The best kinds of holidays involve some amount of intrigue, whether it’s a fantastical sight you’ve never witnessed, an exotic flavour you haven’t tried, or an experience so foreign and new that it causes flutters of excitement and anticipation.
When it’s time for your next romantic recess, draw inspiration from these itinerary ideas made for two. A sweet holiday with your love can take many forms.
Here, six types of getaways to seduce couples with diverse interests.
Where eating and drinking well is the main event
Do you believe in love at first bite? For those whose ideal date night is a mouth-watering culinary adventure or couples who get their kicks tasting strange or savoury street foods, a few places in the world make for especially satisfying trips.
Take Vietnam, where each region is known for distinctive dishes that, strung together, take foodies on a true edible journey. Starting in Ho Chi Minh City, a walking tour such as The Pho Trail with the knowledgeable guides from Saigon Street Eats introduces travellers to one of the most notable local specialities for breakfast before opening their eyes—and mouths—to stimulating markets and the local treats within. Stop in Hoi An for a cooking class with the likes of Gioan Cookery School to tackle the region’s famous white rose dumplings, and venture to Hanoi (the actual home of pho, for the record) to try beloved bun cha, as well as its many charmingly designed coffee shops.
Rome is a bit of a no-brainer for aficionados of one the best food categories: carbs. Italy’s romantic city isn’t only about spaghetti carbonara, cacio e pepe and by-the-ounce pizza, though. There’s gelato, too. Some of Access Italy’s most popular private experiences include gelato making at Rome’s oldest gelateria, Giolitti (featured in Roman Holiday), and learning to hand-make pasta. Of course after the latter you’ll need to have a Lady and the Tramp moment.
Gastronomes should head to Napa, again not just a place to sip exquisite vinos—although that’s a must, too. The quality of the cuisine currently available in California’s wine country is stunning—from The French Laundry and The Charter Oak to casual staples like Model Bakery and La Luna Taqueria—and with The Culinary Institute of America at Copia in downtown, true foodie nerds can indulge in museum exhibits, classes and talks with famed chefs.
Those in the know can confirm Cape Town, South Africa, is a naturally beautiful city where seriously innovative eats and world-class wine (not to mention artisanal gin) are available at an unbelievable value. Planning in advance is critical to capture bookings at favourites including The Test Kitchen and La Colombe, but weekend days spent exploring the many fresh markets can be just about as delectable—and fun.
Back To Nature
Where you’re immersed in natural beauty
There’s little doubt that, for lovers of the outdoors, being surrounded by nothing but lush green trees, crystalline creeks or seas, blankets of diamond-like stars in the sky, and other natural wonders is the perfect recipe for romance.
Costa Rica’s blessed with an excess of these gifts from Mother Nature: spectacular volcanos creating natural hot springs, cloud forests ripe for hiking, jungle-backed beaches for glamping, plus waterfalls and rivers to explore, verdant tree canopies to zipline through and perfect curls of ocean to surf. With its Nicoya Peninsula deemed a Blue Zone where people have healthy, long lives, you and your partner may even feel blessed by the fountain of youth while in the Central American nation’s clutches.
The Indonesian “Island of Gods,” Bali, is not short on magical environments either, with Ubud’s flawlessly manicured emerald rice terraces and equally green rainforests that prove scintillating, seductive settings for sleep. Those with the inclination can climb Mt. Batur volcano for sunrise, trek to a thundering waterfall to bathe, or simply settle into a daybed—or on a swing—to appreciate the pulse and song of the radiant living, breathing island.
Though not exactly tropical, British Columbia appeals to lovebirds who appreciate the cosiness and cuddles synonymous with a cooler climate. From Vancouver’s seemingly endless forested trails and Tofino’s landscape for foraging and fishing to Whistler’s legendary skiing mountains and the chalet-studded camping destination of Glacier National Park, it’s all clean air and fresh flora.
Expansive and wild, Western Australia’s raw beauty is unprecedented and, to many, unknown. The Australian state takes up one third of the continent, and its coastline is crammed with natural marvels around which to frolic hand in hand: pink lakes, Mars-like landscapes, fields of wildflowers, horizontal falls, otherworldly rock formations, sand dunes and red beaches abutting turquoise waters.
Where all you need to do is sit back, relax and indulge
By definition a holiday is a day of festivity when no work is done. Certainly there are vacations where you want to do everything—see everything. But others, by necessity, should center around the absence of all that. The classic environment to spend this sort of unscheduled, un-rushed time? A beach, of course! But not any spit of sand. We’re talking the kind of pristine stretch of snowy powder trimmed in sapphire blue—or aquamarine, dealer’s choice!—that deserves to be on a postcard.
Think Bora Bora, one of world’s most consistently spectacular couples’ destinations, known for its turquoise lagoon over which bungalows perch on stilts and lovers embrace. There are activities like snorkelling, diving, or jet skiing around the actual island of Bora Bora, but they’re not the priority. Lovebirds are pursuing relaxation, pure and simple, in each other’s company—aided by an ever-present tropical cocktail.
In the Maldives, a nation of low-lying islands made up of only, seemingly, sugar-white sand and palm trees, there’s a similar agenda of low impact pampering. An outsized population of masseuses is partly to thank for this, since the number of couples’ overwater treatment bungalows is up there, too. The surreal jewel tones of the Indian Ocean here—and in Zanzibar, Tanzania’s little slice of island paradise—seem to lull even the most high-strung types into a peaceful state of amorous bliss. Watching the sun rise and set over still crystalline water doesn’t hurt.
If Africa’s idyll speaks to those who like to get off the beaten path, so will Mustique, a quietly sexy gem in the Caribbean’s island chain of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. There, tortoises roam the intimate hilly isle at about the same pace as lovers should, that is at a leisurely snail’s pace, the better to admire the tropical surrounds, beach picnics and epic martini-drenched sunsets.
Wildlife For Lovers
Where the splendors of safari are on full display
Lions, leopards and giraffes—oh my! The mecca for animal lovers is undoubtedly Africa, where one day is never the same as the last. Adventurous spirits will find constant stimulation in Kenya, where destinations like the private Mara Naboisho Conservancy, beside the Maasai Mara National Reserve, are teeming with exotic life, from more gorgeous zebras than one could count to prides of lions half a dozen cubs deep. Even in Nairobi are ways to cosy up to rescued elephants—and adopt them, too— at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
Botswana provides even more personal interactions since its lodges tend to be smaller and ultra luxe—it’s the ultimate honeymoon or anniversary to be sure. Landscapes, especially in the Okavango Delta, are dramatic and lush, giving a whole new perspective by which to view game on photographic drives where anything could happen.
It’s possible to see some of the same fauna in Uganda; there are even tree-climbing lions and a species of giraffe you won’t see elsewhere. But primates are the primary reason to book a trip a deux—endangered mountain gorillas and chimpanzees, specifically. Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to be face-to-face (seven meters away) with these incredible cousins of ours is one of the most life-affirming and powerful experiences a couple can have together.
While its volume of fascinating wildlife could provide not only weeks but months and lifetimes of entertainment, Africa’s far from the only place to get up close and personal with creatures rare and impressive. Another bucket-list destination for romantics with a soft spot for the animal kingdom is the Galapagos, the Ecuadorian archipelago famed for inspiring Darwin’s theory of evolution. There, delights come in the
form of dancing sea lions, acrobatic dolphins, adorable penguins, ancient-looking tortoises, swimming sea turtles, and gnarly lizards.
Cities That Sparkle
Where a serious dose of culture is on offer
Picture this: walking hand in hand along cobblestone streets, hopping aboard a boat for a private twilight journey along canals, riding bikes—maybe even a tandem!—over bridges and through parks. Amsterdam is a city with an incredible amount to offer cosmopolitan-minded travellers who seek art, design, music and more. With its collections of homegrown icons, there are must-gos like the Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, Rembrandt House Museum and Anne Frank House, as well as historical World Heritage Sites and architectural feats.
Like New York and Los Angeles, Melbourne always wins battles of cultural superiority with its rival Sydney. Its art-plastered laneways make for beautiful strolls (try a customizable private tour with the likes of Walk Melbourne), while the diversity of museums and galleries host a blend of indigenous Aboriginal, Australian and international art that feel modern and important. Bibliophiles will find the state library especially inspiring.
In Mexico City, some of the most intriguing cultures of the world converge: think Aztec and Mayan with Spanish and more, marked by not only ancient ruins but colonial architecture and ancient artefacts. There are also quite lively modern art, theatre, culinary and music scenes. A few can’t-misses include the Palacio de Bellas Artes, Templo Mayor and Frida Kahlo Museum, but the city, sprawling and electric, is also a place where you might want to just wander, together, and get a bit lost.
A profound sense of history and tradition are also alive in Kyoto, Japan’s most romantic city—not to mention most beautiful, when the cherry blossoms bloom each spring, and the maples change colour each fall. There are temples and shrines aplenty, tempting to anyone fascinated with the country’s Shinto traditions and spiritualism, and a beautiful reverence that elevates the simplest of tasks to art forms. Get a local guide to offer insider perspectives on many of these fascinating elements, like the thriving geisha culture, absolutely worth an evening on the town.
The Journey Is The Destination
Where adventure and exotic environments are the name of the game
If you’re a pair who don’t like to let grass grow underfoot, consider a holiday that takes you on a serious journey. There are a few countries that speak wonderfully to those times you’re amped up to experience something riveting, explore someplace new and exotic and maybe even learn something wonderfully surprising.
Peru is such a place, a country with such compelling history and dramatic landscapes—from the sand dunes and Nazca Lines geoglyphs that line the Atlantic to the Sacred Valley’s picturesque salt mines, villages and mountains, which you can sleep on the side of. And don’t forget Machu Picchu, one of the world’s most impressive archaeological sites.
Making your way around Morocco is no less than an adventure of a lifetime. Marrakech’s buzzing markets are the perfect introduction to a nation with so many intriguing sides—rich tradition and artistry in Fes, camel-backed escapades in the Sahara, seaside stays in Essaouira, treks around the Atlas Mountains, and even surf sessions in Taghazout.
Iceland is another place where you can expect to venture far from the capital city. After all, there are mini horses to ride, lava tubes to explore, geothermal springs to soak in, and even tectonic plates to dive between. In its alien landscapes the mysterious Northern Lights seem right at home.
The spectacular Aurora Borealis light show is not the only reason to visit Norway, but it is an incredible thing to behold beside your favourite person in the world. An appetite for cuddling is essential in the frigid, centuries-old hub of Tromsø, while those with a proclivity for greenery can comfortably enjoy Mother Nature’s work in Oslo, Bergen and beyond—ideally involving some trains and boats—by playing around their majestic fjords, waterfalls, peaks and plateaus. ◼
© This article was first published in Oct-Nov 2019 edition of World Travel Magazine.