Hot places to visit when it’s cold: here’s where to go

It feels like late spring in the Troodos Mountains of Cyprus. In the ancient city of Kakopetria, perched on a steep slope overlooking the island, a warming sun draws the scent of orange blossoms and pine trees from the land. The scene is breathtaking.

Summer can be a fading memory everywhere else. But at Casale Panayiotis Hotel & Spa, a sprawling hotel in the village, visitors arrive by bus to enjoy the perfect weather.

“It’s a great time to be here,” says tour guide Christina Mita.

Cyprus is one of the must-see destinations for autumn visitors. Officials say it’s their busiest season, with tourists coming from the UK, Israel, Germany – and some from the US. Troodos, Cyprus’ largest mountain range, offers cooler temperatures than Nicosia (where daytime highs are still in the mid-80s) and a much less hectic pace.

You can eat fresh tahinopita (cinnamon rolls) at the famous bakery Fournas Galatas and hike the mountain trails in short sleeves while everyone at home complains about the rain and the cold. Be careful, however, to share your travel exploits on social networks. When I posted pictures of Cyprus on Facebook, I think I made my friends a little envious. I’ll apologize later.

Where else can you experience hot weather now? In this part of the world you have many options including Greece, Israel, Turkey, Spain, Portugal and Croatia.

Greece

Greece is a favorite among Americans for summer vacation. And I have to be honest, Greece is one of my all-time favorite destinations. Fall holidays are starting to gain popularity. Hotel rates are much lower this time of year, but the weather is still pleasant. (Daytime highs in Athens are a comfortable 70 degrees.) Raj Mahal, who founded a plane ticket search app called PlanMoreTrips, visited Athens, Santorini and Mykonos last week. “It was amazing because it’s low season now, so no tourists, prices are lower – and the weather is still great,” he says. Another advantage: the plane ticket is reasonable. He paid less than $700 for a ticket from Seattle to Athens.

Israel

If you can avoid the busy Jewish holidays, you’ll be rewarded with warm weather and no crowds. It’s still summer in the Holy Land, with daytime temperatures reaching the mid-80s in Tel Aviv. The country’s rich cultural heritage is the main draw, but there’s also a vibrant restaurant scene in places like Tel Aviv. One of the newer properties, Hotel Alberto, is a restored historic property located near the city’s restaurants, bars, and cultural attractions. If you pick the right day, you can fly from New York to Tel Aviv for less than $600 round-trip. I’m going to Tel Aviv in a few days and I’ll have a full report.

Turkey

This is perhaps the best time of year to visit Istanbul. Average temperatures are in the high 60s, which is perfect for hiking and exploring one of the most historic cities in the world. If you want truly stunning Bosphorus views, head to Raffles Istanbul, a luxury property with generous rooms and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Istanbul. As an added bonus, the hotel is also located at the Zorlu Center, one of the city’s most desirable shopping experiences. Murat Ozguc, owner of Turkish tour operator Travel Atelier, also recommends Antalya on the country’s southwest coast. “I was there three days ago for business and I was on the beach swimming. We had warm water and less crowded beaches,” he says. One more thing: Turkish hospitality is legendary. If you are looking for friendly and hospitable people, the Turks are in a class of their own.

Spain

Daytime highs on the Spanish mainland are in the lower 70s at this time of year, making it a terrific time to visit. But experts say there’s another Spanish destination not to be overlooked: the Canary Islands. It is, according to travel consultant Limor Decter, “a perfect destination for an endless summer”. Why? The Canary Islands are widely considered the sunny center of Europe due to their mild, sunny climate and dry subtropical climate. “The natural and cultural attractions of the islands can appeal to all types of travellers,” she adds. “They have four national parks and six biosphere reserves with contrasting landscapes ranging from volcanic lava fields to green valleys and forests.” But it’s not for the faint of heart – getting from Washington to Tenerife will cost close to $1,000. Expensive, but definitely worth it.

Portugal

With temperatures in the 70s in Lisbon this time of year, Lisbon is one of the top fall destinations for Americans. Round-trip flights are under $500, which is cheaper than some domestic flights, and you get Portugal’s legendary culture and hospitality. Head out into the countryside and discover Herdade da Malhadinha, an upscale resort in the rice fields of the Alentejo. The property is a short drive to the beach and has all the amenities you need for a late fall vacation. The beach in this part of Portugal is stunning – gentle blue waves lap on a white sand beach. It is ideal for endless walks to clear your mind and forget the cold and the rain at home. If you haven’t seen this part of Portugal yet, you’re missing one of the best parts of this special country.

Croatia

The weather is getting cooler in Croatia now – in the capital, Zagreb, it’s in the mid-60s – but along the Adriatic coast it’s still summer. Dexter Jones, an event manager who lives on the island of Pag on the Croatian coast, says people come to this part of Croatia for the beautiful scenery and mild climate. “One of the biggest benefits of vacationing outside of the peak months of June, July and August is that the cost of renting high-quality accommodation is very cheap,” he says. “Prices drop significantly after festival season, and you can easily pick up a bargain in the Balkans.” Airfares are also attractive at this time of year. You can get from New York to Split, Croatia for less than $600. I reported from Croatia last month and filed stories from Dubrovnik, Split and Zagreb. It’s a very unique experience.

What if everyone wanted to extend their vacation?

But wait, what if everyone had the same idea? I asked myself the question while visiting the southern coast of Cyprus last week and seeing the huge cruise ships docked in Limassol. It is true that autumn tourism has become widespread. And this year, with travel demand increasing, even more Americans than usual are taking fall vacations.

I asked Marios Georgiou, a guide who often works with large groups, about ways to avoid crowds. The trick is to find out where the tourist buses and cruise ship passengers go and find secluded places like Paphos, where you can take part in pottery workshops at The Place, an art studio in town, or visit Paphos Castle, an ancient structure overlooking the Mediterranean.

If you go a bit out of town, the crowds will thin out and you’ll feel like you have the place all to yourself. “Just be adventurous,” he recommends.

If you’re looking for a warm weather experience this time of year, this might be the best tip of all.