Where to go in September
September is a lovely month to travel as the summer crowds start to disperse and the golden colours of autumn add a warm hue to the landscape. It is also a great time for aurora watching, with the autumn equinox in the northern hemisphere happening towards the end of the month. In Canada, soak up the atmosphere of harvest festivals or book early for the salmon run at British Columbia’s bear watching lodges.
Auroras of the autumn equinox
Increased levels of geomagnetic activity in the weeks around the autumn equinox often cause more intense displays of the aurora borealis, or northern lights. It’s thought that the tilt of the earth during both the autumn and spring equinoxes gives the phenomenon a boost by aligning the earth’s geomagnetic field with approaching solar winds. These carry supercharged particles into the atmosphere where they interact with oxygen and nitrogen to create the spellbinding displays of green and crimson light. Iceland’s countryside hotels like Hotel Ranga and Hotel Husafell are excellent options for viewing the aurora at this time of year. Another hotspot is coastal Swedish Lapland at properties including the Treehotel, Arctic Retreat and Brandon Lodge.
Autumn days in Iceland
When the busy summer period is over, mild and often dry weather lingers into early autumn, making September an excellent month for a walking or self-drive holiday in Iceland. The days are long (particularly early on in the month) and many summer activities are still operating. Photographers get the best of both worlds – rich autumn colours during the day and the chance of the northern lights at night – while hikers get to feast on an autumn harvest of blueberries, crowberries and redcurrants. As the nights lengthen and darken, the northern lights shine brighter. The period either side of the autumn equinox in late September is a particularly rewarding time to scan the skies.
Norwegian Fjords by train
Rich autumn colours gild Norway’s mountainsides during September. Fruits and wild berries are ripe and crab is also in season. You may be lucky enough to witness some early northern lights sightings, while another bonus of travelling at this time of year is that summer crowds will have thinned at popular destinations like Bergen. One of the best ways to experience autumn in Norway is on a rail journey taking you from London to the Fjords, via Copenhagen and Oslo, and riding scenic trains like the Bergen Line (Across the Roof of Norway) and Flam’s mountain-clinging Corkscrew Railway.
Shifting seasons in Sweden
By the end of August, the leaves in northern Sweden start to change colour and night frosts are not uncommon. As the nights draw in, you stand a good chance of witnessing the aurora borealis. The first snowfall usually arrives in September or October. Head to the Lulea Archipelago to witness the change in seasons and you might be rewarded with gold-burnished landscapes dusted with snow. Stay at Brandon Lodge where you can take a Nordic wilderness skills walk and guided northern lights walk. Kayaking and fat biking are also possible at this time of year.
Fall in Canada and Alaska
Early autumn in Canada offers mild days and fewer crowds, as well as the onset of dazzling fall colours – from the golden yellows of the west to the scarlet maple forests of the east. It’s also the season for autumn harvest festivals, pumpkin spice lattes, scenic drives and spectacular hiking or mountain biking in the national parks of the Canadian Rockies or Atlantic Provinces. Autumn is also a beautiful season in Alaska. The tundra turns gold and orange, while bears are busy feeding on berries and salmon to put on weight before hibernation. As days draw in, there is always the possibility of the northern lights appearing, particularly around Fairbanks and the north. Off Canada’s west coast, salmon spawning season is in full swing, making it a great time for bear watching at a remote wilderness lodge.
Spring Down Under
Not too hot, nor too cold, spring is a wonderful time to visit Australia or New Zealand. You miss the busier summer period, while the wet season is yet to deluge the tropical north – although humidity will be building. Early spring is a pleasant time to hike in the Blue Mountains, before the days warm up in October and November. It’s also an excellent time for wildlife watching in the national parks or enjoying a foodie or wine-tasting tour in Victoria or New South Wales. Large swathes of Western Australia are carpeted in wildflowers during spring – the annual spectacle begins in the north around the Coral Coast in June or July and spreads to Perth and the southwest by September/October.
Plan for a self drive in New Zealand
With the arrival of spring in the Southern Hemisphere, the days start to get longer and temperatures rise (expect highs of around 17oC). There’s a real buzz in NZ at this time of year with several seasonal events taking place – from the Hastings Spring Festival (with its Blossom Parade) to the Kaikoura Seafest (celebrating seafood, song and dance). With the spring snow melt, river rafting is at its best in September, but this is also a great month for a leisurely self drive before the busier summer kicks in.