If there’s one holiday that you really, really want to get right it’s the all-important honeymoon. That’s one of the main reasons newly-weds tend to play it safe and follow a well-worn path to a handful of classic romantic destinations such as the Maldives, Italy or Tanzania. Don’t get me wrong – these destinations are nothing short of fabulous, but I wouldn’t have started a travel company with a name like mine if having a different take wasn’t part of the process. So where are these heroic honeymoon destinations that combine all the romance, glamour, and luxury you’ll expect from the most important holiday you ever take, but throw in an all important leftfield leaning?
A tried and tested destination, granted, but often overlooked as a honeymoon hangout. The sales pitch? For starters, short flights relative to some honeymoon destinations that add jet lag to post-wedding exhaustion. Then there’s the sheer exoticism of Marrakech, a likely starting point for any Moroccan ‘moon. There’s little to match the romance of an elegant riad with its courtyards and air of elegant calm, discretely tucked away down an alleyway away from the bedlam of the medina. Next, head to the Atlas Mountains and somewhere sublime like Kasbah Toubkal for continued pampering and the chance to throw in some activity with a trek through extraordinary scenery. For a touch of Lawrence of Arabia-style glamour you can then head over the mountains to Ouazarzate and Dar Ahlam – another luxurious kasbah-style property – and their Desert Camp deep in the dunes for a private glamping (with real emphasis on the ‘glam’) experience that’s hard to beat on the romance-ometer.
A little bit bonkers, a whole lot amazing, Madagascar is the coming force of African destinations, and a great choice for originality seeking honeymooners. This is the place for a different take on the well-worn ‘bush and beach’ combo honeymoon, with lemurs replacing leopards and the white sand beaches and luxury lodges of Madagascar now giving the East African variety a run for their money. On the subject, long-range wedding planners should note the opening of ultra-luxurious Miavana on the private island of Nosy Ankao in October 2016. It’s set to be an instant classic.
Step in to the country that’s probably most ‘other’ (in a good way) from the UK. Japan is a place in which to immerse yourself as a couple, and makes for a truly enlightening first marital experience as you negotiate the fascinating customs and culture of one of the great destinations together. Stay in a traditional ryokan inn where you can enjoy a kaisekibanquet dressed in your yakata dressing gown in your bedroom, or the hi-tech and hi-luxury hotels in Tokyo that are among the most spoiling anywhere in the world. As for the various destinations in Japan itself, Tokyo, Kyoto and the rural region of Hakone (home to Mount Fuji) are unmissables, but if beach is a prerequisite, the southern islands of Okinawa offer beach lodges – ryokan-style, of course.
If you’re planning on marrying in Summer (let’s face it, most of us do) then Europe looms large as the perfect honeymoon destination because our home continent is at her finest and it means no long flights. The obvious choice at this point would be Italy, but that’s what everyone else is thinking, and the attendant sky-rocketing prices can be a real turn-off. Besides, who wants the distraction of the rather lovely looking locals when your betrothed’s eyes should only be for you? No, far safer to head to Portugal, the European destination that has rediscovered its mojo in a major way. We’re loving Lisbon at present, and there are so many superb new boutique hotels that you could do a wonderful road trip honeymoon, starting in picture perfect Porto (stopping off at Six Senses’s first Euro-opening in the Douro Valley), then taking in Lisbon followed by too cool for school Comporta, the next big beach thing, and finally the inland Alentejo region for wine tasting and walking in beautiful surroundings.
One of the unsung gems of Central America, Belize packs a lot into a small place. The Francis Ford Coppola hotels at Turtle Inn (for beach action) and inland at Blancaneaux are lovely romantic retreats, as is the film director’s third property, La Lancha, for the – highly recommended – pop over the border into Guatemala to see the awesome Mayan city of Tikal. The main event, though, is the coast, the cayes and some excellent diving. Base yourself at boutique chic El Secreto on Ambergis Caye and relax or dive/snorkel the nearby barrier reef (the second longest in the world) and Hol Chan marine reserve.
Tom Barber is Co-Founder of Original Travel.