It’s difficult to find someone who doesn’t like fall, and for very good reason: It’s absolutely beautiful to see the seasons change before our very eyes. Leaves fade from green to warm fall colors like maroon, burnt orange, and gold. Temperatures dip into that perfect, sweater-weather category.
The tourism industry loves fall, too: In 2014, experts projected fall foliage tourism would bring around $3 billion to New England alone. Since that’s just a small pocket of the world, it’s safe to say seasonal vacationing — especially vacationing planned around a city’s natural wonders — is a huge boon to economies worldwide.
So, you’re not alone in your quest to find the perfect place to experience in the midst of leaf-changing season. And, to make your trip planning even easier, we’ve found the eight best cities in the world for fall getaways. Choose one, book your flight, book a car, and get going. You’ve got Mother Nature waiting for you on the other side.
1. Bruges, Belgium
Bruges is one of Europe’s most picturesque towns year-round, but there’s a reason it made Travel + Leisure’s list of the continent’s must-visit fall destinations. At this time of year, the trees lining the town’s canals turn colors and make the quaint, cobblestoned town even more cozy.
If that’s not incentive enough, you can sample world-famous Belgian chocolates and waffles while you’re in town.
Take the R30 ring road that circles downtown Bruges to drive along beautiful waterways and stop at several of the parks along the way. This road follows the path of the city’s old walls, so you can appreciate its historical significance as well.
2. Huairou, China
If you’re familiar with a certain very well-known Chinese landmark, you probably understand why Huairou is our next suggestion.
It just so happens the city is home to the Great Wall of China, which winds through a mountainous and tree-coated landscape. As such, fall temperatures bring a twinge of color to the forests beneath the wall’s walkways.
You’ll have the perfect perch for scoping them out while you cross off the Great-Wall-of-China box on your bucket list.
3. Bavaria, Germany
This region of Germany is home to some of the most stunning natural landscapes in Europe. As you look up at bright blue skies, the Austrian Alps seem to rise up into the clouds. And, in fall, these peaks are covered in the trees and foliage you want to see — it’s almost as if Mother Nature knew we’d think it couldn’t get more beautiful up there, so she had to prove everyone wrong.
Driving along Autobahn 9 in Germany will take you through the edge of the Veldenstein Forest and many other wooded areas. This highway is the main route connecting Berlin and Munich and goes right past Nuremberg, if you care to spend a day there.
4. The Northeastern United States
Not every fall foliage destination has to be a far-flung one. In fact, the foliage in states like Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maine, and Massachusetts are just as gorgeous as the high-altitude peaks of Germany.
In addition to finding beautiful trees everywhere you look, it’s also easy to find interesting and historical attractions in most Northeastern states. Each state offers its own unique experiences that you can indulge in while you sight-see. For example, Maine is well-known for its beautiful lighthouses and (of course) lobster dishes, while Pennsylvania is known for its historical towns and cities, as well as its rich Amish culture and Amish-made furniture.
Traveling along Route 1 in almost any Northeastern state is sure to bring you through both scenic and developed areas alike. This is one of the major North-South highways in the United States. It runs all the way from Maine to Florida, making it a good go-to route if you want to drive through multiple Northeastern states. In Maine, especially, you can drive along the coast following Route 1 and take in some especially gorgeous fall scenery.
5. Patagonia, Argentina
Do you ever find yourself craving the wonders of fall in mid-spring or summer? If so, you’re in luck, just head south. The Southern Hemisphere experiences an opposite seasonal schedule to that of the Northern Hemisphere. So, while this won’t help you out much during autumn in the States, keep in mind that between the end of March and the end of June, it’s fall in Argentina.
Patagonia is the perfect Argentine destination for outdoor pursuits. You can go hiking, rock climbing and biking through the forests. Fill out the rest of your schedule by visiting glaciers, going whale-watching and grabbing binoculars for a penguin watch, too.
6. Banff National Park, Canada
Our northern neighbors have lots of rugged natural landscapes that are perfect for fall foliage watching. In fact, you could probably make an extra-long list exclusively of Canadian destinations for fall because everything is so pristine there.
But seeing the changing leaves reflect on Lake Louise — with high-reaching mountains in the backdrop, too — you can’t go wrong with this choice. Plus, there’s so much to do in Banff. You can camp out, hike, cycle or even take a train ride to peer at all the foliage the place has to offer.
If you want to go into the park, the park service recommends taking public transit into the area and roaming around on foot. However, the Trans-Canada Highway travels just past the town of Banff and follows the Canadian coast, passing through many other forests and national parks in the process.
7. Dandenong Ranges, Victoria, Australia
Are you starting to sense a trend here? Here’s yet another mountainous Southern Hemisphere destination where colorful fall foliage is the icing on an already-beautiful cake
This Australian landmark is made up of soft, rolling hills, where you can find waterfalls, fuzzy fern plants and extra-tall trees. Don’t worry, even though their trunks are super-long, you won’t have to squint to see the colorful display when you arrive.
To do some driving through the area, hop on highway 28, also appropriately named “Mountain Highway.” This road curves back and forth through miles of trees, ensuring you don’t miss some of the best autumn views Australia has to offer.
8. Blue Ridge Parkway, N.C.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the main roads traveling through North Carolina, and it’s one of the ultimate foliage-viewing routes. It crosses from North Carolina to Virginia, winding through the Appalachian Mountains and giving motorists an incredible view of all these southeastern mountains have to offer.
There are so many breathtaking views that many people just head south to drive the parkway, stopping off at built-in vistas along the way to take it all in. Vacation (or day trip, depending on where you live) figured out.
According to the Parkway’s website, there’s no foolproof way to figure out when the leaves will change in the mountains. Changes in elevation affect the timing, though it tends to take place in mid- to late October.
Where to next?
Where will your fall foliage trip take you? These are just eight of the many places where nature puts on one of its greatest shows: the changing of the leaves.
Best of all, no matter where you experience fall this year, you’re sure to love what you see.