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In Search of Fall Color? Peep These 10 International Leaf-Looking Destinations

By:  Mackensy Lunsford Oct 14, 2013
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Hot air balloon in North Carolina

Looking for fall color? Though the northeastern United States gets a lot of the credit for spectacular autumn leaves, other places put on just as vivid of a show. Here are 10 such locales, in no particular order.

1. Kyoto, Japan

In Japan, the progress of the trees through the seasons has long been meticulously recorded as an important happening. Cherry blossoms appear in Japanese art more than 1,000 years old, and autumn leaves are almost as prevalent.

The Japanese take an active role in watching the trees put on their Autumn color; there, fall leaf-peeping is known as momijigari, which literally means "hunting for red leaves."

Kyoto, one of the oldest of Asian cities, is filled with temples, parks and rivers that are surrounded by mountains — all which makes for a gorgeous backdrop to the explosion of fall color.

Kyoto, Japan
Image courtesy of Kyoto Travel.

2. The Blue Ridge Mountains in Asheville, North Carolina

The extreme range in elevation (from 1,500 feet in the valleys to 6,684 feet at Mount Mitchell) means that the Blue Ridge Mountains have one of the longest fall foliage seasons in the world.

According to Dodie Stephens of the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau, trees had already put on their peak fall colors in early October of this year — at least in the highest elevations across the Blue Ridge.

"But fall leaf hunters have a lot of options," says Stephens. "Generally, the color show can be quite long, as the patchwork travels down the mountains. But Mother Nature does have the last word, so a good tip is to watch the weather and check regional color reports to maximize a leaf-peeping excursion."

Asheville's tourism office provides weekly color reports for the region at www.FallintheMountains.com.

Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina

3. The Laurentian Mountains in Quebec, Canada

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Laurentian Mountains are one of the oldest mountain regions in the world, consisting of Precambrian rocks more than 540 million years old.

Mont-Tremblant National Park, just an hour-and-a-half from Montreal, boasts an abundance of color from native birch, beech and maple trees. Fall color here generally peaks in October.

Quebec
Photos courtesy of Tourisme Quebec.

4. New Forest, England

Located in southern England, the name "New Forest" is somewhat misleading. The boundaries were drawn in 1079 to mark royal hunting grounds used by William the Conqueror to pursue wild pigs, deer and other "beasts of the chase."

Redwoods, oaks, beech, yew and holly are among the many varieties of evergreen and deciduous trees in the forest, ensuring a contrasting color explosion in fall.

To find the best leaves, take a kayak tour along the Beaulieu River, or walk along any the miles of trails that loop through the 219 square miles of designated national park. History buff? There are 621 registered historical structures in the forest, too.

Highland Water flows through a picturesque New Forest autumn scene
Photos courtesy of VisitEngland.

Highland Water flows through a picturesque New Forest autumn scene.

5. Central Otago, New Zealand

With a low annual rainfall and famously extreme temperatures, Central Otago does autumn colors like nowhere else in New Zealand. Exotic trees turn yellow, bright gold and hot orange. Grapevines display rich shades of red. And, on the best of days, it’s all set against a sky of true azure blue.

Central Otago, New Zealand
Photo by David Wall, courtesy of Tourism New Zealand.

6. Denali Park, Alaska

Covering 6 million acres, Denali National Park and Preserve has within its borders the tallest peak in North America, Mount McKinley.

According to Bri Gordon of Thompson & Co., the PR firm for the State of Alaska tourism office, Alaska’s fall color starts quite early, especially given its northern position and extreme altitudes.

"The fall foliage is best viewed August through the beginning of October," she says. "Fall foliage-specific tours mostly take place during September."

Denali Park, Alaska
Photo by Frank Flavin, courtesy of the State of Alaska

Fall on Denali Highway in Denali National Park and Preserve.

7. Trossach's National Park, Scotland

The beauty of Scotland's Trossach's region inspired Sir Walter Scott's 1810 poem, The Lady of the Lake.

The Trossach's National Park is equally inspired by the literary realm. Puck's Glen Walk, for example, is an enchanting trail named after the Shakespearean fairy from Midsummer's Night Dream. And a self-guided art and literary trail pays homage to many of the creative spirits who have immortalized the area in prose and paint.

Trossach's National Park, Scotland
Photo by Colin Paterson, courtesy of Scottish Viewpoint.

8. Paris, France

Paris is known for romance, and few times of the year could be as romantic as autumn. With dozens of parks, Gothic cathedrals, cozy cafes and ancient cemeteries laced with cobblestone paths, the City of Lights is practically made for fall.

Paris, France
Photo courtesy of Atout France/Michel Angot.

Caption: Anglers on St Martin canal.

9. Rondane National Park, Norway

Filled with wild reindeer, deep forests and 10 mountain peaks that reach higher than 2,000 meters (6,560 feet), Rondane National Park is a bit of a Nordic wonderland. In autumn, the land comes alive, with fall colors that create a striking contrast to snow-capped ridges.

Rondane National Park, Norway
Photo by Anders Gjengedal, courtesy of Visitnorway.com/Innovation Norway.

10. The Engadine, Switzerland

The Engadine, located in a valley of the Swiss Alps, is at its most beautiful in autumn.

The high mountains surrounding the valley often block weather systems from entering the region, which makes for dry summers. That and plenty of sunshine, coupled with crisp mountain air, means the hills are alive with color during the fall.

Morteratsch glacier, Switzerland

The Morteratsch glacier in Upper Engadine, with the Bernina Massif in the background.

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