The fairy chimneys of Cappadocia are spectacularly peculiar, a sight that needs to be shared. The region offers plenty of opportunities to explore on foot or by car, but the best way is to wake up before dawn for a balloon ride over the jagged landscape and fantastic dwellings. Post-afternoon-nap, climb the stairs up to Uchisar Castle to watch the sunset from the top of the area’s tallest fairy chimney, where Cappadocia mingles with the clouds and everything from Mt Erciyes to the Pigeon Valley is in view.
Stay at Argos in Cappadocia, a former monastery that’s been turned into the sweetest and chicest cave hotel in the area.
Brazil madness reaches fever pitch in 2014 for the soccer World Cup. Copacabana and Ipanema have their charms, but the fantasy is a remote stretch of coastline where it’s just you, a few locals, hammocks, and caipirinhas. The area around Paraty, about midway between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, fits the bill: remote, unpopulated and with one of the most pristine coastlines anywhere.
Hands-down one of the most romantic cities on earth, Marrakech is redolent with Arabian spices and rose petals, lit by lanterns and soundtracked by Gwana music. The medina is virtually impossible to navigate, so it’s best to accept getting lost as part of the experience, stopping for mint tea or strong coffee, bargaining in the souqs and watching snake charmers in Jemaa al Fna, the central square.
La Maison Arabe combines the seductive charms and secluded spaces of a riad with the conveniences of a full-service hotel.
Rum punch, white sand, crashing waves and stunning vistas are abundant on just about any Caribbean island. What sets St Lucia apart are its lush forests, striking silhouette of the Piton mountains (a Unesco site) and adventure opportunities – sharing physical challenges and satisfactions is a great way to begin life together. Climb the 786m Gros Piton, dive, snorkel, zipline and try the island’s unique scuba-snorkel hybrid called Snuba.
Ladera, where the rooms have three walls, lies smack between the Pitons. The Paradise Ridge suites up the ante on romance and luxury.
Few things are dreamier than an alfresco lunch under the sunny skies at the olive orchards of southern Spain. Think jamón ibérico, olives, manchego cheese and local Jerez sherry on a hand-woven blanket, followed by a languorous siesta. The wild mountains outside Seville provide the perfect setting for idyllic, isolated feasts. By night see flamenco, the dance of love and passion, some of whose brightest stars – Joaquin Cortes, Miguel Rios, Rocio Jurado, Isabel Pantoja and Joaquin Sabina – hail from Andalucía.
Trasierra (trasierra.co.uk), a quirky hotel an hour from Seville, does delicious picnics. Corral del Rey is a boutique town hotel close to Seville’s best tapas bars and flamenco clubs.
Juicy mangoes, technicolor sunsets, night-blooming jasmine: Bali is quite possibly the most seductive island on earth. This is a culture where days begin with offerings of flowers to Hindu deities at roadside temples and where every visitor is greeted with a smile, but sensual undercurrents flow. It’s also the place for indulgent spa treatments, like floral baths and spice body scrubs, and of course couples’ massages.
Hotel Tugu (in Canggu) is filled with art and antiques that bring back to life forgotten tales of the romance of Bali and Java.
Great as tropical beaches are, they aren’t for every occasion. Sometimes you want drama and power, majestic cliffs, moody fog and awesome (in the old-fashioned sense) waves. There’s something undeniably romantic about a cool-weather beach, and Big Sur is as good as that gets. Beyond the sea, there are national parks with towering redwoods and plentiful hiking trails, outstanding restaurants (California cuisine lives up to the hype) and a New Age healing culture.
Post Ranch Inn is a trip-of-a-lifetime hotel, perched on cliffs 350m above the Pacific with 39 rustic-luxe cabins.
Queenstown, New Zealand
Adrenaline is as important for bonding as the love drug oxytocin and there’s no better place to get it pumping than New Zealand’s South Island. Queenstown is the birthplace of bungee jumping, as well as being home to jet boating, Zorbing, paragliding and epic hiking and skiing. Many new mountain bike trails are opening in 2014. If all the activity becomes too much, there are helicopter rides over the Southern Alps to stunning Milford Sound, as well as a sophisticated food and wine scene.
Matakauri Lodge (www.matakauri.co.nz) has drop-dead views of the Remarkables range and Lake Wakatipu; just outside town yet blessedly remote.
Colchagua Valley, Chile
Off the beaten track for food and wine tourism, Chile’s main grape-producing region, about two hours south of Santiago, is blissfully unpopulated and impossibly gorgeous, with the Andes’ jagged snowcaps rising beyond the rolling vine-covered hills. Along with tasting world-class Carménères, Malbecs, Cabernets and Syrahs, visitors can hike, bike and ride horses (the area is home to Chile’s huaso, or cowboys), explore colonial towns, and visit an excellent museum owned by former arms dealer Carlos Cardoen.
Casa Lapostolle (www.relaischateaux.com) is intimate and spectacular, with four large casitas offering to-die-for views from the baths and great food.
Dunton Hot Springs, Colorado, USA
A stay in this singular resort in remote southwestern Colorado is a chance to really escape from modern life. The owners acquired a derelict mining ghost town, gussied up the 13 homestead cottages on the site and recreated the romantic ideal of the American frontier: rugged mountains, simple living, hiking, fly-fishing, riding and taking a step back in time – but with creature comforts such as heated floors and fine linens, and staff ready to cater to every whim. New (from summer 2013) is bona fide glamping, with eight luxury tents along the river at the Cresto Ranch camp down the road from the main town.
Snow-covered winter is a magical time to visit, when the hot springs feel extra steamy and activities include dog-sledding and heli-skiing.