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Fewer Crowds, More Affordable: Where to Travel During the Fall Shoulder Season

9/27/17 by Samantha Larson

Summer is high season for many top destinations around the world. But once it’s over, the crowds thin out, prices drop, and temperatures become more moderate—making fall an ideal time for a visit. In many cases, the autumn shoulder season is actually the best season for traveling. To stoke your inspiration for a seasonal getaway before the holidays are upon us, check out this list of recommended things to see and places to go, from the beaches of Hawaii and Australia, to the ancient ruins of Peru and Greece, to the breathtaking display of the Northern Lights in Iceland.

1. Honolulu, Hawaii

Soak up Oahu’s beach scene in the fall, when summer tourists have left.

     Tyler Lastovich
Soak up Oahu’s beach scene in the fall, when summer tourists have left. Tyler Lastovich

There’s really no bad time to visit Hawaii: The weather is warm and beautiful in the islands pretty much the whole year round. But right after Labor Day is an especially good time to visit the busiest of the islands—O’ahu, home of Honolulu, the state capital. Once school starts up again across the country, Honolulu’s crowds clear out and accommodations become more affordable. So plan your visit for early-mid autumn, and you’ll be treated to an extended summer featuring the best that this island paradise has to offer: fine dining, historic monuments, and, of course, those iconic beaches.

2. Tofino, British Columbia

Tofino beckons in the fall with nearly deserted beaches.
Tofino beckons in the fall with nearly deserted beaches. Andy S

Located on the outer coast of British Columbia's Vancouver Island, this small town feels worlds away from broader civilization. Even so, Tofino’s population of 1,876 explodes in the summer to welcome high season tourists. Come the fall, however, you’ll find calmer vibes and some of the best waves of the year, making it a never-never land for surfers, as well as paddlers who come to explore the surrounding islands and inlets and nature lovers of all stripes who come to hike, watch wildlife like whales and bears, soak up hot springs, and enjoy incredible meals. Whatever adventures you embark on, you can’t go wrong starting your day with a bronut fromRhino Coffee House and ending it with a cedar sour and local salmon fromWolf in the Fog.

3. Cusco and Machu Picchu, Peru

Visit the world-famous Incan ruins of Machu Picchu in the fall, when the summer tourists have thinned out.
Visit the world-famous Incan ruins of Machu Picchu in the fall, when the summer tourists have thinned out. John and Jean Strother

Cusco—the gateway for trekking to the world-famous Incan archaeological monument Machu Picchu—is an especially popular destination among American university students. This is partly because their summer breaks conveniently align with Peru’s dry season (the country’s winter), which is the ideal time to visit. But the dry season typically extends to the end of September, after most colleges start their fall semesters—which gives the rest of us a window to go see it while the weather is still good without the high-season crowds.

4. Queensland, Australia

Queensland’s stunning shoreline is much more deserted in the spring than summer.
Queensland’s stunning shoreline is much more deserted in the spring than summer. brewbooks

The beginning of fall in the Northern Hemisphere means it’s just turning into spring Down Under. If you have dreams snorkeling or scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, located in the northeast state of Queensland, this is the perfect time of year to go: It’s the season when there will be the least rain and best visibility underwater, and it’s still before the box jellyfish arrive in October and November. This is also a more affordable time to visit the Whitsunday Islands, a destination located within the Great Barrier Reef with stunning sailing and archaeological sites that’s known for typically offering upmarket accommodations.

5. Iceland

Enjoy Iceland’s famous hot springs during the shoulder season.
Enjoy Iceland’s famous hot springs during the shoulder season. Moyan Brenn, cropped

With the forests swiftly turning from summer’s green into vibrant yellows, oranges, and red, autumn is an outrageously gorgeous time to visit Iceland. While the days are quickly getting shorter, the temperatures generally stay relatively warm through the end of September. This time of year, you’ll also actually have a chance to view one of nature’s most spectacular displays: the Northern Lights. And thanks to WOW Air, Iceland’s budget airline, shoulder season flights can be as low as $300 roundtrip from New York.

6. Crete, Greece

Visit Greece in the offseason, and you can savor all the country’s Mediterranean delights without the crowds.
Visit Greece in the offseason, and you can savor all the country’s Mediterranean delights without the crowds. Andy Montgomery

The shoulder season in Crete means getting to enjoy all of the things that make visiting Greece’s largest island so compelling—think swimming in turquoise seas, exploring ancient Roman ruins, and savoring delicious Mediterranean meals of olives, cheese, seafood, and wine—all without the crowds. Another bonus? You’ll enjoy far more comfortable temperatures once the dog days of summer have begun to cool down, and without as much stress on your wallet.

Originally written by RootsRated for ExOfficio.