What's the attraction?
Summer can be a changeable mistress, prone to disappearing without notice or reason. And just when she announces that she will give you her undivided attention during August, she checks her watch, becomes evasive and declares that she really has to leave.
But September can be a last, glorious chance to spend a few days in her company – partly because summer still dances on the sand in many areas of Europe; partly because, with the arrival of the new school term, beaches are quieter and prices lower. Tour operator Destinology (0808 252 3815; destinology.co.uk) reports a post-Olympics bookings surge, with sales during the two middle weeks of August up a quarter compared with 2011.
North African escape
Tunisia boasts 700 miles of coastline, wild and beautiful desert, a fascinating history, good food and friendly people – plus the near-certainty of good weather in September. But the protests that swept Tunisia around the turn of the year in 2011 were the tinder spark for the Arab uprisings – and also prompted the evacuation of British holidaymakers in January last year. The numbers are bouncing back, as prices for packages have fallen. A week's half board at the four-star Royal Azur Thalasso Golf Resort in Hammamet, leaving 19 September, costs from £476 per person, including flights from Gatwick with Thomas Cook (0844 879 8400; thomascook.com).
Brought to heel
Italy's curves are a fine environment for September sun. Southerly Puglia guards the embers of summer as it abuts the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Think Puglia (020-7377 8518; thinkpuglia.com) offers villas across the whole region. Ai Trulli – a pair of the classic conical trulli houses – sits in gardens at northerly Cisternino. The main trullo sleeps four, and is available for the weeks starting 8, 15 and 22 September, from £2,500. Secondo Amore perches close to the coast at Ostuni. The main house sleeps six and is available for the weeks commencing 15 and 22 September, from £3,130. Ryanair flies to Bari and Brindisi from Stansted; BA and easyJet compete from Gatwick to Bari.
A family favourite in high season, Mallorca loses some of the plop and thwack of buckets and spades on its beaches as August fades out, and becomes more of a haven for afternoons spent sitting in olive groves or lazing by pools. Mallorca Farmhouses (0845 800 8080; mall orca.co.uk) has properties across the island, and discounts during September. Finca Bennassar, near Pollenca, sleeps eight and is available for the weeks beginning 8, 15 and 22 September, from £1,248 per week. The three-bedroom Roqueta costs from £747 in the weeks starting 22 and 29 September. British Airways, easyJet, Flybe Jet2, Monarch, Ryanair, Thomas Cook, and Thomson offer flights to Palma de Mallorca.
Greece is the word
Scenes of civil unrest and financial turmoil have hit consumer confidence in Greece as a destination in 2012 – so much so that, in May, Tatiana Karapanagioti, then minister for tourism, implored: "Greece is here, as it has always been, and as it always will be, offering tourists a unique experience." Warm weather and cool breezes bless its islands in September. Ionian Island Holidays (020-8459 0777; ionianisland holidays.com) is asking £791 per person (three sharing) for seven nights at Villa Bougazi on Paxos – departing 17 September, including flights from Manchester or Gatwick, transfers and car hire. A similar package, leaving for Villa Helios in Fiskardo, Kefalonia, on 15 September, starts at £747pp (four sharing).
The balmy Balkans
If you would prefer a less well-known slice of sunny European shoreline, Montenegro is accruing a chic reputation – thanks in part to the ongoing development of the swish Porto Montenegro and also to last year's opening of the Aman Sveti Stefan resort. Double rooms at this enclave of luxury (00 382 33 420 000; amanresorts.com), just south of Budva, cost from €753 per night in September. Explore Montenegro (explore montenegro.com) dispenses less expensive alternatives: a week at Prcanj Vista, a restored stone cottage on the edge of dramatic Kotor Bay, is £345 per person (based on four sharing), with flights from Gatwick to Tivat in September and October.
"For guaranteed sun, go to Dubai – it has great beaches. The Caribbean is always a late summer option. Jamaica has been popular this year, but Barbados, St Lucia and Antigua are also good choices. Virgin launched its new route into Cancun in June, and temperatures hit 30C in September. For a party, Las Vegas has seen a surge in interest following Prince Harry's visit." James Eustace, Virgin Holidays (virginholidays.co.uk)
The best of both worlds
What of those inquisitive travellers who like their sojourns in the sun to come with a little culture attached? Green Island Holidays (greenislandholidays.com) focuses on Turkey and the north of Cyprus. As non-stop flights from Britain to the self-styled "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" are banned, you have to touch down in Turkey. So the company offers twin-centre breaks that mix the epic history of Istanbul with the joys of Kyrenia on the top edge of the Mediterranean isle. A 10-night, four-star escape – three nights in Istanbul and seven at Bellapais Monastery Village in Kyrenia – costs £599 per person (two sharing) this month and next, including flights from Stansted.
Who said that?
"The isles of Greece, the isles of Greece!/Where burning Sappho loved and sung/Where grew the city of war and peace/ Where Delos rose and Phoebus sprung!/Eternal summer gilds them yet." – (Lord) George Byron, Don Juan
"The summer's flower is to the summer sweet/Though to itself it only live and die." – William Shakespeare, Sonnet 94
"I know you're really busy and I know you've got plans/But are you really too busy for a suntan?" – Dizzee Rascal, 'Holiday'
Prices are usually lower across the Caribbean during September – with good cause. The Atlantic hurricane season comes into play between July and October, meaning these sun-drenched slivers of land can also be prey to sudden winds and torrential downpours, as Issac recently demonstrated. How to avoid this potential problem? Try Tobago, which lies so far to the west of the region – just 70 miles north-east of Venezuela – that it is largely outside the danger zone. Dial-A-Flight (0844 811 4444; dialaflight.com) has a week at the four-star Magdalena Grand Beach Resort, on the south coast for £940 a head with direct flights from Gatwick and breakfast. Book by 30 September.