Autumn is such a centering time of year. After the heat of the summer, the Earth slows down and paints herself in warm colors as the air cools. This phenomenon has been beloved by human beings since first observed, and today there are a few optimum spots to see it. Here are the best places in the world for fall foliage:
1. Bavaria, Germany
Rent a car and drive through the vibrant forests of this romantic region. This is where you’ll find the most beautiful foliage, and even castles in the middle of it like Neuschwanstein Castle—the castle that inspired Walt Disney’s castles. Go hiking around the wonderland of mountains and forests in Berchtesgaden National Park, and play under the canopy of kaleidoscope leaves! If you want a little day trip, head east to see the famous Rakotzbrücke—the circular stone bridge in the middle of a forest, sitting over mirror-like water. Seeing it with fiery trees surrounding it is something everyone needs to experience at least once in their lives.
2. Kyoto, Japan
Fall foliage in this part of the world peaks later than most other spots, with its peak landing somewhere between late November and early December. Enjoy this mountainous paradise filled with scarlet red trees and wondrous temples. Take some quiet time to walk early in the morning through the temples and trees, and consider even taking a day to hike in the surrounding Kitayama Mountains for some pure solitude with nature.
3. Denali, Alaska (United States)
This arctic refuge is teeming with wildlife, open spaces, and brilliant fall leaves. The aspens and balsam poplars turn a radiant yellow, and the taiga turns a rich red hue. Set against the backdrop of breathlessly tall, snow-coated mountains, it’s hard to believe that this place exists in the real world. This is also prime time to spot moose, bears, wolves, and caribou! If you are lucky, you might even glimpse the northern lights!
4. Faskally, Scotland
Pretty much the entire country of Scotland is a gem during autumn, thanks to the beauty of the highlands during this time of year. That said, this forested area is ideal for anyone wanting to live out their enchanted forest dreams—it’s that idyllic. Run along the shores of the tranquil lake, and hike through the pines and fire-hued trees above your head. It’s the most gorgeous place in the country in the fall.
5. Jiuzhaigou National Park, China
Hike through an autumnal wilderness, complete with waterfalls, lakes, and towering mountains. Considered to be one of the “Six Wonders” of Juizhaigou, the forest is made up of pines, cypresses, and every shade of leaf peppering the landscape. It’s the most beautiful area to just escape into the natural world and be completely surrounded by fall foliage.
6. Deerfield, Massachusetts (United States)
This cozy village in the forested hills of Massachusetts is absolutely ideal for fall foliage. The little houses from the 1690s all glow with warm light all autumn long, as scarlet, tangerine, and gold leaves float to the ground from the trees above them. Walk along the little road through the village, stopping towards the end at the old cemetery for some solitude with the trees.
7. Kilpisjärvi, Finland
Being one of the first places in the world to experience the turning of the fall foliage, this forested paradise in the north is an exciting place to experience it. Amidst mountains and valleys, the birch trees turn a magnificent auburn red at their peak. That hue floods the area, so that it looks like a carpet of sunset. Hike through the majesty of it all, picking lingonberries, crowberries, and bilberries for a snack that connects you to the land. “Ruska” is the word given to the incredibly vibrant autumn leaf colors in the country, showing just how beautifully impactful this season is to the local culture. Soak it up.
8. Banff, Alberta (Canada)
If hiking through a blanket of gold along the feet of icy mountains sounds incredible to you, Banff is your place for the best fall foliage. Hike through the larches, enjoying views of chilled lakes, forest creatures, and northern skies. If you’re wanting to see even more of the yellow larches, take a train ride to cover more ground!
9. Tyrol Alps, Austria
Live out your Sound of Music dreams by visiting the Alps! Here, you can find some of the best fall foliage in the world, and it comes in every shade. Take in the scenery of fruit trees, pearly white mountain tops, crisp blue skies, crystal lakes, marsh marigolds, larch groves, and sweeping valleys. It doesn’t get more ideal than this!
10. Aspen, Colorado (United States)
Come and see why this region’s name was so aptly chosen. The brilliant yellow leaves and ivory bark of the aspen trees look almost unreal against the mountainous backdrop. Enjoy a rose-colored sunset against the slabs of rocks in the mountains above the forests for the supreme way to take in the autumnal warmth of the region. It’s truly beautiful.
11. Brockenhurst, United Kingdom
The New Forest looks like something out of a fantasy story, thanks to its crimson red trees, the carpet of warm-hued leaves on the forest floor, and the quiet that sets in this brightly colored land. Take a sunrise walk to watch the sunlight filter through the trees and descend on fallen logs, mushrooms, and moss in shades of apricot and fire.
12. Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
There is no proper way to be prepared for the grandeur of this place. Expect dreamy waterfalls streaming down below walks of every color of autumnal tree. The contrast of the teal water and the amber and gold leaves is absolutely remarkable. The striking beauty of this place is reminiscent of fairytale settings.
13. Moscow, Russia
Come and see the “Golden Glow” of this northern city, enjoying the expanse of nature spread out everywhere. Visit the Kolomenskoye for a stunning display of brightly colored trees—both scarlet maples and yellow chestnut trees! It’s a dream for those who want to enjoy a colorful swath of woodlands, while still having a city nearby to drink pumpkin lattes and cider in.
14. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia (United States)
The Blue Ridge Parkway is considered to be one of the most (if not, the most) beautiful drives in the country, and the autumn foliage along the way is definitely a contributing factor to that. This mountainous land becomes covered in jewel-toned trees when fall hits the region, and it is breathtaking. It’s a fantastic area to hike, visit picturesque wineries, or just drive while taking in the ruby and flame-hued trees blanketed across the mountains.
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Photo: Emily Iris Degn