With the smell of wood-smoke and gusty winds hailing the start of autumn, back-to-school season is well and truly here.
But, if like us, you’re already getting itchy for your next adventure – fear not.
Because the experts over at National Geographic have just released their edit of the very best places to discover this fall. And within it lies all the fuel for wanderlust we could possibly ask for.
Get dreaming and scheming as you peruse their shortlist of thrilling new experiences to savour across the globe…
1. Get spiritual in Bhutan
The mystical mountain kingdom of Bhutan is steeped in history, as well as being one of the happiest and most sustainable countries on earth.
Its tourist visas are limited but Nat Geo says more and more are being issued; so, get in now to beat the madding crowds.
The next few months also sees the dawn of two significant festivals.
“Two annual festivals take place in the fall,” says Nat Geo. “The biggest, Thimphu Tshechu, runs for three days of dancing, blessings, and color in the capital. It honors Guru Rinpoche, who brought Buddhism to Bhutan in the eighth century. The Black-Necked Crane Festival takes place on November 11, celebrating the yearly return of migrating black-necked cranes to the sacred Phobjikha Valley wetlands.”
2. Go reef-diving in Australia
Its cities are vibrant. Its beaches are breath-taking. Its wildlife is impressive and terrifying in equal turn. It has a rich cultural heritage that can’t fail to fascinate.
Little wonder Australia is a dream destination for many travellers and,according to Nat Geo, Northern Hemisphere autumn is the time to visit.
Down Under’s spring, this is the season when everything comes alive in Australia, with “coral spawning, seabird breeding, and turtle nesting”.
The scene is set for the finest show of all on the Great Barrier Reef, the planet’s largest living structure and one of the seven wonders of the natural world. A similar spring awakening plays out on islands, bush land and rainforests across the country.
3. Explore US and Canada national parks
Nat Geo is on a mission this year to dissect the legacy of North America’s vast swathes of wilderness.
It says crisp autumnal air and a thinned-out roster of post-summer tourists make for optimal exploring conditions in the region’s many national parks. It’s also worth making the most of these last few months to try out Canada’s free national parks admission, a year-only initiative to mark its 150th birthday.
As the leaves turn, hike through woodland amid a kaleidoscope of burnished yellows and terracotta reds. Pause to soak in panoramic views of deep valley gorges and mountains framed by pine tree forests. All this in the waning, iridescent light of fall.
4. Muse over modern art in South Africa
With gorgeous coastline, picturesque vineyards and a rich labyrinth of safari parks, South Africa is bursting with delights for all who touch down on her sunny shores.
But it’s the country’s cultural heritage that Nat Geo wants to highlight, drawing attention to the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, the biggest museum to open in Africa in more than a century.
Launching for business in mid-September, the Cape Town hot spot features 100,000 square feet of exhibition space dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora.
5. Join Day of the Dead in Mexico
Mexico’s annual Day of the Dead celebrations are a showcase of its customary colour and verve. Get swept up in this political, joyous and sometimes macabre ode to life and loss.
The festival unfolds in October, and promises to dazzle the senses in a way that few other events can.
“During the holiday, the streets are lively with colorful costumes, fireworks, calenda processions, and music,” says Nat Geo. “At home, families prepare offerings to the dead; at cemeteries they gather to decorate their relatives’ graves with marigolds and candles—accompanied by a not insignificant number of marching bands. Mezcal abounds.”
6. Meet the wildlife in Zambia
From the lush banks of the Zambezi to the expansive wilderness of the Northern Province, Zambia is an unsung hero of Sub-Saharan Africa. Nat Geo says autumn offers a prime window for wildlife-spotting.
Watch families of elephants gather nonchalantly by watering holes and river banks, along with giraffes, hippos and crocodiles that lurk in abundance. For a truly magnificent bush experience, head to South Luangwa National Park, the origin of the first walking safari, where you may even catch a glimpse of the elusive Zambian leopard.
Autumn is also the best time to visit the ever-wondrous Victoria Falls, as it’s dry enough to bathe safety in natural pools that are dotted around the edge of the abyss.
7. Wander wine country in France
What better way to enjoy la belle France than in one of its many and varied vineyards?
Autumn is harvest time for wineries across the country, so you’ll be ideally placed to immerse yourself in the good stuff as grape-picking gets underway in earnest. Fancy a glass of full-bodied Bergerac merlot? Mais, oui. Corsican Muscat more your thing? Bien sûr.
Nat Geo has its eye on the Fête des Vendanges Montmartre in October, which pays tribute to Paris’ sole and tiny hillside vineyard with music, fireworks – and wine-tasting, naturally.
8. Get to know Greece
This ancient country is a boon for travellers. The food is cheap and plentiful, the sea is turquoise, the sights are guaranteed to astonish.
And of course, there’s always the weather; even in November, the water temperature is around 20°C, meaning you can nip over for a balmy swim in under four hours’ flight.
9. Celebrate Diwali in India
India is a magical destination at all times of year but it becomes even more enticing around Diwali – the Hindi festival of lights celebrated every autumn.
Revel in a breath-taking array of candles and lights that adorn homes, temples and businesses, marvel at the fireworks and immerse yourself in the riotous celebrations. Nat Geo recommends heading to Jaipur.
“Visit Nahargarh Fort to see the glittering city below, and gawk at Jal Mahal, a half-submerged water palace in Man Sagar Lake awash in lights,” it says.
10. Sate your appetite in Vietnam
Vietnamese food is having a real moment right now, and there’s no better place to taste it than in the birthplace of pho, bun cha and other glorious delicacies. Nat Geo suggests undertaking a foodie pilgrimage from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh city, to make the most of every regional nuance in cuisine.
The best way of sampling Vietnam’s fabulous food is to join the hordes lining the pavements on small plastic chairs at street food stalls the country over.
There are plenty of enticements that lie beyond eating, too. This beguiling slither of South East Asia offers thriving markets, spectacular landscapes and some of the most hospitable people you’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting.
Images: Flash Pack/Instagram