Best romantic holidays
Artistic luminaries of the 19th and 20th centuries were clear on the romantic appeal of Provence. Cézanne was a native of the region, but it also lured Picasso, Monet and Van Gogh with its lavender fields, pavement cafes and attractive light. From the sweeping bridge of Avignon to the glamour of Nice and cobbled squares of Aix-en-Provence – there’s enough eye-candy in this southern swathe of France to make even the most hardened realist swoon.
Beach bums and lovers of the life aquatic can satisfy all their desert-island fantasies in Palawan. It’s a large archipelagic province of the Philippines (the easiest way to get here is to fly from Manila) characterised by virgin rainforest, limestone karst cliffs and unrivalled sands. Below water, there’s WWII shipwreck diving and cities of coral. Forget Thailand: rumour has it that Palawan’s Bacuit Archipelago was the real inspiration for Alex Garland’s The Beach. The author lived in El Nido for six months.
Cascading down hills and toying with the sea, the Cinque Terre are five exquisite little towns strung along dramatic outcrops of the Italian Riviera. Although undeniably busy in summer, their magic endures. Their greatest appeal lies in the fact that it’s possible to hike along the coast between all five villages on the Sentiero Azzurro, often described as one of Europe’s best walks. Set aside a handful of days to do the towns justice, allowing for beach time, lazy lunches and clifftop bars.
If chocolate is an aphrodisiac, romance is guaranteed to blossom in St Lucia. Cacao is so abundant here that it grows by the roadside. The island is home to Hotel Chocolat’s cocoa plantations and its hotel, Boucan, has a chocolate-themed spa and bean-to-bar experiences. It helps that St Lucia is gorgeous, with two distinctive peaks—the Pitons—crowning one of the lushest landscapes in the Caribbean. Hotels like Jade Mountain set the bar for views and romance, but couples will equally love St Lucia’s legendary rum-fuelled street parties.
Despite its unfortunate reputation for hassle, Marrakesh remains the stuff of Arabian Nights fantasies. Its sand-coloured streets are a gloriously intoxicating whirlwind and there’s nothing quite as arresting as the call to prayer in this city of a thousand rooftops. We recommend splurging on a sumptuous palace hotel or medina riad with a decadent spa (many of which are still remarkably good value). Afterwards, retreat to the whitewashed coastal town of Essaouira for a peaceful wind-down by crashing waves.
There’s something undeniably dreamy about the prospect of waking up somewhere different every day. If you and your partner are adventurers at heart, you’ll love campervanning through New Zealand’s dramatic southern island. Just the two of you and the open road, with mountains, fjords and lakes to gawp at. There are hundreds of camping grounds to choose from, many in remote, beautiful locations.
Ok, so India isn’t everyone’s idea of romance. But Rajasthan is something special, and it’s still a destination where unique experiences and luxury are a relative bargain. You can roam abandoned forts and decorated palaces with their sumptuous harems, take desert camel rides, track tigers at dawn, and bed down in magical old maharaja digs with a G&T poured by a butler. Hire a car with driver to make it stress-free; it’s surprisingly affordable.
The calling card of this popular island in Greece is its famous sunsets. Blue-and-white villages trickle down stark mountains saluting the sea, with dozens of hotel and bar terraces positioned for the chink of champagne glasses as the sun sinks. Many accommodation options are designed for maximum privacy, some have private plunge pools and several are adults-only. Santorini gets crazy busy in summer, but that’s no biggie if you can afford your own little slice of the horizon.
The country that invented tango is guaranteed to get every couple’s pulse racing. Dance aficionados head for the milongas (dance halls) of San Telmo in Buenos Aires for steamy nights pressed close together. After a few days soaking in the bohemian vibe and late-night bars of BA’s oldest neighbourhood, we'd recommend allocating time for wine tours in Mendoza and a posh eco-lodge in the remote heart of Patagonia, Argentina.
Find the right train and all our old-fashioned, romantic notions of rail travel become justified. The route we’d pick carves through Canada’s Rocky Mountains around Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise, on the Rocky Mountaineer. This is no ordinary train: viewing carriages have windows that span from ceiling to seats, so that it truly feels like you’re among the wilderness. There are four different routes taking a minimum of one to four days. Expect frothy rivers, towering spruce, glacial lakes and perhaps the occasional bear.