These Romantic Valentine's Day Travel Experiences Will Bring Couples Closer Than Ever
Recently in Bali, my fiancé and I were invited to participate in a Balinese commitment ceremony at Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve. I’m pretty uncomfortable with public displays of affection on a grand scale, but I’ve heard that trying a spiritual ritual is one of the best ways to experience Bali. So we decided to give it a shot, because I firmly believe that travel should throw you out of your comfort zone, at least a little. Not only that, but what better way to create lasting memories in a place neither of us had been than to take part in a ritual that focuses on our relationship?
We started the Enchanting Love Journey by writing what we meant to each other on a canvas scroll. It was very low pressure — we wrote promises to each other, but they could be as grandiose or as simple as we wanted, because this scroll was just for us. We then brought our scroll to the temple to have it blessed by a Hindu priest and participate in a Grahastha cleansing ritual. I was so humbled by this display of Balinese culture, and Mandapa’s willingness to share such intensely spiritual moments with us. Every step of the ritual was beautifully authentic and explained to us by a translator so that we understood the significance of each moment. Just having my partner by my side to take in the emotional gravity of the commitment ceremony felt intimate and valuable to our relationship.
If you and your person are looking for a unique, romantic travel experience to bring you closer this Valentine’s Day, here are 12 options, from a Balinese love ceremony to scouting the Northern Lights together in Iceland:
Embark on an Enchanting Love Journey in Bali, Indonesia
The spiritual healing of Bali takes root within both of you during a Balinese commitment ceremony. While the ceremony can be used as a wedding or vow renewal ceremony, it can also simply celebrate the love you share. And is there a more perfect time to express that love than on Valentine’s Day? The Balinese commitment ceremony is a relatively new offering at Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve. It comes with a private six-course dining experience overlooking the Ayung River, and a photography session so you can bring a piece of your Valentine’s celebration home with you. The whole experience costs about $410, which is less than we would’ve spent on engagement photos back home.
Ski in Saint-Sauveur, Quebec
Saint-Sauveur is all the romance of a snow-dusted European town, without the plane ticket to Europe. Just two hours north of Montreal in the Laurentians is the cozy town of Saint-Sauveur. It’s home to Avila mountain, where you can ski, snowboard, or even tube. French is the dominant language in the Laurentians, because of the French Canadian presence, which makes it feel like you’ve been transported to an exotic Alps town near Mont Blanc. Winter sports by day and French food by night is an ideal compromise for the adventurous traveler and the romantic traveler looking for an extra-special Valentine’s Day.
Go on Safari in the Serengeti, Tanzania
The Serengeti is one of the most sought-after safari destinations in the world, playing host to quintessential wildlife experiences, like the Great Migration, when millions of wildebeest and zebra cross through Tanzania, often followed by lions and leopards (their predators). Witnessing these animals in action with your partner can give you both new perspective and draw you closer as a result. And if you think there isn’t room for romantic dinners and lodging in the Serengeti, think again. At Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti, you and your love can choose from the plunge pool suites or the free-standing villas with private swimming pools. And Four Seasons Safari Lodge is right in the middle of the Serengeti plains, so it’s not uncommon to see animals come right up to the lodge.
Scout the Northern Lights at Thingvellir National Park, Iceland
Valentine’s Day is the right time to see the Northern Lights, because the nights are longest in Iceland from September to March. Trying to spot the Northern Lights closest to the equinox is best because that’s when Iceland gets a full 12 hours of darkness. And the lights will be at their brightest because of the solar wind’s magnetic field around the equinox. (The 2019 spring equinox is March 20, 2019, so perhaps a belated Valentine’s trip is in the cards?) After a few days in Reykjavík, head to Thingvellir National Park, a popular spot to scout the lights not too far from the city.
Wine Taste Your Way Through St. Helena, California
Napa is a long-time lovers' destination for a reason. From the Michelin-starred restaurants to the mesmerizing vineyards, it feels like you’ve been transported to the south of France, without the overnight flight. My fiancé and I spent a three-day engagement moon at the Harvest Inn in St. Helena, and there’s nothing more relaxing than sharing a stroll through their vineyards, dining at the Harvest Table, and then sharing a local cabernet sauvignon by your in-room, brick fireplace. Harvest Inn will provide transport to several close-by wineries, like the Coppola’s wine estate, Inglenook Vineyard. And don’t forget to take your valentine to the Castello di Amorosa, the 13th-century Tuscan castle of love.
Experience Italian Romance in Verona, Italy
A city for lovers, Verona is the famed home of Romeo and Juliet. Valentine’s Day transforms Verona, with a four-day celebration called “Verona in Love.” Heart-shaped lanterns light up the whole city, and in the middle of Piazza dei Signori is a giant red heart, painted right on the street each year. There are signs of romance everywhere you look for Valentine’s Day in Verona, including free concerts in Piazza dei Signori, a letter-writing contest to Juliet, and a myriad of local restaurants offering deals for the holiday.
Take a Sailing Hot Tub Around the Harbour in Copenhagen, Denmark
For the love birds who are sick of cold weather and need a little warmth in their lives, there may be nothing better than venturing to try some “Nordic wellness” therapy in Scandinavia. At CopenHot, you can cozy up together in an outdoor hot tub overlooking the Copenhagen Harbour — in the dead of winter. Or for an extra-special Valentine’s Day treat, you can book their sailing spa, which brings your hot tub on an hour-and-a-half tour of the harbor. Once you’ve rinsed off, stop in at CopenHot’s panoramic sauna to seal in this wellness treatment.
Try the Private Island Life in Tahiti, French Polynesia
Private islands offer perfect seclusion and will seriously heighten the romance factor on your Valentine’s Day getaway. Nothing feels more off-the-grid than an oasis in the middle of the Pacific, which can give you a chance to reconnect after an action-packed start to the year. Vahine Island has only nine beachfront or overwater bungalows, so you’ll want to book in advance if you’re hoping to spend Valentine’s Day sipping cocktails on your overwater porch.
Night Kayak in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is a short, and relatively inexpensive flight from the east coast, and yet once you’re there, you’re in a different world. For an enviable Valentine’s Day experience sure to bring you closer, stay at the Serafina Beach Hotel and let them arrange an LED night kayaking excursion along the Laguna del Condado for you two. Between night kayaking and lounging by Serafina Beach’s infinity pool, you’ll be able to restore your sense of adventure with your honey.
Climb Machu Picchu, Peru
Climbing Machu Picchu allows you to complete a bucket-list adventure as a couple. Make a whole week out of it, and schedule your climb to Machu Picchu on Feb. 14. One of the easiest ways to do Machu Picchu is with a tour company — try Peru Treks’ four-day group excursion. After Machu Picchu, spend a few days experiencing the food scene in Lima, because concluding the adventure of a lifetime with a meal at Astrid y Gastón, a regular on the World’s Best Restaurant list, can’t be beat.
Pamper Your Sweetheart in Singapore
If you’re spending your Valentine’s Day in southeast Asia (and are thinking about a destination proposal), Capella Singapore is offering a proposal package from Feb. 8-17. For the proposal, your villa comes with a private pool, a couple's massage, and the company of local furry friends who might even help you pop the question. (You can even bring your own pup from home if you’d prefer.) After the proposal, the staff will organize a private, five-course menu by your pool.
Après No Ski in the Poconos, Pennsylvania
If you want a more classic Valentine’s experience within driving distance of New York City, Cove Haven in the Poconos has a seven-foot champagne glass whirlpool tub, where you can live out your most lavish hot tub dreams. Surrounded by a mountainous snowy wonderland, you can spend your weekend nestled inside by your in-room fireplace. There’s also a heart-shaped heated pool, because everyone needs to lean into a sappy Valentine’s Day celebration sometimes.