September signals the end of summer. In some destinations, the warmth of August lingers, keeping watersports, outdoor markets, and evening hikes on the itinerary. In the southern hemisphere, it's the start of springtime, and the locals are taking to the outdoors with glee. Off-peak pricing lets you make the most of your holiday budget, and smaller crowds mean a more authentic and intimate experience. Whether you're shopping for an affordable family vacation, a solo excursion, or your dream romantic getaway, look no further than these international cities in September.
In Mexico, September is "El Mes de la Patria," a commemoration of the country's independence and national pride. From Baja California to the Caribbean Sea, the streets are alive with parades, performances, and the best local food and drinks. The famous National Fair of Zacatecas in central Mexico is an extravagant celebration that welcomes locals and tourists free of charge. For three weeks in September, attendees can watch theater and musical performances, visit an amusement park, watch sporting events, and browse cultural and livestock exhibits.
As springtime arrives in South America, temperatures warm in the high Andes, and the landscapes come to life. Fewer tourists and lower rates are decent perks, too. Stay downtown to tour the Central Market and museums, or head for the hillside trails to find panoramic views of the city and surrounding Andes. September 18 kicks off Fiestas Patrias, a week-long celebration of Chile's Independence Day. Join the locals as they gather at open-air parties and street barbecues to share good music, good food, and good spirits.
With the start of fall in September, festivals all over Spain commemorate the grape harvest with carnivals, local music, and wine tastings. The Rioja Wine Festival in Logroño is the most famous, celebrating the harvest and the city's patron saint with concerts, fireworks, and the traditional treading of the grapes. A two-hour drive will take you to the shores of the Bay of Biscay, where the San Sebastián International Film Festival completely transforms the seaside town.
Step back into the late 18th century at the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, England. Every year, the historic city pays homage to the author with a ten-day celebration. From theatrical performances to lavish costumed balls that would make Mrs. Bennet proud, Jane Austen fans come together for an unforgettably immersive experience. When you're not at the festival, indulge in a day of shopping or visiting the Roman baths. Eat a Bath Bunn from one of the oldest eateries in town, then go for a stroll on the Skyline Walk, a six-mile route through wooded scenery.
Fall colors are turning in September, transforming Canada's landscape into spectacular swathes of crimson and gold. Visitors can still camp under the stars or spend a day fishing in mild weather while partaking in a host of fall celebrations. The Vancouver International Film Festival and the Vancouver Fringe Festival bring excitement to the screen and stage, and the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival is coming to a close. Hop on a ferry to rural Salt Spring Island for a quieter, creative vibe and to attend their own Fall fair.
In China, residents celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival on the 15th day of the 8th Lunar Month, usually in late September. Also known as the Moon Festival, the holiday is similar to American Thanksgiving. Chinese families gather to eat dinner, view and light paper lanterns, and pray for their family's happiness. West Lake is one of the best places to celebrate the occasion. Underneath the full moon, candlelit pagodas and floating lanterns reflect on the water — an extraordinary sight. Visit the temples on the lakeshore, or hike to a viewing spot for the perfect full-moon view.
Wellington, New Zealand, is a laid-back beach town with creative energy. In September, it's also home to World of Wearable Art, a design competition that attracts artists from all over the world. Avante-garde garments take the stage in an elaborate theatrical production that includes musical performances, dancers, and aerialists. While you're in town, take in the fantastic views from the waterfront promenade before indulging in gourmet foods and fine wines. Early autumn weather is perfect for spending a day in the city and riding the Wellington Cable Car to the botanical gardens.
The ancient city of Chichén Itzá is a major destination during the spring and fall equinoxes. In late March and September, spectators gather at the foot of the Temple of Kukulcán to watch the late afternoon sun create the illusion of a snake moving up the side of the pyramid. The jaw-dropping seasonal spectacle prompts a day of music and dancing at the Mayan ruins to welcome the harvest. Chichén Itzá is a worthy excursion any time of year, but the equinox celebration is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Galway's medieval streets and gorgeous seascapes are an intriguing backdrop for its vibrant urban community. Friendly locals, cozy pubs, and a traditional music scene contribute to the city's charm, but foodies come to Galway for the cuisine. Year-round offerings range from pub eats to plates at Michelin-starred restaurants, and the seafood is always fresh. In September, the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival welcomes visitors to indulge in mouth-watering eats and events. Nosh your way through the Seafood Trail, or sign up for the oyster-opening competition to make things interesting.
Oktoberfest is one of the world's most famous festivals, and it begins at the end of every September in Munich. The world's largest folk festival features indoor and outdoor beer gardens, carnival rides, and themed tents where revelers gather to eat, sing, and dance in a unique fashion. Choose from the larger festival tents to celebrate grandly, or visit smaller tents with cozier atmospheres and smaller seating areas. The Oide Wiesn hearkens back to Oktoberfest's early days with vintage rides and historic exhibits, folk music tents, and regional cuisine.
September's mild climate makes it one of the best times to visit South America before the rainy season begins. Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is much safer and clear skies provide stunning views of the Andes. Stay in Aguas Calientes at the edge of the Amazon jungle before heading for the majestic ruins and mountainside trails at Machu Picchu. You should also give yourself a few days in Cusco, an ancient capital with modern influences. Explore the Old City and Cusco's history, then head to the Main Plaza for museums, eateries, and shopping.
Reykjavík, located on the Western coast of Iceland, is a stunning seaside town with serious city vibes. You can take a drive on the breathtaking Golden Circle and soak in natural hot springs, then return downtown for the best in Icelandic and international cuisine. September is the off-season, which means cheaper rates and the chance to tour natural wonders before the roads close for winter. Book a Northern Lights tour just outside of town, then head back in time for the Reykjavík International Film Festival, which also happens in September.
September is springtime in Australia, which means the weather is warmer, and the peak tourist season is still months away. Head to New South Wales for Sydney Contemporary, the country's largest and most diverse gathering of art institutions showcasing the best in contemporary art. The Sydney Fringe Festival is geared more toward local independent artists, while the Sydney Running Festival is for endurance athletes. Rent a car and spend a few days in Bowral for the Tulip Time Festival, one of Australia's oldest celebrations.
Sometimes, a humbling trek in the great outdoors is necessary to appreciate everyday beauty. Gaze at the warming colors of fall foliage while on a mountain hike, or observe hundreds of bird species at the surrounding wetlands and national parks. Browse the seasonal markets and indulge in delicious, fresh local produce. Arrive during Labor Day weekend for the Québec City Pride Festival, a social and artistic celebration of LGBTQ+ rights and culture. Stay for the Québec City Film Festival, which premieres films from all over the world.
Life on the Greek Islands begins returning to normal in mid-September. Sea temperatures are still warm enough for swimming or scuba diving, and the postcard-perfect beaches and villages are much quieter. Round out the summer at events like the Wine and Cultural Festival in Karystos or the International Animation Festival in Syros. Smaller islands like Milos and Naxos are relaxing getaways despite the shortage of tourist activities. Island-hoppers don't even have to choose between visiting ruins and historic buildings, hiking gorgeous mountainsides, and sunbathing on pristine beaches.