Weddings 2012: Four of the most unexpected, highly exotic and hopelessly romantic honeymoon destinations
For sand dunes, castles and hillsides
PETRA/WADI RUM, Jordan
For sand dunes, castles and hillsides
Why here: Also known as the Valley of the Moon, Wadi Rum and the neighbouring town of Petra offer a desert experience that goes far beyond camels and Lawrence of Arabia chic. Picture expanses of rose-coloured sand dunes, intimate marketplaces and architecture arresting enough to impress jet-setting Toronto newlyweds.
Where to stay: Nabatean Castle (owned by the Swiss hospitality company Mövenpick) is a 10-minute drive from Petra. Designed by award-winning architect Rasem Badran, the hillside resort has many rooms with panoramic views of the Great Rift Valley; the terrace is the right spot for a dreamy sundowner. Doubles from approximately $170. 962-3-215-7201, moevenpick-hotels.com.
Where to eat: The decor isn’t exactly romantic, but Petra Kitchen serves up what could be described as a bonding experience. For $86, guests can join a group of Jordanian women and one head chef in the basement of the restaurant to learn how to cook (and to eat) a variety of regional dishes, such as mensaf (lamb stew) and galaya bandura (sautéed tomatoes with garlic and pine nuts). 962-3-215-5900, petrakitchen.com.
Most romantic spot: Three times a week, visitors can experience Petra by Night, in which candles are placed along the Siq—a winding 1.2-kilometre path with soaring cliffs on either side. It leads right up to the famous treasury, where an Egyptian pharaoh is said to have hidden his most prized possessions. Local musicians are often on the scene, playing exotic tunes to set the mood.
Must do: Ride a donkey up the trail to the soaring Al-Deir monastery, which has been carved directly into a rock face.
For snowbound chic
Why here: This region, on the brink of the Arctic Circle, is surprisingly warm in the spring and summer. Couples who venture here (usually by train from Helsinki) will get to experience the delirium of the midnight sun, sweet cloudberries, and saunas on every corner.
Where to stay: Hotel Santa Claus in Rovaniemi may sound more kitschy than romantic, but it turns out even St. Nick has an affinity for sleek Scandinavian design—with a few red accent pieces. Book one of 17 rooms that come equipped with a private sauna. Doubles from $250. 016-321-321, hotelsantaclaus.fi.
Where to eat: Konttaniemen Porotila reindeer farm, built in 1930, has a menu that features only one dish with three simple ingredients: reindeer meat, lingonberries and potatoes. It’s the best meal in the region; even those with modest appetites will be diving in for seconds. Dessert consists of delicately sweetened tea brewed from Nordic berries, home-baked bread and a smattering of small Finnish cookies. porofarmi.fi.
Most romantic spot: Under the aurora borealis—or as the Finns say, revontulet, which means fox fire. The benefit of going to Lapland during the late fall and winter is that magical multicoloured lights can be seen swirling through the sky on clear evenings.
Must do: In the coldest months, strap on your boots and play a round of golf at Arctic Golf Finland, located on the Kemi River. Holes are carved into the ice, balls are brightly coloured to stand out and you can get creative by making tees out of snow. (In warmer months, golfers can play at a full 18-hole course in the forests of Ounasvaara.)
For heavenly luxury
Why here: The Land of Kings offers all the rich colours and spiritual fulfillment of a trip to India—without the stress of Delhi’s congestion or clichéd photo ops by the Taj Mahal.
Where to stay: Amanbagh, a secluded resort 90 minutes east of Jaipur in the Aravali foothills, is an intricately designed collection of suites inside a walled compound. This used to be the Maharajah of Alwar’s base for hunting expeditions. An on-site organic garden guarantees fine meals; the hotel’s resident camel, Babu, provides endless entertainment; and a turquoise swimming pool lined with stone archways is hypnotizing. Doubles from $620. 91-1465-223-333, amanresorts.com/amanbagh.
Where to eat: Ask the hotel staff to organize a private dinner at sunset underneath the ancient chhatri (a traditional, dome-shaped gazebo built from stone) by Somsagar Lake. With all the beauty of the glassy water, the scattered candles and the vast pink sky, you might forget to eat.
Most romantic spot: Floating around nearby Lake Mansarovar in a wooden Shikara boat, with a bottle of chilled wine, admiring the native birds flying overhead.
Must do: Book an overnight trip to Aman-i-khás, the Amanbagh’s sister hotel on the outskirts of Ranthambore National Park, for an Indian safari. After all the crocodile spotting, take a soak in the pool, feast on a Rajasthani thali (a spread of homemade curries) for two, then indulge in a nightcap by the bonfire before finally collapsing in one of 10 luxury tents. From $1,090.
For total seclusion
Why here: It may seem ill-advised to shell out for a flight to a Caribbean island with no beach, but it’s because of this unusual quirk that visitors to Saba get the place almost entirely to themselves. Just 15 minutes by plane from Sint Maarten, this Dutch-owned island is remote, easy to navigate (there’s only one road) and bursting with foliage. A bonus: due to a constant breeze and the absence of any still water, there are no mosquitoes, so windows can be left open all night.
Where to stay: The 12-suite Queen’s Gardens Resort, run by a charming Dutch couple, offers a relaxed vibe set in the lap of luxury. Nine of the rooms come with a private Jacuzzi overlooking verdant hills, the vast ocean and Saba’s capital, an adorable little town called The Bottom. Couples who want breakfast to feel romantic might like dining in a private gazebo covered in vines. Doubles from approximately $240. 599-416-3494, queensaba.com.
Where to eat: The Rainforest Restaurant at the Ecolodge is lit entirely by candles and accessible by a narrow footpath, so bring a flashlight and prep for a five-minute walk through the jungle. Pause at least once to take in the starry sky and the chirp of the native tree frogs. 599-416-3888, ecolodge-saba.com.
Most romantic spot: The misty cloud forest at the top of Mount Scenery actually counts as the highest point in the Netherlands (even though it’s technically in the Dutch Caribbean) and offers a 360-degree view of the island
Must do: Scuba diving, because the biodiversity here is world-renowned. Sign up with Saba Deep ($60 a dive). Experienced divers will enjoy the half-scary, half-romantic night dive. 599-416-3347, sabadeep.com.