Photos: Awesome Australia

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  1. The sacred monolith of Uluru, or Ayers Rock, is located in Central Australia's Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which is a World Heritage site. (Torsten Blackwood / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Be careful going down the road in Western Australia. There could be camels, wombats or kangaroos trying to cross. (Nick Rains / Tourism Australia) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A kangaroo stands next to a rare waterhole as sheep gather and look for food on a station near White Cliffs in the state of New South Wales. (William West / AFP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Tourists look at spectacular cathedral termite mounds in the Litchfield National Park near Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory. Often visible along the Northern Territory, also know as the "Top End" highways, they are amongst the largest mounds built by termites anywhere in the world and are reminiscent of mediaeval cathedrals. (Greg Wood / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A koala rests on a branch at Sydney Wildlife World, which features Australian flora and fauna set amongst natural habitats and ecosystems. Koalas feed almost exclusively on tough, toxic eucalyptus leaves, which they can digest because they have the longest gut for their size of any mammal. (Greg Wood / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Located near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, the East MacDonnell Ranges Aerial are part of the remains of mountains that once went as high as the Himalayas. The East MacDonnell's are more varied and less crowded than the more popular West McDonnell Range. (Brian Geach / Tourism Australia) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Visitors stand on a cantilever at the Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk tourist attraction that overlooks rainforest and coastline in the center in the Illawarra region, south of Sydney, in Australia's New South Wales. The Illawarra region gets its special character from the way the escarpment meets the sea. (Greg Wood / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Pinnacles, ancient limestone formations, rise out of the sand in Nambung National Park. There are thousands of pillars in this Western Australian area, which offer photographers images at sunrise and sunset. (Tourism Australia) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. The Three Sisters jut out of the Blue Mountains near Katoomba, New South Wales. The character of the rock formation changes as the sunlight brings out magnificent color.
    According to Aboriginal legend, there were three sisters in the Katoomba tribe who were in love with three brothers from the Nepean tribe, yet tribal law forbade them to marry. The brothers were not happy with this law and used force to capture the sisters, which caused a battle.
    A witchdoctor turned the sisters into stone to protect them from harm, but he was killed before he could reverse the spell. And so the sisters remained in the rock formation. (Lincoln Fowler / Tourism Australia) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The large leaves of the Canna x generalis flowering plant from the Cannaceae family display their unusual coloring in the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens. The Botanic Gardens were founded on their current site by Governor Macquarie in 1816 and is the oldest scientific institution in Australia, playing a major role in the acclimatization of plants from other regions. (Greg Wood / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A droving team heads off from camp during the Great Australian Cattle Drive preview on May 7, 2009, in Oodnadatta, Australia. The Great Australian Cattle Drive takes place July 30-Aug. 29, 2010, and offers the general public the chance to experience an Australian adventure. (Quinn Rooney / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Many residents of opal mining town Coober Pedy, Australia, live underground in dugout homes. The Underground Serbian Orthodox Church is one of the town's must-see sites and includes rock carvings in the walls, a high-roof ballroom-style design and stained glass windows. (Quinn Rooney / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A young indigenous performer during the Yeperenye Federation Festival on Sept. 9, 2001, in Alice Springs, Central Australia. The Yeperenye Festival involves traditional elders with thousands of dancers, artists, singers, musicians and spectators, who gather at Blatherskite Park on the traditional lands of the Arrernte people. It was one of the largest cultural gatherings of indigenous and non-indigenous people since colonization. (Matt Turner / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Mount Borradaile in the Northern Territory was inhabited for up to 50,000 years by aboriginal tribes, and it's cave walls feature some of the best examples of aboriginal art. The drawings show a huge range of dates and events. The mount and the surrounding Arnhem Land draw tourists from all over who want to see real Australian history. (James Fisher / Tourism Australia) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. The wetlands of the Yellow Water area of the Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territories are a mecca for wildlife and flora. The flora in the park is among the richest in northern Australia with more than 2,000 plant species recorded. The park is also considered to be one of the most weed-free national parks in the world. (Adam Pretty / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Rex the crocodile swims in a tank at Sydney Wildlife World on March 29, 2010. Rex, a saltwater crocodile, was caught in the Northern Territory and moved to his current habitat in December last year. (Lisa Maree Williams / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Cows have the right of way on Norfolk Island, east of the Australian mainland, where motorists also take the time to wave to each driver they pass. (Lawrence Bartlett / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. The Australian War Memorial in Canberra is a combination of a shrine, museum and archive, which commemorates the sacrifice of Australians who died in war. (Geoff Lung / Tourism Australia) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A giant statue of famed Australian outlaw Ned Kelly at Glenrowan, the location of his final stand, about 110 miles northeast of Melbourne. Long dismissed as tourist kitsch, Australia's "Big Things" -- giant models of everything from koalas to pineapples -- are now being heritage-listed and recognized as works of folk art. (William West / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. The Ghan railway, which runs from Adelaide in the south to Darwin in the north, offers travelers the chance to see great Australian landscapes through the country's Red Center. (Tourism Australia) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Vineyards are shown in the internationally renowned Margaret River wine region in the south-west corner of Western Australia, situated between the two coastal capes of Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin. (Greg Wood / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A rock climber heads up a dolerite stack known as Totem Pole in Tasmania's Cape Hauy. (Nick Hancock / Tourism Australia) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Beach-goers soak in the sun on the Gold Coast in Queensland. The Gold Coast is a favorite tourist area that features some of the world's finest beaches and lively nightlife. (Sergio Dionisio / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. American Kelly Slater performs a cutback during an aerial expression session on day one of Surfsho at Bondi Beach on March 12, 2010, in Sydney, Australia. (Cameron Spencer / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park off of Australia's coast offers one of the world's best places to snorkel. The reef is one of the richest, most diverse ecosystems and extends from the tip of Cape York in Queensland and goes south almost to Bundaberg. And it takes up an area larger than Victoria and Tasmania combined. (Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. These massive porites corals at the Great Barrier Reef are hundreds of years old. The corals are like trees in that each year a new band is laid down in their skeletons that record their environmental histories. (Jurgen Freund / Freund Factory) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Fish of all colors swim in the Great Barrier Reef off Australia's northeastern coast. In January of 2009, Australia announced a crackdown on pollution of the Great Barrier Reef as the World Heritage-listed site comes under increasing threat from toxic chemicals and climate change. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Crimson clouds provide a beautiful backdrop during a match between Australia and England at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney, Australia. (Adam Pretty / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is an iconic landmark in Australia's most populous state of New South Wales, with a population in excess of 7million people, is shown in this photo taken on May 26, 2009. (Greg Wood / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Sydney Opera House is easily one of Australia's most recognizable landmarks. The buiilding, on Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbor, is a multi-venue performing arts center and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Greg Wood / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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updated 10/20/2009 10:27:44 AM ET 2009-10-20T14:27:44

Why you should visit these spots while they're hot.

IRELAND

Why now: Rolling greens, charming folk, and a stream of dry stout have always made Ireland an easy sell, and in the early 2000s, the outlook was particularly rosy as the Celtic Tiger poured money into the country, turning the unassuming little isle into one of Europe's richest technology hubs. Then fiscal fiasco hit hard, driving tech companies out and keeping American tourists at home. The Irish have responded—and how—with slashed airfares and cut rates, making this September, shoulder season, the perfect time to cash in. Besides, this month tends to be drier than most (especially near Dublin and Cork), and the erratic euro means a dollar's likely to go about 50 percent farther than it did this time last year.

How to go: During the gluttonous glory days, Irish milliner Philip Treacy brought five stars and Frette linens home; start your trip in the emerald grasses of Galway at The G hotel, Treacy's groovy glass box 50 miles from Shannon Airport on Ireland's quaint western coast. Bright, whimsical rooms are $215 some September nights, down from $550 (353-91-865200; theghotel.ie).

A more pastoral west coast option is Connemara's Delphi Mountain Resort, an eco-conscious lodge at the foot of the mossy Mweelrea and 12 Bens mountains. This month, four nights at the resort costs $420, down from $720 a year ago (delphimountainresort.com; 353-95-42208).

To experience the once-exorbitant capital city on the cheap, check into downtown Dublin's The Merrion: Catherine Zeta-Jones and Bobbi Brown are fans. A plush Georgian room that was $670 last spring is just $330 this month (353-1-603-0600; merrionhotel.com). Slideshow: Beyond beer

To meet somewhere in the middle, choose the landlocked Cavan countryside, and bed down at the 1,300-acre Radisson SAS Farnham Estate—which made the magazine's 2007 Hot List—for as little as $125, half the hotel's peak rate (353-49-437-7700; radisson.com). As for flights, at press time September round-trips from New York were starting at $440 on Aer Lingus (the average last year was $730), but fares could sink even lower if you wait until the last minute: Aer Lingus sale prices have plunged to $300 in recent months, forcing competitors like Continental to offer comparable deals. For great packages, visit aerlingus.com—the carrier partners with upscale hotels such as Dromoland Castle and Adare Manor.

The 411: Ireland's most stable economic marker? The cost of a pint of Guinness. All hell would break loose if the bar-bound were charged more than five euros (about $6.70) for a glass of the national brew—the norm has hovered around 4.50 euros ($6) for decades.

AUSTRALIA

Why now: Not only has the Aussie dollar dipped 20 percent since summer 2008, but Richard Branson's V Australia entering the transpacific flight fray in February has caused fares from L.A. to Sydney to plummet below $500 at times — a bargain compared with 2008's $2,500 tab. Qantas has led the rock-bottom trend; check the Web site for wild clearance prices. Stay at downtown Sydney's mod Observatory Hotel, where a room that was once $530 is now just $175 (61-2-9256-2222; observatoryhotel.com.au), or at Melbourne's riverfront Langham Hotel in a $320 room that's dropped to $250 (61-3-8696-8888; melbourne.langhamhotels.com.au).

ARIZONA

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Why now: Surrounded by tumbleweed scapes and humbling red rocks, Arizona's super-spas are holy lands for the sun-worshipping spoiled. But being there at the right time can be costly; summer's too hot, and peak winter prices are steep. With average temps of 84, September is a happy medium. Hop to Paradise Valley before mid-month, stay at the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa for $169 (peak price is $415), and get a $150 watsu aquatic massage for $100 (480-948-2100; sanctuaryoncamelback.com).

Best vacation deals of 2009

Honing your golf game? Hit the exceptional 36 holes at the Sonoran Desert's Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North, where weeknight room rates are down to $150 in early September — half the high-season rate — and the third night is free through December (480-515-5700; fourseasons.com/scottsdale). A September round-trip from New York has also dropped dramatically this year, from $640 to $300, thanks to Southwest's new LaGuardia flights (southwest.com).

Also on our radar
The weak euro and a low tide of tourists make Barcelona a bargain: The cost of a night at the new ABaC — which made our 2009 Hot List — is down 40 percent, to $280 (34-933-196-600; abacbarcelona.com), and the room rate at Murmuri has dropped from $628 to $250 (34-935-500-600; murmuri.com).

© 2013 Condé Nast Traveler

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