Following the fall
Spring, summer and winter all have their charms for travellers, but there’s nothing quite like autumn. Whether it’s in a sprawling city or remote national park, witnessing the world’s forests, parks and vineyards turn from green to shades of gold and red is one of Mother Nature’s greatest gifts. Aspen and Vermont are famed for their foliage, but there are many other destinations – from Asia to Europe – in which to get your seasonal fix
Take off to Croatia
Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Plitvice Lakes – a Unesco-protected national park with 16 turquoise lakes connected via almost 100 waterfalls and cascades – is jaw-droppingly beautiful any time of year. But in October something magical happens. Home to thousands of fir and maple trees, in autumn Plitvice is wrapped in a blanket of ochre and red that, against the moss-green rocks and the piercing blue water, turns this World Heritage Site into a fairy-tale landscape. The best way to experience the park’s changing colours is to walk the 11-mile footbridges that wind around the cascades. If you don’t fancy lacing up your hiking boots, a boat trip on the lakes is included in your entrance ticket. Most people visit the park on a day trip from Zagreb or Zadar, but cycling trails around the park, as well as whitewater rafting, kayaking and wild swimming along the Una or Korana Rivers, make Plitvice worthy of a longer stay.
Take off to South Korea
Seoul, South Korea
When it comes to seasonal blooms in East Asia, Japan often steals the limelight. But with stunning autumn foliage across the country, neighbouring South Korea is the perfect destination for following the season this year. In Seoul, the streets are lined with hundreds of maple trees and golden ginkgo, so from September to November the capital glows with blood-orange and honey-yellow hues. Autumn foliage walking trails, such as Samcheong-dong and Ansan Jarak-gil, take in the city’s most spectacular colours, while Jamwon Hangang Park and Haneul Park come alive with wild yellow cosmos flowers and pink pampas grass. Outside Seoul, nearby national parks Seoraksan and Bukhansan – home to Korea’s highest peak and some of the best multi-pitch climbing routes in the world – offer a variety of ways to soak up South Korea’s most beautiful months. The Wondaeri birch forest and the Garden of Morning Calm, both less than two hours from Seoul, are also worth a visit this time of year.
Take off to Switzerland
Domodossola, Italy to Locarno, Switzerland
Every day, a narrow-gauge train leaves the city of Domodossola in northern Italy for Locarno, Switzerland’s lowest-altitude town on the shores of Lake Maggiore. Just an hour and a half from Milan, the 20th-century Centovalli railway line rolls its way over 83 bridges through the Centovalli, Ossola and Vigezzo valleys, giving passengers breathtaking views of waterfalls plunging into deep forested ravines, sun-drenched vineyards and ancient Roman villages backed by snow-capped mountains. The journey is beautiful year-round, but savvy travellers take the Centovalli train between October and November, when the valleys’ chestnut forests ring in the autumn with bursts of yellow, orange and red. The journey takes two hours, but you can easily turn it into a day trip by hopping off at one of the 32 stops along the route. Santa Maria Maggiore, a cobbled stone village fuelled by cheese and cured meat, is a great base from which to explore the area’s alpine hiking and biking trails.
Take off to South Africa
Cape Winelands, South Africa
When the northern hemisphere waves goodbye to its autumn colours, the south of the equator is just getting warmed up. From April to May, South Africa’s Cape Winelands – the country’s oldest and largest wine-producing region – puts on a show with vineyards so red they look as if they’re on fire. Add to that a magnificent mountain backdrop and 17th-century wine estates, and the result is one of the world’s most stunning seasonal landscapes. The best way to experience the Cape Winelands’ flaming colours is on a wine-tasting tour from Cape Town, where you’ll spend the day visiting historic vineyards between Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl, three of South Africa’s earliest colonial towns. Where there’s good wine, there’s good food: the Cape Winelands region has attracted several creative young chefs in recent years, making it South Africa’s most exciting dining scene outside of Cape Town.
Take off to USA
Great River Road, USA
Spanning 3,000 miles from the pine forests of northern Minnesota to the lagoons and marshes of the Gulf of Mexico, the Great River Road follows the Mississippi River through ten American states, including Wisconsin, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and Louisiana. While the ten-day route takes in sprawling cities such as Minneapolis, Memphis and New Orleans, this epic American road trip is just as much about nature as it is about bright lights and late-night jazz. The Mississippi river flows through several forested state parks and valleys, which in the autumn come to life with ochre and orange brush strokes. The changing foliage is particularly striking in Wisconsin’s Perrot State Park, where the Trempealeau River meets the Mississippi River, and in Grandad Bluff park, home to one of the best views of the Mississippi. At Grandad Bluff, a 600ft viewpoint lets you admire the vivid colours across the states of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.