Autumn flourishes transform the northern hemisphere with fiery foliage, temperate climes and (for the most part) fewer crowds, making September a prime time for sightseeing and soaking up some culture.
Visit delightful Dublin for history, humour and cosy evenings at the pub; travel back in time and discover Beijing’s ancient treasures; spark the imagination at Tibet’s magical Buddhist sites; and take a peaceful stroll through England’s postcard-perfect villages.
Get a taste of Dublin in its mellowest season
Dublin in September, often the sunniest month, sees a diminishing numbers 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, humour and national pride, but Dublin is also a cultural powerhouse, boasting magnificent galleries and museums, notably the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin Castle, one of Europe’s finest. During September, too, the Irish capital welcomes hundreds of arts performances during the fortnight-long Dublin Fringe Festival.
- Trip plan: Wander the genteel streets of the Georgian Southside, admiring the ancient illuminated Book of Kells (and the spectacular library in which it’s displayed) in Trinity College, mighty Dublin Castle and the arts-and-bars hub of Temple Bar, then sample the Guinness in one (or more) of the famed music-filled bars to experience a night of legendary Irish bonhomie. Repeat till you’re out of time, money or stamina…
- Need to know: If there's an event on at Croke Park, you can expect it to be very busy in the area. The All-Ireland championship finals of Gaelic football are sometimes held at the start of September.
- Other months: Mar–May: rainy; Jun–Aug: warmest, dry; Sep–Oct: cooler, fairly dry; Nov–Feb: cold.
Admire old Beijing and an even older wall in the autumn
The people of Beijing have an epithet describing this season: tian gao qi shuang – ‘The sky is high and the air is fresh’. After the steamy heat of summer, September brings relief with mellowing temperatures and falling humidity, a window of calm between summer and the national holiday in the first week of October. So get out now to wander its traditional hútòng (alleys), perhaps watching old men crouched around a table battling it out with mah-jong or cards, and to explore the city's treasures: the Forbidden City's gates, halls and museums, Tian’anmen Sq, the Summer Palace, and the many temples and parks.
Autumn is the perfect time to visit the Great Wall, too, when maples are in their fiery fall finery; busy Badaling is picturesque, but other wall sections at Mutianyu, Simtai and Huanghua are quieter and also rewarding.
- Trip plan: Beijing’s varied sights – old and startlingly modern – merit several days. Regular departures to various wall sections run from Dongzhimen Bus Station.
- Need to know: To avoid crowds, visit the wall on a weekday. Mid-Autumn Festival (late September) is also busy with mooncake-munching holidaymakers.
- Other months: Mar–May: windy, sandstorms; Jun–Aug: hot, humid; Sep–Oct: cooler, dry; Nov–Feb: very cold.
Walk between some of England’s loveliest villages in Autumn sunshine
In the golden autumn light of September the Cotswolds seem to simply ooze honey. This land of rolling hills – ‘wolds’ – hiding wool towns and stone hamlets in their clefts and valleys has long attracted urbanites seeking an English idyll. Visit in September not just to miss the heaviest onslaughts of coach parties, but also to enjoy the countryside at its finest, and to admire the flaming hues at the wonderful arboreta at Westonbirt and Batsford.
True, this is hardly an undiscovered gem; chocolate-box favourites such as Castle Combe and Bourton-on-the-Water can be thronging with tourists. But it’s not hard to find peace, especially if you’re prepared to stretch your legs: a comprehensive network of footpaths laces the region, while the 102-mile (164 km) Cotswold Way runs along the escarpment, linking charming sites between Chipping Campden and Bath.
- Trip plan: If you’re not hiking, choose a base from which to explore: Broadway in the north, perhaps, for quirky Snowshill Manor, Batsford Arboretum and peaceful, stunning Stanway; or Tetbury in the south, for antiques, historic Malmesbury and Westonbirt.
- Need to know: Many attractions, particularly those managed by the National Trust, close or have reduced opening hours November to April.
- Other months: Apr–Oct: mostly mild; Nov–Mar: colder (some facilities closed, villages pretty and quiet in winter).
The courtyard at Jokhang temple in Lhasa © Vladimir Zhoga / Shutterstock
Visit holy Buddhist sites in some of Tibet’s best weather
The roof of the world, a land of soaring snow-capped peaks, remote valleys, turquoise lakes and monasteries echoing with Buddhist chants – no wonder Tibet captures the imagination of so many adventurers. It’s not the easiest place to travel, physically or politically – special permits may be required on top of a Chinese visa, and journeys can be long and arduous – but the rewards are spectacular, from the imposing bulk of Lhasa’s Potala Palace and Jokhang temple complex to remote stupas and jaw-dropping Himalayan vistas.
Travel in September to enjoy warm days after the summer rains have eased, prime time for trekking – perhaps the kora (pilgrimage circuit) of holy Mt Kailash, ‘navel of the world’ – before snow arrives in October.
- Trip plan: The classic overland journey from Lhasa to Kathmandu runs via the ancient monasteries of Sera, Gyantse, Ganden, Samye, Tashilhunpo and Rongphu, with its mesmerising views of the north face of Everest. The drive should take about a week, though the Nepal– China border is prone to closure.
- Need to know: On first arriving, take time to acclimatise to the high altitude (over 11,500ft; 3500m), and bring warm clothes – temperatures can plummet during a single day.
- Other months: Apr–May: warmer, dry; Jun–Aug: warm, increasing rain; Sep–Oct: sunny, dry; Nov–Mar: cold, wind rising.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out these ideas of where to go in September for food and drink.
Article first published July 2017, and last updated July 2019