You may be decades removed from your years as a student, but you don’t need to be physically returning to your high school homeroom to succumb to those back-to-school blues. This seasonal manifestation of the much-loathed Sunday Scaries fills even the most optimistic soul with dread: Summer is over, responsibility is returning. The days will grow shorter, I will grow older, and I have to wait another year before I can go on a real vacation once again.
Labor Day, even more than New Year’s Eve, signifies the passage of time. In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” Although these words were written by a man whose obsession with time produced not only the delusions of Jay Gatsby but the improbability of Benjamin Button, we recommend taking them to heart nonetheless. Or, at the very least, to your vacation calendar.
Traveling during the shoulder season is not only cheaper than summer and winter, it’s also a uniquely beautiful time of year to be outdoors. So, you’re actually saving money by planning your dream trip for the fall, while also impressing your peers—nothing is more unexpected than a week-long trip to Kenya mid-October. From the Caribbean Sea to the Arctic Circle, here are the best destinations to visit in fall 2019.
Our first option may seem like a slightly too obvious suggestion—doesn’t everyone want to visit Peru, during every season of the year? While this may be true, there has never been a more exciting time to brush up on your Spanish (and emotionally adjust your altitude) and book your flights. But first, reserve your spot on the newly launched (and instantaneously iconic) Ausangate Lodge-to-Lodge Trek, hosted by REI Adventures in conjunction with Andean Lodges. This otherworldly 10-day experience will have you exploring Machu Picchu before trekking to the highest lodges in the world. But any discomfort your body may feel at 16,000 feet will be alleviated by the astounding beauty of your mountainous surroundings—not to mention the infectious warmth and kindness of your Peruvian hosts.
Not only are these lodges among the highest in the entire world—which is reason enough for the intrepid explorer to visit—but the profits made from your visit will be split amongst the whole community that is hosting you. So, your vacation is helping to fund children’s early education (a local kindergarten was recently established) as well as initiatives supporting female autonomy and empowerment. The first excursion sets out on September 21st and there is another slated for October 5th- but book now, because space is limited. For those with the patience to wait until next year, REI is hosting a promotional sale over Labor Day weekend: $1,000 off departures in 2020 if you book before September 2nd. Vamanos.
Turks and Caicos
From roughing it (in splendor nonetheless), to staying in a resort where even your most unanticipated needs are catered for: For our next choice, we’re abandoning the highest elevations of the Andes Mountains for the equally remote destination of South Caicos island. A mere 30-minute interCaribbean flight from Providenciales, South Caicos is the most southeastern island belonging to the Turks and Caicos archipelago. Much of the island consists of untouched tropical beauty, boasting an endless coastline featuring the country’s trademark limestone beaches, and an even more infinite expanse of the Atlantic Ocean surrounding the tiny island on all sides.
For travelers who have yet to visit Turks and Caicos, we’d be remiss not to inform you that even the most gorgeously staged Instagram shot of the destination inevitably pales in comparison to reality. The bright pastels of South Caicos—the impossibly turquoise waters of the sea reflecting the cloudless sky above—is its very own Instagram filter. To experience pure tropical bliss, book a stay at Sailrock Resort, the premiere retreat on the island. Sailrock combines the amenities and glamour available in the top resorts of Providenciales with the unspoiled nature and solitude granted by its location on an outer island.
This combination of remote and refined epitomizes luxury in 2019. Watch a wild donkey meander through the saw grass on your way to a hot stone massage at the resort’s ridgetop spa, or rinse conch shells from the stern of a tiny fishing boat, on your way to visit yet another private island floating uninhabited in the waters surrounding South Caicos. But why visit in the fall, you ask? While this particular brand of luxury is available to guests year-round at Sailrock Resort, the prices are particularly accommodating in the shoulder season, before the snowbirds descend on the island at Christmas. And thanks to its north Caribbean location, Turks and Caicos remains temperate year-round, boasting 350 days of sunshine a year.
For our next selection, we pose a seemingly absurd suggestion: the Netherlands, as a nation, is severely underrated. Yes, the canals of Amsterdam have been increasingly popular in recent years, but have you ever considered visiting The Hague? This city situated along the Dutch Coast of the North Sea is arguably one of the chicest cosmopolitan getaways in all of Europe. Or Alkmaar, also known as the city of cheese, home to a cheese market that runs through September 27th of this year? We think not. Why not consider a visit this fall? Not only is fall a beautiful season for exploring the Dutch countryside, September 1st also marks the beginning of the annual Flower Parade, a yearly affair that spans two days and 26 miles from Noordwijk to Haarlem. (The Dutch take their flowers very seriously. See also: Keukenhof Tulip Gardens.)
And there’s never been a better year to visit than 2019, on the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death. For all of 2019, exhibits have been staged throughout the country memorializing and reflecting upon the legacy of this extraordinarily gifted (and extremely relatable) Dutch Master. Rembrandt’s paintings have certainly aged well—indeed, the man invented the selfie—but his desires and his life story have aged even better. He was reckless with his money, impulsive with his love, and tireless with his passions. Book your flight now to witness the country’s tribute to the iconic painter before it subsides in the next calendar year.
Visit the exhibits celebrating 350 Years of Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age to gain a better understanding of the man behind the legacy—and therefore a better appreciation of Dutch culture as a whole, which is delightfully eccentric. Seriously: The Amsterdam Rubber Duck Store became such a cult success that it spawned a chain franchise throughout the country, eventually spreading its wares (of exclusively rubber ducks, in eccentric attire) to international retailers throughout the continent. What Holland makes, Europe takes apparently—at least when it comes to artistic influences and bathtub toys.
While the Maasai Mara is iconic any time of year (and we must give credit to the green season from March through June), there’s nothing we love better than fields of gold. You will feel like you’ve landed in heaven once you step foot on those endless plains in October and November when everything is faded to brilliant shades of burnt yellow and orange. It’s as if the sun had taken up residence on earth, and the majestic creatures that walk upon this vast expanse of wilderness are equally breathtaking—though we are partial to the under-appreciated zebras, the social coordinators of the East African plains never seem to get enough respect, in our opinion.
Another bonus to visiting Kenya this fall? The opportunity to monitor the flight specials and deals that are periodically available for booking via Kenya Airways. The airline, known as the “Pride of Africa,” launched its first-ever direct flight from JFK to Nairobi last fall, in November of 2018, and travelers would be remiss not to capitalize on the minimized travel time (and maximized convenience) available via nonstop air travel. As far as accommodations are concerned, The Norfolk in Nairobi is a legendary institution, as is the Mount Kenya Safari Club in Nanyuki, at the foothills of Mount Kenya. Both hotels are known to have once served Ernest Hemingway, so you can trust their taste in cocktails and décor—Papa was nothing if not discerning.
And as for where to stay when you arrive in the Mara? While there are certainly pricier safari options, we recommend reserving a private abode adjacent to the hippo corner at the Fairmont Mara Safari Club. There’s nothing better than waking to the sounds of hippos noisily traversing the nearby river while returning home from a night out on the (figurative) town—or, rather: savannah. But the best part of staying at this particular safari club is the opportunity to experience this breathtaking part of the world assisted by the expert guidance (and sardonic wit) of Kepha Ongere. After all, it’s always the people you meet who have the most significant impact on your trip—even if the itinerary includes the opportunity to gaze upon napping lions and baby warthogs. The animal kingdom, for all its strengths, still hasn’t quite mastered the art of the witty aside. Not to fear: The staff at the safari club has you covered.
For our next selection, we’re focusing on Finnish Lapland (an area that accounts for roughly 1/3rd of the country’s total landmass). Though Lapland travel is often reserved for the wintertime, there is much to see in the off-season as well. And these sights are well worth the cost of a transatlantic flight—as is the opportunity to avoid the Christmas crowds. For a part of the world that we often associate with monochromatic shades of black and white (the eternal night, the endless snow), as well as the occasional streak of green (for the flash of the Northern Lights), Lapland is surprisingly colorful and vibrant in other times of the year. Lapland is described as having 8 seasons, and the nuanced changes in the light strongly influence the visual environment.
Artists who reside in Lapland are known to paint their homeland with vivid brushstrokes of color, and it’s easy to forget that summertime can be an equally dramatic source of inspiration to the blankets of snow. And when the bright hues of a Lapland summer deepen in the fall, it casts the surrounding vastness of field and forest in a cozier, moodier glow. The autumnal light reflects the deep orange and red colors of the changing leaves, and the lack of fellow tourists (rare to begin with) renders the vividness of your surroundings all the more profound.
The privacy and isolation afforded by the ‘last great wilderness in Europe’ is a luxury that cannot be found elsewhere. And what better ambiance to witness the Aurora Borealis? The Northern Lights are another motivating reason to visit in the fall. You have more of a chance to see their heavenly show because there will be less snowfall to obscure the clarity of the night sky. So go ahead, and prepare to hike in the forest, commune with huskies, and marvel at the wonders of the universe—from the vantage point of one of the most wondrous parts of the entire world, of course.
Known as the hidden gem of the Caribbean, one visit to the unspoiled paradise of Grenada will have you convinced that it’s the best-kept secret in the tropics. The endless white-sand beaches, tropical gardens, and lushly forested mountaintops made such an impression on the French in the 1600s that they named most of the villages after their beauty. (Belle Isle, Belmont, Beausejour, and so on.) Grenada’s location, just north of Venezuela, is partially to thank for its overgrown landscape dotted with gardens and rainforests. This distance from the rest of the islands in the Caribbean (not to mention from the nearest U.S. airport in Miami) is also the reason Grenada has remained undiscovered for so long.
It will not remain this way forever, however, and there’s no better time to visit than now. While the weather remains balmy year-round, the price of travel drops measurably in the off-season, before the rush of tourists at Christmastime. We recommend booking a stay at Mount Cinnamon Resort, a gorgeous getaway overlooking Grand Anse Beach. With a property so beautiful (and a room with a seriously picturesque cliffside view), it can be difficult even to contemplate leaving the grounds. Which, given the resort’s expanse of white-sand coastline, tropical gardens, and manicured grounds (perfect for bocce or croquet), isn’t even necessary.
However tempting it may be to stop and smell the (Caribbean) roses, there’s much to see on the island. Opt for a rum tasting at Rivier Antoine Rum Distillery and a sunset sail on the Jimbalaya, a 73′ Caribbean Schooner. The Carriacou sloop is native to Grenada and has a storied history throughout the Caribbean. Speaking of history: Grenada’s heritage is readily explored in the hilltop forts scattered upon the cliffs of St. George’s, the capital city. Curious travelers should also visit Belmont Estate, a historic landmark that dates back to the late 1600s, and is located in the nearby parish of St. Patrick’s.
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