As the summer holiday season winds down, September is the perfect time to get an off-peak deal or some late sun. It's your chance for that European escape without the crowds, whether that's on a beach or having a city to explore all to yourself. Or maybe you'll go further afield for a dose of sunshine when the crisp mornings start to hit - the likes of Morocco and the USA aren't far away and offer everything from festivals to traversing mountain ranges. No matter your September travel style, there's plenty of variety for a holiday during this time of year all around the world. Here are our choices for the best places to go in September.
Surfing in North Devon, UK
For surfers steering board-laden camper vans down North Devon’s country lanes in search of perfect waves, September is a special month. The Atlantic breakers that chomp at the sandy coastline start gaining size, making flat days less likely, and the glassy water still holds some of the summer’s warmth. September is also when British kids return to school after their long summer break, bringing a welcome sense of quiet back to the beaches, B&Bs and cosy thatched pubs and making it undoubtedly one of the best places to go in September in the UK.
Wandering with the Berber in the Atlas Mountains, Morocco
With summer’s fierce heat fading and the winter snows yet to arrive, September is your chance to see the Atlas Mountains at their most colourful. Beyond the rug shops and sun-baked huts that dot the roads from Marrakech are gentle walking trails, which follow dry streams through plunging orange gorges and dusty mud-built villages. For longer and more challenging trips, including the taxing trek to the summit of Jebel Toubkal (41,67m), you’d do well to enlist the help of a local Berber guide, who will know the mountains better than anyone.
Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou near Ouarzazate in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco © Denis Yankin/Shutterstock
Sampling the Feast of San Gennaro, New York, USA
It started as a small, one-day festival for Italian immigrants celebrating the martyrdom of Naples’ patron saint, but the Feast of San Gennaro is now one of New York’s biggest cultural events. For 11 days each September, the streets of Little Italy fill with raucous music and sizzling street food stands, attracting around a million wide-eyed visitors. Some of these revellers celebrate the religious aspect, but others only make the pilgrimage to gawp at the famous cannoli-eating competition, which takes place on the festival’s opening day.
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Serbia’s second city without the crowds, Novi Sad, Serbia
Party people flock to Novi Sad in July, when the annual Exit Festival invades the city’s eighteenth-century fortress, which sits high above a bend in the Danube. It's one of the best places to go in September, however, with the chance that you’ll be one of the only foreign visitors. Give Novi’s sad museums a miss and explore the area around Dunavska, with its busy gelato shops and quiet café courtyards. If the weather is still hot, cool off at Štrand – a wide beach with chilled bars and powder-fine sand leading down to the gently flowing river.
City Hall in the main square of Novi Sad, Serbia © ollrig/Shutterstock
Free access to landmark buildings in Scotland, UK
You’ll avoid the worst of the summer crowds by visiting Scotland in September, and could save yourself some cash too. Accommodation prices drop like a tossed caber after the main August rush – especially in Edinburgh after festival season ends – and the Scottish Civic Trust’s yearly architectural event – Doors Open Days – allows free access to new and historic buildings every weekend throughout September. Many of the homes, churches and castles taking part in the scheme are not usually open to the public, and some open their doors for just one day every year.
Annual Nature Festival, Madeira, Portugal
For decades Madeira embraced its reputation as a winter retreat for sun-hungry pensioners, without ever really capitalizing on its greatest asset: nature. Now tourist officials are quite rightly making a song and dance about the sub-tropical island’s steamy mountain peaks, towering cliffs and fragrant eucalyptus forests. The annual Madeira Nature Festival, which kicks off in September, aims to get people out into some of these rarely visited spots through activities like canyoning, paragliding and swimming with wild dolphins.
View of the mountains on Madeira's northern coast near Boaventura © Anilah/Shutterstock
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Surprising street art in Stavanger, Norway
Although built on an oil rush and still a popular dropping-off point for luxury cruise liners, the super-rich city of Stavanger has a surprisingly diverse street culture. For local artists the highlight of the year is September’s Nuart Festival when some of the world’s best-known graffiti stars rock up to create elaborate murals among the city’s pretty wooden houses. After more than a dozen of these annual events, Stavanger is now attracting international attention as one of Europe’s best – and most unusual – places to enjoy inventive street art.
Catch the start of the lobster season in Bohuslän, Sweden
Cold, clean and craggy: the coastline north of Gothenburg is a sweet spot for shellfish. In late September, when the lobster season begins, you can join local fishermen as they guide wooden boats between scattered granite islands, hauling up traps from the salty depths. Bruised autumn skies and circling seabirds make sailing here a special experience, but the big reward comes after a session in the sauna, when you can finally get your claws into the day’s catch.
Skarhamn harbour on the Bohuslan Coast, Sweden © devlomedia/Shutterstock
Planning your travel for the next few months? Check out our guide on where to go in September, October and November.