Best places to visit in September

written by Joanne Owen

updated 19.03.2024

Not tied to school summer holidays? September is a top time to take a trip. First up, plenty of European destinations are still warm and sunny, with fewer tourists and lower prices. Secondly, sensational seasonal bucket list experiences await further afield.

For example, this is the ideal time to see Namaqualand’s flower carpets in South Africa. And, if you've been dreaming of a tropical break and don't mind the risk of refreshing liquid sunshine, this is shoulder season in the Caribbean. Good news if you're looking to spend less cash, and are hankering after a blissfully crowd-free beach break. With that in mind, read on to discover the best places to visit in September.

1. Toulouse, France

Best for foodies and rugby fans

Think you've seen and done it all in France? Think again. Beyond the ever-popular, diverse delights of Paris, Provence and the Côte d'Azur, a whole lot more awaits. Toulouse, we're looking at you.

Though officially outside the administrative région, Toulouse is the cultural capital of medieval and modern Languedoc. And by culture we mean everything from the architectural charms of its Vieux Quartier (Old Quarter), to cutting edge science. Toulouse is the capital of European aerospace industry.

Known as the Pink City due to the blushing hue of its historic buildings, it’s a vibrant urban hub you might just fall in love with.

It also lays claim to being one of France's top culinary cities, celebrated for hearty cassoulet, duck confit and saucisse de Toulouse. It's also the capital of wine in South-West France.

If that wasn’t enough, Toulouse is one of the host cities for the 2023 Rugby World Cup. It kicks off on 8th September 2023.

Discover more places to stay in Toulouse, France.

Street view in Toulouse, France © AdobeStock

Pretty and pink — Toulouse, France is one of the best places to visit in September © AdobeStock

2. Northern Cape, South Africa

Best for nature, wildlife and off-the-beaten-track adventures

Despite being the biggest of South Africa’s provinces, the Northern Cape is one of its least visited regions. Surely welcome news if you like to avoid over-touristed attractions.

That said, spring — late August to the end of September — is the prime time to see Namaqualand’s incredible flower carpets. At this time, the region's landscape of dramatic red dunes is set alight by dazzling blooms. All of which means the Northern Cape one of the best places to visit in September.

More breath-taking natural beauty and wildlife awaits at Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. Famed for its endemic halfmensboom (“half-man”) tree, it's the world’s only arid biodiversity hotspot.

You're also likely to see klipspringer antelopes, leopards and wild cats here.

Nature-lovers will also want to head to Augrabies Falls National Park to be wowed by South Africa’s largest waterfalls — the mighty Aukoerebis.

Find more places to stay in the Northern Cape, South Africa.

Oryx in a flower field in Namaqualand

Oryx in Namaqualand © Grobler du Preez/Shutterstock

3. Ljubljana, Slovenia

Best for sustainable travel and last of the summer sun

Clean, green and sublimely scenic, you voted Slovenia one of the most beautiful countries in the world for very good reason.

It's also one of the best destinations in Europe to put all your sustainable travel plans into action. For example, Slovenian capital Ljubljana has the EU’s biggest pedestrianised area, plus plenty of parks that are perfect for early-autumn strolls. Little wonder then, that's one of the best places to visit in September

Tucked into the Ljubljanica river and overlooked by a castle, cities don’t come much more fairy-tale-fantastic than Ljubljana. It's also a beautiful base from which to see a stack of Slovenian attractions.

Under an hour from the capital, Lake Bled is a must-visit. Thanks to its little island, cliff-top castle and mountain backdrop, more fairy tale magic awaits here. Lake Bled is also at the forefront of sustainable travel practices, and arguably Europe's greenest destination.

Meanwhile, if you were hoping to soak up the last of the summer sun, visit Slovenia’s stunning, diverse coastline. From picturesque Piran, to the spa town of Portorož, it presents a glorious stretch of beaches, and old towns with Venetian flair.

Look at more places to stay in Ljubljana Slovenia.

Lake Bled, Slovenia © Shutterstock

Lake Bled, Slovenia © Shutterstock

4. Madeira, Portugal

Best for wine, walks and subtropical scenery

Part of Portugal, but closer to North Africa, Madeira is a subtropical stunner. Known as the island of eternal spring, temperatures here are generally mild — rarely colder than 17°, and never unbearably hot.

Western Madeira is a place to soak up stunning cliff scenery before soaking in the natural pools of Porto Moniz. Meanwhile, the east of the island offers opportunities to explore a UNESCO World Heritage Site laurel forest (Laurissilva) and traditional farming villages.

For more unforgettable outdoor experiences, you might want to pop over to neighbouring island Sao Miguel. Here the Sete Cidades Lagoon is widely considered to display the most awe-inspiring landscape of the Azores Archipelago.

Wondering why Madeira is one of the best places to visit in September? In a word — wine. The island's annual wine festival runs from 31st August — 17th September 2023. Expect street entertainment in downtown Funchal, wine-tasting in the Madeira Wine Lounge, and lively vineyard concerts.

Come 9th September, you can join locals at the celebratory Live Harvest in Estreito de Câmara de Lobos. Chances are, you'll be invited to join the grape-squashing fun.

    Where to stay

  • Best for adventurers: Faja dos Padres. Charming beachfront cottages only accessible by cable car.
  • Best for couples: Aqua Natura Bay. A seafront 4-star with swimming pools, sauna and hot tub.
  • Best for nature-lovers: Calheta Glamping Pods. A stylish, stunningly-sited nature retreat.

Find more places to stay in Madeira and São Miguel, Portugal.

Wine barrels in Madeira, Portugal

Wine barrels in Madeira, Portugal © Shutterstock

5. Sicily — one of the best places to visit in September

Best for festivals, food and blissful beaches

Perhaps best known as a height-of-summer destination, there are plenty of reasons Sicily is one of the best places to visit in September. 

Beyond the usual out of season benefits — smaller crowds, lower prices — September in Sicily means festivals. These include the Vini Milo wine festival that’s held on the slopes of Mount Etna from the last week of August through to early September.

Love food? The CousCous Fest is held at San Vito Lo Capo in the last two weeks of September. Alongside cookery competitions and couscous tastings, expect a carnival vibe, with music events. 

Around the same time, beautiful Bellini Villa of Catania is transformed into an ice-cream village for the Sherbeth Festival.

Festivals aside, Sicily’s splendid coastline stretches for over 930 miles, with an impressive eighteen of its beaches awarded coveted Blue Flag status.

The island also boasts some of Europe’s best-preserved Hellenistic treasures, among them the Roman Villa of Casale, the Valley of Temples, and the Neapolis Archaeological Park. 

Then there’s Etna Park, Bove Valley lava desert, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Aeolian Islands. Surely more than enough to make your September special, and have you planning to return before you've even left.

    Where to stay

  • Best for couples: Maison Ortigia. in the heart of Siracusa's Old Town, three minutes from the beach.
  • Best for city style: Hotel Politeama: A fine four-star in Palermo.
  • Best for beachfront beauty: Hotel Kalura. Fine views, food and a private beach in Cefalù.

Browse more places to stay in Sicily.

Mondello Beach in Palermo, Sicily

Mondello Beach in Palermo, Sicily

6. Puerto Rico, Greater Antilles

Best for Caribbean culture, history, nature and beaches 

Selected for inclusion in The Rough Guide to the 100 Best Places in the USA, tropical Puerto Rico has been an unincorporated territory of the United States since 1898.  

Today this captivating Caribbean island dances to a diverse tune, with the 16th-century Spanish architecture of cosmopolitan capital San Juan at its historic heart.  

Alongside legacies of its colonial era, Puerto Rico has plenty of significant pre-Columbian attractions. These include Caguana Indigenous Ceremonial Park in the north, and Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center near Ponce in the south. 

Love nature? The only tropical rainforest in the US National Forest network, El Yunque is a must-visit. It’s also key to the survival of the endemic Puerto Rican parrot.  

If it’s beaches you’re after, surfers should head to the wild-waved, west coast region of Rincón.

Looking for something calmer? Crystalline waters welcome visitors to Playa Flamenco on the island of Culebra. Seventeen miles off the mainland, and named after a lagoon that attracts flamingos in winter, it’s frequently feted as one of the world’s best beaches.

Happily, if you're looking for a less pricey, less busy Caribbean trip, September is shoulder season. While the region's rainy season officially runs until 30th November, September averages 27 °C, and the sea is bath-warm.

Browse more places to stay in San Juan, Playa Flamenco, and Vieques, Puerto Rico.

Vieques, Puerto Rico ©  Danita Delimont/Shutterstock

Vieques, Puerto Rico © Danita Delimont/Shutterstock

Want more ideas? Discover our best travel destinations for 2023, and read our run-down of the best places to visit in October.

And remember, wherever you're thinking of heading, there's sure to be a Rough Guide to enhance your trip from the moment you start planning. 

Not a fan of planning? No worries. Our expert-curated, customisable tailor-made trips can handle that for you. Contact a local specialist to start your journey.

We may earn commission when you click on links in this article, but this doesn’t influence our editorial standards. We only recommend services we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Header image: Namaqualand, South Africa © Marie-Anne AbersonM/Shutterstock

Joanne Owen

written by Joanne Owen

updated 19.03.2024

Joanne is a Pembrokeshire-born writer with a passion for the nature, cultures and histories of the Caribbean region, especially Dominica. Also passionate about inspiring a love of adventure in young people, she’s the author of several books for children and young adults, hosts international writing workshops, and has written articles on the Caribbean and inspirational community initiatives for Rough Guides. Follow her @JoanneOwen on Twitter and @joanneowenwrites on Instagram.

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