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Top 10 Destinations not to miss this Autumn by National Geographic

Autumn brings cosy nights in, breathtaking countryside walks and all the crunching leaves – but in Britain, the volatile weather can make it difficult to enjoy the idyllic season.

After all, who wants to take in the colourful landscape when it’s chucking it down outside?

Luckily, there’s a solution for those who want to make the most of the season: an autumnal escape.

Not only do you get all of the perks from picturesque walks to snug evenings curled up in a blanket, but there’s the added bonus that you’re on holiday too!

There are plenty of destinations which offer all of the criteria for a dream autumn break – and National Geographic Travel’s Best Fall Trips of 2017 has highlighted some of the best ones, including stunning wanderlust-inducing photos of each destination.

We take a look at their top 10 picks – and reveal why these need to be on your radar right now…

1. Takstang Palphug Monastery, Bhutan

It’s no wonder that this Himalayan Buddhist site made the list. Not only does the monastery’s remote location offer incredible views of the surrounding landscape, but the interiors are seriously beautiful too.

Be warned though, it’s not an easy climb to the top.

The walk takes between 1.5 to 3 hours, and while you can rent horses, these can only take you part of the way. If you do go on foot, it’s also worth bearing in mind that there are 850 steps to climb to reach the entrance!

GET THERE: There are no direct flights from the UK to Bhutan, but Bhutan Airlines does fly from destinations including Bangkok and Kathmandu, where you can find fairly budget-friendly fares. 

 

2. Lizard Island National Park, Australia

This stunning national park is jam-packed with awe-inspiring landscape.

Think colourful coral reefs, pristine white sand beaches, and unspoilt luscious greenery that makes for very idyllic walks. In fact, there’s so much to explore whether you want a day out snorkeling or would prefer a hike

It’s the perfect retreat if you’re after some last-minute sunshine – and Lizard Island boasts sunshine and temperatures averaging 27C all year-round so it’s a safe bet!

GET THERE: The nearest airport is Cairns, which can be easily reached from the UK.

 

3. Zion National Park, Utah

If you’re hoping to make the most of the great outdoors during autumn, then Zion National Park could be the ideal destination for you.

Hiking, biking, climbing and mountaineering are just some of the thrilling activities on offer, while the days tend to be clear and mild so you’re not left facing unbearable temperatures.

Then of course, there’s the absolutely breathtaking backdrop of Zion Canyon’s iconic red cliffs, as well as the forests and rivers that make this landscape showstopping.

GET THERE: If you’re hoping to explore more of Utah on your journey, then it’s worth flying into Salt Lake City – but this is a five-hour drive from the park. However, you can also take a connecting flight to Cedar City, an hour away from the park.

If you’re short on time, then it’s worth looking at flights to Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport , just a three-hour drive from the park. 

 

4. Cape Town, South Africa

Hailed as one of the best-value long-haul cities for a short break, Cape Town is a must-visit whatever your budget.

There’s so much to see and do in this beautiful city, which offers a mix of a city and beach break.

For example, history fans will no doubt want to visit Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was famously imprisoned, while animal enthusiasts should check out Boulders Beach, the home of a colony of penguins.

But of course if you want something truly spectacular, make the trip to the top of Table Mountain via cable car; you won’t believe how beautiful the views are from up there.

5. The Mfuwe Lodge, Zambia

First it was giraffes taking over hotel dining rooms , now it’s elephants in the lobby!

In fact at Mfuwe Lodge, you can expect a whole family of elephants every day from late October to mid-December.

These friendly giants make their way into the lodge grounds to feast on the large Wild Mango – and the fact that the tree is surrounded by the lodge doesn’t faze them at all.

Instead of going around the building, they prefer to head through the tiled reception – and it’s the perfect opportunity for guests to watch them up close.

That’s not the only wildlife experience guests will get either. The surrounding South Luangwa National Park is renowned for its abundance of animals from the hippos that crowd the river to rare Thornicroft giraffes and even leopards.

GET THERE: The nearest airport is Mfuwe International Airport, but there are no direct flights from the UK. Instead, opt for Lusaka, which you can reach with airlines including Emirates , and take a connecting flight from there.

 

6. Vougeot Castle, Burgundy, France 

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly escape that won’t eat up all of your annual leave, then France should be on your radar.

And for wine connoisseurs, the rightly-timed trip could mean they catch the grape harvest which often runs from mid-September through to October.

It’s particularly impressive in regions such as Burgundy – after all, it’s the home of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Chablis and Beaujolai offerings.

Vougeot Castle should be top of the itinerary; this 12th century winery is open to visitors seven days a week and offers some incredible wine tastings, as well as tours of its breathtaking vineyards.

GET THERE: If you’re looking to fly to Burgundy, then it’s easiest to arrive into Paris and drive (it’s a three-hour journey). 

 

7. The olive trees, Greece

You won’t find crisp autumn leaves in Parthenonas, Greece, but instead you’ll be treated to some of the beautiful and vibrantly-hued olive trees that cover the surrounding landscape.

The best part is that the olives are ready for harvesting during autumn, and visitors are welcomed to join in and help – so you can truly soak up a piece of Greek heritage and culture during your stay.

If you’re lucky, once you’ve helped you’ll be allowed to take home some of the olive oil, or even fill up a bottle with their own personalised label.

GET THERE: The nearest airport is Thessaloniki, which is about a two-hour drive away. There are plenty of airlines offering direct flights there including easyJet, British Airways and Thomson.

 

8. Lao Cai, Vietnam

This vibrant city offers a glimpse into Vietnamese culture, whether you’re wandering through the bustling street food markets or learning about local history at the Den Mau museum.

Lao Cai is also surrounded by spectacular scenery – and because it’s nestled in a mountainous area, it’s virtually unspoilt by tourism.

If you’ve got time, it’s definitely worth taking a walking tour of nearby Sapa for a day trip: the region offers everything from striking terraced rice fields to ethereal waterfalls.

GET THERE: Because of its remote location, Lao Cai can be quite tricky to reach. However, the nearest major airport is Hanoi, about a four-hour journey away.

 

9. The Taj Mahal, Indiae

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is on most people’s bucket list when they’re visiting India.

An ivory-white marble mausoleum, the Taj Mahal sits on the south bank of the Yamuna river in Agra, and has been attracting hordes of visitors for years.

Although you’ll have to be ready to face the crowds, it’s definitely worth the trip to check out this iconic monument – and look out for the famous bench where Princess Diana posed, as well as Prince William and Kate Middleton on their tour of India in 2016.

GET THERE: There are no direct flights to Agra from the UK, but there are plenty of connecting flights from nearby airports including New Delhi, Jaipur and Lucknow.

 

10. Oaxaca, Mexico

Forget Halloween costumes and pumpkin carving – Day of the Dead is whole other phenomenon.

Expect feasts by candlelight, parades, elaborate face painting and costumes in this age-old tradition which sees the residents of Mexico welcoming the souls of their dearly departed.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t a party – it’s much more solemn – but it’s definitely worth seeing at least once in your lifetime.

Meanwhile, Oaxaca has plenty to offer for the rest of your visit, from breathtaking landscapes to the ancient ruins of Monte Albán and Mitla, less than 45 minutes by car.

GET THERE: From the UK it’s easier to fly into Mexico City and then take a connecting flight to Oaxaca.

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