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Romantic Dream Trips

Trancoso, Brazil: A Beach Town Where Time Stands Still

It’s one of the strangest and most beautiful places in Bahia, a sort of Brazilian Brigadoon. A Pataxo Indian village turned Portuguese Jesuit enclave turned hippie dropout haven, Trancoso is hardly on the global radar—at least not quite yet. On the town square, paper lanterns hang from the branches of mango, tamarind, and cashew trees; each evening, the lanterns are set alight. The echoes of bossa nova fill the air. Couples and families stroll across the square, wearing Havaianas or walking barefoot in the grass. There’s not much to do or see, but that’s exactly why visitors like it. This is a place to slow down and enjoy at its own pace—one beach, one evening stroll, and one passion-fruit caipirinha at a time. —Peter Jon Lindberg

Bali, Indonesia: An Exotic Island That Will Soothe the Soul

Many travelers come to Bali to connect with its vibrant culture, especially now that Eat Pray Love has turned a whole new generation on to its mystic charms. What they are likely to encounter: crowded resort enclaves—and traffic. How to find the real Bali? Venture to unexploited corners of the island, to resorts like Alila Villas Uluwatu, where you can learn to play the gamelan or visit hidden temples. The Hotel Tugu Bali, on a tranquil beach in off-the-beaten-path Canggu, feels more like a museum than a hotel; every vertical surface sports a canvas or print or tapestry. It’s a vivid fantasia as rich as Bali’s tropical landscape. —Peter Jon Lindberg

Namibia, Africa: Epic Landscapes—and Equally Inspiring Hideaways

It was Hollywood star couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie—the Richard Burton and Liz Taylor of our time—who helped put Namibia on most people’s radars. Four years ago, the duo retreated to this southern African country to await the birth of their third child. The international media followed, only to discover a destination that has been quietly coming into its own for a while. Along with spectacular scenery—thousand-foot sand dunes; a coastline strewn with ancient shipwrecks—it has some of the biggest game parks in Africa, as well as high-design lodges that rival the landscape. —Richard Alleman

New York City: Retreats in the Urban Jungle

From uptown’s bustling avenues to the quiet cobblestoned streets of downtown, New York City is a study in contrasts. The greatest challenge is deciding where to stay. With its antique-filled rooms, the 1834 Inn at Irving Place feels like your own pied-à-terre. The Tony Chi–designed Andaz Fifth Avenue has a more modern flair. Then there are the choices for eating and drinking. Grab a seat at the Plaza Hotel’s restored Oak Bar, where the Central Park views are as stirring as ever. The nearby Peninsula New York’s rooftop bar, Salon de Ning, channels 1930’s Shanghai with silk-pillow-laden daybeds. In the leafy West Village, Café Cluny is tranquil enough to hear your companion but convivial enough to feel like a dinner party at an elegant farmhouse. Smith & Mills is a tiny TriBeCa boîte hidden behind unmarked doors in a former carriage house. Bright lights, big city? From this vantage point, New York feels like the smallest town on earth. —Peter Jon Lindberg

New Zealand: Escape to the Outer Limits

New Zealand is big and varied. Sandy beaches in the subtropical north, glaciers and alpine skiing in the south. Green, velvety hills roll beneath rainbows, and long stretches of road in the interior pass through farmland, ominous-looking craggy ranges, and vineyards. The country is a holy land for extreme-sports-seekers—as well as those in search of extreme pampering at grand pleasure palaces such as Otahuna Lodge, a refurbished Queen Anne mansion on the South Island. Even if you’re not staying at one of the “super lodges,” driving through either of the two islands is its own reward; you can’t help shrugging and staring and whistling, glad you ended up here, wherever “here” is. —Adam Sachs

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