Best Romantic Winter Getaways
Of the 30-plus countries that Cathy Grey has visited, on every continent save Antarctica, her greatest love affair has been with a Berber village in Morocco.
“Getting to know the locals and riding mules into the mountains is a fantastic way to bond,” reflects the New York–based veterinarian. “The sleeping arrangements at high altitude, the kerosene lamps, fireplace, and burrowing under 10,000 colorful blankets just feels extremely intimate.”
Related: Europe's Best Winter Getaways
While everyone defines romance differently, travel is a natural stimulant, and the most romantic getaways woo us with just this kind of intimate, quality time to bond and discover. There’s always some place new to experience together, and our partnerships should embolden us to push our boundaries and travel more exotically. This year, why not skip your usual ski resort in favor of backcountry trails past fumaroles and snow-covered birch trees in northern Japan?
For those who like it hot, there are as many ways to flee winter as to embrace it. You could learn to surf together along Mexico’s Pacific Coast, or slip into a bungalow within Costa Rica’s cloud forest. Like pursuing romance itself, reaching the honeymoon suite at Pacuare River Lodge requires going out on a limb—it’s only accessible via a suspension bridge. Dinner is served by candlelight along the mighty river, one of the best white water rafting systems in Central America.
“I personally think that a little whitewater rafting is not unlike the romantic relationship,” observes Grey, “There is the initial fear, the immediate thrill and the afterglow of satisfaction.”
Of course, romance doesn’t always require such strenuous efforts. Sometimes even the most active among us would rather just savor the thrill of having nothing to do and nowhere else to be but nesting together—especially when the setting is your own private treehouse or a fabulous Italian seaside villa. Even getaways to romantic destinations like Paris that seem cliché can prove alluring and fresh when done right.
So whether you tend to paddle or pamper, snowshoe or snuggle, we’ve mapped out getaways that promise to add a little je ne sais quoi to a winter romance with your mate.
Dig Into the Past in Quebec City
You don’t have to dig very deep to become convinced that Quebec City is the most romantic city in North America—and Auberge Saint-Antoine (doubles from $185 to $977 per night) its most intriguing hotel. On the shores of the St. Lawrence River, this 82-room hotel unearthed more than 5,000 artifacts dating back to the 17th century during a recent renovation. Today hundreds of finds, from cannons to blue delft china, accent this past-meets-present property decorated with both antiques and contemporary furniture. When you’re hungry, just head downstairs to the Panache Restaurant in a barnlike room for Québécois specialties like tender venison rib or hare with yellow beets cooked en cocotte. —Crai Bower
Slip Between the Fjords in Patagonia
Sometimes it’s nice to let someone else do the paddling. The Patagonia Express catamaran picks you up outside your room at Puyuhuapi Lodge and Spa (four nights from $2,180)—in the midst of the rainforest and accessible only by water—to convey you to the southern fjords, including an anchorage in Laguna San Rafael, site of the Millennial Glacier. Couples who prefer to keep to themselves can grab a kayak and set out for sites like Queulat National Park. There’s no shortage of majestic scenery in this part of Patagonia, and you may even be content to linger at the lodge, whose natural thermal baths are at the base of a fjord. —Crai Bower
Go on a Wolf Safari in Yellowstone National Park
Ninety-seven percent of the 3 million-plus annual Yellowstone visitors arrive in summer, so in the off-season, couples looking for seclusion have this 2,219,789-acre park practically to themselves. Explore by wolf tracking in the Lamar Valley, trekking to Mammoth Hot Springs, and snowshoeing and cross-country skiing; Tauck offers guided packages to suit your interests and stamina (eight-night wolf safari from $4,190). When you’re ready to warm up, retreat to the historic Old Faithful Snow Lodge, outfitted with hand-carved wood furniture, where you can hunker down in a bed blanketed with thick quilts. —Crai Bower
Pair Backcountry Skiing and Hot Springs in Japan
It’s no secret that cross-country skiing is a workout—rivaling swimming as a low-impact, full-body exercise—but here on the northern island of Hokkaido you can break a sweat while getting to explore a scenic volcanic area known for steaming fumaroles, deep powder snow, and birch trees. Couples who chose an adventure through Hokkaido Powder Guides (nine-night package from $3,500) arrive at Goshi Hot Springs Lodge to find Western and traditional rooms, kaiseki-style meals, and indoor and outdoor hot springs—perfect for blowing off some steam after a day out on the trails. —Crai Bower
Sleep Under the Northern Lights in Finland
If it’s fun to ride in a one-horse open sleigh, how much more magical to have reindeer pull you through eerily beautiful, snow-covered Lapland, well north of the Arctic Circle (considering the location, maybe even those reindeer.) The sky glows in the reds, greens, and blues of the aurora borealis, best admired while reclining within Hotel Kakslauttanen’s (doubles from $307 per night) domed igloos of thermal glass, designed so that they won’t frost over. Purists can opt to stay in actual snow igloos—staff chip in with wool socks and sleeping bags—or log cabins equipped with fireplaces. —Crai Bower
Camp Out by a Secret Cove in British Columbia
The anticipation builds as you stroll the wooded walkways along British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast to Rockwater Secret Cove Resort (tent-house suites from $282 per night), where 13 luxury tent-house suites await with heated slate floors, shoji screens, and private verandas. Mild weather invites year-round kayaking among the rocky outcroppings in a pristine environment that has been called the “Serengeti of Marine Life” by the National Geographic Society’s Explorer-in-Residence, Wade Davis. Orca pods frequent these waters, considered a world-class diving environment—if you can pull yourself out of the deep porcelain soaking tub for two. —Crai Bower
Unplug in Morocco’s Mountain Villages
Nothing slows us down like living among people who actually live intentionally—and few locales present a better example of this than the Berber communities in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. Douar Samra (doubles at Ait Bougemez from $3,295), a Berber home converted into a boutique hotel, features stucco rooms embellished with vibrant, hand woven fabrics and expansive views. Want even more privacy? Try the remote Tigmi Amalou (“House in the Trees”), a timber tree house hidden away in the hills. —Crai Bower
Explore Sea Caves in New Zealand
Combine a dose of colonial luxury with New Zealand’s mind-bogglingly beautiful environment and you have 970 Lonely Bay Lodge off Cooks Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula. Your suite is one of just four at the lodge, with a library, a solarium, a deck, and a sitting room should you need to stretch out. It’s not far to Cathedral Cove, where you can navigate into the sea caves either by foot, kayak, or with your diving equipment and then savor a postcard-perfect sunset. —Crai Bower
Get an Adrenaline Rush at an Alaskan Lodge
Mushers participating in the epic Iditarod spend days racing with their teams of beloved huskies more than 1,150 miles on a trail that goes right past Winterlake Lodge (all-inclusive package from $798), whose lakeside cabins are surrounded by woodland. You can try your hand at dog sledding by taking lessons right on the Iditarod Trail, or bond over ski lessons along the lodge’s own groomed cross-country trails. A complimentary morning massage will take the previous day’s aches away, even if you opted to spend that day reading Jack London beside the fire. —Crai Bower
Stay on a Tea Plantation in China
An hour from Hangzhou, the Naked Stables Private Reserve (doubles from $410 to $460) eco-resort spreads over 60 acres of hills, plains, and the thick bamboo forest of Moganshan Valley. Rows of 40 one-room “earth huts,” most arranged in hillside tiers, are built of recycled wood with earth-toned interiors enlivened by chic yellow swivel chairs, cowhide rugs, and porcelain bathtubs. In the forest, 30 stilted treetop villas offer more spacious luxury with sweeping vistas of Zhejiang Province. At Naked Stables, void of motorized vehicles or light pollution, the act of tuning into nature is palpable. Anyone eager to explore the property’s lush lawn and expansive grounds will discover horse-filled stables, a treetop spa, and even an open-air amphitheater. —Lindsey Olander
Room to Book: The stilted treetop villas are visions of sustainable design with slate rattan furniture and built-in deck barbecues and offer unobstructed views of the thick pine and bamboo forest.
Insider Tip: China is a well-known producer of tea. Guests can learn to harvest, roast, and savor their own white tea leaves (grown nowhere else in the world) in the reserve’s private plantations.
Set Up Camp in the European Countryside
Bristol-based company Canopy & Stars (doubles from $85 to $100) started out as just a few pre-pitched tents and volunteered trailers. It's since has grown into a fine-tuned collection of more than 100 furnished Airstreams, yurts, teepees, cabins, and tree houses spreading through five countries. Each setup has its quirky charms, whether you’re cozying up with tea in a gypsy caravan along the Scottish border or in a Bedouin tent in southern Spain. However remote, modern conveniences—private showers, full beds—ensure that “roughing it” goes only as far as being without cable. —Lindsey Olander
Room to Book: Treehouse at Harptree Court, one of the more popular options, overlooks a leafy forest in Bath and has sun-drenched verandas, hardwood floors, and a freestanding copper bathtub in the bedroom.
Insider Tip: If you book early, request a vase of fresh flowers or a roaring fire to be prepared just before your arrival, for that extra “welcome home” feel.
Retreat to an Eco-Sanctuary in Malawi
Tongole (from $275 to $375 per person, all-inclusive) is the first high-end property to open in the miombo woodland of Malawi’s Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. Four cottages hug the banks of the Bua River, each built of brick and mud with conical thatch roofs and breeze-welcoming open fronts. Inside, rooms are earthen oases of warm ocher walls and crimson-cushion armchairs juxtaposed against white canopy beds. Hiking trails, fishing for lake salmon, canoeing through Bua’s calm waters, and traveling by jeep to local communities are just a few of the ways to keep busy. —Lindsey Olander
Room to Book: Any of the four River Cottages, complete with modern amenities like electricity and running water and indulgent details including imported linens and spacious decks with sweeping views of the reserve.
Insider Tip: For the ultimate African wilderness experience, go fly camping—a walking safari where guests sleep in the open bush amid the sounds, smells, and gentle Malawan breeze—with one of Tongole’s expert guides. Only a mosquito net stands between you and the stars.
Go Retro at a Private California Inn
Each of the 11 themed cabins at Mendocino’s Andiron Seaside Inn (doubles from $90 to $129) shows off trinkets and aging memorabilia the owners scavenged throughout the years from flea markets and old school libraries. Boredom should never strike: rooms are equipped with kitchenettes and classic board games, lawns are primed for rounds of croquet or badminton, and even a private hot tub in the woods is open for afternoon or evening soaks. By-request housekeeping ensures privacy, though those in the socializing mood can enjoy cheese, locally sourced beer, and good company by the main lodge’s fireside during weekend happy hours. —Lindsey Olander
Room to Book: Cabin 4, dubbed “There,” is an homage to world travel and features a glowing globe lamp, a pull-down school map, and vintage geography games.
Insider Tip: Dog owners, rejoice: canines are allowed to room with their owners at Andiron and are encouraged to be social.
Catch the Waves on Mexico’s Pacific Coast
Surf’s up at Hotel Cinco (doubles from $290 to $350), whose lodgings practically spill into the Pacific. On El Anclote beach—the heart of Punta de Mita’s social scene—Hotel Cinco draws all amounts of watersport enthusiasts. There's even a rooftop infinity pool. The 12 suites go for an appropriately beachy palette (cream furnishings, aquamarine throw pillows) and have private terraces overlooking the water. Locally sourced seafood is served at the in-house bistro, while the alfresco terrace restaurant whips up tropical cocktails to be paired with the sustainable Mexican fare. —Lindsey Olander
Room to Book: The Starfish Suites sleep up to four people with full bathrooms for every room—perfect for families or friends.
Insider Tip: For wave-riders and surfers-to-be, a day camp (includes lessons, morning yoga sessions, and dinners out on the town) with surfer legend Gerry Lopez, known as the best tuberider in the world, can be combined with room rates.
Sample India’s Wild Side at Syna Tiger Resort
Deep within the central Indian jungle, Syna Tiger Resort (doubles from $115 to $290, all-inclusive) developed 15 cottages that fully embrace the forest theme—wicker furniture, beamed ceilings, and tribal prints are everywhere. Along with Jacuzzis and fireplaces in every room, the resort also sets the scene for romance with private gardens, an outdoor pool, and holistic spa treatments. Authentic Indian cuisine is cooked by mud oven at the open-air restaurant. Mere feet away, in Bandhavgarh National Park, guests can catch glimpses of a vast variety of birds, roaming elephants, and the world’s highest density of tigers. —Lindsey Olander
Room to Book: The signature tree-house cottage, with its bamboo-lined porch nearly hidden among the dense vegetation.
Escape to Otherworldly Chile
Southernmost Chile is a land of extremes, and Tierra Patagonia’s (from $1,950 per person, all-inclusive, three-night minimum) dunelike structure rises from a barren glacier-scape on the edge of Torres del Paine National Park. Each of the 40 rooms at this all-inclusive resort channels weatherworn Chilean Patagonia: blond wood walls, sparse décor, woolen blankets, and earthy colors provide a comfortable escape, while the views themselves look out over Lake Sarmiento and the distant snowcapped peaks of the Paine mountain range. Stays include tastes from the hotel’s extensive list of Chilean wines and adventurous excursions such as daylong hikes to see thrombolite formations along the lakeshore, fording the Baguales River on horseback, or mountain biking around the estancia. —Lindsey Olander
Room to Book: Each of the three design suites boasts two floors, two bathrooms, and a separate living room on the upper floor with elevated views of the lake.
Insider Tip: Massages offered at Tierra’s UMA spa incorporate crystals and stones sourced directly from the region.
Make Your Own Scene in Miami
A renovation and rebranding culminated in early 2012 with the debut of Thompson Ocean Drive (doubles from $229 to $529), a hotel that that feels like a hideaway even though it’s right in the midst of South Beach’s happening Art Deco district. Rooms woo guests with custom-made 300-thread-count Sferra linens, oversize marble tubs and walk-in showers, and mini-bars stocked by Dean & Deluca. A slick restaurant, outdoor pool, and a 6,000-square-foot spa only add to the appeal. —Lindsey Olander
Get Pampered at a Thai Island Resort
Anantara chose Surat Thani’s northeastern coast for its first luxury hotel on the island of Phangan’s eastern side, amid palm trees and crystalline white sands. Catch a speedboat to Anantara Rasananda Koh Phangan (doubles from $246 to $589), a series of 44 suites and villas, some of which appear to float upon the lagoon. Tropical fruit baskets await arriving guests in the airy rooms, which combine bold colors with local touches (potted blossoms, rosewood furniture sets), plunge pools, and balcony views of the verdant vegetation or glittering gulf. Beachside bamboo gazebos grant shelter from the heat; at sundown, guests can choose their own spot on the sands for a romantic, candlelit dinner under the stars. —Lindsey Olander
Room to Book: In addition to beachfront access, the Ocean Garden Pool Suite boasts an open cabana with daybeds and its own private garden.
Insider Tip: Rasananda Spa goes beyond the standard treatments, offering private, multi-day yoga programs that focus on daily regimes and incorporate tailored exercises fitted to individual guests’ needs.
Spot Rare Wildlife in Peru
The forests of Tambopata National Reserve shelter thousands of endangered bird and butterfly species. Here, too, lies Hacienda Concepcíon Wilderness Lodge (doubles from $580 to $640, all-inclusive, two-night minimum) on the Madre de Dios riverbank. It’s Inkaterra’s fifth hotel in Peru and the second of its byInkaterra sustainability-embracing sub-brand. The lodge’s eight double rooms and seven individual cabanas set on stilts share the same look: tribal prints and hardwood floors, handwoven rugs, and thatched roofs built from reclaimed materials. The cabanas have the added perk of open-air decks with hammocks. Set out on free excursions to the Inkaterra Butterfly House and Lake Sandoval or go canoeing downriver to sister property El MaPi. —Lindsey Olander
Insider Tip: Swing by the daily happy hour at sunset for complimentary organic dishes and Pisco Sour cocktails.
Go to Extremes in Mongolia
The Gobi Desert, which spans some 500,000 square miles, is a remote expanse where summer temperatures rocket past 120 degrees while wintertime snow blankets the sand dunes. Travelers who journey with Nomadic Expeditions (14-day trips from $5,130 per person, all-inclusive) tread those dunes atop two-hump Bactrian camels, cover vast countryside on horseback, and scale the Flaming Cliffs in search of dinosaur fossils. After roughing it, you’ll return to gers (traditional tents) at Three Camel Lodge to indulge: think spa treatments, a full library, and vistas of the faraway Gobi-Altai Mountains. —Lindsey Olander
Chill Out in Sweden
Each winter for more than 20 years, artisans have convened in the small village of Jukkasjärvi, in northern Sweden, to re-create the elaborately carved IceHotel (doubles from $535 to $850 per night) from scratch using chainsaws and chisels. This time around, the hotel enlisted the talents of London-based artists Ben Rousseau and Ian Douglas-Jones to design a suite they call “Legacy of the River.” Imitators have sprung up, but this remains the world’s largest ice hotel, welcoming guests seasonally. Mingle at the Absolut Icebar over cocktails like vodka with lingonberry juice. —Crai Bower
Pitch Your Tent in Rugged Kyrgyzstan
Even if you think you’ve done it all, there’s always some place new to discover together. Take landlocked Kyrgyzstan, for instance, where Intrepid Travel (16-day trips from $1,780 per person) runs small-group tours. Get your bearings first in the capital city of Bishkek and browse its colorful bazaars. Then set out for the great outdoors, exploring Djety Oguz valley’s dramatic sandstone cliffs, spending time with a nomadic family, and bedding down in pitched tents on Lake Issyk Kul’s mountain-rimmed shore. —Lindsey Olander
Forgo Clichés for Sophistication in Paris
Located in the heart of the city’s Golden Triangle, the 19th-century exterior of La Maison Champs Élysées (doubles from $425 to $1,675) blends seamlessly with the area’s classic Haussmann façades. But thanks to Belgian fashion house Maison Martin Margiela, what lies inside is an entirely different matter. For its first hotel project, Margiela’s design team transformed the former residence of the Duchess of Rivoli into a Parisian pied-à-terre with interiors that are both playful and provocative. This is not your standard love nest: In the lobby, tinted mirrors reflect the stark white lounge and a gothique cigar bar with dark-as-night walls. In the 17 guest rooms redesigned along various themes, one-off details like slipcovered sofas and honeycomb-shaped chairs mix with unfinished moldings and trompe l’oeil wallpaper. While more traditional comforts remain—including linens from Garnier Thiebaut and goose-down duvets—the hotel’s balance of elegance and eccentricity turns conventional luxury into something entirely more chic. —Lindsey Olander
Room to Book: The Curiosity Case Suite, for its all-black interiors (check out the feathered bedside lamp by Nora de Rudder).
Download This: Any of the Paris audio walking tours from Soundwalk (prices vary), an immersive, avant-garde way to see the sights.
Take a Nostalgia-Laden Trip to Camp Wandawega
Sleeping in a tree is a childhood fantasy, but the tree house at Wisconsin’s Camp Wandawega doesn’t lack for grown-up appeal. Built around the trunk of an old elm, the airy, three-level structure is stocked with sheepskin pillows and vintage Pendleton blankets and crowned with a chandelier of fallen antlers. (Note to bibliophiles: the private library contains many 19th-century tomes, including a bird-watching guide from 1890 and a well-thumbed copy of Moulton’s Library of Literary Criticism.) The tree house is just the latest addition to the retro-styled Wandawega (tree house from $200 a night, two-night minimum), a 1920’s resort located 90 minutes from Chicago and reimagined by a creative young couple. The mood is appealingly quaint; instead of TV’s, there are puzzles and an antique pool table. At day’s end, retreat to the sleeping loft, where three glass walls look out on pike-filled Lake Wandawega and the purple martins and mourning doves that swoop overhead. —Kathryn O’Shea-Evans
When to Book: The tree house fills up year-round with weddings and other events; reserve at least a month in advance.
Read This: Delve into the fascinating intricacies of The Private Lives of Birds (Walker & Company; $25).
On the Agenda: Nostalgia-laden activities await at every turn, from archery and canoeing to fishing with antique rods and minnow buckets.
Channel Old Hollywood Glamour in Seaside Italy
Amid terraced gardens laced with footpaths and spilling down toward the Mediterranean, opera and film director Franco Zeffirelli created his private refuge: a seaside estate where he would entertain some of the biggest stars of stage and screen. Zeffirelli’s former holiday retreat has since been turned into the 15-room Villa Tre Ville (doubles from $1,450), but some of the director’s own items remain, including the mother-of-pearl bedroom furniture he brought back from Syria. The spacious suites, which have hosted such stars as Maria Callas, Leonard Bernstein, and Elizabeth Taylor, meld original majolica floors with modern lamps and rain showers. From the property’s jetty, a wooden motorboat whisks guests to nearby Amalfi Coast beaches. At dusk limoncello cocktails are served under the vine-draped arbor, a prelude to meals that feel like elaborate dinner parties among friends. Almost everywhere you look, the bay is before you—a backdrop as cinematic as any of Zeffirelli’s movie masterpieces. —Lindsey Olander
Room to Book: The Diaghilev Suite, named for Ballet Russes founder and former guest Sergey Diaghilev and showcasing a tub with gold claw feet.
Pack This: Bonita swimsuit, $148, by Trina Turk, for lounging movie-star-style by the shore.
Don’t Miss: A night out at the family-run Ristorante Donna Rosa (97–99 Via Montepertuso, Positano; 39-089/811-806; dinner for two $100), for house-made pasta dishes such as tagliatelle with truffles.
Immerse Yourself in the Culture of Fez, Morocco
After 30 years spent scouring the globe for rare and exquisite objects, antiques collector Michel Biehn retreated to Fez’s ancient medina to open a small hotel in a restored riad that once served as a pasha’s summer palace. The result: the highly curated Le Jardin des Biehn (doubles from $140 to $200), whose nine guest rooms are an intoxicating whirl of textures and patterns. A crimson armoire from Sichuan is displayed near a concubine’s chair from Beijing; a wall-size Uzbek tapestry sets off an 18th-century mirror from Persia. Tying it all together are Moorish architectural details, including a courtyard framed by Moghul archways, walls overlaid with mosaic tiles, and a garden that provides many of the ingredients for the hotel’s Fez Café. Hicham, one of the chefs, moonlights as a maker of leather babouches (from $30), crafting them to order in hues ranging from ocher to pale blue. Guests are also welcome to peruse the Islamic textiles (from $180) in Biehn’s on-site gallery—where, for a price, you can begin a collection of your own. —Lindsey Olander
Room to Book: The Favorite, featuring a painted cedar ceiling and century-old velvet and satin Yemeni wall hangings.
Don’t Miss: A champagne cocktail at Riad Fès’s L’Alcazar Bar (5 Derb Ben Slimane; 212-535/947-610; drinks for two $40), the chicest bar in the medina.
Go on an Epic Adventure to Antarctica
If you’ve ever yearned to go to the ends of the earth for love, White Desert (November through January; from $25,455 per person, all-inclusive)—a company that guides luxury treks through the Antarctic interior—makes the once-in-a-lifetime journey possible. A private plane jets you from Cape Town across the Southern Ocean to Whichaway Camp, a solar-and-wind–powered base of six fiberglass sleeping pods and three living-and-dining tents connected by sheltered passageways. Founder and modern-day explorer Patrick Woodhead (who first made the trek a century after Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated 1904 attempt) will guide you through all manner of Antarctic experiences, from kite skiing and ice climbing to visiting the 8,000 emperor penguins that colonize the nearby Ekström Ice Shelf. The trip caters to a variety of interests and activity levels: one couple recently spent their time photographing ice waves, massive breakers frozen in a permanent swirl. Still, there’s no shame in simply curling up in your pod, snugly outfitted with cowhide rugs as well as heaters trimmed in leather and brass. —Kathryn O’Shea-Evans
Need to Know: Don’t forget to bring sunscreen and a sleep mask; during the months the trip is offered, the sun shines 24 hours a day.
Pack This: Ski mask–inspired sunglasses, $290, by Prada.
Behind the Scenes: White Desert’s Patrick Woodhead is also a best-selling author of adventure thrillers; his latest, The Secret Chamber (Random House; $11), is based on his recent expedition in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Disappear into Costa Rica’s Cloud Forest
Not every winter romance comes with an icy period. Lush temperate rainforest is the setting for Pacuare River Lodge (doubles from $413 to $647 per night), whose bungalows blend in between the trees. Candlelit dinners of local ingredients are served beside the mighty Pacuare, one of the best white-water-rafting systems in all of Central America, and the “highway” for most of this remote lodge’s guests. Like pursuing romance itself, the canopy honeymoon suite requires going out on a limb—it’s only accessible via suspension bridge over the teeming passion of the rainforest below. —Crai Bower