Over time, our approach to honeymoon destinations has evolved as much as our views on marriage itself. Where once you were lucky to get a single night in a so-so seaside hotel, now you can spend a week staring out across the caldera-speckled coast of Santorini, or a month drinking in the winelands and wildlife of South Africa. And while a beach honeymoon may seem like the obvious choice, there are now also minimoons to make your heart melt, bucolic breaks in the countryside and escapes in the wild for couples seeking adventure…
Why go? For the chance to combine Cape Town with the upmarket beach suburb of Clifton, before heading out to the vine-laced winelands and on to the marine-rich waters of Hermanus. The 190-mile Garden Route road trip is also not to be missed, before ending with games drives in Addo, Kruger or Sabi Sands national parks.
Stay where? South Africa matches its abundant natural riches with a bounty of man-made hotels. Start at Cape View Clifton, a waterfront retreat overlooking the Twelve Apostles, before checking in to Dutch-influenced Leeu Estates in the winelands, then clifftop Birkenhead House near Hermanus and one of several upscale Singita properties in Kruger’s wildlife-roamed bushveld.
Smith tip: Spend a night in the open-sided Kingston Treehouse at Lion Sands Game Reserve to spy savannah and stars straight from bed.
Why go? Tourism on this teardrop-shaped island has soared and new hotels are springing up, especially along its beach-laced coast, tea-planted highlands and nature-blessed national parks.
Stay where? Unwind in the whisper-quiet gardens of the Wallawwa in Colombo, before moving on to Galle – a historic fort town, spiced with Portuguese and Dutch influences. You’ll find heritage at Amangalla, the town’s oldest hotel, or contemporary class in the crisp interiors of Fort Bazaar. Next, head to the Central Highlands for a stay on age-old tea plantation Ceylon Tea Trails and finally pitch up at luxury-camping hideaway Wild Coast Tented Lodge to blend beach with safari in Yala National Park.
Smith tip: Of the five bungalows at Ceylon Tea Trails – all with butler service and chef-cooked meals – Dunkfeld is the star for its infinity pool overlooking Castlereagh Lake.
Why go? The world and his wife may be honeymooning in Santorini – but for good reason. Sugar-cube hotels and whitewashed churches stagger up the crescent-shaped west coast, craning to get a view of the caldera – a confetti of islands formed in the wake of a millennia-old volcanic eruption.
Stay where? One of the newest is Canaves Oia Epitome, which sidesteps the main maze of Oia and sits on the tiny bay of Ammoudi. Another top spot is the Vasilicos, with just seven seductive suites and perhaps the best caldera view on the island.
Smith tip: Looking for a romantic meal? Check-in to Canaves Oia Suites, whose candle-lit Petra restaurant is one of the most atmospheric on the island.
Stay where? On Bali, get to know the relatively unexplored north coast from eco lodge Plataran Menjangan, which stands amid the mangroves and rainforest of West Bali National Park. Or hop along one island to Lombok Lodge, where chef Jiwa Raga cooks up five-course fine-dining meals each night. Midway between the Malaysian mainland and Borneo, Bawah Island is another private escape of six isles, three lagoons and 13 beaches in the Anambas archipelago, reached by seaplane.
Smith tip: Still undecided? Push the boat out with Sequoia Yacht – a two-suite, just-for-you vessel, which sails three itineraries around the Coral Triangle: to the reefs of Raja Ampat, the dragon-roamed shores of Komodo, and the storied spice isles of the Moluccas.
Why go? You’ve heard it all before: the twisting roads, the cypress groves, the vine-stitched fields… Yet nothing quite prepares you for seeing the timeless beauty of Tuscany unfold before your eyes.
Stay where? In Florence, reap the city’s Renaissance riches, then stay at the Continentale, home to a river-facing roof terrace, or check-in to Villa Cora for frescoes, gilded grandeur and unbridled Italian opulence. Next, head south to Borgo Pignano, a 750-acre organic estate with a clifftop pool carved into a limestone rockface, or Borgo Santo Pietro, where honeymooners will love the Santo Pietro Suite, with its antiques, open fireplace and outdoor terrace.
Smith tip: Immerse yourself in Tuscan life at Monteverdi – a time-capsule village of a hotel with cobbled streets, mediaeval monuments and a spa that uses herbs and flowers from the Val d’Orcia.
Why go? From the driest desert in the world to the highest mountain in the Andes, Chile is a land of superlatives.
Stay where? Touch down at the Singular Santiago to spy the snow-capped Andes straight from the hotel’s roof terrace. Next, go north to the lunar-like valleys and salt flats of the Atacama, where Tierra Atacama Hotel has a lap pool that looks onto the Licancabur volcano. Or head south to the Chilean Lake District where &Beyond Vira Vira has a couples-ready hot tub beside the Luicura River. For ultimate drama, keep going to Patagonia and the tooth-like peaks of Torres del Paine national park, where you can hike the W-Trek, go puma spotting or glide past glaciers, while staying at luxurious bases such as Awasi Patagonia.
Smith tip: Balance the adrenaline of the far south with a stay at Patagonia Camp – a collection of 20 luxurious yurts overlooking Lake Toro, some with on-deck Jacuzzis.
Why go? This fun-loving nation is hard to beat for beaches, whether hanging out in Rio or basking on the bays of Bahia.
Stay where? Art-inclined honeymooners should seek out the mural-lined streets of Santa Teresa, where Hotel Santa Teresa provides a pool, spa and gardens in Rio’s most bohemian bairro. For a shore-side option, choose Fasano Rio, overlooking Ipanema. Next, fly to Porto Seguro to take in Bahia’s best beaches, starting with a stay in tropical Trancoso at Uxua Casa Hotel & Spa, before heading north to Txai Itacaré on the Cocoa Coast, nudged by 16 beaches.
Smith tip: End a romantic day in Rio with dinner at Aprazível in Santa Teresa, where cliffside tables offer views of the illuminated city at night.
Why go? Barefoot beaches, tropical jungle and Mayan ruins meet at the cultural crossroads between North America and the Spanish-speaking south.
Stay where? Tulum is the obvious choice for honeymooners, with its barefoot beaches and laid-back hotels such as La Valise. But if you crave a car-free, TV-free existence, choose Isla Holbox – an island off the Yucatán coast, where you can swim in bioluminescent bays, snorkel with whales sharks and kayak through mangroves, before bedding in down at Casa las Tortugas or CasaSandra. For more blow-the-budget options, head to Chablé Resort & Spa in the Mérida jungle, or Hotel Esencia on the Riviera Maya.
Smith tip? Don’t overlook Mexico City: especially La Roma, currently undergoing an exciting transformation, with hotels such as Nima Local arriving on the scene.
Why go? The Maldives, Mauritius, the Seychelles – say no more…
Stay where? The 26 atolls that make up the Maldives offer a private island for every persuasion, from accessible-to-all Baros, to out-of-this-world Soneva Jani, where opulent villas come with waterslides and retractable roofs. Another hard-to-beat retreat is Gili Lankanfushi, which aims to leave only footprints behind by protecting the surrounding marine life and serving up laidback luxury in the form of open-sided villas and restaurants. For boulder-strewn drama, set your sights on the Seychelles, where Six Senses Zil Pasyon sits on the private island of Félicité with a stand-out Six Senses spa.
Smith tip: A wallet-friendly alternative in the Indian Ocean is Mauritius – which also happens to be a great choice for watersports, especially windsurfing.
Why go? To crunch across lava fields, see geysers spout from the ground and bathe in geothermal pools across this North Atlantic nation…
Stay where? Start in the country’s cosmopolitan capital Reykjavik at Ion City Hotel, located on the main street of Laugavegur, near Scandi design boutiques, chic restaurants such as Glo and hip bars like Public House. Next, soak up culture of a different kind at the Retreat at Blue Lagoon, on its namesake landmark, where honeymooners can turn up the temperature in a Lagoon Suite, with private access to the bath-warm waters. Finally, head north to the Troll Peninsula and Deplar Farm, which has its own geothermal pool, from which you can spy the aurora dancing at night.
Smith tip: Your best chance of seeing the Northern Lights is from September to April, while April to October is ideal for whale-watching tours from Reykjavik’s old harbour and the fjords of Akureyri in the north.
Featured image is Sequoia Yacht in Indonesia