Valentine's day, popping the question, honeymoon. Whatever the romantic occasion, here we've selected ten of the world's most romantic idylls, perfect for loved-up couples.
A speck on the map off the southern African coast, the Seychelles are an escapist fantasy, with all the luscious coastline and classic paradise features you could want, and then some. You could spend a day exploring one of the globe’s smallest capital cities, Victoria, try some deep-sea fishing or go mountain biking, but you’ll probably be more tempted to relax on the beach, in front of some astonishing cliff faces, in the mostly brilliant sunshine. However you spend your time, you’ll have one of the world’s most romantic destinations as your backdrop.
If you’re looking for a romantic setting where it’s just you, your loved one, and the great outdoors, the secluded islands of the Maldives is it. With fabulous weather almost the whole year round and all the palm trees you could wish for, the tiny coral reef islands are a magical place to kick back and relax with your loved one. There’s little to see and do, beyond snorkelling to see the exotic underworld of the Indian Ocean, or a trip to one of the many spa resorts, but with evocative sunsets, dazzling waters and sparkling golden sands in such ample supply, you’ll likely never want to leave. For that undisturbed romantic stay, head to one of the thatched roof bungalows of Makunudu.
If you don’t fancy a long haul flight on the back of all that champagne, Greece might just be the answer. The weather is nice all year round but not normally stifling, the coastline is as delightful as any more exotic destination, and there are plenty of sumptuous hotels and idyllic self-catering villas to choose from. Your best bet is an island stay, but why stop at just the one? Short distances and easy interchanges make an island-hopping honeymoon an attractive and, of course, romantic prospect. Move from the mountains of Crete to the clear seas of Paxos, or go on the trail of Odysseus on Ithaca then wander the wooded greenery of Zakynthos. There are destinations to suit every type of couple, a rich cultural heritage and fantastic scenery to see, not forgetting all the lively tavernas serving copious amounts of Ouzo.
Mexico’s Riviera Maya is home to the country’s most paradisiacal beaches. For boutique pleasures by the sand just a short drive from Playa del Carmen – and light years away from brash Cancún in terms of ambience – is Esencia, probably Mexico’s best hotel. Originally the coastal retreat of an Italian duchess, the 50-acre estate comprises two swimming pools, an organic spa with Mayan-style domed steam rooms and a gourmet restaurant, and looks out on to an empty, two-mile-long beach. Both guest rooms and cottages are plain and elegant, with native hardwood furnishings, high ceilings, mahogany doors and tall windows with views of tropical vegetation and the sea. The romantic Sal Y Fuego Restaurant serves superlative seafood dishes in a relaxed, but refined, setting.
Head to one of the sleepy villages of the Lake District, check into the Swinside Lodge Hotel – a sweet and stylish lakeside resort in the Newlands Valley – and you’ll be staying amid some of England’s richest natural terrain; moody lakes and lush greenery. While they might not be as exotic as the Caribbean or the Seychelles, British sunsets are no less magical, and you’ll find it much easier to secure a private viewing spot. Of course, the weather on our fair isle is tenacious, but nestled away in a picturesque country inn with your loved one, there’ll be no need to go outside.
Of all the Caribbean islands, St Barths has accrued a name for itself as the showiest, starriest and sexiest. Like the rest of the region, the island is heavy on the romance, all tropical landscapes and achingly perfect panoramas. With a small local population and visits from only the most exclusive of tourists, couples can appreciate the place undisturbed, while at the same time enjoying food that pays homage to the island’s French heritage. Originally the home of a Dutch adventurer, the exquisite Eden Rock resort was once frequented by celebrities like Greta Garbo, and remains to this day a top glitterati haunt. It’s certainly opulent, but falls just the right side of gaudy, and is made more impressive by snatches of the owner’s well-cultivated art collection around the place. Of course, you’ll be too busy staring into each other’s eyes to notice.
The beaches of Bali are well trodden by all kinds of tourists, from backpackers to the well-heeled, and they also make for a sensational romantic destination. In the balmy waters of southern Asia, the Indonesian island, complete with verdant landscape, volcanic lakes and cultural gems, is as close to paradise as they come. Head to the Karma Kandara resort on Bali’s secluded southernmost tip, a stunning architectural feat merging classic Balinese design with pure luxury. Snuggle up undisturbed in one of the beautifully furnished individual villas, which come with their own tropical courtyard, private pool and personal access to the beach. Enjoy candlelit cuisine at the cliff-face restaurant and sip champagne under the stars at the hotel’s rooftop bar. One tip to note: it’s wise to avoid monsoon season between December and March.
Paris is well known as one of the most romantic places on earth. Wander the charming streets and meet the quirky locals, indulge in the delicious culinary delights and take in all the sights of the French capital. Take a moonlit cruise down the Seine, head to the Museé Rodin to see the sculptor’s famous work The Kiss, and choose from the many lavish hotels the city lays claim to. The honeymoon suite, with resplendent four-poster bed, at the intimate Hôtel Duc de Saint Simon is one winner. It’s a gem of a place with adorably classic decor and fabulous antique furnishings. For more modern tastes, head to the edgily designed Five Hotel in the Latin Quarter, where your bed will lie under a starry ceiling. If the city of love doesn’t put you in the mood, the wine certainly will.
Create your fairytale atmosphere with a trip to a castle; specifically, the Royal Palace of Seville – just one of the many historic treasures in the Andalucian capital. Spain isn't immediately thought of as a lovers’ paradise, but this quiet city an hour or so from Spain’s southern Atlantic coast should not be dismissed. The Moorish history of the region is visible in the stunning architecture of the town, while restaurants offer delectable tapas from a variety of culinary influences. Within easy reach is the Costa de la Luz, with golden sands, trendy but relaxed resorts and, for the more confident couple, various naturist beaches. Of course, that’s assuming you want to leave your hotel, and if you stay at the gorgeous Hacienda Belaluza, that’s even less likely. Converted from an old Moorish household, and located in a dreamy little village just outside Seville, it also has a lavish terrace and pool and a Michelin-starred eaterie on site.
When all you want to do is be left alone with a loved one, it pays to head to a group of pristine islands with almost no local population and a limit of 400-odd tourists at any one time. The secluded archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, a former penal colony, is about as far away from any city lights as you can ask. Located a few hundred miles off the north-eastern Brazilian coast, expect all the typical paradise trimmings of ravaged rock faces, stupendous sunsets and sensational coastline. In addition, look forward to some great diving and some astonishing flora and fauna, including dolphins and sea tortoises. A favourite of Naomi Campbell and Mario Testino, in recent years it has also become known as a gay and lesbian honeymoon hotspot. The stunning beach-facing villas of the Pousada Maravilha resort are a good bet.
Plan your perfect trip with this inspirational compendium of failsafe holiday suggestions. It's packed with fresh ideas for traditional breaks, from beach idylls to winter sun and family camping, along with great suggestions for trying something different – all around the world. Whether you're looking for a weekend break or the trip of a lifetime, Time Out's worldwide team of travel specialists can take you there.