September is a superb time to hit the road. The great shoulder season of travel offers prime conditions for exploring a vast array of big-name destinations for food and drink, culture, relaxation or simply an incredible journey. So whether you want to laze on uncrowded Mediterranean sands, venture through South American rainforests or explore incredible culture in Central Asia, September has something to suit every type of explorer.
Where are the best places to travel to in September for relaxation?
Isle Royale, Michigan, USA
Why now? To get well and truly away from everyone.
Isle Royale, in Michigan, is the least-visited national park in the lower 48. It’s closed completely for almost half the year and, when it does open, is only accessible via floatplane or non-car ferry, exclusively attracting those keen for a wilderness immersion by boat, kayak or on foot. It’s well worth the effort, though.
The park is a wetland wonderland, comprising one large, forest-swathed island and some 450 smaller ones, jutting into Lake Superior; an International Biosphere Reserve, it’s the realm of otters, moose and wolves, herons, hawks and loons. September is less busy and less buggy than peak summer, but still warm enough to paddle, trek and wild camp. There are 272km (169 miles) of trails to explore – experienced hikers will lust after the tough 150km (93-mile) Wonderland Trail. Kayakers can explore the eastern shore’s inland lakes and fjord-like bays – Malone Bay to McCargoe Cove makes a good multi-day adventure.
Why now? For a final summer fling.
As summer segues into fall, what could be more alluring than a last shot of sunshine on the tantalizingly named Turquoise Coast? Turkey’s Mediterranean shore is much quieter now that the school holidays have ended – but the water is still balmy, the air still warm and the historic sites – of which there are many to lure you off your lounger – are still open.
Where you head depends on your taste. Lagoon-side Ölüdeniz is the top choice for paragliding. At Patara, combine endless-seeming swathes of golden sand with a hint of Christmas: this was the birthplace of St Nicholas (aka Santa). Or head for sleepy Çıralı, a protected area where sea turtles nest – from mid-September you might see the hatchlings emerge. To really get away from it all, opt for the stretch of coast east of Alanya. Once the refuge of pirates, few foreign tourists make it here. The seaside resort of Kızkalesi has an authentically Turkish feel plus fine beaches, caves to explore and an imposing 12th-century castle, floating out at sea.
Where are the best places to travel to in September for wildlife and nature?
Why now? For great game.
Desert-dominated Namibia is a pretty arid place at the best of times. And September is the best of times – at least if you’ve come looking for the country’s big game. Temperatures are on the up this month (making early safari wake-up calls less chilly), but there likely hasn’t been a drop of rain for months, meaning thin vegetation and wildlife congregating at an ever-decreasing number of water sources. Spotting everything from elephants to the long-nosed elephant shrew, from cheetahs to rare black rhinos becomes a doddle in these conditions – especially in game-packed areas such as Etosha National Park. You don’t even need a guide: Etosha’s excellent road network makes a self-drive safari simple; just park next to a waterhole and wait for the wildlife to arrive.
Why now? Admire roaring waterfalls and rainforest wildlife.
Guyana is an extraordinary land, where turtles nest on shell beaches, jaguars stalk the rainforest, giant otters frolic and huge harpy eagles soar over thundering waterfalls. Its climate is also extraordinary, with multiple rainy seasons hitting the coast and interior at different times. September is a junction month, when most of the country is dry after the heavy rains, making road travel easier and life more comfortable in general, but with jungles at their lushest.
The big-ticket attraction is Kaieteur Falls, which plummets 226m (741ft) in a single drop into the depths of the rainforest. Add to that the canopy walkway and wildlife of Iwokrama, ecolodges offering encounters with Makushi Indigenous peoples, the otters of the Rupununi and the cowboys of vast Dadanawa Ranch, and you have an epic adventure in the making.
Where are the best places to travel to in September for culture?
Why now? Get a taste of the city on the Liffey in the mellowest season.
Dublin in September, often the sunniest month, sees a diminishing number of tourists after the crowds of July and August have dispersed. This city is many things to many people. Yes, you’ll find lively pubs (and they deserve detailed examination), historic marvels, humor and national pride – but Dublin is also a cultural powerhouse, boasting magnificent galleries and museums, notably Dublin Castle’s Chester Beatty Library, one of Europe’s finest. During September, too, the Irish capital welcomes hundreds of arts performances during the fortnight-long Dublin Fringe Festival.
Altai Mountains, Mongolia
Why now? Learn about the skills and lifestyles of traditional eagle hunters.
In the breathless Altai Mountains at the very center of the Asian landmass, four borders converge – this is where Russia, China, Kazakhstan and Mongolia lean in towards one another. And among those peaks in western Mongolia, Kazakh nomads maintain the ancient tradition of hunting with golden eagles – a legacy celebrated during festivals in Altai, Ülgii and Sagsai in September and October each year, when eagle hunters don customary garb and display their prowess with the majestic raptors.
This pleasantly cool, dry season is also ideal for exploring the mountains of Altai Tavan Bogd National Park, hiking between waterfalls, ancient petroglyphs and glistening lakes – trek with Bactrian camels or ride Mongolian horses for extra authenticity, bedding down in gers (yurts) as local peoples have for millennia. During the festivals, dozens of hunters clad in animal skins, with huge fur-lined hats and colorfully embroidered clothes, demonstrate their skills between bouts of wrestling, archery contests, camel races and boisterous horseback goatskin tug-o-war.
Where are the best places to travel to in September for food and drink?
Nova Scotia, Canada
Why now? To fill up in fall.
The start of the season of mellow fruitfulness is ideal for taking a foodie tour around Nova Scotia, the most delicious of the Maritimes. First, seek out succulent seafood: try scallops from the Bay of Fundy (where over-summering whales may still be spotted), eat a lobster roll by the beach (head to Barrington, “Lobster Capital of Canada”) and slurp an oyster or two, perhaps at the Halifax Oyster Festival (held late September).
Then, as the harvest gets underway, sample local wines. Boutique vineyards pepper the province, from the Annapolis Valley’s Domaine de Grand Pré, the granddaddy of Nova Scotian wine (open daily June–September), to Benjamin Bridge, which produces acclaimed fizz in the Gaspereau Valley. And don’t forget the fruit: this month brings gluts of blueberries and apples, which find their way into delicious pies province-wide.
Why now? For a delicious drop.
The Route des Grands Crus (the “road of great wines”) cuts through Burgundy’s most acclaimed grape-growing country. Running 60km (38 miles) from Dijon and Beaune to Santenay, it’s a most intoxicating byway, flanked by 38 winsome villages and almost 1250 climats – the region’s precisely demarcated vineyard plots, each with a unique terroir.
Tiny Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, from where the world’s most expensive reds hail, is here. In September, you might catch the harvest in progress. And, with average highs of 20°C (68°F), it will be warm enough to use the hiking and biking trails that weave between wineries or to happily sit outside a pavement cafe sipping a Côte de Nuits pinot noir or buttery chardonnay. Consider basing yourself in beautiful Beaune, home to the spectacular Hôtel-Dieu (venue of the annual, all-important Burgundy wine auction), numerous wine merchants’ houses and cellar doors, and many Michelin-starred restaurants.
Where are the best places to travel to in September for adventure?
Red Sea, Jordan
Why now? To dive into delectable waters.
As the stifling heat of the Jordanian summer begins to drop, things really heat up along the Red Sea coast. September and October are among the best months to dive here, with the air temperature hot but bearable, and the oh-so-clear water around a balmy 26°C (79°F) and jam-packed with activity: look out for eagle rays, moray eels, seahorses, turtles, lionfish and an array of other colorful fishes – over 510 species have been recorded.
There are 30-plus dive sites along the Aqaba coast, most close to shore and many good for snorkeling, too. These range from shallow coral gardens and gaping canyons to shipwrecks, including that of the Cedar Pride, which sits at a depth of just 7–25m (23–82ft). Good-value learn-to-dive courses are available in Aqaba and resorts along the coast.
Why now? Enjoy ravishing views from the rails.
With snow still sprinkled on the mountain tops but lambs a-gamboling in the fields, spring-green September can be a month of natural splendor in Aotearoa, with few other tourists around. If you’re worried the weather might still be a little cool and unpredictable, opt to explore by Rail New Zealand’s scenic lines – that way you’ll be insulated from the chill, and free to gaze out the window as the countryside glides by.
Start aboard the Northern Explorer, which connects Auckland and Wellington via fertile farmland, Tongariro’s volcanoes and the Raurimu Spiral – an impressive feat of rail engineering. Take the ferry to the South Island and then pick up the Coastal Pacific to trace the shoreline from Picton to elegant Christchurch. Then join the Tranz Alpine to cross the Canterbury Plains and Southern Alps (via lofty Arthurs Pass) and finish at Greymouth, on the east coast.