Looking to plan a getaway? We don’t blame you. Summer’s over and winter, well… let’s not talk about that. Instead, let’s discuss autumn: a time of stunning apricot hues, cool and crowd-free city breaks, and warm weather. Yes, somewhere in the world the sun’s still shining. Whatever your holiday style and budget, we’ve got your back.
Max your time off
Can’t choose between beach and city? Don’t fret, sunshine – just do both. Fly into Cagliari, Sardinia’s capital, and you can spend five days (that’s three of your annual leave if you’re smart with your flights) exploring the city’s pleasing muddle of alleyways, churches, antique stalls and, of course, cafés and nearby beaches.
Island temperatures can still reach a balmy 20ºC in October – perfect for a shortish cycle to the 8km-long Poetto beach, a glorious stretch of calm water and white sand. Chill out on your towel or sip a glass or two of prosecco in one of (correction: all of) the beachside bars.
Strict building policies in Muscat, Oman have resulted in a pretty, low-rise port city that’s big on grand architecture and intricate design detail. Head to this sun-scorched city and you can easily combine sunbathing, shopping and desert adventures. The narrow alleys of the Muttrah Souq are great for finding shops crammed with precious stones, gold and silver set in unusually designed jewellery, plus at 200 years old it’s the oldest market in Oman. Base yourself in a hotel with a pool – the Chedi Muscat is a luxe option – to combine the city sights with some rays.
We’re not done yet. Head into the desert for some mountain/sand in your pants action. If glam surroundings are your thing, then the imaginatively named Desert Sand Camp in the Wahabi Sands will be a great choice for two nights against a backdrop of burnt orange and golden dunes. The permanent camp comes with Bedouin-style tents (complete with air-con), plus proper beds and en-suite bathrooms.
Travel details: Western & Oriental offers a four-night break (with two nights at the above hotels) from £1,305 per person, see westernoriental.com
For a long time, the island of Malta was somewhere only our nan would recommend to go on holiday. Then an influx of cool new festivals brought in younger travellers in their droves, and now, finally, Malta is cool. A September trip here will see you lounging on empty beaches, cycling along quiet country lanes and touring the historic alleys without another tourist in site.
You can see a lot of it in five days, too: stroll the elegant, narrow streets of Mdina, one of Europe’s most underrated ancient-walled cities, before grabbing some pastizz – cheesy pastry puffs from the Crystal Palace bakery (it’s worth the queue). For some adventure, take a short boat ride to Gozo for beach hopping and church touring by bike. If you’re just looking to lay flat on some sand and churn through books you can do that, too. Our pick is Golden Bay. No explanation necessary.
Squeeze the last out of the summer
We’re big fans of Portugal. Not because we like playing golf (we’re more about crazy golf than 18-hole fairways) and not because we like holidaying with footballers (although if Olivier Giroud’s asking…) but because of those beaches. And that food. Head north from the classic golf resort holiday in the Algarve and try Alentejo, a region of remote coves, sand dunes, wine and cheese.
Take the short flight from the UK into Lisbon, then hire a car and pootle south along the coastline – the distances are small and you’ll find cute guesthouses in vineyards and miles of empty beach en route. For a refreshing bev along the way, try a white port and tonic, stuffed with fresh mint. The end of summer never felt so good.
We may have said goodbye to summer back at the end of July, but on Turkey’s southern coast, the temps are still in their high 20s – sometimes 30s – through to the end of October. Perfect weather, then, for lazing around in an infinity pool doing sweet FA. Kalkan is a pretty, chi-chi option on the coast; book into one of the apartments or villas dotting the hillside – split the cost between a few people and you’ll nab yourself some cushy digs with stellar views for a fraction of the price of a glitzy hotel on another part of this dramatic coastline.
When you’re not looking out over Kalkan bay or taking on another portion of fresh Turkish meze, spend some time exploring the local area. Our pick is the Saklikent Gorge, at 18km long and 300m deep, it’s one of the biggest canyons in Europe. You can book a day bed by the gorge, walk through the water (jelly shoes necessary) or, if you’re a big kid like us, float along it in a big rubber ring. A natural waterpark? Yes please.
Travel details: Visit the Turquoise Collection for a range of villa and apartment options, theturquoisecollection.com; Thomas Cook offers return flights to Antalya from £84, thomascook.com
San Diego, California
There’s food, there’s beaches, there’s sunshine ALL. YEAR. ROUND. Head to La Jolla Shores for excellent swimming, surfing and stand-up paddleboarding. It’s protected from the prevailing southwesterly wind, and is a safe and gentle spot to learn to surf for the first time. Kayak among the seals, or travel south to the less pristine but very cool Mission Bay, a boardwalk-backed beach with food huts, rides and an infectious slacker vibe. Rent a bike to see it all.
San Diego goes crazy for a fish taco – try some at Oscar’s Mexican Seafood (with various locations around the city), then swing by the Gaslamp quarter for a glimpse of the city’s rejuvenation – it used to be a dodgy red light district, but now it’s an area teeming with polished bars and restaurants. For something edgier, try the old-school indie restaurants of Little Italy. Coffee snobs should then park up at Heartwork Coffee for macchiatos.
Cities without the crowds
Visit Budapest and you can take on a city of two characters. Back in 1873, Buda and Pest were two cities separated by the Danube. Now they’re one, but they still retain their separate identities. So visit the Buda side for royal palaces and Ottoman-era spas, and Pest for museums and art nouveau architecture. Throw some clattering trams, al fresco dining and open-air bars into the mix and you have yourself a fine city break, minus those pesky city-break hordes.
But before you start tramping the streets, relax. Take a chill. Visit one of the city’s famous thermal baths and swirl yourself around some warm water, with a backdrop of Roman columns (our pick is the Gellért Baths). Next up: a drink. Hungary does a decent line in wines, so unsurprisingly you’ll find plenty of good wine bars – try sipping some against the bare-brick walls of Doblo. If all that’s too refined, you’re in the right place. Ruin bars are a big deal here, and you can drink beers and cocktails within reimagined delipidated buildings. We’d be here days if we started listing them.
If you’re the type to get aggro on the Tube/London streets then you’ll have an absolute ‘mare in Venice during the summer months. In autumn, though, the cruise crowds don’t clog up the city as much as normal, meaning you can stroll the narrow streets in relative peace and quiet. For some local vibes, try staying on ‘native Venice’ – that’s the little islands in the city’s lagoon.
If you’re the type to get aggro on the Tube/London streets then you’ll have an absolute ‘mare in Venice during the summer months
To really get off the beaten track you need to take to the water. No, not a cringy gondola ride (oh, please!) but a kayak around the city’s narrow, hard-to-access waterways and underneath the bridges of the famous Grand Canal. Back on dry land, it’s worth buying a church pass for access to 18 churches in the city, including San Pietro and Basilica dei Frari. Amen to that.
Travel details: Oltre Il Giardino will make you feel like you’re staying in a country villa in the city, plus the converted mansion (which is now a B&B) is just a ten-minute water taxi from the big sites. Nightly rates from £150, i-escape.com; Monarch offers return flights from £70, monarch.co.uk
Tourists flock to Spain’s coast over the summer, but head to beachside Valencia, the country’s third-biggest city, over a weekend in late summer and you’ll have the pretty side streets and stretch of sand all to yourself (plus a few Spaniards). There’s plenty to fill a weekend: Valencia is the home of paella, but our food and drink pick is Casa Montana, a laid-back bar with service that verges on the aloof – it’s been knocking about since 1836. Swing by for wine from the barrel and jamón dangling from the ceiling.
If architecture’s your bag, get snap-happy at Veles e Vents, a design icon in the city from prestigious architects David Chipperfield and Fermín Vázquez. For something older, try the 13th-century cathedral – a mishmash of Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque architecture. Laze on the beach for an afternoon, then head back to the bars – Ciutat Vella is great for bar hopping. Knock back a few glasses of Agua de Valencia, a lethal concoction of cava, orange juice, sugar and several spirits. It was invented in the 1920s and it’s still going strong – very strong – today.
Get some autumn colour in your life
Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada
If you’re looking to take a trip that’s heavy on the wine, then Bordeaux, Tuscany or Napa might spring to mind first. But over on the north shore of Lake Ontario, Canada, you’ll find Prince Edward County – one of Canada’s youngest wine-producing regions, and a place where enotourism (that’s travelling to drink wine) is on the up.
There are a number of tours around the region – the 60km Prince Edward County cycling route is a vista- and winery-packed trail. We could bombard you with facts for days, but here’s an interesting one: to protect vines from the cold winter temperatures, farmers in the region ‘up hill’ vines after harvesting grapes in the autumn, by burying them under the soil to provide winter-time insulation. No other wine region in Canada does this. And here’s another first: the area is home to the Karlo Estate – the world’s first certified-vegan winery. To get that full-on orange autumn colour, drive through the maple hills of Algonquin provincial park.
New Delhi and more, India
To experience the cultural diversity of India in one easy trip, look to Intrepid Travel’s 15-day Classic Rajasthan tour. Your tour will include hot air ballooning over Jaipur, the pink city, at sunrise, strolling the markets of Bundi and driving through the dusty yellow grounds of Ranthambhore National Park, home to tigers and more.
All your travel and accommodation is taken care of by the group leader, so you can focus on absorbing your surroundings instead of trying to find that bus (which will inevitably be the wrong one). And speaking of accommodation, how does a night in old fort or camping under the stars sound? Expect that, and more.
Travel details: Intrepid Travel offers 15-day trips from £668pp including meals and accommodation, intrepidtravel.com
If you’re looking for big swells and barrels but your budget won’t stretch to Cali, maybe you should try Lacanau. It’s famous for its miles of golden sand and pro surf event in late August, and the most consistent waves start to roll in towards the end of summer.
After months spent avoiding bronzed bathers you can’t blame French boarders for saving the best surf till after the tourists have gone home. You’ll enjoy less crowded waves and a relatively warm-feeling sea as temperatures drop from late September through to mid-November. By the end of autumn it’ll be you, your wetsuit and the full force of the Atlantic blowing in from the west.
For those who are new to riding breakers and don’t fancy going it alone, Bo and Co Surf School offers single lessons and full time courses from €30 to €240 until 15 November.
Mount Toubkal, Atlas Mountains, Morocco
Why see one part of Morocco when you can see it all? That’s what you’ll be saying when you reach the summit of Mount Toubkal. OK, so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration – you can’t see the whole country from up there, but when you’re standing atop the highest peak in North Africa it’s probably as close as you’re ever going to get. As well as an unreasonable number of panoramic photo opportunities, a week’s tour with Exodus Travel takes in Berber villages with terraced farmland carving up the side of foothills and a trek through the rugged Azzaden Valley, complete with gnarled juniper trees and walnut groves of yellow ochre.
If 23 hours of marching, scrambling and climbing through dirt, rock and scree isn’t quite enough in a week, a more demanding trek to the summit of the 3.2km-high Hadjj is a must to sate the adventurer in you.
Travel details: Exodus Travel offers tours until 2 October at £629 including flights, exodus.com
Hear Mallorca and you probably think of gently ebbing yachts and turquoise bays. Wrong. For mountain bikers it’s all about bombing down dirt trails without stopping to smell the oak and pine trees.
Sound good? Head inland from Palma to Sa Comuna or Bunyola where you’ll find a variety of routes, from technical trails gripping gravelly hills and shallow brooks to 4x4 forest tracks to get the whole family out.
October isn’t exactly beach season, but that’s no reason not to head out on one of the mountainous paths in search of an untouched cove that’s as satisfying as nailing the perilous descent that got you there.
If dirt trails aren’t your thing, then try an intensive road-cycling course. With Robinson Club’s Cala Serena you’ll be pushed on some challenging routes, while also enjoying more relaxing rides, over the course of six days. Pro cyclists André Greipel, Marcus Burghardt and Mario Kummer will accompany you, providing plenty of attention. Bikes and the rest of the gear you’ll need are available to hire.
Travel details: Robinson offers six nights on a full-board basis from £1,717 per couple, robinson.com; Rock and Ride Mallorca offers a handy mountain bike guidebook for riders going solo.
How’d you feel about hurling yourself in some grey, chilly English water? Even better, how do you feel about doing it from an inflatable vessel (picture a giant surfboard crossed with a lifeboat?).
How’d you feel about hurling yourself in some grey, chilly English water? Even better, how do you feel about doing it from an inflatable vessel
Newquay Watersports Centre will have you doing just that thanks to its newest activity: surf rafting. Yep, that’s a 4.6m-long inflatable boat that takes on the Cornish coast’s considerable waves while you panic – sorry, paddle – like a maniac and do your best to stay on board. You’ll be kitted out in helmets, wetsuits and lifejackets and get lessons on how to ride those swells.
Travel details: Book a full day of surf rafting from £69 pp, newquaywatersportscentre.co.uk; Stay in Cornwall has rounded up the best of the region’s accommodation – from B&Bs to cottages, stayincornwall.co.uk
For a close-to-home stay with all the essentials (that’s good booze, good food, good views), try Kent. More specifically, visit Tenterden, where you’ll find the Chapel Down HQ – home to some of the best vineyards in the UK. Why? Well, this part of Kent effectively sits on the same band of chalky limestone as north-east France, meaning the growing conditions are really similar to those in Champagne.
The result is British-produced sparkling wine that’s really good. Don’t let us drone on – if you head to Chapel Down you can learn all about the wine producing yourself, take a wander around the vineyards and try some of its wines. All for a bargainous £10.
Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District
If you’ve kept one eye on the news and another on the, er, prize, you’ll know that, as of 1 August, England added 188 square miles of new national parkland to its area coverage. What better way to explore the Yorkshire Dales, Lake District (and new bits inbetween) than geocaching?
Essentially a GPS-facilitated global treasure hunt, it’s a hobby-cum-obsession where you’ll locate and hide targets around the moors, which should, in theory, get you appreciating the area’s natural beauty and colour, too. There are more than 800,000 geocaches hidden in sandwich boxes around the world, and a fair few are buried in the area. Who needs Pokémon Go when this exists? Actually, don’t answer that.
Get the hell outta here
Fiji, South Pacific
Fiji isn’t your classic road-trip destination, but if you’re travelling all that way, you’ll want to see as much as possible. Travel Nations’ eight-day self-drive itinerary takes you on a trip around the largest and most populous of Fiji’s islands, Viti Levu. The suggested route travels along the Coral Coast, an 80km stretch of beaches and bays that acts as a jumping-off point for the Sigatoka sand dunes (650 hectares of dunes that are up to 60m tall) and the Sigatoka river safari – an action-packed jet boat trip.
Further on your journey, you’ll hit up Volivoli beach, one of the best bits of coastline to base yourself near for a few nights, before driving on to Nadi. From here you can explore Navala, a photogenic thatched-roof village surrounded by rugged green mountains, and the Koroyanitu National Heritage Park, where you can hike and swim in waterfalls. Sublime sands and the friendliest locals you could hope to meet? That ticks our ‘get the hell outta here’ boxes.
Travel details: Travel Nation offers an eight-night self-drive trip around Fiji’s mainland from £719pp including car hire, accommodation but not flights. travelnation.co.uk
For giant icebergs with bonus penguins – and the opportunity to really get away from it all – journey south to Antarctica. Quark Expeditions’ new Fly the Drake trip allows those tight on time (and admittedly, big on dollar) to take in the best of the continent on its new eight-day cruise (don’t let that word put you off). Instead of sailing the Drake Passage – a route famed for its seasickness-inducing effects – you’ll be flying down to Punta Arenas from Santiago, Chile, before a week-long voyage packed with penguin-, seal- and whale-spotting opportunities. You can even leave the ship for kayaking in the company of icebergs.
Travel details: Quark’s eight-day trip costs from £6,300, quarkexpeditions.com; BA offers return flights from £800, ba.com; return flights to Ushuaia from Buenos Aires start at £400 flying with LATAM, latam.com
You can fly a hell of a long way without feeling like you’ve actually ended up on the other side of the planet, but head to Tokyo and you’ll be under no such illusions. So where do we start? The themed cafés, perhaps – toilets, owls, hedgehogs and more. Then there are the robots, who are running the reception desks of some hotels. Yes, really. But a trip to Japan is as much about the people as it is the craziness. Can’t read the street signs? Don’t worry – someone will see you’re struggling and help. You definitely don’t get that in the middle of Leicester Square.
It’s not all tall buildings, either. Head to the Rikugien Garden and you’ll find a sanctuary in the city. Here you can stroll Japan’s scenic spots arranged into a series of ponds, trees and flower beds, with 400 maple trees – autumn leaf colour doesn’t get better than that. Back on the streets, try a Mario Kart tour – dress up as Luigi, Peach, Wario and the guys and drive a go kart around the streets, then hit up some karaoke bars and murder a few hits. Let’s-a-go!