When setting out on a romantic getaway, some couples opt for one of the most popular destinations for lovers, those hot spots around the globe that everyone already knows about. But others prefer to embark on a trip of a lifetime to a unique destination where they can partake in distinctive activities and cultures. Travel advisors may wish to consider recommending any of these honeymoons with a twist to their clients who are seeking a more unusual travel experience to celebrate their love together.
1. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
“Dubai gives the couple the opportunity to experience a once-in-a-lifetime trip,” says Corrine Mutarelli, CTC, owner of Travel World Showcase, who also happens to specialize in romance packages. “Every couple I've worked with on planning these trips have returned with rave reviews. I am consistently being told that I have made their dreams come true.
“In September, I had a couple who went to Dubai and could not get over the fact that everything they hoped their honeymoon would be, exceeded their expectations. They stayed at Conrad Dubai. Part of their agenda was a Jeep safari tour and a dune buggy adventure. They posted every minute on Facebook, so at times, I traveled with them. Also, the hotel had so many options for spa treatments, which they took advantage of -- and felt it was adventure plus relaxation.”
2. Bolzano, Puglia, or Calabria in Italy
“For a romantic getaway with a twist, I recommend exploring lesser-known parts of Italy or Greece,” suggests Emily Bookey, CEO and travel advisor, Emily's Travel, Inc. “These destinations offer a unique charm away from mainstream attractions, providing a more authentic and unusual romantic experience.
“My clients adore these experiences, particularly in Italy, where I have a comprehensive guide due to my dual citizenship. It includes my favorite local spots for dining, shopping, and must-see attractions -- ensuring they enjoy a personalized, non-touristy adventure.
“They particularly cherish experiences in lesser-known parts of Italy, such as Bolzano near the Dolomites, the enchanting regions of Puglia and Calabria -- my family's hometown. Additionally, exploring the smaller towns in Tuscany adds a touch of authenticity to their romantic getaway.
She adds: “I take pride in recommending unique experiences, like guiding them to one of my friend's restaurants in Rome, ensuring a warm welcome and a feeling of being treated like family. I go the extra mile by treating them to a bottle of wine, providing a personalized touch that sets their journey apart. This commitment to personal connections and attention to detail is what distinguishes the experiences clients receive when booking with me.”
3. Auckland, New Zealand
Jane Turner, founder and owner, Active Downunder, sends couples looking for an unparalleled adventure to Auckland, New Zealand. She says: “New Zealand’s wide-open spaces, relaxed pace of life, fantastic food and wine, small boutique accommodations, and the genuine warmth of friendly Kiwis, are made for romantic adventures. From sandy beaches and coves to mountain tops, fiords and star-studded skies, New Zealand is the perfect destination for a romantic honeymoon filled with their chosen level of adventure!”
Among the extraordinary activities that Turner suggests for clients to relish (all of which are either within driving distance or a short flight from Auckland) are: enjoying a scenic paddle into small caves filled with constellations of glow worms; seeing the stars of the southern sky, Aoraki, Mt Cook is deemed an international dark sky reserve and one of the clearest places on earth to see the stars; picnicking beneath a hanging glacier (Earnslaw Burn glacier was made famous by The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit trilogies; biking the wineries and wine tasting the region’s many small boutique vineyards, often meeting with the winemaker themselves; digging yourself a spa in the sand at Hot Water Beach; wandering amongst ancient Kauri Trees; learning about the unique Maori culture; experiencing waterfalls and fiords on an overnight cruise; and being one with nature by staying in a luxury treehouse or a glass pod. Now that describes a trip filled with undeniably unforgettable moments.
4. Croatia in the Balkans
Corina Johnson, of All Points Travel, recommends Croatia in the Balkans. “Croatia is an amazing and beautiful destination! I especially love it as an alternative to Greece. It is a relatively lesser-known destination, but one that is filled with so many opportunities. Whether couples want to sail on a live aboard catamaran or yacht through the many picturesque islands or spend some time on land in a historic hotel immersed in the Croatian culture, there is something for everybody!
“Couples will love wandering the walled cities of Dubrovnik and Split; taking a hike to any of the many national parks with caves and waterfalls; and/or wine tasting at any of the incredible wineries throughout the different regions of the country. Croatia is the perfect blend of Italian and Greek influences while offering its own unique charm.”
5. Shannon, Ireland
Of course, travelers to Ireland will likely want to visit Dublin, one of Europe’s friendliest cities (also filled with pubs to meet the locals and sing along with some lively Irish music). While walking the streets of Dublin, couples can feel the energy of more than 1,000 years of history, as echoes of the Vikings mix with quaint boutiques; cobbled streets reverberate with the sounds of musicians; and 18th-century parks play host to festivals and food markets.
But then, an off-the-beaten-path itinerary would send travelers to Western Ireland’s rugged coast and the Wild Atlantic Way. They can hit the road on a 1,500-mile coastal journey starting from the wind-whipped tip of Malin Head in County Donegal to the beauty of Kinsale town in County Cork. The island’s west coast wows with its epic sites (also seen in blockbuster movies) such as the Cliffs of Moher, Kylemore Abbey, the Ring of Kerry, and Galway City. And for those with an Irish heritage, this destination adds even more depth to their uncommon travel experience together.
6. Curacao in the Caribbean
One of the ABC islands (along with Aruba and Bonaire) in the Southern Caribbean just off the coast of Venezuela, Curacao is an out-of-the-ordinary island adventure. The Dutch Caribbean retreat is an ocean lover’s paradise with 35 spectacular beaches, yacht and catamaran charters, and numerous watersports. Adventure abounds landside, as well, where couples can share an adrenaline rush by scaling the highest peaks of Mt. Christoffel; exploring the deepest caverns at Hato Caves, or discovering the coves at Seven Inlets National Park (where unpredictable waves crash into the cliffsides, and three different species of sea turtles nest).
With a blend of centuries-old European culture and Caribbean flair, the island also offers superb shopping, tasteful galleries and colorful street murals, a variety of museums; and the chance to stop by an old plantation house to rub elbows with local artists, magicians, and dancers. While out on the town, a must is to sample the famous Blue Curaçao liqueur.
7. Lima, Peru
Couples can get lost (and found together) in this Peruvian capital where colonial charm meets some of the best cuisine on the continent. Lima is brimming with things to do in each of its five distinct neighborhoods: artsy and bohemian Barranco, upscale Miraflores, the business district of San Isidro, the Historic Center, and the travel hub of Callao. Plaza de Armas is a central point in the city, steps away from stunning palaces, cathedrals, and the San Francisco Church and Convent (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).
From there, travelers can admire colonial architecture, or head to nearby Miraflores to explore miles of park trails and art installations overlooking the Pacific Ocean. History buffs can learn about Lima through its various museums, seeing collections of pre-Hispanic objects at the Larco Museum, exploring fine art at the MALI, or enjoying contemporary pieces at the MATE.
Lima is also a gateway to some of the world’s most incredible natural and world wonders. Visitors can take an easy flight to Cusco to explore bucket-list Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley, and other ancient Incan ruins. Ica, five hours south of Lima by car or bus, is home to Huacachina – a village built around a picturesque oasis, where you can sandboard, race dune buggies, and watch the sunset over the desert. Another option is to fly to Iquitos in the north, Pucallpa in central Peru, or Puerto Maldonado in the south, for access to the lush rainforests, abundant wildlife, and unique experiences of the Amazon. Or, if the hiking in and around Machu Picchu is not enough, travelers can head north to Huaraz to see glacial lakes beneath snowcapped Andes vistas.
Tips for making destination recommendations
To help travel advisors make the best recommendations for their romance-seeking clients from the many extraordinary destinations available, Bookey advises: “When choosing a destination for a romantic getaway or honeymoon, I believe it's crucial to offer a setting that encapsulates their dream trip -- a country with a romantic ambiance, providing an all-encompassing experience tailored to their vision,” recommends Bookey. “I seek out destinations and vacation packages that steer away from the crowds, favoring off-the-beaten-path gems over typical tourist spots. Non-peak times ensure a more intimate and authentic experience for my clients.”
Mutarelli suggests: “The destination has to be someplace they can experience for the first time together with an emphasis on luxury and plentiful options for excursions. Since most couples seem to be getting married at a more mature age now, they are looking for an experience of a lifetime and they don't seem to be too concerned with budget.”
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