From swimming in New Zealand’s hot springs to dancing at Mexico’s favourite cultural festival ­– travel writer Amy Bonifas has discovered the best locations and experiences to add to your autumn 2019 holiday bucket list.

For many travellers, summer marks the end of the holiday season. But if you can buck the trend, autumn is the best time to go long haul and book the adventure that you’ve always wanted to.

According to travel website Opodo, September is one of the cheapest months to book flights, so it’s a great time of year to book last-minute adventures or plan ahead for next year (top tip: Friday is the best day to book long-haul flights).

Plus, venturing further afield at this time of year means taking advantage of cool climes, blossoming flora and wildlife must-sees, minus the crowds. Here are seven destinations that are at their best in the coming autumn months…

1. Go off the grid in Patagonia, Chile

Image Credit: Awasi Patagonia

Why: Chile is known for its adventure tourism thanks to Lonely Planet. If you like challenging yourself on holiday, Patagonia is perfect – think glaciers, arid plains and picturesque peaks. In autumn, temperatures begin to warm up and it’s a great time to spot llamas and alpacas.

Stay: Awasi Patagonia has 12 eco-friendly cabins to choose from, set in the wilderness of Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park. From here, you can try horse riding, remote trails and glacier hiking. Double rooms from £1,909 per night, open from 1 October.

2. Try crater hiking in The Azores

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Why: This archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic is one of Portugal’s best-kept secrets. Lush with dense forests and unusual plants, there are also volcanic craters and beaches to explore. If you’re passionate about sustainability (who isn’t?), you’ll be pleased to hear that 95% of the islands are rural, they widely use renewable energy and it’s the world’s first destination to be awarded the Platinum Quality Coast Award.

Stay: Pico do Reugio is a 17th century mansion on Sao Miguel, the largest island, known for twin crater lakes, Sete Cidades. It now offers unique accommodation and artist residences. Rooms start from around £100 per night.

3. Meet pandas in Chengdu, China

Why: This laid-back city is home to one of the largest Giant Panda reserves in the world (and the Sichuan peppercorn). September-November is a great time to go as the high heat and humidity of the summer fades – the best weather for sampling its signature hot pots and noodle broths.

Stay: Booking a tour is probably the best way to see this peaceful region, so try the Discover China with Chengdu tour by Hayes and Jarvis – £2,499 for 10 days per person. If you want to stay put, The Temple House (from £218 per night) is a unique heritage hotel.

4. Road trip across Namibia

Why: A US road trip is on everyone’s bucket list, but how about touring the stunning Namibian desert? Here, you can drive for hundreds of miles, passing vast sand dunes and rolling savannah. It’s the best way to take in the country’s beautiful stillness, and in autumn you can avoid the blistering heat of the dry season and the downpours of the wet season. Travel to Etosha and spot zebra, waterbucks and kudus in the game reserves, or follow the Hoanib River to see one of the most desolated and peaceful parts of the country.

Stay: Khowarib Lodge in Kaokoland is set in wild scrubland and is a great point from which to explore the north west of Namibia. There’s a communal dining area and swimming pool. Plus, the fee you pay to the lodge goes towards buying supplies for the Himba tribe.

5. Dance along in Guanajuato, Mexico

Why: Classical music, Mexican folk dance, opera and local theatre – the Festival Internacional Cervantino in October is one of the biggest international cultural events in Latin America. Unsurprisingly, the city of Guanajuato is also a creative mecca with art galleries and evening street performers. Better still, autumn means the end of the rainy season and more opportunity to wander the rainbow-bright streets.

Stay: Stay with a local host at former bakery B&B (from £60 per night) for delicious local breakfasts and stunning interiors. Or, choose the central Hotel Posada Sante Fe (from £76 per night in October), where the terrace overlooks the verdant Jardin de la Union.

6. Go hot air ballooning in Utah, USA

Image Credit: Under Canvas / Photo: Trent Bona

Why: The lesser-known town of Moab is one of Utah’s most exciting spots right now. The deep-red canyons and stunning rock formations of Arches National Park are reason enough to visit, but the Colorado River offers amazing swimming and rafting (it’s a balmy 23° in autumn). Downtown, there are outdoor theatres and live music events always popping up.

Stay: Ever wanted to camp out in the wild? Under Canvas is a beautiful luxury campsite with a few mod cons such as kingsize beds, showers and private decks. It’s also the ideal base to experience an unforgettable hot air balloon ride. Tents from $179 per night in October.

7. Swim in hot springs in Rotorua, New Zealand

Image Credit: Destination Rotorua

Why: If you’re travelling with family, add Rotorua to your list. Around October, this part of New Zealand emerges from winter and blossoms into spring, so it’s a great time to visit the hot springs and explosive geysers. Take in authentic Maori culture at the museum or try the latest health and wellness trend forest bathing in the stunning Redwood forests.

Stay: After a day of exploring, Wai Ora Lakeside Spa is a great place to rest up, with a plunge pool, local herb-infused sauna and steam room. Rooms from NZ$199 per night in October.

Feeling inspired to jet off? Eligible Vitality members can benefit from up to 25% off Mr & Mrs Smith stays (T&Cs apply and the maximum discount is £125).

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