The top 8 destinations for travel in September 2023

written by Intrepid Travel May 15, 2022
The beautiful grounds of Pura Taman Ayun temple in Bali

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in May 2022.

You’ve decided you want to travel more this year (good on you), but you’re struggling to choose your next destination. Surely there’s an easier way than trawling through endless travel mags and guidebooks for the answers, right? That’s where our ultimate month-by-month travel guide comes in: your easily digestible list of places to visit, things to experience, and amazing weather to chase around the world.

It’s time to shine the spotlight on September. European summer is dwindling, South African safaris are in full swing, and stunning autumn colours start taking over US national parks. Whether you want to hike some of the US’s most iconic trails, take your tastebuds on an Italian adventure or discover the Galapagos Islands’ incredible wildlife, here’s your guide on where to travel in September.

1. Galapagos Islands

A seal pup standing at its mother's feet

It’s fair to say there’s nowhere quite like the Galapagos. Where else might you see giant tortoises patrolling the beach, bump into a sea lion when you’re swimming or sunbathe alongside spikey (but harmless) marine iguanas? September is the low season with the coolest temperatures of the year, though with average highs of 24°C (76°F) and water temperatures of 22°C (72°F), it’s still fairly warm. It’s a particularly active month for wildlife, and thanks to fewer tourists, you’ll likely experience more intimate animal encounters.

See pods of curious dolphins and humpbacks before they migrate to cooler climates. Gush at newborn sea lion pups hanging out – and being unbearably cute – on the sandy shores. Or watch penguin courting rituals that put human flirting techniques to shame.

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2. Iceland

Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland

Nicknamed the Land of Fire and Ice, Iceland doesn’t do natural beauty by halves. From geysers to glaciers, black sand beaches to volcanoes, it’s one of the most unique places on the planet. September marks the start of autumn, and while the weather is more unpredictable, we think it adds to the magic. You’ll also miss the summer rush, so it’s an ideal time to avoid big queues and paying higher than usual prices. If you need one more reason, it’s the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, which are given an extra boost around the autumnal equinox. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t dream of seeing this natural spectacle light up the skies.

Delve into the ancient tales of Vikings, soak in the ethereal Blue Lagoon (and countless other hot springs), and witness the mighty Skogafoss and Detifoss waterfalls in their full glory as you travel from Reykjavik to Snaefellsne. Or uncover the beauty of Iceland’s Golden Circle as you walk over Solheimajokull Glacier, relax in natural spas surrounded by a black lava field and listen to the hissing and bubbling sounds of Gunnuhver’s mud pools and steam vents.

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3. French Polynesia

An aerial view of Taha'a island in French Polynesia

Boasting unbelievably blue waters, dense tropical jungles and colourful coral gardens where it’s totally normal to find yourself swimming with manta rays and turtles, the French Polynesian islands are ‘pinch me’ kinda places. Why visit in September you ask? Well, although the weather is at its very best between June and August, you’ll miss the surge of peak season tourists that go with it. September also happens to be slap bang in the middle of whale season, so you’ll likely see humpbacks while cruising near the outer reefs.

Drop anchor in the sparkling Bora Bora Lagoon and immerse yourself in the jaw-dropping beauty of one of the world’s dreamiest islands. Visit ancient temples and wind through a jungle flourishing with vanilla orchids, coconut trees and watermelon plantations in Huahine. Or enjoy the rhythmic beats and jingles of conch shells as you experience a sacred cultural dance in Tahiti.

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4. United States

A woman jumping in Monument Valley, Arizona

From the epic Grand Canyon where nothing can prepare you for the views to Yosemite with its giant granite monoliths and sparkling lakes, it’s fair to say the United States boasts some of the world’s most impressive national parks. September is a great time to lace up your hiking boots if you want to enjoy less-trafficked trails. The cooler weather also makes longer and tougher trails more bearable, and wildlife is easier to spot as it’s breeding season. Oh, and did we mention the stunning autumn colours that arrive at the end of the month? Need we say more.

Discover vast deserts, fascinating rock formations and towering slot canyons in Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon and Monument Valley. Feel humbled by the presence of the world’s tallest trees as you walk through Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias. Fill your lungs with fresh air and tackle the awe-inspiring peaks of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Or go on a safari – Alaskan style – to look for grizzlies, moose and wolves in Denali National Park.

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5. South Africa

A woman photographing the view of the Drakensberg in South Africa

Home to endless grasslands, sweeping golden beaches, vibrant cities and national parks teeming with game, there’s no denying the diversity of South Africa. Where else can you enjoy wildlife sightings and world-class wine in equal measure? There’s something extra special about South Africa in spring. Maybe it’s the whales returning to local waters in Hermanus and thirsty wildlife coming out to find watering holes. Or kaleidoscopic carpets of wildflowers along the Cape West Coast.

Explore the epic Kruger National Park as you look for the Big Five: lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino. Hike the epic Drakensburg – South Africa’s highest mountain range. Or visit the charming coastal town of Cintsa to meet a local Xhosa community and learn about their tribal traditions and customs.

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6. Italy

Boats cruising down a canal at the Regatta in Venice

Ah, Italy. A country that continues to cast its spell on travellers. We featured Italy in our May guide, but we couldn’t resist adding it to this one. Why? Because September is jam-packed with events and festivals. The Venice Film Festival, the Regata Storica and the ViniMilo wine festival on the beautiful island of Sicily are but a few. Not to mention the countless harvest celebrations dotted around the Tuscan countryside. All the more reason to plan a trip!

Perfect your wine tasting skills in Italy’s oldest wine-growing region. Sip on negroni while watching award-winning films at Venice Film Festival – and maybe catch a glimpse of a famous actor or two. Or experience the elaborate water pageants and lively festivities along Venice’s canals at the Regata. Travelling to Italy in September will give you an even bigger taste of la dolce vita.

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7. Indonesia

Travellers meditating at a temple in Bali

From tropical rainforests and epic volcanic peaks to yoga sanctuaries and beach-side bars, Indonesia has it all. It’s totally possible to go on a multi-day trek through the jungle in search of orangutans followed by a few days on the beach drinking cocktails. September is the end of the high season and popular islands like Bali are much quieter, making it a great time to enjoy the serenity of this magical island.

Hike through the thickets of the jungle in Gunung Leuser National Park, foraging for edible plants and stopping at local villages along the way. Tackle the slopes of Mt Batur followed by a relaxing soak in mineral-rich hot springs. Or join a local family in their home for a coffee to learn about Balinese culture.

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8. Germany

Graffiti art on the Berlin Wall

You might assume otherwise given the name, but Oktoberfest actually kicks off in September and finishes the first weekend in October. The festival started in 1810 to celebrate the marriage of Bavaria’s Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen. It’s now the world’s largest beer and folk festival with festivities all over Germany and beyond. If you’ve ever wanted to eat, drink and be merry in a dirndl or lederhosen, now’s your chance. Prost!

Berlin is a city that likes to party, so it’s no surprise that it’s one of the best places to celebrate Oktoberfest. Enjoy delicious beer in a huge, traditionally decorated tent in Kurt-Schumacher-Damm. Listen to live music in the lively open-air beer garden at Alexanderplatz. Or tuck into authentic Bavarian food such as brathendl (roast chicken), schweinehaxen (slow-roasted pork knuckle) and weisswürste (white sausages made from veal and bacon).

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Not looking to travel in September? No worries. Check out the rest of our monthly travel guides: 

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