Everyone knows New England is the place to head for spectacular displays of autumn foliage, right? But there are plenty of other destinations around the world to reward those in search of leafy splendour.
1. Blue Ridge Parkway, USA
Several hundred miles south of New England, head for the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the country’s most scenic roads, running for some 470 miles through Virginia and North Carolina. From late September to the end of October, hickory, sassafras, poplar and maple trees put on a tremendous show.
In Japanese, “koyo” is the term for autumn leaves. From mid-September each year, the “koyo front” moves south from Hokkaido towards the south of the country, which it typically reaches around late November, though there should be foliage worth seeing in Tokyo and Kyoto even into December.
3. Westonbirt Arboretum, UK
If you want to catch autumn colour a bit closer to home, there’s nowhere better than the National Tree Collection at Westonbirt in Gloucestershire. According to the Forestry Commission, the first trees to start turning will be native species such as dogwood and common spindle in mid-September, followed by maples, rowans and ironwoods.
4. Dalarna, Sweden
Given that more than half the country is covered in forest, Sweden is natural leaf-peeping territory, with trees blazing red and gold in September and early October. Dalarna, the country’s beautiful central dales province, is a good choice for the best autumn hues.
5. Umbria, Italy
Autumn comes a little later farther south, and for Umbria the first couple of weeks in November, after the grape harvest, is the recommended time to catch the vine leaves changing colour and lighting up the undulating landscape.
6. South Island, New Zealand
Of course autumn comes considerably later (or earlier, if you prefer) this far south, but it’s worth waiting till mid-April, peak season for the trees to sing out in spectacular yellow hues, especially next to the lakes and rivers around Tekapo, the Waitaki Valley and Central Otago.
7. Jiuzhai Valley, China
This national park, a Unesco World Heritage site in the north of Sichuan Province, is well known for its spectacular waterfalls, lakes and extraordinary karst mountains, but in mid-October it is said to be at its most beautiful, when the vast broadleaf forests glow orange, gold and red.
8. Lake Bled, Slovenia
Known as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world (with tourist numbers to match), this small but perfectly formed body of water in the Julian Alps is surrounded by forested mountains, boasts a fairytale castle atop a crag and has an island with a 17th-century church. And when those leaves start to turn, it really does look magical.
9. Bavarian Alps, Germany
Autumn in Bavaria isn’t only about beer and pretzels – it’s perfect hiking weather, and the best time of year for magnificent views of forests, lakes and mountains south of Munich, as the pine trees turn. Though if you really can’t tear yourself away from the Oktoberfest, the Englischer Garten in Munich will give a pretty good display too.
10. Lake District, Britain
If – and admittedly it’s a big if – the weather is kind, the area around Rydal Water offers superb views of autumn’s “pensive beauty”, as Wordsworth termed it. Little wonder he chose to build a summer house in his garden up at Rydal Mount, giving commanding views over the lake. But a little autumn mist can certainly add to the atmosphere.
The display here is every bit as impressive as in the north-eastern US – Canada does, after all, feature the maple leaf on its flag – and here there are even more wide open spaces to explore. Perhaps the best place and time is the Laurentian Mountains in late September. And when you’ve had your fill of trees, you can head to the ski resort of Mont-Tremblant for its annual Symphony of Colours Festival.
12. Gauja Valley, Latvia
This steeply wooded river valley, about an hour from the capital, Riga, is perhaps predictably known as the Latvian Switzerland – but it’s undeniably a spectacular sight when the trees have turned. The Gauja Valley cable car, from the town of Sigulda, offers splendid views of the red-brick Turaida Castle.
13. Patagonia, Argentina/Chile
From the Chilean Lake District and Torres del Paine National Park, to Argentina’s southern Andes and the Perito Moreno Glacier, this is a truly spectacular and remote landscape with a huge variety of tree species which in April turn a glorious russet and gold.
South America travel guide
This feature originally appeared in Telegraph.
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