The Northeast (and southeastern Canada) receive a lot of acclaim for their fall foliage, and rightfully so, because it’s spectacular. But it’s not the only game in town. Last year we took a glance at the top places around the country to peep leaves. This time around, we look at the best international spots for fall foliage.
The Canadian Rockies pack just as much as punch as those in the U.S. Banff and Jasper national parks are full of color against a backdrop of slate-grey mountains with snow-capped peaks. All those pictures you’ve seen of Lake Louise? Imagine it draped in gold and orange. Vancouver’s Stanley Park is an urban oasis, and in autumn, maple, cottonwood and red alder trees change colors right next to the harbor.
Typically leaves begin changing in the northern islands and mountains first, and the colors roll south as autumn progresses. If you time it right, you can follow the changes down through the country. The best times are usually late October through late November. Japan Rail offers passes coordinated with the forecasts. There aren’t many sights better than Mt. Fuji ringed by beautiful foliage in the first days of November.
From the eastern reaches of France, through northern Italy, Switzerland, Bavaria, Austria and on to the Julian Alps of Slovenia, there are about 750 miles of mountains dividing Europe. Italy’s Dolomites shine yellow and gold in the autumn sun. Reds and yellows light up the valleys of Switzerland contrasted against bright blue lakes. The Tyrol region features distinctive churches in the high passes surrounded by trees in metamorphosis. It’s capped off by Lake Bled in Slovenia, with an island in a lake with mountains all around. Pure magic.
Moscow celebrates fall with the Golden Autumn harvest festival featuring carved pumpkins of all shapes and sizes. St. Petersburg is full of parks and gardens that become glorious in golden autumn. In Russia’s east, Lake Baikal and the taiga forest of Siberia range from yellow to orange to red, making for breathtaking landscapes. The towns of the Golden Ring northeast of Moscow are evening more charming with an autumnal tint.
So you’ll have to wait until our spring to take in the amazing colors of New Zealand’s fall. But it’s worth the wait. The show starts in early April on the South Island, creeping north as the season progresses. Central Otago and Queenstown turn, rolling up along the path of the Southern Alps then hitting Queenstown and moving on to the North Island before May sees the leaves turn to brown and begin falling off the trees.
As we say goodbye to 2018 and welcome in 2019, we have a lot of travel plans for the coming year. We’re celebrating 50 years of helping clients make their travel dreams come true, and along the way we’ve picked up some favorite New Year’s Eve traditions from around the world. Here’s wishing you and yours a happy and healthy 2019. Use some of these tricks from other cultures to ensure a prosperous new year.
At the clock hits midnight, Spaniards eat a grape at each chime. The 12 grapes represent good luck in each month of the coming year. After midnight, the party really begins, as Spaniards take to the streets and pass around bottles of cava. In large cities, especially the capital of Madrid, they gather in the main squares and celebrate deep into the night. As the sun rises, they drink hot chocolate and eat churros before heading to bed for most of the day. Sounds like something we can get behind.
It being summertime and water being such a big part of Brazilian culture, a lot of New Year’s traditions are centered around the ocean. Flowers and floating candles are put to sea as offerings to the goddess Iemanja, a water deity from the Yoruba religion brought to the Americas by African slaves. Some people jump over seven waves, making a wish with each hop. Others eat seven raisins and keep the seeds in their wallets to encourage money to grow. Most wear white as a symbol of peace, mixing in green for health, yellow for money, red for passion and purple for inspiration.
The Japanese hold bonenkai parties to forget the old year’s troubles and leave them in the past. The traditional meal is soba noodles to promote a long life. Watching the sunrise on Jan. 1 to greet the new year is a popular pastime. Temples and shrines attract visitors from across the country by the millions from Jan. 1-3, when most businesses are closed. People send out cards to friends, loved ones and co-workers that are marked for delivery on New Year’s Day, and the first three days of the year are spent with family.
In Cape Town, people head up to the top of Table Mountain before a night on the waterfront. There’s a sunset concert at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden on the slopes of the mountain, and the last tram back down to the city is at 9:30 p.m. Fireworks light up the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront at midnight, and afterward revelers head to all-night beach parties by candlelight. A day outside the city in the Cape Winelands is also a terrific getaway, and it stays light out until around 8 p.m.
The evening starts out rather tame, with a speech from the queen at 6 p.m. Things get progressively more rowdy, as Danes meet friends for a big late dinner after a snack of cod with mustard sauce at home. It’s one of the six nights a year shooting off fireworks is legal, and Danes make the most of it. At midnight, they smash old dishes on the doors of friends. While cleaning up in the morning might not be the most fun thing in the world, a big mess means you have lots of friends who love you enough to trash your house.
Depending on where you live, it might not yet be evident, but it is officially Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Soon enough, birdsongs will fill the air and everything will be in blossom. While there is an abundance of festivals celebrating the renaissance of greenery, these places’ blooms are among the best.
Peaking near the end of March, the famed cherry blossoms turn the Tidal Basin into a dazzling canvas of pink and white. Gifts from Japan more than a century ago, the cherry trees have come to symbolize the start of spring in our nation’s capital. There are nearly 4,000 trees in 11 varieties near the National Mall, and peak bloom is expected this week. The National Cherry Blossom Festival runs until April 15.
The ancestral home of D.C.’s cherry trees, Japan has several areas throughout its islands that are great for viewing sakura. Utilizing the bullet train system, visitors can make their quickly from south to north as the warm weather and blooms spread in late March and early April. Set against the backdrop of a 400-year-old, the blossoms in Hirosaki are particularly worth checking out. Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo is a reliable spot thanks to its proliferation of early- and late-blooming trees. Chureito Pagoda in the shadow of Mount Fuji is among the most picturesque spots.
Obsessed with the flower since the Tulip Mania of the 17th century, the Dutch have cultivated the world’s finest tulip garden at Keukenhof in Lisse, South Holland. About 7 million bulbs are planted across 79 acres and pop up in a variety of bright colors. The park opened last week and remains open until May 13. The best time to see the bulbs is usually mid-April, during which time river cruises designed around tulip viewing are in high demand.
High in the Atlas Mountains, a 6-hour drive from Marrakech lies M’Goun Valley, aka the Valley of Roses. Between April and mid-May, the valley yields 3,000-4,000 tons of wild roses. Used in the production of perfumes, oils, soaps and rose water, the plants have also inspired an annual Rose Festival in May. According to legend, the flowers were introduced to the area by a Berber trader from Damascus, and the sweet-smelling Damask roses are now a highly sought-after prize among France’s top perfumers.
The lavender fields of Provence aren’t in full bloom until mid-June, but they are more than worth the wait. The Luberon countryside erupts in purples and blues until harvesting is complete in mid-August, filled with gorgeous sights and smells. Charming hill towns such as Aurel and Sault make for a beautiful staging area for a driving tour, and the fields around the Abbey of Senanque are the perfect setting for a photo, so long as you arrive early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid the throngs.