Out-of-the-way locations, hand-holding strolls along the beach and candlelit dinners – just some of the clichés that conjure up the ‘perfect’ romantic getaway. However, there’s much more to overseas amour than your typical Mills and Boon type scenarios. From wildlife safaris (a date with a man-eating lion anyone?) and day spa pampering to energetic hilltop hikes and rollicking road trips, coupledom can be embraced in many forms. So pack that matching luggage, grab those passports and prepare to love-it-up all over the globe.
San Sebastian, Spain
Colloquially coined as a lover’s paradise, this coastal utopia boasts perfection-in-a-beach at Playa de Gros, eclectic shopping in Área Romántica and for lively lodgings, head to the history-steeped Part Vieja (the old town), where you can book a quaint little villa on the cheap. As the sun sets on another sweltering day, book a table at a world-renowned bay view restaurant and enjoy a smorgasbord of Basque specialties (including a mouth-watering tapas platter) and a zesty sangria as you say aclamaciones to holidays!
County Clare, Ireland
The land of Guinness, leprechauns and whimsical castles, the Emerald Isle is acclaimed for its iconic castles, ancient landscapes and oh-so-welcoming locals. But rather than contemplating a bus-bound adventure, why not enjoy a rollicking road trip around some of the sites? The Cliffs of Moher are a fine start (many a lass has been proposed to here) and after traipsing the countryside like a local, head home for a pub meal and a bit of an Irish jig with your travelling partner in crime.
Fairy tales do come true – enchanting cobblestone streets, soaring towers and meandering canals – Bruges is a decidedly dreamy visual feast. Hitch a ride in horse-drawn carriage to Benguinage, a time-evasive monastery, equipped with quaint bridges covering swan-filled ponds, then visit Minnewater Lake (the Lake of Love) for a sneaky pash. Chow down on a hearty beef casserole with a side of frites for dipping, before retiring for a Sleeping Beauty-type slumber in a medieval inspired B&B.
One of the most musical cities in the world (and the birthplace of a ton of maestros), here you’ll experience the likes of Mozart, Beethoven and Bach at every turn. With its outrageously opulent palaces and stunning architecture dotted casually along the sparkling Danube River, this city exudes romance. Book an intimate table at a rustic restaurant and enjoy local favourites (try a schnitzel for main and an apple strudel for dessert), whilst cheers-ing your better half over a sneaky schnaps.
These slopes rival the best in the world and are a ski bunny’s virtual winter wonderland. And getting there is nothing short of spine tingling, with the approaching road zig-zagging in a series of acute hairpin turns. A scenic train ride from Chur might be a better alternative for the squeamish. Chalet accommodation is the lodging of choice, where you and your loved one can snuggle up with an indulgent fondue and the perfect nightcap accompaniment of a flavoursome pinot noir.
Greek Isles, The Cyclades
With its rustic mountains, shimmering azure waters and stunning green ravines, the Greek Isles are a kaleidoscope of breathtaking beauty. Visit Santorini for sunset views framed by the shadows of its dramatic stone cliffs, Naxos for its endless stretches of blindingly white beaches and power-hike to Panayia Pouláti for a glimpse of the blue-domed, whitewashed bell tower set atop a shimmering bay. Ferry-hop to your heart’s content before devouring a hearty taverna (a smorgasbord of greek favourites) pre-check in at your local hotel hideaway.
Cinque Terre, The Italian Riviera
Straight from the pages of a soppy romance novel, these rocky shores harbour quaint seaside villages, stunning hiking trails, picturesque beachfront promenades and some of the most dramatic coastal vistas on the planet. Traverse steeply terraced cliff sides via sinuous paths for a glimpse of vineyards and villages with their enviable ocean lookouts, then head to the seaside village of Portofino for a romantic tête-à-tête over a lush seafood feast in a scenic cliff-side garden.
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
What could be more romantic than holding on to your partner for dear life as you experience the pant-wetting stealth of an approaching predator? The vast plains of the Serengeti teem with wildness – lions, cheetahs, hyenas, leopards, zebras and the epic migration of animals in their millions forming one of the greatest wildlife-watching locations on earth. Done fearing for your life? Slink back to safari camp where you can toast your feats of humanistic survival by a comforting, roaring fire.
A peaceful tranquility mists the historic shrines and palaces of this city, said to house over 1000 Buddhist temples. It is a place of unobtrusive geishas, sublime gardens bursting with cherry blossoms and pagodas perched precariously atop rolling, green hills. Take a quiet stroll through Nishijin’s textile area, purchase everything from pickles to tea in the old shopping district, then join the locals at the public baths for a blissful soak. A traditional ramen ends a perfectly Zen-ful day.
Cruise through some of this city’s original waterways for close-up views of elegant houseboats and lotus-flowered rice paddies or travel to Thekkady and Munnar for glimpses of sparkling waterfalls and unusual wildlife. Back on home soil, zone out for the rest of the day with a couple’s day spa session, involving everything from oil massages to ayurvedic treatments. A prawn curry’s then on the menu for dinner, before you retire (uber-relaxed) to your cottage, nestled amid a vast tea plantation.
Ah, magical Maui. Immerse yourself in its natural beauty with a trip to South Shore Maui for some of the island’s best beaches, re-energise with a hike up Haleakala National Park’s highest lookout point (and its 360 degree views of the volcanic crater) or simply admire the views from Makena Bay. After a bit more couple action? Zip line across fertile canopies, snorkel alongside green turtles or try your hand at conquering a barrel or two at one of the island’s famed surf breaks.
Whatever your destination, these ‘loved up’ places will definitely be ingrained into your memories for a long time to come!