Whether you’re thinking of gift ideas for your special person for the upcoming holidays, or maybe (like us) you recently got engaged (still can’t believe it!) and planning the ultimate honeymoon is now on your radar, there is no doubt that a couple that travels together, stays together.
But where should you go if you’re ready to swap the gift of crystal for crystal blue waters?
Well, since we’ve been traveling around the world together for the past two and a half years (and because we’re feeling extra romantic as a newly-engaged couple) we’ve decided to do a round-up of some of the most unique, most luxurious, and most romantic locations around the world (that will hopefully inspire you to buy less chocolates and watches, and more plane tickets and snorkeling gear).
Plane tickets instead of diamonds
1. The Dolomites, Italy
Our obsession with the Dolomite mountain range in South Tyrol, we must admit, came out of nowhere. We'd seen a couple beautiful pictures on the 'Gram of the (now Insta-famous) Lago Di Braies, and of course we'd heard about the UNESCO World Heritage Site, "Tre Cime" or Three Peaks, but nothing quite prepared us for the beauty of these mountains quite like our first...and second...and third trip there. The peaks are guaranteed to be snow-capped all year round, although sleeping in a mountain cabin in Summer is very much possible (and take our word for it, is simply breathtaking). But if mountain huts aren't your thing, and you'd still want to see the white peaks, and visit all the surrounding lakes, you could either stay at a gorgeous boutique hotel - like the run-by-a-South-African-expat Boutique Hotel Zenana in the quaint town of San Candido, or spoil yourself for an opulent Italian getaway at Cristallo Resort & Spa in Cortina d'Ampezzo – where Steve chose to celebrate our recent engagement. No matter where you decide to stay though, it is certain that you will fall in love with these magical mountains, and your first trip there definitely won't be your last.
Why it’s the perfect spot for couples: because if after traveling around the world for two and a half years, one of us chose it as the location for a secret engagement weekend...well, that has to be enough reason!
2. Solta, Croatia
Known as Croatia's "nature island", Solta is where we are currently celebrating our #SugarMoon – you know, that magical time post-engagement? Well, we cannot recommend it enough! Let us paint the picture for you: you're staying in a cute stone house in one of the island's charming little fishing villages. You enjoy breakfast on your terrace each morning (fresh fruit from one of the island’s farmers, of course), and then go down to one of the bays or coves to swim in crystal blue waters. You lounge around in the sun together, drink wine at sunset together, and cruise from village to village on a scooter…and with the Mediterranean climate, you can choose to do all of this at almost any time of the year. Does it get any better than that?
Why it’s the perfect spot for couples: because unlike Croatia's other (bigger) islands, Solta is still a fairly undiscovered piece of paradise, giving you time with nature, and plenty locations to discover together.
3. Paracas, Peru
If you're after a beach holiday, where you dine on fresh seafood ceviche (a South American dish made of marinated raw fish and other seafood), aboard a yacht, cruising towards (and around) the Ballestas Isles (all home to species of Penguin, Pelican, Seal, and tens of thousands of Peruvian Booby), with views of ancient hieroglyphic carvings in the nearby dunes (which you can enjoy from up close too, whilst sand dune-ing and/or 4×4-ing, as you chase the sunset to your tented dinner in the desert, under millions of stars) then stop Googling “best destinations to visit in 2018” and book yourself a trip to Paracas now – romantic rooms at Hotel Paracas optional (but highly recommended).
Why it’s the perfect spot for couples: because dining in the middle of the desert under a private marquee, with only the two of you and the stars, will be one of the most romantic experiences of your life.
4. Gili Islands, Indonesia
The first of two spots from Indonesia on our list, and for good reason. The Gilli Islands are situated a quick 30-45 minute boat ride form the main island of Lombok (depending on which island you decide to get off on), and are made up of Gili Trawangan (the biggest and rowdiest of the three islands), Gili Air, and Gili Meno. Each island has its own flair and energy, and depending on whether you're after a party, or complete silence, you will definitely find a Gili island to suit your romantic desires. What we can say safely, though, is that whichever one you choose to stay on, make sure to book yourself a six-hour long snorkelling trip (for the equivalent of R97) which will take you to the best spots around all three islands, in a glass-bottom boat. Bookings can be done on any island, directly with your hotel or Airbnb.
Why it’s the perfect spot for couples: because the ocean swings found along the sunset side of Gili Trawangan will make for the ultimate couple shot (whether you're sitting, or standing on said swings).
5. Seville, Spain
Beautiful, beautiful Sevilla (as it is known by locals). Ah, what a city! When Spain “discovered” the Americas back in the 1400s, Seville actually became the centre of the new world, and that richness in history, and culture, (and art) can be felt almost instantly. Ah, and it's so colourful! The hotels, the common areas, the little dangling bunting running across the bridges – everywhere you look there’s bright colours luring you in, shining bright with a constant sunny disposition, leaving you feeling joyful and de-stressed. Who could ask for more for a romantic getaway? You can spend your days getting lost and admiring the eclectic mix of architecture – make sure not to miss the Plaza de España (where the Natalie-Portman-getting-courted-by-Hayden-Christensen Star Wars Episode II scene was shot) or the Real Alcázar (for a gorgeous example of Mudéjar architecture - used for The Game of Thrones), and then spend your evenings drinking wine at a traditional flamenco show, before dancing your own way back to your hotel – which, if we can recommend, should be Hotel Alfonso XIII (known to have had Princess Diana and Grace Kelly grace its rooms).
Why it’s the perfect spot for couples: because (legend has it) that if you cross the famous Triana Bridge, you will completely succumb to the city’s power, forcing you to be in love with it forever...and if you both cross it together, then you'll be sure to have a lifetime of romantic Seville getaways.
6. Joshua Tree National Park, USA
This is the one location on this list that we have not been to (yet), but seeing it on Instagram makes us think of a million reasons why we need to go, so we thought we'd include it here (incase you want to beat us to it). Joshua Tree National Park (and in particular the three gorgeous homes known collectively as The Joshua Tree House) would be the ultimate unplug-and-get-off-the-grid locale, in trendy desert style. We love the desert – there's something about being in the middle of nowhere, alone with your loved one, that gives your relationship a sultry boost. Maybe it's because you know that there's no one around, so staying close for comfort is almost instinctual. Maybe it's because being in such a wide open space clears your mind, and helps you realise that there's nothing more important than your person. Maybe it's just the heat. Either way, this spot gets our vote!
Why it’s the perfect spot for couples: because you can share a tub, under the stars, with no one around. Enough said.
7. Bad Gastein, Austria
Calling all Winter Wonderland dreamers. We have located the most fairy-tale-like town, taken straight out of Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel (ok, not the exact location he used, but the array of abandoned buildings and hotels in the Austrian town of Bad Gastein certainly inspired him for the flick...at least we think so). Vibrant colours break through the white blanket of snow, and steam fills the valley from the natural thermal waters that spill out of the mountain, melting the ice as it flows (and in case your German is a little rusty, the name “Bad” means “Spa”, symbolising the importance of the four million litres of thermal water that flows through the town on a daily basis – and is said to have magical healing powers). It is a place unlike anything we have ever seen before, and cannot recommend it enough.
Why it’s the perfect spot for couples: because whether you're looking for adventure or just some down time, you can ski, hike, eat cheese fondue in a cabin, take a horse-led sleigh, AND bathe in magical naturally-heated pools, all in one place.
8. Hideout Bali, Indonesia
Finally, if you're looking for an exotic location – somewhere unique, idyllic, and somewhere where it feels like you’re the only two people on Earth, then put Hideout Bali – the bamboo-eco-project-turned-Airbnb on your radar. The two-storey cabin is situated in the lesser-known Bali village of Sideman, a mere 13km from the active volcano Agung. Getting there is interesting, as most taxi drivers in Bali don't even know how to get there (hence the name), but once you arrive, you'll be immediately taken away by the tranquil sound of the river flowing alongside the cabin, and the simply gorgeous design of this one-of-a-kind creation. Switch off your phones, unpack your bags, and enjoy your time with nature.
Why it’s the perfect spot for couples: because staying here will make you feel like you're the only two people on Earth – a sort of modern day Tarzan and Jane, if you will.
To follow the rest of our travels, find us on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook.
What to read next on Traveller24:
- Is the Otter Trail really worth the year-long waiting list?
- How Far From Home Couple: How to see the world with your favorite person
- Not Far From Home: Why Namibia is any Photographer's dream