8 Unexpected Places Around the World With Stunning Fall Foliage

From apple picking and cider tasting to squash roasting and scarf knitting, there are many ways to embrace the autumn season. But none are more prevalent than leap peeping the stunning mix of green, bright red, orange, and golden yellow trees that comes with the transition between summer and winter. While New England destinations like Vermont and Maine are well-known for their prime fall foliage, there are numerous travel-worthy places around the world that have beautiful vegetation from September to November. Check out our eight picks for destinations with unexpectedly stunning fall foliage, and book your flights, stat!

1. Kyoto, Japan

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You probably know that Kyoto offers bountiful cherry blossoms in the spring, but its fall foliage is equally beautiful and widespread. The numerous maple trees turn a bright red and are surrounded by other trees in various shades of green, yellow, and orange. The foliage season lasts roughly between mid-October and mid-December, and some of the top spots to witness it include Tofuku-ji Temple, a Buddhist temple in the city; the Okochi Sanso Garden; and the Kyoto Imperial Palace Park. The wondrous autumn colors are not a secret to the Japanese, so plan your visit to popular sights in the mornings and weekdays to avoid the crowds.

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2. Bavaria, Germany

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Visitors typically head to Bavaria, Germany in fall for its huge Oktoberfest celebration in Munich, but a bonus is the fall foliage is usually on display at the same time. The month of October offers the best array of colors, but they can extend from September to November. Head south from Munich to the Karwendel Nature Park along the Austrian border for hiking amid lovely scenery, and then make your way 90 minutes west to Neuschwanstein Castle, a striking structure rising above trees and with a lake and mountain backdrop. 

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3. The Great Wall of China

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Travelers to China can combine leaf peeping with sightseeing by visiting The Great Wall of China during autumn, located about an hour and a half outside of Beijing. The historic attraction is a must-see for many, and during the fall months, the approximately 4,000-mile long fortification is lined by trees in picturesque shades of red, green, and yellow. Other lovely spots for spotting foliage include the Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve -- picture waterfalls cascading into a lake -- and the Longji rice terraces that turn a magical yellow in fall.  

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4. Loire Valley, France

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Combine fall foliage viewing with wine tastings in the pretty Loire Valley region of central France. Under two hours by train from Paris, Tours is the region's capital and acts as a good jumping off point for exploring the nearby chateaus with exceptionally manicured gardens. The International Festival of Gardens is held at the historic Chaumont-sur-Loire each year through October, making it a great pick for post-summer visits. We'd also recommend buying a fresh baguette, local goat cheese, fruit, and a bottle of Sancerre and exploring the colorful landscape broken up by the river.

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5. Canton of Bern, Switzerland

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Switzerland sees a majority of visitors during the warmer summer months and ski-suitable wintertime, but its wondrous landscape dotted with colorful leaves make it worthy of a trip in September, October, and November. We chose the Canton of Bern as a prime destination for its multiple lakes, snow-capped mountains, and lush parks with hiking trails culminating in scenic vantage points, but there are several picture-perfect regions in Switzerland to choose for a fall getaway. 

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6. Reykjavík, Iceland

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You shouldn't expect the colorful landscape of Vermont during autumn in Iceland, but the country still offers a pretty foliage season with a backdrop of waterfalls and rolling hills. Seasons in Iceland are unsurprisingly different, so peak foliage typically occurs from late August to late September. While you'll see trees with various gradients of yellow, most of the vibrant hues are actually in the mosses and low shrubbery. Elliðaárdalur Park within Reykjavik is a convenient spot to catch the changing greenery, or drive 35 minutes east to the gorgeous Thingvellir National Park.

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7. Gangwon, South Korea

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A mountainous and forest-rich province in South Korea, Gangwon makes for a breathtaking destination in fall. Seoraksan and Odaesan National Parks are ideal settings for viewing a kaleidoscope of green, red, yellow, and orange trees among temples, moving water, and cliffs. Hiking trails fill both, and the former has a cable car for those that don't want to make the trek up the mountain. (Express buses run from Seoul to Sokcho in under three hours for convenient access to Seoraksan National Park.) For those also visiting sights within the capital of Seoul, be sure to allow time to explore the city's several parks.

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8. Cotswolds, England

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For a taste of quintessential English life, paired with autumnal charm, head to the Cotswolds region. Located a two-hour drive from London, the Cotswolds is a world apart from the busy metropolitan city, featuring rolling countryside, quaint historic villages, and buildings made of its namesake yellow limestone. You're bound to see red, yellow, and orange leaves in the hot spring-filled city of Bath, or surrounding the small market town of Chipping Campden, though we also recommend walking some of the over 100 miles of Cotswold Way trail that runs between the two cities to catch some prime foliage.

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