Colours of the Season: Best Autumn Foliage

As the final days of an Indian Summer slip away some people can be found huddled, miserably, in the tiny corners of fading sunshine at the very edge of parks, but for some folks this is the best time of year: the time when the breezes blow fresh and the leaves put on a real show.

If you're having trouble coming round to the idea of autumn here are some of the most colourful places in the world to experience the change in season: The Best Places in the World for Autumn Foliage.

In the U.S. they call the season Fall, which might be something to do with how well loved the splendid show of the falling leaves is. Taking a drive out into the forest to admire the changing shades as they run up and down the hillsides is as American as pumpkin pie, which it's also the season for.  

New England is the classic Fall foliage destination, and 'leaf-peeping': driving at a distinctly leisurely pace along New England's forest roads in Autumn, is probably the region's oldest visitor pursuit. The change starts in the north and rolls southward during the season like a steady parade of fireworks going off in a succession or reds through orange through purple and everything in between. The back roads around Maine, along the Atlantic Coast, and Mount Desert Island and the Arcadia National Park are the some of the most picture perfect spots in which to 'leaf peep'.

Minnesota's North Shore, the region around Lake Superior and the Great Lakes is another Autumnal highlight: the contrast between the dark blue water and the fiery leaves makes for some beautiful photos.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has more than a hundred different species of colourfully deciduous trees, so in Autumn its canopies are a rainbow of russets and yellows. The forests of the Catskill Mountains bristle with maples, oaks, birches and beeches, which all have their own particular Autumn shades to work though, as do the more sedate lines in the orchards. Harvest markets and nice B&Bs make this a romantic, as well as beautiful destination at this time of year. And the ordinarily quite spectacular Columbia River Gorge in Oregon has its own signature blend of Autumn colours made from a leafy concoction of Oregon ash, maples, pines, cottonwood and firs.

Even the most city-bound Americans can appreciate the colourful seasonal change by strolling though Central Park's rows of American Elms.

In Japan there are several times of year when picnicking under the trees just to look at their beauty becomes a national pastime. In Autumn it's called koyo, and each September the 'koyo front' moves slowly southwards turning Japan red and gold as it goes. Some of the trees around Tokyo and Kyoto remain colourful into early December.

Some of the best koyo spots in Tokyo are Rikugien Garden, Yoyogi Park and Koishikawa Kōrakuen Garden.

The Kyoto koyo season peaks in November, drawing many visitors. The best spots are supposed to be Kyoto Gyoen, Tofukuji, Yoshiminedera and around the temples of the Takao Valley.

The best times to see the colours lap up the smooth sides of Mt.Fuji is between late October and early November.

Less well known is the Chinese appreciation for Autumn foliage. The province of Sichuan has some of the most popular viewing areas:

Xiling Snow Mountain near the famous Three Gorges region, the Jiuzhaigou Scenic Area, the Miyaluo Scenic Area and the Wolong Nature Reserve.

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The normally green and pleasant land of the UK gets a notable tinge of red in Autumn too.

In London the place to appreciate the changing leaves is Kew Gardens, where you can see autumn-flowering crocuses, colchicums, hardy cyclamen and some of the world's rarest plants. Slightly further into Surrey is Box Hill - climb it for a lovely view of turning beeches and oaks spreading out their Autumn glory below you.

Lydford Gorge in Devon is another nice spot for an Autumn stroll past the Whitelady waterfall, the whirlpool and the bright leaves, over mossy green ground.

Exbury Gardens in Hampshire has a 'Festival of Autumn Colours' from mid October to mid November.

Wine vines have leaves that change and drop too, so Autumn is a spectacular time to visit France's Loire Valley.

It's also harvest time, so as well as the backdrop of great chateaux and medieval towns there are even more fresh produce markets than usual. The Lot Valley has beautifully changing orchards as well as vineyards.

Strasbourg's many parks and gardens, and cooler climate, make it conducive for leaf appreciation parties – followed by evenings eating hearty Alsatian stews; and Montsegur in the Pyrenees Mountains is a highpoint as far as expansive views of orange oceans over surrounding hillsides and fields goes.

Italy's Piedmont is another place to see the changing purple shades of wine vines: the Langhe is perfect for vineyard walks.

The Swiss have the great larch forests of the Swiss Alps just out of Geneva to admire before the ski season starts – Samedan is particularly popular.

In Norway the birches of the Rondane National Park are an Autumnal highlight, as is the view lining the Aurlandsfjellet Mountain Road.

In Poland's High Tatras the birches, larch and oak put on a show, all changing at the same time but though a different range of warming shades - a beautiful and stark contrast to the glacial lakes and high mountains behind them.

And Slovenia's fairytale Lake Bled is even more fairytale in the Autumn when the colours of the leaves setting fire to the lake's island – the one with the castle and the church on it – are mirrored in the mirror calm of the glacial water.

 

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