Fall is an amazing time to visit Europe - holiday crowds have dissipated, the weather is agreeable in many locales and harvest festivals are in full swing. Here are our favourite places to visit in Europe in autumn.
Turkey - enjoy cooler weather
Summer is hot in Turkey - average daytime highs are well into the thirties (low nineties Fahrenheit), making sightseeing often uncomfortable. Fall sees temperatures drop significantly with pleasant days and crisp mornings making extended explorations a breeze. Starting of in Istanbul, the city of Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, travel to the Roman city of Ephesus, the travertine terraces of Pamukkale and the castles and sunken ruins of the Mediterranean. After a visit to Konya, discover spectacular Cappadocia, where cave chapels hide Byzantine art and colourful biblical frescoes.
Greece - Island hopping
Island hopping in Greece is a popular pastime with both Greek and international students, making summer a busy time. Autumn sees crowds returning home, giving you the chance to roam the islands in peace. Discover the valleys, olive and citrus groves and Venetian town and market of beautiful Naxos, before taking a ferry to Santorini with its spectacular views. Walk the Cliff Trail along the island's caldera and soak up the atmosphere at pretty Oia. Finally, explore Paros with its Byzantine cathedral and walk an ancient trail to the island's east coast. All the while, enjoy the great food and hospitality Greece is known for.
Croatia - cruise the Dalmatian Coast
Endless Roman ruins, romantic Venetian towns and Byzantine churches. Sun-bleached hills descending to cobalt blue seas, which in turn straddle a coast dotted with picturesque isles. Cruising Croatia's Dalmatian Coast between Dubrovnik and Split on a small cruise boat allows you to get to places larger ships cannot go - like the glorious old town of Korčula on the island by the same name. Small sandy beaches, hidden coves, wineries that make world-class white wines, olive groves and sleepy villages await you in Croatia, along with trips inland to the gorgeous waterfalls of Krka National Park and a river trip to Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Italy - La Vita Bella
Italy is one of the world's most popular destinations making summer a busy time. Yet much of the country can be travelled year round. It's a place where style and flair live next to Michelangelo and Bellini. Where ancient Roman ruins stand next to Renaissance churches. Where picturesque hilltop towns look over verdant vineyards. Where good food and wine are a way of life. From the mountainous Dolomites and the canals of Venice to the museums and churches of Rome and from the renaissance treasures of Florence to the stunning Amalfi Coast, and Sicily's ancient temples and volcanoes, Italy offers something for everyone!
France - into the south
While the north of France is cooling off, the south of France has some amazing weather in fall. And along the Côte d’Azur, the pretty seaside town of Menton will not disappoint. It is one of the most attractive towns on the French Riviera, what with its shady streets, pastel-coloured mansions and excellent restaurants. With the town as your base you will explore the villages, gardens, coastal paths, mountain trails and fantastic viewpoints of this picturesque corner of France.
Spain - a passion for life
Who hasn’t dreamed of visiting Barcelona, walking the Camino to Santiago, exploring the white villages of Andalusia or discovering the Alhambra in Granada. Land of fiestas, siesta and Flamenco, of architecture and art, Spain is as diverse as it is beautiful. Explore Spain in fall and you will find a country almost devoid of tourists. Discover a passion for fine food, for wild landscapes and indeed for life itself.
Portugal - history writ large
From Portugal's maritime past which fueled the wealth of Lisbon and Porto, to the walled towns situated on dramatic hills guarding its borders, to its traditional values living strong - history is write large in Portugal. And days in fall are pleasant, allowing for both explorations and activities.
Visitors are struck by the friendliness of its people and the affordable food and wine but above all by the sheer diversity of this small nation. Sublime sandy beaches, lush river valleys, rugged mountains and steeply terraced vineyards, pretty stone-built mountain-top villages, cobble-stoned streets, palaces and castles; you find it all in Portugal. Then there are myriad activities, from visiting wine estates to hiking the hills and Camino, cycling the backroads, or walking the levada trails of Madeira.
The Blue Danube - harvest festivals
Along central Europe's Danube, in October fall harvest festivals will be in full swing. And there is a variety of ways to explore the region. You could be riding through six countries and spent your nights aboard a boat; you could cycle the beautiful Danube Path as it wends its way through the spectacular Wachau Valley, deep woods and past historic towns, castles and abbeys to Vienna, the capital of Austria and once the seat of an imperial dynasty. Ride on and connect three great capitals of Central Europe, Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest, all the while discovering historic sites, small villages and towns, stunning architecture and lovely landscapes at your own leisure. Starting in Prague, you could cycle quiet country lanes and bike paths and discover the castles, forgotten villages, river valleys, lakes and historic capitals of the Austro-Hungarian Empire of old. For those who do not feel like an active trip we have a small-group tour as well:
Ireland? Yes, Ireland!
Ireland may not be front of mind for most people but when I went on my last trip I found the weather to be very pleasant indeed. Yes it rained (doesn't it always?) but the rain came in short downpours and the sun was out a lot. With cool temperatures, fall is a great time to be active, either on the Ring of Kerry or along the Wild Atlantic Way. Or, if you prefer, join a tour showing you all the highlights of a country that is one of my favourites.
Iceland - fall colours & Northern Lights
Iceland can be visited year-round - summers are generally pleasant and winters are surprisingly warm. For hiking, June through mid-September is the best time. If you wish to see the Northern Lights, come between October and March and be blown away by a spectacular light show. As a bonus, the low scrubby vegetation changes colour in September, painting the mountains and hillsides in vibrant colours.
Georgia and Armenia - wine festivals
Travel through the Caucasus, home to some of the oldest Christian cultures on Earth, and visit the Armenian monasteries of Khor Virap, Noravank and Geghard. Crossing into Georgia, enjoy stupendous views along the Georgian Military Highway and walk up through the village of Gergeti to the Holy Trinity church, set against the backdrop of Mount Kazbek. Visit Gori, the birthplace of Joseph Stalin, walk in some beautiful areas, explore the rock-hewn town of Uplistsikhe and try some of the wine the country is famous for. In fall, celebrate the harvest along with the local people who will happily invite you to their table.
Eastern Europe - go off the beaten track
Those of you who attended my webinars know I have a soft spot for travelling in Eastern Europe. I love the feeling of stepping back in time, the well-preserved forgotten towns and villages, the history and all the cultural groups left behind through centuries of empire-building and the pride of the people as they are finding their way back into the centre of Europe. Transylvania is one of Romania's least disturbed regions, an area of ancient Saxon villages, medieval towns and castles and abundant wildlife. Poland offers splendid historical cities - the capital Warsaw, the "Venice of Poland" Wroclaw and Krakow, showcasing Europe's best-preserved medieval market square.
Then there are the beautiful monasteries of Ukraine, the villages and cave churches of forgotten Moldova and the a breakaway republic of Transnistria.
The Baltics - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania
The three Baltic Republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania share a common history but each of them is quite different. The capitals of Tallinn and Riga can get busy in summer with cruise passengers, making fall a lovely, albeit cool time to visit. Explore dreamy Vilnius, along with beautiful old towns like Kaunas, gorgeous scenery at Lahemaa and the dunes and beaches of the Curonian Spit. And find unexpected oddities such as crusader castles, the Hill of Crosses and a Soviet ballistic missile launch complex.