Why September is the best month to travel

I used to hate September. When I was a schoolgirl, September saw me suffering from the back-to-school blues. When I started my job, September saw me suffering from the back-to-work blues. But now, I’ve been able to avoid the inevitable back-to-work blues by packing my bags and seeing where the wind takes me.

And that’s what makes September the best month of the year to travel.

Think about it.

The screaming kids are back at school, the tourist crowds have dissipated, and skyrocket prices have given way to last minute deals.

What’s more, September brings some wonderful conditions across the world that makes it even more irresistible…

South African safari

Perfect safari conditions in Southern Africa

South Africa’s dry season runs from May – September and is one of the best times to see wildlife in the national parks. Due to the lack of rain, the animals tend to congregate around watering holes and can’t hide from you behind bushy vegetation. This makes it much easier to spot some of the more illusive species that would otherwise flee at any sign of a tourist’s jeep. Plus with so many people back at work and school, the tracks are much emptier giving you the freedom to roam.

Marrakech in September

Falling temperatures in Northern Africa

Despite still being incredibly warm, Northern Africa sees a drop in temperature over the month of September. This makes countries such as Morocco or Egypt a great choice for travellers who aren’t quite ready to say goodbye to summer just yet. Also, if you’re visiting Muslim countries, September is the month of Ramadan meaning you’re more likely to get a table at the most popular restaurants as the locals abstain from food during the day.

Europe in September

Dry and mild weather in Europe

Europe is at its absolute best in September. It’s the month it’s least likely to rain, which if you’ve ever been caught in a Great British downpour or Croatian thunderstorm, you’ll know is a good thing. And with mild temperatures across a large part of the continent, you’ll still see the benefits of summer without the crowds or having to pay for them. Consider a long weekend in Spain, a few nights exploring the Italian riviera, or go crazy and do a full-on tour of the whole thing!

First chance to catch the Northern Lights in the Arctic Circle

Though not at their brightest, the Northern Lights will start to be seen in September. Plus, it won’t be cold enough for snow and temperatures can still achieve an almost tropical 8 degrees c! And while there’s only about 5 hours of sunshine a day, that still leaves 19 hours to see the aurora borealis. 

Asakusa Tokyo

End of the humidity in Asia

Although September can see some pretty hefty downpours in some parts of Asia (Thailand, I’m looking at you!), the last true summer month also sees the end of stifling humidity across much of the continent. Your best bets are China and Japan, where autumn sets in and you’re treated to bright red leaves in the trees and cooler air temperatures. Honourable mentions too go to India and Sri Lanka, where the monsoons are yet to start. Just be warned that Yala National Park in Sri Lanka is normally closed in September, so you might be better off waiting if you want to see the best of the country’s wildlife.

Spring in Australasia

While most of the world seems to be cooling down in September, Australia and New Zealand are just starting to warm up! Spring brings more sunshine, blossoming plants and flowers and outdoor festivals and events. It’s also a great time to go whale spotting as the beautiful animals migrate from the cold waters in Antarctica to the more temperate waters in Australia. Whale watching is great across most coastal areas of Australia in September, except Victoria!

Canada in September

Fall in Northern America

You’ll have seen photos of the orange leaves, crunchy twigs and malting trees in New England, well September is your chance to see them in real-life. It’s also a great time to visit the states you would otherwise avoid in the height of summer thanks to their blistering heat, as the temperature drops as much as the prices. The jewel in Northern America’s crown during September has to be Canada. The weather in comfortable and the autumnal scenery is even more spectacular than New England.

Machu Picchu

Shoulder season in South America

September is a month of balance in South America. The weather is typically dry and gradually milder, yet being such a vast continent, this can vary dramatically. The peak season for hiking the Inca Trail is over by the time September comes around, and most destinations experience falling prices as its visitors return home to work and school.

Hurricanes in Central America

Hmm.. maybe this is one to avoid.

~~~

Now all we need is for someone to invent a time machine so that we can be in all these places at once…

Where do you like to go in September? Have I missed any highlights?

Tim’s Bucket List Top 10

After my bucket list post, I set Tim a challenge to pick his own top ten. The poor guy spent three weeks trying to decide! But what came out on top, and do we share any dream destinations? Read on to find out…

~~~

The phrase ‘bucket list’ is used a lot in travel talk. It has always been an excellent bit of marketing, essentially companies telling you “one day you’re going to die, you better buy our products before that happens”. But there’s another thing about the bucket list that I find funny… very few actually exist. I often hear people say things like “Egypt? Oh that’s on my bucket list”. Now it would be very strange to reply “Oh really? Please show me!” but I think their response would be that their bucket list isn’t actually written down anywhere. This was certainly the case for me until I started on this entry, so I had to write my bucket list. I then had a think about why each destination was on there and managed to choose my ten favourites.

10. Northern Lights (Scandinavia) I can already hear my wife saying “Ooo do you want to go to Finland to see the northern lights?” “No” I will reply “Far too cold”. I think a bucket list is the right place for a destination like this. Before I die? Yes. Definitely. In the next 6 months? Probably not. As you’ll see as I count down my top ten, I love a natural wonder. The aurora borealis looks stunning in photos and I want to see it in real life one day, just not yet. A solid number ten.

9. Deep South USA I want to go to the US for the culture. Yes I really did just say that. The country that my friend describes as “a car park” does have a few highlights: the Manhattan skyline is stunning and I’ve always wanted to see the natural sights; the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, the Everglades, etc. However, this top ten entry is for a trip I’ve always dreamed of: the deep south for New Orleans; tapping my feet to the music, drinking watery lager into the small hours with some chatty locals, eating steak cooked as if it were chicken, renting a V8 and hitting the highway… this is my dream.

8. Turkey An easy and popular choice for northern Europeans, Turkey is a beautiful country with great weather and beaches. But to make my top 10, it needs more than that and the extra points come from its history. Let’s approach this chronologically. Firstly Troy, the fortified city at the centre of events in Homer’s The Iliad, has now been conquered by a fleet of a thousand tourists. Next, Roman history. The jewel in the crown is Ephesus, which was the second city of the Empire for a period, but there is loads more to see from this period. Loads. Then onto the capital. Originally Byzantium, it was rebranded as Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, and became the richest and most powerful city in Europe. It later became Istanbul and the architecture shows an amazing mix of cultures. Lastly a mention to Gallipoli, such an important battlefield for Australians and New Zealanders as a representation of the beliefs and commitment of these fledgling nations during World War 1.

7. Egypt I suppose similar to Turkey, with sunshine, beaches and history… but actually it is properly unique. As far as seeing the works of an ancient civilisation go, Egypt wins, hands down. I guess the only turn off is the tens of thousands of other people trying to see the same sights at the same time as you, but it still has to be done.

6. India Hard to sum up in one paragraph but I’ll give it a go. A fascinating culture that has given the world religions, yoga, amazing temples and one particularly beautiful mausoleum. All this is mixed in with huge castles built by feuding warlords and the attractive, if scarring, marks of European colonisation. It’s also big enough to have some amazing natural sights; mountains, rivers, mangrove swamps and a long and varied coastline. Last of all they make the best food in the world. Need I go on?

5. Indonesia A huge diverse country with a rugged coastline, tropical beaches and lots of historic temples. I want to go to Indonesia for all of this, plus the monkeys. Okay, I’ll admit it. The monkeys are the main reason for this bucket list entry.

4. Peru Machu Picchu isn’t the only reason but it’s the biggest one. I want to emerge from the mountains and jungle to the lost city after a 4 day trek like I’m the one who discovered it. (Before taking a train from the nearby station to a luxury hotel for a burger).

3. Costa Rica You may have started to spot some themes appearing in my list; natural sights, wildlife and history. As I get closer to the number 1, spot some of these start to ‘peak’. For Costa Rica, it’s the natural sights, jungle, volcanoes, beaches, mountains. I want to hike across them all and catch some wildlife while I’m at it!

2. Vietnam and Cambodia Vietnam is probably worth a couple of weeks but I’ve tagged Cambodia on because it’s next door and will only take a couple of days. While the combination doesn’t win any of the top three prizes in natural sights, wildlife or history, the colonial history, scars of war and Angkor Wat makes it score very highly in the latter. Plus it has mountains, coastline, jungle and Halong Bay to tick off one of the other boxes.

1. Safari (Kenya and Tanzania) Winner of the wildlife sub-category and the overall prize, this is the place to see big cats, which are up there with monkeys as some of my favourite animals. Plus there’s loads more; giraffes, elephants, rhinos, buffalo, wild dogs etc. all roaming across picturesque landscapes.

~~~

So! Overall, we have six matching bucket list destinations – Deep South USA, Egypt, Peru, Costa Rica, Vietnam & Cambodia and African safari. I’m sure it won’t be too long before we’re booking our way to one of these, and I can’t wait! 

How does Tim’s list compare to yours?

My Current Bucketlist: 2016

The more travel research I do, the longer my bucket list gets. In fact, I’m convinced it’s never going to get any smaller and yet, I don’t want it to. I love the thrill of visiting new countries and getting a new stamp in my passport. I love it so much that I can’t imagine feeling that there’s nowhere else I want to go. Every time I tick something off, I add another place, or two or three.

I couldn’t possibly write up my entire bucket list – we really would be here forever – so, for now, here is my top ten. I’ll revisit this list this time next year to see how it’s changed.

  1. See the wildlife and other natural wonders of Costa Rica
    Costa RicaThere’s no denying that Costa Rica is a stunning place, blessed with a dazzling array of amphibians and mammals, waterfalls and volcanoes and a year round tropical climate. It also has beautiful beaches when you need a change of scenery and a break from the jungle. But beyond that, it’s a fascinating country. Having abolished its army in the 1950s, moved to run on 100% clean energy and the phrase ‘pura vida’ (pure life) meaning hello, goodbye and how are you, it’s a place after my own heart. Costa Rica has a very deserving spot right at the top of my bucket list, and I hope you’ll agree, it’s easy to see why.
  2. Sip caipirinhas on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    Rio de JaneiroBrazil has featured on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. I have been drawn by its delicious food and rum cocktails (I hope they’re as good as the Las Iguanas versions…), mountainous scenery and non-stop carnival atmosphere. Plus the view you get from standing next to Christ the Redeemer must be pretty awesome too, don’t you think? While I’m there I’d also like to check out the Iguazu falls – just as impressive as Niagra, but a whole lot warmer. Rio will have the world’s attention in summer 2016 as the Olympic flame arrives to mark the start of the Games. I’ll be watching Rio on my TV in cold, rainy England, wishing I was there too.
  3. Go on safari in Sri Lanka (yes, Sri Lanka) 
    Sri LankaSri Lanka isn’t a place everyone thinks of when they hear ‘safari’, but it should be. The country is home to some beautiful animals including leopards and deer as well as the highest concentration of Asian elephants in the world. Not only that, you can also spot whales and dolphins off the coast of Mirissa in winter. Sri Lanka is full of Buddhist temples and relics (including a tooth from Buddha himself), beautiful scenery and lots and lots of tea. I’m delighted to say I will finally have the opportunity to visit in April 2016 as we set off on a Wild About Sri Lanka, where we can see all this and more…
  4. Visit Cape Town and see lions in Kruger National Park, South Africa
    South African safariSouth Africa is a place that seems to have it all; at least, everything I want to see – animals, beaches, cities, good wine, nature… I want to go wine tasting in the vineyards of Stellenbosch, look down on Cape Town from Table Mountain, and come face to face with the lions in Kruger National Park. Although Kruger is often accused of offering overly commercial experiences, I think it’s a great introduction to African game drives. Having never been on a safari outside of Kent (I’ll blog about that later), Kruger seems to me a safe place to observe wild animals in a country that offers much more besides.
  5. Trek the Inca Trail in Machu Picchu, Peru
    Machu PicchuPeru, and Machu Picchu in particular, is fast becoming my next destination of choice for 2016. I mean, just look at it. As its popularity increases, there are rumours it may close to preserve the ancient sites, so I have to get there before that happens. Plus, it’s a strenuous hike up to 4,000m above sea level, so I should try to go while I’m still young and reasonably fit. Granted, you can now reach Machu Picchu by train, but where’s the fun in that? I love the idea of sleeping under the stars with your fellow hikers after a hard day’s trek, with a pretty spectacular view as your reward. I just hope I get there soon.
  6. Tour Eastern Europe with stops in Prague and Budapest
    Pictures of Prague and Budapest look like something out of a fairytale. I’m told the gothic spires of both cities look even more beautiful in person. And it’s always nice to have somewhere close to home on your bucket list – means you’re even more likely to be able to tick it off your list, right?
  7. Visit the ancient temples of Indochina with a tour of Vietnam & Cambodia
    Vietnam and Cambodia appear frequently on travellers’ wish lists, and they certainly deserve a place on mine. Both are full of natural beauty, from the coastline of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam to the jungles of Cambodia. A tour of Cambodia wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Angkor Wat – a huge temple complex and the largest religious monument in the world. Can I just go now?
  8. Float down the River Nile and see the Valley of the Kings in Egypt
    When I was eight years old, I did a school project on Ancient Egypt. We learnt about the people, their customs and beliefs, and were shown pictures of the pyramids and Sphinx in Giza, and the temples of Luxor. Since then, I’ve wanted to see them for myself, and I hope it’s not too long before I do.
  9. Learn to tango in Buenos Aires, Argentina
    Buenos Aires is one of those cities I’ve never heard anything bad about. In fact, many of my friends consider it to be their favourite city in the world. With a perfect combination of European architecture and Latin American lifestyle, it’s like Spain, only better.
  10. Eat gumbo and listen to live jazz in New Orleans, USA
    New Orleans has had more than its fair share of natural disasters, but it’s fighting back with a booming tourist trade that I can’t ignore. Imagine the scene. Your belly is full of hearty gumbo – a southern Louisiana stew – as you head towards a live jazz club to sip bourbon while tapping your feet to some of the most talented musicians in America. Perfect.

My mind is now buzzing with all these places I want to visit. Maybe 2016 will be the year I finally get to tick some of these off? I’ve also asked Tim to post his current top ten on the blog, so watch out for that soon. I wonder how different they will be!

~~~

What’s on your current bucket list? Have you been to any places on mine?