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posted on September 23rd, 2016

Sandwiched between summer’s soaring temperatures (and prices) and winter’s bustling ski season, fall is the perfect time to take a vacation that’s both relaxed and budget-friendly. From hiking to wine tasting to pounding the pavement of a new city, it’s all better when surrounded by the sunset colors of fall foliage. Read on for this autumn’s dreamiest destinations.

Tuscany, Italy

When the stifling heat and crowds of summer have passed, Italy takes on a quiet magic, and nowhere is this more evident than in Tuscany. Golden light streams over rolling green hills dotted by the turning colors of vineyards surrounding centuries-old farmhouses just waiting to welcome you.

Make Florence your home base for a touch of city life, or book a stay at one of the many family-run B&B’s for a slower-paced vacation. Fattoria Poggio Alloro is just such a tucked-away gem outside San Gimignano where you can sleep, dine, and, of course, wine. Vespa through the surrounding towns and vineyards before returning to lounge by the pool sipping another impeccable glass of Chianti — after a day or two of this, autumn anywhere else just starts to feel wrong.

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Denver, CO

New England can’t claim all the fall foliage glory. Denver holds its own with swiftly changing leaves lining the charming downtown paths and lighting up the surrounding mountains. Beyond the oranges and yellows exploding in nature, check out some ambers and wheats in the area’s multiple beer festivals. The Denver Beer Fest is just around the corner, beginning September 30, and (if you can score tickets) the Great American Beer Festival follows right on its heels beginning October 6. Denver Beer Fest is also an excellent way to explore the city with beer-themed events all around town. Looking for something a little more kid-friendly? Check out the Pumpkin Festival at the Denver Botanic Gardens to pick your perfect jack-o-lantern materials.

Kyoto, Japan

Known for its springtime cherry blossoms, Kyoto’s fall foliage is equally if not more stunning. North of the city lies Takao, a forested valley with numerous temples from which to admire the brilliant colors. The stone steps to Jingoji Temple are lined by just such trees, creating an enchanted walk up to the temple. Continue your tour of the changing maple and ginkgo trees in the Hozu Valley. For the most arresting views, take a river boat ride along the Hozugawa River to get the full effect of the brightly colored mountains along the water.

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Jackson Hole, WY

Untouched beauty is the hallmark of this corner of western Wyoming. Jackson Hole is a sleeper hit that’s perfect for fall sojourns. The weather has the quintessential briskness of fall, and the foliage lining the numerous hiking trails is a study in every shade from crimson to ochre. Explore nearby Grand Teton National Park, then soak your hike-wearied muscles at Granite Hot Springs. To really feel one with nature, listen for the autumnal elk mating calls echoing between the mountains in the National Elk Refuge. If you’re tired of all the outdoorsiness, take in a show at the Jackson Hole Playhouse, a dinner theater housed in the town’s oldest building.

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Santiago, Chile

While the US is descending into fall, Chile is blooming into spring, making it a prime time to explore the warmth and beauty of this capital city. Stroll the Bellavista neighborhood to enjoy hand-crafted cocktails and inventive eateries, then pick up some souvenirs in the Patio Bellavista shopping district. For a touch of romance, don’t miss Pablo Neruda’s home at La Chascona while in the area. The most arresting views of the city can be found from Cerro San Cristóbal, perched 3,000 feet high within the Metropolitan Park. Hike or hop on the funicular to reach the top, but don’t miss the sweeping panoramas afforded from this lookout.

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Virginia is equally enamored with words and globetrotting. Whenever possible, she likes to combine the two through travel writing to help other wanderers discover and fall in love with the world.