There are few more photogenic sites than a hillside ablaze in autumnal hues of red, orange, and gold. New England may be the most popular travel destination to catch this annual phenomenon, but there are plenty of other places across the globe with just the right combination of trees, topography, and scenic byways that cut through the brilliant tapestry. Here are some of our favorites.
A few tips before you go: Plan your route from north to south (the same direction in which the color change happens in the northern hemisphere), and chat up the locals to pinpoint which spots are most vivid this season, as prime ones change from year to year.
The same climate that makes this region of central France ideal for producing wine also contribute to a colorful display come fall, when the vineyards and orchards take on new shades. Le Manoir les Minimes and Auberge du Bon Laboureur, both 2016 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice winners, are ideal bases from which to explore the area’s many chateaux and wineries.
Strap on your hiking boots to make the most of the fall scenery in Cairngorms, Great Britain’s largest national park. The changing of the seasons is also beautifully apparent in nearby Glencoe, one of Scotland’s most spectacular valleys and a National Scenic Area. Glencoe House is a Victorian mansion set on ten acres, recently renovated into a seven-room hotel, where the owners will make you feel like landed gentry.
Why limit yourself to one country’s fall foliage when nature knows no political boundaries? Just south of the border, Jackson’s Lodge is the perfect location for comparing the colors in New England and Canada (don’t forget your passport!). The owners of this throwback fishing lodge will happily recommend hiking, biking, and driving routes that make the most of the season, and you can paddle around Lake Wallace in one of their kayaks or rowboats for free.
Japan is best known for its cherry blossoms in spring, but the maples are just as gorgeous come fall, when they turn bright red—particularly when they’re framing one of the city’s many ancient temples or Zen gardens. The Ritz-Carlton has an ideal location for leaf-peeping, looking over the Kamogawa River and out to the Higashiyama Mountains.
The train ride between Oslo and Bergen is worthy of bucket-list status any month of the year—but it’s particularly gorgeous in the fall. The seven-hour journey cuts through mountainous wilderness to connect the country’s two biggest cities (and “through” it goes, with 182 tunnels in all). By Scandinavian standards, Oslo’s Hotel Contienental—a 2016 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice winner—is an excellent value for your dollar.
Between the cottonwoods and the willows along the Rio Grande and the Aspens up in the Jemez Mountains, autumn covers New Mexico in a blanket of orange and gold. Want even more color? Time your trip for the annual International Balloon Fiesta, the world’s largest gathering of hot-air balloons. The Hotel Parq Central has a convenient location near downtown Albuquerque and a rooftop bar for sunset cocktails.
California’s most famous drive may be the coast-hugging Highway 1, but the June Lake Loop is one of the state’s hidden gems, tucked away in the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada range. Surrounded by rocky peaks, the area is known as the “Switzerland of California”; make sure to get off the road for some hiking, trout fishing, and kayaking. The Double Eagle Resort and Spa’s tranquil log cabins are perfect for groups of family and friends.
When you think fairy-tale castle, the picture in your mind is probably Neuschwanstein, whether you know it or not. Why? This 19th-century palace, perched on a hill in Bavaria, was the model for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. The best view of the castle—as well as the dazzlingly colorful foliage that surrounds it—comes from the recently restored Marienbrucke, a pedestrian suspension bridge over a forested gorge, but you can also have a view all to yourself from your room at the romantic Villa Ludwig in nearby Hohenschwangau.