Summer vacation over too soon? Why not stretch out the season with some early fall sun in these European destinations? At this time of year, water temperatures are ideal for dips in the sea while avoiding the crowds and prices of high season.
Check out these five fall hotspots. Crete, Greece
After the summer crowds have headed home, this stunning Greek island winds down until low season starts at the end of October. Crete is one of the most southerly destinations in Europe, offering ideal water temperatures for a dip in the Med, between 23 and 25°C. It's a good idea to rent a car to explore the island, which quietens down when families head back to work or school. Trundle the quiet roads to discover Heraklion's wineries, Greek ruins, Orthodox monasteries and stunning steep gorges. For travelers on tighter budgets, low season runs from November to March. Malta
Southern Europe is obviously the most promising corner of the continent for sunshine and pleasant water temperatures. Malta is an ideal choice for travelers hoping to match cultural visits with swims in the sea, with temperatures between 25 and 27°C in October and staying above 20° in November. Just watch out for the wind, which can soon cool a fall getaway. Visitors to the smallest country in Europe can enjoy rugged excursions to the Island of Gozo, while history enthusiasts will enjoy time in Valetta, Mdina and the hypogeum of Hal Saflieni in the small town of Paola. Sardinia, Italy
This Italian island is another Mediterranean option for fall getaways. Swimmers can enjoy water temperatures around 20°C until the end of October. If that's still on the chilly side, just lie back and enjoy Sardinia's beaches, some of the most beautiful in Europe. Sardinia is a new alternative for travelers looking for wild landscapes, making it a popular choice for vacationers at the moment. The cost of visiting could put off many travelers during the summer months. However, the late summer/fall season is a great time to sample Sardinian cuisine in relative peace while exploring the coastline, down to the Golfo di Orosei, for example. More athletic visitors can head to Gola Su Gorropu, often billed as "Europe's Grand Canyon." It's better to visit inland landscapes in the spring when vegetation is in bloom. Puglia, Italy
Bordering the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, the Puglia region (also called Apulia) still offers plenty of sunshine hours in fall as temperatures drop to pleasant levels after the stifling heat of July and August. A trip to the region wouldn't be complete without visiting the historic vineyards of Polignano a Mare, Lecce, Vieste and Bari. Walking is often on the agenda, which makes the drop in temperature particularly welcome, and there are plenty of beaches to discover. Try visiting wineries and olive groves during the harvest for an authentic Italian escapade. Faro and The Algarve, Portugal
Travelers can be put off visiting the Algarve in summer due to the tourist hordes. The Portuguese region is a popular haunt for vacationers in July and August, but it's also a good option for fall getaways. The sea will be cool on the Atlantic coast, such as at Cascais, the closest beach to Lisbon. Bathers will find the least bracing waters in the Gulf of Cadiz. In September and October, travelers can enjoy temperatures that stay above 25°C. Walkers can take in stunning scenery inland while the magnificent beaches on the coast are ideal for relaxation. Head to the Vicentine Coast between Odeceixe and Burgau.