The Best Places to Go Leaf Peeping in New England

BY DISCOVERIES

Every year, leaf peepers flock to the Northeast from September to November for a fleeting glimpse of the region’s spectacular foliage. If you’re planning a leaf peeping trip this year, make sure to consult a foliage map first. Peak foliage varies from year to year and the farther north you travel, the earlier you’ll need to plan your trip. Before you go, take note of the best places to see the New England foliage along with everything you need to know while you’re there.

Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire

Trees with changing colors along Kancamagus Highway
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Affectionately called “the Kanc” by locals, the Kancamagus Highway is a New Hampshire treasure — particularly during the fall. The alpine road winds through the White Mountains and climbs nearly 3,000 feet to provide arresting views of fall colors as far as the eye can see.

Directions: The Kanc connects the towns of North Conway and Lincoln via Route 112. If you start in North Conway, pick up trail maps at the Saco Ranger Station near Route 16. Be prepared for plenty of other leaf peepers and hairpin turns along the way.

When to Pull Over: Sabbaday Falls is a short hike to waterfalls and an excellent spot for a picnic. Pemigewasset and Hancock overlooks make for great photo ops with the fall scenery.

Where to Stay: Woodstock Inn Brewery in Woodstock, New Hampshire or the Inn at Ellis River in Jackson, New Hampshire

Coastal Route 1, Maine

Aerial photo of trees changing color around the Maine coast
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If you want the quintessential fall foliage tour of Maine, a road trip up Coastal Route 1 is in order. The scenic route hugs miles of Maine coastline, providing the perfect backdrop for the brilliant hues of autumn in New England. There’s plenty of opportunities to stop along the way — be it for a lobster roll, a robust hike, or to take in the scenery.

Directions: Start in Portland and make sure to go as far as the coastal city of Camden. If you have the time, continue up the coast to Mount Desert Island. The drive keeps getting better and Acadia National Park is nothing short of stunning in the autumn.

When to Pull Over: Red’s Eats in Wiscasset serves up fresh lobster rolls doused in butter, but be prepared for a line around the corner. The small town of Camden offers up the best of Maine culture, with restaurants, art galleries, and stellar views from Mount Battie.

Where to Stay: Lord Camden Inn in Camden, Maine or the Bass Cottage Inn in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Mohawk Trail, Massachusetts

Autumn foliage in the Berkshires region of Massachusetts
Credit: DenisTangneyJr/ iStock

Originally a trade route for Native Americans, Massachusetts’ historic Mohawk Trail encapsulates the charm of New England. Traversing through the Berkshire mountains and over the Deerfield River, this scenic route covers miles of woodlands and meadows that come alive during the fall. The picturesque towns along the way are perfect for stretching your legs or grabbing lunch.

Directions: Start in Greenfield and follow Route 2 west until you reach the town of North Adams. From there you can continue on to Williamstown or drive south to enjoy the walking trails at Mount Greylock State Reservation.

When to Pull Over: The town of Shelburne Falls is famous for its Bridge of Flowers, which contains 500 varieties of flowers and is open from May to October.

Where to Stay: The Porches Inn, North Adams, Massachusetts

Route 100, Vermont

Fall Foliage and the Stowe Community Church
Credit: Don Landwehrle/ Shutterstock

Route 100 is 216 scenic miles of pure Vermont goodness that runs nearly the length of the entire state. Skimming the edge of the Green Mountains, this billboard-free drive meanders through charming Vermont towns and acres of bucolic farmland. The scenery, when combined with the golden fall light and blazing swaths of red maples, is sure to capture your heart.

Directions: If you have the time, driving the entire length of Route 100 will result in an epic leaf-peeping road trip. For a weekend getaway, the 67 miles between Killington and Stowe is a gorgeous portion and includes the stunning Green Mountain Byway towards the end.

When to Pull Over: No trip to Vermont is complete without a sweet stop at the Ben and Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury. Nearby, the Trapp Family Lodge offers stunning views of the Vermont countryside and has Austrian-style beers on tap.

Where to Stay: Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa, Stowe, Vermont

Last Green Valley Scenic Byway, Connecticut

Connecticut Road in Autumn
Credit: Don Barone/ Shutterstock

A National Heritage Corridor, the Last Green Valley Scenic Byway ventures through farmland and forest, making it an ideal drive for Connecticut leaf peepers. On a sunny fall day, visitors should plan on getting out of the car and into nature. The scenic byway crosses over the Quinebaug River, a quiet waterway perfect for paddlers and birdwatchers. The byway also offers access to wildlife preserves and state parks for roadside picnics and mid-day hikes.

Directions: Route 169 from Norwich to Woodstock is only 32 miles, leaving plenty of time for the numerous stops along the way.

When to Pull Over: The Benedict Arnold Trail in Norwich is the birthplace of America’s most famous traitor and a must-see for Revolutionary War buffs. The two-mile historic walking tour has 22 stops including the homestead and graves of the Arnold family.

Where to Stay: The Inn at Woodstock Hill, Woodstock, Connecticut

Ocean Drive, Rhode Island

Castle Hill lighthouse in Rhode Island in Autumn
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Autumn in Newport offers up an equal mixture of manmade and natural beauty. From the staggering mansions on Bellevue Avenue to the expansive views of the Atlantic Ocean, there’s no place on Aquidneck Island that doesn’t benefit from the colors of fall. For an alternative leaf-peeping experience, ditch the car and rent a bike. Ocean Drive Loop passes by Gilded Age mansions, beaches, and parks and is the best way way to see Newport in its autumnal glory.

Directions: Leave your car at Fort Adams State Park and bike south along Ridge Road to Ocean Drive. Go left on Bellevue Avenue and take another left on Ruggles Avenue. Follow this main road all the way back to Fort Adams.

When to Pull Over: The 11-mile loop offers plenty of picnic-worthy spots including Gooseberry Beach and Brenton Point State Park.

Where to Stay: William’s Grant Inn, Bristol, Rhode Island

Encountering the Inca Outside Machu Picchu

FROM DISCOVERIES

UNESCO-listed Machu Picchu is truly one of the world’s great archaeological sites. Perched on a lofty plateau surrounded by forested hills, the setting is as jaw-dropping as the tales of those who put it there. But if you thought the legacy of the Incas began and ended there, you’d be wrong. Here’s where to go if you’re keen on encountering the Inca outside Machu Picchu.

Choquequirao

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When I first visited Machu Picchu almost a quarter of a century ago, I had the ruins almost to myself. Today, if you want to enjoy a similar experience, you’ll need to trek to Choquequirao instead. The four-day slog with altitude gains and losses is pure agony for your calf muscles and quads, but the pain is worth it. The terraces, temples, and plazas of this sprawling historical site receive a fraction of the visitors of Machu Picchu.

Sacsayhuamán

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Cusco, once the capital of the Inca Empire, is where you’ll find one of the most impressive structures the ancient people ever built. The giant blocks of this imposing fortress fit perfectly without the need for cement and create walls that tower above the plaza. Visit in midsummer for the spectacular re-enactments that comprise the Inti Raymi festival, a riot of color, drama, and even a llama sacrifice, which these days is definitely faked.

Ollantaytambo

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Ollantaytambo is the jewel of the Sacred Valley in the Andes. Climb the steps up to this former Inca fortress and storehouse for a breathtaking view along the valley. The joy of Ollantaytambo is also in its cobbled streets, where, amidst the souvenir shops and cafés, you’ll discover Qosqo Ayllu, the old town, whose layout has changed little over the centuries. If you want to imagine what it might have been like to have been an Inca, this is where you need to go.

Písac

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Overlooking the town of Písac is a hilltop citadel with killer views of the Quitamayo Gorge. This archaeological complex features a stone called the Intihuatana, which most historians think to be a sundial. Before you leave, take a stroll around Písac’s famous market, which spills out over the town’s streets. Sunday is when you’ll find the most stalls and the biggest crowds. Come midweek if you can’t bear to be jostled.

Moray

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Today, the terraced circular hollows of Moray are a feast for the eyes, but in Inca times they would have provided a feast of a more traditional kind. These terraces gave Inca agriculturalists the perfect setup for trying new varieties of crops. There’s a significant temperature difference between the surface and base of each terrace, which creates a unique microclimate.

Raqch’i

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On the road between Cusco and Puno lies a settlement of houses and temples, which the Incas dedicated to the creator god Huiracocha. Only the walls remain of the main temple, which is constructed from stone and adobe and stands nearly 66 feet tall. During excavations, a statue of Huiracocha was found broken in two. If you want to piece it together in your mind, then prepare to visit the separated pieces at the museums in both Madrid and Cusco.

Tipón

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The Incas were masters at both civil engineering and sustainability, and the aqueducts of Tipón are proof. Water channels tap into a natural spring at the top of the hill and carry it down to where Inca farmers needed it for their crops. Some are still in use today. There’s a great beauty to be found in the architecture, making this site a must when it comes to Inca encounters.

Ingapirca

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Although we associate the Inca civilization with Peru, the empire actually stretched from southern Colombia all the way to Chile. Ingapirca is Ecuador’s best-known and best-preserved site. The stones of the Temple of the Sun don’t fit quite as precisely as those you’ll find in and around Cusco, but the fact that it is here at all, so far from the Incan capital, is impressive in its own right.

Isla del Sol

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The island of the sun lies in the Bolivian part of Lake Titicaca. There, you’ll find Inca sites like Pilko Kaina with its two-story palace that commands attention at the southern part of the island. To the north, some say the Roca Sagrada resembles a puma. It’s thought to be the birthplace of the first Inca. And in Yumani village, the steps of the Escalera del Inca lead to a spring believed to reward visitors with eternal youth.

The Ransom Room in Cajamarca

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End your Inca pilgrimage in Cajamarca, the spot which signaled the end of an era. Here, the Spanish conquistador Pizarro duped the Inca leader Atahualpa, who filled a room with gold in hopes of securing his freedom. He failed and was executed not long afterwards. In Cajamarca, you can also take a dip in the Baños del Inca, the hot springs where Atahualpa was fond of bathing before he met his untimely fate.

Enthusiastic advocate for independent travel and passionate geographer, Julia considers herself privileged to earn a living doing something she loves. When not roaming the globe, you’ll find her windswept but smiling, chatting away to her two dogs as they wander the Essex marshes.

5 Places to Avoid This Fall and Where to Go Instead

BY DISCORERIER BLOG

Cooling temperatures and steadily decreasing flight and hotel prices make fall an attractive season for travel. But with the bursting colors of fall foliage and slew of annual festivals that occur this time of year, certain destinations of the world see thick crowds. Having to navigate them can take away from your experience. Here’s where to go instead for equally stunning landscapes and unique experiences after this summer to escape the crowds.

Avoid Vermont — Instead, Visit Grand Marais

Photo of Grand Marais Harbor
Credit: Josh Hild/ Flickr/ CC BY 2.0

A journey along the meandering roadways through Vermont’s verdant valleys and picturesque peaks is a classic American fall getaway. Popular for its spellbinding blend of crimson, yellow, and orange fall foliage, leaf peepers to this New England destination can take it all in on scenic road trips through the state. But this small state tends to get packed in the fall, with cars clogging the roads and eager tourists filling the towns and hiking trails.

For a less chaotic, small town experience this fall, opt for Minnesota’s Grand Marais, a harbor village nestled on the North Shore of Lake Superior. With water views and stunning foliage, you’ll get the same leaf-peeping experience without the crowds. Conquer the 3.5-mile loop to Lookout Mountain at the Cascade River State Park between Lutsen and Grand Marais to witness the region’s patchwork of crimson maple leaves in late September. Or embark on the strenuous Superior Hiking Trail to embrace striking fall colors throughout the hike.

Avoid Munich — Instead, Visit Pilsen

Photo of Pilsen City
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Southern Germany’s Munich has long been revered for its brewing traditions, which are celebrated alongside the city’s storied beer culture during Oktoberfest. This world-famous festival attracts six million attendees annually. Travelers descend upon this Bavarian capital en masse between mid to late September and early October to participate in Oktoberfest festivities.

For a more mellow experience, visit Pilsen instead. Crowned the European Capital of Culture in 2015, this city in western Czech Republic is famed in the beer lovers’ community as the birthplace of Pilsner Urquell, a lager brewed here since 1842. At the top of each visitor’s list is a guided tour of the Pilsner Urquell Brewery and a tasting of the world’s first pale lager in its historic cellars. But there’s plenty more to see and do in this historic city, like the 13th-century, Gothic-style Cathedral of St. Bartholomew, which dominates the town’s pretty main Republic Square with its 335-foot spire, the tallest in the country.

Skip Chiang Mai — Instead, Visit Xi’an

Photo of ancient city wall at night in Xi'an, China
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The dual celebrations of Loi Krathong and the Yee Peng Festival make Chiang Mai in northern Thailand a romantic fall destination. Although these festivals are observed throughout the nation, the most popular events take place in Chiang Mai and welcome hordes of observers annually. With thousands of glowing lanterns released into the dark night sky and floating lanterns of banana leaves released into the Ping River, fall is the most visually striking season to visit Chiang Mai.

But it’s also the most crowded, so for those who want a similarly dreamy experience without jostling elbows,  journey to Xi’an in north central China instead. Historically, Xi’an served as the eastern terminus of the Silk Road and the resulting blend of cultures is evident in the city’s Muslim Quarter. Xi’an’s ancient treasures in this contrastingly modern landscape will occupy history lovers for days. When visiting, spend cool autumn afternoons cycling the intact Ming-era city walls, wander by pagodas of dynasties past, and discover the Army of Terracotta Warriors. Brave souls should venture to nearby Mount Huá Shān to complete a harrowing plank walk on the side of a 7,087-foot peak.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park — Instead, Visit Yoho National Park

Photo of autumn trees around Lake O'Hara, Yoho National Park, Canadian Rockies
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The 522,427-acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park that straddles the border of Tennessee and North Carolina sees an influx of visitors during its autumn months. Its blend of deciduous maple, birch, and American beech trees erupt into vibrant crimsons and oranges, and many drive the Clingmans Dome Road and Blue Ridge Parkway to witness the explosion of fall colors.

But British Columbia’s Yoho National Park is a comparable park, and offers a more intimate leaf-viewing experience. The park is the smallest of the four national parks in the Canadian Rockies, but still delivers on jaw-dropping views. Access Lake O’Hara by shuttle bus or hike 7.5 miles from the designated parking lot for views of brilliant golden larch trees along its shoreline. Though Yoho National Park is open all year, some of its services close for the winter season beginning in mid October, so make this an early-fall trip.

Oaxaca City vs. Lake Atitlán

Photo of Sunset at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
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Steeped in culture and tradition, southern Mexico’s Oaxaca City hosts one of the nation’s largest Day of the Dead celebrations with festivities unfolding over the course of two days. The celebration of life and death is honored throughout the nation on November 1 and 2 although pre- and post-activities can make this an even longer affair. This immersive cultural celebration coupled with Oaxaca’s rich history and exciting gastronomic scene make this city a popular fall destination.

But if you want some peace and quiet, head instead to Guatemala’s Lake Atitlán. Though dry season doesn’t begin until early November, visiting in the autumn months is perfect. You may encounter a few hours of rain, but you’ll have the place to yourself. And what a stunning place it is. Enveloped by verdant hills and towered by the region’s volcanoes, the incredibly scenic Lake Atitlán boasts a number of Mayan villages along its gentle shores — each with a distinct identity. Base yourself in the popular town of Panajachel, hide out among the locals in one of the lake’s smallest villages of Jaibalito, or experience the strong indigenous culture of Santiago Atitlán.

Dreamer extraordinaire. Ardent food lover. Vivian is prone to wander and escaping from responsibilities. At heart, she is a curious backpacker with a thirst for adventure. Based in Vancouver, Canada, Vivian is perpetually browsing through seat sales and scheming her next