September. Surely one of most seductive times of year to travel. In much of the northern hemisphere, it represents the last sigh of summer, as crowds melt magically away but the warm days linger. Further south, flowers begin to bloom as spring shrugs off the chilly embrace of winter.
This is the time to climb the Middle East’s highest mountain in search of a three-headed dragon; to celebrate the ‘grito’ for independence at a true fiesta Mexicana; to follow twisting wine routes through a little-known region of Austria; to witness rituals, sacrifices and celebrations in Nepal in honour of the mother goddess.
Savour the best of September with advice from Lonely Planet’s destination experts.
Mount Damavand, Iran
Timing is everything when planning a trip to Iran, a country with temperatures that range wildly from below zero to 50°C. You can avoid both extremes in September, which is an absolute delight by comparison, especially if you’re planning to tackle the mighty Damavand Mountain.
At 5672m, it’s the highest peak in the Middle East, and the subject of many local legends – not least that three-headed dragon Aži Dahāka is chained there. Mythical sightings aren’t guaranteed on a three-day trek to the summit, but glimpses of remote villages, Iranian red sheep, and sunny mountain slopes should make the trip worthwhile.
To experience a completely different side of Iran, combine the trek with a visit to Tehran, which is just 66km away. Serene it might not be, but here you can get your fill of Persian art in the palaces and galleries, haggle in a bazaar, and get swept up in the city’s exhilarating and maddening noise and bustle.
Helen Elfer – Destination Editor for the Middle East and North Africa. Follow her tweets @helen_elfer.
St Petersburg, Russia
September is perfect for visiting St Petersburg – grey clouds are yet to appear over the city’s famous canals, while the crowds dwindle once the White Nights lose their sparkle.
This year, the magnificent State Hermitage Museum celebrates its 250th anniversary with the opening of new galleries in the General Staff Building. And the mind-boggling collection of arguably the world’s greatest museum gets even better: in a fitting tribute to this milestone, the city is hosting the roving European Biennial of Contemporary Art, Manifesta 10 (manifesta10.org).
The main exhibitions are staged at the Hermitage, while the Parallel Events (paralleleventsm10.ru) take place at major contemporary art venues around the city, notably Erarta (erarta.com) and the new Street Art Museum (streetartmuseum.ru). Check out our pick of the festival’s highlights, or explore the myriad other events happening every week until 31 October.
To wind down, don’t miss a banya (steam bath) experience, cruise the elegant canals on the Neva and explore St Pete’s burgeoning nightlife scene.
Brana Vladisavljevic – Destination Editor for Southeastern and Eastern Europe. Follow her tweets @branavl.
Kathmandu Valley, Nepal
Nepalis love a party, and 25 September 2014 marks the start of the biggest party of all - Dashain, two non-stop weeks of rituals, sacrifices and celebrations to commemorate the victory of the Goddess Durga over the evil demon Mahishasura.
This is the most important event in the cultural calendar for Nepal, and vast crowds throng to the ancient temples of the Kathmandu Valley and to Durga shrines across the country to honour the mother goddess and celebrate the victory of good over evil.
Like the goddess herself, Dashain has many faces. One face is gentle and benign - families gather for banquets of festival food, kites fill the skies, and towering bamboo swings are erected in market squares and on grassy hillsides for two weeks of daredevil swinging. Another face is bloodthirsty and violent - at temples across Nepal, thousands of pigeons, goats and buffaloes are ritually sacrificed to honour Shakti, the fearsome aspect of the mother goddess.
Key locations for celebrations include the towering Taleju Bhawani Mandir in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, which only opens for a single day each year during Dashain, Dakshinkali in the southern valley, and the hilltop Manakamana Temple, perched high above the road to Pokhara. In 2014, Dashain will coincide with Indra Jatra, when the living goddess Kumari is paraded through the streets of Kathmandu in a golden chariot and rice beer is poured through the mouth of the huge mask of Seto Bhairab in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square.
Joe Bindloss - Destination Editor for the Indian Subcontinent. Follow him at @joe_planet.
Southeast England is beautiful but busy in July and August, when countless British and foreign visitors head to its seaside towns, rolling countryside and village pubs. In September the weather is still warm, but you’re much more likely to have some space to yourself.
Canterbury has one of England’s finest cathedrals (it was here that Archbishop Thomas Beckett was slain by Henry II’s knights), Chaucer connections, and some good restaurants. Immense Leeds Castle, ruined Bodiam Castle and Battle Abbey, the site of the Battle of Hastings, are tangible reminders that the southeast, sat snugly between London and continental Europe, has long been a place of power and ambition.
It’s not all history either – the Kent and Hampshire coasts boast plenty of beaches and coves to wander through and swim off. Margate boasts the splendid modern Turner Contemporary, and those in search of good times can hit the bar-packed Lanes of Brighton or Bestival (bestival.net), an Isle of Wight festival packed with party tunes and fancy dress-clad music fans, who celebrate summer’s end in fine style.
James Smart - Destination Editor for Britain, Ireland and Iceland. Follow him at @smartbadger.
Unless you’ve had a compelling reason to do so, Canberra is probably one of those cities you haven’t visited yet. Well behold, spring is the excuse you need to discover - or rediscover - Australia’s underrated capital.
Plan your trip to coincide with Floriade (floriadeaustralia.com), a vibrant festival of flower garden designs that is as gorgeous as it is relaxed. Beds of tulips provide a colourful backdrop for picnics, roving buskers, and a 35-metre ferris wheel to take in the spectacle from above. There’s also plenty for children to do, including petting farmyard animals and learning circus tricks. At night, the festival caters to the adults, with live music, comedy and DJs under the stars.
Be prepared to be surprised by Canberra, a small city with big attractions, from striking modernist architecture to wide eucalypt-lined boulevards. Its museums and art galleries tell this young nation’s history, while the semi-permanent Aboriginal Tent Embassy, outside Old Parliament House, suggests something of its current challenges.
Tasmin Waby – Destination Editor for Australia, New Zealand & the Pacific. Follow her tweets @tasminwaby.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Red or green? It’s New Mexico’s official question, and it refers to the choice of red or green chiles in the local food. It’s the perfect question for Santa Fe in September, because this month’s all about sampling the delights of chile-laced cuisine and more.
September kicks off with the Fiestas de Santa Fe (santafefiesta.org), which started in 1712 to celebrate the Spanish resettlement of the city. Modern-day events include historical re-enactments, arts and crafts, mariachi concerts and food packed with red and green chiles (of course). Later in September, local restaurants host the five-day Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta (santafewineandchile.org). Seventy-five restaurants from Santa Fe and 90 wineries serve up their best dishes and bottles at the festival’s climax, the Grand Tasting at the Santa Fe Opera.
Food, wine, history and culture. Clearly, it’s possible to have it all in Santa Fe, and there’s only one answer to the question ‘red or green?’ Why not both?
Alexander Howard - Destination Editor for Western US (except California) & Canada. Follow him at @alexmhoward.
Skiing fanatics might want to wait for winter, but if your idea of a holiday is winding along wine routes, relaxing in thermal baths, and sampling the nightlife in laidback cities, look no further than Austria’s Styria region. With the temperatures starting to settle and the crowds thinning out, September is an ideal time to hit up Styria’s sights.
Head to southern Styria for the Weinstrassen (wine roads), a 50km circuit that winds its way through Tuscany-esque landscapes where you can stop to admire the views and taste-test the wines. They’re best visited around two weeks after the grape harvest, usually in September.
There’s no better way to detox after a binge than a soak in a thermal bath and Eastern Styria is a hotspot for healing waters. Make a detour near the town of Bad-Blumau for a dip in the unusual spa designed by artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the Rogner-Bad Blumau. End your stay by restaurant, museum and bar hopping around Austria’s second largest city, the lively, student-populated Graz.
Kate Morgan - Destination Editor for Western Europe. Follow her at @kate_ann_morgan.
Mexico City, Mexico
In September 1810, when Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a priest in the small Mexican town of Dolores, issued a rallying cry urging people to rise up in support of independence, he could hardly have imagined that his 'cry' (the Grito de Dolores) would become an annual event across the whole country.
The biggest celebration of the grito and Mexican independence is in the capital, Mexico City, where at 11pm on 15 September the president rings the bell in the Palacio Nacional and issues his own version of the grito – nobody knows exactly what the original wording was, but the modern cry commemorates the heroes of the 11-year war of independence. Fireworks and much partying begin after the cry, repeated in every town and village in the country, making it a great time to enjoy a fiesta Mexicana.
Clifton Wilkinson – Destination Editor for Mexico. Follow him at @Cliff_Wilkinson.