Six quirky autumn travel destinations

There’s more to an autumn getaway than Paris, Rome or Dubai. Travel writer Sophie Pither has found six quirkier destinations that are perfect for September to November trips.

If you’re after some sun …

Tulum, Mexico
Late autumn is the ideal time to visit Tulum, a quiet resort on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It’s warm, post-hurricane season, and prices are low. As well as thatched boutique hotels and pristine beaches with tropical snorkelling, there are also clifftop Mayan ruins to explore. Nearby Xel-Ha, meaning ‘where the water is born’, is a jungle-edged river inlet filled with awe-inspiring cenotes (flooded caves), beautiful lagoons and marine life.

(Flight time London-Cancun 10h 10m, transfer 90m)

Cordoba, Spain
A medieval city of twisting narrow lanes leading to impressive squares, Cordoba contains one of the world’s most extraordinary buildings, the 11th-century Mezquita. As you enter this former mosque – now a church – the otherworldly stretch of red-and-white striped arches is dizzying. Here in the south of Spain you will eat well in the myriad tapas bars, with sherry galore to wash it down and a warm welcome from locals and the autumn sun alike.

(Flight time London-Seville 2h 45m, transfer 1h 45m)

Alternative city breaks …

Helsinki, Finland
Finland’s attractive harbour capital offers colourful Nordic architecture – a mix of modernism, neoclassical, Russian influences and a concentration of art nouveau buildings. And with more than 80 museums, including three significant art collections, and the sleek curved Kamppi ‘Chapel of Silence’, there’s lots to do. Fit in a coastal island restaurant, and don’t miss a sauna, as ingrained in Finnish culture as tea in ours (Finnish women even used to give birth in them).

(Flight time London-Helsinki 2h 50m)

Lyon, France
Less touristy than Paris, this riverside city at the confluence of the Saône and Rhone has developed a reputation as the foodie capital of France, boasting 18 Michelin-starred restaurants. Once a Roman stronghold as the capital of Gaul, it has a fine Roman theatre in the Fourvière area, easily reached by funiculaire from the Old Town, itself a winding-street meandering pleasure with UNESCO world heritage site status.   

(Flight time London-Lyon 1h 40m)

And in the UK …

Lake District
Rounded hills, expansive lakes, and pretty slate-roofed villages are the reasons for the Lakes’ popularity. But it can feel swamped in summer, so autumn provides a quieter break without the crowds. Pick a country house hotel and take yourself off for hikes. At this time of year you can look forward to ample hot food and fireside tipples. For quirkiness, visit the small, fun Keswick optical illusion museum, or the pencil museum.

Lundy Island
Lundy is a car-free three-mile by 0.6-mile granite outcrop in the Bristol Channel. On arrival by boat or helicopter it feels like a secret island retreat, with steep grassy terrain and dramatic views. Accommodation is run by the Landmark Trust in idiosyncratic self-catering options, all without television, radio or phone. There is a welcoming pub with hearty food. Visitor numbers are controlled, but Autumn means fewer daytrippers.

Benenden members can receive 10% off Benenden Travel Insurance. Use the code MEMBER10 when you organise it here.

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