September for the journey

Ever dreamed of hopping between sun-kissed Aegean islands or making tracks of your own along the Silk Road? If a great voyage beckons on your bucket list but you don’t know where to start, here are four epic experiences to tantalise intrepid souls.

 

Island-hop between whitewashed fishing villages and gorgeous beaches

In the 1970s Aegean island-hopping was a backpacker’s rite of passage; today, with flights and fast ferries, it’s easier – and more popular – than ever. But despite the numbers of tourists, Greek and foreign, thronging the best-known islands in high season, there’s still magic to be found – particularly if you arrive in September, when the weather is still balmy and the seas calm, but prices and visitor numbers fall.

You might not have the picture-postcard views across whitewashed, blue-roofed Oia on Santorini to yourself, but on many islands you can find an empty beach, a traditional taverna, and a working harbour with fishing boats bobbing at anchor.

  • Trip plan: There are international airports on Mykonos and Santorini. A busy ferry network links the islands with each other and to mainland ports including Piraeus for Athens. A tempting itinerary might include Mykonos for nightlife (plus a trip to ancient Delos), Paros for hillside villages, beaches and windsurfing, Naxos for hiking and diving, Santorini for those views from Oia across the crater, and one of the Little Cyclades to step off-grid.
  • Need to know: Hotels, tavernas and other services on most islands close from mid-October to Orthodox Easter.
  • Other months: May-Sep – hot (Jul-Aug: busiest); Apr & Oct – mild; Nov-Mar – cool, sleepy.

 

Traverse the ‘Stans in mellow autumn

Traders had been criss-crossing Asia for over 1200 years before Marco Polo’s 13th-century odyssey to the court of Kublai Khan in Běijīng. The allure of the Silk Road hasn’t waned, especially Central Asia between the Caspian Sea and the ancient trading city of Kashgar in west China, where conditions are best in September – not meltingly hot in Turkmenistan’s deserts or the fabled cities of Uzbekistan, not too snowy in the mountains and turquoise lakes of Kyrgyzstan and remote western China.

  • Trip plan: Popular overland routes run from İstanbul through Turkey and via Iran or Georgia and Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan. Visit the Darvaza gas crater and quirky Ashgabat in Turkmenistan, the tiled medressas and minarets of Samarkand and Khiva in Uzbekistan, the mountain meadows and Song-Köl lake in Kyrgyzstan, and Kashgar’s Sunday Market en route to Xī’ān and Běijīng in China. Can’t spare three months? Two weeks could take you from Ashgabat to Tashkent (Uzbekistan), or Tashkent to Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan).
  • Need to know: You’ll need a visa and/or letter of invitation to enter Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan and China.
  • Other months: Apr-May & Sep-Nov – moderate heat; Jun-Aug – deserts fiery; Dec-Mar – below 0°C (32°F) at altitude.