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40 sweet spots for fall

To avoid crowds and inflated prices, the best time to travel is the period between high and low seasons when the weather is fine, places are still open and happy to welcome travelers, and you can explore a destination at your own pace.
Image: Iguazu Falls
Boasting wonders as diverse as the Amazonian rainforest, Iguazu Falls (on the border with Argentina), the beaches of Bahia, and sultry Rio, Brazil is both geographically stunning and culturally fascinating, and October and November bring temperate spring weather and fewer tourists in the cities.Juan Mabromata / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: Sherman's Travel

In life, being in the right place at the right time can come down to serendipity, but in travel, it is almost always the result of good planning. To avoid crowds and inflated prices, we recommend the period between high and low seasons when the weather is fine, places are still open and happy to welcome travelers, and you can explore a destination at your own pace. We call this magical time and space continuum the Sweet Spot and make it a point to round up the best of them for you each season. We've covered the 40 best places to go this fall and grouped them by region.

Africa

Fall forecast: Across northern Africa, fall's cooler weather moderates the region’s typically desert-like climate, making a paddle down the Nile or a hike in the Atlas Mountains an attractive proposition. The safari season is winding down in southern Africa as the rainy season begins in late October.

1.
The ancient history and romantic fables of the Pyramids of Giza and the Nile River have lured visitors to Egypt for centuries. The arid climate, hospitable people, and ongoing archeological discoveries keep the curious coming back for more.

Why go in fall: Hotels offer more reasonable rates and temperatures can be bearable during these transitional months. In Cairo, temperatures average in the 80s and fewer tourists spell shorter lines. Avoid Ramadan (exact dates vary) — during this 29-to 30-day Muslim festival many shops, restaurants, and sites are closed.

2.
Blessed with a sunny climate, miles of Mediterranean beaches, Saharan oases, ancient walled cities and superb Roman-era archaeological sites, Tunisia — just 93 miles south of Sicily — offers visitors both modern resort facilities and easy access to its rich historical legacy.

Why go in fall:Visitors to the northern African city of Carthage are met with temperate weather, perfect for strolls among remarkable Roman ruins. This is also the best time to journey south along the Sahara. The sun shines most of the time, the sea is generally warm enough for a dip, and prices are below their summer highs.

Asia & Middle East

Monks stand near a tree growing out of the Ta Prohm temple, near Angkor Wat, in Siem Reap July 25, 2008. Cambodians will take to the polls on July 27 for the country's general elections. REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)Adrees Latif / X90022

Why go in fall: Technically the “off” season, fall weather is much nicer, colored leaves abound, and hotel discounts abound. Warning: during Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) roads and airports teem with travelers.

8.
Israel’s Mediterranean metropolis glitters with gorgeous, clean beaches, multiple blocks of Bauhaus architecture, and smartly dressed Tel Avivians with a fierce appreciation for art, cuisine, and nightlife.

Why go in fall: The arrival of spring and fall signal fewer crowds, more moderate weather, and better deals at hotels. This is Tel Aviv at its laid-back best.

9.
Comprised of seven states, the UAE is rapidly transforming the Middle East by pulling focus away from distressing regional conflicts and emphasizing commerce and tourism. Unassuming Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE, is one of the region’s  hidden gems with its sense of tradition, clear blue skies, year-round sunshine, and laid-back lifestyle, while Dubai has emerged as the center of all things glamorous, replete with the world’s first “seven-star” hotel.

Why go in fall: Wedged in between the sweltering summer and the popular winter in 2008 and 2009, fall visitors take advantage of Ramadan holiday discounts, filling hotels and attractions. It's the best time to visit cities like Abu Dhabi, when temperatures average in the 90s and the skies are a perfect blue. Note that Ramadan, which runs through the month of September in 2008, and from August 21 through September 19 in 2009, can be uncomfortable for non-observant travelers as it is illegal to drink, smoke, or eat in public until the "break fast" (iftar) ceremony. Some restaurants operate during the day behind curtains or tinted windows.

Australia & Pacific

Fall forecast: Pack a light jacket for a cooler-than-usual experience Down Under, but save on pre-peak airfare and miss out on the crowds during the southern hemisphere’s spring; temperatures in the mid-60s are comfortable, even if they don’t exactly provide for beach-going weather. September and October are one of the most beautiful times to visit springtime New Zealand. Get to Tahiti before cyclone season begins in late November.

10.

Australia’s second largest city, Melbourne has long lived in the shadow of glitzy Sydney. But scratch the surface and you’ll discover a delightfully decadent city that exudes soul and sophistication. From the finest galleries and museums, innovative theatre, and wonderful Victorian architecture to top sports venues, leafy parks, and accessible beaches, Victoria’s capital city is a smorgasbord for the senses.

Why go in fall: The best time to visit Melbourne is during their spring (September to November). Days tend to be clearer and the extremes of heat and cold are kept at bay, as are high room rates. The season also brings out the flowers and makes its mark with the horse race that stops the nation — the Melbourne Cup (held the first Tuesday in November).

11.
For a small island nation, New Zealand sure packs a lot of punch — particularly in the scenery department. Blessed with unique and varied geography, it compensates for its relatively short human history with outdoorsy, adrenaline-pumping thrills. Its biggest and most cosmopolitan city, Auckland, is blessed by beautiful geography — two magnificent harbors, an island-studded gulf, and the intriguing remnants of fifty volcanoes.

Why go in fall: Spring in New Zealand, particularly the South Island, brings a gleeful palette of flowers and fresh meadow grass. Prices in popular winter resorts like Queenstown have dipped nicely, although pesky random snowfalls can occur throughout September. Temperatures are moderate and you're likely to strike some showery days, but the sun is bound to make an appearance. Don’t plan on swimming during these months.

12.
Think San Francisco and Rio de Janeiro mixed in with a heaping dose of small-town Aussie flavor. Sydney's distinctly individual appeal lies in its fantastic oceanside setting, laid-back attitude, stellar beaches, beautiful people, and eternally sunny subtropical climate.

Why go in fall: With its temperate subtropical climate Sydney is popular practically year-round, but fall sees slightly fewer visitors than high season. Temperatures average in the mid-60s.

13.
Tahiti, with its breathtaking blue-green water, sparkling white-sand beaches, and charming overwater bungalows, is one of French Polynesia's intoxicating 118 islands and atolls that are spread out over an area the size of Western Europe.

Why go in fall: The month of November falls between the high (dry) and low (wet) seasons on the island, and makes for a rare window of good weather, smaller crowds, and better hotel rates.

Caribbean & Mexico

Fall forecast: As hurricane season begins, northern Caribbean hot spots will be battening down the hatches until late November. Look farther south to Aruba or west to the Pacific Coast of Mexico for more reliable beach weather, often at a discount.

14.
One of the Mexican Riviera's most fabled hotspots, Acapulco is deeply ingrained in the sun seeker's subconscious as a pilgrimage-worthy destination. Some say the resort has had its heyday, but like a fallen celeb pushing back into the spotlight, the "Queen of Mexican Beach Resorts" is having a comeback. Come to enjoy nonstop nightlife, striking beaches, and reasonably-priced vacation packages at revamped hotels and resorts along the Pacific coast.

Why go in fall: You'll get the best bang for your buck on hotel rates in November, just following the rainy and humid season, when the landscapes are lush and the crowds are few.

15.
Aruba’s allure is obvious: Iridescent waters loaded with sunken wrecks, sugary beaches along its shores, and a remarkably arid outback to draw visitors inland. Add to this its pleasant year-long weather, cooling trade winds, and easy flight times and it’s easy to see why Aruba is one of the most popular Caribbean destinations.

Why go in fall: You’ll get the best bang for your buck booking a package in early fall, when the weather remains glorious and pre- and post-season crowds are non-existent.

16.
Pear-shaped Barbados, long popular with fishermen and royalty, offers glittering beaches, equally sparkling resorts, and striking seascapes lined with hulking boulders and cave-strewn cliffs. From afternoon tea and cricket to landscaped gardens and preserved Victorian architecture, the island’s English heritage remains pronounced.

Why go in fall: While hurricanes disrupt the western waters of the Caribbean, this southeastern island remains relatively calm, with average daytime temperatures in the 80s and cooler nights. Rent a staffed beachfront villa at savings of up to 40 percent.

17. Curacao
Sophisticated Curacao offers visitors a unique taste of cosmopolitan Dutch living in a Caribbean setting. The stunning capital, Willemstad, evokes 17th-century Amsterdam, but adds brilliant colors to its gingerbread roofs and wedding-cake trims; the lot is so remarkable that it's earned a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. With some 55 different cultures living here, you're more likely to find international cuisine and culture of the sort you'd expect of New York.

Why go in fall: Well below the hurricane belt, this tiny remote Caribbean island dodges the devastating storms that plague the rest of the Caribbean. However, the island does experience its rainy reason after October, but rains fall mostly in the evenings.

18.
Flanked by jungle-covered slopes and fronted by the Bay of Banderas, colorful Puerto Vallarta — PV to the locals — has a romantic past ("Night of the Iguana" by Tennessee Williams was filmed here) and a reputation as one of Mexico’s most fabled resort towns. This enchanting colonial town fronting beautiful Pacific Coast beaches is an easy and affordable escape.

Why go in fall: To get the most for your money, and fewer crowds to boot, we recommend visiting in October. Weather is pleasant (high 70s to low 80s), establishments are open, and discounts are available at most hotels.

Central & South America

Fall forecast: South America’s spring is ambiguous, blending indecisive rains and fluctuating temperatures with little consistency. Nevertheless, the Brazilian Amazon beckons to those who like their rain forests drier than usual, and Chilean skiers savor their final runs as diminishing winter snows give way to Patagonian hiking bliss. Avoid Central America travel, with the rainy and hurricane season well underway.

19.

Home to tango, gauchos, and fútbol aficionados galore, Argentina rewards travelers to the Southern Cone with stunning scenery, sophisticated cities, and epicurean delights, all at surprising values. A sexy Latin vibe permeates the architecturally handsome Buenos Aires, South America's answer to Paris.

Why go in fall: Fall is a lovely time to visit larger cities like the flourishing Argentine capital at Buenos Aires, with reasonable hotel rates all across the city. In seasonal tourism areas, expect fewer crowds due to diminished opportunities for activities like skiing.

20.
Boasting wonders as diverse as the Amazonian rainforest, Iguazu Falls (on the border with Argentina), the beaches of Bahia, and sultry Rio, Brazil is both geographically stunning and culturally fascinating. This melting pot of European and African immigrants and indigenous South Americans is the birthplace of Bossa Nova, caipirinhas, and the samba, not to mention the world’s wildest Carnaval celebration.

Why go in fall: October and November bring temperate spring weather and fewer tourists in the cities. In the Amazon, the best time for fishing is during the last months of the dry season, generally September and October, when water levels are lower. Expect thinner crowds and temperatures in the 70s and 80s at Iguazu Falls.

21.
This skinny slice of South America will surprise the unsuspecting with its flourishing capital at Santiago, quaint villages, and striking geographic extremes – deserts, rainforests, glacial peaks — full of natural beauty and outdoor adventure opportunities (including the tail end of the ski season).

Why go in fall: Pleasant temperatures and lighter tourist crowds make September and October an ideal time to embark on the lake district and central regions. Note that November is the start of high season across the country.

22.
Ecuador’s fascinating interior has long been overshadowed by the Galápagos Islands, with their attention-hogging archipelago. While package tours there threaten Darwin’s muses, the mainland has been humbly readying itself for the ball. With the revitalized colonial capital of Quito and distinctive retreats in the Amazon and the Andes, not to mention the Inca ruins of Ingapirca, it promises not to stay under the radar for long.

Why go in fall: In between the worst of the rainy season and the crowds of the dry season (September to November), you’ll find reasonable weather and great deals in Quito, the highlands, and along the coast

Europe

Fall forecast: Each autumn, this continent takes a collective breath as swarms of summer tourists return home, leaving only the wisest of the bunch to partake in fringe-season price reductions, more moderate temperatures, and pre-winter festivals. The coasts of Spain, Italy, and Greece are still churning out beach weather at bargain rates. In Eastern Europe, days can be chilly, but the off-peak rates help compensate. Transatlantic airfare typically falls between 25 and 40 percent below its summer high. 

23. Balearic Islands
This Spanish island chain includes , which since the ‘60s has been attracting the hip and the trendy, from flower children dancing beneath the stars and sleeping on the beaches to the young elite of London, Berlin, and Milan mobbing the top discos and staying at chic, boutique hotels. (also spelled Mallorca), meanwhile, has long been a favored year-round destination for northern Europeans seeking sun and sea.

Why go in fall: Unless you’re looking to party hearty, you’ll get the most for your money in fall. The weather is warm and usually sunny (temps average about 70 degrees), and the islands practically crowd-free.

24.
With Dutch-influenced Flanders to the north and French-flaired Wallonia to the south, Belgium is a unique blend of languages and cultures brimming with historic charm, haute couture, and heavenly cuisine — including its world-famous mussels, fries, waffles, chocolate, and beer. Brussels is noted for its friendly folk, incredible edibles, and position as political capital of modern Europe, while Flemish-flavored Antwerp has come into its own as a center for fashion, art, and nightlife.

Why go in fall: While sometimes overcast and/or rainy, Belgium’s fall days are generally mild, travel costs run lower than in summer, and manageable crowds make for optimum visiting.

25.
Reminders of this once-divided city’s turbulent history coexist with ultra-modern glass and steel skyscrapers and reinvented urban centers. Packed with cultural treasures, hip clubs, cutting-edge dining options, and no less than three opera houses, Berlin is the Continent’s first true 21st-century metropolis.

Why go in fall: While late autumn can be cold, September and early October is usually marked by mild temperatures and an added bonus of colorful foliage. Package deals abound, while crowds and lines at attractions are refreshingly few.

26.
Croatia’s tourism board touts its stunning coast and 1,000+ islands as “the Mediterranean as it once was” and, save some overdeveloped areas, it really is. Paired with little-explored inland regions and an affordable, non-euro-based economy, this delightful Eastern European country is one of Europe’s hottest destinations. Dubrovnik boasts stunning seaside fortifications, a Mediterranean beach vibe, fresh seafood, and immaculate offshore islands.

Why go in fall: In early fall, Dubrovnik sits comfortably in the 80s, with surrounding beaches gloriously empty and the water temps in the 70s through late October. Hotels offer good shoulder-season rates — just go before the northeastern “bura” wind whips up in November.

27.
France is a montage of thousands of sights, dishes, and tiny, charming towns. It’s little wonder that this profoundly culturally rich country ranks as one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. Wine regions like Bordeaux and Burgundy boast harvest festivals, sightseeing conditions are optimum in cities like Paris and Lyon, and weather conditions early on in the season are still suitable for swimming along the French Riviera.

Why go in fall: Hotel and airfare prices are lower, temperatures are generally pleasant, and the crowds are refreshingly absent. September and October bring grape, olive harvests, and busy cultural calendars. Note that some wineries are closed during this time. If swimming is an objective, best to come in September for a dip along the French Riviera. 

28.
Greece has some 6,000 islands and islets, of which only 227 are inhabited. The seven island groups — the Ionian, Argo-Saronic, Cyclades, Dodecanese, Sporades and Evvia, Northeast Aegean, and Crete — are marked by ancient monuments and ruins, beautiful scenery, and lively beach resorts.

Why go in fall: Unless nightlife is your goal, this is the best time to visit. Temps averaging about 70 degrees are reasonable, the sea is warm enough for swimming through September, and the beaches are not overcrowded. Hotels, restaurants, and cultural attractions are open, yet devoid of crowds.

29.
The land of art, sun, and a thousand different types of pasta, Italy is packed with a variety of sights, sounds, and tastes that can keep even the most experienced traveler busy for months. Considering one can hop between the timeworn ruins of ancient Rome, the Renaissance glories of Florence, and the fashion-forward emporiums of Milan, the question really isn’t where to go, it’s which century to "visit."

Why go in fall: It’s by far the best time to go to Italy for value, weather, and crowd control. Throughout the country you’ll experience wine festivals and skip out on the oppressive heat and mobs that mark the high summer season. The Mediterranean remains warm into early fall for beach-goers along the Italian Riviera. Autumn foliage adds a scenic touch to Italian lake areas.

30.
This little gem of a country on the southern Adriatic Sea — just coming into its own after the turbulent breakup of the former Yugoslavia — boasts an interior of soaring Alpine mountains, plus 200 miles of coastline. Tiny Montenegro is an exhilarating destination for lovers of the great outdoors, with four national parks and two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The medieval fortress city of Kotor, on the lip of southern Europe’s largest fjord, is a picturesque home base for coastal and mountain day trips.

Why go in fall: Beach season lingers through October and temperatures hover around the mid-60s. With more elbow room than during the summer, autumn is an ideal time to explore the region’s churches and ruins. Hotels, restaurants, and cultural attractions are open, yet not overrun.

31.
Romania has come a long way since 1989, when the people gave their iron-fisted dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, the boot. Today, ask anyone and they’ll tell you that Romania is on the rise: the outdoor cafés are buzzing, the restaurants are serving creatively prepared local cuisine as well as global fusion dishes, and recognizable shops like Hugo Boss and Escada are sprouting up. Of course, historic Romania maintains its appeal as well; give a nod to the fictitious Count Dracula as you submerge yourself in cobblestone streets, castles, and monasteries.

Why go in fall: Reasonable temperatures, fewer crowds, and better hotel deals make fall the best time to explore Romania’s major points of interest. The folklore of Count Dracula can make Transylvania a particularly appealing destination during Halloween, when special tours celebrate Bram Stoker's famous novel.

United States & Canada

Fall forecast: Fall nudges the northern part of the U.S. and most of southern Canada into their climactic foliage-filled primes. It’s the Atlantic’s hurricane season, leaving Florida relatively empty of visitors (unless El Niño manages to keep away hurricanes and tropical storms) but teeming with deals. Out West, hot, dry Santa Ana winds and the harvest season mark the beginning of fall, while many Western ski resorts offer pre-Christmas deals in November. Early cold spells in November can put a damper on Canadian and northern U.S. travel.

32.

Like the blossoms that brighten this Southern belle's landscape every spring, Atlanta is a perennial rejuvenator, infusing her classic charm with modern style and welcoming visitors to her unique blend of history, dining, shopping, and adventure. Its grade-A Southern hospitality, historical roots (MLK was born here), modern-day attractions, and up-and-coming art scene are the city's major draws.

Why go in fall: With the summer heat gone, fall in Atlanta makes for enjoyable sightseeing, while the build up to the holiday season brings in throngs of shoppers from across the South.

33.

Visitors flock to Cape Cod and its neighboring islands for its quaint villages, hundreds of miles of beaches, clam shacks, and, of course, "sand dunes and salty air." This charming New England region draws family and East Coast weekenders.

Why go in fall: As the summer crowds retreat, this quintessential slice of New England becomes much easier to navigate. Empty expanses of sand and mild, perfect-for-a-walk-on-the-beach temperatures pervade. Take advantage of historic B&Bs that offer rooms at half off in October.

34.

Colorado’s storied past as a territory of the Wild West is still evident in its mining towns, rustic dude ranches, Rocky Mountain switchbacks, and pioneer tradition. There is, however, more to the state than awe-inspiring mountain landscapes and cow herders. It’s also a land of thriving cosmopolitan towns like Denver, luxurious ski resorts, and outdoor adventures like hiking, skiing, and rafting.

Why go in fall: Fall weather is pleasant for sightseeing in Denver and accompanied by blazing fall foliage in the surrounding mountains. By November, the slopes are just beginning to open, and ski resorts often tout promotional packages that precede the holidays.

35.
Inaugurated under the Southern California sun in the summer of 1955, The Happiest Place on Earth is still the country’s premier family destination. Head here for the sunshine and to please the kids (or the kid inside) ... nothing makes ‘em smile like Mickey and the gang.

Why go in fall: With the season kicking off a back-to-school frenzy, weekday visits pretty much ensure that you’ll walk on to most rides with little or no lines. Special Halloween events add to the festive atmosphere.

36.

Fifty miles of seashore with powder-fine sand, secluded bays, and colonial villages make The Hamptons a playground for beach lovers, glamour seekers, culture hounds, and the rich and famous. Dabble in Hollywood-esque glitz and glamour along the shore at pricey luxe hotels and reservations-required restaurants.

Why go in fall: Early fall weather, usually a balmy 60 degrees, is still warm enough for swimming, making the hotel discounts a real bargain. Beaches are nearly empty as families are city-bound for the school year.

37.
Few places satisfy the urge for a carefree tropical vacation like the islands of Hawaii. Indeed, the 50th state’s stunning beauty is no secret — nowhere else in the U.S. boasts the combination of white-sand beaches, lush green landscapes, pounding surf, and rich culture of these far-flung Pacific islands. But what’s less well known, especially for first-time visitors, is that there’s a lot more to the state than Oahu’s Waikiki Beach. In fact, of the eight islands in Hawaii, six are primed for tourists, each with different reasons to visit, from ecotourism and active volcanoes to beaches and nightlife.

Why go in fall: You’ll find less people (and more available accommodations) before the holiday rush. Powerful northern swells hit the islands in October, so it’s the perfect season for surfing. Long days offer extra sunshine to catch that one last wave of the day or extend a romantic sunset stroll into evening. Approaching winter rains temper Hawaii’s otherwise oppressive summer humidity, and rooms are up to 30 percent less than peak-season rates.

38.

Las Vegas celebrated its centennial in 2005 — not that it needed an excuse to party. “Sin City,” “Lost Wages,” “The City That Never Sleeps” — call it what you will – this Nevada desert city will awe you from the moment you fly over its glittering expanse to the day you leave. But believe it or not, there's more to Las Vegas than debauchery, including a world-class restaurant scene and fantastic shopping.

Why go in fall: Barring no special events, you’ll get the best bang for your buck by visiting in October and early November, months that offer mild temperatures and generally better rates.

39.
Sprawling, sexy, sometimes unruly, and occasionally outrageous, Greater Miami has become an urban mix unlike any other in America. The beach vacation city of Miami is one part sun-splashed resort playground, one part glamorama party capital, and one part bustling, Latin-flavored sprawl. Head here to party with beautiful people by night and recover on beautiful beaches by day.

Why go in fall: You’ll get the best deals in September and October, after the kids go back to school and before winter high season kicks into gear. Watch out for hurricane season, though, which runs from June to November — most hotels and airlines will accommodate date changes free of charge, however, should a storm put a wrench in your travel plans.

40.
With a population of 1.6 million, Montréal is the world's second largest French-speaking city after Paris. It’s a captivating mélange of old-world charm infused with the up-to-the-minute energy of North America's most modern cities. Set on the St. Lawrence River, this Canadian metropolis comprises an easily accessible patchwork of neighborhoods, each with its own unique joie de vivre. Visitors can still get their fix of Old World Europe (think small cafes, monument-filled plazas, and basilicas) without crossing the Atlantic, but a clutch of trendy new hotels, restaurants, shops, and clubs are the latest indication that this city will never become a stodgy artifact of past triumphs.

Why go in fall: Rooms are reasonably priced and easy to find. Fall also brings astonishing foliage, while temperatures vary from 50 to 70 degrees earlier in the season.

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