20 of the best places to visit in September

September is one of our favourite months to travel. The school holiday rush is over, so sunny destination flight prices start to come down. Temperatures in Europe dip enough to make heat more comfortable and undiscovered Europe is in its element. The ‘stans come to life. Safari season is in full swing, if drawing to a close.

Whether you’re after a getaway with a difference, a life-changing wildlife experience or a long-term adventure to tick off the wish list, September’s an ideal month to get on the road.

Skip ahead to your chosen travel type by clicking on one of the below, or keep scrolling for the full list of recommendations:

Here are the 20 best places to visit in September…

The best September destinations for nature and ideal weather

1. Sicily, Italy

Sicily’s Valle dei Templ (Shutterstock)

Like many popular European hot spots, Sicily is still warm in September, yet less oppressively hot, cooler in the evenings and less busy thanks to the summer holidays drawing to a close. However, you might notice an influx of visitors this year, thanks to the hit series White Lotus introducing the Mediterranean gem to the set-jetting travellers of the world.

In the capital, Palermo, opera season begins again this month. It’s also typically an ideal temperature to take on the hike up Mount Etna, or to explore the volcanic Aoelian Islands.

Ensure time to explore the towns of Taormina and Castelmola. The former is where you can find the must-visit Greek-Roman theatre: the view here is one of the most striking with Mount Etna on the horizon. For more Greek ruins, the Valle dei Templ (Valley of Temples) in Agrigento is one of world’s finest archaeological examples of ancient art and architecture.

It doesn’t matter where you end up on the island: you’ll be able to end each day by parking yourself outside a classic Sicilian eatery to enjoy the hazy late summer evening.

2. Hokkaido, Japan

Jozankei is a picturesque onsen town near Sapporo (Shutterstock)

Just as the pale-pink cherry blossoms of spring draw locals outside to marvel at Japan’s natural beauty, its autumnal colours are just as prized.

But while the rest of the country waits to get its first glimpse of red and golden maple leaves, Hokkaido is ahead of the game. Japan’s chilly northern tip starts to turn towards the middle of September, making for a colourful road trip before the ice and bad weather sets in.

Pay a visit first to the pretty onsen town of Jozankei, just south of Sapporo, which has plenty of walkable forest trails and hot springs to relax in. Then make for the Blue Pond at the centre of the island, where impossibly teal waters reflect the reddening canopies of the surrounding larch and birch trees magnificently, making for a painterly setting.

But you don’t even need to leave the city to spy nature at its autumnal best. Sapporo’s Hiraoka Jugei Center is famous for its ‘red tunnel’, created by the rows of Japanese maples (Nomura momiji) that flank its walkways.

3. Corsica, France

The citadel of Calvi, Corsica (Sylvain Oliveira/Alamy)

Corsica’s Rencontres Polyphoniques de Calvi is one of those tiny cultural pearls that makes a trip to the old citadel of Calvi in mid-September utterly unique, as choristers and soloists from around the world join the A Filetta polyphonic choir in making the most of their cathedral setting.

By day, take the opportunity to explore the rest of the citadel, whose Genoese construction helped Calvi resist French control up until the 18th century. The former governor’s palace is particularly impressive and has a fine museum on the city.

It’s also a great time to visit if you want to take on any part of the GR20 – one of Europe’s toughest but most rewarding trails. The cooler weather of autumn makes this the perfect season to wander Corsica’s glacial lakes and imposing peaks before winter seals off many of the higher passes.

4. Maine, USA

Boats docked in pretty harbour town of Camden in Maine (Shutterstock)

September sees New England’s lobster shacks readying to close up shop for winter, so it’s the perfect time to go on a last-minute coastal food crawl. Hoover up Maine’s famed lobster rolls – overflowing, buttery sandwiches – in villages along the coast, and be sure to stop in Portland, where tours explore both its seafood scene and maritime history.

Further north, Camden takes the plaudits as one of the prettiest harbour towns in Maine, but is known for its fleet of windjammers (merchant-style sail boats). This stretch of Penobscot Bay is particularly sheltered, so it makes a great setting for the annual Labor Day Windjammer Festival, one of the largest meetings of sail ships in north-east USA.

Finish at Acadia National Park’s Mount Desert Island, the highest rocky headlands on this stretch of the Atlantic coast. As well as trails and adventures, it is home to the annual Night Sky Festival in late September, when the Milky Way glimmers bright in the naturally dark skies overhead.

5. Portugal

Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal (Shutterstock)

Portugal lands on our long-term list for the sheer volume of places to visit, because typically, it’s a classic short break destination. We admit: it’s far too easy to fly to Lisbon or Porto for a few days, or enjoy a wine tasting tour of Douro Valley, and then fly back home.

If you’ve weeks maybe even a month or two to spare, it’s well worth slowing down and soaking up Portugal. Spend time seeking out Lisbon and Porto’s up-and-coming neighbourhoods.

Go off-the-beaten-track to the majestic historical city of Coimbra, and explore the underrated Tavira and more of the eastern Algarve‘s quieter coast. Finally, give the fairytale town of Sintra what it deserves: a few days more than a day trip.

You can take your time enjoying the fruits of Portugal’s vineyards, too, and don’t forget the island of Madeira. It has more than just wine to enjoy, but you’ll still soak up Funchal’s world-class wineries at a slower pace.

Portugal may still be a tad too warm in September for travellers better equipped to dealing with cooler temps. However, it’s good to know that things tend to simmer down in the evenings, making strolls to local bars for drinks and petiscos (the snackier version of Spanish tapas) extremely pleasant.

The best longer-term travel experiences for September

6. Georgia

The Old Town of Tbilisi, Georgia (Shutterstock)

The capital, Tbilisi, may make an excellent long weekend destination, but there’s far more of the country to explore.

Batumi and Mtskheta cities are also well worth your time, both offering historical landmarks, monasteries and sensational views. The botanical garden in Batumi is a natural spectacle, too, especially as autumn’s oranges and yellows begin to take over the country.

Head to western Georgia and experience Kutaisi, or delve into Prometheus Cave. Experience local life in the Svaneti region among the Caucasus Mountains, and end your trip with all the Georgian food and drink you can manage, with a relaxing few days by the Black Sea.

7. Argentina

El Caminito neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina (Shutterstock)

Argentina’s winter draws to a close in August and early September, so mid to late September brings with it spring temperatures. They do vary, but you can hope for easygoing temperatures.

Spring blooms bring lush greenery to Argentina’s national parks, and overall, this vast South American country is certainly less crowded than in summer. Northern Argentina in particular is best visited during this season, where you can discover the little-visited Salinas Grandes salt plains, the multi-hued rock formations of Quebrada de Humahuaca, and swing by the mountain city of Salta.

Alternatively, take your time in the capital, Buenos Aires, enjoy the wineries of Mendoza, or head to youthful Córdoba: the gateway to Jesuit monasteries and mountain ranges.

8. Trekking in Nepal

Nepal (Shutterstock)

We’ve covered Nepal’s life-affirming treks in some detail on Wanderlust, and have to say that there’s few better times than September to take on a challenge.

This is because the weather is prime for easy trekking conditions. Rainy season has petered out, the skies are clear and temperatures are on the cooler side.. Time to get walking…

While most head to Nepal for its mountain trails, its also a brilliant country for culture-seekers. Head to Pokhara, the gateway to the popular Annapurna Circuit, but also somewhere you can learn more about Buddhism. Don’t forget to visit the city’s International Mountain Museum for exhibits on historic climbers and the people of the Himalayas.

Teej Festival also often falls in September. During this three-day Hindu festival and national holiday, women will fast and also dress in their beautiful red saris, creating a crimson spectacle on the streets.

9. China

China (Shutterstock)

Both September and October are popular times to visit China. Not least because the spectacular Mid-Autumn Festival takes place during this period, celebrating the end of the harvest. Dates vary, but the special day usually occurs between mid-September and the beginning of October.

Weather-wise, the northern regions are particularly fine to visit anytime in September, though humidity in the south can remain high until later on in the month.

Use this weather pattern to help guide your trip. Begin in Beijing, the electrifying 3,000-year-old capital. The Great Wall, a travel classic, is about an hour and 30 minutes by car. You’ll want several days to walk and explore this sheer wonder.

Then make your way south, stopping by all the must-sees: Chengdu (for giant pandas), Xi’an (one of China’s eldest cities, home to the Terracotta Army) and the Three Gorges mountain range on the Yangtze River.

10. Tajikistan and Turkmenistan

Monument in Rudaki Park, Dushanbe, Tajikistan (Dreamstime)

Geographically (and sensibly), it would be impossible and near-criminal to see the ‘stans and sack off the blue-tiled marvels of Uzbekistan. But since we’ve featured Uzbekistan as a highlight for several different months, why not use September to dig deeper into neighbouring Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, too?

Tajikistan, a landlocked country surrounded by mountains, is a hiker’s untouched dream. The capital, Dushanbe, is absolutely fascinating. Admire its unique architecture and monuments in Rudaki Park, then spend time acquainting yourself with the nation’s Soviet history in Tajikistan National Museum.

Turkmenistan’s jewel is its marble-dense capital, Ashgabat, reportedly one of the most expensive cities in the world for foreigners to live. Fortunately, you’re just visiting, so spend your time marvelling at its tombs, towers and mosques, or shopping in the city’s unusual bazaars.

It’s easy to go beyond the city, though. The white-sand coast spreads out before the Caspian Sea, and the Gates To Hell (the perpetually-burning Darvaza Gas Crater) lies in wait in the middle of the desert.

11. Malawi

The start of the Ruo Path in the Lujeri Tea Estate leading up to the plateau of Mount Mulanje (Shutterstock)

There are few bigger music festivals in Africa than Lake of Stars, which lights up the pale sands at the southern end of Lake Malawi in September.

It was created in 2003 to promote local Malawian artists, though it has since expanded its repertoire to take in acts across the continent. After the pandemic broke in 2020, the festival went on hiatus for a number of years, but its return in 2024 marks a new chapter in the life of ‘Africa’s Glastonbury’.

Combine a visit with trips to the surrounding wilderness and mountain areas. September marks the start of the hot season in Malawi, but driving up to see and stay in the family-run tea plantations of Mulanje Mountains offers a cool escape and glimpse of another world entirely.

Meanwhile, down in the bush of Liwonde National Park, the hotter weather soon rids the land of its wet-season greenery, making sightings of its Big Five far easier to sniff out as you drift the Shire River in search of large herds of elephant and sun-worshipping crocodiles roasting on the riverbanks.

Where to go in September for arts and cultural experiences

12. Munich, Germany

Traditional costumes at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany (Shutterstock)

Oktoberfest has October right there in the title, but Bavaria’s beer-based merriment actually begins around the third week of September. So, why not get there early, before others may be aware?

Over the two-week festival, you can expect endless opportunities for eating German pretzels, wurstl (sausage) and knodel (potato pancakes), hop from tent to tent tasting the best in German beer, dress up in traditional dirndl dresses or lederhose, enjoy a carnival ride, toast your new-found drunken friends (it’s a friendly festival) and simply dance the night away.

13. Bohinj, Slovenia

The Cow’s Ball in Bohinj, Slovenia (Dreamstime)

A little more niche than Oktoberfest, Slovenia’s Bohinj region offers more than scenic beauty in September. It also offers the chance to witness the long-running, traditional ‘cow festival’, known as the ‘Cow Ball’.

It’s exactly as it sounds. Through a cloud of folk music, locals watch a parade of garland-wearing cows pass the gloriously blue Lake Bohinj. The event signifies the return of the cows from the hills in summer, where they’ve been munching and filling their four stomachs with green, green grass.

14. Villamartin, Andalucía, Spain

The beautifully landscaped plaza of Villamartin (Shutterstock)

There’s always a good reason to visit Andalucía, but the annual return of the region’s oldest agricultural fair in September is as good an excuse as any to head for southern Spain. Trust us – it’s more lively than it sounds.

The Feast of St Matthew (Feria de Ganado y Fiestas de San Mateo) serves up Andalucían culture at its purest: cattle browsing before noon; horse displays, carriage races and folklore performances come nightfall. It’s a heady combination, with plenty of food and goodwill found on the streets.

The town lies on the cusp of Sierra De Grazalema, a lush natural park veined with walking trails, rugged limestone peaks and pretty mountain villages such as Benaocaz and Benamahoma. Be sure to strike out into the countryside before heading to the historic streets of nearby Cadiz and Seville for a culture fix.

15. Diriyah & Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

At-Turaif UNESCO World Heritage site illuminated at night (Shutterstock)

The end of the month (23 Sep) marks the National Day of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Celebrations gather around Riyadh’s huge Masmak Fort, where a 21-year-old Abdulaziz Ibn Saud – exiled at the age of eight – led an against-all-odds attack against Ottoman forces in 1902 to take back the fort and proclaim himself the ruler of Riyadh.

If you want to delve into the origins of the Kingdom, take a trip to the ‘original’ capital in Diriyah, on the western fringes of Riyadh, where the ancestors of today’s Saudi royal family first arrived in the 15th century – although the first inklings of the state didn’t emerge until hundreds of years later.

You can explore this history in the restored 18th-century mud-brick walls of the UNESCO-listed At-Turaif citadel and its elegant Salwa Palace, where evening light shows depict the moment in 1818 when the Ottomans rode in and put a violent end to the First Saudi State.

The best places to visit for wildlife watching in September

16. KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

A giraffe roams Hluhluwe-IMfolozi Game Reserve (Shutterstock)

September is traditionally the end of game viewing season inKwaZulu-Natal, making it the ideal month to visit if you want to avoid the mass safari crowds, but still see the Big Five and more.

Expect the opportunity to see lions, elephants, rhinos and giraffes, as well as rare bird species. Hluhluwe-IMfolozi Game Reserve is a must for any wildlife fan, said to be the oldest reserve in Africa. Elephant lovers must head to the north-east to see the creatures roaming Tembe Elephant Park, which is close by to Ndumo Game Reserve.

Birders rejoice at uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, which is protected for its significant population of endangered or rare species, including the wattled crane, vultures (bearded and cape) and the yellow breasted pipit. Over 164 birds have been spotted in the region. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as it’s the home of San Rock Art, a large collection of rock paintings dating back to the 1800s.

17. Tarangire and Serengeti National Parks

Elephants in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania (Shutterstock)

East Africa also offers ample wildlife opportunities in September. Of course, the earlier you visit in September, the better, so you’ve missed the August rush, but you’re also not risking early rains washing the animals out of the park and into the outskirts of the reserves.

Tanzania has two national parks you simply must visit, if you love animals. Tarangire National Park provides wildlife watchers with an excellent chance of enjoying an elephant sighting in the wild, as they group together around the Tarangire River. The Serengeti can still be busy in September and you won’t have much luck with the wildebeest migration (June to July) across the Grumeti River, but you will have better luck with the overall wildlife population. Leopards, lions and more of the Big Five await.

18. Atlantic provinces and British Columbia, Canada

Puffins shotting in Newfoundland, Canada (Shutterstock)

Chances are you’ll want to take a warm jacket with you on a wildlife excursion in the eastern provinces of Canada.

Here, you’ll say goodbye to safari-style wildlife watching and instead admire whales by boat. Take your birding binoculars too as it’s prime time for puffin sightings along the coast.

You can see native black bears in Newfoundland, too. The season lasts until November, so you’ll be there at the right time. There are approximately 6,000 to 10,000 in the region – which is a pretty high concentration.

On the opposite side of the country in British Columbia, it’s prime time to see wild grizzlies in their natural habitat. September and October also offer a great chance to catch the salmon run, where millions of salmon swim and leap upstream to spawn in the places they were born. It’s arguably one of nature’s most fascinating spectacles.

19. Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique

A desert warthog in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique (Shutterstock)

For something a bit different, embrace the beautiful spring season in Mozambique’s premier national park, the so-called ‘Serengeti of the south’.

In spring (September and October), the park’s diverse array of flora and fauna blossom into a lovely shade of green. This month is also peak season for seeing the elephants, wildebeest, warthogs, hippos, lions and buffalo that call the park home as they all flock to watering holes to quench their thirst.

Birders won’t be disappointed either, and you may spot a Nile crocodile or two around Lake Urema and its varying lagoons. Fourteen African wild dogs were also re-introduced to Gorongosa in 2018, so keep your eyes peeled. One creature you may not spot? A zebra. They’re rare – apparently, there are just a few roaming the park.

20. Falsterbo, Sweden

500 million migratory birds pass by the Skanor-Falsterbo peninsula (Shutterstock)

Sweden’s south coast isn’t especially known for its wildlife. The exception is the Skanor-Falsterbo peninsula (aka Naset), home to a pair of small towns on the south-western tip of Skåne that are wrapped by pencil-thin shores. In September, it also becomes the perfect viewing spot to see 500 million migratory birds pass by, including a huge number of raptors.

The rooftop of the bird observatory is a great place to bag a spot. And when you’re done, a short walk away lies the Måkläppen reserve, where a year-round colony of harbor and grey seals hang out on a hook-shaped isthmus. SUP and kayak tours can take you near, but these creatures are so curious that they often swim up close to inspect paddlers.

If you have the time, combine the above with a cycling trip along the Sydkustleden (260km), which runs the flat coastal paths of Skåne and takes in standing stones, medieval cobbled villages, pirate castles, the canals of Malmo and plenty of fikas (afternoon tea).

7 of Tajikistan’s most beautiful natural wonders

1. Fedchenko Glacier

Fedchenko Glacier, high in the Pamir mountains (Shutterstock)

At 77km long and covering an area of 700 sq km, the Fedchenko Glacier is the longest glacier in the world outside of the polar regions. Set high in the Pamir Mountains, it is also overlooked by Tajikistan’s highest peak, Ismoil Somoni, named after a ruler in the Samanid dynasty.

The glacier is remote and high and difficult to reach. Tour companies offer treks to the glacier from the town of Kalai-Khumb. It takes nine days, there and back, and includes walks across the ice on Bears Glacier.

2. Garm Chashma

The hot thermal springs of Garm Chashma (Shutterstock)

Set high in the Tajiki side of the Wakhan Corridor, with views across the Hindu Kush, the hot springs at Garm Chashma have been famous for their curative effects since time immemorial.

Fed by micro-geysers, the waters are rich in hydrogen sulphide, silicone acid and carbon acid along with iron, aluminium, magnesium, strontium and fluorine. The temperature is a pleasant 38°C, and locals swear that your skin will never feel better.

3. Lake Iskanderkul

A view of the Fann Mountains near Lake Iskanderkul (Shutterstock)

Backed by the distinctive dome-shaped peaks of the Fann Mountains, Lake Iskanderkul isone of the most iconic sights in Tajikistan. Fed by glacial waters, the water is an earthly shade of blue, the colour made all the more intense from its 2,195m altitude.

The lake sits on the northern slopes of the Gissar Range and makes the perfect base for treks further into the stunning in the Fann Mountains. The three day trek to the region’s other magnificent glacial lakes, Kulikalon and Alauddin is a popular choice.

4. Lake Sarez

A hut on Lake Sarez (Shutterstock)

Tucked away high in the Pamir Mountains, Lake Sarez was only formed in 1911 when a huge earthquake caused a landslide that created a huge natural barrier known as the Usoi Dam. To this day, it remains the largest dam in the world, either natural or man-made.

Backed by dramatic snow-capped mountains, and coloured a mesmerising aquatic blue, it is one of the most breathtaking sights in Tajikistan. It is also one of the most fragile. Scientists fear that the dam wall is unstable and another earthquake could see it break.

5. The Tajik Wakhan Corridor

A rickety suspension bridge over the Pyanj River (Shutterstock)

The Wakhan Corridor is the stuff of legends: a remote stretch of land tucked away between the towering Pamir and Karakorum ranges. The southern part sits in Afghanistan, and the north in Tajikistan – following the Pyanj River south from Khorog along a narrow canyon to Ishkashim.

Remote communities here cultivate the pockets of fertile ground near the rivers, a providing a splash of green against the dry bare mountains. This is the Hindu Kush, the killer of Hindus, a towers barrier of stone that marks the Afghanistan–Pakistan border.

Against them the forts and villages scattered here look tiny, the houses, orchards and suspension bridges looking like miniature toys in God’s earthly play set.

6. Karakul Crater Lake

Lake Karakul in Pamir in Tajikistan (Shutterstock)

Formed after a meteor slammed into the earth 10 million years ago, Karakul Lake is 45km wide, making it one of the largest, and highest, meteor craters in the world. It’s also one of the most beautiful, with the aqua blue waters of the lake backed by imposing snow-capped mountains.

Although the crater lake lies within a national park, much of the surround land is used for pasture. Having said that, the marshes, peat bogs, wet meadows and sandy plains that surround it are a haven for bird life, including Tibetan sand grouse, Himalayan rubythroats, Himalayan vultures and black-headed mountain finches.

7. Mount Chapdara

The unusual cliff face of Mount Chapdara (Shutterstock)

Already one of the highest peaks in the Fann Mountains, Chapdara is also legendary amongst climbers for its 1,500m tall vertical wall on its north-eastern side.

Unless you’re a hard core climber, it’s very unlikely you’ll get to scale it, but it makes a breathtaking sight on one of the many treks that have become popular in this corner of Tajikistan.

There are several trekking routes that offer views of the wall, starting at trailheads at Artush, Alaudin Camp, Iskanderkul and Marguzor Lakes. As well as the cliff face of Mount Chakdara, you’ll encounter incredible lakes, alpine meadows and glaciers.

More things to do in Tajikistan:

The 9 greatest ecotourism experiences in Central Asia

The Silk Road occupies a romantic place in our collective imagination, but after decades of isolationism, the Central Asian republics – better known as the ‘stans – are only now opening up to tourism.

Wanderlust readers chose Uzbekistan as their Top Emerging Destination for 2019, and we all known that the UNESCO World Heritage wonders of Samarkand and Bukhara dazzle.

But to really appreciate the natural beauty of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan? It’s time to be a responsible traveller, and embark on one of the best ecotourism experiences in the region.

Here are the top 9 ecotourism experiences in Central Asia…

1. Yaks and yurts in the Pshart Valley, Tajikistan

Pshart Valley, Kyrgyzstan (Maximum Exposure Ltd)

Kyrgyz nomads drive their flocks high into the Pamir Mountains in summertime to find fresh pastures, setting up their traditional yurts as temporary homes.

Visitors are welcome to join them for a night or two in the Pshart Valley west of Murghab, learning firsthand how to care for yaks, milk horses, make yoghurt, and weave.

Conditions in the valley are basic, but the views are spectacular and the hospitality warm. The income from hosting guests helps families preserve their way of life. The Pamir Eco-Cultural Tourism Association (PECTA)coordinates yurt and homestay bookings, as well as providing drivers and guides.

2. Homestay at Kah Kaha Fortress, Tajikistan

Wakhan Valley, Tajikistan (Shutterstock)

Down in the Wakhan Corridor, entrepreneur Shoira runs the two bedroom Intizor Guesthouse beside the ruins of Kah Kaha Fortress.

It’s a traditional style Pamiri property with sacred ibex horns above the gates to offer protection to those inside. Shoira grows all her fruit and vegetables in the garden, and her home cooked meals are the highlight of any stay.

From the house, you can look across the Wakhan to Afghanistan and then stroll over to the fortress, which you are almost certain to have to yourself. Book your stay through PECTA, or just turn up in person.

3. Camels and folk singing in the Kyzylkum Desert, Uzbekistan

A Bactrian camel in the Kyzylkum Desert, Uzbekistan (Shutterstock)

The camel is the ship of the desert, the symbol of the Silk Road. In Uzbekistan’s Kyzylkum Desert, you can stay at Safari Yurt Camp and ride out across the dunes on board one of the fluffy (and usually good-tempered) Bactrian camels.

Riding by camel gives you an elevated view of the landscape and a sense of how ancient merchants travelled. When darkness falls, there’s a timeless magic to the atmosphere around the campfire, especially when one of your hosts gets out his stringed instrument and begins to sing haunting folk songs. These are the sounds of the Silk Road.

4. Explore the Sentob ecotourism hub, Uzbekistan

Sentob ecotourism hub, Uzbekistan (Maximum Exposure Ltd)

The village of Sentob in Navoi has just 2,064 inhabitants, but together they’ve turned their community into Uzbekistan’s pre-eminent ecotourism hub.

10 families have opened homestays and guesthouses; others offer lunches, guided walks, tours of their orchards, and musical performances.

At Rahima’s Homestay, I was welcomed with freshly baked bread from the tandoor. It’s an easy walk along the valley to the Sentob petroglyph site (where the oldest rock carvings are thought to be 10,000 years old), an abandoned village with the remains of a Buddhist temple, and the shrine of a medieval Sufi saint.

5. Wild swimming in Tudakul and Aidarkul, Uzbekistan

Lake Tudakul, Uzbekistan (Shutterstock)

The twin lakes of Tudakul and Aidarkul are jewels in the Kyzylkum Desert. Tudakul is an Important Bird Area (IBA), and more than 250 bird species have been recorded locally, many of them migrants and wintering waterbirds.

Both lake shores are wonderfully underdeveloped, and in the height of summer nothing beats stripping off your clothes on the beach and walking out into the cool, clear water.

The edges of the lakes are shallow enough for paddling, but as you go further out the water becomes deeper, and you can swim undisturbed for hours.

6.Hiking through Ala Archa National Park, Kyrgyzstan

Ala Archa National Park, Kyrgyzstan (Maximum Exposure Ltd)

South of Bishkek, the Ala Archa National Park stretches across the slopes of the Tian Shan Mountains. The juniper trees give the park its name, and provide food for the many indigenous species of wildlife.

Hiking through the Ala Archa Gorge with a guide from CBT Kyrgyzstan, you can expect to see roe deer, marmots, and wild goats, whilst birds of prey swoop and circle overhead.

There are snow leopards in the upper reaches of the park, too, and they’ve been photographed recently using camera traps, though they tend to be both shy and well camouflaged.

7. Cross country skiing at Chimgan, Uzbekistan

Snowy peaks of Chimgan, Uzbekistan (Shutterstock)

Central Asia is a year-round destination, and in the Chatkal Mountains north-east of Tashkent, winter sports are developing fast. There are ski resorts with lifts at Amirsoy, Beldersay, and Chimgan, but those who prefer a lighter environmental touch should plan on cross country skiing.

Ulysse Tour takes guests into the Greater Chimgan, providing ski equipment as well as local guides. The snow cloaked mountains are dramatic, the air as fresh as can be, and unlike the pistes in Europe, you may well ski all day without seeing another soul.

8. Picnicking at Lake Kaindy, Kazakhstan

Lake Kaindy, Kazakhstan (Shutterstock)

Kalpak Travelrates Lake Kaindy as one of the top five sites in Kazakhstan. That’s why they bring guests here to hike, horse ride, and picnic.

This surreal-looking lake was created naturally in 1911 when an earthquake flooded a stretch of forest: the birch trees stand out like silvery spears above the turquoise water.

In the winter, you can come to Kaindy for ice diving and trout fishing, but the real pleasure is walking here in the late spring when the vegetation is most verdant, then sitting at the water’s edge enjoying a picnic and a glass of wine.

9. Cycling the Pamir Highway, Tajikistan

Pamir Highway, Tajikistan (Shutterstock)

The Pamir Highway is without doubt one of the world’s greatest road trips. It winds its way from Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s capital, to Osh in Kyrgyzstan, climbing to a breathless height of 4,655m. Whilst you can drive the Pamir Highway by 4×4, the eco-friendly alternative is to cycle.

If the physical challenge is too much, or you’re short of time, you don’t have to cycle all the way: Paramount Journeycan supply mountain bikes, vehicle support, and guides so you can bike the most scenic sections through the Tajik National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

More inspiration for Central Asia: