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Top 12 Alternative Destinations for Romantic Breaks

With the piggy bank full of prudently pinched pennies, why not take your partner to a lesser known destination for the getaway of a lifetime?

alternative romantic destinations

Nothing cements, revives, and reinvigorates a relationship like a romantic getaway. Not only does it provide relief from the normal day-to-day grind of life, as well as putting a bit of general holiday excitement in your step, it also creates a space where, for once, you can focus solely and exclusively upon each other.

The length of any such break isn’t particularly important – it’s amazing what even a weekend away can do for a beleaguered partnership – but what is important is the choice of destination.

You could opt for the reliable, tried-and-tested Paris, New York, or Rome, all safe options that are unlikely to disappoint. But wouldn’t it be nice to take them somewhere that their friends and colleagues couldn’t eclipse with stories of their own experiences there? Somewhere a little bit different and, by the same token, somewhere really quite special. [Read: Is it too soon to start traveling with your partner?]

The runners up for getaway destinations

Choosing which destinations made it to the top of this unconventional list of romantic holiday breaks wasn’t nearly as difficult as deciding which ones to leave out. For example, when it comes to romantic beach holidays, Southeast Asia alone provides thousands of world-class options, chiefly within Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

When it comes to mountain scenery, you have the likes of the Swiss Alps, Banff National Park, and Patagonia to choose from, with a plethora of possible destinations on nearly every continent.

For city breaks, Paris and Rome, as previously mentioned, top nearly every popular list of romantic destinations, with the likes of Venice, New York, Vienna, and Barcelona not far behind.

But, and this is a big but, for the purposes of our list, these options are all a little obvious, aren’t they?

The winners for the best alternative holiday destinations

Our list, then, is comprised solely of the unusual and the surprising. Some of the choices will be widely known of, but not specifically in their capacities as romantic destinations. Some will be known to people within a specific geographical area – continent, subcontinent, or country, for example – but not to the rest of the world. Some will be a complete mystery to nearly everyone.

Additionally, in an effort to be even-handed regarding which choices made it onto the final list, they have been divided into the two categories of “town and city breaks” and “places of outstanding natural beauty.” So, here goes:

Town and city breaks

Capital cities may be the most common holiday destinations, but when you delve into the lesser-known cities and towns, you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find!

#1 Ayuthaya, Thailand. The once-capital city of the ancient Kingdom of Siam, located some 40 miles north of Bangkok, Ayuthaya is entirely built upon a river island. Better known for the thousands of historical monuments located there, this living city is full of romantic possibilities, whether cycling around its ancient sites together, eating at one of its many fabulous restaurants, or just enjoying each other’s company in the tropical sunshine.

The definite highlight, however, is an evening cruise down the Chao Phraya river, with the many riverside temples, old and new, brightly illuminated to create one of the most impressively romantic sights to be seen anywhere in the world.

#2 Bergen, Norway. A stunning city by any standard, this former European City of Culture is instantly recognizable by its brightly painted fairytale buildings and its haphazardly clambering nature, overlooking the waterfront from steeply sided hills. The kind of place that lends itself to idle dreaming and meandering, Bergen also acts as the gateway to the beautiful Norwegian fjords, a cruise through which has to count as one of the most romantic experiences available in Bergen, Norway or anywhere else in the world.

#3 Buenos Aires, Argentina. The only currently capital city on the list, the attractions of Buenos Aires are almost too numerous to mention. For star-crossed lovers, however, the city has a very specific attraction in the form of tango: the most sensual and romantic dance of them all.

Fear not, though, if tango is something you’ve only seen in bad movies. There are hundreds of inexpensive professionals available who can teach you the tricks of the trade, and prepare you to express your love for each other through the medium of dance in one of the city’s many tango halls.

There are those who argue that tango can be learned anywhere, but the only place you’ll ever experience the real deal is in the fair city of Buenos Aires itself.

#4 Kakunodate, Japan. A beautiful old town that is still held as one of the best places in the country to see traditional feudal samurai architecture. Indeed, many samurai descendants still live here.

For those with romantic aspirations, however, the main attraction is the two mile-long avenue of cherry blossom trees that run alongside the river. Truly one of the most romantic sights in the world, and top of the list when it comes to gentle hand-in-hand walks.

#5 Toledo, Spain. Seventy miles from Madrid, Toledo could not be any more different. The dry, sandy environment would seem more at home in North Africa than the Mediterranean, but make no mistake, it really is one of the most beautiful cities that Europe has to offer.

Indeed, there is a saying countrywide that you haven’t seen Spain at all until you have seen Toledo! The very nature of such a stunning environment lends itself to romance without trying, but for couples on a quest for amour, a tour of the city’s many cultural gems makes a great starting point.

#6 York, Great Britain. The ancient city of York is one of the world’s most significant historical sites. Complete with castles, the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, and the oldest street on the continent, if not the world, the classical beauty of the place is matched only by the number of activities available to the willing tourist.

For the loving couple seeking a bit of romance, a hand-in-hand walk around the medieval city walls, taking in the sights from its elevated viewpoint, is the stuff that dreams are made of. Best visited in spring when the flower displays are in full bedazzling bloom.

[Read: Traveling – one of the 20 ways to keep a relationship exciting]

Places of outstanding natural beauty

If you and your honey are partial towards hidden natural wonders, these breathtaking destinations should be on your bucket list.

#1 Amantani Island, Peru. Situated upon the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca, the island may as well lie at the other end of the universe, for all intents and purposes. It really is a very remote and out of the way option. However, for a romantic getaway, it has few rivals, and taking advantage of the homestay option, experiencing real Peruvian life with a local host firsthand is a simply magical way to spend a couple of nights with a loved one. And let’s not also forget, that with the lake all around you and the Andes Mountains looming in the distance, the view is one of the world’s best.

#2 The Haa Valley, Bhutan. Bhutan isn’t the first place that springs to mind when attempting to list the most beautiful and/or romantic places, but it really does compare favorably with any of the world’s better-known beauty spots.

Of an alpine appearance, the floor of the Haa Valley is littered with temples, creating a magical contrast with the mountains rising majestically behind them, and in March to June, the rhododendron forests are in full bloom also, only further adding to the incredibly romantic ambience that the valley commands.

#3 Khan Kentii, Mongolia. A protected nature reserve of some 5,000 square miles, and the purported birthplace of Genghis Khan, Khan Kentii is famous for its wide and never-ending skies. The plains of Mongolia won’t be everyone’s first choice for a romantic getaway, but the scenery is both vast and beautiful.

An especial point of interest for the couple bent on romance, however, is the common availability of local horse-riding holidays. Riding the plains under the north Asian sun during the day and shacking up together under a makeshift shelter at night… Could anything be more romantic?

#4 Malham Cove, England. Briefly making a twilight appearance in the penultimate Harry Potter film, but otherwise little known, the cove is England’s best kept secret. A near three hundred-foot cliff, and much wider than high, the rock face stands majestically amongst the otherwise green and pleasant surroundings.

Once a waterfall twice the height of Niagara, the porous limestone has now let the water pass through its base, so that a river wends its way along the wooded glade below. Harsh and unforgiving in the colder months, in summer, the place leaps to life, and as a romantic picnic spot, it is peerless.

Also try a little rambling up to the natural limestone pavement at the top of the cliff face if you’re both feeling energetic, or take a walk through the nearby and equally impressive Goredale Scar.

#5 Ngapali Beach, Myanmar. As hinted at in the introduction, Southeast Asia is indeed king when it comes to beaches, and there are so many that could have made the list. The fact, however, that much of Myanmar is still largely unexplored by the average tourist has secured its place against some pretty stiff competition.

That said, Ngpali Beach could quite easily make the list on its own merits. With sparkling white sands framed by tropical tree lines and pleasantly tourist-free bars and eateries, it is the perfect romantic beach holiday destination. [Read: A couple’s guide to getting sexy at the beach]

#6 Sipi, Uganda. The hill and jungle option on the list, Sipi lies right in the heart of Africa on the edge of the world’s largest volcano by base area, Mt. Elgon. It isn’t the most accessible place on earth, and the journey up the mountain tracks from Mbale is a long and arduous one, but once there, it becomes clear how worthwhile that journey was.

A pearl in the wild jungles of the African continent, there is nothing more guaranteed to make your loved one feel like the special soul they are than reclining in the lounge of the Sipi Resort, overlooking the famous waterfall there, with not another soul in sight, except for the waiting staff and each other. Absolutely idyllic.

[Read: 8 tips to have a great time when you travel as a couple]

Whether town, city, waterfall, or beach, when it’s written in the stars, take your loved one for the romantic getaway of a lifetime at any one of these amazing locations. Let them know how much they mean to you with a holiday that is as special and unique as they are, and one that they will never forget.

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Philip Hegarty
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