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50 Romantic Hotels: Into the Wilderness

Introduction | Secluded Retreats | City Lights | Into the Wilderness | Along the Shore | Best Values | Urban Classics | Country Grandeur | Beachfront Property | Rustic Lodges | Inns and Country Houses | Overwater Bungalows | Private Islands

Into the Wilderness

Tswalu, South Africa
Out on South Africa's Kalahari plains, the fiery sunsets alone are enough to make visitors giddy. After a day tracking cheetahs and black rhinos on game drives—Tswalu Kalahari Reserve is the largest private nature reserve in South Africa—there's no better place than Tswalu for you to rejuvenate and reacquaint yourself with your mate. Folded between two mountain ranges in an isolated part of the desert, the Relais & Châteaux property applies style to African conservationist design. Dine on five-star Pan-African cuisine under the Kalahari's bright nighttime sky before retiring to your spacious thatched-roof legae. There are nine of them, all built from local stone and red desert clay, with air-conditioning, an open fireplace, and a sheltered deck that begs sunbathers to disrobe. Roughing it never felt so good. Northern Cape Province, South Africa; 27-21/426-4139, fax 27-21/426-4150; www.tswalu.com; doubles from $378, all-inclusive.

Orient-Express Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, Peru
Built in the 15th century but not rediscovered until 1911, the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu tower some 8,000 feet above sea level in the cruelest crags of the Andes Mountains. On foot (the ancient, and still the best, form of approach) it requires three days to reach the ruins from Cuzco (less athletic types can take a 31/2-hour train ride); at the Sun Gate at dawn, the first glimpse of the last Incan city is a personal revelation. The same can be said for the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge. The sole hotel in this World Heritage Site, its rustic simplicity needs no embellishment. Crumbling city walls lie just outside the front door, as do heart-stopping views of the jagged mountaintops. Bring a flashlight and sneak onto Machu Picchu's deserted streets at moonrise. The only witness to your stolen kisses will be a woolly llama and its mate. Carretera Hiram Bingham, Machu Picchu, Peru; 800/223-6800 or 51-8/421-1039, fax 51-8/421-1053; www.orient-express.com; doubles from $325.

Vanyavilas, India
Do the trials of international espionage have you pining for love?That may not be an issue for you, but it was for an American embassy attaché who recently unwound with his lonely bride at Vanyavilas, Oberoi's new, and India's first, jungle resort, near the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve. The couple found maximum seclusion in one of 25 luxury tents, decorated with breezy sari fabrics, Burmese teak furniture, and tiger-striped carpets. They walked together through citrus and mango groves to the private spa suites for couples' Thai massages. So romantic was their tent's sandstone veranda, surrounded by a microsphere of flora and fauna, that they decided to take all their meals there, under the star-filled skies of Rajasthan. Ranthambhore Rd., Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan, India; 800/562-3764 or 91-7462/23999; www.oberoihotels.com; doubles from $550.

Molokaii Ranch, Hawaii
Red-earth scrublands, tropical rain forests, empty white beaches—the tiny island of Molokai defies the typical image of Hawaii. At the Molokai Ranch & Lodge, whose 54,000 acres cover almost a third of the drowsy isle, guests can experience all the ecological diversity, or do nothing: the grounds are liberally sprinkled with hammocks and thatched umbrellas, and the staff knows when to leave couples alone. 8 Maunaloa Hwy., Maunaloa, Hawaii; 877/726-4656 or 808/660-2722; www.molokairanch.com; bungalows from $550.

La Mirage Garden Hotel & Spa, Ecuador
The 16-year-old, 12-acre hacienda, nestled amid the rolling hills and volcanoes of Ecuador's northern highlands, leaves no romantic stone unturned. From the extensive gardens, commanded by an army of peacocks, to the in-house spa, guests can't help becoming entranced. The 23 tiled rooms have fireplaces, where your butler can light a fire while you finish dessert. Calle 10 de Agosto, Cotacachi, Ecuador; 800/327-3573 or 593-6/915-237; www.larc1.com; doubles from $260, including some meals.

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