For the harried couple, a travel writer's picks of a few very choice, ultra-romantic spots for an
I am a travel writer; therefore, according to a multitude
of people I have never met, I am the perfect person from
whom to solicit honeymoon advice. Here's a typical
scenario: The phone rings and, innocently, I answer it.
Usually it's a man's voice (but not always, this does
happen in reverse). He sounds harassed. He begins by
telling me that so-and-so convinced him I was the one to
solve his enormous problem. He's getting married in three
months and he's been a bit slack on the honeymoon plans.
His bride, well, she's a great gal, loves the outdoors, is
terrific with kids and animalsbut he's not quite sure if
she's the really rugged sort. His idea of a truly good
time, however, is an Arctic dog-sledding trip, but she's
nixed any extreme-sport honeymoon. She has agreed to a
little adventure, a little sport, an exotic location, OK,
but she wants romance, she wants comfort, she wants ice in
Fair enough, I say. Good for her, I think that sounds
excellent. Have a good time.
Wait, he says, panic rising, but where should we go?
I trot out my caveat about one person's paradise being
another's purgatory. I tell him about the time I suggested
a shark-diving trip in Samoa and the groom came back with
less of a leg than he left with. I mention the
subcontinental honeymoon that climaxed with stomach
pumps. I really don't want the responsibility of ruining
another nuptial excursion. There is a pause, but I can
tell he won't be put off. He's a desperate man.
These calls started to come so often, I finally decided
that rather than be ungracious, I ought to at least share
my favorite romantic, exotic, chic, safe destinations.
After all, my job has afforded me the great good fortune of
seeing some rather pleasant places over the past decade.
So, if you're looking for a honeymoon that makes for
slightly more interesting dinner-party tales, but one
that doesn't require you to forego luxury in the process,
Wharekauhau, New Zealand
In the fabulously bucolic Wairarapa region of New
Zealand, this luxurious, Edwardian-style mansion is
gorgeous and terribly refined, while still providing
that "in-the-boonies" feeling. It's more like the
landed gentry does adventure travel, although it's not in
the least bit stuffy, as English country lodges can be.
Still a working sheep station, Wharekauhau (pronounced
Forry-ko-ho) is located on a rugged strip of coastline on
5,000 acres of emerald pasturelands. And it's just down a
country road from some of the best wineries in New
Zealand. You really never have to leave your overstuffed
fireside sofa, but for activity freaks, you can hop on a
horse and go sheep herding, or you can fish, golf and hike
the nearby mountains.
Season: All year, although November-April is best.
Pricing: Doubles from $280 per person, per night.
Booking: USA 800/525-4800, or New Zealand
64-6/307-7581; fax 64-6/307-7799.
El Nido, Philippine
This entire archipelago off the coast of Palawan is
unexpectedly impressive. Islands erupt from the sea with
towering limestone cliffs and thick jungle. Below lie
hidden coves lapped by aqua waters teeming with tropical
fish. There are two resorts on neighboring islands, both
owned by the same Filipino beer magnate. Miniloc is
slightly hipper, more oriented toward active folk. Book
one of the cottages hanging over the water. Young guides
will take you snorkeling, kayaking, scuba diving,
sailing, waterskiing or spelunking. If you want pure
isolation, order a picnic lunch and ask to be marooned on a
remote beach for the whole day. Lagen has a nicer
beachfront, but is slightly more formal and elegant (with
It's perfectly permissible to jump between resorts. I
suggest a couple of nights at each.
Miniloc: $165 per person, per night.
Lagen: $230 per person, per night.
Prices include cottage, meals, boat transfers and
Booking: Philippines, (632) 894-5644; fax (632) 810-3620
On the web: www.asiatravel.com/elnido.html
Urgup, Cappadocia, Turkey
The Esbelli House is a seven-room restored cave dwelling,
with bedrooms dating back to the sixth century. I'd like
to see something in Europe beat that. One of the rooms is
the old kitchen, complete with oven, and another the
former stables. The owner, Suha Ersoz, spent years
restoring the house and his taste is simple and
cultivated. Home of the Troglodytes, Cappadocia is also
one of Turkey's most spectacular geographic and historic
destinations. Sandstone valleys sprout towering
chimneys, and ancient churches are carved into the rock
and painted with startling friezes. But, for the most
romantic experience of all, go ballooning over
Cappadocia's supernatural landscape at dawn. You land in
a field of wildflowers for a champagne breakfast (cost,
$210 per person). Arrangements can be made through the
Season: May and then late September/October are the best
times to beat the heat and the tour buses.
Pricing: For all rooms, $80 (based on double occupancy,
Ask for one of the honeymoon suites, but book well in
advance, they are often sold out.
USA: World of Oz (800) 248-0234, (757) 496-8108; fax (757)
For direct hotel bookings (to get prices quoted above),
email the hotel directly at suha@
Okavango Delta, Botswana
If, like me, your idea of supreme romance is to be lost in
the wilds of Africa with nothing between you and marauding
lions but a piece of canvas, then this is it. It has to be
one of my preferred places in the world. But then again, I
like horses. Macateers is a luxury tented safari camp deep
in the heart of Botswana's thriving and spectacular
Okavango Delta. It has all the trappings of a
Hemingway-style African safari, with gin and tonics at
sundown, candlelit dinners and real beds with real sheets
in tents you can stand up in. There's even a shower at the
back of your tent, operated by a clever bucket-and-pulley
system. And there are hundreds of species of game hooting
and hollering into the night. By day you ride out to view
the game on high-bred horses (English and Western saddles
available). It all feels terribly right and it's fatally
High season: July 1†September 30.
Pricing: $325 per person, per night.
Low season: February 25†June 30 and November 1† January 10.
Pricing: $275 per person, per night.
Prices include food, beverages, laundry, activities and
accommodation. A three-night minimum stay is required.
USA: African Travel Center, (800) 361-8024, (303)
Botswana: (267) 663-154; fax (267) 660-912.
On the web: www.info.bw/-sjhorses
Shiv Niwas Palace
Udaipur, Rajasthan, India
Perhaps the most romantic destination in all of India, the
Shiv Niwas is the most exclusive and authentic of all of
India's famous palace hotels. It's fabulous. With 17
suites in a wing adjoining the City Palace of the
still-resident Maharana of Udaipur (the state king) it's
the closest you'll ever come to the over-the-top opulence
of India's once-powerful royalty. The Shiv Niwas arcs
around the loveliest mosaic pool I have ever seen,
complete with musicians producing lulling sounds on
ceramic bowls filled with water. The suites are
ridiculously enormous, with original Belgian glass
tapestries, antiques, carvings and oil paintings. The
Royal Suite, for example, has a huge private lobby, a
study, a changing room, marble bathroom, a gigantic
bedroom with sitting room, baggage room and a private
terrace. The Imperial Suite is decorated in plush
Rajasthani decor mixed with genuine European antiques,
and the Crystal Room has walls covered from floor to
towering ceiling with glass in-lay, which reflect
velvet-seated Belgian cut-glass furniture. But please
don't forget to pack a stomach antibiotic. Not that you
will need it at the hotel, but one never knows outside.
Season: Mid-November†late March.
Pricing: Super Deluxe Suite, $250.
Historic Suite, $350.
Royal Suite, $450.
Imperial Suite, $600.
USA: Geographic Expeditions, (800) 777-8183, (415)
922-0448; fax (415) 346-5535.
On the web: www.GeoEx.com
India: (91 294) 528016; fax (91 294) 528006.
On the web: www.hrhindia.com/shiv.html
If the Tarzan-and-Jane thing is your fantasy, well, this
is your place. Just outside Manaus, the hotel is built
into the treetops of the Amazon jungle, with stairs
leading to the canopy hundreds of feet above the banks of
the Rio Negro. The amusing thing about this hotel is that
the rooms are open and large, but entirely encased in wire
mesh. This, of course, is to keep you in and the wildlife
out, and seems like an appropriate reversal of roles. The
monkeys are the only breathing soul who will disturb you.
They sit outside, staring in, stuffing berries into their
mouths, making wry observations about how similar human
behavior is to their own. During the days you can take
jungle treks, seek out the pink dolphins which glide
though the murky river water or visit the local Indian
tribes by small dugout. Request a suite in tower number
five. They are secluded and well-guarded by woolly
Pricing: For a three-night, four-day stay, the suites in
Tower Five are $800 per person.
Prices dependent on season and availability. Includes
boat transfer, all meals and river excursions. Other
rooms are both more and less expensive.
USA: (888) 462-7428, (516) 482-1592; fax (516) 498-2395.
Brazil: (5592) 234-7308; fax (5592) 233-5616.
On the web: www.ariauamazontowers.com
Casa de Sierra Nevada
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
San Miguel is Mexico's jewel town. An old Spanish colonial
town, it's clean, neat, safe and has great food. The Casa
de Sierra Nevada is not only the best restaurant in town,
but, in my opinion, is one of the best and most romantic
hotels in all of the Americas. Created from a series of
five restored mansions, you feel like the fortunate guest
of a benevolent colonial host. The main casa was built in
1580 and each room is decorated as you would expect guest
quarters to be back then - with Spanish antiques,
parquetry, tapestries, oil paintings and colorful
ceramics. There is a wonderful tiled pool built in the
shade of arched ruins. The location is superb, just a few
blocks from the main square, but removed enough so that
any Saturday night revelry, or the booming bells of an
overzealous monastery novitiate, don't interrupt the
Pricing: Deluxe doubles from $168 (although I strongly
suggest a suite, from $204).
Booking: (888) 341-5995, 52-415-27-040.
On the web: www.unisono.net.mx/snevada
Mnemba Island Lodge, Tanzania
Imagine a private African island in the Arab-influenced
portion of the Indian Ocean. Part of the historically
exotic Zanzibar Archipelago, Mnemba is about as romantic
as it gets. "Barefoot luxury" is how the brochure
describes it, and sure enough, arrivees kick off their
Bally's and Dolce & Gabbana's and slide manicured toes
through the sugary sands of perfection. The design of the
resort echoes the bygone splendor of days when the Sultan
of Oman traded spice and gems along this coastline. The 10
cottages all have intricately carved Zanzabari
furniture, embroidered mosquito nets cascading over the
bed, latticed wood doors and tinkling glass bead dividers
between rooms. African print pillows are tossed
everywhere and gossamer white curtains billow in the sea
breeze. Mnemba has spectacular diving, waterskiing,
windsurfing and fishing (both deep-sea and fly). The best
part is that you won't be racking up a huge bill every time
you order a Cokethe tariff, although admittedly lofty,
includes all food, alcohol (except champagne), sports
and a personal butler. If you can afford it, and you've
always wanted to see East Africa - go. It's the ideal place
to swap game-kill tales after a safari, or as a
destination unto itself.
Pricing: Per person, per night, double, $500 (August
rates are $550).
Prices include food, drink, activities and transfers
Booking: Africa Travel Center, (800) 361-8024, (303)
On the web: email@example.com
Coral Princess Cruises, Kimberley, Australia
How about this for an alternative to your regular cruise?
You are on a spacious (35-meter) catamaran that
accommodates 48 guests, has four-decks and your own en
suite (with bathroom, etc.) stateroom. There is a spa on
the upper deck and an al fresco dining room on another. You
are passing some of the world's oldest scenery -
waterfalls, ocher-colored gorges split with slow rivers,
high plateaus and rocky escarpments. Dolphins, whales,
dugongs and turtles float by, and the air is filled with
all sorts of exotic birds. You are reaching parts of
Australia that are practically impossible to get to by
land, and there's an excursion on shore every day -
generally along the lines of hiking to a remote cave where
you see 10,000-year-old Aboriginal cave paintings, or a
climb to a freshwater swimming hole (gigantic
man-chowing crocodiles prevent swimming in the ocean).
The Kimberley region of Northern Australia is naked,
primordial splendor -„sensory overload for the nature
Pricing: Cabin, $2,718.
Prices based on 10-night cruise, per person, double
Booking: USA (800) 441-6880, (831) 335-4954; fax (831)
On the web: www.coralprincess.com.au
Shamwari Game Reserve
Eastern Cape, South Africa
A privately owned game reserve in the Eastern Transvaal,
Shamwari has two absolutely fabulous lodges on their huge
property, both of which are a flashback to Africa's White
Nights era. Long Lee Manor is an elegant Edwardian mansion
with manicured laws and crystal chandeliers. The other is
the Shamwari Lodge - a series of five, five-star
African-style thatched-roof bungalows decorated with
fine African art. Those who prefer dining with white
tablecloths and then retiring to the library for a glass
of port should perhaps stay at Long Lee, while those
wanting a highly luxurious interpretation of native
Africa should choose the Lodge. I would recommend you stay
at both. Shamwari has all the big game you will want -
white and black rhino, elephant, buffalo, lion, giraffe,
leopard and hippo. And you have them all to yourself,
along with a scant 36 other guests.
Season: Shamwari is open year-round with fairly mild
temperatures. Summer is from November to March and winter
from June to October.
Long Lee Manor: Deluxe rooms (until April, 1999),
May-Sept. 1999: Special rate offered at approximately
Shamwari Lodge: Until Sept. 1, 1999, deluxe room,
approximately $350 per person, per night.
Prices include all meals and game drives, per person, per
night, based on double occupancy.
For more information: (800) 524-7979.
On the web: firstname.lastname@example.org
To book: Africa Travel Center (800) 361-8024, (303)
On the web: email@example.com
South Africa: (2742) 851 1196; fax (2742) 851-1224.
On the web: www.shamwari.com
Amanda Jones' last piece for the Magazine was on the
Woodaabe tribe in Africa.
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