It’s undeniable: September is one of the best times of year to travel. Temperatures go from extreme to extremely pleasant, prices start to drop and the crowds of high season drift away.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to get away in September, Lonely Planet’s experts suggest you head to Canada’s jewel-toned lakes for hikes and horse rides; shop in the souks of Tangier, Morocco’s reinvigorated gateway city; or celebrate William Shakespeare in San Francisco with an al fresco show.
Leaf peep and find solitude at Banff & Lake Louise
Embraced by glacier-capped peaks and dotted with turquoise lakes, Banff National Park is dazzling any time of year. But in September, Canada’s first national park really comes alive.
There are two reasons to visit Banff in the fall: the leaves have begun to turn, and a stroll into one of the area’s many trails can bring welcome solitude. By September, Banff’s crowds have gone back to school or work, and the park’s 1000km of trails are yours for the taking. But the larch trees are the star of the show here, because come September they begin their yearly autumn turn, igniting the hills and mountainsides in bright flashes of yellow and gold.
The aptly named Lake Louise Wonderfall festival also begins in September and features special activities like guided hikes, horseback rides and photography workshops. Price-conscious travellers can also score a deal at this time, because the festival also features accommodation and activity packages.
Eat your way around Sicily
September is one of the best times of year to visit the scenic Italian island of Sicily, as the August crowds begin to disperse. With sunny days and temperatures averaging 26°C (79°F), the weather is perfect for sightseeing around the island’s many elegant historic towns and impressive archaeological sites, and for walking in its spectacular parks and nature reserves. It’s also a great time to visit Sicily’s beautiful beaches and islands, with sea temperatures averaging a very comfortable 25°C (77°F) and diving conditions excellent.
September is also harvest time, when many Sicilian towns hold their sagre – festivals dedicated to a particular culinary item or theme. The list is endless: they celebrate couscous in San Vito lo Capo, honey in Sortino, pistachios in Bronte, arancini (stuffed rice balls) in Aci Castello, sausages in Aragona and gelato in Palermo. It’s time for the grape harvest too, with various festivals offering demonstrations and tastings of local wines. Cin cin!
Join the festivities in Mongolia
Shoulder season may see temperatures drop a bit as Mongolia’s climate winds down into winter, but the cooler weather also allows a bevy of great festivals to take place in September.
Migratory birds begin to flock south for the winter, taking up residence in Mongolia’s pristine lakes and grasslands along the way. Ganga Nuur, a saltwater lake surrounded by wetlands, is one of the country’s prime spots for migratory bird spotting. The area hosts the Ganga Lake Festival in early September for an autumn gathering of swans readying for their winter journey. The festival also celebrates the local ethnic Dariganga minority group – celebrated silversmiths – with song, dance and food. Bird lovers should also make for Sagsai, in western Mongolia, where the annual Altai Eagle Festival hosts a program of traditional eagle hunting competitions, horse events and camel races over two days in mid-September.
Mongolia’s traditional nomadic way of life is celebrated at the Nomads’ Day Festival from 17-18 September. This festival, held at Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve in Töv province, gives visitors a unique chance to not only witness traditional nomadic games and performances, but to actually partake in the fun through competitions like preparing traditional tea and putting up a ger (nomad tent).
Celebrate Shakespeare in San Francisco
Every weekend in September, San Franciscans can treat themselves to a free bit of the Bard in one of the city’s greenest spots, the Presidio. This year, the 400th anniversary of the great writer’s death, the good people at the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival have chosen to stage The Winter’s Tale; a strange choice it might seem for September, but if San Francisco’s famous fog rolls in, it could make for an atmospheric, albeit chilly, performance.
The play will be performed at 2pm every Saturday and Sunday throughout the month (on the last weekend the venue switches to John McLaren Park in the south of the city) so bring a blanket and a picnic and get ready to enjoy the exploits of Leontes, Hermione, Perdita and, of course, the famous pursuing bear.
Soak up the magic of Tangier
Make the most of Morocco’s cooling temperatures by hitting Tangier’s TanJazz festival (tanjazz.org/eng) this September. Concerts, workshops and other events are held in atmospheric venues by night, leaving you free to explore a nostalgic city of souks, cafes and historic cultural haunts by day.
Way back in the swinging ‘60s, Tangier was a glamorous hub, beloved by jet-setting celebs, artists and musicians alike. It gradually developed a reputation for vice and sleaze, but after years of neglect, Tangier is now really starting to shine again.
Smartened-up public spaces, revamped museums and a raft of newly opened hotels, shops and restaurants are bringing back the city’s long-lost travel appeal. It’s still possible to visit cafes and bars where the likes of Jack Kerouac, The Beatles or Matisse once hung out; or you can try out your haggling skills in the traditional souks. It surely won’t be long before Tangier is giving Marrakesh a run for its money, so go now before the crowds catch on.