September is a glorious month to travel, where fewer tourists, lower rates and milder weather come together to create perfect conditions for a late-summer escape or early autumn holiday (or fall vacation, depending on where you’re from). With the GCC in the centre of the world, it’s easy to escape to all four corners for a September escape, be it the last days of the season in the Mediterranean, springtime in Southern Africa or dry season in central Asia. Here are the best places to travel in September from the UAE and GCC.
Best for: castles, food and music festivals, beautiful scenery
Weather: 9°C to 13°C
Less than eight hours from the UAE and offering visa-free travel for UAE residents, Ireland is one of the most beautiful destinations to travel to in September. As summer draws to a close and autumn sets in, travellers can enjoy pleasant mild temperatures and an abundance of festivities as the country prepares for an exciting season, including Halloween, food and drink festivals, and, of course, Christmas. Along with a topography of mountains and lakes, alongside historic castles (many of which are now hotels) and world-class cities, Ireland in September offers guests the likes of the Electric Picnic – Ireland’s largest and internationally acclaimed music and arts festival – which is taking place from 1 to 3 September and included headliners Billie Eilish, The Killers, Niall Horan and many more. Food festivals include the Food & Cider weekend in Ireland’s northern town of Armagh, celebrating the year’s apple harvest, and the hugely popular Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival on the West Coast – the world’s oldest oyster festival and home of the Irish and World Oyster Opening (or ‘shucking’) Championships. Check into stunning hotels like Castle Leslie Estate, in County Monaghan, is one of the most renowned luxury castle stays on the island of Ireland or the elegant Ballynahinch Castle with its antiques and roaring fireplaces.
Best for: history and culture
Weather: 11°C to 27°C
Located in central Asia, enigmatic Uzbekistan is the quintessential Silk Route country. The former Soviet republic is having a moment, with an increased push on tourism (and even its own Assouline book) spurring a wave of new international hotels. September is the perfect time to travel to Uzbekistan, towards the end of peak tourist season and before the winter sets in. As a historic spot on the Silk Road, there are plenty of cultural and historical sites to see, while the capital Tashkent resembles a European city with lakeside gardens, landscaped public parks and cosmopolitan cafés.
Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand are must-visit cities with minarets, domes and mosaics that have been carefully restored to their former glory. The walled city of Khiva is nothing short of a living museum, with Uzbek families and businesses thriving in it to this day. Samarkand is famous for its Registan, a complex of three towers covered with brilliantly-coloured mosaics. Pack light to make room for souvenirs such as handmade ceramics, embroidered tapestries, miniature paintings and, if you’re really ambitious, a Bukharan carpet.
Best for: Nature and history
Climate: 15°C to 26°C
September is a great time to visit Georgia, catching a beautiful period between the summer heat and winter freeze. The Balkan country is just a three-hour flight from Dubai and has cosmopolitan cities, Black Sea beach resorts, and, come winter, a handful of great ski resorts, too. In the capital, Tbilisi, take the cable car up to the fortress Narikala to enjoy views of the River Mtkavari. Walk over to the towering statue of the Mother of Georgia. Feast on the flavourful Georgian cuisine, with khachapuri, a bread stuffed with cheese, and khinkali, dumplings filled with meat or cheese.
Shop for glassware, ceramics, jewellery or Soviet memorabilia at the open-air market of Dry Bazaar. Take a day trip to the Jvari monastery, with its centuries-old murals, or head into the Kazbek Mountains for stunning vistas, the beautiful Gregeti Trinity church and book a stay at the trendy Rooms Hotels Kazbegi. Kutaisi, Georgia’s legislative capital, is home to several historic structures such as the ruined Bagrati Cathedral, the Gelati Monastery and Motsameta church. On the other side of the country, located on the Black Sea, Batumi is a lovely beach resort with belle époque architecture.
Best for: Beaches, sightseeing and hot air ballooning
Climate 16°C to 25°C
The historic landscapes of Türkiye offer so much to travellers. For starters, the nation straddles two continents, Europe and Asia, offering a colourful and heady mix of culture and gastronomy. Istanbul is the epicentre of this vibrance and history, and it’s easy to spend three or four September days here (made even easier thanks to quick direct flights from GCC hubs). Explore Aya Sofia, the church-turned-mosque-turned-museum, Top Kapi palace, Spice Bazaar and Galata Tower to get a sense of Istanbul’s rich history. Soak up the view of the skyline, which looks particularly scenic in the light of the setting sun, on an evening cruise on the Bosphorus. And a bath at the Sulemaniye Hammam, a centuries-old public bathhouse, is an experience in itself.
Outside of Istanbul, Cappadocia, with its fairy chimneys, is a dreamy destination for taking a hot air balloon ride, and is hugely popular on social media. The view includes rock-cut churches of the Byzantine Era, nestled into the valleys and the pure white travertine terraces of Pamukkale. Head south to Bodrum for the last days of one of the Mediterranean’s most stylish (and still slightly underexplored) Rivieras and stunning hotels like Amanruya, Macakizi and Susona Bodrum.
Hunza Valley, Pakistan
Best for: nature
Climate: 9°C to 29°C
Hunza Valley sits in the far north of Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan and China. It is a largely peaceful area and considered safe to travel, even for solo travellers, with no security threats and a friendly local community. Located on the fabled Silk Route, with the majestic backdrop of Hindukush and Karakoram ranges, this breathtakingly beautiful and untouched place is a lovely and different place to travel in September from the UAE. Attractions include Baltit and Alitit Forts, the snow-covered Rakaposhi Peak, Attabad and Borit Lakes, and Ghulkin and Passu Glaciers. September brings attractive autumn foliage to the Upper Hunza Valley and is a beautiful time to visit. Hunza Valley is also easier to get to than you’d think: a direct three-hour flight from Dubai (or other GCC cities) to Islamabad, a short connecting flight to Gilgit, and a two-hour drive to the valley itself.
North Coast, Egypt (Sahel)
Best for: Brilliant blue waters and exciting new developments
Climate: 21°C to 33°C
Travellers mainly flock to Egypt for its unrivalled historical sights: the relics of the great ancient civilisation, world wonder the Pyramids of Giza and the fabled Nile with its historical banks. But while international tourists flock to these, locals in the know head to the beautiful north coast, bordering the Mediterranean and home to white sands, brilliant blue waters, charming towns, and some glitzy new developments. Flying into Alexandria, it’s an easy drive to the most beautiful beaches and developments along the North Coast, and September brings warm (but not sweltering) climes. The most exciting of these developments is Marassi, a new landscape of hotels, resorts, yachting marinas, nightlife, restaurants and bars from Dubai-based mega hospitality brand Emaar.
Best for: Beach holidays, old town shopping and Colobus Monkey-spotting
Climate: 21°C to 30°C
Zanzibar is one of Africa’s most popular island escapes. Located off the mainland of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean, the tropical idyll has a long, tumultuous history, which has left a blend of cultures and historical sight. In September, the weather is sunny, the waters are warm, the humidity is low and there’s little rain. Check into one of the many beautiful resorts that dot the island, including a private-pool villa paradise and the former home of Abba’s Benny Anderson. Along with stunning resorts, beaches and watersports, the island’sisland’s capital Stone Town is an absolute treasure trove. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and comprises atmospheric alleyways and interesting architecture with African, Arab, European and Indian influences. Changu (or Prison) Island is an easy day trip and home to giant Aldabra tortoises. Jozani National Park is also worth a visit if you’re interested in seeing the rare red Colobus monkey.
Johannesburg, South Africa
Best for: Culture, gastronomy, once-in-a-lifetime safari breaks
Climate: 8° to 24°
Cape Town may be South Africa’s most scenic city, but the biggest city, Johannesburg, is arguably the most electric and vibrant. Located 2,000 kilometres away from the coastal metropolis of the Mother City, Johannesburg (or Jo’burg, as the locals call it) is the most accurate reflection of the modern Rainbow Nation, a sprawling metropolis of high rises and townships alongside swish neighbourhoods, shopping malls and polo clubs. Understand South Africa’s troubled past with a visit to the Apartheid Museum and a tour of Soweto township, and check into some of the beautiful hotels – like the stunning Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff, Johannesburg, with its pool and tiered gardens. One of Jo’burg’s biggest pulls is its proximity to the Kruger National Park, so visitors can combine an exciting city and safari break in one holiday. Joburg’s weather is known for being erratic, with such high altitudes and summers of hail and storms and beautiful winter, and September is a middle ground, with very little rain and sunny days. Nights, however, are very cold, so make sure to bring clothes to wrap up.