by Craig Drollett. CC BY-SA 2.0

Huangshan Mountain, China

Huangshan, or Yellow Mountain, is arguably the best place in China for seeing autumn in all its glory. The range’s vertiginous peaks are covered in trees that turn a beautiful, bright red throughout October, with crowds flocking from Běijīng and Shànghǎi to take pictures. Its renowned wispy clouds give it a particularly ethereal, Chinese atmosphere. Head here at sunrise to see the foliage at its very best.

Stone sculpture crowning a peak in China's Yellow Mountain region. Image by Jochen Schlenker / Robert Harding World Imagery / Getty Images.Stone sculpture crowning a peak in China's Yellow Mountain region. Image by Jochen Schlenker / Robert Harding World Imagery / Getty Images.

Dandenong Ranges, Australia

Aussie autumn doesn’t kick off in earnest until March. And while you wouldn’t usually associate the land of beaches, surfing and summer heat with glorious autumnal colour, the Dandenong Ranges near Melbourne don’t disappoint. As well as being a national park of breathtaking beauty, the area is also dotted with manicured gardens. The Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens (parkweb.vic.gov.au/alfred-nicholas) are definitely worth a visit when their lawns are carpeted with fallen leaves and their trees are aglow.

Bishop Creek Canyon, California, USA

Just because the northeast USA gets amazing autumn colour doesn’t mean you should discount the west coast. California’s inland forests offer a great alternative, with the reds and yellows of fall holding on for longer in the Golden State thanks to its hugely varied elevation. Bishop Creek Canyon is one of a number of great viewing points. Nestled in the Sierra-Nevada Mountains in Inyo County, the golden leaves here look amazing with the rocky hills as a backdrop.

Loch Dunmore boating hut, by baaker2009. CC BY 2.0Loch Dunmore boating hut, by baaker2009. CC BY 2.0

Pitlochry, Scotland

Scotland’s pine forests may not change colour, but its deciduous trees offer some of the finest autumn hues in Europe. Walk out of town to the dam and fish ladder, which separates the River Tummel and Loch Faskally, to get the perfect view of waterside trees as they shed their leaves. Each October Pitlochry also plays host to the Enchanted Forest (www.pitlochry.org/whats_on/enchanted-forest.htm), a nightly event that sees the trees lit up to soaring music in the woods just outside town.

Morning mist, by B4bees. CC BY-SA 2.0Autumn colours in Perthshire, Scotland. Image by B4bees. CC BY-SA 2.0

Lombardy, Italy

Still mild even as the leaves fall, Lombardy in northern Italy is an ideal place to see mainland Europe burst into colour. The native Lombardy poplars, which can be seen across the landscape, turn a bright yellow before their leaves fall to the floor. If you can’t make it to the countryside, Milan’s public gardens offer a great city view of autumn.