If you’re ready to set off on your next big adventure, but you’re not sure where to go (or, better yet, what to do), we’ve compiled a list of incredible things you can do in some of the most interesting places in the world.
From British Columbia to Zambia, here are 11 remarkable destinations you should visit this fall and the top thing you should do while you’re there.
When it comes to seeing whales, you can watch from the side of a large boat or you can paddle out in a sea kayak on the water’s surface and experience their movements up close. Early fall is an incredible time to observe killer whales (orcas) in their natural habitat. In British Columbia, Johnstone Strait is a well-known feeding spot for the whales and many outfitters run tours in that region. With guides, gear and everything arranged, you can truly enjoy the wonder of up-close encounters without worrying about the details.
One of the largest national parks in the country, Death Valley is an other-worldly land of extremes and it’s best experienced in late fall. Toward the end of October, the unbelievably hot temperatures of summer have faded into a pattern of warm weather and mostly clear skies, while the park stays relatively uncrowded until mid-November. Autumn is the start of camping season in the park and it’s a great time to take in the unobstructed night sky. Late fall is also prime time for world-renowned mountain biking and hiking in the park, just be sure to visit in the late-October to early-November window for the best conditions, minus the crowds.
If your top priority for fall is seeing the most brilliant displays of changing leaves, book a flight to Hokkaido and revel in the impossibly vivid reds, yellows and oranges clinging to the trees. Hokkaido is Japan’s northernmost main island and it’s the best preserved too, making it a top destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The island has been regularly called one of the best places to see fall foliage and, frankly, it’s tough to disagree. The best time to see the changing leaves is usually from late-September to mid-October and there are plenty of places to spot the leaves—namely Daisetsuzan National Park, Shiretoko National Park and, in late October, Onuma Park.
Another destination with a dazzling fall foliage display, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is closer to home and offers both incredible scenic drives and hikes with rewarding views. Those willing to lace up their hiking boots will find more than 900 miles of trails in this popular 522,419-acre park. Some of the most popular trails (with great views) are Chimney Tops, Charlies Bunion and Rocky Top.
Greenland is one of the very best places in the world to see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) and fall is the perfect time to see the phenomenon. The spectacle can usually be seen anywhere in the country from September to the beginning of April and clear, dark nights provide the best viewing conditions. The low levels of light pollution throughout Greenland give visitors a particularly spectacular view and it’s said that travelers who stay a week are basically guaranteed a look at the lights.
Visit Zambia in October, during the end of the dry season, to see incredible wildlife searching for water sources and roaming on preserved lands. The area around Victoria Falls, in particular, is an incredible canoeing safari destination or you can visit one of the wild national parks to the north instead for a guided safari that will put you close to elephants, giraffe and lions, among others.
When it comes to fall foliage, New England is a beautiful region with rapidly changing leaves and there’s no better way to see several towns than on two wheels. The state is home to many top-tier mountain biking trails and road cycling routes and one of the very best areas for fall foliage rides is the Champlain Valley.
Visit this old world coastal city in the fall for still-warm temperatures and lots of adventure. Rent a stand-up paddleboard and get out on the crystal clear sea of Cortex—you’ll find yourself up close with majestic (and harmless) whale sharks. Out in the water, which has been nicknamed “the world’s aquarium,” you might also see some rays or sea lions and the water is so clear they’d be impossible to miss.
October is the time for ghost stories and haunted houses, so when you’re ready for the real thing, there’s no better place to explore than Savannah. It’s been called America’s most haunted city and based on the area’s history it’s not hard to see why. Check out one of the many ghost tours or, if you’ve got the nerve, wander the spooky city on your own.
The best-known beer festival on the planet, Oktoberfest is a 16-day celebration held in Munich each year. From late-September to the first weekend in October, the celebrations are marked with parades, costumes, food and, of course, beer. Although it may seem like one big party, copied in many other places throughout the world, the festival in Munich has historic roots that give it deeper meaning.
Another October tradition that draws world-wide attention, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a nine-day celebration that sees more than 500 hot air balloons fly over New Mexico. The largest ballooning event on earth, this year’s event will run from Oct. 3-11, and visitors are invited to walk the 78-acre launch field, taking in the action and watching the hot-air wonders take off into the sky.