The best holiday destinations in September

The lazy, hazy days of summer are over – but September is the new January, and the perfect time for new adventures. So where are the best holiday destinations in September? See how South America is blooming: not only the jacaranda trees and their bursts of blue-violet, but the exciting high cuisine, design and arts scenes exploding everywhere from Argentina’s always chic capital to the Peruvian Andes.

Looking for a final boost of D vitamins to carry you into the last quarter? It’s the sweet shoulder season for a number of exotic, sugar-sand islands. Or discover a new beach in Europe — the mercury stays high the further you explore south or east. Better still, there are sustainable ways to enjoy even the most opulent of these getaways. Read on for inspiration on where to go on holiday in September.

Sicily, Italy

Temperature: 24°C high; 17°C low
Season: autumn
Travel time from UK: 3 hours 10 minutes
Time difference: BST+1

When isn't a good time to go to Sicily? The warm wind that blows across the Mediterranean from Africa keeps Italy's sunniest, most richly cultured island hot well into autumn (you might still get a heatwave), though its wild and beautiful beaches are never crowded in September; yet it's cool enough for exploring the labyrinthine streets of its enchanting baroque towns. Memorable meals are to be had everywhere – September is a fine time for fruit and produce from Etna's rich national park; and there's no problem getting a room in the charming hotels.

Where to stay: At Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo, where pool views look good from all angles and a pianist (and Negronis) cajole couples to dance on the balcony against a menacing backdrop of Mount Etna. If you're looking for a city break, take over this sleek Palermo apartment that's within walking distance of all the iconic spots. For more, see our pick of the best hotels in Sicily.

Lisbon, Portugal

Temperature: 26°C high; 17°C low
Season: autumn
Travel time from UK: 2 hours 45 minutes
Time difference: BST+0

It’s no mystery Lisbon is so popular these days. What’s not to like? Afternoons are for climbing its seven hills in search of the best miradouros – terraces with poetic views over its pastel houses and red rooftops – while evenings are best spent in Lisbon's best restaurants, where sensational seafood is fresh from the neighbouring ocean. Night-owls make a beeline for Bairro Alto. Lax open-container laws make the city’s central district a party – join and drink in the dawn. September has fabulous weather – averages of 26°C – and you’ll get the city to yourself, as the unlucky masses have gone back to school.

Where to stay: The Ivens gets our pick for one of the best new(ish) hotels in the world, while Memmo Alfama might just have the best rooftop pool in the city. For a budget stay, try The Independente, a charming hotel-meets-hostel where rooms are from £100 a night. If you'd like to stay close to the sea, this beach apartment is on Costa da Caparica, one of the best beaches in Lisbon. See more options at our edit of the best hotels in Lisbon.

Santorini, Greece

Temperature: 26°C high; 20°C low
Season: autumn
Travel time from UK: 4 hours
Time difference: BST+2

Ask an islander what their favourite month on Santorini is, and they'll likely tell you September. The boiling, broiling summer rush is over, the sea is warmer than ever and the skies are blue, blue, all day long, and the evenings are cooler in its up-steps-and-down hillside towns. September sunsets paint the town of Oia gold, and the deep blues of the Caldera seem heightened in these days of late summer.

Where to stay: For a romantic stay, check in to Andronis Boutique Hotel, where rooms are dotted around the curves of the hotel's traditional cave-style architecture. For families, The Vasilicos is a boutique hideaway and one of the few hotels on the island that doesn't have an adults-only policy. We also love Grace Santorini, a white-washed, cliff-side dream where all the rooms have terraces and there are two pools. See our best hotels in Santorini guide for more.


Temperature: 33°C high; 19°C low
Season: autumn
Travel time from UK: 3 hours 35 minutes
Time difference: BST +0

Morocco saturates the senses. See Marrakech’s chaotic medinas; the raggedly isolated mud-wall towns of the High Atlas; Essaouira’s salty sea air and sun-dappled surf. All are at their finest in September. As the summer sizzle mellows, both Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts remain bikini-balmy, while the winter chill that grasps desert nights and mountain villages is yet to take hold.

And a smart new crop of design hotels – typically airy riads with crisp courtyard pools, renovated by French fashion photographers and Italian aristocrats – makes Morocco an especially stylish place to lay one’s head. Fez, a vast, medieval warren of a city, has been busy restoring its ancient buildings and monuments, so there’s no end of historic houses, palaces and secret gardens, mosques and mausoleums to explore.

Note: you'll see a lot of working horses and donkeys in Morocco – happily, many of them are protected by SPANA, an international organisation that works with some of the world’s poorest communities to improve the welfare of working animals, and to educate their handlers in animal rights. So if you’re offered a horse and cart ride, and the horse is wearing a SPANA tag (often around the ankle), go for it: your money validates SPANA’s efforts.

Where to stay: Within the city, La Mamounia and Royal Mansour top our list of the best hotels in Marrakech. In Taghazout, Munga Guesthouse is a 15-room boutique stay with an fairylit, indoor-outdoor restaurant. For Essaouira, the cool Riad Dar Maya is all sand-coloured plaster and modern Moroccan minimalism with a hot tub on the roof.

Ibiza and Formentera, Spain

Temperature: 27°C high; 19°C low
Season: autumn
Travel time from UK: 2 hours 30 minutes
Time difference: BST+1

Those crazy free spirits who spend the season out in Ibiza and Formentera breathe a sigh of relief when September comes. At last you can get a spot to shake out your towel on the beaches again, and a table for lunch at a beach restaurant without so much as a booking (even at Formentera's famous Juan y Andrea).

It's all still hot, hot, hot, the closing parties are the clubbing highlights of the season, and hotels and villas suddenly become a lot more affordable – though you'll still have to take out a loan for drinks. Embracing the White Isle’s natural assets is the best way to make a trip here sustainable. La Granja, for example, is a chic inland farmstead that serves slow food from its own biodynamic garden, and works with the Ibiza Preservation Fund to support the island’s organic farmers. In it for the beaches? Rent a solar-powered charter yacht from La Bella Verde and explore the coast’s quieter corners.

Where to stay: OKU Ibiza, a laid-back luxury retreat with a privileged location that gives you access to the most beautiful beach spots on the island. For sunbeds and sushi, it's hard to beat the chic set up at Nobu Ibiza bay. See more options at our best hotels in Ibiza edit or check out our round-up of the best villas in Ibiza and Formentera.

Hermanus, South Africa

Temperature: 20°C high; 12°C low
Season: spring
Travel time from UK: 11 hours 30 minutes
Time difference: BST+2

Less than two hours’ drive from Cape Town, Hermanus has grown from fishing village to popular seaside destination for good reason: it offers the world’s best land-based whale-watching. Come in late September, when the Hermanus Whale Festival celebrates peak season for southern right whales breaching close to shore. Though the fest brings heaps of entertainment – live music, vintage car shows, street food, kids’ activities – spare some time for exploring Hermanus beyond the crowds.

It’s at its very best on gorgeous cliffside walks, secluded white-sand beaches (Voëlklip is made for picnicking), or at refined countryside restaurants – The Restaurant at Newton Johnson is set on its own farm, overlooking the winery’s vines. If you're keen to spot some whales, land-based whale watching is about as un-invasive as it gets, and saves on pollution produced by boats. So, while plenty of operations offer whale-watching boat tours here, why bother when the view is so good from terra firma? Hermanus even has its own ‘whale crier’, who helpfully roams around blowing on a kelp horn to alert you to sightings.

Where to stay: Birkenhead House, a coastal hotel with a pool terrace overlooking the ocean.

Barcelona, Spain

Temperature: 26°C high; 20°C low
Season: autumn
Travel time from UK: 2 hours 10 minutes
Time difference: BST+1

It's definitely still sunshine season in September in Barcelona – temperatures average around 25ºC in the daytime, a balmy 19ºC at night. The locals are back from their holidays, but everyone's still going to the beach and eating out and partying like mad to make the most of the last days of summer. Catalonia's national holiday is on 11 September, when the city closes for parades, concerts and celebrations, and the Fiestas de la Mercè is a week-long festival, the biggest of the year, with hundreds of musicians and carnivals, performances and gigs, planned and impromptu, all over the city.

Where to stay: Design-lovers should make a beeline for The Hoxton in Pobelnou, where some rooms come with a view of the La Sagrada Familia. Another great option is Nobu Hotel Barcelona, a glitzy blend of Japanese minimalism and comfortable luxury. ME Barcelona has an unbeatable city location plus a rooftop sundeck and pool. See our guide to the best hotels in Barcelona for more.

Zanzibar, Tanzania

Temperature: 30°C high; 21°C low
Season: cool
Travel time from UK: 12 hours 45 minutes
Time difference: BST+2

“Exotic” barely covers it. Zanzibar is another world. Its beaches are mirage-like: salt-white sand, ocean toned electric-blue. Mythical, Unesco-listed Stone Town is an ancient maze built on trade between disparate cultures: Arab, Persian, Indian, European. The scent of cloves fills the bazaars, and gothic churches mingle with domed mosques and Persian hammams.

Hotels here are smarter of late; see the waterside Park Hyatt, or Zuri Zanzibar’s thatched villas. September is dry – before the ‘short rains’ of November and December – and not so stifling at around 27°C. Note: you’ll see a lot of operators offering the chance to swim with dolphins in Zanzibar – don’t do it. Tanzania is one of only a few spots in the world with no official regulations to limit the impact of tourism on its dolphin population, and bad practices abound.

Where to stay: Zuri Zanzibar for Scandi-style furnishings and ethnic murals.

French Polynesia

Temperature: 28°C high; 22°C low
Season: winter
Travel time from UK: 23 hours
Time difference: BST-11

July and August are the busiest months in French Polynesia. Hold out until September and, as well as having more overwater bungalows to choose from, the weather’s still heaven. No heavy rains until November; none of the later months’ humidity to force on the air-con. Just blue, blue lagoons and the kind of peace you only find at the end of the world.

Though it’s the very picture of paradise, locals call Bora Bora “boring boring”. For a quick culture dose, head out of your resort and visit the pearl farms of quiet Taha’a, or meet the blue-eyed, giant sacred river eels of lush Huahine (but maybe leave it to your guide to feed them). Try to get out of your resort and look for local tour operators offering excursions with an eco bent. Nani Travels, for example, was founded by a young Tahitian, Alexandrine Wan, and offers the likes of helping with coral-reef restoration, e-biking around Mo’orea island’s pineapple fields and monitoring shark populations.

Where to stay: The Brando, a polished hideaway on a tiny atoll with a blindingly white beach.

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