50 Most Romantic Places, 2005
Nothing puts us in the mood for love like travel. We've searched the world for destinations where romance is not just promised—it's guaranteed.
Dinner in a 400-year-old mansion overlooking the Bosporus. A couples massage just steps from the South Pacific. A rural retreat where no one can find you. By changing the setting, we allow ourselves not only to fall in love with a new place, but also to see the same face in a different light. So whether you're planning a secret getaway or you're just an incorrigible dreamer, read on.COUNTRY LIVING
Inn at Palmetto Bluff
BLUFFTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
On a tidal stretch of the May River, just west of Hilton Head, the new Inn at Palmetto Bluff puts the charm back into Southern hospitality. Spend mornings paddling kayaks along marsh-lined coastal waterways inhabited by snowy egrets and playful dolphins, or pedaling bikes with a naturalist on woodland trails fragrant with loblolly pine. In the 50 white clapboard cottages, landscapes by low-country artists evoke a languorous, bygone era. T+L TIP Paint each other with therapeutic mud, then soak in a Spanish moss-and-citrus bath during the Boggin' massage treatment at the spa.
DOUBLES FROM $450; 476 MOUNT PELIA RD.; 866/706-6565; www.palmettobluffresort.com
Hacienda Puerta Campeche
Crafted from a row of colonial-era houses, the Yucatán Peninsula's latest hacienda brings a dose of urbane style to this historic town. Most of the 15 guest rooms have a bathroom the size of a big-city apartmentand a sun-drenched daybed. Pools built between the red and yellow façades of the old manor houses flow through porticos from room to room and are capped with floating hammocks. T+L TIP Ask a driver to take you to the nearby ruins of Edzna. After midnight, the pyramid complex makes a perfect backdrop for an unforgettable proposal.
DOUBLES FROM $159; CALLE 59; 52-981/816-7535 www.luxurycollection.com
House of Jasmines
The hottest attraction in Argentina's northwest corner is the seven-suite House of Jasmines, actor Robert Duvall's 120-year-old, 300-acre ranch in the shadow of the Andes. On foot or horseback, guests are free to roam the Edenic grounds, which are overrun with aromatic roses, orchids, and jasmine. Inside your white-on-white adobe casita, the best treat you can give yourselves is a long siesta in the wrought-iron four-poster bed. T+L TIP Try a granita made with the region's signature wine, Torrontes.
DOUBLES FROM $250; 54-387/497-2002; www.houseofjasmines.com
Red Capital Ranch
There's not much at the arcadian Red Capital Ranch to disturb a weekend tryst—except, of course, its gaspingly close proximity to the Great Wall. There are just 10 villas; request one with a rooftop terrace. Feast on Manchurian mountain dishes (lamb roasted over an open fire with willow leaves), or simply cocoon in a corner of the Tiger Bar and soak up the serenity. T+L TIP Ascend the wall at sunset to watch the surrounding hills, rustic villages, and crumbling watchtowers melt into the purple haze of northern China's twilight.
DOUBLES FROM $188; HUAIROU DISTRICT; 86-10/8401-8886; www.redcapitalclub.comBEYOND THE SEA
Anantara Resort & Spa
KHAO LAK, THAILAND
Retreat from the crowds of Phuket into your own thatched-roof manor. The 51 villas all have four-poster beds and glorious views (of silvery beaches along the Andaman Sea or of a 22-acre palm grove surrounding a sapphire lagoon), and each expansive marble bathroomopens onto a secret garden. T+L TIP Commune with nature by visiting rescued leatherback turtles at Hat Thai Muang National Park, then take an afternoon jungle trek to secluded waterfalls and hidden beaches.
DOUBLES FROM $455; 66-76/592-100; www.anantara.com
Malaysia's newest resort is also its most luxurious. Overlooking the turquoise Andaman Sea are 91 villas, teak-shingled in traditional Malay style, many with separate gated entrances, wooden patios, and private "spa rooms" with gold-hued Spanish-marble showers. The main spa is itself an invitation to hedonism: six dark wood pavilions floating in lotus ponds. But everything—in the end—centers on the sugar-sand beaches and the dramatic limestone formations that trail out to sea like a string of pearls. T+L TIP Hire a private boatman for a moonlit drift in a perahu (a traditional Malay boat) outfitted with silk cushions—beneath shadows cast by the granite cliffs that loom above the sea.
DOUBLES FROM $410; 800/819-5053 OR 60-4/959-2888; www.fourseasons.com/langkawi
Mykonos Theoxenia Hotel
Standing between windmills and sand, blue crystal waters and the narrow, cobblestoned streets of Mykonos, the restored Mykonos Theoxenia is everything you wouldn't expect from a classic Greek hotel. Its 52 rooms revisit the sixties, with Pop canvases and retro furniture playing off stark-white stone buildings that glow in the afternoon sun. T+L TIP Watch the moon rise over the sacred island of Delos from deserted Kapari Beach. The concierge will take care of all details, including a speedboat to bring you back to the hotel.
DOUBLES FROM $185; 30-22890/22230; www.mykonostheoxenia.com
TURKS AND CAICOS
At the Palms resort, on Turks and Caicos' celebrated Grace Bay Beach, guests can wander through water gardens, relax beside the infinity pool, or choose a treatment administered in the 15,000-square-foot spa. All of the 72 suites—which have vaulted ceilings, marble floors, and Roman baths—overlook the ocean and come with terraces where couples can dine alfresco before slipping past the railing and testing the waters together. T+L TIP Book one of the three-bedroom penthouse suites. They're accessible only by private elevator and come with a butler.
DOUBLES FROM $750; 866/877-7256 www.thepalmstc.comMEALS TO REMEMBER
Cristal Room Baccarat
Most restaurants attached to brand names are worth avoiding for the homogeneity they inevitably deliver. The Cristal Room Baccarat is the sumptuously appointed exception to this rule: the Empire-chic interior is the work of Philippe Starck (the raw brick-and-gilt walls are not to be overlooked); chef Thierry Burlot changes his refined Gallic menu on a monthly basis; and at dinner the room is suffused with the exquisite glow cast by candelabra and, of course, Baccarat chandeliers. T+L TIP Step into the 10-seat, terraced private dining room to view the first black-crystal chandelier Baccarat ever created.
DINNER FOR TWO $268; HOTEL DE NOAILLES, 11 PLACE DES ÉTATS-UNIS; 33-1/40-22-11-10
Rio Grande Restaurante
On a candlelit veranda planted with lemon trees, you can sample the creations of executive chef Nacho Martinez, who has brought a globe-trotting sensibility to Rio Grande's traditional Andalusian menu. This little bistro in the Triana district turns out fresh seafood in countless original ways (the black-rice paella with lobster and jumbo prawns is a local favorite). T+L TIP The six-course tasting dinner is worth the three hours it requires to eat.
DINNER FOR TWO $105; 41010 CALLE BETIS; 34-95/427-8371
Every element of the Tugra experience is calculated to set your inner clock to Levantine time—after all, the Çiragan Palace Hotel Kempinski, which houses the restaurant, was the last residence of the Ottoman emperors. The cuisine is derived from recipes found in historic Ottoman texts, but new executive chef Aydin Demirgives dishes his own 21st-century flair, creating entrées such as salmon "pastrami" with orange-and-mint couscous. T+L TIP Take one of the tables at the edge of the vast columned terrace, which directly overlooks the Bosporus.
DINNER FOR TWO $220; 32 ÇIRAGAN CAD., BESIKTAS 90-212/326-4646; www.ciraganpalace.com
The Cupola at Three on the Bund
Those hunting for indulgence in Shanghai should concern themselves with only one reservation: the upper cupola at Three on the Bund. This two-tiered dome atop a landmark 1916 building seats just two and commands 360-degree views of the Bund's Neoclassical architecture and the futuristic, neon-streaked skyline of Pudong. T+L TIP Request extra portions of the decadent chocolate cake and chestnut-rum foam from former Jean Georges pastry chef Jason Casey.
DINNER FOR TWO $400; 3 ZHONG SHAN DONG YI RD. 86-21/6323-3355; www.threeonthebund.comOVER-THE-TOP SUITES
The Aviary, Twin Farms
Luxury at this 1930's estate has been taken up a notch with the Aviary suite: the latest addition to the property is a 1,100-square-foot house for two built into the treetops, with floor-to-ceiling windows framing views of the Green Mountains. Should cross-country skiing and tobogganing on the 300-acre property fail to send Cupid's arrows flying, nap hearthside with your partner and a bottle of wine. T+L TIP Try a deep-sea body wrap or hydrotherapy soak at the spa.
$1,850 PER NIGHT; 800/894-6327; www.twinfarms.com
Vera Wang Suite at Halekulani
Revisit your wedding day in the newly opened Vera Wang Suite, a collaboration between the A-list bridal designer and the Hawaiian landmark hotel that hovers on the edge of Waikiki's famous surf. Wang breaks the Halekulani's all-white tradition with a fruity palette in the lounge and private dining room—which is set with her signature crystal and china. T+L TIP Have a traditional Polynesian Nonu massage or a couple's lomilomi in the newly christened SpaHalekulani.
$4,000 PER NIGHT; 800/367-2343; www.halekulani.com
LOS CABOS, MEXICO
The Baja Peninsula's Casa Lisa may share a shoreline with the exclusive Esperanza resort, but at this five-bedroom villa, the only person who shares your view of the pale blue sea is your partner. If snorkeling and kayaking don't inspire you, head to the desert for horseback riding, then celebrate sunset over Land's End with a fresh margarita. T+L TIP Watch your host, Ali Ordoñez, catch spiny lobsters in front of the villa and whisk them to your chef, who will serve them by candlelight in a thatched cabana.
$2,000 PER NIGHT; 888/499-5745; www.akconciergevillas.com
The Penthouse, Merrion Hotel
When a hotel suite has an extra room to accommodate "security personnel," chances are that high-caliber guests are spending the night. Such is the case at Dublin's most exclusive hotel, where celebrities (like Bruce Springsteen) have kept the 3,000-square-foot duplex penthouse booked since its September opening. Ensuring the utmost in discretion, a private elevator opens right into the suite's first floor, where two bedroomslook out on the hotel's faithfully re-created 18th-century gardens. T+L TIP Snap your fingers and staff will serve a full-course dinner on your rooftop terrace—beside the cedarwood hot tub.
$3,085 PER NIGHT; UPPER MERRION ST.; 353-1/603-0600; www.merrionhotel.com
Royal Penthouse Suite, King George II Hotel
Play gods while overlooking the Parthenon from the terrace of the King George II Hotel's most opulent guest quarters, recently reopened after a 16-year hiatus. Adding to the extraterrestrial atmosphere of the entire-ninth-floor suite are a Jacuzzi and butlerand enough public space to entertain more than 70 friends in full view of the Acropolis.T+L TIP Swim in the Parthenon's shadow in the terrace's infinity pool.
$9,950 PER NIGHT; VASSILEOS GEORGIOU A ST., SYNTAGMA SQ.; 30-210/322-2210; www.grecotel.gr
Abu Elephant Villa, Abu Camp
OKAVANGO DELTA, BOTSWANA
This exquisite two-bedroom villa is set in an ancient riverine forest, just across the lagoon from the five-tent Abu camp. A classic mahogany four-poster bed dominates the main room; the purpose of the second room is left to your imagination. Couples can take one of Abu's famed elephant-back safaris, then return to soak in their en suite copper bathtub in the afternoon. T+L TIP Spend the evening on the teak pool deck gazing at fish eagles swooping over the water while your personal chef prepares dinner.
VILLA FROM $2,200; 267/686-1260; www.abucamp.com
Great Mercury Island
Through New Zealand's Seasonz Travel bespoke outfitters, you can rent a cloistered retreat on the privately owned Great Mercury Island—25 minutes by helicopter from Auckland. The two Scandinavian-inspired residences are set into the hillside and have panoramic views of the Pacific. You won't feel isolated, though: massage therapists, personal cooks, and expert guides are at your beck and call, and endless activities await. T+L TIP Ask the staff to prepare a basket of picnic goodies and transport you by boat to a secluded beach where you can play Robinson Crusoe.
FROM $20,000 PER NIGHT; 800/225-4255; www.seasonz.co.nzSYBARITIC ESCAPES
Hôtel Guanahani & Spa
Long before P. Diddy began chartering yachts here, St. Bart's was courting celebrities who basked in the glow of the flashbulbs. It's surprising, then, to note that the ultrachic island has suffered for so long the lack of a full-service spa. Thanks to the Guanahani, the reign of spaless sun breaks is over. The hotel's 5,000-square-foot open-air space blends into the pastel cottages—and caters to couples in search of corporeal indulgence.T+L TIP Take a body scrub in tandem, then surrender to the island's laid-back rhythm in an Indonesian-style daybed for two, set beneath shady palms.
DOUBLES FROM $699; 800/223-6800 OR 590-590/276-660; www.leguanahani.com
Aghadoe Heights Hotel & Spa
COUNTY KERRY, IRELAND
Emphasis is on the casual at the recently expanded Aghadoe Heights Hotel's new spa—don't let its regal 10,000 square feet fool you. From the private balcony or thermal suite, guests can admire the nearby lakes and mountains of Killarney without wearing anything more formal than a robe. After a precious-stone therapy followed by massages in the couples room, the only thing you'll need to do is breathe the country air while exploring the Zen gardens. T+L TIP Sample the Kerry lamb at the hotel's acclaimed restaurant, Fredrick's at the Heights.
DOUBLES FROM $372; 353-64/31766; www.aghadoeheights.com
Evason Hideaway at Ana Mandara
NINH VAN BAY, VIETNAM
On verdant hills that seem to tumble down to the sea, 54 thatched-roof villas face Ninh Van Bay's natural rock formations, which stand like sentries in the distance. Competing with the serenity of the view is the Six Senses Spa, where holistic remedies and tai chi classes are performed beside the rhythmic sea. T+L TIP Escape to Dam Tre Island's secluded beach, 30 minutes away by speedboat, for an amorous day trip.
DOUBLES FROM $400; 84-58/829-829; www.sixsenses.com
Built at the base of the Himalayas, Wildflower Hall was the former residence of Lord Kitchener, commander of the British Army. His adventurer's spirit can still be felt: after spending a day horseback riding through apple orchards and nearby villages, guests head to the Spa Pavilion to loosen up with the Spirit of Ayurveda (more than three hours of Indian pampering with herbal oils) on side-by-side massage tables. T+L TIP Sign up for the Romancing the Himalayas package and its three-hour spa session.
DOUBLES FROM $275; 800/562-3764; www.oberoihotels.com
Moorea Pearl Resort & Spa
Go local while getting a royal rubdown—all treatments at the Moorea Pearl Resort's new 17,373-square-foot holistic spa use natural oils rich in Tahitian botanicals. When you're not being slathered with umuheioil (a Tahitian love potion) from the Marquesas, you can spend time reconnecting in your over-water bungalow or tracing the shoreline as the sun sinks. T+L TIP The Manea Manea treatment for two combines the best of the spa's therapies: a steam bath, body scrub, moisturizing wrap, full-body massage, and facial.
DOUBLES FROM $270; 68-9/55-17-50; www.pearlresorts.comON THE WATER
International Expeditions transports nature-loving lovers not only to the Galápagos Islands—where they can snorkel in a submerged volcanic cone filled with sea lions—but also to another decade. Itsnewly christened Evolution is modeled after European steamers of the twenties, but with a few amenities (such as a sundeck-surrounded pool) thrown in for 21st-century comfort. Although its cabins are spacious, this love boat is designed for just 32 guests. T+L TIP With a naturalist guide in tow, take out a glass-bottomed kayak to watch turtles and manta rays.
10-DAY CRUISE FROM $3,848 PER PERSON, DOUBLE; 800/633-4734; www.ietravel.com
POLAND & THE BALTIC COAST
After touring the Romanesque and Gothic architecture of Poland's inland, the two of you can indulge in six meals a day or settle into a chair on the teakwood sundeck. Wrapped up in a blanket, you can silently watch the ancient forests of the Oder River Valley as you float by on your way to the Baltic. T+L TIP Take a horse-drawn carriage through the rolling hills and fishing villages of the Isle of Hiddensee, off the German Baltic coast.
13-DAY CRUISE TOUR FROM $4,280 PER PERSON, DOUBLE; 800/348-8287; www.deilmann-cruises.com
Tu Moana and Ti'a Moana
Why sleep in a thatched-roof hut when you can float from island to island in Bora Bora Cruises' design-driven super-yachts?These 226-foot-long sailboats house just 30 cabins each, with interiors decked out in richly grained hardwood and decidedly un-cruiselike touches (Philippe Starck bathroom fixtures, Sharp Aquos flat-screen plasma TV's). T+L TIP Dine on executive chef Jean-Michel Braesch's island-influenced French dishes at either boat's Ra'a restaurant.
SEVEN-DAY CRUISES FROM $10,123, DOUBLE; 800/780 4014; www.boraboracruises.comSEXY CITIES
The 19-room Drake Hotel combines urban elegance with a dose of the avant-garde. Check out the cityscape from the wooden rooftop, Sky Yard, which becomes an ice bar and starlit movie theater in winter; the hotel provides overstuffed parkas and hot toddies so you can keep warm while you watch. T+L TIP The Drake's Pleasure Menu takes room service to the next level; frisky guests can discreetly order massage oils, how-to videos, and other intimacy kits.
DOUBLES FROM $159; 1150 QUEEN ST. W.; 416/531-5042; www.thedrakehotel.ca
New York City
In winter, the city sparkles beneath crystal-blue skies, and the cold air draws only the toughest outdoors. High above Fifth Avenue, Boudoir Suites in the landmark Pierre hotel have panoramic vantages of snow-dusted Central Park. T+L TIP If you hold your wedding at the Pierre—with up to 200 of your closest friends—the hotel will present you with a seven-night honeymoon at any Four Seasons resort.
DOUBLES FROM $595; 2 E. 61ST ST.; 800/743-7734; www.fourseasons.com/pierre
South Beach, Miami
Just when you thought this city couldn't get any steamier, another style-driven hotel opens its doors. Right next to Gianni Versace's former mansion, the L. Murray Dixon-built Hotel Victor has been restored in high sybaritic fashion by celebrated French designer Jacques Garcia. T+L TIP Those dramatic guest rooms are lovely places to linger, with ebony-lacquered furniture and large soaking tubs tucked behind diaphanous draperies.
DOUBLES FROM $475; 1144 OCEAN DR.; 800/720-0051 OR 305/428-1234; www.hotelvictorsouthbeach.com
Australian chef Christine Manfield's Asian-fusion restaurant, East@West, is the talk of the town, but only those in the know are aware of the three-room West Street Hotel that takes up the two floors above. Each suite is individually designed: the White Room is all Carrara marble, the top-floor Loft Room is decked out with oak floors, slate-and-glass walls, and chocolate-brown leather furnishings. You're in the heart of Covent Garden, but it feels as private as a monastery.
DOUBLES FROM $200; 13-15 WEST ST.; 44-207/010-8700 www.egami.co.uk
Make a wish on the five-minute twinkle of the Eiffel Tower (on the hour), and wander through the side streets off the Boulevard St.-Germain, where the haute, hot, and highbrow intersect. T+L TIP Splurge on a night in the über-luxurious Suite Duc de Crillon at the Hôtel de Crillon, just off the Champs Élysées.
DOUBLES FROM $650; PLACE DE LA CONCORDE; 33-1/44-71-15-00; www.crillon.com
Inspired by Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn (both of whom honeymooned here), the Hassler Hotel has introduced a Marriage Proposal package. Couples are picked up from the airport in a vintage Rolls-Royce, greeted in their suite with a bottle of champagne, then whisked around the city on a twilight carriage ride. T+L TIP Upon arrival, the would-be question popper can meet with the Marriage Manager, who's devoted to coordinating the perfect proposal—and knows how to keep a secret.
DOUBLES FROM $1,675; 6 PIAZZA TRINITA DEI MONTI 39-6/699 340; www.hotelhassler.com
Related: Rome Travel Guide
The 142-room glass-and-steel Park Hyatt Zürich is just steps from steepled churches, centuries-old guildhalls, and glistening Lake Zürich. When the two of you tire of exploring the quiet cobbled alleys and leafy squares in the winding Old Town, retire to the hotel's sexy, backlit bar, Onyx. T+L TIP Visit Zuri-West, the city's onetime industrial quarter, fresh from a Berlin-like makeover.
DOUBLES FROM $394; 21 BEETHOVEN-STRASSE; 41-43/883-1234; www.zurich.park.hyatt.com
With the opening of British hotelier Jonathan Wix's Riad Farnatchi, Marrakesh is paying homage to the glamour of its ancient past. Guests enter the three 450-year-old riads to find five suites with Egyptian-cotton sheets and personal djellabas. T+L TIP If you want to return at midnight to a room covered in fresh roses, or a belly dancer writhing to your favorite song, manager Lynn Perez can arrange it.
DOUBLES FROM $320; RUE SOUK EL FASSIS QUA'AT BEN AHID; 212-44/384-910; www.riadfarnatchi.comEXOTIC CASTAWAYS
LORD HOWE ISLAND, AUSTRALIA
The maximum number of visitors to this World Heritage-listed island, two hours from Sydney, is 400, and there are few places besides Capella to stay. Around the recently rebuilt nine-suite lodge, walking paths meander through a virgin rain forest, where the songs of rare native birds fill the air. Brilliantly colored fish practically swim past your front door, and a treatment at the Aboriginal-inspired spa is the only way to end the day. T+L TIP Stretch out on the open-air deck of Gower's Terrace and sip a mango-lime-coconut daiquiri while planning your next adventure.
DOUBLES FROM $400; 61-2/9918-4355; www.lordhowe.com
Losari Coffee Plantation Resort & Spa
In the temple-covered hills of central Java, surrounded by eight spectacular volcanoes, a 1920's Dutch Colonial coffee plantation has been lovingly converted into a boutique hotel by Italian-born Gabriella Teggia. Its 18 thatched-roof villas have teak four-poster beds, sunken marble tubs, and private verandas. Organic meals at the poolside restaurant complement the hammam, yoga classes, and spa treatments. T+L TIP Ask the concierge to book you a ride on the vintage 1902 cogwheel steam train that runs through coffee fields and Javanese villages.
DOUBLES FROM $250; 62-298/596-333; www.losaricoffeeplantation.com
Dugong Beach Lodge
Set on a sheltered white-sand peninsula, the latest eco-resort to open on the Mozambique coast has just 10 chalets. But there's still plenty of action: manta rays, leatherback turtles, and the eponymous dugong (an endangered mammal that's something like an elephant seal) frequently share the open Indian Ocean with guests. Scuba dive, deep-sea fish, or kayak, or sit by the pool, staring out at the flocks of pink flamingos.T+L TIP Request a table under the gazebo at the end of one of the jetties and order the Portuguese-style peri-peri prawns.
DOUBLES FROM $500, INCLUDING MEALS; 258-82/306-488; www.dugonglodge.co.za
Live like royalty just a few miles south of the Valley of the Queens. Every detail of the newly constructed Al Moudira is salvaged from the corners of Egypt, and the 54 guest rooms reflect their landscape: stained glass lines the ceilings, frescoes and latticework adorn the arched walls, and the enclosed garden is fragrant with henna and jasmine. T+L TIP Try to secure the Pharaonic Room, with furniture and paintings inspired by pharaonic art.
DOUBLES FROM $215; 20-12/325-1307; www.moudira.com
Adventure-loving romantics can trek around the volcanoes, dive among the reefs, and examine the moai—those giant basalt statues—up close, all with Explora's multilingual guides, then spend the night in a nine-bedroom outpost equipped with an expansive terrace and (for better or worse) the latest technology to keep them plugged in. T+L TIP Ask the Explora team to pack you a basket of snacks and pisco sours for a sunset happy hour beside the five moai at Ahu Tahi.
THREE NIGHTS FROM $1,230, DOUBLE; 56-2/206-6060; www.explora.comSECRET VILLAGES
The quintessential Basque village (with timbered houses and an open-air court for playing pelota) lies tucked in the foothills of the Pyrenees. There, you canhide away in the restored farmhouse at Olhabidea Chambre d'Hôte.
DOUBLES FROM $80; RTE. DE ST-PÉE-SUR-NIVELLE; 33-5/59-54-21-85
From central Stockholm it's a two-hour ferry ride to the island of Sandhamn, in the overlooked Swedish archipelago. There's an abundance of beaches, red-painted cottages, and paths that wind through pine forests. Book one of the 17 rooms in the Sands Hotell, where old-world details (cast-iron radiators, worn wooden floors) are juxtaposed with modern luxuries.
DOUBLES FROM $243; 46-8/5715-3020; www.sandshotell.se
At this seaside spot, flanked by an extinct volcano, a glacier, and a boulder-strewn lava field, only two buildings stand beside the water: a 19th-century church and the Hotel Budir, a 28-room property with two bright, white wings joined by a gleaming wood-and-glass structure that surprisingly fits in with the scenery. The hotel's restaurant pioneered modern Icelandic cuisine; be brave and try the stingray in Cognac sauce or reindeer with pears.
DOUBLES FROM $220; 35-4/435-6700; www.budir.is
A new minimalist Mediterranean resort puts the Aeolian Island of Stromboli's long-overlooked neighbor, Salvina, on the map. The 13 rooms, five suites, and stellar restaurant at Capofaro Malvasia & Resort occupy seven whitewashed, flat-roofed cottages set amid vineyards. When the volcano on Stromboli throws sparks at night,the faro (lighthouse) and the archipelago are illuminated.
DOUBLES FROM $230; 39-090/984-4330; www.capofaro.it
Carved out of verdant jungle and centuries-old taap trees, this tiny (population 300) Hindu farming village on the Penet River isn't far from the beaches of Kuta. Check into one of six thatched-roof villas at the Sukhavati Retreat and indulge in yoga classes and lulur treatments.
VILLAS FROM $190; 62-361/742-2928; www.sukhavatiretreat.comADRENALINE HIGHS
Four Seasons Whistler
The newest addition to the Four Seasons family in North America hugs the base of Blackcomb Mountain, just 90 miles north of Vancouver. Après-ski here means having the concierge arrange a dogsled ride through the forest to an alfresco dinner for two, served under a heated canopy.
DOUBLES FROM $529; 800/819-5053; www.fourseasons.com/whistler
Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Adventure
Chaperoned by a local guide, a daring couple can hike 90 minutes through the rugged rain forest of central Belize, then rappel down a dark, 300-foot limestone sinkhole in the forest floor to a series of underground caves ending in the ultimate secluded honeymoon "suite": a candlelit chamber decked out with champagne and a bed strewn with flowers.
ONE-NIGHT CAVE ADVENTURE $575; 501/822-2800; www.cavesbranch.com
La Pleta Hotel & Spa
ARAN VALLEY, SPAIN
A 3 1/2 hour drive from Barcelona, La Pleta Hotel & Spa adds another dash of style to ski-lodge living. Rise early to hit the 5,000-foot slopes or take a stroll through nearby hamlets with fifth-century Romanesque churches. End with a vin cau (hot wine) nightcap on the lodge's wraparound deck.
DOUBLES FROM $220; 34-973/645-550; www.rafaelhoteles.com
Ponta dos Ganchos Exclusive Resort
SANTA CATARINA, BRAZIL
At Ponta dos Ganchos Resort, a 20-bungalow retreat spread over 20 acres of Brazilian beachfront, a rain forest looming just beyond the shore and a fishing village provide the only land action—but the turquoise waters of the Arvoredo Biological Marine Reserve, less than an hour away, sustain a rainbow of aquatic life, from 300-pound green sea turtles to tiny pocket-size sea horses.
DOUBLES FROM $255; 55-48/262-5000; www.pontadosganchos.com.br
EASTERN AND SOUTHERN AFRICA
Now anyone can relive Robert Redford and Meryl Streep's adventure with Blixen's Africa, a travel company founded by a relative of Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen), author of Out of Africa. The family custom- designs safaris to fit any fantasy—from exploring the Okavango Delta by elephant, to running with giraffes in Kenya, to relaxing on the powdery sands of Mnemba Island off Tanzania.
ONE-WEEK SAFARI FROM $15,000 FOR TWO; 888/220-4532; www.blixensafrica.com
—Anna Bakola, Robin Cherry, Victoria DiSilverio, Julie Earle-Levine, Mark Ellwood, Amy Farley, Eleni Gage, Jaime Gross, Michael Hannwacker, Farhad Heydari, Bill Hinchberger, Jen Howze, David Kaufman, Leanne Kitchen, Liz Krieger, Sarah Raper Larenaudie, Connie McCabe, Rob McKeown, Clark Mitchell, Heidi S. Mitchell, Shane Mitchell, Bridget Moriarity, Clara Ogden, Kevin Raub, Douglas Rogers, Maria Shollenbarger, Rachel Snyder, Stephen Whitlock, Elizabeth Woodson
Here, more romantic destinations from our archives.
*Some destinations may be located in the areas affected by the recent Indian Ocean tsunamis. It's best to check the websites of individual hotels and major news outlets for up-to-date information before planning your trip.
King George Palace
Neoclassical hotel with 102 individually decorated rooms, in the center of Athens, just off Constitution Square.
Park Hyatt Zürich
Well positioned within Zurich, Park Hyatt is a modern take on city luxury, and offers plush accomodations for those seeking modernity and a high quality level of service.
Cristal Room Baccarat
Designer Philippe Starck restored the 18th century elegance of Maison Baccarat in the Cristal Room Baccarat restaurant, located between Etoile and Trocadéro. Exposed brick set in wood paneling, gilded mirrors, and Baccarat crystal candles, chandeliers, and place settings recall the decadent dinner parties of Marie-Laure de Noailles, heiress of the Marquis de Sade. Chef Guy Martin creates dishes such as the trout fillet topped with oxalis served with tofu and the roasted Correzian veal chop with small sweet peppers and gnocchi. For dessert, the crispy chocolate puff pastry with cherries and kirsch ice cream is popular.
Rio Grande Restaurante
The Tugra was the calligraphic seal of the Ottoman Sultans. No doubt the restaurant of the same name now located in the sumptuous 19th-century Ciragan Palace on the western shore of the Bosphorus would get one of approval. Serving authentic recipes sourced from ancient manuscripts like red mullet dolma, saffron ravioli, and lamb kulbasti, the restaurant is set among soaring marble columns, sculpted gardens, and sky-blue Bosphorus, taking luxury to a new level. As expected, it comes with a price tag that can easily run several hundred dollars, especially if alcohol is included.
The Cupola at Three on the Bund
When money is no issue, this two-level restaurant perched atop the historic Bund building offers a VIP experience. Having hosted Tom Cruise and Halle Berry, the Cupola readily claims elite status. A butler accompanies guests and guides them through the evening, in which they choose a meal from one of four restaurants, including services unique to each, like cocktails from Jean Georges or a tea ceremony by the Whampoa Club’s tea experts. The first floor accommodates small groups, but the second floor is the most intimate setting with room for only two.
Four Seasons Langkawi
This recent addition to the Jalan Tanjung Rhu area boasts a 40-acre wetland, where naturalists lead boat tours of the mangrove forests.
Great Mercury Island
Through New Zealand’s Seasonz Travel bespoke outfitters, you can rent a cloistered retreat on the privately owned 5,000-acre Great Mercury Island—25 minutes by helicopter from Auckland. Two clean-lined, Scandinavian-inspired residences are set into the hillside and have panoramic views of the Pacific. You won’t feel isolated though: massage therapists, personal cooks, and expert guides are at your beck and call, and endless activities await—hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, motorcycling, and scuba diving off miles of pristine white beaches, just to name a few. If you want to get doubly remote, ask the staff to prepare a basket of picnic goodies and arrange for you to be transported by boat or helicopter to the secluded beach at Peach Grove, where you can play Robinson Crusoe.
Historic but with multiple personalities, the Hotel Hassler is quintessential Rome. Perched on a hill above the Spanish Steps, the 96-room property mixes classic style—rich French silks, gilded furniture, and playful frescoes—with contemporary design elements, like brightly colored furniture, linear dark panels, and Swarovski accents. It's a favorite among celebrities for its impeccable concierge service and privacy, and for its Michelin-starred restaurant Imàgo.
The Pierre, A Taj Hotel, New York
Hôtel de Crillon
This Place de la Concorde landmark, built at the direction of King Louis XV in 1758, hasn’t lost its ornate air. Flat-screen televisions and high-speed Internet access bring modern touches to suites and salons still filled with gilt, mirrors, and Baccarat crystal, in addition to genuine Aubusson carpets and Wedgwood medallions. Even the entry-level rooms, at 115 square feet, are not unusually large, but have sitting areas and dressing rooms. The Bar du Crillon is nothing short of elegant, with its mirrored mosaics, red velvet–covered chairs, and dripping chandeliers. Request a song at the piano, then sit back on a settee and sip a Baccarat cocktail (Grand Marnier, lemon, cranberry, Champagne Rosé).
Çirağan Palace Kempinski
Staying at this former Imperial Ottoman Palace—an elaborate, Arabian-style compound that the empire’s sultans called home—may easily give you delusions of grandeur. It’s hard not to feel like royalty as you stroll through the expansive property, where palms, pools, landscaped gardens, and hammock-dotted paths front the Bosporus. Retiring to your quarters may present the same problem—especially if you’ve booked one of the 31 suites, decked out with rich wood paneling and private balconies.
Inn at Palmetto Bluff, a Montage Resort
With Spanish moss dripping from low-lying oak branches and egrets soaring overhead, life at this plantation-style luxury resort seems to move at the pace of a deep-southern drawl. But the many diversions—a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, fly-fishing, spa treatments, naturalist-led alligator “hunts”—sequestered on 20,000 acres of South Carolina coastal marshland leave little time for ennui. Fifty cottages house enormous rooms and suites (1,150- and 1,350- square feet, respectively), with pine floors, gas fireplaces, and private screened porches.
The west end nabe the Drake (as it's colloquially known), exists in, is called Parkdale. Gentrification has cleaned up the area and the building that used to be a flophouse on a gritty stretch that was for many years, largely forgotten until Jeff Stober stepped in and revitalized the beautiful building. He refashioned the stretch into a funky hub where creatives, dreamers and yes, partiers, gather with gleeful abandon. On the main floor a bar and dining room where smaller, live acts play. Downstairs, a more raucous party atmosphere for musicians and entertainers while upstairs, in the patio lounge, the party continues al fresco. Floral wall paper, train shelving and sock dollies crafted by a local artist decorate the hotel's nineteen rooms that range from 'crash pads' to more spacious digs. But take heed, this is a partying kind of hub, so if you're after deep zzz's and otherworldly quiet, think again.
Moorea Pearl Resort & Spa
Opened in 2008, Legends Moorea’s 46 villas sometimes feel like a tropical housing development, but they’re actually some of the roomiest private accommodations in French Polynesia. With 1,290 sprawling square feet, the smallest villa is a two-bedroom structure. Whereas many Tahitian resorts are aimed squarely at honeymooners, Legends makes more sense for families or long-stay vacationers who will appreciate the fully equipped modern kitchens. The place can feel isolated and quiet, and you’ll need to rent a car, scooter, or bike to get anywhere off the property. But thriving nature is everywhere you turn—with birds, geckos, and bugs entering your open-air bungalows if you’re not careful to shut them up at night. Interiors are done in tasteful wood and rattan, accented by framed Polynesian art, plus a private Jacuzzi sundeck with chaise lounges will keep you nice and tanned your entire stay.
Wildflower Hall: An Oberoi Resort in the Himalayas
Located in the foothills of the Himalayas and surrounded by cedar forests and snowcapped mountain ranges, Wildflower Hall was the former residence of Lord Kitchener, a commander of the British army. Though the original structure burned down in 1993, it has been faithfully reproduced (though on a grander scale) down to its many fairy tale–like balconies and turrets. Kitchener’s adventurous spirit can still be felt: guests can raft on the surging Sutlej River, hike through oak forests dotted with colonial-era cottages, and ride on horseback through apple orchards and local villages. Two new Spa Pavilions offer more than 20 ways to loosen up, including the three- hour Spirit of Ayurveda package, an adventure in itself.
Ponta dos Ganchos
A 20-bungalow retreat spread over 20 acres of Brazilian beachfront, Ponta dos Ganchos is picturesque to the extreme: a rain forest looms just beyond the shore; three tiny islands, which encircle a sandy bay, are reachable by canoe or kayak. The restaurant serves Brazilian and French fare, and romantic torchlit dinners can be arranged on one of the islands. For guests to take in all this beauty, the wood-and-stone clifftop cottages have glass walls and spacious decks with stellar views. The newest (and most luxurious) bungalows have private saunas, pools, and home cinemas for viewing any of the hotel’s 200 DVD’s.
La Pleta Hotel & Spa
Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler
Situated near the small village of Bebengan, the Sukhavati Estate is a six-bedroom villa surrounded by the Penet River and dense jungle. The setting creates a sense of remoteness, although the estate is just a 15-minute drive from major tourist destinations such as Kuta and Ubud. The villa accommodates up to 12 guests, and each bedroom has a king-sized canopy bed, a private balcony, marble floors, and thatched roofs. Outdoor baths are surrounded by tropical foliage, and the grounds also include three saltwater pools, a spa room, and an open-air pavilion where guests enjoy meals prepared by gourmet chefs.
Capofaro Malvasia & Resort
Check in to the modern Sands Hotell, just steps from the harbor in Sandön’s only town, Sandhamn.
Posada de Mike Rapu, Explora Rapa Nui
Explora’s LEED-certified lodge, which opened in 2007, offers accomodations worthy of its legendary (and legendarily remote) setting 3,700 miles off Chile's coast. Built to blend into the arid, rocky landscape, the Posada uses pine wood, local stone, and a cylindrical glass-heavy design endowing all 30 suites have enormous windows with broad views of the Pacific (good thing, because there are no TVs.) The property is paradise for active travelers: each morning, guests choose from a menu of excursions, including volcano treks, horseback rides along the coast (bring a picnic lunch!), and scuba dives. Explora has wisely hired almost all locals, and it's a treat to examine the moai—those giant basalt statues—up close as your guide explains their story the way his ancestors told it to him. At night, dinners of just-caught kana kana fish, island-grown vegetables, and South American wine are enjoyed on the restaurant's expansive terrace.
Al Moudira—a baroque hotel fit for royalty, just a few miles south of the Valley of the Queens—incorporates materials salvaged from the corners of Egypt: stained glass lines the ceilings; frescoes and latticework adorn the arched walls; and 100-year-old wooden columns surround the swimming pool. The air is fragrant with henna and jasmine, wafting from a 20-acre garden planted with lemon, mandarin, and guava trees. All 54 guest rooms are decked out with richly hued kilim rugs, desks inlaid with mother- of-pearl, and spacious bathrooms modeled after Turkish hammams.
Dugong Beach Lodge
The maximum number of visitors permitted to this World Heritage–listed island, two hours from Sydney, is 400, ensuring that you’ll always have a beach to yourself. The teak-clad nine-suite Capella Lodge—the most luxurious accommodation on the 10- mile island—has a relaxed beach-house feel and overlooks the rugged peaks of Mount Gower and Mount Lidgbird. Unspoiled nature is the prevailing theme of the island, 75 percent of which is preserved as a permanent park. A raised boardwalk passes through native kentia palms; walking paths meander through a virgin rain forest; and birdsong fills the air. Plan the next day’s adventures from the open-air deck of Gower’s Terrace, mango-lime-coconut daiquiri in hand. After surfing, sportfishing, or scuba diving, an Aboriginal-inspired treatment at the lodge’s spa is the only way to end the day.
Many medina properties are expanding, including Riad Farnatchi, which was opened in 2004 by British hotelier Jonathan Wix (who launched the Scotsman, in Edinburgh, and Paris’s Hôtel de la Trémoille). Its five guest rooms—with large fireplaces, sunken bathtubs, and Modernist furniture—were so popular that Wix acquired an adjacent mansion and incorporated four more chic suites set around a maze of courtyards, terraces, and bhous (alcove seating areas).
West Street Hotel
Mykonos Theoxenia Hotel
Standing between windmills and sand, blue crystal waters and the narrow, cobblestoned streets of Mykonos, the restored Mykonos Theoxenia Hotel is everything you wouldn’t expect from a classic Greek hotel. Its 52 rooms revisit the sixties, with retro furniture playing off stark whitewashed buildings that glow in the afternoon sun. The glamorous free-form pool—with its four-poster “beds,” curtained in white fabric—steals some thunder from the island’s famed beaches, most of which are within a 10-minute drive. Romantics should hitch a ride to deserted Kapari Beach to watch the moon rise over the sacred island of Delos. The concierge will take care of all the details, even arranging for a speedboat to bring you back.
Red Capital Ranch
Although it’s only a few hours from the city, this villa hotel near the Great Wall feels a world away. This peaceful eco-ranch in the Huairou Mountains offers ten villas for rent, each decorated with the tastes of Manchuria, China, and Tibet. Stone animals, such as a lion or unicorn, are posted at each room to “protect” from harm. The Tibetan Tantric Space Spa employs Asian massage techniques and Tibetan oils to relax the body and mind, a perfect way to unwind after completing the brief hike to the nearby Great Wall ruins.
House of Jasmines
Ancient eucalyptus trees flank a long and stately drive leading to the family-run estancia, 15 minutes outside Salta in Argentina’s subtropical northwest. Four new guest quarters (three of them suites) recently joined the 10 existing rooms, all furnished with exquisite taste by co-owner Stéphanie Fenestraz: embroidered sheets; cowhide rugs; antique slipper chairs and love seats covered in white linen and draped with indigenous textiles. The sweet-smelling jasmine shrubs that give the property its name are joined by vegetable gardens and a fruit orchard. For dinner, snag one of the sofas around the huge open hearth in the new La Table de House of Jasmines restaurant, which specializes in hearty regional cuisine—from locro stew to meat-filled empanadas.
Hacienda Puerta Campeche
Crafted from a row of 17th-century houses, Hacienda Puerta Campeche brings a dose of urbane style to this historic colonial town. Most of the 15 guest rooms have 18-foot ceilings, a bathroom the size of a big-city apartment, and a sun-drenched daybed. Pools built between the red and yellow façades of the old manor houses flow through porticoes from room to room. It’s the perfect base camp for day trips to nearby cultural sites, including the town of Becal, where you can watch local artisans, working in caves, as they stitch Panama hats. The hotel can even arrange private moonlit tours of the ruins of Edzna, a pyramid complex that dates from 600 to 300 B.C.
Aghadoe Heights Hotel & Spa
Set among verdant mountains and the Lakes of Killarney, this modern stone structure has a wellness focus (the hotel is home to an Aveda spa and staffers encourage guests to explore the nearby national park).
Room to Book: The Lakeside rooms, some of which have freestanding baths and balconies.
Doubles From $297, including breakfast.
Abu Elephant Villa, Abu Camp
Ride the world's largest land mammals at Abu Camp, a 400,000-acre reserve established in 1990 to help once-captive animals return to the wild. Guests sleep in antique mahogany beds in raised tents with private balconies.
Just north of Woodstock in southeast Vermont, Twin Farms is an all-inclusive resort set on the former estate of Sinclair Lewis and his wife, journalist Dorothy Thompson. Surrounded by woodlands and wildflower meadows, the 300-acre resort has 10 suites—most of which include American folk art and wood-burning fireplaces—and 10 private, freestanding cottages. The cottages are individually decorated and may include stone terraces, 18th-century limestone floors, and living rooms with fireside hot tubs. Twin Farms also provides customized meals with wine pairings, and a wide range of outdoor activities, such as hiking, fishing, and downhill skiing on private trails.
Anantara Resort & Spa, Hua Hin
A series of teak pavilions with ocean views and terraces on 16 acres of gardens.
Room to Book: From the Deluxe Sea View rooms, you get a clear look at the ocean and the resort's lush gardens, the best of both worlds.
Doubles from $292.
Hotel Budir Restaurant
Located on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, just over two hours from Reykjavík, Hotel Budir's candlelit eatery serves a regionally inspired menu amid some of the best views in the country. The dining room is simply decorated with white-clothed tables and dark wood chairs, focusing attention on the large windows that overlook the Snaefellsjökull glacier, a moss-strewn lava field, and Iceland's rugged western coastline. Incorporating fresh fish and produce from nearby villages, the seasonal menu may include seafood soup with dill and fennel, followed by cod with kale, almonds, and beurre noisette (hazelnut butter).