Champagne at sunset, long lie-ins in enormous four-poster beds… this is what magical honeymoons are made of. LUCY FENNINGS takes a heart-stopping tour of the world’s most romantic retreats

01 Cayo Espanto

Style Private-island beach houses
Setting Caribbean coast of Ambergris Caye

Why you’ll love it Desert-island castaway fantasy meets hedonistic escapism – for barefoot luxury an exclusive island, Cayo Espanto off Belize is pretty hard to beat. Let’s face it, being marooned on a tiny patch of palm-clad land in the Caribbean wouldn’t be half as much fun without private plunge pools, a personal chef, Cognac on tap and masseurs on call.

True romance The island’s so small it’s virtually all beach, surrounded by clear, languid waters and fringed with lush foliage. Cayo Espanto has only six villas, so it’s perfect for canoodling couples and get-away-from-it-all escapism. But if that’s still not secluded enough, book the stilted Casa Ventana, located at the end of a private jetty jutting out from the island and surrounded by water.

Worth getting out of bed for Midnight swims, snorkelling at dawn, and doing next to nothing on the beach all afternoon. Hop over to neighbouring Ambergris Caye if you fancy a (relatively) lively night out, or scuba dive the spectacular Blue Hole.

The bottom line $995–$2,249 a villa a night, including all meals, snacks and drinks (except champagne, wine and spirits); excludes 9 per cent tax and a 15 per cent resort fee. Tell me more…


02 Château de Bagnols

Five-star castle
Setting Fairy-tale gardens

Why you’ll love it The original ‘happily ever after’ must surely have been conceived in a setting like this. Anyone with even the tiniest scrap of romantic sensibility will be bowled over by Château de Bagnols – it’s a dream honeymoon destination with bona fide castle credentials, not to mention a Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurant.

True romance Previously a chapel, Room 8 has 18th-century frescoes and a gilded four-poster bed; newlywed Mrs Smiths will enjoy behaving like Madame de Pompadour in Room 6’s primrose-yellow damask canopy bed.

Worth getting out of bed for Arrange a wine-tasting session in the Château’s splendid Cuvage, then spend the rest of the afternoon wandering the castle’s cherry orchards and yew-tree avenues.

The bottom line €445–€915 a night; Lady Hamlyn Apartment, €2,500. Breakfast, from €32. Tell me more…



Style Himalayan pilgrimage
Setting Cloud-capped mountains

Why you’ll love it The kind of once-in-a-lifetime journey you’ve dreamed of, Amankora is to honeymooners what ‘progressive dining’ is to gourmets. You’ll stay in a series of five luxury lodges, each in a naturally dramatic setting, following a circular route through blue pine forests and verdant valleys (you can of course just stay in one or two, if you prefer).

True romance The landlocked Kingdom of Bhutan is barely touched by tourism – it’s one of the planet’s least visited, most exclusive travel destinations, with spectacular, spirit-soothing mountain landscapes wreathed in mist.

Worth getting out of bed for From Amankora Thimpu, it’s a short journey to Bhutan’s capital. If sightseeing isn’t your thing, there are spa rituals in spades on offer at each of the lodges, as well as yoga and meditation.

The bottom line From $1,050 a night, including all meals and drinks. Tell me more…


04 Residenza Napoleone III

Style Super-luxe palazzo
Setting Fashionable Via Condotti

Why you’ll love it You’ll feel like royalty: Residenza Napoleone III is an ultra-romantic, positively aristocratic apartment, housed in a historic wing of the Palazzo Ruspoli. Fine art and oil paintings are clearly ten-a-penny in this palatial accommodation: one’s used as a bedhead; another conceals the door to the bathroom.

True romance Pay homage to the original romantics at the Keats-Shelley House (+39 06 678 4235), a tiny, enchanting museum on the Spanish Steps.

Worth getting out of bed for Go for a walk – romantic Rome is the world’s greatest outdoor museum, where every Baroque building, classical column and rococo statue is a top-notch exhibit. Stroll along to the Trevi Fountain and throw in three coins to guarantee many happy returns.

The bottom line €730–€1,400 a night, including breakfast and taxes. Tell me more…


05 Bon Ton Restaurant & Resort

Style Authentic Malayan rustic
Setting Langkawi lagoon village

Why you’ll love it This romantic resort comprises a village of traditional stilted Malay houses – most more than a century old – on a former coconut plantation. Centred on one of Langkawi’s best restaurants, Bon Ton is where globetrotting travellers stop for some luxury R&R.

True romance Sit on the deck of Chin Chin lounge bar, set in an atmospheric old Chinese shop house, and sip Short Island Iced Teas while you watch a rust-coloured sun sink over the lagoon and past the horizon.

Worth getting out of bed for Wriggle your toes into the 2km-long crescent of pale sand at Pantai Cenang beach, a five-minute stroll away (although there’s a huge lounger-flanked pool to flop by at Bon Ton if walking’s a bit of a strain). Splash out and charter Kanangra, Bon Ton’s beautiful 60-foot vintage motor cruiser, for a private trip around Langkawi’s 100-odd islets.

The bottom line RM490–RM1,160 a night (about £75–£180), depending on size of house. Rates include Continental breakfast. Tell me more…


06 Sri Panwa

Style Tropical, tranquil villas with a view
Setting Forest coasts of Phuket

Why you’ll love it With palm trees bending down to kiss the sands and aquamarine lagoons, Thailand has to be the ultimate honeymoon destination: totally tropical. Set in 30 acres of forest overlooking Cape Panwa, this boutique resort has its own private stretch of white-sand blue-sea bliss, which you can view in isolated splendour from your glass-on-all-sides bedroom.

True romance Sri Panwa’s Pool Villas have more private facilities than you can shake a Heidi Klein bikini at: a sun deck, infinity pool, alfresco terrazzo tub for two, kitchenette and home-cinema system mean that – if you only have eyes for your lover – you never have to see another soul (unless you run out of champagne, that is).

Worth getting out of bed for Charter a vessel from Sri Panwa’s private boat fleet for a day of waterskiing, sailing or cruising the Andaman Sea, or, if that sounds like a bit of an effort, slope off to the Sai spa for some well-earned post-wedding pampering.

The bottom line In low season, from THB28,800 (about £435); in high season, from THB38,700 (about £580), room only. Rates exclude tax at 18.7 per cent. Tell me more…


07 Esencia

Style Less-is-more luxe
Setting Tropical Caribbean seaside

Why you’ll love it A 50-acre private estate on the Mayan Riviera, formerly owned by the Duchess of Ferrari, Esencia does cosseting luxury with none of the uptight formality that ordinarily goes hand in hand with five-star hotels. Indulge your senses in a Deluxe Ocean View suite: you can watch the sun rise over the sea from your giant bed and watch it set again while you sip cocktails on your terrace.

True romance Have a couples’ treatment in the Aroma Spa, or, if you’re feeling at one with the universe, celebrate life with a Full Moon Prehispanic Ritual. This ancestral ceremony takes place on the beach and involves a temazcal, playing the shells, and ‘showering in the sea’.

Worth getting out of bed for Budding Cousteaus will want to explore the underwater world (Esencia has its own scuba-diving instructors). Inland, there are incredible Mayan temples to tempt you away from the pristine white beach.

The bottom line $525–$2,800 a night, including breakfast; excluding 10 per cent service and 12 per cent tax. Tell me more…


08 The Millhouse

Style Romantic Georgian manor
Setting Banks of the Boyne

Why you’ll love it This country house hotel in County Meath is romantic with a capital ‘R’. Gustavian and French vintage-style furniture, generous swags of linen and plush velvet cushions create a restful, seductive atmosphere that’s perfect for wooing your new Mr or Mrs Smith.

True romance The Snowdrift suite has an off-white four-poster with billowing white drapes and dreamy views across lush turf beribboned with the silvery waters of the river Boyne.

Worth getting out of bed for Get your sweetheart’s heart rate soaring with a hot-air balloon flight above the ruins of Trim Castle – contact Irish Balloon Flights (+353 (0)46 948 3436).

The bottom line €200–€240 a night, including breakfast, VAT and service. Tell me more…


09 Cotton House

Style Coral-stone colonial
Setting The champagne set’s private island

Why you’ll love it This boutique resort in the Grenadines has charm in spades: built from coral stone and filled with a pretty hotch-potch of French West Indies colonial-style furniture, you couldn’t dream up a more civilised honeymoon hideaway. However, it’s not merely a castaway’s fantasy abode – this is one ultra-exclusive tropical retreat. Check into the Cotton Hill residence on the hilltop and you’ll get a private pool, butler service and a romantic view each: one of the Caribbean and one of the Atlantic.

True romance Fine French cuisine, private beaches, manicured grounds, teak sunloungers, perfect weather… are you nearly there yet?

Worth getting out of bed for Ask Cotton House to organise a luxury picnic: they’ll get a speedboat to zip you out to the remote Tobago Cays, then serve you caviar and chilled Krug under a palm tree for two. Collecting shells and pretending to be Ursula Andress optional.

The bottom line $520–$3,680 room only, excluding 10 per cent VAT and 10 per cent service charge. Tell me more…


10 Constance Le
Prince Maurice

Style The spice of life
Setting Tradition with a five-star sheen

Why you’ll love it Constance Le Prince Maurice: the name alone conjures images of regal splendour in a tropical setting. Ideal for honeymooners who can’t sit still for too long, this all-suite resort has every possible bell and whistle you could imagine, from a slate-lined infinity pool and two golf courses to a Guerlain spa and a string of boutiques. Balinese-style Senior Suites are individual thatched villas with direct beach access, private pools and alfresco soaking tubs.

True romance Dine on fresh-from-the-sea fish at Le Barachois. If you feel as though you’re floating, it’s not just because you’re on honeymoon: the restaurant sits on pontoons and bobs like a lily over the lagoon.

Worth getting out of bed for Snorkel or dive on the lagoon’s coral reef, teeming with Technicolor marine life. Most watersports are free: try windsufing, kayaking or sailing from the beach.

The bottom line Junior Suites: €436–€1,306. Senior Suites: €930–€2,910. Princely Suite: €9,000–€24,000. All rates include breakfast. Tell me more…


Best of the rest…

Cocoa Island, a desert-island scuba-divers’ dream in the jaw-dropping Maldives, Indian Ocean

Noir d’Ivoire, an elegant Arabesque riad in the Marrakech Medina, Morocco

Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Raymond Blanc’s grand gourmet getaway in Oxfordshire, England

Blakes, Anouska Hempel’s stylish, seductive South Kensington stay in London, UK

Eden Rock, an exclusive paradise-island boutique hotel on St Barths in the Caribbean

Chiawa Camp, a luxury safari lodge on the banks of the Zambezi in Zambia

Rodwell House, a refined wine-lovers’ retreat in Cape Town, South Africa

Borgo Santo Pietro, a beautifully restored villa in Tuscany, Italy

Huvafen Fushi, an exclusive Indian Ocean luxury resort with an underwater spa in the Maldives

Frégate Island Private, a super-luxe Indian Ocean island retreat in the Seychelles

Click here to see more honeymoon hotels, luxury safari lodges and romantic retreats around the world… Alternatively, for more inspiration, have a look at our Top 10 Honeymoon Destinations feature.