Over time, our honeymoon ideas have evolved as much as our views on marriage itself. Where once you were lucky to get a single night in a so-so seaside hotel, now you can spend a week staring out across the picturesque plains of Chile’s Atacama Desert or a fortnight safari-spotting in South Africa. In fact, you’re spoilt for choice, so to help we’ve whittled down the options to find the top 10 honeymoon destinations, whether you want a minimoon to make your heart melt, bucolic break in the countryside or wild tropical escape.
Why go? Choose a South African honeymoon for the chance to hang out in Cape Town’s upmarket beach suburb of Clifton, before heading out to the vine-laced winelands and on to the marine-rich waters of Hermanus. The 190-mile Garden Route road trip is also not to be missed, before ending with games drives in Addo, Kruger or Sabi Sands national parks.
Stay South Africa matches its abundant natural riches with a bounty of man-made honeymoon-ready hotels. Start at Cape View Clifton, a waterfront retreat cantilevered out over Camps Bay’s golden beaches and overlooking the Twelve Apostles. The concierge can arrange for you to cable car up Table Mountain from here, or point you in the direction of exclusive boutiques and buzzy eateries. Then, check in at Dutch-influenced Leeu Estates in the winelands, where there are just 17 rooms and acres of thriving vines. It’s designed according to the Vasdu shastra principles to promote peace and wellbeing, but hopping around Franschhoek’s tasting rooms and digging into the hotel’s excellent Franco-tinged fare will also do the trick. Next up, clifftop Birkenhead House near Hermanus, where – from July to September – whales breach dramatically from the waters below. And to finish, go on safari at one of several upscale Singita properties in Kruger’s wildlife-roamed bushveld.
Smith tip Spend a night in the open-sided Kingston Treehouse at Lion Sands Game Reserve to spy savannah and stars straight from bed.
Why go? Tourism on this teardrop-shaped island has soared in recent years and it’s now home to the dreamiest honeymoon hotels along its beach-laced coast, tea-planted highlands and nature-blessed national parks. From historic and happening capital Colombo, the island is easily explored, and each stop will bring you breathtaking new views.
Stay This tropical honeymoon destination has turned its grand historic houses, lush plantations and elephant-romped nature parks into desirable retreats. First, unwind in the whisper-quiet gardens of the Wallawwa in Colombo. Set just a little outside the city, it ensures peace, quiet and foliage aplenty, but you can easily get into town for curry and hoppers at Galle Face Green, zipping from temple to temple by tuk-tuk or pottering about in Pettah. Then, head south to Galle – a historic fort town, spiced with Portuguese and Dutch influences. You’ll find heritage here at Amangalla – the town’s oldest hotel – or contemporary class in the crisp interiors of Fort Bazaar. During your stay, trawl boutiques for colourful cover-ups and artisanal homewares (Pedlar Street is the place); roam, old-school hospitals, mosques and lighthouses; and perch on the ramparts for sunset. Next, head to the Central Highlands for a stay on age-old tea plantation Ceylon Tea Trails, where a butler and genteel afternoon tea will take you back to Somerset Maugham’s time; and finally pitch up at luxury-camping hideaway Wild Coast Tented Lodge to blend beach with safari in Yala National Park. Wild elephants play along the nearby beach, and in the grounds cheetahs, monkeys and more roam.
Smith tip To really up the ante on your Sri Lanka honeymoon, book one of the five bungalows at Ceylon Tea Trails – all with butler service and chef-cooked meals – Dunkfeld is the star for its infinity pool overlooking Castlereagh Lake.
Why go? Are you the sort of couple who have diverse interests and can’t decide between, say, a full-throttle adventure honeymoon of surfing and trekking over glacial lagoons, or perhaps a city break of Fado-soundtracked cafe culture, custard-tart scoffing and fortified-wine sipping? A honeymoon in Portugal cancels out compromise – you can cover all these bases and more as you move from historic city to coast to timeless countryside.
Stay Start your honeymoon in Lisbon, an enigmatic city where vintage trams rattle up and down cobbled hills and historic saffron-hued buildings abound. There’s honeymoon inspiration aplenty here, whether it’s arm-in-arm strolls through the Botanic Gardens, pairing cool vinho verde with spicy cured ham in a Bairro Alto drinking den or driving out for caipirinhas on Carcavelos beach. Stays range from bijou apartments to grand converted palacios to hip hangouts. We recommend a penthouse at the Lisboans, the stuccoed Royal Suite at Verride Palacio Santa Catarina or a spell at roof-terrace-blessed the Lumiares. Head inland to kept-in-the-family farm stay São Lourenço do Barrocal for garden-to-plate feasts and a spot of night riding; then head north to Six Senses Douro Valley, to sip through the rich red wines grown along the banks of the river; and finish up at Art Deco fancy Le Monumental Palace, which lies close to Gothic bookstores, age-old sights and buzzy cafés.
Smith tip Take a little diversion from Lisbon to find a quiet beach-honeymoon spot in Comporta, a laidback village with lashings of charm. Sublime Comporta lives up to its name with refined rustic pool suites and private villas.
Why go? The world’s biggest island nation has 17,000 idyllic specks to choose from, so for beach-seekers Indonesian honeymoons are a no-brainer. But where to go? With your pick of paradise there’s something to suit everyone. Try Bali for buzz, beachside hangouts and jungly seclusion; lesser-trodden Sumba for surfing and romantic seclusion; and crowd-free Moyo Island for luxury camping beside the Flores Sea.
Stay Bali may be Indonesia’s most popular honeymoon destination, but you needn’t find yourself elbow-to-elbow with gooey-eyed newlyweds. Get to know the relatively unexplored north coast from eco lodge Plataran Menjangan Resort & Spa, which stands amid the mangroves and rainforest of West Bali National Park – all the better for spying teeny pudu deer, diving to find submerged statues and taking nocturnal safaris. Or hop along one island to Lombok Lodge, where chef Jiwa Raga cooks up five-course fine-dining meals each night, which makes it especially fortuitous that your Smith Extra is a candlelit beachside dinner for two. While here take a trip to a Sasak village to take a deep dive into local culture and to meet the holy eels at Pura Lingsar temple. And where to next on your Indonesian honeymoon? Midway between the Malaysian mainland and Borneo, Bawah Reserve is another perfectly private escape in the Anambas archipelago, reachable by seaplane. There may not be any TVs here, to encourage you to engage with the natural world, but there are lagoons for snorkelling in, a baker’s dozen of beaches to sunbathe on, an open-air cinema for screenings and a wine cellar to poke around in.
Smith tip We have an idea for a honeymoon that’s a little extra. Push the – quite literal – boat out with Sequoia Yacht, a two-suite, just-for-you vessel, which sails three itineraries around the Coral Triangle: to the reefs of Raja Ampat, the dragon-roamed shores of Komodo and the storied spice isles of the Moluccas.
Why go? A honeymoon in Tuscany may seem like the go-to option in Italy, but the heel of the boot – a formerly overlooked region – is having a moment, with many touting it as the country’s hottest destination, a reputation supported by the slew of romantic hotels popping up from the forested north to the craggy coastline at its most southerly point. A honeymoon in Puglia promises fulsome olive groves, ancient villages (many with the signature conical trulli buildings) and deliriously tasty food.
Stay Run the length of the region, making pit stops at vineyards and timeless towns rich in history. Start at La Peschiera in Monopoli, one for the water babies, with its private beach and seven (yes, seven) pools, ensuring deep-blue views from your terrace. Rooms are simply dressed, but most have a veiled four-poster, the bar’s cocktail game is strong, and seafood dinners by the water are so fresh you’ll think the fish just leaped onto your plate. Next, head inland for the unique experience of staying the night in a trullo – Borgo Canonica is an entire village of the pointy-roofed residences saved from decline by being turned into a bella boutique hotel. Each trullo has been decked out in mod-rustic style and the owners have added a pool and authentically Puglian restaurant. Then, set course for Lecce, the ‘Florence of the south’, for a spell at Palazzo Bozzi Corso, a magnificent 18th-century home that showcases the city’s more modern leanings with its impressive collection of big-deal designer furnishings and artwork. And, at the tip of the heel, Palazzo Daniele pulls off a similar trick, with its aged frescoed walls and artfully unfussy Ludovica and Roberto Palomba furnishings.
Smith tip We’re not ones to chase celebs, but Justin Timberlake made an inspired choice by having his Italian wedding at Borgo Egnazia. This stylish, sprawling stay has honeymoon-ready rooms in bridal whites.
Why go? From the driest desert in the world to the highest mountain in the Andes, a honeymoon in Chile will appeal to adventurous twosomes. People will be much more engaged in your ‘oh, the trip was wonderful’ tales, when you’re recounting that time you climbed the Torres del Paine or watched a flamboyance of flamingos skitter over salt flats.
Stay Touch down at the Singular Santiago to spy the snow-capped Andes straight from the hotel’s roof terrace. While in the capital, explore its cultural mores: take in an indie film at the elegant El Biógrafo cinema, muse over captivating work at the Museo de Artes Visuales, then hold an impromptu photo shoot on the sunshine-yellow steps of Cerro Santa Lucia. Next, go north to the lunar-like valleys and salt flats of the Atacama, where Tierra Atacama Hotel has a lap pool that looks onto the Licancabur volcano. Wander hand in hand through the orchard, alfalfa fields and medicinal herb garden before heading out to Puritama for some hot-spring action. Or village hop as you hike your way to the Rio Grande. And if the desert doesn’t quite appeal, head south to the Chilean Lake District where AndBeyond Vira Vira has a couples-ready hot tub beside the Luicura River. This stay can give you insight into the indigenous Mapuche community through meet and greets, take you on a helicopter tour and feed you very well, with the farm’s produce and homemade cheeses. For ultimate drama, keep going to Patagonia and the tooth-like peaks of Torres del Paine national park, where you can hike the W-Trek, go puma spotting or glide past glaciers, while staying at luxurious bases such as Awasi Patagonia.
Smith tip Balance out Chile’s adrenaline rush with a stay at Vik Chile – a wine estate laid out over a dramatic patch of the fertile Millahue Valley – that shows how diverse South American honeymoons can be. There are valleys to hike through close by, but your best newlywed life is to be found at the bar where the bespoke reds reside.
Why go? This fun-loving nation is hard to beat for beaches, whether hanging out in Rio or basking on the bays of Bahia. Not to be outdone in the seductive stakes, Brazilian honeymoons may well involve some backside shaking and itsy-bitsy swimwear. And it’s not all strutting about on sand, one day you’ll be sipping caipirinhas on a São Paulo rooftop, the next you’ll be wallowing in a jungly waterfall – Brazil’s ideal for post-nuptial adventures.
Stay Art-inclined honeymooners should seek out the mural-lined streets of Santa Teresa, then head south to the so-hot-right-now bairro of Botafogo, where Yoo2 Rio de Janeiro has some of the best views of Sugarloaf Mountain – the rooftop bar will give you the best vantage point – and Philippe Starck’s inimitable style. The sands of Botafogo Beach are just a few steps away, too. Next, fly to Porto Seguro to take in Bahia’s best beaches, starting with a stay in tropical Trancoso at Uxua Casa Hotel & Spa, whose colourful casitas have net-swathed four-posters and covetable antiques. It’s an utterly laidback and immensely welcoming spot where you can learn martial-arts dance in the form of capoeira or how to cook a hearty moqueca stew – a Bahian favourite – with the chef. Then, pack up and head north to pitch up at Txai Itacaré on the Cocoa Coast, nudged by 16 beaches. Truth be told, you and your beloved probably won’t leave your beach towels, but if you do, Tijuípe and Usina waterfalls are close by for the frolicking and surf lessons can be arranged.
Smith tip End a romantic day in Rio with dinner at Aprazível in Santa Teresa, where cliffside tables offer views of the illuminated city at night. A boat-shaped stay might not scream ‘honeymoon’ to you, but Hotel Unique will give you a chance to see the delirious bustle of São Paulo – a city which looks especially alluring form the hotel’s roof terrace at night.
Why go? At the cultural crossroads between North America and the Spanish-speaking south, there are barefoot beaches, tropical jungle and Mayan ruins, all excellent reasons to honeymoon in Mexico. And, the Mexicans have a passionate approach to life – be it in their love of vibrant colour, zest for dance (seriously, pick up some steps in advance) or full-throated fiestas – and you’ll likely follow suit.
Stay A honeymoon in Tulum is the obvious choice, and for good reason, with its not-a-speck-of-sand-out-of-place beaches and laid-back hotels such as La Valise. But if you crave a car-free, TV-less existence, choose Isla Holbox – an island off the Yucatán coast, where you can swim in bioluminescent bays, snorkel with whales sharks and kayak through mangroves. It’s a swooningly romantic honeymoon destination, with boho lodgings (with thatch-roofed dwellings, in-room hammocks, oversized bath tubs) at Casa las Tortugas or Ser CasaSandra. For more blow-the-budget options, head to Chablé Resort & Spa in the Mérida jungle where you can dive into the hotel’s own cenote or work out any stresses in a temazcal (traditional sauna). Or pitch up at heavenly Hotel Esencia on the Riviera Maya, where you may witness baby turtles shuffling from their nest to the sea. For culture-seeking couples, we prescribe a honeymoon in San Miguel de Allende, a colonial city with charms aplenty to the north of the country. It’s renowned for its artistic community, and hotels prove equally creative. Try the intensely romantic Casa No Name, former home of fashion photographer Deborah Turbeville, where flowering gardens and exotic touches (a Tibetan fountain, Indian archways) really up the amor.
Smith tip Don’t overlook Mexico City: especially the La Roma neighbourhood, currently undergoing an exciting transformation, with hotels such as Nima Local House Hotel arriving on the scene.
Why go? When weighing up the best honeymoon destinations – the Indian Ocean can claim many of them: the Maldives, Mauritius, the Seychelles – say no more… Yes there’s a private island or achingly beautiful atoll for even the most temperamental twosomes. Expect faultless service, imaginative excursions and barefoot luxury.
Stay With 26 atolls to choose from, and private islands for every persuasion, a honeymoon in the Maldives often elicits another ‘I do’ from just-marrieds. And, there’s an overwater villa or beachside nest to suit everyone, from accessible-to-all Baros to out-of-this-world Soneva Jani, where opulent villas come with waterslides and retractable roofs so you can gaze up at the stars. Or lower your eyes at Six Senses Laamu, where you can spy on sealife from your glass-bottomed bath tub. And, if you want a more youthful, irreverent feel, try the Standard, Maldives, where villas are kitted out with neon rubber rings and disco balls in each bathroom. There are activities galore, ranging from fishing to spa sleepovers, and beach bonfire parties and an onsite nightclub ensure a lively escape. Another hard-to-beat retreat is Gili Lankanfushi, which aims to leave only footprints behind by protecting the surrounding marine life and serving up laidback luxury in the form of open-sided villas and restaurants. For boulder-strewn drama, set your sights on a honeymoon in the Seychelles, where Six Senses Zil Pasyon sits on the private island of Félicité with a stand-out Six Senses spa.
Smith tip Honeymooning on a budget? A wallet-friendly alternative in the Indian Ocean is Mauritius – which also happens to be a great choice for watersports, especially windsurfing.
Why go? To crunch across lava fields, see geysers spout from the ground and bathe in geothermal pools across this North Atlantic nation… In fact, Mr & Mrs Smith’s founders – whose romantic-hotel know-how we can vouch for – had their very own honeymoon in Iceland.
Stay Start in the country’s quirky yet cosmopolitan capital Reykjavik at Ion City Hotel, located on the main street of Laugavegur, near Scandi design boutiques, chic restaurants and hip bars. It may not be as picturesque as the country-s mossy wilds, but there are some intriguing sights: Harpa is artist Olafur Eliasson’s triumphant opera hall, where the walls look like dragonfly wings; Hallgrímskirkja is a church with towering modern architecture and you can pick up a few fertility symbols and hide your titters at the Icelandic Phallological Museum. Next, soak up culture of a different kind at the Retreat at Blue Lagoon, on its namesake landmark, where couples can turn up the temperature in a Lagoon Suite, with private access to the bath-warm waters. Finally, head north to the Troll Peninsula and Deplar Farm, which has its own geothermal pool, from which you may spy the aurora dancing at night. This turf-roofed stay also offers an array of pulse-quickening pastimes (horse riding, dog-sledding, frisbee golf…) many included in your room rate. The country’s easy to navigate by car, too – a famous ring road laps the whole of Iceland – so it’s possible to minimoon here too.
Smith tip Your best chance of seeing the Northern Lights is from September to April, while April to October is ideal for whale-watching tours from Reykjavik’s old harbour and the fjords of Akureyri in the north.
Continue your romantic research by exploring our honeymoon hotels around the world…