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The 12 Best Places to Visit for Fall
Here are the best spots around the world to visit after the crowds and heat of summer.
(CNN) -- The highly anticipated, jam-packed summer travel season proved to be challenging, to put it nicely.
Makes you yearn for a nice autumn vacation, huh? Perhaps a little less crowded, maybe less expensive, definitely less hot (in the Northern Hemisphere). And hopefully less chaotic.
Factoring in transit costs, a strong US dollar (great for American tourists overseas, not so great for everyone else), the weather, scenery, and special events, here are some suggestions of the best places to go in the fall of 2022 around the world.
Mexico City, Mexico
Scott Keyes, the founder of flight deals and travel advice site Scott’s Cheap Flights, said the big airfare hikes of the spring have given way to lower prices. And he expects airfares to drop even more for autumn. That could be good news for people with an eye on Mexico City.
North America’s most populous city still flies under many people’s travel radar. But with its historical sites (National Palace), world-class museums (Palacio de Bellas Artes) and cool neighborhoods (Roma), Mexico City should be explored.
Foodies will love it here. The city sports two of the 10 top restaurants in the world for 2022: Pujol and Quintonil (the only city in the world to do so).
And the weather might surprise you. The city sits at a high elevation -- almost 7,400 feet (2,255 meters) above sea level. And thus temperatures in October, when the dry season usually starts, tend to run in the low 70s Fahrenheit (20s Celsius) during the day and to around 50 F (10 C) at night.
Time your visit to November 1 and 2 for Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) for an unforgettable experience, said Elizabeth de Quillacq of travel agency Souvenir & Far.
This selection is for the adventurous traveler who likes long-forbidden fruit and doesn't mind a long-distance challenge. A lengthy holdout during the pandemic, this independent Polynesian island paradise in the South Pacific finally reopened its borders to tourists on August 1.
The requirements to enter feel more like 2021: Visitors 12 and older must have proof of full vaccination and a negative result from a Covid-19 test. Face masks are required en route, and another Covid test must be taken within three days of arrival.
Your reward for leaping these hurdles? Inland swimming holes and waterfalls; gorgeous beaches; plenty of cycling, hiking, fishing and surfing; and bragging rights to being in the first waves of visitors to return.
Keyes is big on Spain’s cosmopolitan capital this autumn. First, he likes the excellent deals on flights he’s seeing to Madrid. Secondly, he said Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport didn’t suffer from the same level of flight disruptions that some other major European airports have endured this summer.
Finally, Madrid and the rest of Spain will soon start to cool off from the summer’s serious heatwave. “I’d much rather go in September or October than July or August,” he said.
Keyes suggested checking out a Real Madrid Club de Fútbol match as the season will be starting up. At the world-famous Museo del Prado, the special exhibit Reflections of the Cosmos runs through October 16, supplementing its stunning permanent collection by Diego Velázquez, El Greco, Francisco Goya, and more.
And if it’s stunning fall color you want, you’ll get it at iconic El Retiro Park.
Greenville, South Carolina
New England is glorious but doesn’t have a monopoly on vivid fall foliage. This small city set in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains is a great hub from which to see southern leaves take a bow.
Paris Mountain, Table Rock, and Caesars Head state parks are an easy drive away (though hardly the only mountainous offerings). Colors typically start peaking around here in late October, but that can change year to year.
If you want to work in an entirely different ecosystem on the same trip, Congaree National Park offers an old-growth, bottomland cypress forest that’s only two hours south by car.
But you don’t even need to leave the city to have a good time. Downtown and nearby neighborhoods are filled with interesting shops (including Mast General Store) and restaurants (Kitchen Sync).
Falls Park – a transformative redevelopment project that refocused the city around Reedy River Falls – offers stunning natural beauty right off Main Street.
“Egypt is my ‘go-to’ destination for fall,” said Justin Smith of Evolved Traveler – a member of the Ensemble Travel Group. “The weather is definitely cooling down, and the crowds have not returned to Egypt yet.”
Smith, based in Beverly Hills, California, likes the potential ease of getting there, too.
“Flights are fairly simple to arrange to Egypt with easy connections in Europe, or the Middle East such as Dubai, Doha, or Istanbul,” he said in an email to CNN Travel.
A couple of Smith’s suggestions of things to do beyond the Pyramids and Great Sphinx:
• Take a break from the major sites and reserve an afternoon or an entire day for relaxing in Luxor or Aswan.
• Visit Fayoum Oasis, less than two hours south of Cairo. “It’s an interesting place that has prehistoric remains. It offers something completely different.”
Smith’s lodging advice: Don’t pinch pennies. “It is not the ideal location for budget travel; you definitely want higher quality hotels in Egypt.”
Asia tourism in general has been the slowest to bounce back (Japan, for instance). But Vietnam “is the real bright spot right now,” Keyes said. And autumn in the capital city is drier and cooler with monsoon season ending.
Hanoi has plenty to keep foodies satiated. Chả cá (fish cooked with turmeric and dill) is so popular a street was named after the dish. Hanoi-style banh tom (shrimp cakes) is another must-try.
Be sure to ramble around the city’s Old Quarter with its historical streets and shops trading in jewelry, fabrics, and flowers. You can tour the quarter and beyond on Soviet-era Ural Sidecar motorcycles. On the outskirts of Hanoi and far from tourists is Dong Ngac, a “village of scholars” that has barely changed in centuries.
If lodging is an important part of the experience, Hotel de l’Opera near the beautiful Hanoi Opera House is a good choice. Or for something more contemporary, try Maison d’Orient in the Old Quarter.
John Reese of J5Travel outside Charlotte, North Carolina, likes Southeast Asia in general right now. And Tesa Totengco of Travels with Tesa In New York City likes otherworldly (but nearby) Halong Bay.
Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town, dramatically perched where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet, is one of South Africa’s crown travel jewels. Because it’s in the Southern Hemisphere, Cape Town will be moving into spring.
Well-regarded Table Mountain and Robben Island deserve attention, but visitors may also want to visit the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa.
Cape Town is a paradise for wine aficionados. You can start with tastings at Haute Cabrière, which dates back to 1982 in the Franschhoek Valley.
If you’re there October 7 to 9, you might wrangle tickets to the Rocking the Daisies concert weekend, featuring local and international acts.
In early August, Keyes said he was seeing bargain airfares pop up from the United States to Cape Town for less than $600 round-trip. CNN Travel found round-trip flights with layovers from London’s Heathrow to Cape Town in November for around $800.
US-Canada Atlantic cruises
Margo McDonough of Blue Skies Travel Center in Newark, Delaware, said “cruising is the single-best bargain in travel these days” and likes US-to-Canada cruises in the Atlantic if you want some fall flair on your voyage.
She pointed out a range of options sailing from Manhattan or Cape Liberty, New Jersey. For budget travelers, she likes “super low-priced weeklong cruises on Carnival” with ports of call such as St. John’s (pictured) and Halifax, Canada.
Got a little more coin and time? She also likes Royal Caribbean’s Canada options. It has a 10-night “Fall Foliage Northbound” voyage that starts in Cape Liberty and ends in Quebec City, along with other options. She also suggests looking into Holland America’s offerings. Cruisers also can check out other departure points such as Baltimore and Boston.
Out of Baltimore, Adam Wolf of Adventure Horizons LLC, an independent agency in the Avoya Travel Network, seconds the notion.
“Fall foliage cruises to New England and Canada in September and October – departing from various US and Canadian cities – are a great way to see the leaves changing color while visiting quaint and historic ports of call such as Newport (Rhode Island), Bar Harbor (Maine) and various ports in the Maritime provinces of eastern Canada.”
For folks who desire a classic autumn destination, it’s hard to beat Germany’s Bavaria.
The enchanting city of Munich is grand central for the country’s largest state. If you want to enjoy its famed Oktoberfest, mark your September calendar – in 2022, it runs from September 17 to October 3. This will be the 187th version of the event. And let’s get to what you really want to know: How much will a liter of beer cost? In 2022, prices are fixed at €12.60 to €13.80 (about $13 to $14).
If you’re looking for stunning scenery, just imagine romantic Neuschwanstein Castle, near the border with Austria, against a backdrop of gold, orange, and red autumn leaves.
The strong US dollar against the euro will add enticement for Americans. And being in the heart of Europe, Bavaria is a relatively short haul for many millions of Europeans.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
The fall 2022 round-up is good to Spanish speakers, with the capital of Argentina proving to be an intriguing pick as it enters its springtime.
Keyes said he’s seeing some bargain airfares pop up for flights to Buenos Aires.
Kareem George of Culture Traveler said, “Due to the present strength of the US dollar, both Argentina and South Africa are incredible values at the moment. Visitation has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, which means fewer crowds and heightened levels of service.”
In La Boca, Buenos Aires’ colorful original port, the tango is a draw. And you don’t even have to hit the social clubs; the tango is danced wherever there is space -- including in the streets and parks. The Buenos Aires International Tango Festival & Championship 2022 runs from September 6 to 18.
Dancing can make you hungry. Drawing online raves is Fogón Asado, where a six-course tasting menu with cocktails, dessert, and coffee is served (and yes, beef is part of the package).
Keyes sounded more enthusiastic about the Hawaiian Islands than any other pick. He said the least popular month for tourism in Hawaii is September, a perfect time to go if you don’t like crowds and do like “a ton of great deals.”
In the first half of August, he was finding occasional bargain basement prices from the US West Coast – less than $200 round-trip.
Lauren Doyle of The Travel Mechanic, a member of Ensemble Travel Group, agrees.
“Hawaii is great for the fall because most kids are back to school, whale watching is wonderful that time of year, and crowds tend to be less than the summer. .... It’s the ultimate place to relax [or have] adventures or a little bit of both!”
If humpback whale sightings sound alluring, GoHawaii.com said “the shallow Auau Channel between Maui, Molokai, and Lanai is one of the best whale-watching destinations in the world.”
Up for a challenging walk? The stairs at Diamond Head State Monument make for a challenging climb, but your eyes will thank your burning leg muscles for the fantastic views. It's so popular that reservations are now required.
Is Hawaii too far for you? For Europeans, Northern Africans, and Americans and Canadians along the Atlantic who don’t want to spend too long in a plane, Keyes likes ‘the Hawaii of Europe, the Azores.”
They are a necklace of nine islands in the middle of the Atlantic that are a part of Portugal.
“The Azores are a beautiful destination ... with gorgeous beaches and mountains and hiking,” Keyes said.
You can see the islands’ volcanic roots all around. Thermal pools, lush calderas, crater lakes, and geysers are all a part of the landscape.
Wine lovers may want to check out the island of Pico. The Cooperativa Vitivinicola, a co-op in the island’s capital of Madalena, has informal tastings. And a Grape Harvest Festival is scheduled for the second week in September.
September is usually peak hurricane season in the Atlantic; the Azores can be affected, but the storms are less frequent and less severe than in the Caribbean and United States’ Atlantic and Gulf coasts, the CNN Weather team says. Still, keep an eye on the weather forecasts, particularly in early fall.
Fall travel prices
Travel booking app Hopper reports better price points, saying recently that round-trip international airfare had dropped nearly 20 percent from summer prices for travel in September and October. That marks a drop of about $180, “but still 17 percent higher than 2019 levels,” Hopper said in a recent email.
Cheaper flights are great, but will the summer travel chaos extend into autumn? “I think it’s going to ease up,” Keyes said.
“It’s not as though flight cancellations won’t happen in the fall, but I don’t think you’re going to see nearly the same degree of widespread cancellations because even when there’s thunderstorms, airlines will have more slack in the system to absorb those issues because they’re not going to be maxed out at full capacity.”
As for fall road trips, they could be more doable for people on a tight budget. After a sharp global spike, prices at the pump having been falling recently in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, for instance.
Fall travel could still be busy. Paula Twidale, senior vice president of travel for AAA, said the motor club and travel planning group “is continuing to see strong booking trends with tour, cruise, flights, hotels, and car rentals, and we expect this trend to continue into the fall and through the holiday season. AAA recommends having a plan A, B, and C.”
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