The best places around the world to see autumnal leaves

Where to go ‘leaf peeping’ this season

Cathy Adams,Helen Coffey
Friday 13 September 2019 19:44 BST
Burst of colour: Jamaica Pond in Boston, Massachusetts
Burst of colour: Jamaica Pond in Boston, Massachusetts (Getty/iStock)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Autumn is a great time to travel – the heat might have disappeared, but so have the crowds. Plus, it’s the perfect time for ”leaf peeping”, which basically means nothing more than just enjoying the gorgeous changing colours of the foliage in autumn.

Here are the best places around the world to see autumnal colours.

Douro Valley, Portugal

Best time to visit: late October

Northern Portugal’s Douro Valley is better known for its wine-making (while port usually grabs the headlines, it also produces some excellent red and white wines). In summer, the river, which snakes through Portugal’s second city Porto, sparkles; but in autumn, the banks of the river turn into a canvas of red, brown and orange. And thankfully, the vineyards and wine cellars are open all year round...

Tuscany, Italy

The Casentinesi Forest is one of largest areas of forest in Europe (Getty/iStockphoto)
The Casentinesi Forest is one of largest areas of forest in Europe (Getty/iStockphoto) (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Best time to visit: end of September onwards

Tuscany’s endless olive groves and cypress landscapes flex into a canvas of deep oranges and reds during the autumnal months. Just 50km from Tuscan showstopper Florence is the Casentinesi Forests National Park, one of the largest forests in Europe, which come autumn hosts a festival called Autunno Slow: events include hiking; photography workshops; and more epicurean activities including festivals dedicated to local produce such as chestnuts or cheese. The usually overpopulated Tuscan cities of Pisa, Florence and Siena are also quieter and more thoughtful at this time of year.

Upstate New York, USA

Bridge over the Hudson river (Getty/iStockphoto)
Bridge over the Hudson river (Getty/iStockphoto) (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Best time to visit: mid-October

Mid-October is peak time for autumn colours in the Hudson Valley in Upstate New York. Just a couple of hours’ drive (or train from Grand Central station) out of the city proper and the valley turns lush and the towns quaint (think farmers’ markets and clapboard houses). Fall colours aren’t hard to spot up here, but for some of the best foliage, head to the Walkway Over The Hudson State Historic Park in the town of Poughkeepsie, which is also the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge. Tack on a couple of days in New York itself, which in September and October hits the sweet-spot between too humid and too cold.

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, UK

Glass-still Loch Lomond (Getty/iStockphoto)
Glass-still Loch Lomond (Getty/iStockphoto) (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Best time to visit: end of September onwards

Come autumn, the lakes, waterfalls and trails of the gorgeous Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park in central Scotland are washed in a beautiful russet. If you’re feeling active, take on a 12-mile section of the Rob Roy Way, one of Scotland’s great trails, from the town of Killin to Ardtalnaig along the banks of Loch Tay. If not, admire the reflections of the trees in the glass-still Loch Chon; or visit the town of Aberfoyle for its annual mushroom festival, which takes place in October.

Provence, France

Provence in autumn: the perfect time for truffle hunting
Provence in autumn: the perfect time for truffle hunting (iStock)

Best time to visit: November onwards

Although Provence is more often associated with sipping chilled rose under the summer sun, its famous lavender fields swathing the landscape in purple, autumn is just as fine a time to see rural southern France. The fields and vineyards are transformed from green to amber, umber, rust and gold as the leaves change. Plus, it’s the perfect time to try truffle hunting – the Vaucluse region is known for its black truffle, which is harvested from November to mid-March, and sold for a premium at the weekly market in Carpentras.

Wye Valley, UK

The peaceful Wye Valley
The peaceful Wye Valley (iStock)

Best time to visit: October

If it seems a bit much to go all the way to New England to try leaf peeping, how about just England? And Wales. The Wye Valley straddles both countries, and shows off the UK’s autumn colours at their best. This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty also features the magnificent Wye River, which winds its way through the dramatic landscape. The best way to see it is by walking – the 225km-long Wye Valley Walk is a gorgeous marked trail running all the way from Chepstow in Monmouthshire to Plynlimon, the highest point of the Cambrian Mountains in Wales.

Lake Louise, Canada

Lake Louise is so still it’s almost reflective (Getty/iStockphoto)
Lake Louise is so still it’s almost reflective (Getty/iStockphoto) (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Best time to visit: September to late October

Lake Louise is on many travellers’ winter bucket list, thanks to its proximity to three world-class ski areas (Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mount Norquay), all within Banff National Park. But get in there before the ski season starts and this picturesque hamlet known for its glacier-fed, bright blue lake, offers a whole different kind of beauty. The fiery orange of the changing leaves contrasts wonderfully with the turquoise of the water and the sharp white of surrounding snow-capped peaks.

Black Forest, Germany

The ethereal Black Forest (Getty/iStockphoto)
The ethereal Black Forest (Getty/iStockphoto) (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Best time to visit: early October

The birthplace of all manner of fairytales, the Black Forest is Germany’s largest nature reserve and offers 3,750 square miles densely covered in foliage. Although, true to its name, much of the area is made up of evergreens – not ideal for leaf peeping – places within the region such as the spa town of Baden Baden hold much more diversity, with trees that turn from pale yellow to rich orange. And the town itself cuts a dash, with grand colonnaded buildings surrounded by tree-covered hills. From 27 September to 6 October, Baden Baden hosts the Festspiel Baden-Baden Autumn Festival, a mixture of concerts, ballet, musicals and theatre.

Daisetsuzan National Park, Japan

Best time to visit: late September

Many places in Japan are known for their bombastic foliage colours when summer shifts to autumn – Tokyo and Kyoto for a start. Escape the crowds and head instead for northern island Hokkaido, where Daisetsuzan National Park, Japan’s largest, starts its transformation early. From late September visitors can see the full spectrum, from mustard to vivid red, while trekking the park’s many kilometres of hiking trails, ogling its numerous waterfalls or simply drinking in the gobsmacking views from its two cable cars. There are also “wild” hot springs for those wanting to get even closer to nature (and three official resorts for those who like things more structured).

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