10 Best Places Outside the U.S. For Fall Color

Vivid garden with Asian-style building at the center
Photo: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Fall is one of the most beautiful times of year. In the United States, fall color destinations include New England and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. And as long as you're aware of when the leaves will be changing in your area, a Sunday cruise along the local scenic byway is an easy way to get your fill. But what about outside the U.S.? There are plenty of other places around the world that equal U.S. locales when it comes to colorful scenery, like Kyoto, Japan, pictured here. Here are 10 of our favorite international destinations for fall color.

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The Cotswolds, England

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People who come to England searching for classic countryside scenes usually head to the Cotswolds. The rolling hills, narrow roads and historic villages in this region of Southern England have a frozen-in-time appeal. The quaintness makes this a great place to catch England's fall colors.

The orange, red and gold foliage adds to the already picturesque scenery. The Cotswolds is famous for its long-distance hiking trails. Popular villages like Cheltenham are great starting points for a walk through the colorful landscapes. You can combine some leaf peeping with a visit to the historic university town of Oxford, which is a sort of gateway to the Cotswolds.

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Bavaria, Germany

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Fall in Bavaria is synonymous with one thing: Oktoberfest. Munich has the Oktoberfest celebration. It draws more than 16 million visitors each year. A lot of Bavaria is quite rural, though. Smaller towns might have their own version of Oktoberfest, but you can also see some of Europe's most beautiful fall colors in Bavaria's non-urban regions.

There are several trails that run through the region's forests. A couple of these paths pass near Neuschwanstein Castle (pictured), a fairy-tale-like structure that is the perfect backdrop for the sea of orange and red leaves. Beyond Oktoberfest, there are other events in the region that can enhance your autumnal excursion.

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Pitlochry, Scotland

Photo: Karen Bryan/flickr

The Scottish Highlands can be the perfect place to see fall foliage. Parts of the region are legendary for their stark, treeless landscapes, but the land around Pitlochry is characterized by dense forests and meadows. The heather here turns purple in the autumn, while the forests have typically bright colors.

Apart from leaf-gazing, there are plenty of other activities in Pitlochry. You can also see lots of fauna, hear local stags rutting and see the young males locking horns. The salmon make their run upriver in the fall as well.

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Transylvania, Romania

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Transylvania is synonymous with a certain fictional vampire. Tourists who visit this scenic region of Romania in fall won’t encounter any caped villains with extra-pointy canines, but they will see plenty of colorful trees.

Like other cities in Eastern Europe, parts of Transylvania's capital, Cluj-Napoca, are very urban. The city can serve as a base for exploring the region, but you can also see some foliage without traveling to the countryside. The botanical gardens in Cluj (pictured) offer a colorful respite in autumn.

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Snowdonia, Wales

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Snowdonia is one of the most scenic regions in Great Britain. A place of rugged mountains, coastal areas and forests, Snowdonia is a popular destination for nature lovers. Unlike most of the U.K.'s parks, this national park is a mixture of public and private land. There are villages within the park where sightseers can stay while they're getting their fall color fix.

Snowdonia National Park is probably best known for its mountains. You can enjoy panoramas with forests and purplish heather fields while you're on the summits of these peaks. The woodlands of Glynllifon Park are ideal for a more immersive fall color experience.

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Aulanko Nature Reserve, Finland

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The town of Hämeenlinna in southern Finland is home to Aulanko Nature Reserve. This stretch of forests and waterways has enticed sightseers and nature lovers for more than a century. Part of the grounds were meant to resemble an English-style parkland.

There's a lookout tower that's perfect for viewing the leaves. Finland sits at a northern latitude, which means that even in the southern portions of the country, the leaves change early in the season. Aulanko is a major tourist destination with hotels and restaurants that sit right on the edge of the parkland.

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Kyoto, Japan

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Kyoto is a bastion of traditional Japanese architecture. The city has held on to its past more than ultramodern Tokyo. Japan is best known for its springtime foliage, but the fall colors are arguably just as stunning. The trees turn deep reds and blazing oranges during the month of November.

It's easy to predict the peak days for leaf watching in Kyoto. The leaves reach their brightest hues on Japan's northernmost island, Hokkaido, in September. The tide of color then moves south, reaching the Kansai region — where Kyoto is located — in November. Places like the grounds of Kiyomizu-dera (pictured) and the Ginkakaji Temples are perfect for enjoying the autumn scenes.

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Oslo, Norway

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Oslo is a beautiful city at any time of year. The area's many parks put nature at every resident's fingertips. Autumn comes early in Scandinavia, but the weather often remains sunny and pleasant into October. Just outside of the city, the Oslomarka Forest is a favorite leaf-viewing destination for locals and tourists alike. The Palace Park and Vigeland Sculpture Park are also worth visiting for a few leaf snapshots. Most of the city's residential areas have trees, so even if you're just wandering around town, you'll stumble upon some picturesque scenes.

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Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

Photo: Christine Zenino/flickr

Iceland is not the first place that people think of when seeking fall color. This near-Arctic island is most popular in the summertime, when its otherworldly landscapes are not covered in snow.

Thingvellir is home to a variety of birch and willow trees. In fact, about 40% of all the tree and plant species in Iceland can be found in Thingvellir. The stark landscapes that Iceland is famous for are visible in the background, creating a unique autumn visual experience.

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St. Petersburg, Russia

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In general, people like to go to rural regions to see fall colors. There are some great places to experience autumn in the areas surrounding St. Petersburg. Catherine's Palace (pictured), just outside of the city, is worth a day trip thanks to its tree-covered grounds. But leaf-seekers don't have to leave the city limits to see some of the brightest colors in Russia.

You can see the golden hues in places like Mikhailovsky Gardens and the grounds of the Peterhof Palace. A number of the city's leafy parks are also memorable, especially on warm autumn afternoons. Lucky tourists may even get to experience "Granny Summer," warm October days that are known as Indian summer in the U.S.