Top destinations to visit in September 2015

Okavango Delta.
Image courtesy: Lonely Planet/Rob Folkes

As temperatures grow milder and tourist crowds wane, September can be a wonderful time of year to travel.

Head to Shanghai for mid-autumn moon gazing, or catch the last of the summer sun on the shores of Lake Michigan. This is also the time to indulge in a tipple or two – at La Rioja’s grape harvest celebrations or Munich’s famous Oktoberfest. Wildlife-lovers can quench their thirst for adventure in Botswana’s iconic Okavango Delta.

Set yourself up for a September to remember with these tips from Lonely Planet’s destination experts.

Spot wildlife at the water’s edge in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Most rivers meet a watery end, flowing meekly into the world’s oceans, seas and lakes. The Okavango is no such river. After flowing for more than a thousand miles from the Angolan highlands, it simply vanishes into the Kalahari Desert. Its dramatic arrival and subsequent disappearance each year attracts not only tourists to this enchanting inland delta, but also a wealth of Africa’s iconic wildlife. Elephants, lions, leopards, hyenas, wild dogs and numerous antelopes skirt along the lush banks (and even partake in the occasional swim), hippos and crocs patrol the watery depths, and hundreds of exotic bird species swarm the skies.

In September, at the tail end of the dry season, the water levels are on their way down, which further concentrates animal populations along the meandering reed-lined channels. Visitors can venture – at almost eye level with the water – through this aquatic phenomenon in mekoro (dugout-style canoes). The experience is as peaceful as it is exciting.

Matt Phillips – Destination Editor for sub-Saharan Africa. Follow him on Twitter @Go2MattPhillips.

Join the celestial celebrations in Shanghai, China

One of China’s most romantic holidays, Mid-Autumn Festival celebrates the brightest moon of the year with swaying lanterns and lunar gazing. Falling on 27 September this year, Shanghai makes for the perfect urban autumn escape. Ascend one of the city’s ubiquitous towers – Shanghai World Financial Center has the highest observation deck on earth – for a closer peek at the moon. At ground level, a stroll along the Bund provides views of stunning colonial architecture and lunar reflections in the inky water of the Huangpu River.

The nearby village of Zhujiajiao is a splendid place to spend Mid-Autumn Night itself. Its magnificently preserved, canal-carved old town is decorated in myriad red hanging lanterns, which twinkle over stone bridges. Stop in to a canalside teahouse for the traditional festival snack: moon cakes, round pastries filled with red bean paste.

Megan Eaves – Destination Editor for North and Central Asia. Follow her on Twitter @megoizzy.

Raise a glass (or three) in La Rioja, Spain

Spain’s premier wine country is a bucolic land of vast blue skies and pretty vines where striking modern cellar doors vie for space with traditional bodegas. It’s a beacon for wine lovers at any time of year, but in September the region is practically soaked in the red stuff during the annual grape harvest – the centrepiece of which is the Fiesta de San Mateo in the town of Logroño, when locals artfully swig the vino directly from traditional leather sacks called botas. Think grape-crushing ceremonies and endless opportunities to sample the nectar of the vine, combined with the type of friendly revelry that can only come from too many copas (glasses) of the good stuff. You don’t have to be a wine connoisseur to have a monumentally good time.

The festival kicks off the Saturday before 21 September and lasts a week: plenty of time to tour the vineyards, visit Logroño’s excellent Museo de la Rioja (in case you needed more wine education), scoff plenty of the region’s impressive pintxos and burn off your indulgences on La Rioja’s network of mountain trails.

Lorna Parkes – Destination Editor for Iberian Europe and Turkey. Follow her on Twitter @LP_Lorna.

Explore inland beaches in Michigan, USA

Up in the mighty Great Lakes region, timing is everything. Booming summers and bone-chilling winters make early autumn the prime time to explore these fabulous inland seas. Michigan borders four of the five lakes and famously has more beaches than the entire east coast of the USA. Catch the last of summer’s heat on Lake Michigan Shore – try your hand at lake surfing in New Buffalo and then go for a mosey exploring beaches, trails and artsy resort towns up the coast to the white bluffs of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Who can resist rolling down a 200ft sand dune? No? Then head into Traverse City to sample cherry pies and wineries.

North from here, things really start to get interesting. The Upper Peninsula is a forested yet isolated landscape of undeveloped shoreline, scenic two-lane roads and pubs selling meat and vegetable pies. As Ernest Hemingway said, the best sky can be found ‘in Northern Michigan in the fall.’ By late September you may even catch flashes of the aurora borealis over Lake Superior.

Dora Whitaker – Destination Editor for eastern and mid-USA. Follow her on Twitter @dorawhit.

Grin and beer it in Munich, Germany

Oompah bands! Pretzels! Lederhosen! Head to Munich in September to embrace all the German clichés you can think of and more, as the Bavarian capital welcomes seven million revellers to the world’s biggest and best-known celebration of beer: Oktoberfest.

What began in 1810 as a celebratory horse race is now a 16-day-long festival of beer and cheer held annually on the Theresienwiese, beginning mid-September and running until the first weekend of October. Be prepared for long queues to gain entry to one of the gargantuan beer tents, but once you’re inside you can hoist a Mass (1L jug), or three, of beer in thirsty jubilation. Aside from the frothy stuff, there’s a fairground and a full calendar of events including parades, music and an agricultural show.

And if all the beer leaves you feeling less than fresh, head to the Englischer Garten to walk off any overindulgence as the park reaches the peak of its autumnal splendour.

Gemma Graham – Destination Editor for northern Europe. Follow her on Twitter @gglpde.

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