Ever dreamed of hopping between sun-kissed Aegean islands or making tracks of your own along the Silk Road? If a great voyage beckons on your bucket list but you don't know where to start, here are four epic experiences to tantalise intrepid souls.
Adventure awaits – all you have to do is start the journey...
Island-hop between whitewashed fishing villages and gorgeous beaches
In the 1970s Aegean island-hopping was a backpacker’s rite of passage; today, with flights and fast ferries, it’s easier – and more popular – than ever. But despite the numbers of tourists, Greek and foreign, thronging the best-known islands in high season, there’s still magic to be found – particularly if you arrive in September, when the weather is still balmy and the seas calm, but prices and visitor numbers fall.
You might not have the picture-postcard views across whitewashed, blue-roofed Oia on Santorini to yourself, but on many islands you can find an empty beach, a traditional taverna, and a working harbour with fishing boats bobbing at anchor.
- Trip plan: There are international airports on Mykonos and Santorini. A busy ferry network links the islands with each other and to mainland ports including Piraeus for Athens. A tempting itinerary might include Mykonos for nightlife (plus a trip to ancient Delos), Paros for hillside villages, beaches and windsurfing, Naxos for hiking and diving, Santorini for those views from Oia across the crater, and one of the Little Cyclades to step off-grid.
- Need to know: Hotels, tavernas and other services on most islands close from mid-October to Orthodox Easter.
- Other months: May-Sep – hot (Jul-Aug: busiest); Apr & Oct – mild; Nov-Mar – cool, sleepy.
Traverse the ‘Stans in mellow autumn
Traders had been criss-crossing Asia for over 1200 years before Marco Polo’s 13th-century odyssey to the court of Kublai Khan in Běijīng. The allure of the Silk Road hasn’t waned, especially Central Asia between the Caspian Sea and the ancient trading city of Kashgar in west China, where conditions are best in September – not meltingly hot in Turkmenistan’s deserts or the fabled cities of Uzbekistan, not too snowy in the mountains and turquoise lakes of Kyrgyzstan and remote western China.
- Trip plan: Popular overland routes run from İstanbul through Turkey and via Iran or Georgia and Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan. Visit the Darvaza gas crater and quirky Ashgabat in Turkmenistan, the tiled medressas and minarets of Samarkand and Khiva in Uzbekistan, the mountain meadows and Song-Köl lake in Kyrgyzstan, and Kashgar’s Sunday Market en route to Xī’ān and Běijīng in China. Can’t spare three months? Two weeks could take you from Ashgabat to Tashkent (Uzbekistan), or Tashkent to Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan).
- Need to know: You’ll need a visa and/or letter of invitation to enter Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan and China.
- Other months: Apr-May & Sep-Nov – moderate heat; Jun-Aug – deserts fiery; Dec-Mar – below 0°C (32°F) at altitude.
Cruise or hike one of Germany’s most beautiful rivers
A gorgeous ribbon of water snakes through Germany, its banks striped with vineyards and ridges topped with fairy-tale castles. No, not the Rhine – rather, its pretty tributary, the Moselle, which enjoys most of the former’s attributes but without the cargo ships and tourist traffic. Emerging from Luxembourg near the ancient city of Trier (blessed with impressive Roman remains), the Moselle winds between medieval towns such as Bernkastel-Kues, Traben-Trarbach, Beilstein and Cochem before meeting the Rhine at Koblenz.
September is the ideal time to trace its meanders: the grape harvest is celebrated with wall-to-wall festivals and tasting opportunities. Both visitor numbers and rainfall are lower this month, too. Fancy offsetting your wine with walking? Try a section of the recently way-marked Moselsteig footpath alongside the river.
- Trip plan: Many cruises combine the Rhine and Moselle rivers. From May to October scheduled boats link towns along the Moselle several times daily; it’s easy to plot your own oenophile odyssey.
- Need to know: Canoeing the Moselle is a popular option, with dozens of canoe-hire outfits, campsites and spots to climb out and taste local wines.
- Other months: Jul-Aug – summer, busy; Sep-Oct – also popular; Nov-Mar – many facilities closed; Apr-Jun, warmer.
Admire roaring waterfalls and rainforest wildlife in Guyana
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 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 741ft (226m) 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.
- Trip planner: Booking an organised tour – with a group or tailor-made – is the way to go. A typical two-week itinerary visits coastal capital Georgetown, Kaieteur Falls, the rainforest at Iwokrama, the Amerindian village at Surama, and a chance to meet the giant otters at Karanambu.
- Need to know: Malaria is a problem, and mosquitoes are pesky in any case – cover up and use insect repellent.
- Other months: Feb-Apr & Sep-Nov – mostly dry, hot; May-Aug & Dec-Jan – wet (Apr-Aug: interior wet).
Looking for more inspiration? Check out our book Where To Go When for 360 ultimate escapes from family-friendly adventures to animal encounters and relaxing retreats.