Places to make the heart race
Relationship woes? Perhaps it's time to hit the road – together. In the new book Ultimate Journeys for Two, 'world's longest honeymooners' Anne and Mike Howard – on the move since 2012 for their blog HoneyTrek.com – reveal their secrets to travelling as a pair. And in these excerpts, they share the destinations that just might be the cure for what ails your romance
Stuck in a routine? Get a rush in Livingstone, Zambia.
Maybe it's the waterfall's relentless roar or its spray which can be felt for miles, but everything is more exciting around Victoria Falls. Cutting between the countries of Zimbabwe and Zambia, the Zambezi River spans 5,604 feet and plummets 354 feet, creating one the world's largest falls and a jaw-dropping landscape. Unlike most falls where you see them in one shot, this one reveals itself a little more with each adventure–river rafting, microlight flights, and a death-defying plunge into the Devil's Pool. Head upstream and the landscape changes from lush rain forest to woodland savanna with roaming elephants, giraffes, zebras, and the occasional lion – be it on a boat trip or game drive in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. End each day sipping a sundowner and tasting the flavors of Africa on a floating dining room. Livingstone may be wild, but it has no shortage of luxury.
Where to Stay:
- Tongabezy Lodge: Part luxury ecolodge, part adventure outfitter, and entirely amazing.
- The Royal Livingstone: Classic colonial hotel and the closest you can stay to the edge of the falls.
Get Romantic: Spring for private dining on a lantern-lit sampan boat.
If you are at Tongabezi, an African canoe choir will serenade you over dessert.
HoneyTrek Tip: Spend some time upriver to experience the serene side of the Zambezi. Island-hop by canoe and be sure to stock it with Mosi Lager, fishing rods and binoculars for hippo sightings.
Missing that spark? Try Portugal's Romantic Capital, Sintra.
Set high in the mountains, just 20 miles from Lisbon with cool temps and views to the ocean, Sintra has been wooing visitors – from medieval royalty to the European jet set – for a millennium. Play prince and princess, starting at the tenth-century Moorish Castle high above town. It's straight out of a storybook, with landscaping like an enchanted forest – partly due to the eccentric 19th-century King Ferdinand II, the veritable founder of the Romantic style. Hike to the Pena Palace and see his architectural fantasies played out in a rainbow of colors. E-bike through the hills, past dozens of Romantic-era mansions blending global motifs. Embrace the romance in the air with a carriage ride, a glass of port, and a night in your own palace.
Where to Stay:
- Tivoli Palácio de Seteais: A true 18th-century palace, converted into a five-star hotel with lavish details fit for royalty.
- Casa do Valle: On the terraces of a former vineyard, this self-catering hotel is supremely peaceful and only a short walk from downtown.
Get Romantic: Dine where the locals go on date night. Sit on the patio or under the stone arches of Tacho Real, enjoying traditional dishes like bacalhau à brás and listening to Portuguese guitar.
HoneyTrek Tip: Stay for a few days and enjoy the quiet of the mornings and magical evenings while the Lisbon tour buses are away.
Stressed out with life (and each other)? Set sail in Northern Palawan, Philippines.
Unroll your map of the Philippines'$2 7,641 tropical islands and hone in on the archipelagos splitting the South China and Sulu Seas – now you've found paradise. Start in the Calamians, with their black limestone mountains, turquoise lakes, and sunken battle ships. Although most continue by plane to the consistently voted "world's best beach" of El Nido, you'll slow-cruise it, Filipino style, exploring remote islands on a catamaran Bangka boat. Snorkeling and kayaking your way through the pristine waters of the Linapacan Strait, you two will sleep on white sand beaches that rarely see a footprint. Grilling freshly caught clams in adobo spices over a bonfire and under the stars, you'll seriously contemplate the castaway lifestyle. Reaching the Bacuit Archipelago and its luxury resorts, you return to your senses after a massage and cocktail, and smile all the way home.
Where to Stay:
- The Birdhouse: Safari-style tents decorated to perfection, overlooking El Nido’s Marimegmeg Beach.
- La Natura Resort: Serene bungalows with a pool and tour offerings, near the adventure hub of Coron.
Get Romantic: At the far end of El Nido's Las Cabanas Beach, treasure hunt for gorgeous seashells, then pop into the resort for sunset cocktails with a perfect island view.
HoneyTrek Tip: El Nido's boat operators have strategically broken up the best islands into separate trips. See your ideal beaches in one shot with a private tour. Worth the splurge.
Lost perspective? Refocus in Cappadocia, Turkey.
Cappadocia has always known how to turn lemons into lemonade. An ancient volcanic eruption blanketed the region in ashy tuff, though with enough time, erosion has sculpted it into whimsical fairy chimneys, ruffled valleys, castle-like cliffs, and one of the most otherworldly landscapes. The seemingly disastrous conditions became the easiest material to carve elaborate architecture, which have happily been inhabited by the Hittites, Romans, Ottomans, and present-day Anatolians. When war broke out between their neighbors, Cappadocians didn't run, they built havens underground.
Follow the rough-hewn tunnels and go deep into dozens of ancient subterranean cities. Explore fifth-century rock monasteries where Christians practiced in secrecy. Then discover the luxury side of cave dwelling, at one of the five-star hotels and restaurants in the cliffs. Life in Cappadocia is like nothing you've seen in the West, and a great reminder that there is no one path to happiness.
Where to Stay:
- Museum Hotel: The only Relais & Châteaux property in Turkey and Castle Hill’s finest cave accommodations.
- Kelebek: From basic rooms to suites, this Göreme hillside hotel offers the must-have cave experience for all budgets.
Get Romantic: Glide over the volcanic valleys and ancient dwellings in a hot air balloon. Touchdown and toast with a champagne breakfast. Not just romantic, it's the best way to grasp the complex landscape.
HoneyTrek Tip: Sprawling Cappadocia has mind-boggling layers of history. A knowledgeable guide with transportation, like the pros at Matiana Travel, will be invaluable.
Feeling under-appreciated (and in need of pampering)? Let North Eleuthera, Bahamas, take care of you.
Encircled by more than a hundred beaches, with pineapple fields in between, this pristine Caribbean island is void of chain hotels, shopping malls, or even a stoplight.
Deserted pink sand beaches and coral lagoons offer plenty of relaxation, while its ultra-chic neighbor Harbour Island is only a 10-minute water taxi away. This tiny isle was the former British capital of the Bahamas and boasts colorful clapboard houses and cobblestone streets, just wide enough for a golf cart (the primary mode of transit). Aristocrats, from the Duchess of Windsor to style queens like Diane von Furstenberg have spent ample time here, though unlike other star-studded beach destinations, Briland (its local name) is all charm and no pretension. Eat at top-notch restaurants with fish caught from hand-thrown nets, shop at designer boutiques mixed with local crafts, and soak in the Queen's Baths, where private rock pools emerge with every low tide.
Where to Stay:
- The Cove: Between twin beach coves framed in coral cliffs, this resort is the star of North Eleuthera.
- Coral Sands: A historic and freshly renovated boutique hotel on Harbour Island’s three miles of pink sand beach.
Get Romantic: Dine at the historic Landing; sit on the terrace overlooking the sailboat-studded harbor for sunset and lobster with lemongrass risotto.
HoneyTrek Tip: Eleuthera is only a mile wide, so if it's windy on the Atlantic side, pop over to the Caribbean.
With two oceans to choose from, so it's bound to be pleasant somewhere.
Excerpted with permission from Ultimate Journeys For Two : Extraordinary Destinations on Every Continent (© 2017 National Geographic Books).
How to add Romance to any trip
Northern lights dancing overhead, sun setting into the sea, mist enshrouding ancient temples – travel sets the stage for romance. With incredible natural beauty and a vacation vibe on your side, you don't need to lean on five-course meals and theatre tickets. A few thoughtful gestures and simple surprises can elevate any place to your special spot. When you're looking for a little romance, try these tips … and don't forget to lean in for the kiss.
- Pack votive candles, travel-size massage oil and bubble bath.
- Take dessert anywhere but the dinner table.
- Stargaze in a hammock for two.
- Pack a gourmet lunch and hike to secluded picnic spot.
- Rent a motorbike, feel the wind in your hair, hold each other tight, and stop to admire every beautiful vista.
- Always celebrate sunset; sit back and relax until the pink sky fades to stars.
- Take a cooking class and learn exotic recipes you can cook together at home.
- Take turns planning a date night and don’t reveal the details.
- Do something that gets your heart racing … a tandem canyon swing, cliff dive, roller coaster, even a thriller movie before bed. Studies say adrenaline brings you closer.
Anne and Mike Howard